Autism and Neuro-developmental delay – It’s not all about the money.

If you’ve been following this series hopefully by now your child should be feeling less stressed and perhaps even has one sense that actually gives accurate information about the world around him.

So what should you do next? People who make the mistake of thinking that the problems are behavioral will tend to follow a different path. However if, like me, you believe that the child’s behavior is indicative of his sensory and other problems it is worth using one of the many approaches designed to help children with neuro-developmental delay (NDD).

That is because many of the sensory differences stem from NDD which, interestingly, affects a whole range of people from those who, like myself, have only mild sensory differences, to others whose problems are associated with dyslexia, dyspraxia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, autism or Asperger’s syndrome.

There are a number of relatively inexpensive ideas that may help some of which can initially be used at home although you may decide to follow them up with professional advice.

First to a great resource from the BBC (Cbeebies).  Called Tree Fu Tom (this can be found on YouTube) or purchased from Amazon, it is aimed at children with movement disorders like dyspraxia but is also designed to assist and enhance the development of all children during those early crucial years.

Aimed at four to six year olds, Tree Fu Tom (voiced by David Tennant amongst others) is set in an enchanted world where movement creates magic. Tom appears to be a normal eight-year-old boy but putting on his magic belt and performing a special sequence of magic action-movements (known as Tree Fu) transforms him into a tiny but mighty magical super-hero.  Especially good for children who like cartoons the stories engage boys through a “cool” martial-arts feel and also appeal to girls who like elves and fairies.

Developed in collaboration between Dyspraxia Foundation movement specialists Sally Payne and Dr Lynda Foulder-Hughes and series choreographer Nick Kellington the magic moves that children are encouraged to copy are actually therapeutic.

Even better,  Tree Fu Tom has his own online section which includes 6 action packed games developed in consultation with a Senior Educational Psychologist plus support in the CBeebies Grown Ups Section.

It may also be useful for older children with autism although, if your child has a degree of Exposure Anxiety, I would suggest that (at least initially) you let him watch it on his own – and just ignore him if he begins to copy the movements as any comment or knowing he is being watched may cause him to abandon watching.

If your child thinks he is too old for such things a good alternative would be some of the exercises to be found at: http://www.fernridgepress.com/autism.exercise.phases.html.

Developed the late Svea Gold, a writer and therapist, who worked with children with a variety of difficulties these were initially designed for children with attention problems but should also help those with ASD, although you may have to adapt the language to suit.

If it is not possible to do all of the exercises in the program, choose those which are easily manageable in your own circumstances and if possible, get the child to do them on a daily basis for three or four weeks: by which time some improvement should be visible.

Teenagers might be persuaded to give this program a trial by stressing the expected improvement in athletics, as that can often seem more important to the child than academic achievement.  The trial period should be enough time to bring about some improvements which may encourage them to continue with it.

~~~

Other useful resources that run similar programs:

Hanen – see www.hanen.org
Move to Learn – www.movetolearn.com.au
Free downloads – www.movetolearn.com.au/content/free-interactive-ld-profile-test
www.movetolearn.com.au/~movetole/sites/default/files/pdf/WetMovetoLearn.pdf

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About Stella Waterhouse

Stella Waterhouse first came across autism in the late 1960s when she met three very different children, all of whom shared the same diagnosis. She began researching autism in 1990 and is a published author of several books including A Positive Approach to Autism which attracted good reviews from such well known autism experts as Donna Williams and Paul Shattock OBE. She has also authored a series of concise but informative books for parents and teachers, and is currently completing her forthcoming series The Autism Code.

For more information see www.autismdecoded.com