Work on these SKILLS with your child: with < My Thoughts > by Sara Luker
#1 What to do While You Wait... Red Flags &
Parental Concerns CHECKLIST
#2 What to do While You Wait... Doctors, Diagnosis, & Denial
WHAT TO DO NEXT…
< My Thoughts > "While You Wait..."
Parents often must wait days, weeks, and even months for assessments or doctor appointments. During this stressful time, it's good to feel that you are actively helping your child. This can become an important time of clarifying what bothers you the most about your child's behavior, development, or other concerns. Video tape what you are seeing and how your child acts throughout the day/night. 'Seeing is believing' for someone new to your child; such as a clinician, therapist, teacher, or other interested professional.
Prioritize your child's 'needs' and your 'wants'. Try new things... like teaching your child age appropriate 'developmental skills' that are non-invasive. See what works and what doesn't. Eventually, you will have to choose from available programs, therapies, and services that will be offered. Most are quite expensive, so understand your child well enough to figure out what will probably work and what absolutely won't. You can only know this by trying some things on your own. In this 'page' I give you some ideas on where to start to discover who your child is 'behind' the autism. This will become very important information.
HOW TO FIND THE INTERVENTION OUTCOME YOU ARE LOOKING FOR…
Before looking for a program… Prioritize your child’s
‘needs’… Prioritize your ‘wants’
Many parents want their child to be able to eat dinner with the family, even if they don’t eat the same kinds of food. Many children have sensory issues which make mealtime difficult; or they may do best on gluten/casein free foods. Other parents want their child to enjoy and participate in family get-to-gathers, outings, holidays, and vacations; even if they don’t share the same interests. Many children have a very narrow interest focus or preferred ritualistic routines.
In other words…
What is the most frightening or destructive thing that is going on right now in your child’s world?
Recent studies show the following things worry parents the most…
- gross motor skills
- speech/language communication
- social/personal awareness
- daily living skills
Let's look at #3A Gross Motor Skills & Speech/Language Communication, first. Next, will be #3B Cognition. Then, will be #3C Social/Personal Awareness & Daily Living Skills.
#3A, GROSS MOTOR SKILLS –
Depending on the age of your child, probably the fact that your child may not be meeting their 'developmental milestones' may be due to poor motor skills, both 'gross' (using large muscles) and 'fine' (involving pincer or grasping skills).
Teaching activities which develop ‘gross motor skills’ is something you can do with your child while you are ‘waiting’ for the world of doctor’s appointments, consultations, and program possibilities to open up for you. In other words, researchers recommend two types of physical programs… aerobic and aquatic. Both can be ‘fun’ activities you can do with your child and/or find in your local area. Look for 'Challenger' or 'Adaptive' programs. You don’t have to have the child’s ‘diagnosis’ in order to participate. Plus, you may meet new friends there and make important connections.
According to Zhan & Chen (2018) providing children with ASD the opportunity to participate in physical activities improves their physical condition, their self-esteem, social skills and their behavior. Often the child does not know how to interact with others in order to have that physical experience, but can be taught.
These authors go on to say that eventually children with exercise ‘spontaneously’, recognizing the need for that activity. They also believe that it gives the parent/teacher the opportunity to ask for certain elementary communication such as… ‘Please’ & ‘Thank You’ and also to occasionally give ‘eye contact’ when communicating. They have seen an improvement in parent/child interaction and the child’s interest in ‘otherworldly’ activities.
< My Thoughts > “Physical programs…”
When children on the spectrum have an outlet for their 'super' energy, it may also become an outlet for their many frustrations or other out of control emotions. Parents may be surprised to see that providing a way for their child to use gross motor skills comes first on the list, but after all it may be one of the easiest and most enjoyable things to explore 'while you're waiting'...
We have had Sonny in aquatic programs sponsored by the Parks & Recreation and he was even able to ‘somewhat’ participate in a “T” ball group that we had found. Both programs allowed us to participate with him, so they went surprisingly well. We even practiced “T” ball at home in the backyard, a ‘natural setting’ for him where he felt most comfortable. Look for 'Challenger' or 'Adaptive' programs. This is a great way to involve siblings, also. Even if the group event doesn’t work out, it’s something to do at home… while you’re ‘waiting’.
For children who love to spin, there is the ‘swing’. You can find ‘Therapeutic Swings’ in all shapes and sizes, online. Another is the trampoline. Many parents and schools have a room where the child can go to jump on the trampoline until they “get their sillies out”, is what I told my students. Sonny has never been a trampoline fan, but he likes to watch others jump around, which gets his focus off himself. Smiles. He also likes to walk on a little pathway with interesting things to see along the way that we have created in our yard.
For the toddler or young child, just sitting on the floor rolling a ball back and forth can be a ‘breakthrough’ experience. Eventually, you may be able to introduce several balls, some with their favorite character brightly displayed. Or, a color they seem to favor. You may not get eye contact, but any participation is good.
Engagement in a directed physical activity is the key. And, know that many subtle things are occurring at the same time, such as responding to your voice, feeling your happy energy, and staying in the moment. Just saying.
#3A, continued, SPEECH & LANGUAGE COMMUNICATION –
Communication issues are huge. Crying out is a primal instinct. It’s how babies let you know something’s up. Children without a satisfactory form of communication will often cry out. It’s what works, right? But as the child gets older, crying out or throwing a tantrum no longer gets the desired results.
If your child cannot communicate with you or you with your child, then both of you may lose patience and undesirable behaviors will soon become the pattern.
And, if your child has been identified as having communication issues or deficits, then most likely a speech therapist will be suggested to help them with communication.
The following excerpt is retrieved from –
Benefits of Speech Therapy for Autism: What role does speech therapy play in the treatment of autism?
Speech-language pathologists are therapists who specialize in treating language problems and speech disorders. They are a key part of the autism treatment team. With early screening and detection of people at risk, speech therapists often lead the way in helping with the diagnosis of autism and in making referrals to other specialists.
Once autism is diagnosed, speech therapists assess the best ways to improve communication and enhance a person's quality of life. Throughout therapy, the speech-language pathologist also works closely with the family, school, and other professionals. If someone with autism is nonverbal or has major trouble with speech, the speech therapist may introduce alternatives to speech.
Speech therapy techniques might include:
- Electronic "talkers"
- Signing or typing
- Using picture boards with words, known as picture exchange communication systems that start out using pictures instead of words to help a child learn to communicate
- Using sounds to which a person is over- or under-sensitive to expand and compress speech sounds
- Improving articulation of speech by massaging or exercising lips or facial muscles
- Having individuals sing songs composed to match the rhythm, stress, and flow of sentences
Some of these techniques are supported more by research than others. Be sure to discuss them thoroughly with the speech-language pathologist and your child's pediatrician.
End of retrieved excerpt.
In other words, many children will grab the nearest person’s hand or arm and drag them to the desired object to get what they want, when they want it.
This can beThis can be the first signs that something is different with a child. Because their first communication is a tantrum, just as a baby’s first communication is crying to have needs met.
In the post titled #4B PROGRAMS, THERAPIES & INTERVENTIONS, we talked about the 8 THERAPY PROGRAMS you may find under BEHAVIOR & COMMUNICATION (Please note these programs are listed in alphabetical order and in no way preferential order ) –
- Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
- Developmental Individual Differences Relation-Based-Approach (aka DIR/Floortime)
- Occupational Therapy (OT)
- Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).
- Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)
- Sensory Integration Therapy for Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)
- Speech Therapy (ST)
- Treatment & Education of Autistic & related Communication-handicapped Children (TEAACH)
Added to the list are other programs which parents have found successful, but are still NOT considered mainstream interventions, as of this publishing. There is a whole world of augmentative communication methods and devices, from sign language to simple battery-operated button devices which request – DRINK, EAT, TOY, or play a tune which signifies the child wants. because they are signing a request to you.
All the way up to the high-tech Dynavox Might Mo which Ewan uses. And, of course higher-tech yet, facilitated communication using an ordinary computer or those with voice commands and augmentative keyboards.
Included on this list is the Rapid Prompting Method which Soma Mukhopadhyay created for her son Tito. A clever method of age-appropriate fast-paced questioning, prodding and engaging with the use of low-tech alphabet letter boards with which the child responds.
Improve communication and you will reduce frustration, tantrums and emotional outbursts. While you are waiting for diagnosis or doctors and professionals to help you, you can try a few things. Depending on the level of your child’s ability to communicate, you can start with ‘low tech’ approaches. These are elementary or what is called ‘baby signing’.
Most babies learn to wave ‘bye-bye’, throw a kiss, nod their head for ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Sonny will blink his eyes for ‘yes’ and ‘no’, but seldom nods. Why? Don’t know, but children with autism can’t seem to accomplish these gestures.
They can learn the basics of ‘baby sign’ language, though. Signs like… eat, drink, more, finished, I want, potty, bath, stop, nap, toy, please, thank you, etc. You can still let them know what you want them to do, even if they don’t use the sign themselves, they understand it. For instance, wait, look, listen, broken, sit down, stand up, come here, mom, dad, sister, brother; even phrases like “What do you want?” “Time to take your meds”, or “I love you.”
< My Thoughts > "...they understand..."
By chance, I found an interactive toy that I thought Sonny might like. It was small, battery operated, with brightly colored buttons. I didn't know what all the functions were when I bought it, but come to find out one button when pushed said, “I love you!”
To my amazement and delight… every once in a while, Sonny found the right combination to emit those words. The words that every parent longs to hear. Smiles.