Emma Gosling, Senior Specialist Occupational Therapist at Options Barton, talks to Education For Everybody about the person-centred approach: an individualistic outlook for children with autism spectrum condition...
When working with an individual with Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC), it is important to start with a holistic assessment of a person’s cognitive, sensory, motor and communication needs as a first step to positive outcomes. It’s crucial that staff know what’s important to the person, their identified needs, and what’s working or not working from their perspective. This information is gathered from the individual, who is at the centre of the process, as well as the people involved in their lives. This is called a Person-Centred Approach.
Once their goals have been identified, each target is broken down into achievable steps. Quality of Life Measures serve as a reminder, as well as an overarching framework, for focussing interventions on factors such as improving emotional well-being, self-determination, personal development, and social inclusion.
Personal development is broader than academic achievements. Activities such as meal preparation, getting dressed, leisure activities, such as going to a group dance class – all of these are just as important as formal education targets.
By incorporating a child’s personal interests, for example a favourite computer game or leisure activity, they can be encouraged to take part in an activity that is new or unfamiliar. We often talk about the ‘four zones’ of emotion that are often represented by colours to make abstract ideas more concrete and give young people a point of reference that they can remember and to which they can relate.
These four zones can be easily linked to the individual using their interests. For one young person, who is an ICT enthusiast, you might translate ‘the zones’ into computer behaviour; blue is battery is low, green is running well, yellow is a warning screen requiring action and red is a system crash.
It is important to give praise to reinforce their efforts. These may be natural reinforcers, such as going out to play once they have fastened up their clothing. Celebrating success is one of the many rewards of being a parent, carer and educator of an individual with ASC however small or insignificant these accomplishments may appear. People with ASC often need to overcome many additional challenges to achieve the things that are important to them.
It can be challenging striking a balance between providing support and encouraging independence. However, providing active support promotes independence and encourages people to take an active part in their own lives. The style of support must focus on ‘working with’ not ‘doing for’ to enable people with ASC to develop new skills through everyday activities. These skills give them more control over their own lives and help to ensure a good balance between too much or too little assistance.
Outcomes First are a leading specialist provider of education and care services to children, young people and adults with autism, complex needs, learning disabilities and social, emotional and mental health needs. For more information, see www.outcomesfirstgroup.co.uk.