Sunday, 16 September 2012

First day at the Treating Autism Conference 2012

updated: 16, September 2012.

We had a great time at the Treating Autism conference 2012 which was held on the 8 and 9 September 2012 at Brunel University, Uxbridge. We caught up with a lot of old friends, many of which we had previously met at the Son-Rise workshops. We also made a few new friends who have gone though a similar journey as ours and were trying out different therapies with varying successes.

One the first day we went for the Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) workshop which was delivered by Risca Solomon and Lynsey Herdman from Skybound Autism Therapies. We had the choice of going to either the Intensive Interaction (II), Relationship Development Intervention (RDI), or the Verbal Behaviour (ABA/VB) therapy workshops. As we have read (and heard) a lot of good things about ABA, we decided to go and learn more about this therapy. We found it quite interesting and even though we still believe that the Son-Rise programme is still the best for Imaan, there were a lot of things we could take back from the workshop.

ABA still is a very much adult led programme (led by experts) but we realised that the way ABA is currently practised is quite different from the way it used to be practised a few years back. There is less of the rigidity which led to "robotic" like behaviour. There were also several similarities with Son-Rise. They use a term called "manding" which refers to requesting and also highlighted the importance of imitation and motivation, which are quite important in Son-Rise as well.

Another term they used was "pairing" which is similar to joining in Son-rise and they emphasised the importance of building rapport and resisting the urge to try to teach. However, we personally felt that ABA could probably work much better if they incorporate an important principle of Son-rise, namely, "Having Fun" with your child. I doubt that it would be useful with kids with severe autism who are locked away in their World and resist social interactions. Moreover, I am not really keen on their favourite form of reward - sweets. Not a good idea for kids with autism. I would prefer to use social rewards or reinforcers including tickles, massages, etc. Having said that, ABA could be perfect once we have kids who are already connected and are willing to learn new things - kids who are in stage 3-4 of the Son-Rise programme. I know of a lot of parents who get stuck at this stage and wonder what to do next.

They also highlighted the importance of keeping notes and data on each specific target behaviour throughout the programme so that we can keep track of our progress. Furthermore, these can be used as evidence when we apply for funding from the local councils.

During the lunch break, we also met Linda Scotson as well as Lily and Doran. It was also nice to meet up with Dr. Ursula, another homoeopath we had seen previously. We were really looking forward to her lecture on Cease therapy the following day.

After the workshops, we had really interesting presentations from Tamara Kimelman, who successfully recovered  her granddaughter Aurele, who once had severe autism. The former Russian computer engineer talked about how her life was completely changed after her granddaughter regressed and became severely autistic at the age of 17 months. At the end of the presentation, Tamara showed us a video of Aurele enjoying herself at a mainstream school with friends. This was really heart warming and we have no doubt that one day Imaan would be playing with friends and performing at school plays as well.

Tamara was followed by a presentation by Lucinda Miller, who gave an brief introduction to various biomedical treatments and basics of improving the overall health of children with autism. She called on the  father (I can't recall his name) of a child with autism whom Lucinda had successfully recovered. The father delivered a glowing testimonial of how Lucinda had helped them as well as sharing his experiences. We were all appalled when he recalled how his child was nearly taken from him by child services for using biomedical treatments. This thing is really happening in the UK. Thank God, the judge dealing with their case was open minded and ultimately allowed them to keep their kid.

We went back looking forward to the presentations from the experts on the following day.

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