How to empower yourself to help your children through knowledge

Welcome to my introduction 101 on “How to empower yourself to help your children through knowledge”.

Whilst working on my blog this week, I was reminded of the Raising Children Network an Australian parenting website:

Sponsored by FaHCSIA Department of Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, it is a resource for parenting newborns to teens.There are featured articles such as /Common myths about Autism Spectrum Disorders/Starting primary school for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders/

There is a Disability Services Pathfinder

The website is speech-enabled with BrowseAloud an assistive technology that reads the content website aloud. There are parenting podcasts available too!

Let’s Read provides access to an Australian program that supports families to share words, rhymes, songs, books and stories with their children Resources include reading tips sheets and books suggestions sheets for ages 0-5 years.

In the Special Needs section you can find a Guide to Therapies.
Types of therapies are described, the claims and suitability and whether research has provided evidence of positive effects.

For example: One approach I use as part of my intervention is Pivotal Response Training; a set of teaching techniques (targets children aged 2-6 years) that can be used in a child’s everyday environment. These naturalistic teaching techniques are used to improve social, communication and play skills and behaviour. This is an established approach and research has shown positive effects.

What is the idea behind it?

The theory behind PRT is that there are four key areas of child development that are ‘pivotal’ to later development:

  • Motivation: encouraging learning by giving children choices, varying tasks, combining previously learned tasks with new tasks, prompting, using rewards and rewarding attempts.

  • Self-initiation: encouraging and rewarding children’s curiosity, such as when they ask questions about something they see.

  • Self-management: teaching children to be more independent and take responsibility for their learning.

  • Responsiveness to multiple cues: teaching and encouraging children to respond to various forms of the same prompt or instruction – for example, ‘Get your jumper’, ‘Get your pullover’ or ‘Go and get your jumper now’.

Supporters of PRT believe that improvements in more complex skills (such as social skills, communication and play skills, and behaviour) will follow if children can first learn and develop in these foundation areas.

What does it involve?

PRT occurs in a child’s natural environment (at preschool, home or school) and uses everyday activities to teach the child.

For the person working with the child, PRT involves:

  • Setting up goals specific to the individual child (such as ‘saying a two-word sentence or phrase’)

  • Using the child’s interest in an item or activity as an opportunity to teach and help the child reach the goal

  • Praising and/or rewarding every time the child makes an effort to reach the goal (successful or not). Rewards are based on what the child likes.

The National Professional Development Centre on Autism Spectrum Disorders:

A multi university centre (USA) to promote the use of evidence based practice for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders, also provides an overview of Pivotal Response Training as an evidence based approach: (and others below)

For instance the following three evidence based intervention approaches are routinely implemented through Healesville Speech Pathology.

  • Pivotal Response Training,

  • Naturalistic Intervention: practices designed to encourage specific target behaviours based on insights into the learner’s interests and to provide responses that build on more elaborate learner behaviours that are naturally reinforcing and appropriate to the interaction.

  • Parent Mediated Instruction and Intervention: This entails parents directly using individualised intervention practices with their child to increase positive learning opportunities and acquisition of important skills.

These interventions can be supported by a tool such as the iPad. Whilst iPADS themselves are not an intervention, there are applications that support evidence based practice for both speech and language therapy and autism spectrum disorders, through an iPad interface.

PRT and Naturalistic Intervention can be supported by apps such as TOCA BOCA House, Hair, Store etc. The apps are cost effective and time saving and accessible for busy families. Apps are an organised, accessible, predictable and repeatable framework for children. They are a flexible tool because /no two children can be supported in exactly the same way/. Attention-focusing therapy, that is directly managed and facilitated by a carer can promote learning through sharing and engaging in play in a fun and meaningful interchange. The role of the Speech Pathologist is to demonstrate change through intervention whilst providing accessible strategies with those significant others in the child’s environments.

Access to knowledge available via the internet remains unprecedented in human history. Knowing where to find what is useful and relevant can sometimes be challenging.

All the best Eva