By Annette Pinder
Growing up in Brooklyn, there was a child on ourstreet who was different. She didn’t talk, and seemed to be off in her ownworld, as our moms whispered, “She’s autistic.” I found a book at the local library on the topic and secretlyyearned to reach this child, but unfortunately never had the opportunity.
So years later, it seemed fitting when my daughter,now 25, made the decision to work with children diagnosed with autism and othercommunication disorders. It is also a topic no longer discussed in hushedtones, because today one in 110 children in America have an autism spectrumdisorder, males are four times more likely to have it, and early intervention isessential.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), is the most commontherapy today that has been proven to effectively help children learn skillsranging from making eye contact and following simple instructions, todeveloping advanced language and social-skills. But new developmental interventions are emerging, as ABA has comeunder some criticism for producing ‘robot-like’ behavior in children, and forits use of punishment to reduce or eliminate problem behavior.
One program that is gaininf attention as analternative to ABA is Floortime, developed by Dr. Stanley Greenspan. A renownedleader in autism education, Greenspan worked with many young children diagnosedwith the disorder. Now older, these children are said to be fullycommunicative, creative, warm, loving, and joyful. Anecdotal evidence alsosuggests that parents whose children experienced Floortime found it to beeffective.
Floortime meets a child at his or her developmentallevel, and builds upon their strengths. Child-focused, with the parent ortherapist following the child's lead, Floortime incorporates playful positiveattention while tuning in to the child's interests. Its premise is thatchildren learn skills from relationships they have with their caregivers andother significant people in their lives. Through interactive child-directedplay and experiences children ‘want’ to relate to the outside world.
Recently, when I observed Floortime at BuffaloHearing & Speech Center (BHSC), a young boy jumped up from the circle ofseated children during a lesson enthusiastically pointing to a chart of facialfeatures. Instead of reprimanding the child for speaking out of turn, theinstructor immediately seized upon the opportunity to engage the child, therebyincreasing his desire to verbalize and interact socially. And it worked!
BHSC offers Floortime to children ages 3 to 7years, who are eligible, and CEO Joseph Cozzo, is enthusiastic about theresults. He explains, “Education is tailored to meet the specific needs of eachchild and family, and program funding is provided by the NYS EducationDepartment and the County. Classes operate five full days a week combiningindividual, small, and large group activities. The classroom team consists ofstaff trained and educated in Floortime. A multidisciplinary team provides services, including speech languagepathology, special education, occupational therapy, social work, and musictherapy. Physical therapy is included if required on a child's IndividualizedEducational Plan (IEP).
Cozzo also wants parents to know about BHSC’soutpatient social communication program for children ages 5-18 with AutismSpectrum Disorder, and encourages them to make an appointment to observe theGreenspan/Floortime and the outpatient programs by calling 885-8318. To learnmore visit www.stanleygreenspan.com.
Buffalo Hearing & SpeechCenter is headquartered at 50 E. North Street in Buffalo with additionallocations in Amherst, West Seneca, Fredonia, and Wheatfield. Visit www.askbhsc.org to learnmore.