Editor’s pick: The best autism intervention is based in attachment

Attachment Parenting is based on more than 60 years of solid, interdisciplinary research into parent-child relationships, from infant bonding and breastfeeding to nurturing touch and discipline. We have a long line of researchers — and advocates helping to incorporate their findings into society — to thank for how we look at families today: that how parents interact with their children matter, in real time and over the lifetime, in child development.

stanley greenspanOne of those scientific greats — recognized by Attachment Parenting International (API) during our 20th Anniversary celebration in 2014 — was the late Stanley Greenspan, an American child psychiatrist who redefined child development. His work led to a change in how parents view the value of nurturing — encouraging them to cultivate connection with their children, excite their child’s interests, and value creativity and curiosity.

Dr. Greenspan also developed Floortime therapy, a treatment approach for children with autism and developmental disabilities that addresses the speech, motor and cognitive skill delays of affected children holistically, via emotional development and interpersonal communication, through the parent-child attachment relationship.

Very simply, Floortime happens when parents get down on the floor and engage with their children through play. Key to Floortime is that the parent enters the child’s games at the child’s development level and follows the child’s lead in those games. A therapist is then able to guide the parents on how to encourage their child to increasingly complex interactions. For example, if the child is tapping an object, the parent could join in by tapping the object in the same manner. To encourage interaction, the parent might then introduce a new object and eventually add a language element.

In observance of World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, this week’s featured article is “What We Know About Autism: Separating the Science From the Scandal” in Vogue, written by health journalist Lauren Mechling.

In the article, we learn that autism is no rare medical condition. In fact 1 in 68 American children — more often boys — is on the spectrum. While it appears that the disorder is much more prevalent than it was 40 years ago, high detection rates rooted in being better informed of early signs is at least partly behind this trend.

While the cause of autism remains largely unknown, researchers agree that it is likely a complex mixture of genetic and environmental factors.

Treatment options seem just as vague, with no drug treatments developed specifically for core autism symptoms. The article continues on, identifying that the most effective treatment currently is early detection combined with intervention therapies aimed at helping young children build neural pathways through face-to-face interaction with a caregiver during Floortime.

And that’s thanks to Dr. Greenspan.

API Resources for Parenting & Autism

Many parents of children on the spectrum find attachment-based parenting choices to be critical to developing positive relationships with their children. API has many resources for parents of children with autism, including:

Personal stories on APtly Said, API’s blog —

Mothering autism

Attachment Parenting and autism

Today is World Autism Awareness Day 2010

Saved by Attachment Parenting

How not to practice positive discipline

Professional insight and a few more personal stories on The Attached Family, API’s online magazine —

An Attachment Parenting approach to autism

Autism: Interview with pediatrician Dr. Robert Sears

From heartache to hope: Interview with Leisa Hammett of The Autism Society of Middle Tennessee

A boy brought back from autism

Different, not disordered: Interview with Dr. Barbara Probst

Additional resources from API —

bob searsAudio recording with Dr. Robert Sears about treating autism — only $9

kidswithcamerasThe documentary, “Kids with Cameras,” following children with autism as they learn how to express themselves through films, poems, painting and music — now just $15

Today is World Autism Awareness Day

Today, April 2, is World Autism Awareness Day. In late 2007, the United Nations decreed that April 2, 2008 would be the first World Autism Awareness Day to coincide with National Autism Awareness Month, which is recognized every April. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1 in 110 children in the United States is on the autism spectrum. I am the mom of two of these children.

My two children on a New Year's Day hike in the beautiful Arizona desert.
My two children on a New Year's Day hike in the beautiful Arizona desert.

I was an attached parent prior to the time that my children’s autism symptoms presented and I’m an attached parent still today. I actually thank my attachment parenting style for helping me understand my children a bit more. Now this is not to say that mothers of children on the spectrum that don’t practice attachment parenting don’t understand their children but for my children, and me, my parenting style has been a tremendous help.

I’ll be sharing more of my story in an article that will appear later this month on The Attached Family online but I also want to share a bit of it here with you, the readers of API Speaks. My youngest child, now six, was diagnosed with classical autism the day before her third birthday. She had very little language and most of what she had was echolalic and not functional.
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