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aut_awareness_monthAutism is the fastest growing developmental disorder in the U.S. It is having a major impact on society, including child care, education, and teens and young adults in transition seeking employment. This is the third in a series of posts that will appear on this blog about this important topic.

By Chris Simler & James Emmett  

     As if raising any foster child isn’t difficult enough, some parents, fortunately, are willing to take in or adopt children with special needs, such as autism. Autism is a complex disorder that affects the development of social and communication skills. It appears in early childhood, although it is sometimes diagnosed much later. At Integrated Behavioral Systems (www.integratedbehavioralsystems.com), we have developed a model to help understand and support children with autism. We call it the “Three S’s.” They are:

1)      Structure;

2)      Social Communication; and

3)      Sensory Integration.

  When effectively put into practice, the three S’s translate into positive behavior. This article examines this key behavioral model.

1) Structure

     Many children with autism thrive on structure and need this consistency to be successful. Conversely, when there is downtime, youth with autism have difficulty knowing what to do. As a result, we recommend that foster families implement as much structure in the home as possible. Since most children with autism are visual learners, a visual/object schedule should be used along with a written, daily routine to reduce the amount of downtime. Each activity should have a picture or word to coincide with it.

2) Social Communication

     The three ways an individual with autism can best speak up (i.e. advocate) for himself/herself in any situation is to: Ask for help; Say, “I don’t understand”; and “Request a break.”

3) Sensory Integration

     Many youth with autism experience Sensory Integration Disorder. This means that the person’s central nervous system is unable to effectively acclimate itself to daily environmental stimulation. However, learning is directly affected by an individual’s ability to take in, sort, and integrate sensory information. As a result, a child with sensory problems becomes over-stimulated, unfocused, and unable to perform the desired task.

 This blog post serves as a primer to the training on this topic that Chris and James wrote for the “Foster Care Support Network” (FCSN). For more information about FCSN training for foster parents, check out the Impact Facebook link at the right-hand side of this page, and/or visit the ‘Foster Care Training” tab at www.impact-publications.com

Christopher Simler is the Chief Executive Officer and Autism Consultant for Integrated Behavioral Systems, Inc. He is trained as an Applied Behavioral Scientist in the field of autism. James Emmett is a Disability Consultant and Chief Operating Officer of Integrated Behavioral Systems. James is an individual with a disability and a parent of two daughters with disabilities. For more information, contact Chris at christoble@sbcglobal.net or James at emmettx4@aol.com.