An important barometer in the current treatment of ASD is the creation of an IEP and the achievement of stated goals. While it is necessary to document progress, the present mechanism may not always engender enough of the kinds of skills that are needed in the real world.
As children improve from the conditions that surround ASD, IEPs notwithstanding, these age-appropriate activities of daily living must be achieved:
- The ability to get ready in the morning.
- Getting out of the house, into the car, out of the car and into the school, without a major meltdown.
- Following the directions of school personnel.
- Being able to sit, fairly still, for varying periods of time. Or, at least stand there. Or, at least not be disruptive.
- Learn a new activity, or practice a necessary skill.
- Transition to another exercise, which may be more difficult (or impossible), or less-preferred.
- Kids learn how to be kids from each other. So, children need to show and share.
- As development proceeds, children display a desire to watch others play, engage in play, and even initiate.
- Getting out of the school, into the car, out of the car and into the house, without a major meltdown.
Academic achievement is the standard for neurotypical patients. For the autistic child, socialization will bring the maturity that can create significant progress.
Does my child meet the following criteria?
Does the child turn to voices and especially their name? “Your son won’t listen,” or “Your daughter doesn’t pay attention,” is a common concern. That is especially frustrating for those amazing kids who hear and take in everything, but are believed to be ‘slow learners’. The IEP goal? “Your child will turn to their name most of the time, when they are called, without prompting.”
Do they make eye contact with other children, not just family members? This important social skill is a major first step in normal play. If you watch a group of 3 or 4 year-olds, they don’t ask, “Who wants to play chase?” There’s no memo or adult prompting; they just look at each other, screech, and start to run around. Finding social situations where your child can practice is so much more important than how well they play Angry Birds.
The ability to speak is paramount. That doesn’t mean hours and hours of Speech and Language Therapy by itself. The Child Development Center has seen hundreds of children who developed speech by utilizing a combination of therapies with medical evaluation and appropriate, effective interventions. Our older apraxic patients have different problems.
For children who can speak, do they use their voice at the appropriate times (naming, answering) or only when prompted? Is there a great deal of echolalia, saying the same sentence as the questioner? Does scripting seem to make sense and, at least, be in context, or does the conversation seem to be gibberish? These rituals are practice, not to be discouraged, but the child must generalize language to appropriate situations. Kids judge other kids.
Sensory difficulties are a major hurdle for many ASD patients. Sounds may be too loud, lighting to harsh, and experiences so stimulating that children exhibit repetitive motor behaviors (stimming). For both the student and the classroom, addressing these issues (e.g., sensory diet) will make things go more smoothly.
Aggressive behaviors will not be tolerated for very long in any educational situation. Rather than making excuses for why your child behaves in a disruptive or violent manner (whether SIBs or directed at others), gastrointestinal health and ABA intervention is more important than any academic effort.
We are talkin’ ‘baby steps’ here. Autism is not someone’s fault. It is a condition of the 21st century that requires appropriate medical and therapeutic intervention.