Specialized Professional Training in Working with Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

For Education and Mental Health Professionals, Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder present many challenges and opportunities. One in 68 children are reported to meet the criteria for ASD (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016). As a spectrum, children with this life-long disorder may have mild to severe characteristics of Autism defined by difficulties in social communication, social interaction, and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior. For example, some children experience severe neurological problems including sensory reactivity and processing difficulties that interfere with their ability to engage in reciprocal social interactions. They may struggle with sending signals to which others can respond and have trouble receiving information essential to comprehending social cues.

Each child presents with his/her unique strengths, interests, concerns, and behavior. Like a multifaceted jewel, the child with ASD needs a specially-designed setting to reflect his or her brilliance.  As a developmental “home-base” philosophy, evidenced-based Theraplay® offers opportunities for Professionals working with children with ASD of all ages – be it conceptualizing individual and family concerns, devising treatment plans, providing direct service, consultation or to augment other therapies. Other approaches, such as Social Stories, Structured Teaching and Behavior Therapy can also benefit children with ASD. Dr. Bundy-Myrow, with 30+ years of experience in this area, offers training in a variety of specialized approaches to professionals working with the ASD population.

Here are some special ways that Theraplay can help children with ASD:

- For very young children, attachment-enhancing Family Theraplay provides specific therapist-directed experiences for parents to actively connect with, regulate and enjoy, their child.  Parents and children develop their own unique dyadic relationship; with attuned, rhythmic and reciprocal interactions.
- As the child’s world of adults and peers develops in preschool and beyond, Theraplay offers methods to increase comfort, flexibility, laughter and fun in social development. Neuroscientist Stephen Porges, originator of the Polyvagal theory, observed and explained that the sensorimotor-based play initiated by the Theraplay therapist and parent, “triggers a state of safety in the child, promoting synchronous reciprocal interactions as a neural exercise that increases social flexibility and improves emotion regulation.” (Porges, S., 2017, www.theraplay.org ).
- Group Theraplay, in the classroom, counseling office or clinic provides safe, fun experiences to increase trust, a sense of belonging,  awareness of self and others, and opportunities to spontaneously practice pro-social skills and rules. Speech, Physical and Occupational Therapists have participated in Group Theraplay with their students, also, because it offers a guided social setting to apply their skills with peers.
- For older students, Group Theraplay activities can provide safe, age appropriate challenges with teen-friendly themes.  Specific social skills of the week can be introduced and practiced immediately via interpersonal games that also challenge participants to regulate behavior. Between sessions, skills can be reinforced by “catching the action” of pro-social practice culminating in group-chosen privileges.

Example of Topics

- The Nature and Needs of Children and Teens with ASD
- Meeting Your Challenges:  Observation, Training and Follow-up Consultation with Teachers and Teams  
- Helping Children with Autism Connect and Emotionally Regulate
- Developing IEPs That Meet the Needs of Children with ASD
- Make SENCE for Children with ASD (Structure, Engage, Nurture, Challenge Experientially)
- Anchors Away! Supporting High Functioning Students with Social Needs
- Working with Parents Whose Children Have ASD
- Theraplay® Certification Workshops and Supervision (Evidenced-based method, SAMHSA National Registry of Evidenced Based Programs and Practices)
- Group Theraplay® Certification and Supervision
- Sunshine Circles®:  Building your classroom family in general education and inclusion settings   (Outcome research published, 2017)

In addition to specific trainings, Dr. Bundy-Myrow’s consultation can include assisting students and teachers regarding the impact of developmental disability and/or mental health concerns on behavior, teaming to enhance parent-school partnerships, and otherwise assisting to support student success in district placement.

For more information about Theraplay and supporting research, see About Theraplay.

For more information about treatment for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, contact Dr.Bundy-Myrow and Dr.Myrow