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Interview with Cathy Hyslop- an Early Childhood Developmental specialist from USA, Part II

19 July 2016

Cathy Hyslop is an Early intervention consultant from the Oregon University, USA. An excellent specialist, working with autistic children and their families.

How the parents can monitor the child development in the everyday life?

I think every parent worries about the development of their child at some point in their life. If you are concerned that your child is not developing a needed skill, this is your chance to find ways to practice and teach!  I find that the best way to do that is to look for natural opportunities in your daily life. If you are worried that your child doesn’t really communicate well with you look for opportunities in your day to practice this skill functionally. For example, if your child goes to your kitchen and waits for you to notice because they are hungry, see what they do if you go close to them but wait for them to shift their focus to you (by looking in your direction). This will help your child understand that they need to communicate in some simple way to YOU and not wait for you to guess what they want! If your child seems delayed in learning how to talk, I suggest that you experiment with saying only the single word that relates to the item that they want (like, “Cracker”). In this way, you are modeling the MOST important word for that interaction. In other words, try to keep your word models to a single word if your child has no words yet. Try NOT to ask a lot of questions that children often tune out or can’t yet answer. Adults often use TOO much language when talking to their children or giving directions and young children’s brains often have difficulty processing that much. This is sometimes why children say nothing at all!  If your child doesn’t respond to your efforts to teach these skills, seek help!

Cathy, you have been working for many years with children with autism spectrum disorders. According to you, what is the most important thing for parents to consider about autism spectrum disorders? What is the best advice you could give to parents dealing with such challenges?

If you suspect that your child is showing the warning signs of Autism, get help immediately!  Do NOT wait and see if  your child ‘grows out of it’. The most successful outcomes for children with Autism happen when parents get help early and when PARENTS learn how to understand and teach their child. Don’t wait until you get a medical diagnosis to seek out help! There are many effective strategies for teaching children with autism, including Pictures Exchange Communication, TEACCH, and Social Thinking. My recommendation is to focus on social skills and practical ‘daily living’ skills first! Be very careful when you look on the Internet for therapies and ideas. There are many quality interventions offered but there are also recommendations made that are not accurate. Also, what works for one child may not work for yours because every child is different. Whenever a therapy or program promises a CURE for your child’s Autism or charges a lot of money for their service, I am skeptical. One more piece of advice is NOT to start too many programs or therapies at once. You will exhaust yourself and your child. I know that parents are anxious to find just the right answer to fix their child’s delays but learning and developing skills takes time, whether you have a disability or not! If you do everything at once, you will NOT really know what is making the difference. Educate yourself about autism, read about and ask your doctor about the risks involved (like with vitamin therapies or Hyperbaric therapy), listen to advice from others but make your decision based on what feels most appropriate for you and your child.