What can I do now at home to help prevent or treat developmental delays? -A Guide for Concerned Parents Part 3

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This is part three of “I Think my Baby has Autism. -A Guide for Concerned Parents”. The first part, What are the early warning signs of autism? How can I tell the difference between a sign of autism and normal behavior? covers the early warning signs of autism for infants and toddlers and discusses what developmental delays are red flags for autism.

The second part, I Noticed Some Red Flags in my Infant or Toddler. Now What? covers how to find services for evaluation and help with your concerns.

The third part covers therapies and techniques parents can do at home to help children with developmental delays or children at risk for autism due to family history. Here I’ll cover the resources that were most helpful to me in my son’s first 3 years.

What can I do now at home to help prevent or treat developmental delays?

For these guidelines, I’ll assume that the parent is following milestones closely and that, if a delay has been discovered, the child has been screened for hearing, vision, and other such issues that could interfere with communication. None of these replace professional evaluation and help.

General Development

If you look at the master set of the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, you’ll fine a section with activity suggestions for various age ranges that starts about page 162.

The Early Childhood Institute of Mississippi State has released this PDF of Floor Time Activities for infants 0-17 months. There is also this PDF of Motor Activities for infants and toddlers up to 3 years of age, as well as this PDF for preschool children.

Early Intervention Games [affiliate link] is a book meant to help children on the spectrum, but both of my boys have fun with the activities. A word of warning: many of the games are best when multiple children can play, so if you only have 1 or 2 children, you may not find this book especially helpful. I tried to play the games during play dates.

 Improving Speech

Penn State has a free online program designed to help parents of young children with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and other disabilities learn to communicate. It’s designed for children from infancy to preschool age. It’s very basic and easy to understand.

The Hanen Centre has some helpful tips and information on speech development as well as suggestions for fun activities. I’ve heard wonderful things about their books from various Speech Language Professionals. More Than Words [affiliate link] is the one consistently recommended to me but, because of the expense and since my son’s language improved so quickly, I haven’t had a chance to check it out myself.

When talking to your child, some recent studies have shown that responsive rather than directive interaction does more to help speech development, especially in autistic children. Responsive language is when you talk about what the child is currently doing. Directive is when you try to prompt the child into using language. By trying to enter into the child’s world and follow their lead, you are much more likely to positively received by the child, which encourages more interaction overall.

An Early Start for Your Child with Autism [affiliate link] teaches families how to do the Early Start Denver Model at home. The ESDM is a form of therapy designed for children under the age of 3 that was developed out of the UC Davis MIND Institute. Although it was built for the under 3 crowd, it can be used up until 5. Some the principals, like how to do ABA therapy, are good for children of all ages, but most of the book is centered around the under 5 age range. It’s also a great book for how to evaluate and find the various services that autistic children need. I gave a copy to all of my siblings with children because I found it so helpful for both my sons. In this series, I wrote about how I set up a play area based on the guidelines suggested in this book and how much it increased communication and prosocial engagement. I’ve noticed that most of the clinics we visit has a similar set up.

Dealing With Sensory Issues

Many individuals with an autism diagnosis have symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder. SPD can exist independently of autism and be comorbid with other conditions, such as ADHD. Here is an excellent checklist for SPD that breaks down the different sensory issues into different categories. My autistic son, Corwin, has never been officially diagnosed with SPD and, when he was diagnosed with autism, he didn’t seem to have much in the way of sensory issues. It was only after he started getting older and we started working with an Occupational Therapist that focused on sensory issues that we realized that much of his behavior issues were actually due to sensory discomforts.

The Asperger Experts have a great video on what they call the “sensory funnel”. For children with sensory issues, it can be very difficult to interact with the outside world when sensory issues are not properly addressed. Like many people with autism, Corwin has difficulty when I get very close to him and try to maintain eye contact. Through the ESDM and being aware of the sensory funnel, I’ve found I get a lot of eye contact and engagement by maintaining a short distance from him. Keeping the play fun and within the child’s comfort zone is a great way to not only get more engagement, but also to best work on difficult skills.

Another way of helping sensory discomfort is the so-called sensory diet. A sensory diet is not composed of foods (although foods can be included!), but rather of sensory sensations (or lack thereof) to fulfill needs. This link from Sensory Smarts explains the concept of the sensory diet with some details. Learning about this concept has been helpful for me and my neurotypical son, Alden, who loves physical activities and rough housing. I’ve noticed that when I don’t give Alden enough rough housing and opportunities to jump and engage in tumbling play, his behavior falls apart. For children with ADHD, regular exercise has been shown to help tremendously.

Connecting With an Autistic Child

If you are struggling to get a diagnosis for a child who shows a lot of signs of autism, these resources might be a great help.

Amythest Schaber has a bunch of youtube videos that I’ve found very helpful called, “Ask an Autistic“. Neither of my adult family members with autism have ever engaged in a speech behavior called Scripting and when my son started to do it, I found this video on the subject very helpful. Autism is a disorder that presents quite differently for each individual, but I’ve found it very helpful to ask autistic adults why they engage in certain behaviors and what approach best helps them.

Engaging Autism [affiliate link] is a great book for children on the spectrum. It covers a wider range of ages and is focused on play-based intervention through the Floortime Method. The Floortime Method is the method I see most commonly suggested by autistic people themselves, who prefer the play-based and accepting interventions over ones designed to force a child into a neurotypical mold.

Relationship Development Intervention is another therapy that is heavily suggested in groups populated by autistic individuals. This book, Relationship Development Intervention with Young Children: Social and Emotional Development Activities for Asperger Syndrome, Autism, PDD and NLD, [affiliate link] in particular is often recommended because it has a lot of easy to follow activities for children. I didn’t find it very helpful when my son was very young or before he developed language, but I’ve been using it more and more now that he approaches 3.

If your child seems to be on the spectrum and has frequent meltdowns, then this Splines Theory by Luna Lindsey might be helpful to you. It explained to me why seemingly minor breaks in routines made my son very uncomfortable.

The UC Davis Mind Institution has uploaded a great series of videos to help parents with autism. I’ve found their information very helpful for both of my twins. In their Autism Distance Education Parent Training modules, you’ll learn:

The difference between a skill deficit and a behavior problem

The rule of 5 in speech (why less can be more)

Why punishment can often cause more harm than good, especially for children with autism

The difference between a reward and a bribe

The importance of understanding sensory triggers

How a person can talk, but not be a good communicator and vice versa.

Why visual supports are important (even if your child is verbal)

The purpose of stimming and why it’s a mistake to try to get rid of stimming

Part 1 focuses on teaching functional skills, such as how to wash hands, ask for juice, etc.

Part 2 focuses on positive behavior strategies and I highly recommend that you watch through 2 before trying to implement anything in part 1, especially if your child has a lot of behavioral difficulties.

Autism Internet Modules has a lot of modules on a variety of topics. You’ll have to make a free account to see the content, so I can’t link it here, but it’s all very good. They cover: recognizing autism, various evidence-based therapies, and a lot of different techniques to help your autistic child.

The Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence has a lot of helpful information and resources available. They have a video series on addressing challenging behavior for individuals with complex needs and social competence strategies for families; offer information on various interventions such as the Incredible 5-point scale, First-Then Board, Home Base; and address various educational concerns.

The National Professional Development Center has an excellent list of various Evidence-based practices that can used for autistic children. You can learn about different teaching methods and select the ones that you feel will work best for your child.

 

I hope this guide has been helpful. As always, if you are having trouble navigating the system or need specific help, please contact me. I’d be happy to help you help your child.

Comments

  1. Hi there just wanted to give you a quick
    heads up and let you know a few of the images aren’t loading correctly.
    I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.
    I’ve tried it in two different web browsers and both show the same results.

  2. Love this post and all the resource links. Thank you for posting!

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  1. […] For additional info, please see this post: What can I do now at home to help prevent or treat developmental delays? […]

  2. […] More tips on what you can do now to help your child with delays can be found in the Part 3: What can I do now at home to help prevent or treat developmental delays?  […]

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