The Autism Society Philippines (ASP) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the well-being of persons with autism spectrum disorder. The ASP has been in the forefront of providing services and training to families living with autism.

25 March 2018

Intervention Models for Children with Autism

Teacher Patricia Yap, a special educator explained the principles, processes and practices in the intervention models for children with autism -- such as Developmental Individual differences Relationship (DIR)/Floortime and the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) -- at the Autism Society Philippines National Headquarters last 24 March 2018.


Teacher Patricia explained each of the six developmental capacities of children, the milestones they need to master and how these can impact a healthy emotional and intellectual growth of every child. She also explained how these capacities are affected by individual differences, whether biologically based or family, community or culture based. It was pointed out that it is important to identify the child’s and the parents and/or teacher’s interactive style. The parent and/or the teacher should adapt to the child’s style to develop a good relationship. This good relationship is the mechanism for learning for all children to develop and learn through relationships with parents and other trusted adults.

Floortime is a technique or a type of play where the parent or the teacher get down on the floor and work with the child to master each of the developmental capacities. The technique involves following the child’s natural interests, at the same time challenging the child towards greater mastery of the social, emotional and intellectual capacities. Children, young adults and adults with developmental challenges especially those on the autism spectrum disorder can benefit from Floortime. A teacher, an occupational or speech therapists, a parent or anyone can be trained to deliver Floortime.

The six social-emotional stages of development were each discussed in details. The six stages are as follows (1) regulation and shared attention (2) engagement and relatedness; intimacy and/or falling in love (3) two-way and purposeful communication (4) social problem solving/ complex communication (5) creative and meaningful use of ideas/emotional ideas (6) emotional and logical thinking. Criteria and goal for each stage were discussed in details.

As every intervention model, Floortime also begins with an assessment. The child is observed to identify his/her developmental level. Which developmental capacity is mastered fully or partially and which are not observed at all is noted. The child’s reactions and plan of actions towards a sensation and his/her learning relationship are also observed.

Floortime is done by following the child’s lead, and seeing what motivates him, then join him in whatever he is doing. As the child begin to recognize the adult’s presence, entice him into shared interaction, with challenge but his individual profile is taken into consideration..

Early Start Denver Model shares some common features with approaches like (1) Denver Model (2) Pivotal Response Training (PRT) (3) Applied Behavior Analysis. ESDM is a technique that develops children’s spontaneous tendency to approach and interact with others and their ability to engage with others. It targets the core deficits of Autism Spectrum Disorder and focuses on skills needed to accelerate development through hands-on and experiential learning. The model also focuses on quality relationships, affect and adult sensitivity and responsivity. The model is found to be effective in enhancing development in children with autism ages one to three years old.
ESDM can be implemented in any setting; at home, in an inclusive preschool, in a clinical office or intervention center by a parent, a teacher or a therapist. Teacher Patricia stresses the importance of data collection to evaluate the teaching efficacy and to adjust and maximize progress.

ESDM begins with an interview with the parents of the CWA. A curriculum checklist serves as a guide in developing the 12-week objective where teaching steps will be based. Data on these documents will constantly be referred to and updated accordingly. Teacher Patricia gives special attention to the importance of the set-up in starting an ESDM session. Set-up is where the parent or teacher/therapist identify materials and motivating activities to engage the child. ESDM sessions employ strategies and principles of ABA, PRT and Denver Model such as prompts, shaping of behaviors, functional behavior analysis, reinforcement, taking turns,following childs leads and adults use of positive affect.

Short videos were played demonstrating how a Floortime, PRT and ESDM session takes place to reinforce understanding of each of the models discussed. Also, a pop quiz in between topics helped encourage participation and demonstrate learnings.

Teacher Patricia divided the participants into groups to discuss their learnings. Each shared their own stories and experiences with children with autism and how these intervention models can help them improve how they teach CWAs,

In closing, Teacher Patricia shared additional take home messages (a) no one intervention is better than the other (b) interventions should be individualized and tailored fit to the child’s needs and strengths (c) play and relationship are key components to an effective intervention for CWAs (d) parents/caregivers are the best people to provide interventions and should be their child’s case manager.

Participants shared what they thought about the seminar:

“Effective sequence of the topic. She did a very organized talk to the participants. Organized planning by the speaker.”

“The seminar is a fruitful way on exposing other options for parent & professionals.”

“Very helpful to my profession. New methods are discussed clearly. Speaker clearly and discussed topics well. Slides and handouts prepared are helpful.”

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