ML, the youngest child with two older siblings, reached his significant milestones like expected till he reached a year old. When he turned 2.5 however, there were noticeable delays in his development. At 3.8, he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Later on, at 6.5, his diagnosis was PDD-NOS Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified.

Before he was given intervention after the first diagnosis, he exhibited the following behavior:

  • echolalia
  • receptive language at 12 – 15 months
  • expressive language at 9 – 12 months
  • inconsistent eye contact and negative joint attention
  • poor sitting and attention span
  • poor balance and fine motor skills
  • no approach-request skills
  • hyposensitive
  • experiences diarrhea and has foul smelling stool
  • gross motor skills like walking, jumping, swinging, climbing and running have difficulty

The following steps were undertaken for ML by his parents after the first diagnosis:

  1. “Traditional” intervention services: Occupational and Speech Therapy services
  2. Researched about autism and joined support groups
  3. Other intervention methods

In details, the following were the services that ML went through (and is still going through):

Traditional (what are usually being recommended by developmental pediatricians) intervention methods:

Non-traditional intervention methods:

ML these days at 8.8 years old: continue reading this entry »

A lot of people do not give importance to music as a way to to teach children with special needs.

One of the things I enjoyed when I was still teaching preschool was to include music in the day to day curriculum. There are songs to make the kids get up and play, there are songs that teach learning concepts, there are songs that helps them pack away the materials they used such as there are songs that signals the class is ending in a bit and we have to say good-byes.

I have to say that though I have very limited musical ability when it comes to playing musical instruments during those times when I was still teaching the young ones, I know that did not deter me from enjoying music with them then. I just wish I paid more attention when I was taking piano lessons when I was way younger.

Teaching children about music (and also how to play various musical instruments) is a good way for them to learn a lot of things:

  • they learn to listen
  • they learn to feel the rhythm, the beat, the essence
  • they learn to be more sensitive in listening to others especially if they have to play musical instruments with others
  • they move to the beat of the music
  • they are able to distinguish similarities and differences for say for example, ultra light acoustic guitar strings or nylon strings

Music is a good learning tool and when properly used, can be a big help for the children with special needs.

Here are a few samples of songs to teach for children with special needs. 

A is for Autism

Autism is classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder that can be diagnosed during early childhood and is characterized by three major signs/symptoms:

1. communication problems
2. problems with social interaction
3. repetitive, restricted and stereotyped behaviors

There are different types and range of autism according to DSM IV-TR or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Classical autism is considered as “severe” because of the inability of children diagnosed with this as having no or low eye contact, facial expression and use of gestures and body language to communicate, among other characteristics. Spoken language is severely delayed or not developed at all. There is a preoccupation to one object or part of that object like a certain toy car’s wheel.

If a child has very delayed or showed no attempts with communicating with others, it is best that he/she is brought to a specialist.

Autism spectrum disorder or ASD on the other hand is considered a “milder” form of autism. A child diagnosed with ASD has the ability to develop his/her language, self-help and cognitive skills but needs help in several areas of development like: developing social interactions, adjusting to changes in routine and rituals, emotional reciprocity and being able to share interests with peers.

PDD-NOS or Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Other Specified is a diagnosis that cuts across the two previously mentioned conditions. DSM IV-TR lists that: PDD-NOS is a type of childhood developmental disorder which forms part of the group of Autistic Spectrum disorders. (ASD) This group also includes Classical Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. The diagnosis of PDD-NOS is one of exclusion, made when a toddler or child clearly has a Pervasive Developmental Disorder but the symptoms and signs do not comply with the Diagnostic Criteria for any of the other ASD’s (or childhood psychiatric disorders).

Autism and Communication

Children with autism have difficulties in talking to or expressing themselves using words the way other children do. There are those who usually “keep to themselves” and are able to communicate with devices.

These children can’t usually “connect” or easily understand the underlying language symbolisms which include non-verbal language cognition and the more advanced skills like pragmatics and listening. They usually respond to short and easily understandable instructions rather than long complicated ones. Their names will be called but they do not look at the person calling them.

They react differently in situations like when there’s a thunderstorm or a certain part of a tv/radio commercial or song being played.

Social Interaction

Due to these children’s difficulties in communicating with others, they have a hard time making friends, start conversations and “get” the humor behind jokes.

Repetitive, Restricted and/or Stereotyped Behavior

They thrive in routine like putting socks on the right foot first and not the other way around. They do repetitive behavior like banging or clapping. In some of those classified as having classical autism, these children manifest hand-flapping, rocking back and forth, turning things around over and over among other things.

The number used to be much bigger but these days, it is said that autism affects 1 child in every 150 children.

Scientists are still baffled as to the cause of this condition for one because of the complexity of the human brain.. Some believe that some of the brain connections that have something to do with communication, emotions and certain behaviors affecting social interactions do not develop as it should.

There are instances of sibling or cousins with autism.

How to Deal with Autism continue reading this entry »

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