A mum's 10 ASD therapy tips

At Talking Matters we believe that working in partnership with parents is the most effective way to work with children with ASD (and any other kids too). We don't have a magic wand that we use when do therapy, rather we teach children new skills and give parents the tools to practice, reinforce and extend these new skills out in the real world. The more kids do at home to develop their skills the better they progress.

We asked the parent of one of our little "superstars" to share what she had done over the years at home to support her son Dion who is now seven. Read through her ideas and then see at the end what Dion is doing now, it's pretty amazing!

Here is what Paula wrote:

Dion was diagnosed at 2 years and 7 months with ASD. He was non verbal and had poor fine motor skills and average gross motor skills. We started speech immediately and OT about 6 months later. At the time of diagnosis he had one sister who was about 4 months old. (Dion now has three sisters, Isla (5), Ruby (3) and Lily (10 months).

Things we did at home to help in conjunction with the things we covered in therapy sessions included:

1. PECS cards We started with only a few, probably 6 or so, so that it wasn’t too overwhelming and then as the words came we gradually added more. We had sets of the cards at home, and at both grandparents houses. We made sure that everyone followed the same rules with Dion when using the cards so that he didn’t get confused.

2. We also had a container full of small picture cards that I had laminated in a container with a hole in the lid. We would tip them all out and Dion would ‘post’ them into the container. The pictures were of anything and everything – animals, vehicles, shapes, colours. We would hold them up and say the name then he would post them. Then as he would say the words, we’d make sure he said it before he got to post it. (we still use these with the girls for them to learn words too).

3. We read LOTS and LOTS of books. Dion would choose a book and bring it to us to be read to. He would quite happily sit for ages and listen to us read, even the same book over and over. We made sure we always read slowly and clearly so that he could learn the words as we read. (Now he reads us lots and lots of books with fantastic expression – he definitely picked up something while listening to us!)

4. We talked about EVERYTHING we were doing. When we did the shopping, we talked about what we were buying and where we were going. We talked about things in the car – what we could see and hear. We talked about cooking things in the kitchen, what we were doing at bath time etc.

5. We tried to have a conversation with Dion, even though he wouldn’t talk back to us. He would listen to us very intently, and we always said that he was just taking everything in and one day it would come back out at us (we were right!). We would ask him questions and then answer the question for him – until his speech improved and he could answer for himself. When his vocabulary did increase, then we made sure we asked questions we knew he could answer.

6. We printed off lots of barrier games from the TM website and played them quite often. We sometimes did them with Dion and his younger sister as a game to see who could do the best at following instructions.

7. We looked through lots of magazines and found pictures of many different people doing different things. We cut the pictures out and used them to learn verbs as well as identify ‘he’ and ‘she’

8. We made obstacle courses at home and involved all the kids so it seemed like it was a game and not therapy. This helped work on position concepts such as in/on and under which were challenging for Dion.

9. We played lots of other games (board games etc) to improve fine motor skills and these we could do as a family

10. We also found that involving the whole family, whether it’s reading a book or playing a game inside or outside, doesn’t single Dion out as being the one who has to work on something, but it is just an activity we can do together as a family.

It may have taken a bit of adjusting at first to incorporate some of these things into our lives at home (I can’t remember, it was too long ago!) but in the end, all the things we did and still continue to do with Dion at home do actually don’t feel like we are doing ‘therapy’. I don’t think we’ve ever sat down with him and said, ‘okay, it’s therapy time’, the things we work on just happen as part of our daily lives.

Paula.

So what is Dion up to now? (You may well have seen Dion before as he and his sisters are some of our "models" that we use in photos for this blog and our online resources).

Dion is in a mainstream school and is in year two. He has been lucky to have had a very supportive school and excellent teachers. Paula shares information regularly between home, school and therapists, so that we all work on the same goals.

He reads at above his age level. He can read almost anything but needs some support for comprehension at times. His spelling age was recently tested at school as being at a 9 year, 9 month level! He loves maths and technology (of course). He gets on well with his class and has one close friend. He loves to write stories and recently brought me in a story he had written at home. It was many pages long and divided into three chapters. The vocabulary and story structure was amazing (though the handwriting, of course was not so great, but getting better!).

Dion still has his challenges and continues to need support but his loving, persistent and supportive family have helped him develop many fantastic skills that I think are great example of what can happen when parents, teachers and therapists work together.

Looking for support for your child? Talking Matters has speech pathologists and a team of occupational therapists who can help with children's sensory challenges. Find out more about how Talking Matters can help your child and support your family.

Talking Matters now has an ASD consultant who can help develop individual supports and strategies for children to use at home and at school. Find out more about this service.

Looking to learn more about ASD? We have a number of workshops planned for teachers, SSOs and child care workers to support children with ASD.

Talking Matters provides assessment, diagnosis, therapy and support for children on the autism spectrum and their families. We are providers under NDIA and we are also happy to accept medicare plans. To find out more about our services and our team visit our website. To connect with our community of families, therapists and educators join us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

We want to thank Paula for taking the time to share her insights and hope you find her ideas helpful and her commitment inspirational!

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