Over the last few years, the amount of news coverage on autism has greatly increased. Most of the coverage focuses on the increased prevalence of autism or possible factors that cause autism. While this coverage is important, it often glaringly omits any information on possible treatment. Fortunately, that may be changing in 2007. On January 29, the View devoted one episode to autism and featured a family whose child had made remarkable progress through early intensive behavioral treatment. Also in January, the Lovaas Institute was contacted by Dateline to videotape treatment with one of our children.
The launching of the Meeting Point is one more example. We hope that this newsletter will be a helpful tool so that families are not only more informed about the causes of autism but also about the treatment that is available.
Part of the family's role in behavioral treatment is to help a child apply skills he has learned in therapy to everyday life. Some parents question whether they can do this when the day is already so hectic. However, many parents are pleasantly surprised at the benefits of consistently focusing on generalization.
Many children with autism learn task completion activities quickly and easily. Such activities can serve as the foundation of activity schedules, free play time, and provide other opportunities for independence. Because they are successful, many parents have asked for as many task completion ideas as possible...so here's a list!
"I don't have time to get a degree in ABA, but I like a lot of the ideas that you talked about in your presentation. If you had to remove all the theoretical talk and could only give me the 5 most practical and specific things to do that would probably increase a child's success in school, what would you say?"
There are many good reasons to find materials for therapy around the house or create them on your own. Such materials save money and are more likely to be relevant to your individual child. At the same time, finding and making materials can be time consuming and so it can also be helpful to draw upon materials that others have already created.
John, a boy I shadow in school, was in math class learning about fractions. His teacher drew a circle on the overhead and told the kids to pretend it was a cookie cake. She divided the shape into fourths. She then asked the class, "How did I divide this cookie cake?" John raised his hand enthusiastically (which is not typical for him), saying "me, me, pick me." I helped get the teacher's attention so she would call on him. His answer... "WITH A KNIFE!!!" He was so proud of himself!
- New Jersey
My wife and I had been counting down the days with our son to the first day of school as a way of helping him with the transition. Unfortunately, he announced that's the same day he is going to be sick.
We were teaching Abby how to refuse non-preferred items by shaking her head "no," but thought she may just be memorizing the answer with specific objects. Our concerns were laid to rest when, during one of her discrete trial "sittings," an instructor gave the instruction, "dance." Abby established eye contact with her instructor, smiled, and shook her head "no."
While my son may be non-verbal, he has become quite proficient with his PECS book, and we are really focusing on his independence with it. One day, when we were at the grocery store, I let Daniel explore the bakery section (his favorite part of the store). When I turned around, he was at the counter using his PECS book to attempt to order a cake! My wife had to agree that the cake we brought home really was celebrating a special occasion.
When practicing greetings in a mock circle time, we occasionally point to ourselves to prompt Simon to greet us appropriately. One time I used the point prompt (around my upper body) and Simon greeted me, "Hello tummy."
The names of all children in this newsletter have been changed in respect for family confidentiality.
We're delighted at the feedback we've received so far concerning our efforts to provide a newsletter that serves as a meeting point for families and teachers who wish to dialogue with us about practical ideas based on the Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis. Below are some of the comments we received for our inaugural edition. We will continue to publish some of the letters in future issues of our newsletter. Letters will remain anonymous unless you tell us how you want to be identified (part or all of: first name, last name, city, state).
Scare Me! Say, "Do this" and make a roar sound. When the child does, act terrified and fall off your own chair. Try other silly actions.
Washing Machine Vibrator! When the washing machine is running, go sit on it to feel the vibration. Imitate drone noises to go with it.
Given the right conditions, ordinary sights and sounds often assume extraordinary significance - a knock on the door, for example.