Single Moms Raising Autistic Sons

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Monday, January 02, 2006

Griffin's Early Intervention by Sheila Sellers, MA Ed. Early Childhood Special Educator

Lora asked me to write about some of the things that I worked on with Griffin when I first started seeing him. I hope that she will publish this on her blog in its entirety, because it is important to know that the intervention strategies alone would not have gotten Griffin to the point he is at today. It was through a mother strength, courage, and unconditional love that Griffin has made progress and because he is a little boy with the character and spirit of a thousand men.

Before Griffin was actually diagnosed with Autism, when he was around 15 months, he began work with an early interventionist through Programs for Infants and Children. I am happy to say that that Early interventionist was me. I offered suggestions and recommend strategies; we met weekly for about an hour. The rest was up to Griffin and Lora!

Although Griffin was sensitive to outside stimulus such as noise and visual effects, I noticed his lack of awareness of his body in space and low alertness to taste in regards to eating and minimal joint interaction. Griffin would mainly watch videos and self-stim spinning a chair or perservating over a spoon or particular toys; regardless of efforts to interact or engage in communication or play. He would have silent tantrums and it was obvious he was in a huge amount of distress.

If you watched him you could see that he was going through some kind of lonely agony and was crying silently for someone to hear him. His mother did hear his pleas and we began work. We decided to make some environmental changes to help Griffin's sensory system and we knew that we had to get him to start communicating his wants and needs. I believe that getting his sensory issues under control is what helped him start communicating and tuning into us. We would spend the first 5-10 minutes of therapy with some sensory activity such as swinging, squeezing, spinning, etc. Griffin responded best to swinging. We started working on speech while he was in a swing that Lora rigged up in the hall of her house. We worked on ready, set, go….the first word I heard Griffin say was "go!" and his language has not stopped since.

Other strategies that worked with Griffin included Floortime, following his leads and cues, imitating his movements and vocal sounds. He began to increase his joint attention and his eye contact increased as well (sometimes I think he was probably saying "Who is this crazy women, that has invaded my world?") we used a lot of imitation, hand over hand, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, baby signs to request wants and needs and eventually PECS.

To help his diet we tried very spicy and sour foods. He began to request foods, which he had never before, by signing more, please, and all done. We used his interests of Teletubbies and Sesame Street to introduce PECS and have him request his favorite toys. We made changes in the environment, putting his toys up high and withholding favorite things until he made some attempt to communicate. Lora also used a tight spandex vest to help calm his sensory system. I continually observed Griffin and tried to learn what he was telling us. I used things to encourage his communication identifying his interests and arranging activities to incorporate his favorite things. Griffin's joint communication had increased greatly. He increased eye contact, starting making gestures, and increased his vocalization. Through play, using books and toys, we worked on pointing and making other gestures. Before long Griffin started pointing and signing more, please, and all done. He would say "go" to swing. And he would look at right in the eye and smile!

Griffin, Lora, and I worked for about 6 months. Griffin was communicating with sign, using PECS to request, saying about 4 words and his tantrums had almost stopped completely. Through the use of prompting and placing his hands on my lips, I was there the first day he said "Mama".

I knew that I had taken him as far as my knowledge could take him. I referred him for an OT to continue to manage his sensory needs and later to a speech therapist to work on his speech. By that time Griffin had an official diagnosis. Both the OT and SLP worked amazingly… along with Lora using various strategies to help Griffin get to the point he is today.

We used a lot of familiar strategies that others use to work with children with Autism. Floortime, imitation, prompting, sensory diet, reading his cues, environmental changes, etc. However, I believe that the two most important factors that contributed to Griffin's accomplishments have been…… 1. Lora's determination and dedication to her son .
2. Having the right people listen to " Griffin". Griffin is thriving in "this world, this environment" because we took the time to try to figure out "his world".

Griffin and Lora have enriched my life more than they will ever know. Griffin and Lora both are what I call "old souls". Each and every time you are with them… you learn something new about them, about life, about yourself. Lora has an amazing spirit that never stops advocating for her son, Griffin has a smile and a laugh that nestles down within your soul. He has these beautiful dark eyes that takes ahold of your inner being and remains with you wherever you are. I know that I am a better person, a better teacher, and a better spirit for having worked with Griffin and Lora.

Sheila Sellers, MA Ed. Early Childhood Special Educator


Octoberbabies said...

Thank you so much for sharing this with us. My little girle is three and was diagnosed in May and I have been so heartened and moved by how much therapists like you care for our little people. Thank you so much, you guys truly change our lives.

Proud mommy of Isaac (5 y/o NT) and India (3 y/o PDD-NOS)

Kristina Chew said...

Thank you, Sheila. What kinds of interventions and educational program will Griffin received once he "ages out" of EI (if he has not already)? Our kids need a lot for a their lifespan.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kristina,

Griffin is already in preschool this is his second year. In addition he receives private OT and speech.
I have enjoyed reading your comments and wish the best of luch to you and your little one....

KCsMom said...

I just want to say that the work you have done with Sir Griffin is fantastic! He is doing so beautifully and his mother is so dedicated to her little "Sonshine."

About two months before K.C. aged out of the E/I program, I tried for long term care for him and he did qualify so he will continue to get help for a long time. I don't know if Griffin is on Long Term Care or not but it might help Lora out tremendously for the long term.

I hope it helps, I just love reading about Griffin, he is just amazing and Lora is a great Mommy:)

Lora's mom said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lora said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lora's mom said...

Sheila what a wonderful way to tell about your work with griffin and lora, you are right he does have a wonderful mother and I am proud to call her my daughter. There were times when she was still exploring life but when she gave her heart to griffin it was with unconditional love. Griffin is a happy little man and some of that is because of you and I will be forever greatful. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all you bloggers that are so dedicated to reading griffin's blog could meet someday!!! You never know about life it does bring wonderful surprises. mom

mommyguilt said...

Lora's Mom: YOU have a phenomenal daughter, full of strenght, determination, and - most importantly LOVE for the "sonshine" in her life. YOU are a lucky lady...she must have learned from you. I think we bloggers all have that same idea. We'd love to all get together and meet. Many times last month did I want to just come over and give Lora a HUGE hug to help her out, but it's a REALLY long drive from Chicago to Anchorage.

Sheila: You, too, are phenomenal. All the work you have done with Griffin and Lora is incredible. Just reading here shows the dedication that you have to helping such wonderful individuals. You are to be applauded also!

kyra said...

that was so beautiful and inspiring. thank you!

Kiralea Powell said...

Lora and sheila,
I red this blog page and wow it made me cry. I am so lost for words. Griffin and yourself with the achievements you have made with him along side with Sheila has proven what a miraculous mother you are. It is so wonderful that Griffins teacher will speak so openly and to me sounds like she is not only his teacher, but someone who loves Griffin unconditionaly.

Jordans Teachers told me they would add some comments on teaching him over the holidays so i do hope they will.

It is so important to hear from Griffins teacher because it gives us insight on how Sheila is helping with Griffins progress.

I after reading this i have learnt a few more things to help Jordan and i will thank you Sheila and Lora for exposing this information.

Lora the thing is, Griffin is so much younger than Jordan who is (7.5) 8 in August,yet displays an ability at his age that exceeds more than Jordan could at his age.

I am blown away reading this and do believe our children will make it throughout their lives with the right people who want too make their lives enriched as much as we as parents want them to be.

take care and travel safely my friend, you are along with Sheila doing an exceptional job!

Hugs & kisses Kiralea & Jordan