For those of you not familiar with the technique, "Floortime, [is] a vital element of the DIR/Floortime model, is a treatment method as well as a philosophy for interacting with children (and adults as well). Floortime involves meeting a child at his current developmental level, and building upon his particular set of strengths. Floortime harnesses the power of a child’s motivation; following his lead, wooing him with warm but persistent attempts to engage his attention and tuning in to his interests and desires in interactions. Through Floortime, parents, child care providers, teachers and therapists help children climb the developmental ladder. By entering into a child’s world, we can help him or her learn to relate in meaningful, spontaneous, flexible and warm ways." (Floortime Foundation, 2004).
WHAT TO KNOW WHEN YOUR CHILD IS CALLED AUTISTIC
James D. MacDonald Communicating Partners Center
At least once a week I hear a grieving, frightened parent tell me herchild hasbeen called autistic or PDD or "on the autistic spectrum". Usuallytheydescribed themselves as 'devastated' , 'depressed', "confused" and ata total loss for what to do. I have worked closely with such parents for over 35 years.
Here is what I say to them. Please share these messages with anyone you know inthis position. First, autism is not a developmental death sentence. I know a greatmany persons who have been diagnosed with Autism and then they progressed into very social and communicative and productive persons.
Second, many diagnoses are made very quickly with very little information about the child other than a few minutes observing some "strange'behaviors. The younger the child is, the less reliable and correct is the diagnosis.
Third, Autism means the child has three pervasive impairments: problems ininteracting with people, problems in effectively using language to socialize with people, and problems in acting in unusual ways and not readily modeling the socially acceptable behavior of his life partners.
Consequently, any treatmentmust address three goals: 1. Helping the child interact and sociallyplay with others, 2. Helping the child use language in social situations for conversation, 3, helping the child to learn to act in ways life partners act and toadapt tothe internal and external over stimulation in their lives.
Fourth. Be aware that the majority of treatments offered for autism, at thistime (beyond medical approaches) focus on trying to make the child into a dependent and compliant student.
The problem is that autism is not primarily a problem in cognitive, academic or compliance development; it is a problem in failing to socialize and build relationships. So, be very careful assuming that a program that teaches your child mainly to learn for school and to be obedient is what he needs.
Many children have succeeded in becoming compliantstudents,learning for school success and to not bother many people. But these children are just as or even more autistic (socially isolated and inappropropriate,non-communicative and unaccepted) than they were before they were trained to be what others wanted them to be.
Autism is a disorder in socializing- --the first and most importanttreatmentapproach is to teach the child and his family to build a highlysocial life withany behaviors the child has available.
Fifth, the family is the most effective tool for helping a childcalled autisticto socialize and communicate. Children will not learn to be generally social and communicative with strangers or in groups of over stimulating children. They need one to one relationships with people who are emotionally attached. Expecting a child to learn to socialize and communicate in therapy lessons is like expecting a child to learn piano with weekly lesson and no practice at home.
Expecting a child to socialize and communicate by being taught to be a passive student is equally unrealistic. And expecting a child to socialize and communicate in environments that overwhelm and compete with his abilities is also more a fantasy than a reality.
Sixth, the common view that autism is forever can have very dangerouseffects-itcan lead families to give-up, and to focus more on the differences than the child's strengths. And the fact is that the only way any condition can be determined to be permanent is to perform an autopsy. As of today,there are nodefining medical signs distinguishing persons with autism withothers. The'soft" neurological signs that do occur are often temporary in children whose nervous systems are very changeable.
This is not to say that some persons with autistic features may always have some of them-but even with them,many live very productive lives. Families are learning all the time how to interact with children inways that get them to gradually but surely socialize and communicate more and more. The family is the answer. The most effective role of professionals is to learn how to work with parents as mentors and coaches who join the child as closely matched and responsive partners in the child's own daily life.
Dr. James D. MacDonald, Director Communicating Partners CenterFor more information see the website: www.jamesdmacdonald .org
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