3 weeks ago



Trevor 143 he was

Trevor 143 he was rewarded with a paper star that he could add to his mobile. We also started with trials teaching him how to imitate actions with objects and sounds. Then we progressed to imitation of mouth movements, hand movements (touch your head, touch your elbow), then verbal imitation (imitate vowel sounds, sounds of letters, etc.). We also worked on understanding language using discrete trials to help him identify pictures, objects, and colors and then to discriminate between objects (point to the door when presented with a picture of a room). Then we got him to follow one- and two-step commands and to find hidden objects. We also designed a program to work on expressive language by presenting him with two objects and asking him to label which one he preferred. Once each skill was mastered, attempts were put in place to teach him the same skill with his mother, his main teacher at day care, and finally one of the other teachers with whom he was less familiar. He now had some basic attention and compliance skills that would allow him to benefit from more formal and structured attempts to facilitate social and communication skills in the context of other typical children. We also set up some guidelines for parenting and interaction that were different from the way Alice usually interacted with him. First we placed him in a community day care setting, and the school hired a teaching assistant to work with him on a curriculum we provided based on an assessment of his social, communication, and play skills. We helped to set out a routine for his day so that it was highly structured with play time at home with his mother included so that she could work with him as well. With Trevor, Alice was taught to be intrusive and take every opportunity to interact with him. She would hide things or put them out of reach so that Trevor would have to come to his mother and ask for them. Alice would set aside some time each day to play with Trevor, to build things with his Lego pieces, do puzzles with him. She would consistently and enthusiastically reward all attempts at communication and social interaction or attempts by Trevor to use more developmentally appropriate means to have his needs met. She would be very sensitive to Trevor’s nonverbal signals for communicating and look for subtle signs of distress that might indicate mounting anxiety. She would then have to make a decision to either avoid the anxietyprovoking situation or face it head on and be prepared. At first we also had a therapist work with Trevor at home. She would simply sit beside him while he played. Interactions would be initiated by Trevor, but the therapist would watch and comment on his activities. Trevor might turn away or move to another place in the room.

144 A MIND APART The therapist would move with him and intrude on the activities again, subtly at first, then more forcefully. Once Trevor could tolerate the therapist’s presence during play time, she set up games involving turn taking using puzzles, the Lego pieces, peek-a-boo, or songs involving actions. After much persistence, Alice and the therapist realized that there were times Trevor had to take the lead and structure, even control, his mother’s turn-taking play with him, to allow him to enter into the play activity. Sometimes Alice had to be a passive participant in the to and fro of social interaction. If she showed any inclination to change the pattern of play, if they did the puzzles in a different order, if they used different figurines to line up, then Trevor would get upset and go away mad. Once Alice followed her son’s lead, she learned that Trevor would pay more attention to her and be more aware of her. This was an enormously important discovery for Alice and allowed her to play for longer and longer periods with her son. We could now cut back on the time for the therapist to interact with Trevor one on one. Alice gave Trevor treats like time on the computer or watching TV for playing together, for completing a puzzle with her, and for allowing her to take turns in playing with the figurines (candy is not a terrific reward since it sets up all kinds of other problems in eating and nutrition). Once she let Trevor take the lead and be more comfortable with her, it was easier to introduce modifications from within the play activity itself. An important dynamic emerged between entering Trevor’s world, letting him control the agenda, and then challenging him to develop more appropriate skills. She was combining her knowledge of Trevor’s inner world with some fairly standard techniques for encouraging positive behavior and learning that are used with typical children as well as children with ASD. Trevor was easily getting twenty-five hours of therapy per week once we combined the time in day care and the sessions at home. It was nice to see that he made significant gains in the day care setting as well. Trevor started to pay more attention to his teacher. He would regularly come to her for help, would show her the newest Lego creation, his latest craft creation (which was often new pieces for his mobile). The day care introduced a picture exchange communication system (PECS), which basically allowed him to use pictures to communicate his needs. Once he developed a facility with that, his language and words appeared. He started to request food or favorite toys, then he started to label objects. His language skills made rapid progress after he learned to point to pictures or other objects of interest.

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