When you’re not a professional in the medical field or knowledgeable about autism, you obviously resort to your common sense and intelligence to face the challenge. One of the most powerful weapons in your arsenal is the fact that you are the child’s mom. You know your child better than anyone and no intervention regardless of the pace or the method used, can satisfy you. Instead, you turn to what you know and try to harness the strengths you see in your child.

 

Before making any intervention, whether it’s dietary, behavioral, or language-related, the first thing you need to do is to identify your child’s strengths; what he or she likes and what could motivate him or her and spark his or her interest. In the autism world, getting your child to focus is one of the biggest challenges you are bound to face. It is very difficult to pinpoint what can motivate the child and even then, the attention span is very limited, lasting only a few seconds.

 

Once you find out what it is, you have to make sure to hang on for as long as possible.  In my son’s case, it was neither Barney nor Elmo (Sesame Street characters) that would get him excited like other kids his age ( he had no idea who these characters were). I had to find something else that could help me connect with him. He was not talking but he would always sing or whistle. Music, anything with sounds, was his passion –  that was his strength.

 

My son, despite his challenges, was always curious about his environment. These two elements – music and curiosity – were the building blocks for the hands-on and integrated teaching program that I designed later.

 

Music was central to the overall learning process from the beginning. It served – and  continues to serve – as a motivational tool to build his attention and to expand his interest.  We also used music for the academic teaching such as composing songs to learn about fractions, rapping history lessons to learn about Christopher Columbus for example.  As a next step, we made use of category concepts to unlock and process complex concepts.

 

Cooking was yet another foundational pillar for our teaching program. Food has been the decisive change factor in my son’s nutritional intervention and I must say, I am still on the lookout for further inspiration from food – anything I haven’t tried yet. We made cooking an academic project, a behavior modification program, a language learning session (vocabulary), a science project (transformation, mutation, growth, change process) and a speech class (show and tell).

 

In forthcoming issues, I will get into more detail about each learning process and teaching technique that helped my son to integrate the world as we know it.