New autism programme brings hope to families

New autism program brings hope to families
By Stefanie Menezes
Updated Mon Jul 4, 2011 1:58pm AEST

Story Reduced: 

It is estimated at least 30,000 children in Australia have an autism spectrum disorder.
Helping or educating an autistic child can be difficult as support services are rare and expensive.
A new model, known as the Self Advocacy Curriculum, is being adopted in American schools to help children with autism help themselves.
Valerie Paradiz, whose autistic son first started primary school in New York in 1994, says he had a difficult time communicating and interacting with other people.
“I saw that teachers really struggled, although they seemed in part to understand that there were these components of children needing to really identify what their own disability required of them in terms of navigating environment,” she said.
Ms Paradiz, a university professor, left academia soon after that and started an after-hours school to help students on the autism spectrum.
A few years later she developed the Self Advocacy Curriculum.
“To help teachers and therapists and parents to learn how to develop ability in advocating for oneself,” she said.
“That ability can range from understanding your civil rights and entitlements to understanding what kinds of sensory or social differences you might have.”…
She designed the program to help them speak up.
“It could be as easy as asking ‘can I turn the lights off?’,” she said.
The curriculum was soon piloted in public schools across New York.
…. The results, she said, were groundbreaking.
“What it is showing is not only can our children recognise their needs but they can advocate to have those needs met and they can take these skills and use them in an environment in which they have not been directly taught to use them,” she said.
“A huge challenge for individuals with autism is that they use interventions or strategies only in the environment that they were taught them.”…
Kara Potter is the director of The Learning Ways group, a not-for profit after-schools program set up to help children on the autism spectrum.
For the past year she has been testing the curriculum out on a small group and agrees the results are impressive.
“We saw some very significant changes in the sense of wellbeing that the children were expressing after being part of the work that we did with them,” she said.
“In particular we saw children being able to start to discriminate and make decisions for themselves.”
Currently, intervention programs in Australia are limited and none of them are coordinated nationally.

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One Response to New autism programme brings hope to families

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