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4 UPCOMING PEPSM WORKSHOPS • Autism: Theory and Treatments • Managing the Behaviorally Challenged Child • Sensory Integration • Oral Motor and Feeding Issues in Early Intervention Clients • Language Development in Toddlers and Preschoolers Look for our PEPSM brochure in the mail or call Sonia at 718-339-9700, ext. 228. Cont’d from page 3 with normal or near-normal intelligence and those who develop language tend to have the best outcomes. Many seem to go through developmental spurts, spontaneously begin- ning  to  talk,  play  with  toys,  function  so- cially and tolerate change in routine. RESPONDING TO THE DISORDER Applied Behavioral Therapy, pioneered by  Dr.  O.  Ival  Lovass  more  than  25  years ago, is a form of intensive, highly repetitive teaching that breaks learning into tiny in- cremental  tasks,  each  one  reinforced  with positive  rewards.  Whereas  most  children learn from their environments, children with autism need to be taught even the simplest things, like responding to their names, mak- ing  and  keeping  eye  contact,  and  sitting still.  The  process  is  strict,  labor-intensive and  excruciatingly  time  consuming.  It  can take days or weeks to learn a task as simple as pointing and years to learn language. Sensory Integration is the normal neuro- logical   process   of   the   brain   organizing sensory information, specifically the proprio- ceptive, vestibular and tactile systems, in or- der for humans to function optimally in their environment. The theory, first introduced by A. Jean Ayers, Ph.D., OTR, recognizes that many of the vestibular behaviors exhibited by chil- dren with autism, such as swinging, rocking, and even biting and hit- ting,   may   be   chemical stress relievers that help them  achieve  a  calmer neurological   state   and that  deep  pressure  ac- tivities tend to enhance their proprioceptive awareness. Research also suggests that the vestibu- lar system may be directly linked to the lan- guage system. Since language is a social tool, failure of the vestibular system may prevent a person with autism from learning language. Autistic children may be hypersensitive to light and sound, or may be tactile defen- sive  –  hypersensitive  to  being  touched  or having people in their space. Practitioners frequently modify behavior and environment in order to maximize the potential of people with  autism.  However,  there  isn’t  one  an- swer to address the wide spectrum of symp- toms.   Often   the   therapist   must   make modifications   on   a   case-by-case   basis.  A recent  survey  indicates  that  occupational therapists who work primarily in school sys- tems  most  often  use  sensory  integration approaches with the children they treat. REPORTED BREAKTHOUGH On January 15, 2003, CBS 60 Minutes II ran a short program on a new research foun- dation called Cure Autism Now, CAN. Estab- lished  by  Jon  Shestak  and  his  wife  Portia Iversen, who have an autistic son, Dov, CAN is presently the largest private supporter of autism research in the country, funding sev- eral hundred scientists working on the genes responsible   for   the   disorder.  The   program focused on their most recent breakthrough. One of their students, Tito Mukhopadhayay, is a 14 year old boy who, like   Dov,   suffers   from the most severe form of autism.  Tito   is   almost mute and has little con- trol over his body. How- ever,   unlike   Dov   and other   autistic   children,   he   can   write   elo- quently and independently. His teacher and “miracle  worker”  is  his  mother,  Soma.  For the past 11 years, she has been talking, teach- ing, prodding and stimulating, keeping Tito’s mind on track. She has taught him literature, geometry and music. She tied a pencil to his finger with a rubber band and taught him to write.  Her  “Rapid  Prompting  Method”  ap- proach,  which  she  recently  started  imple- menting   at   CAN,   keeps   the   children‘s attention focused long enough for them to communicate. She ignores their erratic move- ment and wandering eyes and focuses rather on the mind locked inside. Dov’s  parents  were  astonished  at  their son’s progress. “From a boy who six weeks earlier  couldn’t  even  tie  his  shoe  suddenly came full sentences, complex thoughts and words spelled correctly. ‘The best way I could put this is it seemed like I was seeing the kid that had disappeared seven years before.’” Dov says that all those years, when people thought he was lost in his own world, he was actually listening to everything around him. He  says  he  is  much  happier  now  because now “I can tell others my feelings.” Children with autism need to be taught even the simplest things, like responding to their names…