Vision for effective therapeutic programming for children with autism

When providing educational programming for children with autism, staff must have the knowledge and resources to not only teach skills, but also to improve the child’s neurological function. It is important to include interventions to improve fluidity and modulation of movement, improve auditory and visual processes, and decrease sensory disturbances.

Programming for children with severe autism must look beyond ABA applied behavior analysis. Most of these highly disorganized and out of sync kids would if they could, but they can’t, so they won’t. Pain overrides compliance. (That is, if a train runs over your foot, nothing else matters.) These children need to feel balanced, secure, and comfortable in their bodies for effective skill development to occur. They need more than educational programming. Most require a therapeutic setting.

Staff must have the knowledge and resources to not only teach skills, but also to alleviate discomfort and improve neurological function. Movement, rhythm disturbances, and complex sensory issues affect the ability to pay attention and learn. Without proper training, most teachers struggle to meet the needs of complex neurological and central nervous system differences. Staff members who lack proper training often mistake these difficulties for behavioral or cognitive ability.

Creating therapeutic and productive environments requires staff training, cross-disciplinary collaboration, and changing delivery approaches and models. Experts in the fields of speech, occupational, physical, and vision therapy should work with teachers and parents to create a specific program for severe autism. Parents and staff need to be aware of the strategies so that they can be delivered throughout the day, not just during the short therapy sessions that may occur a few times a week.

Selected personnel, duly authorized and motivated, could be sent to alternative training sessions. These chosen staff could not only implement strategies, but also train staff and parents in modifications they could use at school and at home to accelerate progress. That is, therapeutic listening, auditory integration training, biofeedback, interactive metronomes, binaural beats, rhythmic training programs, massage, acupressure movement therapies, reflexology,

The associated “energetic” communication strategies would be defined and implemented appropriately. The emphasis would be on the benefits, as well as the many unknown factors and risks. Some other energetic modalities to explore are cranial sacrum, reiki, aromatherapy, yoga, meditation, and hypnotherapy.

Many parents have limited resources to address the complex issues related to their child’s disability. Many children have Medicaid or similar government programs, which many therapists do not accept. Other parents are underinsured, lack financial resources, or are in survival mode.

School districts could recruit someone from the ASA-Autism Society of America to serve as a source of information for parents on diet, enzymes, supplements, gentle chelation procedures, and other options available to informed parents.

Developing supportive environments would help ensure maximum use of resources for school districts struggling with budget issues. The site chosen would meet the sensory and motor needs of children. Ideally, schools should have: “Quiet classrooms with natural light and adequate space for sensory equipment.” Equipment for swimming pools and children’s games that help modulate proprioceptive and vestibular difficulties. ” Proximity to a variety of parks and nature walks ” Close access to community facilities allowing for cost-effective and flexible community programs.

Administrators should schedule a time for teachers, assistants, and parents to confer with the team and implement and refine strategies for the continued optimal growth of each student. As teams develop, the roles will overlap; sensory issues, movement difficulties, communication, behavior issues, and pacing issues addressed in all curriculum areas throughout the day.

Teachers, assistants, and parents would have more confidence in their ability to deal with ongoing complex neurological, sensory, and movement difficulties as they continued to consult and collaborate with experts in specific disciplines. The turbulence and stress on students would lessen as they took refuge in the support of highly trained and secure staff.

A paradigm shift of this magnitude requires that small changes continue to take place. Disseminated information on current practices distributed. The programs would be modified as collaboration and innovation improve. What works for one child can have disastrous effects on another, or it can work now and be useless later. If staff members refuse to accomodate, have choices, remain flexible, are open to new ideas, take risks, and support each other, procedures will continue to create a flow of progress.