A strengths-based approach to autism

At our son’s 18-month checkup 5 years in the past, our pediatrician expressed concern. Gio wasn’t utilizing any phrases, and would grow to be so annoyed he would bang his head on the bottom. Nonetheless, my husband and I had been in denial. We dragged our toes. In the meantime, our son grunted and screamed; folks mentioned issues. Lastly we began remedy with early intervention providers.

A number of months later, after lots of of pages of conduct questionnaires for us and hours of testing for Gio, we heard the phrases: “Your son meets standards for a prognosis of autism spectrum dysfunction…”

Our journey has taken us by means of a number of behavioral approaches with many alternative suppliers. Right this moment, Gio is doing very nicely, in an built-in first grade in public faculty. He can communicate, learn, write, and play. His speech and syntax could be onerous to grasp, however we’re thrilled that we are able to talk with him.

The distinction between typical and purposeful

Longtime autism researcher Laurent Mottron wrote a current scientific editorial by which he factors out that the present method to treating a baby with autism is predicated on altering them, making them conform, suppressing repetitive behaviors, intervening with any “obsessive” pursuits. Our household skilled this firsthand. A few of our early behavioral therapists would see Gio lie on the bottom to play, his face stage with the automobiles and vehicles he was rolling into lengthy rows, and they might inform us, “Make him sit up. No mendacity down. Let’s rearrange the automobiles. Inform him, they don’t all the time must be in a straight line, Gio!”

To me, this method appeared inflexible. We don’t all must act in the very same manner. These youngsters must perform, not robotically imitate “regular.”

Why not leverage distinction moderately than extinguish it?

We naturally gravitated in the direction of Stanley Greenspan’s “DIR/Floortime” method, by which therapists and fogeys observe the kid’s lead, utilizing the kid’s pursuits to interact them, after which serving to the kid to progress and develop.

Mottron’s analysis helps Greenspan’s method: research the kid to determine his or her areas of curiosity. The extra intense the curiosity the higher, as a result of that’s what the kid will discover stimulating. Allow them to absolutely discover that object or theme (shiny issues? purple issues? wheels?) as a result of these pursuits assist the creating mind to determine the world.

Then, use that curiosity as a method to interact with the kid, and assist them make extra connections. Mottron suggests that oldsters and lecturers get on the identical stage with the kid and interact in an identical exercise — be it rolling automobiles and vehicles, or lining them up. When the kid is snug, add in one thing extra. Perhaps, make the automobiles and vehicles speak to one another.

However, don’t stress the kid to affix the dialog. Allow them to be uncovered to phrases, conversations, and songs, with out compelled social interplay. That is how early language abilities could be taught in a non-stressful manner, acknowledging and aligning with the autistic mind. The continued relationship and engagement will foster communication.

Principally, what each Greenspan and Mottron are advocating are strategies of instructing autistic youngsters to narrate, adapt, and performance on the earth, with out “forcing the autism out of them.”

The idea of accepting autistic youngsters as they’re, and incorporating the pure methods they suppose into academic and therapeutic strategies, feels proper to me. Gio is totally different from most children, and actually, he’s not fascinated by most children. Our makes an attempt to push him to take part in “enjoyable” group actions like soccer, Easter egg hunts, and birthday events have all been spectacular failures. Perhaps the true failure was ours: by pushing him to “slot in,” we deny his true nature. Sure, the best way he thinks is usually mysterious to us, however he clearly has nice strengths: a outstanding skill to focus and persevere, to experiment along with his concepts, and to observe his imaginative and prescient.

World-renowned autism knowledgeable and animal rights activist Temple Grandin (who’s herself autistic, and really open about her desire for animal moderately than human companionship!) sums up Mottron’s method completely: “The main focus must be on instructing folks with autism to adapt to the social world round them whereas nonetheless retaining the essence of who they’re, together with their autism.”


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Greenspan, Stanley (2006). Partaking Autism. Da Capo Press. www.stanleygreenspan.com

Mottron, L. Ought to we modify targets and strategies of early intervention in autism, in favor of a strengths-based schooling? European Little one & Adolescent Psychiatry, February 2017, e-pub forward of print.

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