Last week I attended the Asia Pacific Autism Conference and one of the big take-home messages (which I am always going on about) was “how important it is to fit the therapy to the child rather than the child to the therapy”. This is incredibly important and also a great way of distinguishing good quality therapy from more generic approaches that may not be effective, or sustainable.
As you may know, I strongly believe that every child’s intervention plan needs to take into consideration the unique and individual differences of the child with autism. But what is equally important and often overlooked, is that the intervention must also take into consideration the values, circumstances, and lifestyle of the FAMILY for it to be most effective and sustainable.
This is why I love carrying out sessions in my client’s homes, because I get to know the family dynamics very quickly and how I can help incorporate therapy that respects the core values of the family, into their day-to-day activities.
This is important so that the family is strengthened and motivated by the therapy, rather than feeling like it is putting too much strain on the family unit, which can often be the case where families are also caring for other siblings who also have very individual needs. If therapy can be incorporated into your normal daily activities rather than being thought of as something else that you have to try to fit into your day, you will be much more motivated and inclined to do it regularly and consistently.
I chose to write about this today because I went to see a lovely family on the weekend who live in a two bedroom apartment with their four children and two grandparents. One of the children, Oliver, has been diagnosed with ASD. It is often not possible for this family to carry out extensive one-on-one therapy with their son because of the simple day-to-day demands of raising four children. Therefore it is critical that the therapy with their son is organised in such a way that fits in with the whole family.
They love to go to the park as much as possible so that the kids have an opportunity to run around and to get some fresh air and sunshine. The father told me that he tries to work on Oliver’s social and communication skills while they are playing on the swing, which is great. However as Oliver gets better at expressing his desires on the swing, saying things like ‘more’, ‘push’ and ‘higher’, he will eventually reach a limit of things he can talk about that relate to swinging on the swing. So in order to keep building his vocabulary and language skills he needs to be doing a range of different activities.
So I suggested that the father take a bag full of toys with them that he could use to play some simple interactive games (e.g: bubbles, balloons, a sheet/blanket, musical instruments) at he playground so that he can create some more opportunities for Oliver to expand his language. The father thought that this was a great idea and it would also take some pressure off the family by incorporating the new games into their time at the park.
I give you this example because it’s important for therapists and families to be creative and to ‘think outside of the square’ when working out how to incorporate therapy into the child and family’s everyday life. If doing therapy at the same time and in the same place on the same days every week is difficult or simply isn’t happening, then get creative and take your therapy with you! There’s no right or wrong, just endless possibilities!
Best wishes on your journey
P.S: If you have any thoughts or stories to share about this week’s article please leave your comments in the box provided below.