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Autism: Two practicum questions

2015

I am doing my practicum in a school and am working with some children who have diagnosed/undiagnosed Autism. I know there is controversy around whether or not vaccinations cause Autism. I am curious about this topic and wondering what perceptions and understandings others may have around this subject.

Jennifer
...

Hello fellow CYCs!

In my practicum so far, I’ve been working with a group of four special education high school students in the classroom. Special Ed. is not a traditional curriculum and much of what the kids learn has to do with teaching social, communication and attitude, as well as routine and essential life and vocational skills we so often take for granted.

There are five youth in the class I was with this week, and the youth are all vastly different than from other classes, but each present their own unique challenges. One of the boys in the class – let’s call him ‘C’ has a diagnosis of autism, when you can get him sitting, it’s usually not for long, and he rarely engages with staff. ‘C’ can go from happy and working hard one minute to bolting out of the classroom the next. ‘C’ has been toilet trained since he was 12 and is now 16, however, he still has a huge fixation on pull-ups, there are days he’ll “escape” from the room, run to wherever there are pullups (whether they are used in the bathroom, or clean in a classroom), strip naked, put the pullup on and use it as his toilet. He runs out of the room 2-6 times a day, lately he has not been successful on his quests because staff intervene. That said, when he knows he cannot get his way, he becomes very violent, completely willing to throw punches, kick, scream and yell and there is usually restraint.

‘C’ is very academically intelligent, and much of the time displays and tantrums, we thought, were out of boredom and we discussed two teachers taking him for walks every day might help decrease his impulsive behaviour; just giving him that opportunity to get out of the class without feeling like he needs to escape.

My question is for everyone, but especially those who have experience with special needs and autism; do you have suggestions for activities he may be able to do that would distract him from feeling the need to run away? Tips or strategies? I do not like to see him being restrained as often as he has been lately, so I’m also looking for recommendations as to what teachers could do differently when dealing with him and trying to de-escalate.

Thanks so much, I look forward to questions, comments, suggestions and discussion!

Andrea Shippey
...

Hey Jennifer,

This I something that comes up a lot in my work. I am a case manager working with young moms and a doula working with pregnant women through pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum.

I must stop you, though, as there is no debate on vaccines and autism in the scientific field.

It is really sad when I hear of a momma deciding not to vaccinate her child due to the “autism link scare” that occurred several years ago. Fortunately, there have been many studies done and re-done to prove that vaccines do not cause autism.

http://www.newsweek.com/anti-vaxxers-accidentally-fund-study-showing-theres-no-link-between-autism-and-379245

https://www.autismspeaks.org/science/science-news/no-mmr-autism-link-large-study-vaccinated-vs-unvaccinated-kids

http://www.autismsciencefoundation.org/autismandvaccines.html

http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/autism.html

Despite the research, fear spreads like wildfire. With the internet connecting moms like never before, mom-shame happens much more publicly than it has in the past. People want so desperately to be good parents that they sometimes make choices that fit in with their peers or social group rather than the science. In the US, the population of women/ families that choose not to vaccinate are, according to a recent TIME Magazine article – upper-middle class, typically white, college-educated and often times those with advanced degrees. It has been difficult to reach this population to change their minds for several reasons - one is that they feel they are “smarter” than the system. Honestly, with a medical system like the one we have in the US where nearly 99 percent of births are in the hospital, 20-30 percent of labors are induced, and 32.2 percent are cesarean sections, it seems really logical to distrust the medical establishment as a whole if you are seeking something different than those outcomes.

However, we must continue to educate and break through the misconceptions that are brought forward on the internet to ensure that our kids can live long and healthy lives.

Morgan Miles
...

Hi Andrea

Does ‘C’ have triggers, can you tell when he might be able to bolt from the classroom? If so then when you notice those warning signals that would be the time to distract him. I’m not sure how communicative he is but maybe you could ask him what he would like to do when he starts to feel like he has to run? A lot of the time violence is a persons way of gaining some control they feel they have lost.

There are also some devices that might help him, I can’t remember the commercial names for them of course, but there is the heavy vest that puts weight on their shoulders and helps with he restless body, there is also a rolly seat he could sit on that keeps his body busy in a productive way.

I do think that scheduled times for physical release are also important, but it may have to be on his schedule not the teachers.

Emily Gibbons
...

Hi Jennifer,

Personally, I don’t believe that when working with people with autism, whether or not they have been diagnosed because of being vaccinated, really pertains to strengths based activities, intervention or therapeutic support. These arguments will continue to be fought, and I’m not sure we will ever definitively know the answers. There are too many factors involved to say 100% yes or no.

I too worked with children with multiple exceptionalities last year in my placement and many of whom were diagnosed with autism, and also hold an Autism Intervener Certificate through the Geneva Center. This is an excellent resource and one which can be obtained online as an excellent starting point to working with people with autism. One thing that I would do to start would be to create and begin filling out an observation chart. Mark the chart with times approximately1/2 hour apart and begin charting ABC’s (antecedents, behaviours, consequences) Observe closely and objectively and chart for at least one week. This will give staff working closely, as well as other in the circle of care of this child useful and actual information to use in creating a prevention plan. Be wary of CPI (crisis prevention intervention) factors such as tone of voice used for giving direction, proximity to child, environmental noises/happenings etc. and consider ways in which to use these things as tools for prevention of unwanted or maladaptive behaviours.

Once you see a pattern or begin to notice what seems to trigger his behaviours by charting, it will be easier to come up with ways in which to intervene or correct them.

It takes time. Observing and charting is an excellent way to have all staff on the same page, seeing the actual ABC’s, which are many times, overlooked. Often people perceive, respond and react very differently to one behaviour or factor and that in turn makes it very difficult for the child.

Enjoy your time with these students and people. They will teach you things you never, ever expected to learn.

All the best,

Ally
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