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Building Blocks of Early (and Later!) Intervention

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Building Blocks of Early (and Later!) Intervention

By James Ball, Ed.D., BCBA-D

Autism Asperger’s Digest | January/February 2009

 

Life is all about change. Some changes are welcomed, like the birth of a child or a sought-after promotion, while other changes catch us unaware, interrupting the visions we held for our lives, our futures. Your child being diagnosed on the autism spectrum can be devastating, a change so pervasive to your life you doubt your ability to adjust, let alone ever be truly happy again. But life is also about hope, and hope does prevail within the autism community.

It is widely known that early diagnosis of ASD (a term that represents all autism spectrum disorders) combined with intensive intervention yields the best possible outcome for our kids.  Early Intervention (EI) services (for kids up to age 3) give families a jump start on working with their child. But waiting lists for formal EI services can sometimes be long and after all the necessary tests and evaluations, the child may age out of EI intervention before services start.

Despite confusion, raw emotions and little to no knowledge about ASD, most parents are eager to start doing something with their child right away. That “something” is what this column is all about.

Starting right now, you will begin learning the vital building blocks of early intervention, the positive, practical strategies that can help you be effective today (and in years to come) in working with your child, his behaviors, sensory issues, social skills, etc.

We begin with some foundation ideas that will carry you through the times to come. Keep these in the back of your mind as we discuss, in future columns, the specific strategies to use with your child.

Have a plan, but keep it flexible. Your child will learn and grow, especially during his younger years. Your plan needs to change with him. It should always be child-centered, based on the individual needs of your child and your family.

Peer inside your child. What makes him smile? What sets off her tantrum? What calms him or excites her? Behavior is powerful communication. Even if he’s not yet talking, what is his behavior trying to tell you?

See the “whole child” rather than breaking up your child into parts you think need “fixing.” She’s not just her autism; she’s a child with a unique and individual personality. The keyword here is “integration.”

Grab every learning opportunity that presents itself, yet pace yourself. You’re here for the long haul. Learning never stops.

Prioritize goals and objectives for your child (we’ll help). Don’t beat yourself up about all you’re not doing. Stay focused and committed, but take time to enjoy your child and applaud the successes as they come.

Be realistic about EI services and how they work within your family structure. It’s not respite (babysitting), it’s learning for the whole family: Mom, Dad, siblings, Grandma, Grandpa, and anyone else close to the child.

Look to the future. Your ultimate goal is helping your child grow to be a happy, independent individual, equipped with daily life skills, social skills, and a great personality that will allow him to succeed to the best of his ability. Right now you probably cannot even fathom your child as an adult, but time passes quicker than you could ever imagine. Let this goal drive your decisions, even now.

Let yourself believe. Hope and faith will fuel you through the many rough spots sure to come. People can teach you skills to help your child; believing in him, in yourself comes from within. Don’t let that light burn out.

Embrace your journey, rather than fight it. Autism is not your enemy, but your resistance to it may very well become an albatross that drags you down. Your child is different, not defective.

Remember to enjoy your child for who she is: an amazing being with limitless potential.

The nitty-gritty of what to do starts in the next column. Get set to work!

 

BIO

Dr. Jim Ball, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), has been working in the field of autism for 20+ years in a variety of public and private settings, helping children and adults with ASD. He is the author of numerous articles on ASD; his book, Early Intervention & Autism:  Real-Life Questions, Real-Life Answers was released in February 2008. Learn more about him at www.jbautismconsulting.com

Copyright © Autism Asperger’s Digest. 2009. All Rights Reserved. Distribution via print means prohibited without written permission of publisher.


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