Friday, March 12, 2010

I'm up on my Soap Box Today

People are always looking for the single magic bullet that will totally change everything. There is no single magic bullet.
--Temple Grandin

I'm not a skeptic by nature, but there are lots of quacks out there when it comes to helping children with autism, so as a responsible speech language pathologist, I try to make myself be skeptical. Because without being skeptical, I won't be very much help for parents who are trying to sort through the good, the bad, and the ugly resources out there for autism treatment, to find what will work for their child.

I agree with Temple Grandin that there's no single thing that is going to be a quick fix. Successful treatment of autism spectrum disorders takes time and usually a ton of effort. And in my experience, it usually takes a combination of resources and strategies, often from a wide range of disciplines (which is one of the reasons I like the SCERTS model for treatment a lets you borrow a little from lots of different treatment models.). The hard part is that the combination of therapy strategies that work perfectly for one child with autism may not do diddly squat for another kiddo with autism. Even on the same end of the autism spectrum, no two kids are alike, and no two kids respond exactly the same way to any strategy.

But, that being said, here are my all time favorite autism treatment books:

1. Behavioral Intervention for Young Children with Autism by Catherine Maurice - This was the first practical clinical resource I ever bought for autism, and it gives specific activities to try to help children learn in a very structured manner. If you're trying to decide what skills to start teaching during "ABA"ish therapy time with a young child, this book is helpful.

2. Comic Strip Conversations by Carol Gray - I LOVE using comic strip conversations. I've used them with kids as young as 3 and on up into high school, to teach the basic pattern of different conversations. I remember when one of my kindergarteners learned how to participate in the /"Hi, how are you today?" "I'm fine, how are you?" "Fine, thanks"/ conversation. She grinned from ear to ear when she figured out that this little conversation is pretty predictable. I've also used comic strip conversations for greeting others when they walk in the door, for asking to go to the restroom, for asking friends if you can play with them, etc. Life never actually goes just like the comic strip conversations do, but you can imagine how these comics can reduce the anxiety associated with social situations for kiddos with autism. (By the way, I love to use Carol Gray's social stories, as well.)

3. Visual Strategies for Improving Communication by Linda Hodgdon - Visual strategies are the closest thing I can think of to a "magic bullet" for children with autism, in that they really are helpful for pretty much everyone. I really can't think of a single kiddo I've ever worked with who hasn't benefited from visual supports, and I use them like crazy for children who aren't on the spectrum, as well. Visual supports is just a fancy word for things like: picture schedules, sticker charts for good behavior, the green/yellow/red light idea for behavior management, etc. For kids who are not yet verbal, I really love to use picture boards to give them ideas of what to talk about and an easy means to begin communicating (just touch a picture). Here are some cool picture boards that a wonderful SLP (and a former fantastic teacher of mine), Cathy Binger, created to go along with some children's books. There are also some hands-on ideas for how to use visual supports in books created by the TEACCH program.

4. Relationship Development Intervention with Young Children by Gutstein & Sheely - This book is pretty much just a collection of fun games to play with your child with autism in order to help them connect with you and learn. I wish it had videos to go along with it, because it can be a kind of dry read. But the activities are great fun, and for novice SLPs, it's a great place to start in terms of planning for therapy activities. The website Autism Games (and its companion blog) has some great videos of therapists and families playing games like the ones in this book, if you're interested. RDI therapy is fun, so families usually enjoy this approach.

5. Parenting Your Asperger Child by Sohn & Grayson - This book is written especially for parents, and I found it helpful in identifying personality subtypes of children with Asperger's (for instance, Rule oriented children versus logic oriented children versus emotion oriented children) and which strategies seem to work best for each personality type. I also thought this book addressed strategies for reducing anxiety well, and I've even borrowed some of those strategies to use with children who aren't on the spectrum but who are often anxious.

Let me know if there's some resource that you really like that I don't have listed here! I always like to learn new things, you know!

Disclaimer: The contents of this blog are for informational purposes only. The information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should seek the advice of your health care provider regarding any questions you have. You should not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog. The Gladdest Thing Under the Sun disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on the information on this blog.

What topic do you get on your soapbox about?

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