Note: Apologies to the experts and professionals out there; terms will be slaughtered and misused, I’m sure, but all in the name of helping people sort out a very confusing and frustrating bundle of options.
I’m a doubter. Positive, encouraging, but a little doubting when presented with instant fix cure-alls.
When dealing with a special-needs child – or any child, for that matter – one is suddenly presented with lots of therapies, analysis, programs, skills groups… the list is endless.
It’s very confusing.
How can one sort out what is worthwhile and what is bunk? What will suck up money faster than a vacuum cleaner, what’s actually worth sinking money into, and what’s inexpensive and can be done at home? Is anything out there free?
Obviously, one person doesn’t have all the answers. So I will, of course, be leaving out valuable information. I can only present what worked for us, and am limited to my own personal knowledge.
Occupational Therapy helps kids build fine motor/gross motor skills in addition to helping with sensory issues and processing speed. Often there will be at least one play room – decorated in quiet, calming colors for those who get overstimulated easily – with lots of swings, balls, playsets, etc. Examples of skills that can be improved:
- small motor skills
- handwriting skills
- listening therapy
- processing speed
Expensive, but insurance may cover some to all of it. Sometimes therapy is available through the public school system (for no charge), but I do not have all of the details.
Behavior Analysis techniques help train kids in appropriate behaviors. Things analysts can help with include (but are not limited to)
- temper tantrum management
- reward systems
- multiple step skills
- appropriate behavior
- finding cause and effect to solve behavior issues
These analysts can assist at home – and teach the parents as they go – and/or work at school. Expensive, but analysts are often flexible with how many hours they can work, and the location. Insurance may or may not go for it. The CARD Center will occasionally offer behavior analysis classes to parents either for a nominal fee or for free.
Speech Pragmatics addresses the understanding behind the spoken word, not the actual mechanics of pronouncing a word. Since social communication is a hallmark of Asperger’s Syndrome, this applies a lot more than we may think (we all know our kids often speak like little professors, using good vocabulary and formal speech – but a lot of nuance slips by them). According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, people with pragmatic speech issues may:
- say inappropriate or unrelated things during conversations
- tell stories in a disorganized way
- have little variety in language use
Many public schools offer assistance in this area, and you can ask to have your child tested. For free.
Social Skills Classes help kids learn to interact with their peers. Topics include
- Friendship building
- Recognizing and dealing with bullies
- Regular and telephone conversational skills
- How to recognize friends
- and more
These range from very expensive to affordable. Once, we found a free class (offered by a university), but that was a blue moon occurrence. We made many friendships and were able to set up playdates with the other kids. On the downside, they don’t work for everyone; the classes tend to be heavily male, which can be off-putting for the girls.
Listening Therapy requires an upfront purchase. Expensive headphones and cd’s need to be either purchased or rented from an occupational therapist. Sometimes, they’ll use this form of therapy during a session at no extra cost. Supposedly, it can help everything from balance to noise sensitivity to social skills, but I’m still on the fence on this one. What does it involve?
- CD set
- portable CD player, as child is encouraged to exercise or be active
- Listening to a CD twice a day for 20 minutes
The CD’s play music with a melody – say, a Mozart theme – and then distort the sound slightly, introduce odd sounds, and otherwise play around with sound effects. In my opinion – I haven’t been able to find an official description – this is to help the listener learn to tune out extraneous noises and focus on the important sound (the melody). We did see some improvement after trying it, and I’ve heard good things from others, but the money might be spent better elsewhere, depending on the child. Please share your experience with this!
Metronome Therapy is offered by trained professionals. I’ve seen it mostly used in psychologists’ offices, by people who diagnose Asperger’s Syndrome and other forms of autism. I wish I knew more of it, but our insurance didn’t cover it, so we had to pass. I welcome feedback on this!