Having had a therapy clinic for over 10 years, I have had the priviledge of working with many families that have gone through the process of receiving a diagnosis and deciding what interventions will benefit their children the most. Often times a diagnosis will be the first step into a world that can be confusing and frightening. But with the right tools, it can also be the first step in empowerment, education and progress.
The actual process of receiving a diagnosis can be difficult. Professionals will be talking about your child in clinical terms and that can be overwhelming. You are probably going to want to say “don’t you see anything good about my child?” The most important thing to remember is that your child is the same child they were before the diagnosis. They have special gifts and strengths that a diagnosis cannot change. But, identifying challenges and labeling them can be an important part of accessing much needed funding sources.
In my experience, the children that make the most progress are those that belong to families that are willing to take a risk. Those families that are willing to listen to the professional’s opinion, weigh the options and design a program that fits their child. It requires a great deal of time and research on the part of the family. But if they take the best of all different types of interventions and put it together, it is often more successful than choosing only one path. It is distressing when I hear families tell me that they have been given one option. I have yet to meet a child that is one-dimensional. Each child is unique and complicated, and needs a variety of approaches. Just ask yourself if you have learned everything you know using just one approach, or have you learned in a variety of different ways.
I will try to cover a few different options here. This is by no means an exhaustive study of the alternatives out there. I have, however, had personal and/or professional experience with each. This is not to say that you should try them, only to give you an idea that there are many paths to function. My only intention is to give information and let you research on your own what combination would best suit your family. However, I do suggest to you that it is a combination and not one approach that is the key.
Sensory Integration Therapy – This happens to be my specialty, so I say up front that I may be biased toward recommending this type of intervention. I have seen many children with ASD, ADHD and all have had sensory challenges. Sensory integration is a theory that was developed by A. Jean Ayres. Sensory integration is an individual’s ability to register sensory input, decide what to attend to and what to filter, then take what is relevant and use it to build skills. Those skills can be anything from learning to play, interact with family and friends, ride a bike, write your name, dress yourself or brush your teeth. Everything that we do requires us to use sensory input efficiently and effectively. This can be incorporated into occupational, physical and/or speech therapy sessions. Most of the time it is an occupational therapist that will be the sensory integration specialist. It is important to find a provider that has certifications and/or training in this area specifically.
Play Therapy – Play is the “occupation” of childhood; it is a child’s job and what is developmentally appropriate for them to be engaging in on a daily basis. Play has gotten a “bad wrap” as being frivolous and only to be engaged in if you don’t have anything else to do or you can fit it into your schedule. On the contrary, it is essential for the development of academic, social and life skills. This type of intervention taps into the innate drive of each child to play and connect with others. Floortime/DIR and Play Project are all programs that are worth investigating.
ABA Therapy – ABA is a therapy that uses behavioral principles to teach skills. There are many skills that a child needs to learn that can best be taught using a behavioral approach. It can be very effective for discreet skills such as ADL’s. It is an intense program and typically they will recommend hours of ABA therapy per week ABA, applied behavioral analysis, is simply the application of behavioral principles, to everyday situations, that will, over time, increase or decrease targeted behaviors. ABA has been used to help individuals acquire many different skills, such as language skills, self-help skills, and play skills; in addition, these principles can help to decrease maladaptive behaviors such as aggression, self-stimulatory behaviors, and self-injury. There are many providers of ABA services, many of whom are quite good. Frequently, a parent will choose a qualified provider with whom they share similar philosophical approaches in the application of intensive behavioral interventions.
Integrative Medicine – Integrative medicine is an approach to care that puts the patient at the center and addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect a person’s health. Employing a personalized strategy that considers the patient’s unique conditions, needs and circumstances, it uses the most appropriate interventions from an array of scientific disciplines to heal illness and disease and help people regain and maintain optimum health. www.dukeintegrativemedicine.org