Monday, 6 August 2018

Autism & Speech Therapy 2.0

Now that Finian is working his way through a block of Speech Therapy, it seems like a good time to re-visit it's impact on his autism (I wrote a post on ST before, but there's a lot to say about it).
I may have proposed that Speech Therapists are a bunch of drunken, pot-noodle lovers (I know quite a few of them at this stage) but this sense of fun and irreverence makes them ideal co-conspirators in the quest to improve the child's communication skills.  The best Speech Therapists work with the child, instead of delivering a one-way system of information that would inevitably be seen as an irritating chore and ignored.  Finian learns best with the singing, gluing, star-jumping, glitter wielding therapists who dive straight in and engage his sense of fun; work becomes a bit of craic and he is learning about uncomfortable abstracts while playing games and shooting the breeze.

But, if like most parents, you rely on the sporadic appointments doled out by the public health service, you have to treat each session like a small piece of high-quality chocolate when you're on a starvation diet.  You gotta pay attention and savour the moment.  It's a precious piece of learning.
By far the most important thing for a parent to do is not only attend the session in body (daydreaming about winning the lottery and eloping with Benedict Cumberbatch might be very pleasant, but you'll still leave the appointment penniless, Cumberbatch-less and none the wiser); the application of your spirit is vital.  The benefits of  Speech Therapy are not confined to a thirty minute session, where you go in, do your thing and ignore the lessons for the rest of your life.  It's like the catholic mass of therapies; you can't just throw on your Sunday best, commune with God for an hour and then piss in your neighbour's eye on the way out the door... it takes a bit more effort than rattling off a few prayers to save your soul.  What you learn from  your child's therapist needs to become a way of life.

After years of attending appointments and workshops, it's easy to become jaded by drip-fed information and painfully slow progress; it's easy to believe you've heard it all, played all the games  and jumped through all the hoops.
But it's always worth dredging up a little scrap of faith and optimism and attending appointments with your game-face on.  There is always new stuff to learn.
The block of SLT we're attending at the moment is  challenging Finian (not to mention myself) to consider abstract notions and intangibles, such as emotions and possible outcomes.  His efforts to avoid and disengage are pretty Herculean, but our therapist has clearly dealt with tougher cases than Finian before; she has an absolute wealth of tricks that blindside him into working unknown to himself.  She gives us just enough homework to keep his neurons fired up, and I'm not above using a little bribery to get the job done. My son would sell his soul for a couple of marshmallows.
It's really healthy, if uncomfortable, to be nudged out of complacency and to keep the spirit alive.  Stagnation isn't good for anyone's soul.

I'm not saying that a good Speech Therapist is the result of the genetic cross-over of a bead-wearing,  life-coach Buddhist and an alphabet Nazi... but if you find one who can wield glitter like a mofo while prodding your child out of his sleepy comfort zone, then you'd best pay attention in class.


  1. Glitter gets you places Jean! It's magic fairy dust I tell you.
    The attention autism stuff is fabulous. You should add Gina Davies on Facebook. She has loads of whacky and fun ways of teaching loads of functional skills. X

    1. I think if I was cut I'd bleed glitter. I'll look up said lady.... attention autism is a huge hit in Finian's school. Lovely to hear from you, you gorgeous thing. Love ya xxx