Saturday, October 28, 2006

Treatments for Autism + Tips for Parents

Autism cannot be cured. Thankfully, it can be treated. The earlier the diagnosis and the earlier an intervention program is set in place to support the child and the family – the better the prognosis.

Visit Tamya's Pumpkin Blog to read about other methods and approaches for treating autism, including Sensory Integration, Soical Stories, ABA, Biomedics, Dietary Intervention, Music Therapy, Art Therapy, Animal Therapy, and more..

A few tips about recruiting people to work with your child:

Funding for autism therapy varies between countries, states, provinces, districts and cities. There is one thing in common everywhere though: there are always limited resources, both financial wise and manpower wise. If you are fortunate enough to live in a country that funds autism, and have a budget to work with – use it wisely. Here are a few tips:

1) Use whatever resources you have to the max. Get the professional (and expensive) therapists and consultants to be in constant communications with all the caregivers and educators involved in your child’s life. Get the daycare teachers to do as many one-on-one sessions as possible with your child (be it a Floortime session, an ABA session, a Sensory Integration session). These can be really short sessions, as long as they are frequent and meaningful.

2) Spend as little money as possible (if at all) on any consultant that actually behaves like a consultant. You need to get advice from people that know your child enough to truly recommend anything valuable. Consultants that see your child once a month or less are usually useless, unless they are amazing experts in their field. You would probably be able to tell pretty fast though…

3) Work as a team. Treat your therapy professionals as a team, and make them feel good about being in your team. Team meetings are excellent, as long as they don’t happen too frequently. Once a month is a good timing. More than two months apart might be too little especially in the first years. Bring some treats to the team meeting too ;)

4) Be the team leader. The parents know what’s best for their child, and they should be the ones who make the big decisions on what’s important to work on.

5) Make sure your therapy and educational team is always in fluent communication with you and preferably also with one another. The more you open the channels of communication, the better treatment your child will get. Joint sessions can be one of the most rewarding experiences for both the therapists and your child. They will create an environment of collaboration for your child and more importantly – provide continuity between one session to another. Practice makes perfect…

The people you choose to work with your child on a daily basis are going to have a significant impact on your child life. So be sure that you and your child like them and feel comfortable and safe around them, regardless of how impressive their education and qualifications are.

Quite recently, in British Columbia anyways, funding for autism has increased and became more reasonable. This is a blessing as well as a curse. There aren’t that many therapists experience or trained for treating autism, and unfortunately there are a few that are attracted to the job because of the new funding more than the work itself. Obviously, you want the person working with your child to be passionate about helping them

Some parents and therapists could be as passionate about their treatment philosophy as if it was a fundamentalist religion. I am none such fundamentalists, and I don’t believe that there is one single way to treat autism. which uses the most effective techniques for each specific child, in a particular situation and settings. I am going to do my best to steer away from such controversies, and I will simply outline a few of the most commonly practiced methods, which are used in schools and in most early intervention programs.

I personally believe that an eclectic approach that includes the methods that are most suitable for the child’s needs is ideal. I have my own personal bias towards Floortime, as it was a very rewarding experience to me and prove to work for my child; But I wouldn’t go as far as rejecting any other therapy just because this is what worked for my child. ABA is very effective for children with severe autism. It may help for teaching the child preliminary tools that are needed for the next step. I am a practical woman (and I bleive most parents have to learn to be practical after being in the business long enough), and I think you should pick and choose what’s best for your child, in each and every particular situation. For instance, a child may respond well to the playful and stimulating interactions of the Floortime approach, yet need a structured ABA session to learn her math and typing; She may also need a “sensory diet” to help her regulate her nervous system, social stories before difficult events (such as visiting the dentist or getting her hair done), and may even end up needing the help of drugs to regulate her obsessive-compulsive behaviorus once the hormones starts kicking in around puberty…

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