When our son was diagnosed with Autism, myself and my husband got the opportunity to attend a training program called “More Than Words” created by The Hanen Centre. As new parents into the world of Autism, we were both so anxious, panicked, confused etc. and I am not even able to explain most of the other emotions. I think this is true for all the parents when they step into this new world.
Though we started the training with lot of puzzles in our mind, we finished the training with lot more confidence than we expected.
More than words is a program by Hanen Centre to help parents work with their child diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Condition to promote communication and social skills.
The approaches suggested were very easy for us to practice with our son. We learnt lot of approaches to improve our son's communication.
Of all the approaches, I enjoyed using is R.O.C.K . And of course I am using even now also.
What is R.O.C.K?
There are several routines we do in a day unconsciously. It starts with Saying Good Morning followed by Brushing, Toilet, Bathing, Dressing, Breakfast, going to School/Office, Lunch, playtime, Watching TV, play Activities, Outing, Dinner, till saying Good Night before going to sleep.
I used R.O.C.K in most of above day to day routines, which helped my son move towards independence.
Before I start practicing the routine I break the routine into smaller tasks. For example if you take a Brushing task,
1. I will tell that it is Brushing Time.
2. Take him to Bathroom.
3. Make him to take the Toothbrush
4. Make him to take the Toothpaste
5. Take the Tooth paste in the brush
6. Brush the teeth
7. Wash the brush
8. Keep the brush back in the stand
9. Rinse the mouth
10. Wipe Mouth and Dry the hands
11. Come out of the Bathroom.
If we are able to break the routine into smaller task then applying the approach will be easy for us, which will help our kids to learn fast.
Let me explain how I used to apply the approach:
R – Repeat what you say and do:
I will give some examples of how I used Repetition for my son to teach him the routines like I mentioned above.
In the beginning my son was not toilet trained (till 3 years old). Then I started taking him to look for wee job every 30 mins of a day. This meticulous repetition was little difficult for me in the beginning. When I used to start this routine, I used to say a constant word for him to recognise, “Wee job” and when he finished, I would say “Wee job over”.
Similarly I used Repetition for teaching my son, Rhymes. He used to like hearing, “Johnny, Johnny Yes Papa”. I used to say “Johnny Johnny” as a way of saying I was about to sing the rhymes for him. Then I used to sing the full rhymes for him.
Playing games was also similar. When we visited park, we used to make my son sit in the Swing and my husband used to say “Push” and then push him gently. When the swing slows down after a few seconds, my husband used to repeat “Push” and then push him.
O- Offer Opportunities for your Child to take a turn
Making your child to take a turn in the activities you do with him or her will get them involved and start understanding and learning.
I used to break any routines into little tasks (like I have broken the brushing routine into small tasks mentioned in the introduction). And then decide which task is something he can repeat it by action or word. For example during Brushing, I will repeat all the tasks by name and help him to do it (in the beginning) and pause at times for him to do a task by himself (like putting the brush to mouth) or put the brush back in the stand.
For Toilet training also, I used to give many opportunities for my son. After announcing about a visit to toilet, wait for him to go to the toilet or wait for him to remove his trousers or wait for him to flush after the job is done. Of course this waiting for a task to be done by him comes after repeating a routine in similar way many times.
You can visit this blog http://autism-contacts-in-india.blogspot.in/2013/09/how-i-made-my-son-speak-through-nursery.html to check how I used R.O.C.K principle to make him talk using rhymes.
C – Cue your child to take his turn
When you give opportunity to child to do some tasks in a routine, the child in the beginning may take some time to understand or struggle to complete the task.
Cues are little help to remind the child and make the child get independent on little tasks by himself.
I used to give my son visual cues (pictures). E.g. a picture of Brush your Teeth when I expect him to do the next step and he is not sure. Or sometimes gestural prompts (like showing him the action of taking the brush to mouth) or physical prompt (like taking his hand with brush to his mouth). Over a period of time, cues can be faded and child become independent on that task.
You can see my experiences on brushing in more details at http://autism-contacts-in-india.blogspot.in/2014/04/brushing.html
K-Keep it fun! Keep it going!
Any routine we do with a child is a good opportunity for us to interact with them, understand them and play with them. Basically it could turn out having fun with them.
Initially for the brushing routine, I also used to do brushing with my son and talk animatedly with him and basically have good time doing the routine. Or sing little songs for routines or tasks like, “This is the way to brush my teeth”.
Sometimes make silly mistakes purposefully putting socks on the hands instead of feet or putting the wrong end of the brush in my mouth so that he will correct it. Sometimes while playing ball game with him, I used to miss the ball and say “Ball Missed”.
I found the more involved he got with us, more learning happened for him and better relationship developed between us.
R.O.C.K has helped myself me to understand my son and get much closer to him. That has been the foundation for doing many more activities with him and developing his skills.
You can read more about R.O.C.K in Hanen’s “More than Words” book. Occasionally training also seems to be happening in India (Five Institute runs it in Bangalore).
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