Monday, April 13, 2009

Atypical behaviors of our children are a window in to their unique world

As an occupational therapist and playroom therapist, I have had the pleasure of working with many beautiful autistic children who presented with a very wide range of diagnosis and behaviors, biting them selves or others, intensely banging their heads, staring into space without movement, lying on the floor while licking the mirror, lining up objects, reciting all kinds of cartoons, and self stimulating, etc. My training has allowed me to look at these behaviors from a very empowering perspective, while most of the world sees them as unacceptable. I view these so called "bizarre" behaviors as a window in that child's world and in the process gain an in-depth understanding of how I can best help this child connect to his/her internal (body) and external environment and begin to see the world around him as a friendly extension of him self.

The sensory integration approach explains the brain-behavior connection (e.g. every atypical behavior observed in an autistic child or another special needs child is directly related to the state of his/her Central Nervous System - CNS). Even though every autistic child presents a variety of ritualistic and atypical behaviors, when you look close, you will start to notice that every child creates their own unique pattern, speed, and intensity of how they prefer to engage in their unique behaviors. For example: one child might decide to place all his cars near him and begin lining them up by gently placing one car next to the other while moving with caution in a very predictable manner; another child might be running to get cars from another side of the room, falling down, smashing the car into the next car and then adjusting the car to make sure it is in perfect alignment with the other cars, and still maintain a very predictable rhythm. So here we have two children seemingly engaging in the same activity. But are they really engaging in a similar activity? They are both lining up cars. However their unique behavior is a communication to us all about what kind of sensory input their body is craving in order to achieve a state of balance.

Noticing the specific ways our children engage in their activities will allow us as therapists, counselors, teachers, and parents become super sensitive to our children's needs and thus allow a doorway for these children to engage with us and motivate them to be a part our world.

I dedicate myself fully to observe each behavior of a special needs child as a meaningful and purposeful action on the part of that child. I look at the deeper meaning of why that child is engaging in this specific behavior (where is the break down in communication with in the CNS of that child) and finally then synthesize a treatment plan based on what I have observed and which will fit the program the child is following. During this process I ask myself: "what purpose is that behavior serving for that specific child?" The atypical behaviors of our children are a window in to their unique world, which provide me with the opportunity to design a very specific tailor made treatment plan for each child I work with.

Occupational Therapy and autism treatment support each other and gives us a window into our children's unique world!

1 comment:

  1. I love how you said it Rita...if only we ALL experienced the world around us as a friendly extension of ourselves! Nice concept :)

    comment written by: Jeannene Christie


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