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The Parent Infant Centre: 35 Years Of Helping Infants And Children

Early autism intervention is critical to a positive outcome for children. Not only must intervention be appropriate for the child’s needs, but it must come as early as possible as many interventions do not begin until a child is at least 18 months old or older.

Many autism interventions do not begin until a child is in his or her toddler years, and the parents and siblings can feel somewhat removed from the treatment process.

Not so with the treatment offered at the Hamstead, England-based Parent-Infant Clinic.

The Infant Family Program of the Parent-Infant Clinic is an intensive and successful program of intervention designed for infants who are exhibiting pre-autistic behaviors.

Treatment there is an Infant-Family program comprised of three phases, all designed to assist parents and babies with symptoms of pre-autism find new ways to relate to each other, resulting in positive outcomes for the child.

The clinic offers different treatments based on the child’s age. For children under 5 years of age, the Infant-Family program is one intensive program lasting 2 to 4 weeks followed by a follow-up program that lasts for 1 to 2 years.

The staff works with the entire family and the child 6 hours a day, 6 days a week. One day of the treatment is performed in the family environment.

In the assessment and formulation phase of the treatment program (phase 1), the baby is observed to identify what obstacles there may be to communication.

Family relationships, a critical part of the assessment, are explored and observed, and emotional, environmental, or relational obstacles to communication are identified.

Practitioners observe and investigate the entire spectrum of child development in order to identify problems with social, communication, and behavioral and emotional development.

Phase 2 is the therapeutic intervention phase in which practitioners work with all family members.

Work with the parents and child together helps to build on sensitive ways of being together and to expand on the parent/child relationship skills.

Work with the infant in this phase helps the infant to understand his or her repetitious behaviors and to expand their communication skills. Play objects are use to stimulate sensory development.

Working with parents and siblings together teases out patterns of managing emotions that may be obstacles to helping the infant respond to them.

Finally, in keeping with the whole child / whole family approach, staff works with the couple to explore issues that may interfere with effective co-parenting.

Because having a special-needs sibling can be difficult, the staff works with siblings to help expand their ability to manage their feelings and frustrations.

The final stage (phase 3) is the integration phase in which staff helps the family to anticipate challenges that may be in their future, to support the family during transitions, and to document the progress made during treatment.

By the end of the intensive treatment period, the family is able to enjoy their infant in a new way and to utilize new patterns of relating to him or her.

Post-treatment follow-up is recommended and includes weekly support of parents and child in the home.

The Parent-Infant clinic’s website states that they “can say that 100% of the infants we treated achieved physical and emotional development.”

Clearly this innovative approach to autism treatment not only starts very early, but the nature of its family-centered intervention helps to achieve phenomenal results for the child.

Autism Intervention: The Role Of Parents and Families

Therapy Must Continue At Home

Many autism interventions take place outside of the home, at a therapist’s office or school. There are home-based therapies, such as “Floortime” that can be extended to the home; all family members can get involved in simply playing with and engaging a child on his or her level.

Families of autistic children can extend speech, occupational, and physical therapies to the home setting.

Therapists can give advice and instruction to family members to help them engage children in therapy outside of the therapist’s office.

Simple things such as helping a child to recognize words can happen anywhere: encouraging a child to name a color, pointing out an interesting tree, encouraging a child to say “hello” can all be extensions of more formal therapy.

Educate Yourself

Parents’ education about autism and involvement with other parents can help them understand their child’s interventions. Parents can participate in – or just listen to – parent support groups that will help educate them on different therapy techniques to try at home.

Learning about the best and most recent therapies can help parents to become a better advocate for their child. Getting involved in a community can not only educate parents but empower them as well.

Maintain Routine

Keeping the family routine and structure may be difficult when a child first enters intervention. Appointments can take up a lot of time and put a strain on siblings’ activities.

Keeping an established routine, though, can help the effectiveness of intervention by providing the child a solid place from which to start.

Communicate

Parents should ask as many questions as they need about interventions to be sure they understand how they work and what the goal of each therapy is.

Keeping open communication between parent and therapist or other treating professional is crucial to helping a child receive the most effective intervention.

For more on how autism affects families, see Your Family and Autism.