Kalmanson is proponent of a different approach called DIR, which stands for developmental individual difference relationship based treatment. “In the DIR approach we are interested in the internal capacity of the child. This treatment is focused very much on work with the child and helping the parents to understand the child’s individual developmental profile”. She says each child with autism has different needs, and any treatment program should be geared toward that individuality. “Some children with autism need and alternative form of communication like sign, or a device. Other children can speak very well; some of them can talk to you till the cows come home, but what they say is not meaningful in a back and forth interaction”. Once the child’s strengths and needs are determined parents are taught how to interact with their children in floor-time exercises. It’s essentially purposeful, meaningful playtime.
Maquel Evans has learned the art of that kind of play with her son Stockton. Stockton was diagnosed with autism a year ago, at the age of two. At that time, he was unable to communicate verbally, and was not interested in imaginary play. Maquel was concerned about his developmental delays and devastated by the diagnosis. “The last year has been emotional. I always assume the worst. I had to come to terms with the idea that he might never go to college, might never get married that he might be dependent on his parents for the rest of his life.” Maquel looked into ABA treatment, but it was costly, tens of thousands of dollars a year. It was also too regimented approach for Maquel. DIR was a good fit. She was trained by a therapist at The Children’s Center. She learned how to read her sons’ cues so that she would know when she was facilitating learning, and when she was creating barriers because of her son’s unique disabilities.
Lori Krasny, the Speech Therapist assigned to the Evans family explains it this way: “What we do is look at where this child is functioning solidly, and where he has holes almost like Swiss cheese, and we want to try to bridge those holes so that we can bring all of this development up”. She says the parent is the perfect person to do this because they are fully vested in the child is the most invested in the relationship with the parent. “The parents are with the child all day long, when it dinner time, or bath time, or sitting on the floor for five minutes or even driving the car. Their interactions with their child are a match and so it’s all therapeutic”.
It has also proven to be highly effective with Stockton. His mother says” I don’t’ want to say that he’s completely conversational, but he communicates perfectly with us. He tells us what he wants, he questions, he even creates his own problems, he like to joke and play and he’s just my little boy now”.
To find out more call the Children’s Center at (801) 582-5534 or call Baby Watch at 1-800-961-4226.
You can also find out more at www.utahbabywatch.org.
Early intervention services include therapists trained in DIR intervention.