It is a known fact that children with autism suffer from sensory dysfunction. Sensory issues can range from mild to severe, and can manifest in many different ways. Occupational therapists trained in sensory integration can help, but their services are expensive, and may not always be covered by insurance.
Mendability is an online program developed by Eyal Aronoff and Kim Pomores that helps parents develop a custom, home-based Sensory Enrichment Therapy program to meet their child’s needs. Parents fill out an online assessment, which generates specific activities they can work on with their child at home. The activities take between 1 – 10 minutes to complete, and they are scheduled at different intervals throughout the day. They include things like walking on textured mats, or dipping your hand into bowls of warm and cold water. The activities are structured in a way that stimulates the child’s senses, while strengthening connections between various parts of the brain.
A study by Michael Leon, professor of Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of California Irvine, showed promising results. He tested 28 boys with autism over six months. They were divided into two groups. Both groups received standard behavioral therapy, but only one group completed daily environmental enrichment exercises like those on the Mendability web site. The results showed that 42% of the boys in the sensory enrichment group showed improvement relating to others and responding to sensory input, while only 7% of the boys in the behavior-only group showed such improvement. Also, 69% of the parents of the children in the sensory enrichment group reported improvements in perception, reasoning, and overall autism symptoms.
The program is based on neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to create new internal connections based on daily experiences. While early intervention is still best, scientists have discovered that the brain can forge new connections throughout the lifespan. Recent studies have shown that children with autism have weaker connections between certain parts of the brain, which could be a factor in the symptoms of their disability.
For example, many children with autism have weak connections in the corpus callosum, the part of the brain that connects the two hemispheres. Activities such as placing the hands in two bowls of water, one warm and one cold, and then switching hands, causes signals to be sent to both sides of the brain, activating the corpus callosum and creating new connections.
Parents complete the activities with their child, fill out the online assessment, and move on to new activities once their child has mastered the old ones. There are also online forums where parents can discuss challenges and progress, and regular access to program specialists who can help fine tune difficulties that may arise. Subscriptions start at $59 per month.
Parents such as Rebecca Terry of Colorado report amazing results from Mendability.
“Now I have a child who hugs me, who tells me how much she loves me, and she knows what it means.”
For more information, visit their website at www.mendability.com.