I am a mom of three wonderful children. Two of them have high-functioning autism. Our lives are a little different than families who have typically developing children. Some skills that people take for granted take more work for our boys to achieve, but we continue to work at it, day by day. For the most part, our boys blend in with their typically developing peers.
EARLY START DENVER MODEL (ESDM)
Our youngest son was the first to be diagnosed with ASD. He was diagnosed with "classic autism" at the age of 18 months. In 2006, finding services for children with autism was difficult and wait times were long. Thankfully, our close proximity to the UW Autism Research Center enabled him to participate in a few research studies. The study that had the most impact on him, his future, and our family was a research study on the Early Start Denver Model that was headed by Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D. The 2-year, 3-month long program worked wonders for him and drastically improved his life and his future. During the course of the program, the UW Autism Research Center sent trained therapists (all of whom held a bachelor's degree or higher) to our home to work with him 4 hours each day for a minimum of 20 hours per week. We, as parents, also attended many hours of training in ESDM therapy.
I can't give ESDM 100% of the credit, as he was involved in other therapies, too. But, I do believe that ESDM, with its individualized approach, and training for us, as parents, did have the most impact on his success.
From the age of 18 months to 3, he also attended a local Birth-to-Three program where he received social skill training, occupational therapy and speech therapy. He did not yet have any verbal skills, so we, as a family, began to teach him American Sign Language, a language that he was able to pick up fairly well.
When he turned three, after he aged out of Birth-to-Three, he began to attend ECE (Early Child Education) at our local elementary school. During his 3rd year of life, he would spend 4-hours of one-on-one, in-home, ESDM therapy with a trained therapist, and 4-hours of ECE preschool each and every day. Eight hours of therapy, five days each week, was a lot of therapy for a 3-year-old!
From a parent's point of view, the process was long and tedious, and, as a mom, I felt consumed by autism therapies, but we have no regrets. The change that we witnessed in our son's life was worth every moment.
Today, he is high-functioning, has a very high I.Q., is verbal, and we believe he has a future in the field of technology. He has come a long way from the 18-month-old who didn't hold his own bottle, and wouldn't do much more than sit and stare, spin a ball, and would have frequent meltdowns unless he was swinging in a swing.
Motivation is something that our boys continue to struggle with. It is, most likely, our family's biggest challenge to date. We continue to seek out ideas to help them improve motivation to complete tasks in areas beyond their personal interests.
WHITE PAPERS (MOTIVATION)