Someone asked me why do I love working with families of children with Autism. Here is my answer and these were just the first two families I met : I started wor...king with families and children through the Early Intervention Program I now run. I went into a big beautiful house and the two year old greeted me and told me a hot dog and Hamburg made the number ten. His mother could not take him out to store and was embarrassed to be with him because his behavior was not the same as his sisters. He had massive meltdowns and mom didn't know how to manage. Reminded me of Rainman. A few weeks later I evaluated another little boy who was two who would not respond to anything we presented. No facial expressions, no eye contact, no engagement in toys, no singing. For an hour and a half. No one told this mother that her child had many sign of autism. From there my mission began. Two very different kids, presented different , different home environments, different socioeconomic groups. Same diagnosis. No one could help them. I researched, I studied, I followed my instinct, I tried things with them. Most important I formed relationships with the parents, taught them what it meant, explained it , coached them on how to engage meaningfully with their children. Found the right supports for the children. Transitioned them into preschools, established support systems for the family. Decided that it is my mission to coach the parent. The medical profession makes recommendations but has no idea what they mean. Parents don't have that autism expert to help them navigate the maze. There are so many things out there for them to waste money on and try. I am the person that teaches parents and provides them what they need. Information, strategies, emotional support and more importantly someone they can trust, talk to and answer their questions!
Eye contact is one of the first skills we work on with young children. It is considered a pivotal skills. Pivotal means that we teach this skill because we can scaffold, or build on all of the other skills but not until we have the eye contact.
There are two trains of thoughts, one it is the only thing they have control over, so don't force it . Or force it because that is the norm in our American Society where we use 80% of our language is communicated through body language which you need to be aware of and see. The data that I have collected on young children, shows that when we have the eye contact the children begin the next pivotal skill of imitation. When they see the toys we are using, then we can provide hand over hand modeling and children can begin to imitate. If we have eye contact, children are able to look at and begin to associate a label with it. If we have eye contact, the children can watch and imitate our facial expressions.
This morning I had a mom ask me why the grocery store creates a meltdown for her child. I told her I wasn't surprised. Have you every thought about what the store looks like from your child's perspective?
You enter the store, needless to say, someone is always pushing more carts into the store. People are grabbing them. The wheels are noisy, people's feet make a variety of sounds. Sometimes the flooring has a different texture and causes a vibration with the carriages. Wow your ears hurt already. Parents: try noise cancellation headphones no one knows if they are just listening to music.
Next you hit the produce section. People are all over, zigging and Zagging with those annoying carts. Their feet still noisy. The smells from the produce can be overwhelming. Then the worst part. The people. They all have their own scent. Some have cologne or perfume and some just have overwhelming body odor. Some smell like cigarettes and other things. A bit overwhelming for your nose. Parents: health food stores sell oils. You can dab a few drops of a preferred scent under your child's nose before entering the store.
Visually, the fruit is bright colored and although they try to organize it, when you are on the Spectrum, sometimes if they are not aligned as the child thinks it should be that can be overwhelming. The people again, many different colors of clothing. The fluorescent lights, the mirrors, the sprayers. My eyes now hurt. Parents: use a checklist with or without pictures, have child check them off. Focuses their visual attention or try sunglasses.
The textures of the fruit and veggies as mom asks me to put them in the bag. Some are wet, some are not. The feel of the plastic bags. Ok I am trying to hold it together. I really am. Parents; if this is to much don't have them help by touching. Try sensory activities at home instead.
As we continue to the isles I may be able to calm. The boxes are more aligned but visually still a bit much. Oh no, these people want to stand and talk. The loud speaker , the music. I start to yell and rock and my mom tells me just a few more things. I am trying to hold it together. She walks faster, the cart makes more noise. The slamming of the doors and throwing of items in the cart. I can't do this. I am sorry MOM. I tried. Parents: although the meltdown may cause you to try to hurry to get out of the store, the faster you go the more it could be bothering your child. Slow down, check out with what you have and exit.
If your child is working with an occupational therapist, they may have other specific suggestions for your child. Follow these strategies, consistently for a few weeks. Only keep to a few things until you build up your child's tolerance. Call or message me with questions.
Did you know that speech is the finest of motor development? If your child isn't talking continue to embed as many fine motor activities as possible into your day so that the small muscles can move and neurological connections are made. Think about what it takes to produce a sound. You have to have breathe control, tongue control and proper placement with correct air flow, your brain has to know the word, retrieve it, revisit what it means and where you have seen it, used it or is implied by it. Language is NOT a simple task, it takes a lot of work! want more, join me at http//www.facebook.com/JenDorisConsultationServices
Trying to potty train your child with Autism? Here is a free toolkit for you to use http://www.autismspeaks.org/science/resources-programs/autism-treatment-network/atn-air-p-toilet-training
You know autism is in the news all the time, you may know what the red flags are but you don’t know if you child has it. Maybe your reluctant to have the child screened or your pediatrician tells you they don’t see it. You don’t feel like anyone is listening to you, there have been a million reasons and excuses for the behavior.
“My child is OCD he likes everything to be in its place. He gets mad and has a tantrum when I move things.” This is not typical for most children, unless you are working on a clean up routine.
“My child just gets super excited and that is how he shows he is happy. By jumping up and down and flapping his hands.” While some kids are excitable, if the child doesn’t have language or can’t control it. Then it is probably not just that they are excited.
“My child doesn’t seem to be listening to me , when I talk.” While this can be a variety of things, including a hearing issue, it could be the child isn’t processing language.
If you are not sure what the signs of Autism are, and want more information visit www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/ for more information.