Insights from Pete:
The purpose of creating CSD in July of 2012 was none other than to explore and identify a dynamic system approach to facilitate social interactions in children in our community affected by Autism.
I find early social interactional development to be a critical period in a child’s life and it is imperative that we investigate and provide solutions for children who need help at this stage. My goal continues to be for all of us to understand and analyze the complex issues that young children have to deal with in order to establish and sustain peer relationships and to develop a plan that will help all of our children succeed in this important area of their lives becomes in my opinion.
Although it may not be apparent at first glance, children in early school settings illustrate many interesting patterns of social organization. Even as they chase one another, ride tricycles, build and destroy block houses, hit each other, and move in and out of social play, there are patterns in the seeming disorganization of these behaviors. A closer look reveals that certain children consistently tend to play together, other children play with many different peers and a few others tend to play alone much of the time.
So what brings young children together as “play partners”? This question reflects very fundamental issues in social science. How do we separate individuals, each with their own personalities, behavioral characteristics, and cultural backgrounds? This question takes on additional complexity when considering the developmental stages that may influence the organization of our children’s social groups. The development of social, regulatory, communication, and cultural skills and norms also plays a major role.
Early school environments primarily are designed to emphasize learning through play activities that provide opportunities for peer interaction. These early school years are a time when children can move from a general tendency to play alone or alongside other children towards increasing levels of true social interactive play. However, the transition to peer orientation is more difficult for some children than others. Children who are shy, inhibited, socially unskilled, or dysregulated may find this type of environment particularly aversive and very stressful. We must pay close attention in identifying the levels of structure that each child needs in order to succeed.
In more recent years, and based on the review of the current literature on outcomes for adults with ASD, we have focused our expertise and energy in helping and providing solutions also for young adults with ASD.
This literature indicates that, independent of current ability levels, the vast majority of adults on the spectrum are either unemployed or underemployed and, further, that large numbers of adults with autism remain without any appropriate services. Many have had inadequate transition programming including little attention to service coordination, minimal direct family involvement and/or absence of treatment based on evidence-based practices.
So, what is CSD?
CSD is where I want to provide the answers and safe haven to work together, as professionals in the field and families to enable our community’s children, adolescents and young adults affected by Autism to thrive socially. I am eager to address the complex issues that affect the social dynamics of these individuals within their cultural context and believe that we must work together in helping them reach their full potential, one at a time.
CSD was designed from day one with the idea (and evidence based research to date) that Autism affects all domains of development. It impairs communication development, cognitive and adaptive development, motor development, behavior and social interaction. Each of these areas has a particular discipline, or body of science and practice behind it (e.g. speech & language pathology, occupational therapy, applied behavior analysis, etc.) to help individuals develop specific skills. No one discipline (to my knowledge) has a broad enough curriculum to address and master all of these skills. That said, I want to understand and potentially treat the whole individual starting with a strong concept of what is important for the family and the potential barriers to success across all of these disciplines. So in order to do that we need specialists in child & human development, communication disorders, behavior, parent-child dynamics, cultural diversity and motor skills/development. So, for me this means that there has to be an interdisciplinary and collaborative effort among different disciplines in order to achieve lasting results. I want CSD to always raise the bar in treatment and offer children, adolescents and adults with autism the greatest opportunity for a better life! This will require that Clinical Psychologists, Speech and Language Therapists, Developmental Psychologists, Behavior Analysts, Occupational therapists, Marriage and Family Therapists, Social Workers, and Pediatricians truly work together so that every determined individual and family affected by Autism can succeed. We must all work together to achieve this goal, which is to provide real HOPE for growth and change!
We believe that parents are the real experts in their own children. We just bring the knowledge and expertise in specific areas in order to create the best possible intervention/treatment program that results in best possible OUTCOMES for our families.
— Pete Pallarés M.A, M.S