9News visited Aspire! ” ‘Unbelievable’: The therapy parents claim is transforming the lives of children with autism!”

I recall vividly meeting Mia and her twin girls 12 months ago. The girls had very limited play skills and Dearne in particular had difficulty focusing on tasks/activities/toys for more than 10-15 seconds. They lacked the skills to occupy their own free time. Mia described life at home as difficult and said that it was impossible to leave them on their own in a room for any length of time.The twins did not make eye contact in response to their name. They communicated by constantly dragging or hand leading their parents.

I saw a Mum who was very stressed out and I knew what I needed to do. Immediately when I met the girls, I identified a number of skills that the girls needed to work on. The first two skills that we targeted explicitly were imitation (copying actions) and play skills. I prioritized these skills first as I know that by learning these skills, we could then begin targeting a whole range of skills across a variety of developmental domains. In less than two months, we taught the girls to imitate the actions of others, this opened up all sorts of new possibilities for them. They learned to copy our actions and dance to their favorite songs, they learned to manipulate their favorite toys and play with them functionally, they learned to follow their peers at daycare and sit with them at group time, for the first time they became aware of others around them.

During the first 12 months of the girl’s programs I have noticed a significant amount of change. The dedication of the twins’ family and team of therapists has been inspirational. They are now interacting with each-other (this is something we targeted in therapy sessions, initially starting with side by side parallel play and then progressing to turn taking and co-operative play), they are now communicating (Dearne is using one word vocal mands, Marissa uses some words and also communicates through Picture Exchange Communication System- PECS), they are attending weekly mainstream dance lessons and taking part fully in those lessons. The biggest success of all is seeing Dearne and Marissa smiling, they are happy! They enjoy their therapy sessions. There are many misconceptions out there about ABA and there are many people who argue that ABA tries to “normalise” individuals with autism and make them fit in with society. This is the opinion of people who truly do not understand what the science of Applied Behaviour Analysis is. Before ABA, the twins were unable to express themselves or have their needs met. We are now starting to see their individual personalities emerging. Previously, we did not know their individual desires or preferences. Thanks to ABA they now have some degree of choice and control over their own lives.

For anyone who says that ABA tries to “normalise” individuals on the spectrum, here is a great link to a blog post dispelling this myth:
http://profhastings.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/autism-and-evidence-5-15-criticisms-of.html?m=1

Jac Murphy – Aspire Behaviour Therapist and Program Manager

Here’s the article from 9News!

‘Unbelievable’: The therapy parents claim is transforming the lives of children with autism!

In a playroom in Sydney’s inner west, two women are leading a frenetic, high-energy, carefully choreographed lesson blending song, dance, drawing and storytelling.

These women are therapists who work for Aspire early intervention clinic, and their pupils – three-year-old twins Dearne and Marissa, diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – are responding with equal enthusiasm, breaking out in pirouettes when one of the therapists play their favourite song.

It’s a stark change from just a couple of years earlier, when the girls were largely unresponsive to their environment.

Mother Mia Cazilieris, 34, said it was the girl’s grandfather who first twigged to the fact they were different.

“At about 18 months, dad expressed concerns that the twins weren’t saying any words and that I would leave and they wouldn’t show any normal reaction,” she told 9news.com.au.

“They wouldn’t cry – they weren’t too bothered about it.”

Ms Cazilieris said the girls would also “hardly” respond to their name, didn’t play with each other or other children, and showed no interest in toys.

In April 2014, a paediatrician advised her the girls were exhibiting signs that suggested they might be on the autism spectrum.

Ms Cazilieris said she went into “absolute hysterics”.

“You go through this sort of numbness, where it’s like a bad dream,” she said.

“Like any parent, you hope that they have a normal sort of typical life and then I was told this, [and suddenly] didn’t know where we stood.”

Read more at http://www.9news.com.au/national/2016/02/21/16/38/the-therapy-parents-claim-is-transforming-the-lives-of-children-with-autism#ohuZtpTxhlw7I0j1.99

 

 

Top 10 considerations for a successful transition to adulthood.

The period of transition from being a child to an adult can be one of the most difficult periods of life for us all, let alone for a young person with special needs. School ends, paediatricians hand over to adult doctors, hormones are raging, more and more support services are becoming involved, guardianship issues arise, social media issues arise, privacy, and their world starts to get larger and more difficult to control.

For those supporting someone at this stage in life, it can be a difficult and confusing time, sometimes even overwhelming. Like most situations though, with a bit of preparation, some good ideas, and a bit of support, it doesn’t have to be such a bad experience. Here are my top 10 considerations to help give you the best shot at a successful transition.

1.Early intervention: The younger you start, the better prepared your child will be. It is always easier to prepare and develop skills when a child is young, rather than repair and overcome difficulties as a child moves through adolescence and into adulthood. For every year of therapy you put in early, you can expect to save 2-5 years of therapy later in life.

 

2. Be prepared: If you get to know all of the available options well in advance, you can make a plan to achieve the best future for your child. It takes time to do well, and there are usually quite a few moving parts to attend to at once. In making a future plan for a child, consider making plans that are short term (this year’s goals and supports), medium term(to see you through the transition period) and long term (setting up for adult life).

3. Post-school options: The main post-school options available to people with special needs are

    1. day programs (social skills, recreation, community access, life skills),
    2. transition to work (developing the skills needed to enter the workforce),
    3. supported employment (supervised work, often in packing, warehousing, gardening, etc),
    4. Mainstream work through a support agency (working in the mainstream with occasional help to maintain the job),
    5. and further study (TAFE, Uni, etc).

Developing a goal and plan with your child early can help you to better prepare them for the option that suits them best.

4. Social life: Positive social interactions are one of the best activities you can involve your adolescent in to prepare for adult life. What matters most here is the development of real connections, achieving a place of value and worth in a group, and being exposed to positive social role models. Look for mainstream groups, rather than just special needs specific groups, and be prepared for a fair bit of hard work in the beginning to help them to successfully integrate and participate. It will all pay off in the end though when your adolescent develops positive connections and lasting friendships.

5. Meaningful activities: Try to find ways to engage your adolescent in more meaningful activities around the house, in the community and in your social groups. The value here comes from developing a valued status and achieving something that is important to the others present. It is the difference from being present and truly contributing. This helps to feed their growing desire to have a valued role and clear responsibilities, helping to bring out maturity and responsibility.

6. Clear and consistent supports: As your adolescent’s world starts to grow, and there are an increasing number of supports, services and organisations involved in their care, it becomes increasingly important to have a clear and shared understanding of how best to work with them. This doesn’t need to be a 150 page multi-elemental therapeutic support plan, but could be a tip-sheet, a list of the most important things to remember when supporting your child, a positive support plan or just whatever works for your situation. Inconsistencies can be the source of many behaviours of concern and issues with supports, so having a clear and documented plan can really help to smooth things out.

7. Care and support services: Who will be involved in your adolescent’s life as they mature? Respite, tutors, case managers, community carers, program staff, educators and more. Getting to know the available services and supports to assist your adolescent’s changing needs, and getting them on-board at the right time is key. Seek advice early and make it part of your plan. You don’t want to get past an important milestone only to then learn of a service that would have been of great benefit 18months ago.

8. Therapeutic supports: As an adolescent transitions to adulthood, there is often a greater need for coordination and collaboration of therapeutic services, and you might start to see more plans and programs that combine the input of a range of specialists in either a ‘multidisciplinary’ or ‘transdisciplinary’ model. This can lead to really well designed supports which meet your needs in a highly personalised manner. These styles of intervention also lead to clearer plans to aid in consistency across settings. While it can take a bit of additional coordination to make it work well, it can be a highly effective approach.

9. Medical and healthcare: You will be leaving children’s services behind and moving into the world of adult services. This usually means quite a bit of searching for the professionals who are ‘right’ for you. When looking for a new professional, it can help to write a list of key questions to see if they understand your needs, and are prepared to help. For example “What experience do you have with Autism?”, “Do you have ways to make appointments easier for people with special needs?”, “How do you feel about ______?”, etc. See your initial appointment or phone calls with them as an interview, where you are trying to find out if they are going to be the right care provider for your needs.

10. Accommodation: Where will your adolescent be living in their adult life? Will they stay with you, live in a supported situation, receive drop-in support, live in a mainstream share-house, or live independently. Having a clear and realistic goal will help you to know what skills to help them develop as they prepare for their longer-term life as an adult.

Everyone’s situation and needs are different so seek out the best advice and support you can so that you are as prepared as possible for the transition to adulthood. For each of the considerations above, there are a range of services and professionals who might be able to assist you.

As we start the journey towards a more individualised world of support services with NDIS it will be those who know what they need, and when they need it who will be able to make it work best for them.

If you ever get to a point where you are unsure of the next step, don’t know your available options, or wish to find out more, there are plenty of available professionals to assist. From case managers to social workers, behaviour consultants to service coordinators.

While the transition to adulthood can be a difficult one, with the right support it can be made a much smoother process. I wish you all the best as you support those you care for through to their adult years.

 

Alan Conradi (Alan’s Behaviour & Consulting) provides a wide range of behaviour supports, skill development and personal growth services, specialising in the needs of adolescents and adults.

With over 10 years of experience in disability support and therapies Alan offers a practical, realistic and understanding service.

Alan can help with planning and assessments (behaviour plans, positive support plans, person centred plans and more), coaching, training and implementation (walking the talk), therapeutic and skill development programs, planning and goal-setting, and much much more.

Call or email to discuss options to suit your needs on 0410487626 or alansconsulting@outlook.com