University Hospitals has a series of Autism Seminars at their Westlake Campus. There is 1 seminar a month, and each deals with the different challenges of having a child with Autism. Although we don't have a typical "autism" diagnosis for Nate (part of his diagnosis is PDD-NOS), we felt that it would be helpful to attend several of these workshops.
The last workshop in the series was last night, and it focused on Social and Communication Issues in children with autism. The presenter was Dr. Lisa Audet, and she was AMAZING. Dr. Audet is a professor at Kent, she is a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP), and also has her own practice in Speech Language Evaluation, Consultation, and Therapy Services. I was so impressed by her knowledge and professionalism, that I'd love to take one of her classes at Kent just so I can learn more about speech, language, and how to improve Nate's quality of life.
Dr. Audet started off her presentation discussing some common pitfalls that occur when working with children with Autism and who are non-verbal. For the most part the therapists that we have dealt with have done a great job working with Nathan, which is a relief. There are a few things that she highlighted that we can definitely improve on as well. She mentioned keeping conversation with an autistic/non-verbal child "real" and avoid saying things to them that you normally wouldn't say in a regular conversation. I admit that I do some of her no-no's when talking to Nate. I often tell him to "use your words", say "more" when he wants something, and I say "good talking" to him on a regular basis. When she used those phrases in her examples, I realized how ridiculous they sounded. Who talks like that to a typical person? It's not like when you're having a conversation with your husband you interject in the middle of his sentence and say "good talking!" crazy. She gave us examples of phrases and conversations that will encourage speaking and interaction without us actually sitting there coaxing Nate to try to talk. We have a lot to change in our house.
At the end of her talk, we cornered her (which I'm sure she absolutely LOVES)! Matt wanted to know a little about discipline since that's what we have the most trouble with when it comes to Nathan. She gave us some amazing ideas, and I'm super excited to implement them into our regular routine. We often have trouble finding Nate's currency--an object that we can take away from him as punishment--and since there is no real currency for him, we have a hard time getting him to listen. She asked what he liked to do with us, and Matt mentioned tickling/wrestling. Dr. Audet said "BINGO! There's your currency!" Wow, how had we not thought of that?! Instead of taking something away from Nate in order to get him to behave, we are now going to be providing incentives (seriously, I was a teacher, how did I not remember that!?!?!?). We are going to make a chart, and if he listens X # of times, he will earn different privileges (extra Ipad time, walks, extra tickle time, etc). I'm so hopeful that this is going to work for us!
We enjoyed Dr. Audet's speech, help, and overall friendliness so much that we are considering making an appointment with her for a consultation. We brought more information and ideas home from the 90 minutes session, than we have in the past 4-5 doctor appointments that we have had for Nate. I guess there is hope for us!!!