When I went in search of therapy options for my ASD child I was told ABA was the only proven therapy. After much reading and research I found that this statement was as false as all those vaccine safety statements. There are many therapies available to our kids, most of them are far superior to ABA for helping our children gain the skills and confidence they need to succeed in life.
Below I have provided an overview for some the my favorite therapy options. As you scroll down you will find info on RDI, Son Rise, DIR Floortime, Sensory Therapy, The Scerts Model, NAET, Vision Therapy, and The Soma Method. Click the headings for links to their websites and more information.
Relationship Development Intervention RDI
Was developed by renowned clinical psychologists Dr. Steven Gutstein and Dr. Rachelle Sheely and their team of consultants in Houston Texas. Our programs represent the latest approach to treatment of developmental issues based on the latest scientific research into the human brain.
RDI is a significant departure from traditional ASD interventions, and does not simply seek to mask the condition with scripted conversations or rehearsed behaviors, but actually makes neuro-cognitive changes over time that provide the individual with the skills needed to navigate life’s challenges on their own. By developing this capacity for dynamic thinking we open the door to the possibility of a greater quality of life, one that includes:
- Reciprocal communication
- Genuine friendships
- Confident, independent living
- Prolonged relationships
- Meaningful employment
Remediation implies that we are embarked on a long-term marathon, not a sprint; a systematic process of correcting deficits to the point where they no longer constitute obstacles to reaching one’s potential and attaining a quality of life. Remediation provides children a second chance to master areas where developmental disability would otherwise lead to life-long marginalization and failure. When we remediate, we purposely focus on the person’s greatest areas of weakness. On a neural level, remediation in RDI means deliberately developing the brain’s capacity for integration and productive neural collaboration.
Parents can learn to guide their children's neural and mental development. If you encounter obstacles to functioning as an effective guide for your child you are provided with support and training that is carefully staged and tailored to you, your level of readiness, learning style, unique culture and your real-life circumstances.
Our programs provide a step-by-step, manageable approach for those engaged on the front lines of helping children of all ages develop the powerful mental processing and sophisticated neural collaboration needed to succeed in 21st century environments. All of our programs are designed so each learner can begin and progress at his or her own level of readiness.
The Son-Rise Program
The Son-Rise Program® teaches a specific and comprehensive system of treatment and education designed to help families and caregivers enable their children to dramatically improve in all areas of learning, development, communication and skill acquisition. It offers highly effective educational techniques, strategies and principles for designing, implementing and maintaining a stimulating, high-energy, one-on-one, home-based, child-centered program.What Makes The Son-Rise Program® Different?The Son-Rise Program® was the first to suggest that children with these diagnoses had the potential for extraordinary healing and growth.
The Son-Rise Program® innovated an educational treatment modality which included joining children instead of going against them. The program places parents as key teachers, therapists and directors of their own programs and utilizes the home as the most nurturing environment in which to help their children. The Son-Rise Program® dared to suggest that respect and deep caring would be the most important factor impacting a child's motivation to learn, and from the beginning has made love and acceptance a meaningful part of every teaching process. Employing this attitude, we first seek to create bonding and a safe environment. We then apply sound, time-tested educational strategies pioneered by The Son-Rise Program®. These principles remain a cornerstone of our approach.
How Do The Son-Rise Program® Principles and Techniques Benefit Children With Special Needs?
- Joining in a child's repetitive and ritualistic behaviors supplies the key to unlocking the mystery of these behaviors and facilitates eye contact, social development and the inclusion of others in play.
- Utilizing a child's own motivation advances learning and builds the foundation for education and skill acquisition.
- Teaching through interactive play results in effective and meaningful socialization and communication.
- Using energy, excitement and enthusiasm engages the child and inspires a continuous love of learning and interaction.
- Employing a nonjudgmental and optimistic attitude maximizes the child's enjoyment, attention and desire throughout their Son-Rise Program®.
- Placing the parent as the child's most important and lasting resource provides a consistent and compelling focus for training, education and inspiration.
- Creating a safe, distraction-free work/play area facilitates the optimal environment for learning and growth.
The Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-based (DIR®) Model is a framework that helps clinicians, parents and educators conduct a comprehensive assessment and develop an intervention program tailored to the unique challenges and strengths of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other developmental challenges. The objectives of the DIR®Model are to build healthy foundations for social, emotional, and intellectual capacities rather than focusing on skills and isolated behaviors.
- The D (Developmental) part of the Model describes the building blocks of this foundation. Understanding where the child is developmentally is critical to planning a treatment program. The Six Developmental Milestones describes the developmental milestones that every child must master for healthy emotional and intellectual growth. This includes helping children to develop capacities to attend and remain calm and regulated, engage and relate to others, initiate and respond to all types of communication beginning with emotional and social affect based gestures, engage in shared social problem-solving and intentional behavior involving a continuous flow of interactions in a row, use ideas to communicate needs and think and play creatively, and build bridges between ideas in logical ways which lead to higher level capacities to think in multicausal, grey area and reflective ways. These developmental capacities are essential for spontaneous and empathic relationships as well as the mastery of academic skills.
- The I (Individual differences) part of the Model describes the unique biologically-based ways each child takes in, regulates, responds to, and comprehends sensations such as sound, touch, and the planning and sequencing of actions and ideas. Some children, for example, are very hyper responsive to touch and sound, while others are under-reactive, and still others seek out these sensations. The term "Biological Challenges" describes the various processing issues that make up a child's individual differences and that may be interfering with his ability to grow and learn
- The R (Relationship-based) part of the Model describes the learning relationships with caregivers, educators, therapists, peers, and others who tailor their affect based interactions to the child’s individual differences and developmental capacities to enable progress in mastering the essential foundations.
The DIR® Model, however, is a comprehensive framework which enables clinicians, parents and educators to construct a program tailored to the child’s unique challenges and strengths. Central to the DIR® Model is the role of the child’s natural emotions and interests which has been shown to be essential for learning interactions that enable the different parts of the mind and brain to work together and build successively higher levels of social, emotional, and intellectual capacities. It often includes, in addition to Floortime, various problem-solving exercises and typically involves a team approach with speech therapy, occupational therapy, educational programs, mental health (developmental-psychological) intervention and, where appropriate, augmentative and biomedical intervention.
Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Integration (MNRI) Method
The primary focus of the MNRI Method is to support the integration process of primary motor reflex patterns regardless of a person’s condition or age. While MNRI primary motor reflex pattern techniques alone have the power to improve general function, when combined with the additional MNRI programs Dr. Masgutova has created, the potential for improvement becomes even greater.
Fundamental to the MNRI Method is the understanding that automatic primary motor reflex patterns do not disappear, they integrate. While most people in the general health and wellness community are quite familiar with primary motor reflex patterns, they generally view the patterns as developmental milestones. In the course of working with a patient, if primary motor reflex patterns are found active beyond the expected or typical developmental time period, the presence of the pattern is viewed as an indication that underlying developmental or neurological issues may exist. Within the framework of the MNRI Method, primary motor reflex patterns play a much larger role. First, it is important to understand that reflexes do not function in complete isolation of one another. Primary motor reflex patterns, in particular, play a subordinate role in the maturation of more complex motor reflex schemes (i.e., rolling over, sitting up, crawling, etc.) Once a primary reflex pattern fully matures during the typical developmental period, it integrates to serve this subordinate role. A dysfunctional pattern results either because it did not mature and integrate in the first place or because it has re-surfaced at some point after integration. In other words, a dysfunctional primary reflex pattern is not simply an indictor of potential neurological dysfunction, but actually helps to identify where underlying neurosensorimotor dysfunction exists in the body. The MNRI Method isolates reflex dysfunction, engages restorative techniques targeting underlying neurosensorimotor dysfunction, and works toward facilitating the integration process, resulting in improvements and sometimes even complete recovery of general function.
Sensory Integration Activities are the lifeline to providing and achieving the necessary challenges for your child so they maximize:
- daily functioning
- intellectual, social, and emotional development
- the development of a positive self-esteem
- a mind and body which is ready for learning
- positive interactions in the world around him
- the achievement of normal developmental milestones
From the womb into adulthood, our neurological systems are developing
and processing an overwhelming amount of sensory information every day.
Our system must then interpret this information and make it ready to be
tolerated and used for specific purposes.
If this normal developmental process is hindered in any way, it can cause detrimental effects. Proper intake and use of sensory input is absolutely critical to a child's maturation process and the building of core, foundational skills. I certainly can not stress this enough... it is that important!
The best part about sensory integration activities is the creative fun
you can have coming up with ideas, playing with your child using sensory
input, or purchasing unique toys and products anyone would love! (I'll be honest, sometimes adults need and love these products as much as, if not more than, the child!)
In fact, because these treatment activities are so fun, creative, and unique, it often doesn't even look like "therapy". That is why we, as Occupational Therapists are a great profession... it is almost like turning work into play.
Children just think they are having fun when they are actually working strenuously at building essential skills with their bodies and better neurological systems.
It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, consistency and persistence, but in the end, you will have a thriving child who can regulate sensory input much more effectively.
The SCERTS Model
SCERTS® is an innovative educational model for working with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families. It provides specific guidelines for helping a child become a competent and confident social communicator, while preventing problem behaviors that interfere with learning and the development of relationships. It also is designed to help families, educators and therapists work cooperatively as a team, in a carefully coordinated manner, to maximize progress in supporting a child.
The acronym “SCERTS” refers to the focus on:
“SC” - Social Communication – the development of spontaneous, functional communication, emotional expression, and secure and trusting relationships with children and adults;
“ER” - Emotional Regulation - the development of the ability to maintain a well-regulated emotional state to cope with everyday stress, and to be most available for learning and interacting;
“TS” – Transactional Support – the development and implementation of supports to help partners respond to the child’s needs and interests, modify and adapt the environment, and provide tools to enhance learning (e.g., picture communication, written schedules, and sensory supports). Specific plans are also developed to provide educational and emotional support to families, and to foster teamwork among professionals.
The SCERTS model targets the most significant challenges faced by children with ASD and their families. This is accomplished through family-professional partnerships (family-centered care), and by prioritizing the abilities and supports that will lead to the most positive long-term outcomes as indicated by the National Research Council (2001; Educating Children with Autism). As such, it provides family members and educational teams with a plan for implementing a comprehensive and evidence-based program that will improve quality of life for children and families.
The SCERTS Model can be used with children and older individuals across a range of developmental abilities, including nonverbal and verbal individuals. It is a lifespan model that can be used from initial diagnosis, throughout the school years, and beyond. It can be adapted to meet the unique demands of different social settings for younger and older individuals with ASD including home, school, community, and ultimately vocational settings.
The SCERTS Model includes a well-coordinated assessment process that helps a team measure the child’s progress, and determine the necessary supports to be used by the child’s social partners (educators, peers and family members). This assessment process ensures that:
- functional, meaningful and developmentally-appropriate goals and objectives are selected
- individual differences in a child’s style of learning, interests, and motivations are respected
- the culture and lifestyle of the family are understood and respected
- the child is engaged in meaningful and purposeful activities throughout the day
- supports are developed and used consistently across partners, activities, and environments
- a child’s progress is systematically charted over time
- program quality is measured frequently to assure accountability
Nambudripad Allergy Elimination Technique NAET
NAET® was discovered by Dr. Devi S. Nambudripad in November of 1983. Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Techniques, also known as NAET, are a non-invasive, drug free, natural solution to alleviate allergies of all types and intensities using a blend of selective energy balancing, testing and treatment procedures from acupuncture/acupressure, allopathy, chiropractic, nutritional, and kinesiological disciplines of medicine.
One allergen is treated at a time. If you are not severely immune deficient, you may need just one treatment to desensitize one allergen. A person with mild to moderate amount of allergies may take about 15-20 office visits to desensitize 15-20 food and environmental allergens.
Basic essential nutrients are treated during the first few visits. Chemicals, environmental allergens, vaccinations, immunizations, etc. are treated after completing about ten basic essential nutrients. NAET can successfully alleviate adverse reactions to egg, milk, peanuts, penicillin, aspirin, mushrooms, shellfish, latex, grass, ragweed, flowers, perfume, animal dander, animal epithelial, make-up, chemicals, cigarette smoke, pathogens, heat, cold, other environmental agents. It may take several office visits to desensitize a severe allergen.
NAET is available all over the world. Over 12,000 licensed medical practitioners have been trained in NAET procedures and are practicing all over the world. To help you find a NAET specialist, the names of the trained practitioners have been listed on our website under the Find a Practitioner section. We ask that you browse the NAET website for more information on NAET and use our practitioner locator to find a NAET practitioner near you.
All NAET practitioners in the practitioner locator have been trained by Dr. Nambudripad, but it is not possible for us to track each practitioner's performance. Please understand that these trained NAET practitioners are independent medical practitioners, some may be doing various treatment procedures other than NAET.
It is your job to find the right practitioner for your treatment. Please read the open letter by Dr. Nambudripad, to become well informed, before you make an appointment with a NAET practitioner.
Vision Therapy at Home is a highly successful way for both adults and children to strengthen their visual abilities to reduce symptomatic problems associated with poorly developed visual skills. It is not only cost effective, but can easily be done at home.
This home visual therapy program combines online videos or DVDs, a computer CD-ROM, and online documents or workbooks to allow individuals to increase their visual skills and for parents to work with integrating their child’s primitive reflexes. Successful vision therapy will strengthen vision skills such as eye teaming, eye tracking, perceptual relationships and focusing.
Vision therapy is designed to correct deficiencies in the visual system caused by inadequate sensory and motor development, stress, or trauma to the nervous system. Vision therapy programs allow the brain to learn how to use the eyes as a way of successfully gathering information and processing data in order to stimulate the correct reaction. The computer, because of its inherent nature, can be utilized in conjunction with activities in free space to create a successful vision therapy program at home.
Individuals who are suffering from learning problems can greatly benefit from vision therapy. Many learning disabilities are caused directly from poorly developed visual skills. When the visual skills are strengthened, the learning disability is corrected. Besides learning deficiencies, vision deficits can causeheadaches, eye strain, double vision, blurred vision and attention problems. Other learning-related symptoms that are associated with vision disorders include a dislike of reading, constant loss of place while copying or reading, inability to complete projects in a timely manner, and distractibility.
People suffering from these functional visual problems are often misdiagnosed as having ADD, ADHD, or dyslexia.
Even those who have perfectly normal eyesight (20/20) may still suffer from visual problems since eyesight does not translate into perfect vision skills. This is why many visual learning problems are missed during traditional eye exams. Children may have perfect eyesight according to a school screening but may still be suffering from learning disabilities stemming from a vision problem. Home based vision therapy has proven to be a successful way to treat learning disabilities in both children and adults without medication, surgery, or other expensive and intrusive treatments. By simply allowing developmental process to take place between the eyes and the brain, vision therapy successfully strengthens vision skills.
Vision therapy has long-term beneficial results in resolving vision related symptoms. The skills learned during vision therapy by patients are reinforced by constant application until they become second nature and habitual. Once the connection between the eye and the brain is strengthened, the brain is able to retain memory more easily and obtain more information about the environment through proper interpenetration of images sent via the eyes.
Vision therapy is a way to integrate the pathways between the brain’s neurons and the eyes in order for them to work together in a more efficient way. Vision therapy is successful because it works with your body’s natural abilities, simply giving your body the skills it needs to function properly.
SOMA RPM Method
The Rapid Prompting Method uses a "Teach-Ask" paradigm for eliciting responses through intensive verbal, auditory, visual and/or tactile prompts. RPM presumes competence to increase students' interest, confidence and self-esteem. Prompting competes with each student's self-stimulatory behavior, and is designed to help students initiate a response. Student responses evolve from picking up answers, to pointing, to typing and writing which reveals students' comprehension, academic abilities and eventually, conversational skills. RPM is a low-tech approach in that is requires only an instructor, student, paper and pencil. But the science behind how and why it works for some individuals is much more complex.
For most people, listening to information, understanding it, preparing a response and utilizing the necessary muscles to communicate that response is a subconscious, reflexive process. But for someone with severe autism, this same process can be a convoluted task. We know from what Tito (Soma's son and published author) and others with autism have communicated that it is extremely difficult to process the sensory information with which they easily become overloaded. Thus, to focus on hearing and seeing, to formulate an appropriate response, and then to complete the motor planning necessary to give that response requires tremendous effort and initiative. Thanks to scientists and people with autism who have participated in research, we are beginning to understand the brain functions of a person with autism, how all the different areas work (or don't work) together and how other parts of the brain can be trained to provide support for the parts that are not working properly.
In the Rapid Prompting Method, the teacher (Soma) matches her pace to the student's speed of self-stimulatory behavior, while continually speaking and requesting student responses, in order to keep the student on task and focused on the lesson at hand. In addition, Soma adjusts subject matter to stimulate the desired side of the brain. Her teaching style is respectful and conversational, as she speaks to her students with the confidence that they are capable of learning and responding to answer her questions.
In the beginning, Soma begins a lesson with stating a few sentences on a subject and she asks a question based on what she has just said. Soma writes two possible answers on separate pieces of paper, taps the choices while reading and spelling them aloud and then encourages the student to pick up the correct answer. Working with hundreds of students, Soma has identified different types of learners, and she adapts her teaching to each one accordingly. For example, auditory learners may not directly look at or read the answers. They rely instead on Soma's tapping to "hear" the position of the correct answer.
Based on the student's skills, Soma moves quickly from having the student choose from two choices to three or more, from picking up pieces of paper to having the student point to the answer, and then to pointing to letters to spell the answer. Because shifting the arm side to side is easier than lifting it up and down, Soma's students first learn to make choices from a horizontal field, and they progress to choices presented vertically.
Although future research is anticipated, neuroscientists such as Dr. Michael Merzenich, Ph.D., a professor at the University of California San Francisco and a researcher at the W. M. Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience, have affirmed that Soma's teaching method will benefit many of the children and adults with autism who struggle daily to learn, function and communicate in traditional academic settings.