This blog has been designed to help people learn about effective, simple treatments for attention deficit disorder, autism, auditory processing disorders, dyslexia, and even challenges learning a new language.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A True Story: C speaks out

C is a non-verbal boy with autism. He is considered "very challenging" to his family and therapists, because he has a host of anti-social behaviours (e.g., drinking from the sink spigot, picking his nose), and although he is a beautiful child to look at, there's always a wildness in his eyes that can be expressed with a giant leap out of his chair and a slap across your face. Still, there's something there that people love... a hint of the intelligence within him.

C did Auditory Integration Therapy with me twice. The first time was because he was so obviously hypersensitive to ... well, everything! If someone cried, if the heater clicked on, if someone was singing downstairs, he'd get upset, scream, cry, hit, scratch, and kick.

His first few sessions of AIT were tough. We had to hold his hands down and his headphones on so that he wouldn't throw the headphones off. This is not unusual -- many kids with autism don't like to try new things because they're unpredictable, and therefore scary. Also, he has a pattern of reacting to unwanted things with a violent edge, so his aggressive behaviour at the start was not atypical for him; we had planned for it.

After the 2nd day, though, things started to mellow for him. He fussed for only the first 10 minutes, then only the first 5 minutes, then for only 30 seconds, and finally just a grunt of protest when the headphones were being put on. And then, one day, he came in, reached for the headphones, and tried to put them on himself! By halfway through the cycle, he was a model client, with the exception of when there was a frequency/decibel combination on the music that was difficult for him to deal with. But since these occurred only very briefly, he'd simply cry out once, then settle down again for more listening. [This occurs when we can't get an audiogramme done, which is common for children with autism. We can't filter out uncomfortable peaks. It's not dangerous, just uncomfortable.]

At the end of the 13th session (the typical turning point for hypersensitivity), he already showed signs of being more at ease. He was much less antsy, less likely to act out against a noise with a quick slap at the person closest to him. Over the next few days, he was responding a bit better in his school work, and he started to verbalise some of his favourite things. Amazing progress!

His performance in school and at home improved. He began learning to identify sight words, which he found much more interesting than letters and sounds. Amazingly, he started to repeat the word after it was said to him -- pretty astounding considering he was unable to imitate single sounds, which are supposed to be easier to produce!

A year later, his mother decided she wanted to see if she could get more out of him with another round of AIT. This time, although hypersensitivity wasn't totally resolved, he definitely wasn't as sensitive to environmental sounds as he had been. So this time, our hope was that we'd see more far-reaching changes.

C remembered the routine and, by the end of the first day, was keeping his headphones on without assistance. He happily sat and looked at toy catalogues, played with magnetic letters, and read out loud the names of his favourite things. He only fussed after about 22 minutes, which is when most kids start getting bored and ready to go home, and then was easily redirected to a new activity.

A week after AIT, I got a message from one of his teachers: "C is talking so much! He asked me, today, to take a shower [part of his daily living skill training], he's asking for new foods, he's using two-word phrases all the time, now, and an occasional full sentence! It's amazing!"

He's not so non-verbal, now!

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