Monday, April 16, 2012

Autism - Beyond ABA Therapy

As a mother of a child on the autism spectrum and now a professional in the autism field, I am continuously struck by how little the "professionals" and the "decision - makers" really know about autism and its treatment options. Four years ago when my son was diagnosed, I too, as any new parent to autism, was scrambling around to find solutions and the best intervention for my child. I turned quickly to the professionals to seek the answers only to find that there were no definitive ones. How can this be? How can "they" not have all the answers leave me in a state of confusion and despair? I decided then and there that I was going to have to become the expert- and so I did. This is what I have learned.
The first thing that I always tell people whether they are a parent of a newly diagnosed child or a professional is that there is the good news and the bad news. The good news is that we know so much more about autism than we did even ten years ago. The bad news, however, is that there is still so much more to know and that we don't have all the answers.
I've learned that they call it "The Autism Spectrum" for a reason. It is indeed a spectrum. True as it is for typically developing kids, no two kids on the autism spectrum are the same. They can range from a child who is seemingly so unconnected to the social world that it is excruciating for a parent to witness, to a child who, without a background in autism, no one would think he or she was affected.
I ask you then, why would we want to use the same type of intervention for these two children? Yet this is what I see being done all the time. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the most traditional treatment option. It is the most widely used and continues to be a household word for professionals in the field. "Oh," says the doctor or autism specialist, "Your child has autism, you need to be doing ABA."
What they fail to tell you however is that ABA autism therapy is is not for everyone. It would not have been a good choice for my own son. Just as there aren't two children on the spectrum who are the same, there is no "one size fits all" type of approach to autism. As an autism professional I am tired of hearing and reading only about ABA. Don't get me wrong, I am not against ABA. In fact, it has proven to be a good choice for many Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) individuals. I am simply saying that it is high time that we as professionals in the autism field step out of our comfort zone and really educate ourselves what other intervention models are out there so we can begin to do justice to the families that seek our help and expertise.
Stacy Goresko, Ph.D. is a Relationship Development Intervention (RDI® program consultant) in private practice in Boulder Colorado. She is a respected lecturer in her field and has recently been hired to be a national speaker on autism. She has spent the last several years providing support to academic and home programs for pre - school aged through adulthood.
Autism Colorado, Denver, Boulder []
Autism Treatment
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