Developmental Therapies for Children with Autism

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The Problem

I am a senior in high school, this semester I have designed an independent project that incorporates community service, career exploration, and research. I am learning about different kinds of developmental therapies used with children and adolescents who have autism spectrum disorders. * It is important to me, and to this project, that people have the opportunity to learn what I have learned- even if only a small piece- so that they can spread the word, and if they need to know the information for a friend or someone in their family, the products I am/will be creating are designed to be understandable for people who may or may not have a background knowledge of this disability and the therapies. I am creating a booklet (described below) that will be shared with many different groups and associations. It is especially important to me that the children and adolescents from low-income families who have autism, are made aware of these therapies and sites where I observe and aide. All of the sites I work at are non-profit organizations, two are public schools. I will need funding in order to create these booklets so that everyone has the opportunity to learn some of what I have. Below is the proposal I submitted to community consultants, classmates, and teachers this past semester, it has been accepted and I have been accomplishing what I have set out to do. PROPOSAL Part 1 - General Information *Guiding Question- What are the developmental goals and effects of different therapies used with autistic children and adolescents? I will be participating in and observing different types of developmental therapies used with autistic children and adolescents. I will focus on occupational, music and yoga therapies in both group and individual sessions. I will be observing children of various ages and levels of functioning to see their responses to the therapies. I will also be interviewing therapists, children, and parents about their experiences. Part 2 - Goals/Activities * I will explore effective non-medical treatments for children and adolescents with autism through research, interview, participation, and observation. * I will learn the goals and effectiveness of these treatments by observing and working with the therapists over time and seeing the clients’ responses and changes. * I will explore ways to implement these techniques in my future career. * I will learn the physiological principals underlying these therapies and why they are considered effective for an autistic child/adolescent. * I will learn how these therapies effect social behaviors of autistic children/adolescents. Research Component * Observation- I will be observing, and logging my observations, of the three therapies. I will pay particular attention to the therapists’ choice in activities, words, physical contact, and techniques. I will also pay close attention to the clients’ progress over long and short periods of time and log their reactions to the activities. * Participation- I will act as an aide to the therapist/professional in the three therapies as well. This will happen later on in my project as the clients’ get used to my presence in their sessions. I will do the activities along with the clients and help keep individuals focused on the activities in the group sessions. Through this hands-on learning, I hope gin a better understanding of the therapies. * Interview- I will be interviewing professionals, parents, and autistic children/adolescents that I will not be working with on a regular basis. These will take place on my interview/research days (see schedule). I hope this will give me a wider knowledge of techniques used and approaches taken by professionals, and the effectiveness of them. * Literary Research- I will be reading and learning from my books on my interview/research days to explore even more techniques I may not see in my observation. I will also get a better understanding of autism, and why these therapies have shown to be effective with this population. In addition to the books in the Outside Reading section of this proposal I will be using these books as resources: The Autism Sourcebook- Karen Siff Exkorn * This book is from the prospective of a professional and parent of an autistic child. Exkorn describes the different methods used in helping her son develop as “normally” as possible, and uses this book as an attempt to make the stigma of autism a thing of the past. Autism and Developmental Delays in Young Children- Gerald Mahoney and James D. Macdonald * This book outlines different symptoms of autism along with different kinds of therapies and teaching methods. It even includes worksheets and logs that a professional or parent would use to measure the effects of teaching methods and therapies; this will be helpful to me because I may be able to use these to log my observations. Building Bridges Through Sensory Integration- Ellen Yack, Paula Aquilla, and Shirley Sutton * This book is a great resource that describes the sensory issues children with autism have, and how to approach these issues with different occupational therapy techniques. It presents detailed assessment tools and strategies that I may be seeing the professionals I’m working with use. List the essential activities that you will pursue to achieve your specific goals. * I will be observing and participating in a group session of music therapy with autistic clients at least once a week (Institute for Therapy Through the Arts) * I will be observing and participating in a group session of yoga therapy with autistic students once a week. (Lincoln School) * I will observe individual and group sessions of occupational therapy for autistic students (Easter Seals Therapeutic Day School) Part 3 - Product from experience * I will be making a "yoga deck" of cards that will include information on the purpose, poses, and effects of yoga therapy. The students I will be working with at Lincoln School will be receiving yoga decks from Ms. Sugarman that have their own pictures on each card as they do the pose. I am taking this idea and creating one of my own which will include more information than just pictures. * I will create a photo album of pictures of the musical instruments used in music therapy, along with each picture there will be a paragraph describing the purpose of this instrument, when and why it was used during a session, and my observations on how the clients responded to, or worked with, each instrument. * I will create a video of a mock occupational therapy session and describe how and why different techniques, tools, and activities are used. In addition to those products, I will be creating a small booklet that has a summary of the purposes and effects of these therapies. It will also include my reflections on the experiences, and interviews from the therapists I have worked with. I have contacted several autism associations and organizations and asked them if I can add my booklet to their websites as a resource (some have yet to get back to me). In addition to the websites, I would like to be able to offer a printed version of this booklet to the state of Illinois' Early Intervention program (for children under the age of three who aren't meeting developmental milestones) to have them available for parents, to public libraries in my area, to autism clinics in the area, and the non-profit sites where I have experienced these therapies. Part 4 - Service Learning *ETHS - I am Community Service Board and Club Chair. My responsibilities include: keeping up-to-date with each committee’s activities, coordinating volunteer events, drives, and ETHS community service actvities. - I am a member of the Philanthropy Committee, we receive a grant and research different Evanston charities to donate the money toward. - I am a member of the Habitat for Humanity Committee, I participate in workdays a few Saturdays a year, and help fundraise for ETHS Habitat *Soup At Six - I help out at this weekly soup kitchen, serving food and cleaning up afterwards The following sites connect directly to my second semester project *ITA - I will act as an aide in the music therapy sessions. I will be a partner for the children if there is an odd number off clients present, help keep the children focused, help them learn the instruments. *Lincoln School - I will be an aide (one-on-one partner) with an autistic student during their yoga therapy sessions *Easter Seals - I plan to volunteer as an aide in a classroom after observing occupational therapy sessions Part 5- Career Exploration I would like to become a developmental specialist for children with autism spectrum disorders after I have finished the appropriate amount of school. This project is a fantastic opportunity for me to learn new skills and absorb knowledge for a background in that field!

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