Pathways Developmental Learning Center

Modalities

I prefer to provide consultation for programs that are developmental, dynamic, holistic (‘big picture thinking’, I am), functional and home-based. Let’s clarify what these terms actually mean, shall we?

Developmental- Many programs claim to be ‘developmental’, when in fact they are not. Developmental means we are starting at a place that is on the cusp of where the child (or adult with developmental challenges) is already functioning. We don’t necessarily start with skills that are age-appropriate if the person does not have the competence or ability to use the skills that should have developed along the way. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is the human brain. In terms of developmental processes, I also prefer to look at function and efficiency.

Holistic & Dynamic – I see the child as a member of a family, who is then a member of a community. The child does not stand alone and the family’s needs (including parents and siblings) should not be disregarded when creating a treatment plan. Parents are faced with many challenges when raising a child with special needs. Children with autism and other disorders may also have problems with medical conditions, sleep disorders, sensory processing issues or other issues that arise as they develop. A program should be balanced and may need to be adjusted at any point in time to address the most pressing issue first, while supporting the child’s development and the family’s healthy functioning as much as possible. Isolating skills out of context with the child’s overall development is also not generally helpful to functional outcomes in quality of life. Using neurodevelopmental and/or relationship-based programming, my goal is to support areas of the child’s development which may overlap or be interdependent. If the child is receiving medical treatment or therapies from other providers, I take this into consideration when working with the family to create an optimal treatment plan.

Functional Remediation – I prefer to address functional cognitive processes as opposed to discrete teaching of skills. The rationale for this is if we can teach the child to think, then we don’t have to teach every skill under the sun. Also if we get to the root of inefficient processing (whether that processing is sensory or cognitive), then we can address several ‘problem behaviors’ simultaneously – as the underlying cause of those ‘behaviors’ is being addressed. Remediation can occur on different levels,  such as remediation of inefficient sensory systems, motor output and/or integration (multi-tasking), as well as remediation of thinking patterns that tend to be more linear and ‘static’, interfering with communication, flexibility and creative thinking.

Home-based- This one is pretty self-explanatory; I prefer to offer programs that teach principles that parents can implement throughout the day, for maximum progress. If an individual is not living with parents, but instead is in an assisted living situation, caregivers can be trained to implement components of the program in the natural environment. I don’t believe anyone is more invested in a child’s well-being than his parents, therefore parents are a critical component to optimal remediation.

Programs which I use to assist families in remediation of autism and other developmental disabilities are:

Relationship Development Intervention (RDI)

RDI is a parent training curriculum designed to reinstate the “Emotional Feedback System” that is so often lacking in the parent-child relationship with individuals on the autism spectrum. Though this program was designed specifically for autism spectrum disorders, it really is a program focused on providing optimal opportunities for children to develop competence in dynamic problem-solving. The goal of the RDI program is to reinstate parent competence while teaching children to be thoughtful, reflective, contributing members of society – in other words RDI is a program which aims to break ‘good parenting’ strategies down into steps for parents of children who are not responding to current parenting strategies. Parenting children with autism and other severe developmental challenges can be especially difficult because the child may not be responsive to nonverbal social cues which typical children use for soothing, AND parents may not realize that they are holding the child at an inappropriate developmental level (which results in overload, shutdown, stress responses, behavior problems, etc.). Through parent education and analysis of parent-child relationship patterns, parents can significantly alter the way they relate to their children with special needs. This, in effect, creates lasting positive changes in the child and in the dynamics of the family. The RDI program was developed by Dr. Steven Gutstein and Dr. Rachelle Sheely, both psychologists. The RDI program website is www.rdiconnect.com.

Holistic Approach to NeuroDevelopment & Learning Efficiency (HANDLE)

The HANDLE program was developed by Judith Bluestone, a woman who used her own experiences with autistic tendencies and significant physical and developmental challenges to get to the root of puzzling behaviors. HANDLE was developed out of decades of research based on the fields of rehabilitation and neuroscience. The program was validated in a study involving 5 adult brain-injured patients, published in the July 2006 Journal of NeuroImaging. The HANDLE approach has been extremely helpful for understanding individuals’ responses to demands placed on them, regardless of the labels applied. HANDLE is not specific to any one disorder, but instead provides a path to neurorehabilitation which leads to reduction in behavioral symptoms associated with learning disabilities, attentional challenges, autism spectrum disorders, ‘oppositional defiance’, and other disorders. The HANDLE Institute is based in Seattle, Washington and their website is www.handle.org.

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