Autism


Introduction

Most children entering the Autism Program at Faith Christian Academy begin with individual therapy.  The length a child receives one to one therapy is based on their specific needs. The therapist, teacher, and parents work closely as they prepare to transition the child to a small classroom environment, usually consisting of 2-4 children.  While there are conflicting opinions as to whether a child with autism should be mainstreamed, it is our belief that they benefit greatly from individual and mainstream instruction.   For children with autism, participating with a typical peers setting allows appropriate social role models, responsive social partners, and the opportunity to just be a child.  It has been our experience that appropriate inclusion creates an atmosphere of understanding and tolerance for the typical peers.

 

TEACHING APPROACHES

Applied Behavior Analysis

ABA intervention for autism is not a one size fits all? Every aspect of intervention is customized to each learner's skills, needs, interests, preferences, and family situation. For those reasons, an ABA program for one learner will look different than a program for another learner.   Genuine, comprehensive ABA programs for learners with autism have certain things in common:

  • Intervention designed and overseen directly by qualified, well-trained professional behavior analysts
  • Detailed assessment of each learner's skills as well as learner and family preferences to determine initial treatment goals
  • Selection of goals that are meaningful for the learner and the family
  • Ongoing objective measurement of learner progress
  • Frequent review of progress data by the behavior analyst so that goals and procedures can be fine tuned as needed
  • Instruction on developmentally appropriate goals in all skill areas (e.g., communication, social, self-care, play & leisure, motor, and academic skills)
  • Skills broken down into small parts or steps that are manageable for the learner, and taught from simple (such as imitating single sounds) to complex (e.g., carrying on conversations)
  • An emphasis on skills that will enable learners to be independent and successful in both the short and the long run
  • Use of multiple behavior analytic procedures -- both adult-directed and learner-initiated to promote learning in a variety of ways
  • Many opportunities specifically planned and naturally occurring -- for each learner to acquire and practice skills every day, in structured and unstructured situations
  • Intervention provided consistently for many hours each week
  • Abundant positive reinforcement for useful skills and socially appropriate behaviors
  • An emphasis on positive social interactions, and on making learning fun
  • No reinforcement for behaviors that are harmful or prevent learning
  • Use of techniques to help trained skills carry over to various places, people, and times and to enable learners to acquire new skills in a variety of settings
  • Parent training so family members can teach and support skills during typical family activities
  • Regular meetings between family members and program

Floortime

Floortime is a specific therapeutic technique based on the Developmental Individual Difference  Relationship Model (DIR) developed by Dr. Stanley Greenspan.   The premise of Floortime is that an adult can help a child expand his circles of communication by meeting him at his developmental evel and building on his strengths. Therapy is often incorporated into play activities on the floor.  The goal of Floortime is to help the child reach six  developmental milestones that contribute to emotional and intellectual growth:

  • Self-regulation and interest in the world
  • Intimacy or a special love for the world of human relations
  • Two-way communication
  • Complex communication
  • Emotional ideas
  • Emotional thinking

PECS
PECS is a type of augmentative and alternative communication technique where individuals with little or no verbal ability learn to communicate using picture cards. Children use these pictures to “vocalize” a desire, observation, or feeling. These pictures can be purchased in a manual or they can be made at home using images from newspapers, magazines or other books. Some people with autism tend to learn visually, this type of communication technique has been shown to be effective at improving independent communication skills, leading in some cases to gains in spoken language.

TEACCH

Structured Teaching emphasizes structure by using organized physical environments, predictably sequenced activities, visual schedules and visually structured activities, and structured work/activity systems where each child can practice various tasks.

Social Stories

Social Stories are a tool for teaching social skills to children with autism and related disabilities. Social stories provide an individual with accurate information about those situations that he may find difficult or confusing. The situation is described in detail and focus is given to a few key points: the important social cues, the events and reactions the individual might expect to occur in the situation, the actions and reactions that might be expected of him, and why. The goal of the story is to increase the individual’s understanding of, make him more comfortable in, and possibly suggest some appropriate responses for the situation in question.

Therapeutic Options

A child’s personalized education plan may include animal assisted therapy, art therapy, hippatherapy, and music therapy.

Animal Assisted Therapy

Dogs provide unconditional love and acceptance which correlates with the principle foundation of FCA.  It seemed only natural for Gracie, a four year old mixed breed, certified animal therapy dog to be part of at FCA team.   As students and staff arrive, Gracie is anxiously waiting to greet each person.  Students practice math skills and reading aloud under “Gracie’s supervision”.  Some students will work hard, to earn the privilege to walk Gracie while others prefer to have Gracie sit beside them in class.  It is truly amazing to see Gracie at work with the students.

Experiential and Expressive Arts Therapy  (Art and Music Therapy)

Learning how to identify and experience emotions is a skill that many children and adolescents have trouble mastering.  When emotions are hidden within the mind, people begin to experience distress.  Empirical studies show that experiential methods help clients achieve dramatic results in the areas of psychological symptom reduction.  Using a combination of guided imagery, music therapy, and creative journaling to help identify and express themselves more effectively.




 



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