Autism

I have been working with early years and foundation stage children with autistic spectrum disorders and social communication and interaction difficulties—and their families and carers—for over 20 years; as part of professional teams which have included paediatricians, speech and language therapists, educational psychologists and occupational therapists.  During this time I have developed strong relationships with all the leading professions and agencies concerned with these children. I have also engaged with over 150 families on the EarlyBird programme, which is run in 11 countries worldwide under licence from the National Autistic Society. Parents have consistently commented that this programme has changed their lives as well as their children’s. I am also a trained and experienced implementer of PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System), and have wide experience of using picture symbols to support communication.

In recent years I have complemented my primary role as an Early Years Specialist Support Teacher by qualifying as a Psychotherapeutic Counsellor, and also as a Play and Creative Arts Therapist. This unusual range of skills enables me to offer effective support and practical strategies to the child with ASD or Social Communication difficulties, their often-neglected families and also to other carers, and professional agencies. These groups have reported the following benefits :

  • Invaluable understanding of where their unique child ‘is coming from’, and how this relates to autism or social communication difficulties; the realities, limitations and possibilities: reasonable expectations are established
  • Support in planning short-term and long-term goals for the child, and the strategies to succeed in achieving these
  • Improved communication and behaviour leading to better relationships between parents and child
  • Practical, everyday skills that parents can use time and time again over the years to teach new things and manage behaviour
  • The feeling that there is ongoing and customised support: “we are not alone”.
  • Increased confidence and peace of mind
  • Families get out more, and report more fun
  • Families feel they have been ‘given a voice’ when dealing with schools and other agencies – and that leads to more confidence, and potentially better outcomes for the child

I offer private family consultations, child specific interventions, group family meetings and training and am happy to work in partnership with other agencies – to deliver these benefits.

The way I work

I start from a simple belief – although the diagnosis may be the same, every child, and their family circumstances, is different, and will have different needs and priorities.

My unusual spread of qualifications and experience enables me to offer beneficial interventions for both autistic spectrum children and their families. These include:

  • A wide range of strategies, focusing on communication and interaction skills,  behavioural issues and self-help skills. I work with parents to show them how to work more usefully and confidently with their child.
  • Play Therapy: using sand tray work, puppetry, music, role play and drama, dance and movement, and wide range of arts and craft this engaging and enjoyable intervention is a powerful tool for assessing where the child is, how they interact with the world, and how professionals and parents can build on this.  Siblings, who often need to work through their own feelings about their brother or sister, can also benefit from play therapy.
  • NAS EarlyBird Programme: as a licensed practitioner I am available to run programmes (with a co-presenter) for groups of up to 6 families with a pre-school child with ASD.  I can also support families and professionals in implementing the strategies covered.
  • Counselling for carers: it was an early realisation that the parents of children with special needs often experience a wide range of emotions, including guilt and helplessness, that prompted my interest in counselling. Giving parents ‘me time’ – either individually or as a couple – can help them to feel acknowledged, understood and supported, and to step back and regain perspective.  Counselling often improves relationships between all family members and contributes to parents being able to make a better contribution to their child’s development.
  • Advising & supporting play groups and schools: in settings where the child with special needs is the exception not the rule, it is often the case that teachers and staff do not have the specialist knowledge,  skills and experience to ensure that the child’s integration and participation. I offer supportive guidance and training programmes in these situations.
  • Parent Groups: experience confirms that mums and dads able to meet with other parents of ASD children benefit greatly from this shared experience; especially when such meetings are structured and facilitated in a flexible and sympathetic way. Given sufficient support, I will arrange and facilitate such groups.

Who benefits?

  • Young children with ASD and other social, communication and interaction difficulties, including those who have started school but are still experiencing behavioural and other problems at home
  • parents, siblings and other family members
  • Early Years Practitioners, one-to-one helpers, schools, and other interested parties 

How we could work together – the choice is yours!

I have a fully equipped play therapy room and counselling studio in the Huntingdon/St Ives area. Clients can either come to me or I am happy to visit children in their home or — with prior agreement — a setting such as school or play group.

I can work on a one-off basis, or an ongoing commitment. Sessions can be tailored to suit your needs and preferences, and would range between 1 and 3 hours.

Because each child and its circumstances are unique, all advice and interventions will be customised, rather than ‘off-the-shelf’. 

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