I love this article from Lisa Jo Rudy about what NOT to do after your child is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
You know, I remember the panic and sadness that I felt when I first found out about my son's diagnosis, and all of the “mad rush” things that I did to get knowledgeable and to try to make good decisions for him. To some extent, that's necessary, but remember when you go into this, that many people in the world of educating autism have only had training in one intervention, and really don't know much else outside of their intervention, although they believe their intervention is the best. Keep that in mind when looking around.
When talking to other parents and teachers who have learned more than one intervention, you will find that almost invariably those who have more than one intervention under their belt will have a broader world view of autism interventions and will understand the benefits of using more than one over time.
My experience has been that every intervention we have tried has helped our son, each in a different way. All have been effective for what they can do, and no one intervention covers all the bases. A customized approach is usually what's called for, despite what a lot of professionals trained in one method might say.
The research available on all autism interventions is really not that well-done as yet. Some interventions say that they're research-based, but if you really look into their research, you will find that in the end, it's very difficult to do a good study.
For instance, the children in Dr Lovaas' group (only 19) were cherry picked for verbal ability by age 3 and normal IQ scores. Nonverbal or children who didn't score well on IQ didn't get in. Most people don't know that.
And even then, only 40% went on to regular school.
Don't get me wrong- ABA is a very good, very solid intervention for teaching tasks, imitation, and initial focus. The key to a good experience with ABA (or any intervention) is the TEACHER, and to know when to stop using it. ABA is best done with a younger child who has no skills whatsoever. The mistake many make is to do it harshly, or to keep doing it long after it's lost its effectiveness.
We did ABA on our son in the beginning, had a fabulous, very fun teacher, and my son learned a lot. She broke a lot of rules, but you almost have to with ABA in order to get a good result with ABA. Verbal Behavior is a newer, more fun form of ABA that a family should consider if they are thinking about ABA.
But ABA and Verbal Behavior are poor when it comes to teaching flexible thinking, social abilities and conversational skills- the skills that your child is severely lacking in and can't be learned in a rote fashion. For social abilities and communication, RDI, Son-rise and Floortime are far better interventions.
And no one beats a good speech therapist for teaching communication skills to your child.
And for healing your heart spirit and your family's heart spirit, nothing beats son-rise.
Regarding sensory difficulties, either having a good occupational therapist, or reading up and implementing how to help with this in your home, such as “The Out of Sync Child Has Fun” or “Just One Bite” for food textural and taste issues are great ways to help your child as well.
For your child, you may need stuff from some or all of the above, some done at the same time, and some in sequence.
I also love her idea about “window of opportunity”, the big urban myth. Someone introduced this idea and everyone latched on. Remember, “window of opportunity” an opinion. If your brain couldn't continue to develop, no one would ever recover from a stroke or brain injury. No one could learn anything new after age 5. Please! All of us have learned tremendous things long into adulthood. Your child will too.
And regarding the “rush to cure”– remember that most children recover partially, not totally from their autism, so even though you don't know your child's potential, the most important thing is to value him or her now, as he is, and not what you wish he was. He will feel whether you truly accept him or not as he is now. Remember, he or she is a person, a child, first, who just happens to have autism, not the other way around.
Sandra Sinclair, www.autismvoice.com