Getting a diagnosis of autism is not a therapeutic intervention. It doesn’t even allow you ‘access to services’, as is often said, if there are no therapeutic services! It sometimes seems as if the only ‘service’ available to parents with concerns about autistic-like behaviours is to ‘go and get an autism diagnosis’. But what kind of ‘service’ is that? Does it really address the actual problem, the child’s difficulties and the parents’ concerns? Could it even make things worse?
What do we mean by ‘autistic-like’ and that propels people towards trying to ‘get a diagnosis of autism’? What the parent is concerned about is that their child’s doesn’t communicate, talk, play and interact in expected and reciprocal ways that make sense and support harmonious relationships.
What does a child need, who finds communication, talking and relationships difficult? Does training or telling him, what (not to) do or say solve his problem? Does the child know, how to do, or how NOT to do, what you do or don’t want him to do? No, obviously not. If he did, how come s/he isn’t doing it? Surely, that would make life much easier.
So, what is going on? What exactly is this child’s problem? And is it solved by giving him an autism diagnosis? Or by letting him do or have whatever s/he wants, or buying him more toys or favorite foods? Or are we saying that he cannot change, grow and develop, that s/he does not have a human mind with all its boundless human mental-emotional potential? Are there really 2 groups of people: those with autism, who don’t have all the potential to develop and have to be accommodated in their ways, and those without, who can change and develop? Are you sure?
What a child with communication difficulties finds difficult, is relationships. So, what s/he needs help with is relationships. And s/he isn’t the only one, who finds relationships and communication difficult. Most people do. Because communicating with other people is complex and relationships are full of feelings. And feelings are often confusing, painful, disappointing, overwhelming or plain difficult to figure out how to deal with. This is where our attention needs to be, when wanting to help a child with so-called ‘autistic-like behaviours’. It isn’t speech or behaviour training that will help him figure out, how to manage his feelings, relationships and what is going on in his mind and his body. It’s relationships.
The therapeutic intervention a child with relationship and communication difficulties needs is a feelingful relationship with another human being who understands about feelings and relationships, and who is genuinely interested to help this little child (or big child) to discover their mind and to figure it all out for themselves. But not BY themselves. Because you know what? You can’t figure out relationships by yourself, because relationships are a 2-person job! The human mind too is a 2-person job and cannot build itself outside of a loving relationship, because it is a ‘person-to-person hook-up’ (Dr Shanker).
That’s why play-based developmental individual-difference relationship-based therapeutic interventions like DIRFloortime Therapy and Mindbuilders’ Autism Home Consultation Interventionare changing the lives of children, families and ideas about autism.