How We Can Help Your Child with Autism
All human behaviours are functional. Therefore, we start by carefully analysing the functions of your child’s behavioural expressions so that we could help him learn new ways for emotional expression. Your child will learn new tools and strategies to enable him to cope with emotional regulation better so that he could eventually self-regulate those strong emotional reactions and start navigating his days successfully. We will teach him new social skills and improve his social wellbeing, as compared to trying to “normalise” autistic children through compliance-driven programmes where the main emphasis is on training specific behaviours. It is essential to understand that behaviours we come across while dealing with children with ASD are only the tip of an iceberg as they stem from their individual neurological differences. They are in fact human behaviours (as opposed to calling them autistic behaviours), reflective of their experience. Therefore, instead of overly focusing on eliminating them, we start with the Sensory Assessment to gather the reasons behind the child’s human reactions to sensory-perceptual issues disconcerting him so that we could look into the ways to help him regulate sensory input more effectively.
To select a social learning programme, it is essential to look into the progress the child has made already. Social Processing Dynamic Assessment is a practical and effective way to assess the key communication difficulties so that we could decide on the most suitable ways to improve his social wellness. The programmes offered will not be tied to the reinforced behaviour methods. Instead, together with your child, we will be working on building a powerful social mind which he could employ to cope with social communication more successfully.
Thanks to the recent research and numerous contributions from the famous autistic adults, modern approaches have gradually developed to teach autistic children social skills, helping to empower them and to maximise their potential; also to substitute the previous antecedent-behaviour-consequence methods, based on compliance. At the same time, social-cognitive therapy addresses the way a person thinks about social situations to change subsequent feelings and behaviours. An example of social-cognitive therapy, Socially Smart is a recognised way to develop social competence, also researched on boys with high functioning autism and Asperger syndrome.
A step further will be the Group Thinking programme where your child will learn to attend to and to consider others’ points of view as well as to cooperate to achieve a particular goal. The programme is a valuable learning experience that will allow him or her to interact with others, first during the joint play and then in later professional life. It will help him to feel more competent when facing group interactions.
Affect is petrol for learning.Emily Rubin, co-founder of the SCERTS model
We consult parents to identify any obstacles that could hinder the child’s social-emotional or academic development. If the child lives in Auckland (North Shore), I could also look into his behavioural expressions during the school hours- when he is playing on his own, interacting with peers, as well as during the classes- and suggest relevant accommodations.
Jason’s Case Study
Jason (name changed), a lovely verbal and able 8-year-old child who attended a mainstream school, displayed a few talents such as strong abilities in maths, remarkable visual memory and amazing Lego® building skills. On the other hand, however, marked difficulties with interpreting social information as well as a few sensory processing issues have led him to apply physical avoidance strategies during the school hours. On top of it, he found it difficult to concentrate on maths tests during the school testing.
Following the sensory systems assessment, we could identify the imbalances in Jason’s sensory perception, and- after further discussions with the parents – essential accommodations were suggested for the child to stay more regulated during the school hours. In particular, the assessment revealed Jason’s high auditory sensitivity. What looked as naughty behaviour to the teachers, hiding under the school benches turned to be Jason’s self-regulating strategy that helped him cope with the emotionally distressful situations-high levels of noise during the school Christmas show practice. Sitting by the end of the corridor- where noisy hand driers were used by other children during the testing time- appeared to be the main reason behind Jason’s inability to focus on maths which was otherwise his favourite subject. Accommodations were offered to help him regulate his emotional arousal level during social activities.
However, Jason’s major progress has happened during the following therapeutic interventions. I remember rather vividly how Jason came to us for the first time. It was a boy withdrawn into his world of computer games and rarely responding to my communicational approaches. He had limited communication tools, one of which was showing his tab to other children to attract their attention. Having slowly developed a good relationship with Jason and as he was happy throughout the sessions, he started making the first transitional steps, and in less than a year he has made remarkable progress in initiating spontaneous communication alongside engaging in cooperative play with other children. I loved observing Jason’s growing social competence and his increased interest in the social life around him. Seeing him socially engaged in the group activities and expressing an inner desire to come again was the most reliable sign of the greater progress on his life’s journey.
As a mother of an unusual child, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to Natasha, who worked with my son. I have not had any previous exposure to autism professionally or through family or life experiences and therefore felt really inadequate and helpless thinking something is wrong with my parenting skills or, what’s worse, with my son. Natasha, with her knowledge and experience, helped me understand my child and his uniqueness, to the point where I started to appreciate him for who he is and feel really proud and fond of him! More importantly, of course, than my ‘journey’, was the help she gave him to cope with the world he was born into. He is doing amazingly well and progresses from one little breakthrough to another, and I do feel it was her who put us on this positive path. She is a lucky person who has found her calling in life and genuinely enjoys finding an individual approach to each challenge and gets reward from seeing her charges succeed. I have seen it many times when she worked with my son. Unlike some professional lawyers or tax advisers (I myself am a tax advisor) she shares her knowledge and experience freely, genuinely putting the welfare and happiness of struggling children and their families above all else.