Archives for November, 2010
In a recent study, researchers found that the IQs of children with high functioning autism don’t predict their academic success. Am I being too cynical or could this have been published in the Journal of Duh ? (Add your own sarcastic tone here) Anyone who has worked with, lived with or is personally diagnosed with an autism spectrum (and can critically analyze themselves) has known this for years. Test scores are usually NOT an adequate means of assessing a child with ASD"s abilities, let alone predicting them! I would add, that it is not just IQ scores that don’t predict academic performance, but I have advocated for years that language test scores don’t predict language abilities either, especially in high functioning individuals.
I recently heard about a school system in New Jersey that has decided to develop a convenience store within their school to help teach special needs students in a real-life circumstance about job skills. It’s about time! For years I have been advising teachers, parents and other therapists that working in isolated contexts is only good to a point. We MUST help our kids apply the skills in real world contexts if we’re going to serve them in the long run. I think of all the times I used the other people in my offices for “practice.” Taking my clients to their offices, learning to knock on doors, ask questions, have a conversation, request something, learn to greet or say ‘goodbye” and the list goes on. I have also had office locations that were in shopping centers that allowed me to take kids out in the real world and deal with spontaneous everyday experiences at grocery stores, drug stores, and the ever popular bakery and frozen yogurt shops for treats!
In my last blog I addressed the issue of teaching our kids the skills they need versus doing the skills for them. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is their independence. Obviously, not every child on the spectrum has the same capabilities for being independent. That is a judgment call that only those around a child can make. But even then, there are differences in how one parent versus another sees their child’s abilities or one professional versus another. My general philosophy is to give a child the benefit of the doubt, and slowly provide more and more support as they need it rather than the reverse of providing the support and then withdrawing it. Although this will not work for all children, I have found that it’s easier to add supports where necessary instead of making our children dependent and then removing those supports.
As I ponder the accommodations we make for children on the spectrum, the old saying “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime” comes to mind. There is a fine line between helping kids to accommodate by doing things for them, albeit with good intentions, versus teaching them the skills for acclimating to circumstances.
With Halloween now behind us, the rest of the holiday season is now in front of us. The holidays are meant to be times when families and friends come together to enjoy each other and just the opposite may be the case in families who have children on the spectrum. It takes special consideration, thought and proactively preparing for the holidays to make them an enjoyable experience for everyone. So, now is the perfect time to start planning. It’s a constant balancing act between the needs of the child or children with special needs and the rest of the family. There are no right and wrong answers and what might work for one family may not work for another. Below are some things to consider:
Parents often ask me whether teaching sign language or using pictures to help their child communicate will inhibit their child’s ability to speak? The answer is NO! In fact, just the opposite happens. It may seem counter intuitive, but research supports the fact that by learning to communicate with signs or pictures, a child is actually more likely to speak if they are able to do so. Pictures or signs can’t make a child talk, but they can facilitate the communication process, leading to speech. Did you know that many children on the autism spectrum have oral-motor problems that make it difficult for them to coordinate the movements of their mouths to make the sounds of speech? This is often called apraxia or dyspraxia and although not unique to children on the spectrum, it is often seen in this population.
With the recent surge in teenage suicides reported on the news, our national attention to bullying has increased. It is an especially sad subject, especially, because it is so preventable. You may remember in a previous blog I addressed the issue of being proactive (“…address something before it happens, rather than waiting to react to something after it has already happened.”) It’s critical to deal with bullying proactively to prevent these extreme reactions. But, even before dealing with the bullying, per se, children would need to know they are being bullied.