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Rhubarb October Ed 65

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  1 RHUBARB The ISADD Newsletter October 2014. Edition 65 Editor: Daryl Cooper Publishers: Linda Thomas, Audree Poff EDITORIAL Early this month – as part of its “Mental as” week - the ABC screened an Australian Story   about a young man, Jack, with Autism who is currently graduating from High School. Obviously, I am biased, but I had hoped that the story would have done more to show that ABA–based intervention was the key that unlocked the world for Jack; but that fact was only mentioned in passing: I feel that the lay viewer would have been left with the impression that the type of therapy was unimportant. With so many “therapies” on offer, I think it is vitally important that the message gets out to parents, and indeed, the general public, that ABA is still the only therapy with sound scientific evidence of efficacy. While I am pleased that Australian Story chose to do an episode where the story involved Autism, I was disappointed in the way the story was told: told differently, it could have achieved so much more. Daryl Cooper Editor EARLY REGISTRATION NOW OPEN The ABIA ( Autism Behavioural Intervention Association ) third biennial conference at Monash University, Caufield Campus in Melbourne on Saturday April 18 th  2015  has now started accepting registrations. There are significant savings for early registration. For further conference information please contact: info@abia.net.au  | 03 9830 0677 CONGRATULATIONS To Tasmanian Case Manager/Coordinator Krystal Bassano on the latest addition to her family: Daddy Christopher, Mummy Krystal and sister, Sage welcomed the safe arrival, via Caesarean section, of their baby girl Sidney Violet May Bassano (weight 8 pounds 11) on September 9 th . CONGRATULATIONS To Perth Case Manager Simone Heavy on her marriage in September. We wish her and husband Damiano all the very best for a long and happy life together. A SHORT GOODBYE Perth psychologist Amanda di Russo is leaving us at Christmastime and will be on maternity leave. Baby is due on 8 th  January and we wish Amanda, Michael and baby a safe delivery.  2 EDUCATION SECTION AND OFF TO SCHOOL THEY GO – BUT WHICH SCHOOL?? As the year is coming to an end and 2015 is on the horizon, many parents will be faced with this decision. It is not an easy decision, and it must be made with only the child’s best interest in mind. There will be good arguments given for and against every choice you consider, and as a parent it is your job to weigh them all up. Firstly you need to look at all the possible options, some easier to reach than others. Here is a list of the potential options, not all of which are suitable for your child, but you should be aware of them, and there are variants within each option. ã  Home schooling, ã  Repeating a year, ã  Inclusion without support ã  Inclusion with an aide ã  Special Unit ã  Special school Home schooling : we will look at this first as it is what you have already been doing if you were using a home based ABA program. It certainly allows for the most efficient way of teaching skills, particularly academics. It does not allow for opportunity to socialise with peers and as the child grows older, places a heavier burden on parents to supply appropriate materials to ensure the child can keep pace with his/her age group. Home schooling can be most successful for the potentially bright child who is behind with language as it gives more opportunity to catch up before joining peers in primary school. It is, however, essential to find alternative social exposure to learn necessary skills. It is also essential to guarantee that the child is getting optimal input, using the best of ABA strategies, and not just waiting for the child to develop. Home schooling is also recommended where the child is learning effectively but where social skills are poor and the child is fragile and highly anxious, not coping with the stresses of school schedules and peers. These children are usually older and at risk of nervous breakdowns. Withdrawal or partial withdrawal from school is recommended, together with good tuition and counselling. The peer group can be particularly difficult in early adolescence, at a time when our child may be at his/her most vulnerable. Often special school is suggested, but that also includes a dilution of the academic content and thus a reduction of later options. Repeating a year  is best in the kindergarten setting, and possibly suits most of our preschoolers. Kindergartens and pre-primaries are great places to learn the social the skills required for group membership. In the first year most of our beginners are busy learning to play, learning to cope with a new environment and its routines and learning to comply with teachers. It is in the second year, that with extra confidence they tend to get involved in cooperative play and in communication with peers. If these children move directly to grade 1, where both time and activities are more structured, this opportunity is often lost. Repeating a year is often against the school policy which suggests that a child needs to stay with his/her age group. Parents have the right to argue for their child’s needs, and we all know that children with ASD just take longer to develop, longer to achieve confidence. However, I do not agree with the old philosophy that children should be kept down in a grade till they learn all the skills expected in that grade level. Once we have given our child the opportunity to gain confidence and a little more maturity, we need to allow him/her to proceed with that peer group. Inclusion without support  is possible for the few who have started intervention very early, have achieved good command of language, are compliant and can monitor their moods, and above all, are socially confident. For them a  3 dedicated aide will be a hindrance and in some instances, there is no need to tell the school what the srcinal diagnosis once was. To succeed they need to be indistinguishable. However, they do need watching, particularly during adolescence to ensure their stress coping is fine. Please do not make the error of sending your child off without support in the hope that he may just make it, because it is nicer to avoid a label which you see as stigmatising. Failure will be more stigmatising and your child should not be set up to fail if that is at all likely. In such cases, support from the home program is best faded gradually to just casual monitoring and keeping in touch, but ready to provide what is needed before the child gets stressed. It is also important with these children to make sure they are aware of support and know when to ask for help early. It is best to tell them, in a very positive way, why they have needed therapy in the past, and to get them to take over the task of setting new learning objectives for themselves. It always surprises me how much insight they have into their difficulties and how willing they are to take on responsibility for their own development. A warning for parents; remember that the difference between learning in a supportive one-to-one session at home and learning in a group of noisy peers in an environment which is full of distraction and demands can be quite daunting. Parents should expect the child’s skill levels and confidence to drop, and hence continuing of home program will still be needed to ensure academics and language skills do not fall behind while the child focuses on the social challenges at school. This is why I tend to recommend that a child have a grasp of reading and maths skills before starting school. They are so much easier to teach individually. Inclusion with support is the option that probably will suit most of our children. This will assist them in bridging the gap between ongoing individual support and classroom learning. However, here everything will depend on the quality of the support the school provides. Do not assume that support will always be positive. Too often the well intentioned but untrained classroom aide will segregate the child from his/her peers, teach dependency and prompt bound behaviours and undo much that has been achieved. Parents need to be vigilant, recruit the help of the Case Manager to communicate with the school, offer training and support for the aide, and if all fails and several IEP meetings have not brought necessary solutions, consider a different setting. Thankfully these negative situations are becoming rarer as schools and their staffs are becoming more aware of the needs our children bring, and our ability to help them meet those needs with consultancy. Above all it is essential to communicate and be clear as to what your expectations are, and what the child can achieve. If the child cannot cope with grade levels then individual targets and a modified curriculum is needed, but inclusion assumes that the child is accepted and involved socially. There is a lot a good teacher can achieve by encouraging peers to be involved in including our child and so contributing to his/her social development Special units,  where they exist, can be very helpful in providing integration which is limited to the child’s ability to cope with it productively, while also providing a program more suited to the child’s ability level. They can provide a safe place and a smaller group to retreat to when the open classroom or playground becomes too stressful. In particular they are very effective in high schools where our children may show ability in only few of the curriculum subjects and may need a modified approach in others. Also they help support our children through the rough time of early adolescence when being different can be very painful in the playground. They tend to be more realistic and practical in their learning targets and they prepare for adulthood by providing necessary skills and work experience. A supportive and protective unit can help maintain our gifted students, educating them  4 through to year 12, where they can be noted by peers for their achievements rather than their differences. Too often, unsupported, competent students with ASD end up leaving school early as they cannot cope with the cumulative stresses of growing academic demands and social rejection. Special schools  are necessary and serve an essential function, but children should not be placed there on the basis of their diagnosis or label, but on their current needs. Before you decide on a special school suggested to you, go and look at it personally. You may be impressed with the computers, but remember that your child will be learning from modelling, and it is people not hardware who will influence your child. You may be impressed with the teacher-pupil ratio, but remember that that is because the pupils all will need much more attention. Individual aide time is usually not available in special schools or units. Have a look at what the students at your child’s level are actually learning, what are the expectations placed on them, what are they achieving. Will your child fit in, be happy, meet your goals for him/her? This may depend on your child’s age. It is my experience that it is best to give every child the option of inclusion as it provides best opportunity for learning social skills naturally. This is best achieved at kindergarten and early grade levels, where the peer group is accepting and supportive, and even if our child does not cope with the language levels and early academic skills, he/she is learning to be part of a group, to follow group rules and feel comfortable with peers. This is all essential for later coping in the wider community. However, with many children, where skill levels have not been attained, a time comes where inclusion is no longer happening and the child is segregated within the integrated classroom. The child is no longer gaining from the experience and may even find it damaging. This is when decisions will need to be made, and for the child who is functioning at the intellectually impaired level a special school may be the best option. They are geared to teaching life skills, they will provide an accepting peer group and I have seen many a child removed from a negative integration situation blossom and relax, and begin to make gains again. So, parents, I urge you to check your options, discuss with your Case Manager, list the current aims you have for your child and check out your chances for achieving these aims. In choosing schools do some visits, ask around, look at the kids, assess the level of interest staff is showing in your child; ask if they will cooperate with you and the home program. Will there be regular IEPs? Above all choose carefully and be ready to accept that you are making a decision for this year and the next year maybe, but that your child’s needs may change and then so will your choice. Jura Tender SOUTH AUSTRALIAN NEWS Speech Pathologist and Case Manager Bec Robinson will be presenting a paper based on her honours thesis at the Australian Linguistic Society annual conference in December. Her paper is titled: “ Perception of intervocalic consonants in first language by speakers of an Australian Absrcinal language and speakers of Standard Australian English  ”. While the subject of her research has nothing to do with her work as a Case Manager, try reading aloud her paper title ten times, and afterwards you will probably need Speech Therapy!

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