In a few days I'll be posting the pictures I took at Lizzie's Sensory Gymnastics class, her occupational therapy appointment, and her girl's day out at Sweet and Sassy with her BFF. Today, please welcome Lizzie's mom, Julie Hornok, to the blog once again as she gives us a inside look into their life. She provides many helpful links to various therapies that are available to treat autism. If you know someone who could benefit from this information, please pass it along.
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“More therapy. Keep pushing. Social skills classes. Academic tutoring. Speech. Don’t waste a minute. What about occupational therapy? What am I missing?”
These are the thoughts that run over and over in the minds of parents of children with autism. There is not a minute to waste. There is no time to slow down to notice the roses, much less smell them. It is all work, work, work, and everything must have a purpose. The purpose of each day must fit together neatly into the master plan we’ve mapped out for our children. What keeps us going is the hope that our child will be one of the lucky ones that will someday be a happy, contributing member of society.
There are endless types of therapies to try with children with autism. Since no one knows for sure what causes autism, no one knows for sure how to treat it. There is no doctor’s prescription for progress. So we, as the parents, are left to investigate on our own what might work for our child. We do our own trials with our own kids trying all kinds of therapies from ABA (applied behavior analysis) to the GFCF (gluten free casein free) Diet to HBOT (hyperbaric oxygen therapy). If we see progress, we continue, and if not, we move on to another therapy.
You might be thinking to yourself, “Hmmm…sounds expensive.” Many families with autism have their kids in therapy 30-40 hours a week and spend around $40,000 a year for the private therapy.
We have been treating Lizzie for over 6 years, and I would love to share with you some of the treatments that have had a great impact on her life.
In my opinion, the deepest deficit of children with autism is their lack of engagement or lack of ability to interact with others in a social manner. Floortime therapy starts to address this deficit at the most basic level. My daughter never played peek-a-boo as a baby. She never tried to get my attention to show me what she was doing. So, when she was 4 years old, we went back and showed her the joy of interacting with others. Floortime systematically addresses the child’s social-emotional abilities. This helped us bring Lizzie out of her own world and back into ours. www.floortime.org
Sensory Integration is defined as the neurological process that organizes sensation from one’s own body and the environment, thus making it possible to use the body effectively within the environment. Much of how we react in life depends on our senses. Imagine if you were unable to determine the difference between a noise right next to you and a noise one block away. It would be impossible to use your body effectively within the environment. Occupational therapists address this imbalance to help kids with autism function more successfully. We have found that when Lizzie is balanced, she is more able to focus and progress in her other therapies and at school.
ABA is the most researched treatment for autism. It has a very scientific definition, so I am just going to give you the gist of it. Basically, behavior is trained by withholding something preferred and then giving it to the child once they produce the desired behavior. For example, when Lizzie was little, she loved to play with blocks. We would withhold the blocks until she said, “block”, and then we would immediately give her the block as her reward. www.shapingbehavior.com
Gluten Free Casein Free Diet is simply taking gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and other grains) and casein (found in dairy) out of the diet. Many children with autism cannot handle these foods and once removed from their diet, parents report that the “fog” seems to be lifted from their brain and their children are able to think clearer. Lizzie seemed to gain social desire once we took her off these foods.
Social Thinking is most often used with kids with either high-functioning autism or asperger’s. Social Thinking teaches kids to think from another’s perspective. Take a moment to think about how many of your actions are based on what someone else might think. What other people think affects so much of how we choose to act and what we say. It was shocking for me to learn that Lizzie thought everyone was thinking the exact same thing as she was. In her mind, she liked princesses, so everyone else did too. Slowly, through this therapy, we are teaching her how to think about what others might be thinking and how that should affect her behavior. www.socialthinking.com
A therapy that makes a huge difference in one child’s life may not help another at all. Each of our children with autism is so uniquely different and so each of the treatment plans look even more different. We feel blessed that God has always provided us with wonderful therapists and the therapies we have done have helped Lizzie to progress well.