We can only give examples of our own experiences and thus this blog will be more aimed at readers who already have some support system in place. Many of our therapists that work with children on a full-time basis and live in their homes have asked us how to generalize goals and “targets” to the family. For other families who don’t have a live-in therapist it might also be useful to get more strategies to generalize what therapists, such as Speech or Occupational therapists do to the home and natural environment.
We have already blogged about generalization from one environment to another, but this blog will focus on what to take on, how much of it and when. Your child is completely different and unique to any other child, which means that we can give general ideas, but that each parent should evaluate this advice within their own family context and situation.
We would suggest choosing the top 3 goals and most important areas that you feel (and professionals might have mentioned to you too). Write these goals down, an example might be that your child struggles to communicate or is unable to use expressive speech yet. He or she might also struggle with social language and initiating or maintaining interaction with peers or his or her siblings.
If we take a child that is struggling to expressively communicate, interact socially and possibly engaging in some challenging behaviors, we can find strategies that are focused on those three (challenging) concepts.
It is always important to ask for feedback from the team working with your child – whether this is a speech therapist, an OT, a therapist, teachers, swimming instructors or all of the above. We suggest sending a “communication book” to all these environments and asking each professional to write down what they worked on that day. They should, ideally write down goals, what they struggled with and how they helped your child to cope and persevere some of the more difficult targets. This communication book will help you be consistent with the strategies in which other people are utilizing with your child.
Communication is key for us all, right? The most important thing should always be that your child has a way of communicating – this might be through expressive speech, an AAC device, PECS, pointing, sign language, etc. As long as the team of professionals are all working on the same mode of communication (ideally he or she should have at least two ways of telling you their needs and wants) and you are aware how they are implementing this way of communicating.
Interests – if we know what our child likes, we can now combine what the team is working on within an interesting topic or toy. Just bond with your child by showing him or her that you are interested in their love for planets (perhaps) too. Sit with them, show them different ways of looking at the planets or interesting facts about it. Remember to keep it age and developmental level appropriate. Teach them how to request for “more” of something and how to say “no” or “stop”.
Remember as a parent you don’t want to redo ALL the targets that the therapists are working on – your child is tired and you should be the Mom or Dad that comforts them and plays with them. You can choose a goal per week though and combine this with a few words that you want to generalize from therapy to the home environment. Write this down in your communication book, take videos to show your child your time together and share this with the therapists (if you are comfortable with this). The more your child sees that everyone is on the same page and supporting him in a consistent manner, the more he or she will feel part of the entire team. And trust me – it will become easier to take an active role in this very different form of parenting. Where every step of the way your child is observed and tracked. We are not advocates of tracking during sessions and we advise parents to tell therapists (if they are not from AIMS Global) to rather track after their sessions. We believe that building a positive, true and real rapport with a child is way more important than writing down how many “trials” their child got “correct” or whether it was “prompted”. Nonetheless – you have probably noticed that having a child diagnosed with ASD makes even you watch his every move. Analyzing if it’s progress or possibly some regression that you are observing.
We want to urge parents (and professionals) to also take a step back at times and just enjoy the moments with their child or client. This leads us into the crucial step of including sensory toys or activities and movement breaks throughout your time with your child.
So, to recap, if you want to take an active role in your child’s “program”:
- Observe some sessions or school time
- Have a communication book that everyone has to fill out
- Choose 2 – 3 goals that you feel is most important for your child and work on this by….including your child’s interests in fun games or activities!
- Always provide sensory toys and movement breaks as these serve as coping skills for your child (and for you). It also creates fun moments where you will reconnect with your child and forget to “track progress” or wait until he or she is doing something “wrong”.
- Remember that academic targets will be included – but for now, you want to work on foundation skills in order for these academic lessons to become easier for your child. Once they are able to focus on what they are learning, it should all become more automatic.
- And lastly, and most importantly – include a mode of communication, ALWAYS.
We are always available to help with more specific questions relating to taking on an active role with your child. Schedule a call with us by visiting the contact us page.
We also have many more free sources of material on our website that will equip you in relating to your child on his or her level!
And by the way – for you to read these blogs is a huge step in taking an active role in your child’s life. You are already rockstar parents!