How I Can Help Children with Autism and Their Families
- Assessment and diagnosis, including using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) (see below)
- Working with families to engage, motivate and help children on the spectrum come out of their inner world and join us in the outer world
- Helping children understand why and how we can communicate, and having fun doing this.
- Reducing anxiety and sensory difficulties in order to help children reach their potential and thrive.
- Developing attention and listening skills, and the ability to follow instructions.
- Developing an awareness of self and others, and social interaction skills.
- Using visual support to reduce anxiety and to make routines predictable.
- Working with children and families to broaden the range of foods the child will eat.
I start off working with the child and their family, but often involve another child when the child I am working with is able to cope with this, so that we can work on social interaction skills from young age.
Assessment and Diagnosis
To have your child assessed for autism by the NHS, you need a referral, which can be made by your GP or any health professionals working with your child, e.g. a Health Visitor, Speech and Language Therapist, or Occupational Therapist. The waiting list varies depending on the NHS Trust. Some are longer than others. Once you have a diagnosis, you are able to access more support for you and your child, e.g. Early Bird support programmes for parents, run by local authorities in many areas of the UK.
I carry out the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) on a private basis, and I can usually assess your child within two to three weeks.
Other Assessment and Diagnosis Options
I carry out social communication assessments in my work as an independent speech and language therapy practitioner. These assessments can give a lot of relevant and important information to consultants, and be used to support diagnosis. I use my knowledge of the ADOS to underpin social communication assessments, but I can carry out the ADOS privately, too.
The ADOS is one part of the diagnostic process and a diagnosis cannot be made on this alone. See the following link for more details:
Experience and Qualifications
Autism is a complex neurological developmental disorder. One in every hundred children in this country is diagnosed as having Autism Spectrum Disorder, one in sixty-eight in America. I continually update and add to my knowledge base and skills in order to develop my practice by attending relevant training courses, keeping up to date with research and reading widely. The spectrum is a huge place, and everyone on it is an individual. I continually broaden my skills in order to understand and support children in a holistic way. For example, I have training in and experience of:
- Therapeutic Listening – a programme to support auditory processing difficulties (https://vitallinks.com/therapeutic-listening/ )
- SOS feeding (The sequential oral sensory feeding programme). This programme aims to broaden the range of foods a child will eat (https://sosapproach-conferences.com/?page_id=31 )
- Responsive Communication (Intensive Interaction) – an approach that develops meaningful interactions by regulating sensory difficulties and entering the child’s inner world in order to help them joint the outer world (http://www.phoebecaldwell.co.uk/work.asp)
- Floortime (www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/treatment/floortime) an approach that supports the development of attention, looking, listening and social interactions through work on emotional development
- Pivotal Response Treatment (https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/treatment/pivotal-response-therapy-prt) This is a behavioural approach, but focuses much more on communication than other behavioural approaches, e.g. ABA.
- PECS (http://www.pecs-unitedkingdom.com) Picture exchange Communication system.
- TEACCH (http://teacch.com/about-us/what-is-teacch)
- Makaton (https://www.makaton.org)
In 2016 I am starting a Masters in CBT For Children and Young People, Specialising in Autism, at University College, London and the Anna Freud Centre.
I am committed to working with children and young people on the spectrum and their families, and much of my private work is with this client group.
I love my job and it is a privilege to work with these children and their families. I do not take on many, partly because of the way I work and partly because of my availability. I make myself as available as I can, and I am happy for families to phone and email me whenever they want or need to. There is no quick fix. I am the parent of a child on the spectrum and I know how hard this can be for the child and the family. I remain involved until the child and the family no longer need my support. I am an enabler, working to empower and enable them, but there is not a definitive time limit on this. It depends on so many factors. I have worked with many of my families for at least a year, although I don’t always see them every week, and my role changes when they enter nursery or school. I like to work with everyone involved with the child. We are a team.
The child’s name has been changed
When I first met Ben, he was 3 years and 4 months old. He liked to play with number blocks, alphablocks, writing and reading. He taught himself to read at a very young age, and could spell better than me! He was not interested in other toys or activities. The first few weeks, I focussed on following his lead and entering his world. I tried to reduce demands on him so that it would be easier and more enjoyable for him to interact with me. I watched him very closely, looking for an “open window” I could climb through to join him and I used responsive communication (formerly known as Intensive Interaction) to develop meaningful interactions. Responsive Communication is an approach based on mirroring behaviours in order to make interactions predictable, non-threatening and enjoyable. We worked on early communication skills, e.g. attention, looking, listening and play initially, and now we are working on taking turns, interacting with others in structured situations, flexible thinking and attention and listening. A year ago we played on the floor, now we sit at the table for at least 45 minutes doing activities to develop attention, looking and listening, e.g. copying actions. Ben can copy two actions and can think of his own action for us to copy. We play listening games, which we used to work on through play, but now we are using paper based resources! We take turns to make things together, e.g. a train track, Mr Potato Head. Ben couldn’t take turns when I first met him and it was an area that his parents really wanted to develop. They can play simple turn taking games with him now. We have fun in every session. The parents have carried out the sessions with me from the very first day. We have also had the grandparents involved and Ben’s brother! He is going to start school this September, and I think we have got him to a good place for this experience.
If you would like to chat about any aspect of the assessment and diagnosis process, or about how I can help you and your child, please call me on 07986 310971.