Since we speech pathologists are required to participate in 30 hours of continuing education every three years, I am always looking for excellent courses to attend. I have shared about Pam Marshalla’s seminar on Persistent Articulation Errors and I want to recommend a seminar I attended yesterday in Long Island, NY.
Summit Professional Education sponsored “DIR/Floortime, Developmental Relational Treatment of Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder,” presented by Esther B. Hess, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist and Senior Clinician for Stanley Greenspan M.D. The course covered how to conduct a clinical assessment and move to a diagnosis, approaches to and principles of intervention, and intervention with severe disorders of relating, communicating and thinking.
As the founder and executive director of The Center for the Developing Mind in Los Angeles, Dr. Hess had a wealth of examples from her work at her clinic on how to work with different kids. She had an effective delivery as she opened with stimulating questions like, “What are the advantages and disadvantages of a diagnosis of autism?” As audience members participated, she asked what their professional affiliation was (OT, PT, SLP, special educators or parents) and then repeated their answer by saying, “Your OT colleague said…” thus building collaboration among the varied professionals in the room.
Without giving you the content of her material, here are some take-aways I thought were important to share:
- New studies on brain plasticity suggest that we are capable of generating new brain growth throughout our life. More than once, as we were watching a video tape of a successful session with a child, Dr. Hess said, we just generated new neurological growth. That’s an inspiration to us, therapists.
- Dr. Hess offered great word pictures to illustrate her points. She talked about living in Southern California where the weather is great but earthquakes are a possibility. In the case of an earthquake, residents are instructed not to make local calls with their cell phones because the signal will be intermittent at best. Instead, have a mutually agreed upon contact across the country to call to say you are safe. She likened the intermittent signal to how kids on the autism spectrum receive information and how frightening that must feel. I have already used that illustration with a neighbor, trying to get her to understand a child in our neighborhood. She got it.
- We must make great dates with the kids we work with. How much do we love a great date as adults? Great dates validate their experience, they are fun and meaningful.
- Playdates with typical kids are essential. When typical kids are involved in learning with kids with autism, the typical kids’ emotional IQ goes up. That is certainly something to look forward to with the present generation that is being raised with children with special needs mainstreamed into their classes and activities.
- Encourage parents to take time with their neuro-typical kids. Go on a great date alone.
- Our job as therapists is to educate and inform parents, not make decisions for them.
- Follow the lead of the child but don’t let the child escape from the interaction