Meeting Point: Latest From Lovaas

October 07

Meeting Point: Latest From Lovaas

Extracurricular Activities

Programs for children with autism utilizing the Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis typically require a minimum of 6-12 months of one-to-one in-home teaching in order to teach the child the prerequisite skills they need to partake in a group setting. As many of the children progress from basic to more advanced and complex learning programs they are gradually integrated into group settings in their local communication and the teaching procedures become less structured.

While the school setting is one of the most important group environments we want the children to learn and thrive in, there are other groups that may function either as stepping stones to ease a child's transition to the school environment or as extra curricular activities for a child already in school. Such group activities include, but are not limited to, gymnastics, soccer, Gymboree and Kindermusic, library, zoo, and museum classes. When a child is enrolled in any such group activity, we recommend that an instructor from the in-home program accompany the child to help facilitate the transition to group routines and instructions, promote generalization of skills acquired at home to the new environment, and to encourage interaction with other children.

Below, you will find a brief and general description of elements characteristic of these activities that may help you decide which activity your child might like and benefit from the most.

Gymnastics

Instructors who teach gymnastic courses generally follow structured routines and thereby provide a learning environment not unfamiliar to the child. The clear structure increases the likelihood that the child will succeed and thrive in this milieu. For many children the gross motor activities often turn out to become reinforcing in themselves. Unfortunately, for children who suffer from underdeveloped muscle tone or poor condition, the activities may prove too challenging.

Also, the area where the activities take place is often too large and for children who have not yet learned to wait patiently in place, this environment may ask too much. For older children who have learned to wait in many situations, gymnastic courses may work out wonderfully. Be aware that gyms may vary in their willingness to allow an instructor to be present to assist a child.

Soccer

The basic levels of this sport typically do not demand much interplay. The children use their own balls, they are on the field together and they learn by imitating their coach and each other. They learn to watch out for each other and have fun.

As the sport begins to focus on the true rules of the game it may progress too quickly for many children and the home-program instructor who helps an individual child may stand out more than in some other activities.

Gymboree/Kindermusic

These and similar programs typically require parent involvement. When parents are well trained in their child's home therapy program, these environments may provide suitable opportunities to teach generalization of skills the child has learned at home. In your local communities, many variations of a program may be offered such as one focusing on music, one on art, and another on gymnastics, which provide the opportunity to choose an area a child may be most interested in and therefore benefit the most from.

The drawback for some parents, beside the expense, may be the presence of the other children's parents. If a child's behaviors are difficult at times it may cause a parent to feel uncomfortable. Such situations may be helped by informing the group beforehand and thus securing support.

Library/Zoo/Museum Classes

These are classes of short duration, often a few days to a couple of weeks. An instructor would most likely be welcomed. An instructor or a parent may check their child's interest in these activities beforehand and pick the one(s) of highest interest.

Since the classes are of short duration, a child may be able to overcome difficulties in this group setting without concern that he will be labeled by his school peers in the future. On the other hand, a child might just begin to show progress and more independence as the class series is coming to a close.

Good news, some of these classes are free.

Boy/Girl Scouts

In some local communities children can begin scouting as early as age 5 or 6, that is, after they have begun school. Scouting thus provides an extracurricular activity where children interact with their peers from school.

We advise parents to observe these group activities before they enroll their children, as activities and structure depend entirely on the scout leader and his or her leadership style.

Religious Education Classes

These classes often offer a child an extra opportunity to practice activities he or she is learning at school such as circle time, arts and crafts, etc. An advantage for some children is that in a religious education class these activities are often for a shorter duration, which may help the child be more successful.

The structure and activities may vary from group to group depending on the teaching style and experience of the class instructor.

Jennifer LaMarca
Lovaas Institute - Indianapolis

Do you have other ideas for other extracurricular activities? Share them with us here

The names of all children in this newsletter have been changed in respect for family confidentiality.

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