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Autism Coach

Intervention Basics - Getting Started


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An effective intervention program can make a huge difference in the outcome of a child in the autism spectrum. Many experts in autism now recognize that the most successful intervention programs address both the needs of the body and mind of the child. 
 
This article provides basic information on how to create an intervention program.
 
We have information and links at the end of this article to help you learn more about autism and quickly get started helping your child.
 
Connecting Our Children Together
 
The current analogy in the autistic community is that autism is a puzzle to which we do not have all the pieces. Our children are also like the pieces of a puzzle which need to be connected together to make a fully integrated, unified child.

The latest medical research into autism indicates that the brains of autistic children are internally disconnected on different levels. The right and left hemispheres of the brain do not optimally cross-communicate through the brain stem. There is an insufficiency of Purkinge cells in the brain that provide an information highway linking stored information together in a meaningful and organized way.

Current research also theorizes that reasons for disconnection or interference in the creation of connections may include immunizations, viruses, neuro-toxins, immune system dysfunction, and mal-digestion. 

The Autism Coach Intervetion Approach

The Autism Coach Approach to creating a highly effective intervention program is: 

1.

Start an intervention program as soon as possible, and create as intensive a program as your resources will permit.

 The younger the child, the greater the opportunity to build the brain.

2.

Remove potentially harmful foods from the diet while introducing supportive supplements and/or medications.

The majority of autistic children benefit from the being placed on a gluten free and casein free (GFCF) diet. A child on this diet avoids foods that contain gluten and casein, including wheat and milk products.

Supplements can provide building blocks for proper neurological development and protect the brain from further damage. Autism Coach provides an array of supplements that have been shown in studies to benefit autistic children and have been carefully selected to exclude harmful additives.

We offer an Autism Coach Supplement Kit that provide supplements to help parents of young children who have been recently diagnosed within the autism spectrum quickly implement an intervention program. These supplements and protocols have benefited a significant percentage of children within the autism spectrum. For more information on nutritional intervention, see Supplement Overview, Autism Biology and Special Diets - An Overview, and Keeping It Natural.

3. 

Find and use sensory pathways through which the child learns best within a structured program that provides the child with essential information about themselves and the outside world, continually building their base of knowledge in an organized fashion.

Some children are visual learners and others are auditory learners - begin teaching your child through their strongest learning pathway - eventually, you may be able to use the child's strongest learning pathway to connect to and strengthen the other pathways.

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is a rehabilitative therapy that creates structure and meaning by building upon the child's strengths and abilities. An ABA therapist typically first assesses how the child is functioning developmentally in a variety of areas and then creates a program where the child is worked with on a one-on-one basis to successfully complete a series of specific, measurable tasks. These tasks are designed to move the child to the next step in the developmental hierarchy. When these goals are achieved the therapist sets new more challenging goals. The ultimate objective is to increase the development level of the tasks until the child is challenged at an age-appropriate level.

Network with other parents to find a talented therapist to assess your child, create a program, and to train you and others to carry out the program. The highest levels of success with ABA are achieved when a child receives at least 30 hours a week of one-on-one therapy. ABA- type therapies have been statistically shown to improve the prognosis of virtually all autistic children (my son had a year of modified ABA therapy when he was first diagnosed). Be sure to network with parents to find the therapists getting the best results. Optimally, you want a motivated, innovative, kind and intuitive therapist who will identify your child's strengths and deficits creatively adapt their approach to fit the needs of your child. 

4.

Build, strengthen and create organized neurological pathways through which the child can receive and interpret new information.

Integrative therapies such as auditory integration, sensory integration, and visual integration may all be of help in strengthening sensory pathways.

Activities that strengthen the child's ability to multi-task (do more than more thing at a time) can also help to connect the different systems of brain to work together. An example of multi-tasking is to have the child count to twenty while doing jumping jacks on a trampoline. Identify your child's greatest area of sensory difficulty and choose an integrative therapy that addresses it.

However, always be sure to network with other parents to find the therapists who get the best results. Finding a good therapist who gets results is more important than the type of therapy used.

5.

Keep the child engaged in the outside world and stimulated as much as possible during the day in activities that provide an external structure for building meaning, comprehension and organization.

You want mental stimulation to trigger neurological growth on an on-going basis. Every child needs some down time, but this should not be excessive (as in several unstructured hours in a row on a regular basis).

6.

When possible, help your child meet his or her sensory needs in ways that provide positive meaning and purpose.

When my son started excessively wiggling his fingers, I decided to give him piano lessons so that finger movement would have purpose and he is now a professional pianist! When he began to flap his hands, I had him do push-ups so that he would get the sensory feedback to his wrists through an exercise that provides coordination for his entire body. We also played a pushing game where he tried to push me to the wall by pushing my hands against this hands - this also provided sensory input in a more positive, social fashion.

One of the best investments in equipment I ever made was a small device called a Dizzy Disc that is a wooden circle that spins around on a rectangular base and may be adjustably tilted at varying angles (the steeper, the more difficult). The child has to stand on it and tries spin around without falling off. My son and neuro-typical daughter both loved the Dizzy Disc andused it on a regular basis. This piece of equipment actually helped my son's balance (vestibular) system to quickly mature and got him to the point where he was soon able to ride a two-wheeler bike, scooter, and in-line skates (there was a time when I wondered if he would ever be able to participate in these kinds of activities). 

7.

If your child suddenly shows a positive new interest or skill, encourage this interest and work it.

This is a sign that the part of the brain involved in this skill is developing new neurological connections which may be more easily strengthened and expanded on. Reinforcing a new skill strengthens the neurological connections currently being made by the brain, helping this new developmental milestone to integrate and generalize more thoroughly within your child's brain.

8.

Make interventions fun and low stress - provide lots of incentives.

Research indicates people learn best with humor and that chronic stress reduces the brain's ability to learn and grow - permanently stunting areas of the brain over time. Positive incentives to participate in therapies may include food treats, activities, and toys.

An example of using humor to teach is doing or saying something the child knows does not make sense in a funny (not mean) way, asking them if this makes sense, and getting the child to tell or show you the correct thing to do. This a fun and effective technique for engaging the child and strengthening connections. 

9.

Include at least one regular physical activity or therapy as part of your child's intervention program.

The roots of autism may partially lie in physical coordination - infants with uncoordinated or unusual crawling patterns are more likely to become autistic. Sensory integrative therapies that help the child meet the developmental physical milestones that they may have missed - including even teaching an older child to crawl properly and to independently control the different areas of their body to fade persisting infantile reflexes may help the child to move ahead cognitively as well.

Recent research indicates that aerobic activities (such as walking, running, swimming, biking) increases amounts of neurotransmitters in the brain. Even having your child ride an exercise bike is beneficial because it requires coordination between the left and right sides of the body (bilateral) which stimulates cross connections between the right left sides of the brain. Exercise also reduces levels of stress hormones that can interfere with brain development. 

10.

Never let the child fail.

These kids are already frustrated to the nth degree!  Be generous and enthusiastic in praise for achieved goals. Always start teaching a skill at a level where the child can succeed and then increase the level of challenge, as the child's abilities increase. Success will build on success and eventually be a motivator in itself.