Student research helps children on the autism spectrum

St. Catherines, Canada – Masters Student in Applied Disability Studies, Naomi Johnson is studying the effects of a new program for children on the autism spectrum called ‘I Believe in Me Not OCB. The Cognitive-Behavioral therapy program, developed by Brock University researchers Tricia Vause and Maurice Feldman, is designed to help children on the spectrum minimize and eliminate Obsessive Compulsive Behaviors (OCB’s).

OCB’s typically include: repeated hand washing, a strong need to collect and save items, ordering and arranging items, repetitive questioning, and an over all need to adhere to the same routine every day.

Johnson met with Exchange Magazine and commented that:

“These types of behavior can be debilitating for children and families, making daily life for the child and family members’ difficult and affecting children’s ability to socialize and actively participate in school activities.”

The ‘I Believe in Me Not OCB’ program helps children and parents stop obsessive behaviors by focusing on four items:

-Teaching children about their behaviors through psychoeducation.
-Analyzing the their behaviors by listing them, the accompanying thoughts, and the harshness of both.
-Cognitive and behavioral skills training-questioning unfounded thoughts children have with their repetitive behaviors.
-Systematic desensitization to anxiety triggered thoughts and situations to prevent further compulsive behaviors.

The beauty of this program is that these items are addressed in a group therapy setting that give children with autism the chance to build up and expand their socialization skills. Parents join in to report on their child’s progress week to week and ensure they both are using these newly acquired tools in other aspects of life. According to Johnson, it’s working:

“I remember one parent telling me that their child went to a sleepover for the first time. They never thought it would happen. As the program went on, it was clear that the therapy, in a lot of little ways, was making a huge difference in the quality of life for children and parents.”

Parents and children were also asked to respond to a set of situations at the start of the program and at the end to allow Johnson and her supervisor, Vause, to evaluate whether these new skills are being used outside the program.

Johnson later told Exchange that programs like this can help children with autism later in life while also squashing the growing number of people who have OCD like tendencies, which often start in childhood.

Johnson was inspired to join the study team when she took Vause’s undergraduate course on autism. That summer she was hired by Vause as an assistant therapist for nine weeks.

The original article on the Morning Post Exchange Magazine website can be found here