Research has shown that music considerably supports children's cognitive development while addressing their behavioral issues.
Our teen was diagnosed with ADHD and ASD at the age of 14. (Autism Syndrome Disorder). We have been investigating various management and therapy alternatives for a while now. Under the guidance of doctors and therapists, he received a number of prescription drugs and participated in cognitive behavioral therapy sessions. He and the rest of our family had many difficulties during those years.
What, then, actually helps kids with special needs? What keeps their environment safe for them? How much should we involve ourselves in order for them to feel supported and not be overwhelmed?
For kids with special needs, there is no one solution to behavioral or learning difficulties. It takes a lot of trial and error before we finally figure out what works and what doesn't. The following are the practices that are currently working for us:
This one has a significant impact on how our brains are rewired and how we plan our days. When our autistic teen knows what his day will include, he feels safer and more in control. His routines were created using a combination of his interests, and practical abilities that will help him succeed in academic pursuits and daily functional needs.
So why do some routine practices not work? The key secret to this is CONSISTENCY. The routines need to be written (see picture below) and practiced daily to see results over time.
DESIGNING ACTIVITIES that PROMOTE NEURAL PATHWAYS
The design of the activities should also be PURPOSEFUL, so the child will never feel that he is just doing it for the sake of doing something. By being purposeful, he also sensed progress and success after some time.
With the guidance of a therapist or an educator, parents can look into prioritizing activities that activate the body while at the same time focusing on improving communication between the two sides of the brain, and strengthening coordination through bilateral and midline crossing activities. (More of this in the upcoming post...) These should be done first, prior to doing any other activities.
Here's an example of how we plan our autistic teen's day:
Since he is into music, his voice and guitar practice are always given priority each day. Other functional skills are integrated, so he can contribute to our house responsibilities too.
Because of consistency, his skills are progressing steadily at his own pace.
Behind all of these practices and knowledge comes the heart of it all. It is harder for us to succeed without the guidance of our family and the people around us.
PRESENCE of a SUPPORT SYSTEM
The success of any routines or prepared activities is dependent on how we supervise and give feedback on their progress. Adults need to make time and show a vested interest in whatever progress is going on. By being in those moments, any child will feel valued for who they are, and what they can do.
Enrolling them in any activity is just the initial step, but the support should never end there. We may not know anything in whatever they are interested on, but we could always encourage, commend on the effort, and unique beauty of their work. Have a chat with your child and see what you will discover.
And this is what PROGRESS is...