November 18, 2011 by

Treatment of Autism

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Categories: Behavioral Health, Good News

In the treatment of autism,or really, the progress of any individual, there is something we all must remember. Progress is never a direct line forward. Specifically with autism, there must always be a careful watch on our own expectations of progress. We must always remember the individual and realize we need to see progress as it is and not always what we expect it to be. I’m going to re-use Temple Grandin’s quote from a previous blog,”All behavior springs from a reason, and all behavior is communication.”
Yesterday I had a student observe to see if this is what she wants to do with her life. All went well until the second to last session. I should have known better. I gave this boy a little build up because he comes into most sessions and changes quickly from a boy with abrupt, brusque, gruff mannerisms and voice to a boy who has a very sweet, creatively inquisitive and spontaneous attitude and a trusting and agreeable voice. He also transfers from echoic speech to being able to easily answer very simple questions. That is his current goal in fact, to be able to answer questions. He comes in the room and almost immediately interprets the music we are going to be playing by moving to a yet unheard beat. He resembles a teenager who thinks he is alone with the head phones on. Well guess what, not yesterday. In fact he looked as if he barely noticed the music at all despite all my attempts.
And what makes this even better, his TSS said he was having a very good day. You can imagine my discomfort after the build up.
When I started to write his note at the end of the session, I realized he not only met his objective in the first few minutes of the session, but he surpassed it quite a bit. He answered many simple questions within the first few minutes of the session. A few possibilities came to mind; maybe I was in such a hurry to show what he can do that I did not pay attention to his needs like possibly more warm up music before the questioning. Maybe (this was the second time on a good day he did not have great Music therapy session) I have to watch this pattern over time and see what the possibilities are. Or maybe when I watch the video, it is not the things I wanted to see that was important. This is what to keep in mind, maybe there was higher level processing going (framing and organizing) which often is not observable by any outward action but is only observable by much more subtle observances like close attention to facial expression and posture.
This is a common pitfall of mine. When a child seems to be making very observable strides, I’m anticipating more and more each time. But in reality, name 1 person that develops that way, autistic or not.
What is important here is patience with ourselves and keen awareness of our clients. Quick notes after is a good reflective method, so are videos and blogging helps to. Also an open mind to our expectations. Everyone is an individual who is changing daily with each experience and interaction. Even with my own neuro-typical teenagers, growth occurs in different ways than I expect.(Neuro-typical teenager, is there really such a thing?)
One more story (this time I get to be on the other side of things) I once had a mother of an autistic child whom I thought was making tremendous progress with communication. Yet still non-verbal,the mother wanted to take him back to the neurologist because of his behaviors at home. The neurologist,whom I did not know nor knew me, demonstrated to the mother my suspicions. This little boy now understood but did not have enough yet to make his desires known. Mom received the result because she was who he hoped would be able to meet those wants. As Temple Grandin put it”All behavior springs from a reason and all behavior is communication.” Good to remember, no matter who we may be thinking of. Progress has it’s own path in each individual. Whatever the form it may take, progress is always significant.

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