Monday, May 14, 2012

Employment for children with Autism

Think about your last job interview.  What were some of the questions?  Did they include questions like, How well do you work in a team?  Or what are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?  Do you get along with people?  Why should I hire you?

These are all very open ended questions.  In today’s world, more than ever, employers are looking for flexibility,  creativity, problem solving skills, and an overall ability to share perspectives when looking at a task at hand.
Within the  Autism community,  we know that these very abilities that employers are looking for , are what our kids struggle with if not addressed. 
Wanted to throw some thoughts out after reading this article-

For my own two children who were diagnosed with Autism, both before the age of 3,  this was my wakeup call 7 years ago.  My oldest was just about 8.  He had intensive therapy for 4 years and was very advanced in skill acquisition…but lacked flexibility, creativity, etc.  He had a strong desire to be in control of every aspect of his day ( the more he could control, the less there would be anxiety within his day that he had no control of) .  This was my red flag,  because I was told, at the age of 8,  that it was as good as it was going to get…and that his life was going to entail trying to prepare him for employment by life skills, etc.  Fortunately, I did not know it then , but my younger son being Diagnosed was going to change the direction for both my sons.  My younger son did not respond to behavioral therapy,  and after a year I knew I had to act..I was not happy with the *results* so far…and I knew my kids deserved MORE.

In my research, I learned about Relationship Development Intervention.(RDI).  RDI takes a look at a child’s development milestones as crucial for remediation of Autism.  We all know that Autism is a developmental disorder,  but the leading *treatment* for Autism at the time did nothing to address actual development…and was based on changing behaviors despite children having not having the prerequisites to understand the WHY of the behaviors.  An example of this is how we taught my son how to talk at 4 years old.  While we were teaching him how to talk, he kept saying the word  “say”,  copying us.  We had to create a program that was called Don’t say “say”  Now I realize of course that he had no idea why he was talking other then behaviorally he was copying us.  He had no communication milestones in place ( Prosody, non verbal communication, etc…all milestones that babies have in place before they utter their first word). 

So the many articles that are coming out now about adults,  and the crisis that we have for our young adults coming into their own, wanting employment, is heartbreaking .  There are limited long term studies and the studies that do exist are dismal.  The behavioral treatments that some advocate for may have evidence behind them,  but that evidence does not follow through to adulthood.  It is evidence that looks at short term skill acquisition goals.  These have little to do with what will help our young adults succeed as they look for employment.   When we look at the model of typical development, we see the answers on how to help our kids with Autism.  Restoring their developmental milestones  not only addresses skills,  but addresses the understanding that we live in a very flexible world where things are always changing.  Being able to think on your feet,  problem solve,  and relate to others are crucial.  The foundations for these abilities are learned through relationships  before 2 years old.  There is no way we can skip the developmental process and expect our kids to get it …and this is where the crisis rests. 

For my own 2 children  ( and others),  developing their experience within the framework of thinking and relationships remediated their core deficits of Autism.  My second son is now 15 and my third son is 11.  Neither  lack * dynamic intelligence*  See chart here-  http://whatisrdi.blogspot.com/2011_03_01_archive.html

This is what we need for families who would like to address their child’s actual development.  Emerging treatments for Autism hold promise to address the core issues that are challenging for them.  It is time to raise the bar for our kids and  understand the promise of restoration! This is what RDI does for our kids, young adults and adults on the spectrum!


Kathy