When facing the prospect of formulating a plan of action to teach skills to individuals with developmental delays, one of the most common difficulties is knowing where to start.
Dr. James W. Partington and Scott W. Partington, M.A., have written the book, Success on the Spectrum - How to Teach Skills to Individuals with Autism, part of The Teach Your Children Well® Series. This practical guide to effective teaching for parents and educators alike offers insight regarding how we can best help individuals diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or other developmental delays. The Partingtons’ goal is to help those who find themselves in key support roles (be it a parent, educator, caregiver, or otherwise) by providing them with the practical, research-based tools they need to make an impact in the life of an individual with autism.
While each parent of a child with autism has the care and motivation to help their child learn essential skills for daily living, it’s often the case that the majority of folks do not know where to begin when it comes to helping their child learn everyday skills that we might otherwise take for granted. If that describes your own situation, rest easy, because we at Partington Behavior Analysts will provide you with the “technical skills” of teaching. We’ve found that in most instances, parents can easily teach developing children a wide range of skills without having undergone any formal training.
Though it’s a process that isn’t without its fair share of “bumps in the road,” we are confident our readers will agree that being able to utilize these research-based methods is well worth whatever difficulty that may arise along the way. Simply put, learning how to teach skills is critical to helping someone you love to get the most out of life. While the work that credentialed educators of students with autism perform is nothing less than invaluable, the teaching of skills must become everyone’s responsibility if the chief priority is well and truly achieving the best possible outcome for your loved one with autism.
With that responsibility in mind, we are excited to begin a dedicated series in which we highlight various insights which can be found in Success on the Spectrum. Today’s piece concerns understanding why parents play a crucial role in the development of basic skills for a child with autism.
Why Parents Should Be Proactively Involved
Perhaps you’ve arrived here because you are in need of guidance. Your child has recently been diagnosed as being on the spectrum, and you aren’t sure where to begin. Fortunately, you’ve found a resource that specializes in providing digestible yet effective autism education for parents, without forgetting educators, caretakers, or those operating in the medical field.
Regardless of how you came here, it’s vital to have a plan that coincides with the learner’s framework of teaching services. Most children in developed countries receive some degree of professional aid, but we’ve found that such services are often insufficient if we remember that the ultimate aim is to provide every opportunity for the learner to live their best life. This is what leads us to say that parents shouldn’t “leave it to the professionals,” and call it good.
Though most every child (or adult) with autism will receive guidance from numerous professionals, the parents will inevitably oversee and coordinate the information received on behalf of the child. It’s not unfair to say that a parent’s ability to organize and reinforce the life skills taught by professionals will be critical to the learner’s capacity to integrate said skills into everyday life.
Further, autism educators, while remaining an integral part of the development of the learner, do not have the same degree of access to the child’s life as that of a parent. It’s not at all uncommon to hear of professionals who are able to teach a learner an important life skill, but they fail to realize the impact that the newly-learned skill might have on the learner’s overall development.
More generally, parents know their child better than any professional, not only because they are flesh and blood, but because parents interact with their children on a daily basis. The regular opportunity to teach and reinforce skills to their child is unmatched. For these reasons, a parent or caregiver should be an active participant in the learning process.
It’s Never Too Early Or Too Late To Start
We will write more on this in articles to come, but for now, we want you to be encouraged by the fact that it genuinely is never too soon or too late to begin teaching a learner new skills which will benefit them for life. The research demonstrates that if young children receive early intervention, many will be able to attend regular education programs and acquire the same skills as children who are not diagnosed with ASD. (Lovaas, 1987; Sallow & Graupner, 2005). Conversely, if a learner is an adolescent or adult who wasn’t able to receive professional, specialized education, an individual with autism can still learn new skills, regardless of age.
So take heart! And take heed of the guidance that is to come in the coming weeks and months. We look forward to being able to provide you with the practical knowledge required to make a tangible impact on the life of a loved one with autism.