Ses­sions to help build qual­ity of life

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News - BY SARAH SCULLY

While hol­i­day­ing with his fam­ily in Tas­ma­nia, teenager An­gus Milne found him­self stuck in the mid­dle of a zi­pline, high above the ground.

For most teenagers without a fear of heights, it would not have been a big deal.

But An­gus’s fam­ily watched anx­iously to see how he would re­act. An­gus, 16, has autism. His mother Donna Milne said putting An­gus on a zi­pline was a gam­ble.

“We didn’t know how we were go­ing to go be­cause he hadn’t done any­thing like that be­fore,” she said.

“He was def­i­nitely out of his com­fort zone. He got into a po­si­tion where he got stuck in the mid­dle.

“He was in a sit­u­a­tion where some­one was go­ing to have to go get him, but he was able to think clearly and prob­lem-solve the sit­u­a­tion.”

Ms Milne said she did not think An­gus was lis­ten­ing when the tourism op­er­a­tor ran through safety pro­ce­dures ahead of the ac­tiv­ity. “But he must have been,” she said. “He got him­self in like a ‘nor­mal’ boy would.

“A lot of chil­dren with autism don’t show emo­tion, but he showed emo­tion on his face when he achieved the chal­lenge, which was won­der­ful to see.”

Ms Milne said An­gus was ‘not like a lot of other kids with autism’.

“He’s re­ally out there and happy and flex­i­ble,” she said.

She cred­its An­gus’s de­meanour to a fam­ily-based ther­apy called Re­la­tion­ship Devel­op­ment In­ter­ven­tion, RDI.

De­vel­oped by psy­chol­o­gist Steven Gut­stein, RDI is de­signed to ad­dress autism’s core symp­toms.

It builds on the the­ory ‘dy­namic in­tel­li­gence’ is key to im­prov­ing the qual­ity of life of peo­ple with autism.

Ms Milne said An­gus started RDI at eight or nine.

“We had tried other ther­a­pies be­fore, but RDI takes a devel­op­ment ap­proach and teaches par­tic­i­pants about flex­i­bil­ity and ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills that kids with autism miss out on,” Ms Milne said.

“They take words lit­er­ally be­cause they don’t un­der­stand to­na­tion or dif­fer­ent meanings and they are not good at pick­ing up on body lan­guage.

“It’s not teach­ing by rote. RDI in­volves set­ting up chal­lenges and solv­ing prob­lems all the time.”

Ms Milne said although An­gus had an in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­ity and had trou­ble speak­ing, he wanted to be able to re­late to peo­ple.

“He goes to sup­ported pro­grams and the peo­ple in­volved tell me how happy he is and how much he en­joys be­ing there,” she said.

“To see him in­ter­act with oth­ers is so lovely.”

The Milnes, who live in Mil­dura, started RDI with a con­sul­tant in Mel­bourne, who would fly to Mil­dura to meet with clients.

After two to three years, Ms Milne flew to the United States to com­plete an RDI con­sul­tant course.

She said RDI was an in­volved process.

“It takes a lot of work from par­ents but the re­wards are huge,” she said.

“Now, when An­gus is pushed out of his com­fort zone, he feels safe with us and he is able to prob­lem-solve and find so­lu­tions. We do a lot of things fam­i­lies with chil­dren with autism can’t do.

“We don’t not do any­thing we want to do, and that’s be­cause of RDI.”

In­for­ma­tion ses­sions

Par­ents or ed­u­ca­tors who want to learn more about how RDI can help chil­dren can at­tend in­for­ma­tion ses­sions at Hor­sham Unit­ing Church next month.

Wim­mera Speech Pathol­ogy speech pathol­o­gist Fleta Pohlner and be­havioural an­a­lyst Chris­tine Chalmers-man­ton will co-host the ses­sions.

Both are RDI cer­ti­fied con­sul­tants and are mem­bers of CARFA – Con­nect and Re­late For Autism – with Ms Milne.

They will host a ‘Par­ent­ing skills to help your child with autism’ ses­sion on March 2 from 9am to 1pm, fol­lowed by an ‘Au­di­tory pro­cess­ing in the class­room’ ses­sion from 6pm to 7.45pm.

The ses­sions will give par­tic­i­pants a greater un­der­stand­ing of autism, pro­vide strate­gies to help par­ents im­prove their child’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills and con­sis­tent and car­ing strate­gies to man­age chil­dren’s be­hav­iour.

Mrs Pohlner said she had a pas­sion for help­ing chil­dren with autism reach their full po­ten­tial.

“The ses­sions will ex­pose par­ents and teach­ers to what we can do with RDI,” she said.

“Peo­ple will go away with ideas they can use with chil­dren.

“The pre­sen­ta­tion to teach­ers will give them strate­gies they can use in the class­room.

“Chris­tine is a very ex­pe­ri­enced and dy­namic speaker and I am quite ex­cited to be pre­sent­ing with her.”

Mrs Chalmers-man­ton has been work­ing with chil­dren with autism since 2002 and started RDI train­ing in 2007.

“It is more ben­e­fi­cial than any other method I have done,” she said.

“RDI is a life­style and a mind­set. It is not some­thing you do a few hours a week, you build it into your daily rou­tine.

“It is an on­go­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the fam­ily and the con­sul­tant.

“We go in with the hope that the fam­ily will one day be able to say to us, ‘we’ve got this now. We don’t need to see you as of­ten any more’.”

Spots for the Hor­sham in­for­ma­tion ses­sions are lim­ited.

Peo­ple can call 5364 2905 or email ballarat@con­nect­ing-minds. com.au for more in­for­ma­tion. Fur­ther de­tails are also avail­able on page 18.

SUR­VIVOR: An­gus Milne’s Re­la­tion­ship Devel­op­ment In­ter­ven­tion ther­apy has been cred­ited in help­ing the teenager deal with a stress­ful sit­u­a­tion suc­cess­fully. He is pic­tured sec­ond from right next to his mother, Donna.

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