Five Things to Know About Autism in the New Year
Has it really been thirteen years since the turn of the century?
Young children who were diagnosed with autism in 2000 are now in their teens. Teens who were dealing with autism in 2000 are now adults. Perhaps you, as an SLP, were just worrying about how the new century was going to affect your computer at this time some thirteen years ago.
Time marches on. Growth takes place. We learn from each other. A new year is about to begin. It is time to review FIVE important things about autism that remain the same.
- Characteristics vary widely
There is a wide bridge and a big diversity in the characteristics of autism from child to child or adult to adult. All adults with autism are not Rainman. The symptoms vary widely in severity, duration, and across environments. It is important to observe social, behavior, and language skills. History and parent report are also significant components of a profile for ASD.
- Early intervention is paramount
No one can retrieve lost time. It's that simple. It's that important. When a child is referred to the SLP by another professional or parent for "weird behavior," lack of speech, or unsociable responses, listen and observe. The SLP must train him/herself in knowing and understanding what it is they are hearing and seeing. I have worked with children and their families as young as six months when their responses to their environments were not normal. Everything we do as professionals should be directed toward independence. Start now, because the sooner, the better.
- There is no cure for autism
If anyone tells you their child has been cured of autism, I would say the original diagnosis was incorrect. There is no cure for autism, however, with professional and family interventions, autism can look very different as a child matures and grows. There is no cure for many maladies and as professionals we MUST help families understand, learn, control, and accept autism as part of their lives. We MUST provide hope, strategies, knowledge, and trust. We are their SLP.
- Therapies should be interactive and cross environments
I am a huge believer in teamwork. But ~ I believe that team needs to be on the same page. The proven therapies of speech, occupational, and physical are all good individually but together they are powerful in a child's life. Again, they are good in the school and good in the home but great when they cross environments. Why is it that some schools or private therapists will NOT allow parents to observe or be part of therapy? That boggles my mind and stabs my heart. (When my son was young, I was a part of what was going on in his classroom at school, school therapy, and private therapies of all kinds. THAT propelled carryover and growth.) Believe me when I say, the more the child grows, the better YOU look ~ so share your knowledge and strategies whenever and where ever you can.
- High expectations are key
"Nobody ever rose to a low expectation." Teach the child to sit without quality therapy and he/she will learn to sit. Give the child fun, quality therapy, while sitting and he/she will LEARN HOW TO LEARN. I expect a lot from the children with whom I work. I tell them they need to "EARN" it. I ask them, "Who's the most proud of you?" (they are). Yes, I expect a lot ~ they know it ~ they give it ~ they learn ~ they are proud of themselves.
So, welcome to 2013. It always takes most of us about a month to remember to write the new year on checks or paperwork because we're used to our old ways. Nobody really likes change. Because we're SLPs, people's lives depend on our ability to change, to learn, to adapt, to give the best we can in this New Year.
As we all climb into January 2013 we need to resolve and know that we have done many great things in the past for our clients with ASD. That's not going to stop. We're just going to bring that Ladder of Success and climb higher and higher.
"Speech pathologists make good things happen."