Eugene, a 3-year-old boy with autistic characteristics, often throws a temper tantrum – throwing himself onto the floor, thrashing about, wailing with tears – whenever things do not go his way. He rarely makes eye contact or interact with others, and he seldom speaks since he only knows three words. The only things he is attracted to are wheels and rolling balls. His mother, at her wits’ end, turns to KickStart hoping to see improvements in his language skills, emotional control and interpersonal skills.
The objectives I set for the first therapy session with Eugene was to build trust and to help him improve his sensory and emotional regulation, which was why I designed a number of proprioception and tactile activities, such as pushing a large ball around or climbing on thick mats. Since Eugene has an interest in rolling balls, he would place his attention on us whenever we play with the large ball. Then, we would push the ball towards him. When he sees the ball rolling towards him, he would then push it back to us. This was how we got him to participate in the activities. Through this activity, we also found that he enjoyed laying on the large ball rocking back and forth. Before the session ended, I taught Eugene’s mother how to do joint compression (a type of massage) and use the Wilbarger brush (a brushing therapy to decrease fear or discomfort of being touched, enhance coordination and improve self-regulation) to help him improve from home.
A week later, his mother was delighted to tell me that the massage and other activities I taught her worked like a miracle. She said that she would rock Eugene back and forth gently every morning in his blankets. She would also let him jump up and down on the bed or sofa. In the afternoon, she would help him exercise by climbing the stairs. Since these were all activities Eugene liked, he was very cooperative and completed them without any throwing any fits.
A good start gave his mother a confidence boost. During the next few therapy sessions, Eugene’s mother observed the activities carefully and took notes. At the end of each session, we would discuss Eugene’s progress to see if any adjustments need to be made to his therapy plan. Under Eugene and his mother’s cooperation, Eugene made amazing improvements in his emotional and self regulation.
Eugene has gravitational insecurity, which makes him dislike playing on things like the swings or rocking horse hindering his vestibular development, which in turn delayed his language development. Therefore, instead of forcing Eugene to stimulate his vestibular sense with activities he dislikes, I chose to have him do vigorous activities to improve his sensory adaptation. This helped to gradually increase his tolerance to vestibular stimulation activities. By the fifth session, Eugene asked to go on the swing. He enjoyed swinging back and forth or in circles gently, showing a significant improvement in his gravitational insecurity. Aside from this, his social skills have also improved. Eugene’s mother said that he is able to interact with his siblings and enjoys playing with his brother and sister. He is also able to imitate others’ speech. His mother was very glad that he could now play happily on the swings in the park just like everyone else.
Seeing Eugene making progress day by day, his mother was overwhelmed with joy. We believe that Eugene will turn out great by the end of his therapy programs.