What is Autism?
Autism Speaks website says Autism is characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. The CDC says Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people.
ASHA says treatment may include any combination of traditional speech and language approaches, alternative communication, and behavioral interventions. If you look under treatments for Autism you see a wide vast array of options.
However, to the point, What does the evidence say is at the core of Autism? The repetitive behaviors, the difficulties in social interactions, they are symptoms but not the Core.
Even though research says Autism is a developmental disorder, most treatments look at symptoms like behaviors or language. The treatment is fixing behaviors. We know, because we see that individuals aging out of “behavioral treatments” for Autism are struggling with independent living and understanding social cues. With current information, looking at long term for our kids, we need to look at how to develop a mind and brain that can succeed in this society and lead meaningful independent lives. Programs that just address skills are putting a bandaid on the underlying core of what our kids need. Many times kids are prompted through their learning with token boards, but this is not real life preparation.
Our kids are not born without motivation, it just gets squashed because they are overwhelmed with making sense of the world. We need to activate that understanding through relationships and not replace this motivation with artificial rewards and token systems that have been shown to only be effective short term if at all. What are some core mental processes that we can build from the ground up? The evidence says the following functions are some of the core obstacles in Autism.
Our kids struggle with disassociating from their surroundings, so they tune out. They struggle with Monitoring that rapid constant information.
They struggle with reflecting on experiences and Experience sharing with others, aware as they are moving through life…to be able to use their internal world decisions, feelings etc. for their own self knowledge. They struggle with the dialogues in their heads to think through things and consider others perspectives, Recognize personal feelings…knowing what they dislike or what they like or are they just stuck in the familiar?
This Self awareness is huge because If you cant be aware of your own state, how can you understand that mental states of others? Thinking about what they are good at? Reflecting and using emotions as an effective tool to know how they are feeling
Many times because of this lack of self awareness, there are Negative monologues that they get stuck in
They struggle with Functioning in complex environments that have many different variations ( nothing unfolds the same way) They struggle to BE able to see the big picture…instead they focus on the small variations ( and get upset about changes)
This is why you can either change the brain to a more static way of learning by just focusing on behaviors or we can focus on functions and skills and help individuals make sense of the world which fosters brain changes for flexibility, and problem solving, and perspective taking, which also works on behaviors from the ground up. The later is what remediation looks like.
How to turn on this motivation and begin the process of remediation? Introducing just a small enough challenge where they are excited and not overwhelmed Providing experiences where there is challenge and a successful ending that they can encode as they did it…with THEIR COMPETENCE being their reinforce! The I did it Factor.
We want our kids to have the energy to want to engage and this takes getting your child comfortable with being with you with no expectations. This has to start short, slow and simple, ending activities successful. They cant learn about engagement if they aren’t with you. As activities get longer and more successful make sure you both have roles and create patterns in your interactions that help your child feel safe and competent. This connection will continue to build motivation, we want to give your child opportunities as moving towards the person ,eliminate the performance demand and sets up the environment for growth seeking.
The current research tells us that just addressing symptoms is not a long term solution. We want relationships and connection. Taking a look beyond JUST symptoms and getting to the core, to the heart of Autism and the obstacles that it causes for our kids prepares our kids to have success when it matters at 21 when all the prompting and reinforcers stop. Start building intrinsic motivation now for your child! That is the reality of the long term solution to help our kids be who they can be!
The RDI Program is an evidence based program that has a specific curriculum for motivation, experience sharing and revisiting developmental milestones.
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit RDI's main site at www.rdiconnect.com