When Johnny was 3-1/2 and was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, he began to start to say a few words again. We were very excited but after two blocks of 10 weeks of speech therapy provided by community health we felt like Johnny was at a stand still. The SLP’s meant well and were trying to help him begin to use PEC’s but the sessions felt forced. He did not seem motivated at all most of the time and was just going through the motions. I know now that he was having sensory integration issues and the early language speech therapy agency did nothing to alleviate this. I do not think they had enough training in sensory processing challenges.
Another year passes and now Johnny is 4-1/2 and the words start to come in groups of 3 and 4. What changed? If I had to pick something I would easily say it was when I declined another block of community based preschool language therapy and instead took the option of attending intensive parent training workshops with coaching sessions called MORE THAN WORDS by the Hanen Centre. The program worked on having and increasing quality interactions, building communication skills during everyday routines at home and play.
Three of the MORE THAN WORDS Hanen Centre goals that I found were very important to foster forward progress for Johnny was 1) improving social skills 2) the ability to do back and forth interactions and 3) increased understanding of language. It is a very practical program that incorporates strategies in you and your child’s everyday routines so you are basically improving on what you already do. You learn how to use your child’s interests and likes to bring fun into a daily activity so that you can have an interaction.
I learned the value in following Johnny’s lead when he is playing so that we could get natural interactions. So many therapies have you use a reinforcer to get an interaction and sometimes it can feel almost forced. The More Than Words program shows you how to stand back and let your child start an interaction so that they will feel motivated to continue communicating with you. It becomes natural and the unexpected happens.
I also like that the guidebook goes into great detail describing the various stages of communication so that you can identify where your child is, what their needs and abilities are and what the next stage will look at. I remember sitting in the session that covered this and having an epiphany moment of finally understanding that my child communicates in many different ways and now I have the confidence to try and reach him and interact.
I also found it very useful to really learn how to use music, books, and toys to improve Johnny’s speech and language, social skills, and turn taking. I would always get pages photocopied from SLP’s with pointers but the MORE THAN WORDS program helped make all of this real and tangible and build our confidence. In the end it makes so much sense to train us, the parents, because we know our child the best and are with them usually the most.
So if you are looking for a way to kickstart communication with your child who is Autistic then I highly recommend the More Than Words program from the Hanen Centre. They offer parent training workshops, guidebook and DVD. Their website has lots of detailed information as well as videos and research information.
*please note I do not get any reimbursement for writing this. I just want to pass on helpful information to fellow parents.