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    A Developmental Approach to Autism: Not ABA, but Building on Core Foundations. Everything You Need to Know. The justification of therapy is hinged around the basis of viewing developmental gaps using purely behavioural lenses. For example, there are the following assumptions of ABA: Behaviour can be affected by the environment; Behaviour can be strengthened or weakened by consequences; Behavioural changes are more effective to be changed with positive reinforcement rather than negative punishment; Behaviour needs to be disciplined or reinforced for socially significant changes. The trouble with this model is that it doesn’t consider the core deficits of autism itself. The neurological differences and neurological weaknesses where the underconnectivity theory is robust in scientific studies are hardly addressed by these tenets. Because they have been truly considered, one would start working on building and strengthening the pathways of connectivity. Logically speaking, one can’t think about correcting behavioural deviations when there is a lack of semblance to foundation patterns of interactions, to begin with. These patterns of interactions as developmental experts have pointed out, rely greatly on many minute moments of interactions established at the Infants’ early age by caregivers. Daniel Stern in his “The Infant Years” tells you that from the get-on – the neural connectivity starts in vitro before the birth of the child. When the child is born, the usual “work” of the caregiver’s interactions (holding the baby, responding to the baby’s cries, adjusting the baby so that he gets to be comfortable, responding to the baby reaching out, the baby responding to his own body, etc), all play an important role when it comes to establishing the foundation and fundamentals of the Infant Self. The Infant Self soon develops and craves human interaction because of all this “work’ that has been done. This intricate work, within grounded developmental milestones, would soon pay off because the baby starts to develop cognitive senses, within the environment he is placed in. He starts to learn how to establish meaning, and he starts getting attuned to the caregiver, aligning his emotions with those of his caregiver. With that relationship, language blossoms because the child starts to absorb and use words for connections and communication. This puts focus on the very natural instinct of babies to develop through relationships. Purely changing the behaviour of a child when he has not developed basic developmental milestones, whether its emotional milestones, cognitive, or physical, is very much missing the point. Logically, intervention would have to start by thinking about the child from a developmental standpoint. This means taking a check of those milestones that are not intact and putting in place a programme that would suit the child. Typically, too, a bottom-up approach where foundational pre-linguistic skills would need to be looked at. So it is not a question of “Teaching the child to speak” – but of planning for intervention where small steps are met - so that the eventuality of speech and language (symptomatic of lots of milestones coming together in place) becomes evident. Think of these small steps of interactive goals as a savings bank, in which good experiences build up in incremental strength when these experiences are properly coached and acquired. These experiences are going to be “fuel” and motivation for the child to go on with new experiences. This is where resilience comes from. This blog will cover the following: Starting at the right point of development for intervention as Paramount Recognise the importance of Prelinguistic Goals Parents’ Role as Absolute, Non-negotiable, Primary Key Player Work within the Environment itself for Generalisation How do we deal with resistance? School Suitability and Readiness Finally – Building Episodic Memory Starting at the right point of development for intervention as Paramount When treating children on autism spectrum disorder, it is important that we treat this as a whole child. This means taking into consideration the different milestones and starting intervention from where development has been arrested. In a child who lacks joint attention, almost always, we have to start looking at creating remediation that provides small moments of success. This would be more replicating all those small steps needed to gain attention and regulation. Sometimes this would involve having the child connect at a very tactile visceral level. Training parents to use important moments of connections where body movements are coordinated would be important. Recognise the importance of Prelinguistic Goals One of the key goals is for our therapist to work on establishing connectivity with the child. This can be carried out in a variety of ways with the principles of Guided Participation, slowing down, and establishing patterns of interaction that allow the child to recognise different forms of “status quo”. Having the child see an action in a continuous flow, instead of a disjointed form, would also be a key fundamental goal. It is from here, that we can work on emotional alignment, experience sharing, and creating suitable challenges so that the child can slowly acquire cumulative experiences of interactive successes. Successful acquisition of Prelinguistic skills would mean that naturalistic language and speech would follow. Parents’ Role as Absolute, Non-negotiable, Primary Key Player No one in this world would play as important a part in the child’s developmental growth as their parents. So it is a critical part of remediation to truly involve parents. Our experience has told us that this can sometimes be a daunting piece of news for parents, and that remediators cannot replace the value that parents bring into the equation. However, it need not be so, as we exist to guide you, as far as possible with the “how-tos”. Having access to a network of the best people in developmental remediation means that we can help you tap into vast resources to help with a different, but potentially rewarding parenting journey. Work within the Environment itself for Generalisation Generalisation refers to the child’s ability to use skills taught in a setting to apply these skills to a different setting. Often in many settings, generalisation is one of the most difficult to achieve. Whatever skills that are learned in an artificial clinical setting, or specifically at home, cannot seem to be spontaneously reflected in across different settings for the ASD child. For generalisation to occur, it is imperative that the interventionists plan this from the get-go. The triadic inter-mingling of what we do, and standardize, across different settings of home, therapy center, and school plays such an important part in helping the ASD child connect and form links of his subjective self and his environment. When it is time to increase in complexity our goals for the child, it becomes easier to align with one another, and the child reaps the benefits of gaining in confidence understanding others and being understood. How do we deal with resistance? Instead of seeing this as a behavioural issue, Dr. Steven Gutstein has advocated that it's more relevant to see this in the light of the child’s inability to borrow your mind to see through the tasks – for its interactive payoffs. Once the child is able to borrow the adult’s mind and see things through your lenses, the feelings of fear and uncertainty diminish and he is more likely to “go with the flow” or venture out into more uncertain territories. School Suitability and Readiness When it comes to rebuilding the brain, ensuring priority is given to establishing connectivity in the small little actions, and moments, this would mean that we need to give ourselves permission to allow time for things to happen, within the child-parent growth capacity. Some things cannot be rushed and increasing neural connections really is one of those. This follows that adopting the mindset that a structure that has been set externally (including prescribed education systems etc.) would be not so likely to be one that would have been designed with your child in mind. For many parents, not used to the idea of this, it can be understandably an isolating experience. However, recognizing this and working with a trained therapist to chart out the course of action in the next few months and years, would be, in be in our opinion, best practice, and may give the child a fighting chance of thriving. School Readiness Program - Singapore | Total Communication Finally – Building Episodic Memory There is so much research of how episodic memory is impaired in children on the spectrum. However, findings unfortunately haven’t trickled into real practice. Check out – how our integration of practice from Centre, to Home to School works to help build on Episodic Memories. Contact us Today!

  • From Preschool to Primary School: Skills in Your Child’s Toolbox

    I remember my mother buying me a new pink school bag for Primary One, my grandparents teaching me how to order and pay for food during recess, and that sheer excitement of putting on a new uniform (a pinafore dress!), getting ready to start a new school year as a P1. Entering Primary School is a big step for children and parents alike! Are our children equipped with the skills necessary to flourish and thrive in this exciting new journey? How can we best support our children in this critical transition of their lives? Preschool Years The early years of a child are when critical foundations of social-emotional and cognitive learning are laid. Hence, in Singapore, most young children are enrolled in preschools from as early as 18 months old up to 6 years old. While generally overseen by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), Singapore preschools do not have a centralised curriculum. As such, children go through unique, and potentially uneven, learning experiences as a result of the array of curriculum approaches Singapore preschools present. Thereafter, children get ready for an important jump into primary school, where they are expected to demonstrate a set of ‘readiness’ skills in their toolboxes. School Readiness School readiness skills do not merely refer to academic readiness such as a child being able to write his/her own name, count up to a certain number and recognise numbers, recognise the letters of the alphabet, and read some words, et cetera. School readiness is a whole host of skills in development that measure a child’s preparedness to meet the demands of formal education. General Readiness (Self-Care, Self-Regulation): Follow structured routines, maintain personal grooming and hygiene (e.g., toileting), independent work, sustained attention, rule compliance General Knowledge and Cognition: planning and sequencing, exploration and discovery skills (e.g., inquiring and asking questions), problem-solving skills. Physical and Motor Development: gross motor skills for outdoor play (e.g., strength, balance, and coordination – to jump, run, climb, skip), core muscles to sit upright in class for prolonged periods, fine motor skills for classroom activities (e.g., cutting, writing). Social and Emotional Development: the ability to engage in reciprocal interactions with peers and teachers, work as a team, ability to recognize their emotional states, and regulate them. Language Development: ability to comprehend and follow directions, ability to communicate their needs, wants, and thoughts. Academic Readiness: writing own name, recognising numbers and counting meaningfully, letter recognition and letter sound awareness, able to read high-frequency words, able to copy from the board Getting Ready for Primary School Getting a child ready to enter Primary 1 is no easy feat. Parents and educators alike recognise the importance of preparing a child and equipping them with the necessary skillsets required to thrive and flourish in their new environment. Presently, children identified as facing readiness-related issues are already provided with support through the Transition Support for Integration Programme (TRANSIT) that will eventually run in all primary schools by 2026. Through activities such as role-play, as well as through independent practice sessions and coaching by educators, the programme seeks to provide tailored learning and behavioural support for the transition into Primary School. Ultimately, families are children’s first educators. There are some things that parents can do to prepare their children for primary school as well as to support their transition into primary school! Establish and implement a structured routine in the household Engage in play that develops children’s imagination and creativity, as well as problem-solving skills Encourage children to think about the world around them to develop their curiosity and inquisitiveness Instill a sense of responsibility (e.g., taking charge of their own belongings, helping with chores at home) Support adapting to new environment (e.g., going to school’s open house, showing pictures, talking through new timetables) Build a new community by supporting children to form new friendships, and assure them that teachers are there to help whenever necessary What if my child may not be ready for Primary School? In certain circumstances, if there is really a strong reason to do so, deferment from primary school is an option parents could consider. Deferment gives extra time for a child to narrow the gap and catch up with his/her peers; to parents, deferment also provides the opportunity for intensive early intervention for a chance to be on an equal starting line with the cohort. Shadow support services are another option for children who might require that additional push of learning and behavioural support in the school environment. Shadow support teachers are wonderful assets to children's learning experience in schools by facilitating engagement in lessons, mediating social interactions, managing emotional or behavioural regulation challenges, as well as providing additional academic support. Going to primary school is a BIG thing for a young child! As a developmental therapist, I take great joy in seeing children learn, grow, and thrive in supportive environments that hold space and time for them to explore. Joy of learning and healthy social-emotional development are most valuable to a child and will create the best memories of school for them to look back on. If you have any questions, or concerns about your child’s development, feel free to contact us at Shadow Advantage, it is our pleasure to support you and your child in this journey! References

  • Parent's Guide for Shadow Teacher

    When sending your children off to school, we expect them to develop and acquire academic and social skills and independence. Teachers help them to attain these skills and to have a better understanding of their world. They also teach them to understand social interaction, caring, sharing, and playing skills. Nevertheless, children have different paces of learning, with some requiring extra support to catch up with others: This is where a “Shadow Teacher” service is required. WHO IS A SHADOW TEACHER? A shadow support teacher is an individual who provides one on one support to students having difficulties to help in the development of their academic, social, and behavioral skills. He or she assists the student to better perform at some or all the activities throughout the school day. "The support needed is usually child-specific and never diagnosis-specific" A multi-disciplinary team is involved in deciding whether a child requires a shadow teacher or not. The team may include parents, school psychologists, regular teachers, and counselors. In addition, if the child is under IEP, the school staff or parents can request an IEP review to discuss additional needs and accommodations. WHAT ARE THE ROLES OF A SHADOW TEACHER? A shadow teacher plays a crucial role in helping your child thrive academically and socially. Let's explore the important functions they fulfill to ensure your child's progress and integration within a mainstream learning environment. Facilitating Social, Physical, and Educational Support: A shadow teacher regularly engages with your child, providing support across various domains. Their aim is to foster successful interactions and help your child achieve academic goals. By offering social, physical, and educational assistance, they empower your child to navigate the classroom environment with confidence. Promoting Independence and Inclusion: The ultimate objective of a shadow teacher is not to create dependency but to facilitate integration. They strive to help your child gradually become self-reliant within a standard classroom setup. In a mainstream classroom, where teachers cater to multiple students, a shadow teacher ensures your child receives the necessary attention to succeed. Enhancing Focus and Participation: With many distractions present in a classroom, a shadow teacher plays a vital role in keeping your child focused. They help your child actively participate in class activities, ensuring they make the most of their learning experience. By assisting your child in navigating distractions, they enable them to engage effectively and contribute to the class. Bridging Learning Gaps and Building Confidence: Collaborating with other teachers, a shadow teacher identifies and addresses any learning gaps your child may have. This targeted support leads to improved academic performance and increased confidence. Additionally, they provide instruction in social and communication skills, fostering positive interactions with peers and teachers alike. Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and Organization: In addition to academic and social support, a shadow teacher imparts essential social-emotional learning skills. They guide your child in preparing for class, organizing their materials, and developing a sense of responsibility. Effective communication between the shadow teacher and regular teachers ensures clarity and understanding of subjects. Encouraging Curiosity and Self-Control: A shadow teacher helps your child approach new tasks with a positive mindset and self-control. By teaching effective communication skills, they empower your child to ask questions and seek clarification. The shadow teacher assists your child in outdoor activities and encourages interaction with the broader world. FINAL THOUGHT: Recognizing the pivotal role of a shadow teacher in nurturing children's confidence and independence is key to their overall development. By providing essential support, a shadow teacher empowers children to actively participate in a regular classroom setting and unlock their full potential. To delve deeper into the benefits of shadow support and discover how it can positively impact your child's educational journey, visit our webpage at Join the Shadow Advantage Family: Shadow Advantage in Singapore is dedicated to helping children in both local and international schools thrive. Our comprehensive approach includes personalized support through home and school visits, expert para-educators, experienced shadow case managers, qualified teachers, and skilled para-remediators. With our collaborative efforts, we aim to create an inclusive environment where every child can excel academically and socially. For the best shadow support in Singapore, contact Shadow Advantage today. We specialize in tailoring our services to meet your child's unique needs, whether you're a teacher, an inclusive head from a school, or a parent. Our dedicated team of professionals is committed to empowering children and helping them reach their full potential. Don't hesitate to reach out and discover how we can make a difference in your child's educational journey. Contact details of Shadow Advantage:

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