As a leading international expert in the special educational field, Simona Bossoni has been working in the profession of screening and diagnosing ASD. Having settled in Vietnam since 2015, she is now the founder of VICA. Let’s find out the comprehensive early intervention method which VICA has been applying into its process from Simona Bossoni ’s perspective.
Propose a screening for ASD for the kids at from 18 months old
Understand the worries of parents who have children with early signs of ASD
It is not easy for parents to notice the ASD early signs of their children and then quickly book an appointment with therapists for professional ASD screening test. Especially, when the child is at a young age, they often have unclear signs. Expert Simona shared this worry: “I can understand the desire of parents to make sure that the diagnosis is correct and also the hope that the doctor may be wrong about their child.”
Otherwise, parents have many considerations before choosing a center to have consultation to understand more about this aspect. Every expert has different strategies and methods to support and educate the children with ASD.
In reality, when I worked for preschools, I recognized some signs of ASD in some very young children, arranged to meet the parents to explain my concerns, and suggested them to start an intensive intervention to support the child to develop at their best, explaining them that the “golden period” is very important to achieve a better outcome in the future. As often happens when you are not ready to accept something or if you are not yet aware, several times it happened that families refused the support offered or even changed kindergarten, and then returned once the child was 3 years old and had not yet developed some main skills, such as language.
Luckily, in the most recent years, I have seen that young parents are more aware of the development expected by the age of their child and also more aware of ASD signs, but they still struggle to accept the difficulties of their child and tend to postpone meeting an expert.
“Intervening at an early stage can make the difference for a child with autism and that having a child with autism is NOT a parent’s fault because it is not due to the educational style but to a genetic predisposition. So, please, parents, if you have any concerns about the abilities of your child, consult a specialist as soon as possible to get targeted support.”
“After 25 years of experience, I realized that trust is not only based on the tests you used or the experience you have; it is something more complex that sometimes goes further, and often we have to gain it step by step, working closely with parents and children.”
Comprehensive methods in ASD screening and diagnosis
We apply a comprehensive intervention based on international standards and on my experience in Italy, where I cooperated for 10 years with one of the most important centers for diagnosis, treatment, and research on autism before opening my own medical center. Working with a multidisciplinary team taught me to consider autism from all points of view. Because ASD is a life-long disorder in most cases and affects many areas of the development of a child, such as communication, social interaction, playing abilities, etc., depending on the specifics of each child, it is very important to follow a model that takes into consideration the complexity of this disorder, approaching the child today already thinking about their future.
At VICA, we propose a screening for ASD for all the kids at 18 and 24 months, according to the guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and we have a surveillance program for all the kids at high risk of developing autism, such as kids with a sibling with ASD, with the goal of detecting the warning signs at an early stage and improving the future outcome.
In this way, we can support the family in the way they approach the child and help their child develop skills suitable for their age, together with a direct and intensive intervention for the child. If the screening is positive or if the child shows many signs of ASD, we can arrange the diagnostic process, which will take 4 steps to allow the child to get familiar with our environment using the gold standard tests to detect ASD.
Apply Early Start Denver Model in VICA’s intervention sessions.
At VICA, for our very young children, we follow the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), which is a validated intervention model based on a naturalistic approach to the child and on building a meaningful relationship with the therapist through playful activities to support the child in developing new skills and working on the core symptoms of autism. All the team members are in the process of being officially trained for the advanced level at the Mind Institute by the end of this year. This kind of intervention works on all the areas of the child’s development and allows the therapist to evaluate the child in a very detailed way using the ESDM checklist.
Following the evaluation period, we make a detailed Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), where we set long- and short-term goals specifically targeted to the needs of each child. We regularly take videos of the individualized sessions, and we meet in teams to discuss each child at least once a week.
Regarding the so-called dysfunctional behaviors, sometimes they are partially caused or worsened due to the presence of some specific gastrointestinal disorders that need to be treated to facilitate the child’s learning of new abilities. A very experienced immunologist and allergy doctor from Italy cooperates with us regarding this important aspect of the comprehensive treatment.
The role of parents who need to accompany with the children along their journey
One of the characteristics of this model that Expert Simona Bossoni personally like most and that, based on her experience, she recognized that it is extremely important for parents to be involved in the educational process, both through monthly parent coaching sessions and by participating for 30 minutes a week in the individualized session. This is to help them understand their child better and learn about suitable strategies to help them develop adaptive skills and reduce challenging behaviors.
Don’t worry if at the beginning, parents may not understand all the strategies and practice the assignments well because VICA will always support and collaborate with parents in consistently following and keeping track of the individual educational plans for the children.
After first consultation and screening test, VICA will give parents useful advice on building educational plans which is fit with the child’s abilties and help them with behavior and cognition intervention. For further information, parents can book an appointment and screening test to understand more about the child’s status, or find more information about us at Trang chủ – Trung tâm Quốc tế Chẩn đoán và Can thiệp Phổ tự kỷ (V.I.C.A) (vica.edu.vn)