It is always best to create a treatment plan in collaboration with a qualified and licensed clinician. Some parents, in consultation with their clinician, decide that a home program will be an important part of their treatment plan. Running a home program is not for the faint of heart and you will find that you need professional resources and social support as you go along. Remember that you need to be primarily your child’s parent. As parents you need to understand, support and carry on with the therapeutic plan when your child’s therapists are not there.
Some ideas for setting up a home program with a child under 2 years old
- Set up stations in the playroom and fill the environment with things your child likes.
- Learn Sign language, and pair the signs with spoken language.
- Focus on teaching your child to make requests, if this is difficult for your child.
- Engage in appropriate play activities (e.g. books, especially sturdy "lift the flap" books, alphabet and counting books, and stories focusing on social skills like turn taking, saying please and thank you, sharing, saying "hello" and "goodbye,"" being gentle with babies, playing nicely with friends, helping mom, picking up after yourself, etc.).
- Try puzzles, action figures, representative toys like doll families that can be dressed and undressed and fed in pretend play sessions.
- Try 5 minute periods at the table learning fine motor activities like slotting, drawing, and building block structures.
- Practice gross motor skills with swinging, trampoline, slide, ball play, water play, sand play.
- Take your child on brief outings to the park, the library, the pet store, the toy store. Label what you see. Point. Notice what captures your child’s attention.
- Wave “hello” and “bye-bye”.
- Sing songs. Have cd’s in the car of your child’s favourite songs that you can both sing along with as you drive.
- Remember whatever you would do with a typically developing child you may need to do 10, 20, 30, or 100 times with your ASD child before they get it.
- Get to know other parents with children on the spectrum. They will become your lifeline. Your ASD children may not interact but if you both have typical children they may become friends based on a shared understanding of the experience of having a sibling with special needs.
- Learn as much as you can about autism and autism therapy. You are the expert on your child’s needs. Ask any successful adult with ASD what they consider the most important factor in their success and they will answer “my parents”.
- Pick your battles. There will be many challenges along the way and you may not be able to fight (win) them all. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
- Sign up for any help you can get. SSAH provides money for respite and developmental assistance. Use it to have your child taken to the park while you read a book or go for a walk, take a nap or have special time with your other children. You can also use funds for yard work or house cleaning on a regular basis if this is a job that can be delegated while you do something else.
- Get a good parenting book and use it with all members of the family. An excellent one is Positive Parenting by Dr. Glenn Latham but there are lots out there. More than anything good parenting involves clear communication, consistency, and modeling the kind of behaviour you want to see your children develop.
- It is very important that you understand and follow through on the treatment plan. Therapists will only be with your child a few hours a day. You will be with them 24/7.
Finding home therapists
- Put an ad in the paper asking for a fun, responsible, energetic person who loves children and would like to spend time with your child in an organized and structured program.
- Free ads can sometimes be placed on some autism websites or local papers like the Mountain News.
- Ads can sometimes be posted in academic settings where students are training to work with children or on their websites.
Excellent websites offering information to parents
Books to read
- "Teaching Language to Children with Autism or Other Developmental Disabilities" by Mark L. Sundberg and James W. Partington
- "Behavioural Intervention for Young Children with Autism" edited by Catherine Maurice
- "A Work in Progress: Behaviour Strategies and a Curriculum for Intensive Behavioral Treatment of Autism" by Ron Leaf, John McEachin, Jaisom D. Harsh, Marlene Boehm
- "Let Me Hear Your Voice: A Family's Triumph Over Autism" by Catherine Maurice
- "Making A Difference: Behavioral Intervention for Young Children with Autism" edited by Catherine Maurice, Richard Foxx and Gina Green
Other references for books and on where to buy books
- Geneva Centre
Programs in the Hamilton Area offering Preschool or in-home programs
- Behaviour Innovations www.behaviourinnovations.com
- Building Blocks Speech Pathology
- Joy of Learning www.jolc.ca/pages/programs
- Child Development Centre of Oakville www.cdco.com/
- Autism Partnership www.autismpartnership.com
- The Gregory School for Exceptional Learning www.gregoryschool.ca/styled/autismservices.html
Workshops and Conferences
Some people find attending workshops and conferences very helpful when they are starting out. The following centres offer numerous resources to families and the community as well as annual conferences and symposiums with world renowned authorities. The list is not exhaustive by any means.
Toys and Fun Stuff
Dollar stores can provide a lot of good cheap reinforcers in the form of noise makers, party favours plastic dinosaurs, toy cars and model airplanes, just be aware of small parts. For more durable, long lasting, and educational toys and resources try:
- Discovery Toys www.discoverytoysinc.com
- Scholars Choice www.scholarschoice.ca
- Child Therapy Toys http://www.childtherapytoys.com
Our other important relationships
One of the most rewarding times in any marriage is the time when your children are young and you are raising them together. It is also the most demanding, the most busy and the most stressful. When you have a child with a disability, this normally hectic time can be compounded by grief, frustration, financial stress and disagreement over how best to navigate uncharted territory. Keep talking to each other. Keep supporting each other. Remember, you are on the same team. Couple or family therapy, when needed, can play a real role in helping the family work and stay together.
Many families who have a child with Autism Spectrum Disorders also have a child who is developing typically. Remember to create special time for them. What extra support do your other children need because they have a sibling with ASD? Do they need to read a book? Meet other kids who have special sibs? Have some alone time with mom or dad? Make sure you’re talking to your typical child about his or her siblings’ special needs, and make sure you’re talking about other stuff too.