Therapists often ask me intervention strategies for autistic kids. In this blog, I am listing at least four key aspects that I am mindful of in my sessions. Read them carefully and ensure to use them all!
1. Speak SLOW and LOW: Did you know? Autistic children experience a ‘noisy’ brain throughout childhood compared to their typically developing peers! (Green et al., 2022)
Many autistic children experience auditory hypersensitivity and hyperacusis, which often causes sensory overload and emotional reaction to sensory input.
Therefore, clinicians and caregivers working with autistic individuals must be careful to lower their voices and the rate of their speech to help children process speech optimally.
2. Allow the child to take the lead: A significant challenge faced by most autistic kids - is flexible thinking. Giving the child the autonomy and opportunity to express themselves, will efficiently guide the course of a therapy session. For example, the child states what he wants to do first or what learning methods he prefers, when he is saturated etc.
When children are unable to clearly state what they want, therapists can follow their body movements, eye gaze, and other indicators to understand what they are communicating. Follow the child’s lead, it will keep children motivated from the inside and can help improve their sustained attention.
3. Set the child up for success: How many of us would like to work on a project or a task where we are consistently failing? Or with a supervisor who is constantly telling us what to do? If we don’t like that kind of a setting or experience then how can we do that to our autistic children?!
Setting the child up for success means that you deliberately start from where you are certain that the child will be successful. For example: instead of starting with four flashcards or objects, start with only one at a time. The child will certainly be successful in identifying it. From there, gradually increase the complexity of the task.
4. Apply your mind to the child’s mind: I learnt this phrase from Kim Barthel, an occupational therapist. It was a light glow moment for me! Here is what I made sense of it - see what they see, listen carefully, try to comprehend what they are probably thinking, and connect emotionally with the child.
The aformentioned has become a part of my life. But when I started off as a young practitioner, I didn't know any of them! Thankfully, I could learn them from my son, and the children and their parents I work with everyday!
At the start, you may not be able to apply all the above strategies right away and that’s alright. Set yourself up for success and start with one at a time.
Chitra Thadathil MSc (Sp&Hg)
Speech Language Pathologist
Founder & Director at Dimensions CCD