This three-stage approach is highly effective and is a gentle program that can be facilitated in several different ways, allowing for flexibility based on the needs, schedule, and lifestyle of each individual family. The needs of each client and their family are of utmost importance to us. As such, we work with our families one-on- one to tailor our services to meet their needs.
Changes in our autistic clients are monitored by use of well established questionnaires completed by parents/carers before and after the programme. All personal data is treated confidentially. Early results indicate the area most likely to change is social skills.
The first step is usually a phone call or email. During that first chat, we will determine if the program is appropriate for the client. If so, an information-sharing meeting can be arranged. It is important for the family and caregivers of the client to fully understand the program details, options for facilitation, and their personal involvement/commitment in the program. It is also an opportunity for family/caregivers to discuss the client's personal situation and determine if a consultation is an appropriate next step. Paperwork will be provided ahead of time and will be reviewed during this meeting.
The purpose of the information session is to inform parents or caregivers about the program. It includes information such as: What is autism? What tools are provided for a client to begin to participate fully in life? What kind of results will we see? What is my role as a parent/caregiver in the program?
If, after the information session, parents or caregivers decide to commence a program, we will schedule an interview in which the caregiver and potential client come in to review their specific needs and goals. It is important at this point that the client shows some degree of willingness to work with the facilitator.
The interview is an opportunity for the potential client and their family to meet the facilitator, discuss the characteristics being displayed by the potential client and determine the best path to proceed to deliver the program. Most families choose to have the facilitator deliver the program but there is also an option for the facilitator to coach the parent, caregiver or other individual through the process. The assessment typically takes 60 to 90 minutes and provides opportunities to understand the client's imagination, intelligence and creativity.
The programme schedule will depend on several factors including the age of the client, the primary method that the facilitator will be using to assist the client to become oriented, the family's schedule and availability of the facilitator.
Programs can take between 2 weeks of full days to several months of half days. Although every effort will be made to follow the original schedule, a general maxim is followed, namely: It takes as long as it takes. No client will be forced to work past their threshold of comfort. This may be very different than other approaches, but we have found it to be the most effective way to provide our programs.
Many years have been spent identifying and researching the concepts that autistic clients need to understand and experience for their identity development.
There are approximately 30 concepts, starting with 'change' and ending with 'responsibility'. The sequence to be followed is very important, as one concept becomes the foundation for the knowledge of the next, for example understanding change (one thing becoming something else) is a necessary prerequisite to understanding consequence (something happening as a result of something else).
Firstly, the autistic individual is guided through creating a clay model which explains and gives an understanding of a specific concept. Then as much time as is needed by the client can be spent in the immediate and the wider environment looking for real world examples and having real world experiences with that concept. This is interesting and should be fun!
If the individual is at the higher functioning end of the spectrum, individuation and identity development will have started. You may find certain aspects are worked through more quickly than others. However, it is best not to assume that some of the concepts are already established! It is essential that we follow the same procedure for everyone to ensure that a conceptual understanding is in place.
The first stage of concepts - including self, consequence, sequence, time - focuses largely on the outer world as experienced by the autistic person. It is through these concepts that the autistic person is able to make sense of his surrounding world.
The second stage of concepts - including experience, thought, perception - revolves around the inner, mental world. The third set of concepts is focused on the emotional world. By understanding these concepts, the autistic person develops a sense of how his inner world relates to his outer world.
Eventually, the client will move on to modeling common concepts - including ability, motivation and control - that form a foundation for a person's ability to function independently. Finally, the client wi ll master concepts that form the basis for social relationships including another, others, trust and belief.
Significantly, mastery of these concepts form a solid base on which to build future ideas and experiences. When we master an ability or skill, we incorporate the process of doing it into our identity. With some practice, we can perform the activity without conscious thought. The ability has become a part of who and what we are. When a concept has been fully integrated we can move on to the next, as we have created a solid foundation for the new knowledge.