GUIDE TO A LOW COST INTERVENTION
by Barry K. Morris B.ScWk
Unfortunately Autism and Asperger's syndrome do
not get the government support that exists for better known disorders
and disabilities. This lack of free services can be very frustrating
for families unable to afford expensive therapies such as Applied Behavior Analysis. Parents may consider drastic moves such
as selling their house because they feel not getting the most expensive
therapy is letting their child down. Other parents may be geographically
isolated and unable to access therapists and intervention services.
Autism Intervention starts at home
The ideal of any intervention is to have the parents
also consistently applying the same principles in the home environment.
Even when you can't afford therapies, you may be able to learn the
principles and develop your own early
intervention program. While a therapist may spend eight hours
a week with your child, you are with them more than anyone and can
have the greatest impact on your child's development.
It should be stressed that some interventions
can have basic principles yet applying them effectively can be very
difficult. There may even be cases where a parent could make things
worse through a poorly applied intervention style. The ideal is
a therapist running a program with the parents applying the same
principles. The next best approach would be parents running the
program at home with regular supervision from an experienced therapist,
which significantly reduces the costs involved. Finally, parents
can research all the interventions and put together their own intervention
program. It would still be advisable to see if your nearest Autism
association for the best books on the intervention chosen. They
could also possibly arrange a therapist who might provide free supervision,
even if by phone. In some interventions, video tapes of your interactions
with your child can be sent to a therapist for their feedback and
supervision on your home-based intervention.
Free autism and Asperger's support services
Contact your nearest Autism or Asperger's association
and support group. They will be aware of every free or low cost
service available in your area. Don't feel ashamed about admitting
you can't afford expensive therapies. Even families on higher incomes
have often taken on a lot of debt and find themselves in a similar
Because new therapies are being developed constantly,
universities and specialist schools may offer free or cheap placements
in their programs in the early stages of their development. Read
up on their approach to therapy and use these opportunities if the
intervention would be useful for your child.
Steps in developing a low cost intervention program
1 The need for detailed objective information
An assessment of your child's Autism or Asperger's
syndrome is required. This helps in knowing how much can be learnt,
what is the best way to learn, what activities are most likely to
present problems, what limitations there may be perceptually, and
how you can set things up to maximize abilities.
Family members must objectively decide how much time, money and
emotional energy they will be able to commit and how long they will
be able to do so. This includes such factors as who will provide
transportation to activities, supervision in both the home and the
community, and what materials will be needed. An organized program
requires the effort of more than one individual unless it is undertaken
in extremely small and manageable steps.
2 Develop and implement your program
Now you are ready to set specific rehabilitation
goals. Since you are designing your own program, you are free to
include only those activities which you feel will be helpful to
the autistic child and for which you have the time, resources and
energy to follow through.
Your goals will fall under a range of groups and
will usually be approached in this order of priority:
Survival skills goals: Daily routines such as showering,
dressing, sleeping and eating
Communication goals: Communication is affected greatly
by Autism and Asperger's syndrome, requiring early intervention
to minimize developmental delays in the future
Basic behavioral goals: Challenging behavior, repetitive
behaviors, interaction with others
Social/recreational goals: addressing lack of friends and
Academic goals: Some children with Autism or Asperger's
will be able to successfully enroll in academic programs if the
preceding goals have been met sufficiently.
Vocational goals: Children with high functioning Autism
or Asperger's often will enter employment although supports may
3 Review progress and amend the program
Reviewing your child's progress is crucial to
see whether particular interventions are working, changes to the
intervention style are required, or new therapies are required.
Ideally, you should meet regularly with a specialist from your Autism
or Asperger's association, pediatrician, child psychologist or local
doctor for reviews. If finances are very tight, you should hopefully
be able to find one of these specialists who can be involved for
free or a small charge for low income families.
can I do applied behavior analysis myself?
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is one of the most effective interventions,
but unfortunately it is one of the most expensive too. Parents often
ask if they are able to implement an ABA program themselves.
While the basic principles of Applied Behavior
Analysis are simple, adapting and implementing them effectively
for your child takes a lot of skill, and there is a reason why ABA
therapists spend years in learning, training and being mentored
before they can consider themselves an experienced therapist. There
is no easy answer as to whether individual parents will be able
to use ABA effectively or not.
A well known therapist, Sabra Gelfond-Ingall,
says "It is easier for someone who is not the child's parent
to withstand a lot of behavior when the child does not want to sit
down, etc. Successful initiation of a solid home program can be
difficult, time consuming and emotionally draining. We recommend
that you take on this task with as much help and support as possible".
home-based therapies with regular consultations
One of the criteria for effective interventions
is that they involve parents so that therapy continues in the home.
An extension of this is that parents may be able to afford intensive
intervention from an Autism therapist initially, but aim to learn
the skills involved quickly and take over themselves if they have
the expertise and time to do so.
Some more recently developed therapies focus on
training the parents to conduct early interventions. Examples of
this are Floor
Time and Relationship
Development Intervention. An advantage of these developmental
interventions is the lower cost. Therapy can be largely home-based
and run by parents, interspersed with checkups by an appropriate
specialist. Parents in isolated areas can still use Floor Time or
RDI as video of interactions with the child can be sent to the specialist
on a regular basis.
Click here for the full
range of Asperger's and Autism fact sheets at www.autism-help.org
to read the fact sheet Ten common roadblocks to a home program
This autism fact sheet is under copyright www.autism-help.org