While living and working in the USA, I met Charles (22 years old) and his mother at a support group for people with autism. Charles lives at home with his brother, Ed (20) and his parents. Both parents work. A wonderful young man interested in outdoor pursuits, Charles is close to his family including his uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents. Family holidays together are important.
Charles was diagnosed with autism very early on in his life (about 2 years old). He experienced a lot of early intervention and completed high school back in 2010. He attended university for 1 year. He joined the National Guard last year and has been abroad with his regiment working as a military driver and escort. When at home, he works 'odd jobs' to help friends of his parents and people he knows through the church. He is very dependable.
Charles completed a Davis autism course with me from early October 2013 through to early December, 2013. Charles attended on his own for a series of week-long sessions during that time at my office. Some of the course was also completed at his home as well as public places including restaurants and shops. Some meetings included one or both of his parents.
Charles's mother shared this email early during the course reporting on some observed changes:
Karen, I wanted to give you some feedback about our observations of Charles. Last night, we all sat down to dinner together which doesn't happen as often as I would like. We noticed some very positive differences in Charles. He was very engaged the entire meal. When Charles is sharing with everyone, he does not like to be interrupted and you can't joke with him. Last night, he was able to have a back and forth exchange. He was light and laughed a lot. He was able to continue even if he was interrupted and he didn't even mind. He let Lloyd joke with him and laughed along. It was so nice. He also stayed at the table even after he was finished eating to continue talking with us. He is enjoying the work with you and talks very positively about it.
During a meeting with Charles's mother in December upon completion of the course, she commented that she is very happy with the developments that Charles has made, as observed by her and others. She pointed out that Charles looks at people and greets them and says goodbye upon leaving; "This is huge for him." His cousin and wife met Charles at a family event. They commented that it was the best visit they had enjoyed with him: Charles was taking turns in conversation and maintaining a conversation with them. Similar comments were made by a family friend for whom Charles does odd jobs. Charles's mother commented how proud he was to return home with the things that he had made during our three sessions of culinary explorations in my kitchen. We also discussed the value for Charles of new life experiences e.g. training for the National Guard, during which he will further opportunities for interactions with other people. Other notable social changes included Charles's use of questions with others to initiate and maintain a conversation. He was also feeling confident about calling an acquaintance or friend to meet up socially and had been doing so.
While living in the US, Karen met Jay when he was 10 years old. Both parents work. An only child, Jay is home-schooled by his grandmother who is a former special educational needs teacher. He sees his grandfather on a daily basis too. A close-knit family, Jay spends a lot of time with his relatives. Jay also has opportunities to socialize through events organized by the home-schooling association.
Jay was diagnosed with autism very early on in his life (about 2 years old). He experienced a lot of early intervention. Good-natured and affectionate, Jay is currently in his fifth year of home schooling. It was agreed with Jay's grandparents that weekly half-day sessions were the most appropriate for Jay and his family to be offered the Davis autism course.
The course began in September 2013 and continued until its completion two years later. Photographs and notes from all the activities completed with Jay and his family during the course were captured in a training folder for Jay's family so that the Davis Autism Approach can be reviewed with Jay by family members as well as regular review sessions and outings with Karen. Some of the course has taken place in cafes and shops as well in Jay's home. Until her recent return to the UK, Karen had continued to meet Jay and his family on a fortnightly basis to review life concepts from the course in relation to things going on in his real life.
Here are some observations shared by Jay's grandmother in a series of emails on social changes that Jay made quite early on during the course:
'... School work has been very smooth. He has been on task. Wednesday and Thursday I noticed some dreaming off in his own world while working. After a minute or less, I touched his work and spoke to him. He immediately brought his attention to the task and continued working...
...Jay's mother and I are pleased with what we are seeing in Jay after one week. We think he is responding faster verbally. He seems to be more "with it". School goes faster just because he stays focused...
...We are seeing some remarkable behaviors in Jay. I think I had mentioned he was responding and greeting without prompts which a big difference and has been consistent this second week.'
Also he is definitely asserting himself, sometimes loudly with much fussing, but the amazing thing is he has not slapped his face once. Two examples: He wanted to play in Chic-fil-a [fast food restaurant] when a girl tapped on the window next to him. He made a scene, but was allowed to play as soon as he finished his chicken. He gulped it down and was off. Another time he wanted to do art in the middle of math. Math has several sections so he could consider we had come to an end, but art is not on the schedule right after math. We compromised. He finished math and then did art. So he is reasonable, but insisting on more control.
Once he was talking and for emphasis he touched me in the chest, saying "you" and then touched himself, saying "me". I have done that with him, but he has never done it without prompting.
Jay's friend came over this week to borrow books to read. Jay is very affectionate and his instinct is to hug her. They were choosing books from the book shelves when I heard a little commotion. I peered over to hear Jay say to himself, "She doesn't want a hug." He recognized her feelings. Wow!
...Yesterday we had our second play date with other special needs kid. Leaving he thanked the woman who gave him a gift bag and told his friends goodbye by name and then included "everybody" in the good-bye.
...Saturday, we all went to a Halloween party at a relative's house. Jay kept his mask on and joined in playing with his cousin and some other children. Playing involved getting shot, dying, etc. He didn't play for as long as the other kids, but this was a new thing and totally unprompted. Also he was content to be there.'
...Today at his ball game, I saw Jay talking to a girl on the other team who was on the same base...I just appreciate the fact that Jay initiates conversation. Wasn't sure that would ever happen or that he would sustain conversation with us. Jay's mother and I see new things each day. Only two things account for it, maturing and the therapy you are doing with him. Thank you."
Previously Jay spoke mainly in questions and was very echolalic. One influence may have been that so many people addressed him in questions. Now 13, Jay uses his language skills in a much more meaningful way and there is less evidence of echolalia. During situations where he may have had a major melt-down, he is still emotional but he can choose to calm down more readily and consider the alternatives. For example, disappointed to find his preferred table in a restaurant occupied, he chooses an alternative table to sit and wait until his table becomes available. Keeping a very low-key calm environment helps in addition to lots of visual props including pictures and words.What other people say about the Davis Autism Approach