Dr. Moshe Shtuhl and Mr. Joshua Metz from Family Compass, a psychological services organization in Reston, VA, talk about their autism treatment program, Together for Success. In addition to describing their program, we speak about how they utilize an idea called “contextual thinking” to help children with autism and their parents interact more effectively.
After discussing some of their program’s theoretical underpinnings, they outline a number of strategies that involve “contextual thinking,” which, fundamentally, is the abililty to understand what is being said or is happening around you – the context, and being able to flexibly respond, behaviorally or verbally, as that context changes.
For example, if you say to someone, “I’m cold,” and she says, “It’s the hottest day ever,” how do you adjust your response to what may have been an unexpected comment.
This conceptual framework is the scaffolding for the many techniques they use to help children and parents improve the length and complexity of their back and forth interactions, thus increasing the child’s (and parent’s) skill set to have more engaging and fruitful relationships.
In this episode, they describe how to “follow a child’s lead” – how to join a child in play or interaction, even if it what they are doing doesn’t look like play.
Dr. Shtuhl and Mr. Metz leverage children with autism’s abililties to notice changes in sound and movement to bolster interactions. You’ll hear them demonstrate how pairing a sound with a hand movement can get a child’s attention and lead to more back and forth interactions.
They discuss how to “dial up” or “dial down” the expectations for the amount of and quality of responses from a child, adjusting the “contextual load” of interactions, in order to get in synch and help a child progress.
Also, they’ll demonstrate how to interfere with what a child is doing in a playful way, using, what they call “playful obstructions”.
I’d love to have your feedback about what you heard, if you have any comments or questions, what you’d like to hear more of from Dr. Shtuhl and Mr. Metz, and if you have any other topics or guests you’d like to hear on the show. Please use the contact form below or email me at Mark@NurturePodcast.com
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Links to some of the topics mentioned in the show:
Music: “Prelude No. 4” by Chris Zabriskie, on Preludes, 2009