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What Has and Hasn't Worked for Our Child with Autism

Before you start reading this post please be aware that every child is different. Every child will respond differently to different therapies and techniques given by those therapists. These are just our experiences and trail/errors that have and have not worked for our child.

Speech, OT, PT, ABA are all the therapies your child might receive if diagnosed with autism. You may get the whole bundle, half the bundle, or just one but if you have a special needs child there is a good chance that therapy will be an everyday affair in your life. With those therapies comes homework, recognition of things you can and should do during your day, and a lot of patience. Patience is something that I have personally never had but since Ellis came into my life my patience has doubled. Great things take time.

We started speech and occupational therapy at 18 months of age with Ellis. He is turning 3 in 2 months so we haven't been doing this a long time but long enough to figure out what has worked for him and what hasn't. Mind you that every day he develops we adapt and change with him. We are all about meeting Ellis where he is at and not trying to discourage him and honestly that is where the whole education system's mindset should be.

Our main concern has been speech because Ellis is 100% nonverbal, so speech has been an area that we have really focused on and what we found was that occupational and speech started to really collide so we have spent more time with occupational therapy but it really involves the speech component as well. This leads me to my first bullet.

What Has Worked for My Autistic Child

1. Integrating therapies

For our family, this has been a game changer. I like to think of the therapies as one even though they are three separate disciplines. There is a lot less stress around the "at home" practice if you don't separate them and honestly, they all relate to one another when you think about the fine motor, gross motor, and speech skills.

2. Inpatient and Outpatient Therapies are Awesome

My child LOVES going to therapy. He absolutely enjoys it so I decided to have inpatient (infant and toddler/in-school) and outpatient. Basically, he is getting therapy in school and then after school, I take him to therapy as well. I know that in the beginning a lot of people were against this because they like children to be comfortable with one therapist, but for my son meeting new people, exploring new places, and doing different strategies worked. It helps him regulate in new places and allows him to see the world differently in different situations. As a parent, I get to see what outpatient is doing rather than with in-school therapy I just read it on a piece of paper which is nice to actually see what I need to do at home.

For our son, he sees school-based therapy for speech, OT, and PT 45 minutes a week. He also sees outpatient occupational therapy for 60 minutes and outpatient speech for 30 minutes a week. He likes being busy and I am okay with that.

3. Start Going to Group Activities

I know this varies for every child but for us getting him to interact with others in a controlled environment has made a huge impact. For example, he goes to all of his sibling's sporting events, he runs around the YMCA, he goes to KinderMusick, he started pre-school at 2 years old, and occasionally we will tackle Sunday school, we spend every day at the pool in the summer, and I take him almost anywhere with me. I have found that the more I expose him to different sights, sounds, textures, etc the better he has responded over the years.

What Has Not Worked for My Child

1. Visual cards and schedules

So, this is probably controversial because I know that my son loves a schedule and a routine, however, he does not love the cards and boards that go along with it. I hope this changes because I know they work, as a teacher, I have seen them work but my 2-year-old he hates them. He actually takes the visual cards and hides them so we don't use them. In order to get him used to what the cards represent we decided to give him an AAC device which has worked better than the cards. Please know there are always other options out there if something doesn't work, but you may have to fight for those options.

2. Not Having Any Screen Time

Don't click away! Hear me out. I let my son have screen time and sometimes it is 3 hours a day. I have noticed that my son watches ABCs, 123's, and phonics. He also watches sensory videos such as balls moving through obstacles, pop it's, and slime. I use to think screen time was bad, but I have noticed that Ellis is learning from it. He is making on-beat sounds with different ABC songs and he watches them over and over again to learn them. If I am being honest I would rather have him watch that video and learn that song than me sing those songs a hundred times and get burned out. I hope that makes sense, but I see screen time as an educational tool rather than a disservice to my child. Of course, we play, we get outside, and we do other things but there is an appropriate time for screen time.

3. Doing Everything for Him

It's very difficult to let your child do something wrong or watch them get frustrated especially when you know exactly what they need or want but they need that frustration in order to perform difficult tasks. There are many times when I want to do everything for him and give him everything he needs but that isn't going to help him succeed, so I let him melt down and I let him figure out how to tell me what he wants and needs and we, as a family, have worked hard on incorporating those skills because it's not easy. The reality of it is that when he goes to school they won't know him like we do so he needs to learn how to tell others what he wants. This is harder for us as a family than it is for Ellis.

Be Your Child's Advocate

Once again, remember that every child will do things differently but if something isn't working never let someone tell you you cannot switch to what is. I always have to remind myself that I know my child the best and I can read him the best, so be that advocate for your child. It will be frustrating, and difficult, but it will benefit them so much more in the future, so do not be afraid to make waves and advocate for what your child really needs.


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