SUBSCRIBE BY RSS rss feed | EMAIL
Natural Solutions Radio header image

A Growing Hope for Autism Recovery

Elizabeth Burton Scott
03.21.10

An alarming new statistic is that one in 91 children are diagnosed with autism. Parents are searching to learn what they can do to help their child. The Autism Recovery Manual of Skills and Drills includes easy-to-understand and simple-to-follow suggestions for early learning activities that promote a young child’s development. Each Skill and Drill is enhanced by a picture that illustrates the activity.

The manual contains 90 Skills and Drills including all of the original 78 Skills and Drills that were used with Roman that led him to a full recovery from 45 symptoms of autism. The original 78 Skills and Drills that were used in my book Raindrops on Roman have been enhanced and expanded upon, along with many new activities to encourage a child’s development.

The Autism Recovery Manual of Skills and Drills was written for parents, teachers, and therapists because the recovery that Roman experienced needed to be shared. Roman received occupational therapy services three times a week for one hour. During his sessions, the therapist worked on many skills and activities to promote early learning development. As a parent, I too wanted to help Roman develop. I asked what I should do with Roman during the week and she suggested thinking of things to keep him occupied and focused. I did not have an organized program of activities to follow, so I thought of different activities to work on everything that Roman could not do or was afraid to do.

Because there were so many activities, I began to write them down so I would not forget. I compiled a list of these Skills and Drills and eventually created a program for him. These were expanded and enhanced to create The Autism Recovery Manual of Skills and Drills to be used by parents, teachers, and therapists as a wonderful resource for activities to do with their child. Parents should understand that this is a partnership between them and their therapist to benefit their child. Therapy does not stop once the session ends, a multitude of activities may be encouraged throughout each day.

Skills and Drills is a preschool and kindergarten education program that helps to develop the whole child. A child with autism benefits from being involved in a purposeful activity or meaningful play that keeps his mind focused and occupied from engaging in repetitive or negative behaviors or retreating into his own world. The Skills and Drills Program includes activities that encourage development in language, sensory motor, fine motor, gross motor, concept skills, self-care, and activities for daily living. Each Skill and Drill is divided into four parts: Explanation of the Skill, Develops and Improves, Suggested Dialogue, and Additional Activities. These are multi-sensory tasks to develop and stimulate the brain and senses.

An example of a fine motor skill from the manual is the Easel activity: #54 Easel

Have the child color and scribble while standing at an easel. Draw a circle, square, and triangle, and vertical, horizontal, and squiggly lines, and have him copy them. Ask him to draw a specific shape. Use a hand-over-hand approach to trace a shape if the child does not attempt to copy the shape.

Develops/Improves: Strengthens postural control and visual motor skills needed for writing activities.

Suggested Dialogue: Give the child verbal cues while he is copying a line or a shape. For a vertical line say, “The line goes down;” for a circle, “The circle goes around;” and for a triangle, “The line goes up the hill, down the hill, and across.”

Additional Activities:

  • Use large stencils to draw a circle, square, triangle, and simple objects.
  • Have the child connect dots to draw a vertical or horizontal line and connect the dots to draw a square or triangle.
  • Show him how to draw or paint simple pictures using shapes: sun, house, animal, snowman, smiley face, flowers, trees, or ice cream cone (upside down triangle with a circle on top).
  • Encourage the child to color within the lines of a picture.
  • Use playground chalk to teach beginning grasping skills on a chalkboard easel.

The manual explains the techniques and approaches the parent, teacher, or therapist should implement in order to execute an effective Skills and Drills program. It includes: Set Up, CRS Plan, MEEP approach, Practical Time Frames, Transitions, Table Time/Floor Time, Encouraging Eye Contact, Focusing Ability, Stimming, Hand Over Hand Assistance, Overcoming Fears, and Self-Care/Activities of Daily Living. Every child’s needs are different, but these guidelines apply to all children regardless of their particular challenges. 

It is necessary that a parent commits to a CRS plan: consistency, repetition, and structure. Consistency is repeating the Skills and Drills everyday, and it needs to be done in a structured environment such as a home or preschool setting. The MEEP Approach (Model, Engage, Encourage, Praise) is implementing a four-step process with each skill. Model the activity you want the child to do. Help him engage in the activity. Encourage him while doing the activity, and give lots of praise and cheers once the activity is completed.

Designate practical time frames to work with the child. Parents, teachers, or therapists should work with the child with autism as often as their schedule permits. The more time spent on meaningful and structured activities and play, the greater the improvement.

Many children with autism do something called stimming. This self-stimulatory behavior reduces sensory overload and/or can stimulate a child’s senses. When a child begins to stim, transition him using countdowns from the stimming activity and replace the behavior with something positive, such as a toy, or begin clapping or singing to distract or redirect him to a purposeful activity.

Parents can incorporate many of the Skills and Drills into the activities of daily living, such as dressing, mealtime, bath time, riding in the car, and bedtime routines. The child can be actively engaged in purposeful activity or meaningful play while the parent is doing household chores.

Benefits of Skills and Drills:

  • This manual includes easy-to-understand and simple-to-follow suggestions for meaningful fun activities that promote a young child’s development.
  • Teaching children between the ages of one and five is extremely beneficial because a child’s brain is so amenable to learning.
  • Mastering these skills will enable a child to be confident and excited about learning and will ease many frustrations or anxieties.
  • Parents, therapists, and teachers can select which Skills and Drills best fit the child’s developmental needs.
  • The program will enhance a child’s intellectual and learning capabilities and provide them with a desire to learn.
  • Every child will benefit from an early learning program of consistency, repetition, and structure.
  • There are minimal costs for the toys and supplies needed for Skills and Drills, which can be purchased at local stores in your community.
  • Kindergarten and preschool teachers of typical children can implement the Skills and Drills into their centers. They can integrate them into their lesson plans as a way to offer a different approach to activities, and these activities can be used with any child’s learning style.

The purpose of the Skills and Drills program is to teach children how to sit, focus, follow directions, learn, and master a variety of basic developmental skills and engage in purposeful activity and meaningful play in a structured environment. These skills and techniques apply to all preschool children, whether they are a typical child or a child who has ADD, ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, autism, and differently-abled children. For the child with autism, getting your child to master many of these skills will be a giant step towards significant improvement.

A one-to-one intensive early intervention program will be beneficial to the child’s developmental progress. Many children may not improve quickly or obtain full recovery, but if you take the time to work with a child on a daily basis, using a consistent, repetitive, and structured program such as Skills and Drills, a child may achieve his fullest potential. We believe this is success!

In celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Day, January 18, 2010 was the official publication date of Autism Recovery Manual of Skills and Drills: A Preschool and Kindergarten Education Program for Parents, Teachers, and Therapists. Dr. King had a dream of racial reconciliation, and Scott and Gillis have a dream for all children to have the opportunity to achieve their fullest potential.

The manual can be purchased at the website www.autismprayer.com, www.rdrpublishers.com, and can also be purchased at all local bookstores and amazon.com.

— Elizabeth Burton Scott, MA, from Cedar Hill, Texas has a Master’s degree in elementary education, and taught second and third grades for seven years. With her professional skills she persevered in leading her son Roman through his early childhood years to recover from 45 symptoms of autism. She has published her story about their journey in her book, Raindrops on Roman: Overcoming Autism: A Message of Hope.