Autism Outreach – An Update

More than a week ago, we raised an alert about the future of Autism Outreach. Last week, we met with Manitoba Families staff to answer our questions.

At that meeting, we were told that the DIR/Floortime component of Autism Outreach will continue.  But there’s a catch.

An investment has indeed been made for five people to become certified provincewide as practitioners in the Denver Early Start Model.  They say they aren’t yet sure what the implementation will look like.  The process of training, and then testing the model to see if it will be workable within Autism Outreach, will take about a year.  That’s a significant commitment of resources.

On the other hand, there is no allocation of resources towards maintaining training of staff in DIR/Floortime.  There hasn’t been for quite some time.  We know that two Autism Outreach staff are certified by ICDL, one DIR/Floortime professional organization.  We are concerned that as staff turnover happens, the already weak DIR/Floortime component will be further weakened and eventually fade out.  Professionals in any discipline need to continue to upgrade their qualifications and adjust their practice according to best practices.  Especially in the field of autism, knowledge grows.

Family Services are presenting Denver Early Start as a developmental model, but according to the training manual, “Expertise in behavior analysis is critical for the full realization of the model.” (1)  A look through this book makes it clear that the focus is on changing the behavior of children.

The idea is that Autism Outreach should offer a menu of approaches depending on the needs and preferences of each child.

That would be fine…if each option were given equal support in terms of training and resources, and if there weren’t already an organization such as St. Amant that offers flexible options in behavioral autism therapies.

It’s kind of like limiting our options to vanilla or vanilla swirl, but not refilling the supply of chocolate.

We were given a promise that they would look into finding money for training staff in DIR/Floortime.

We expect to meet again in October.

In the meantime, we thank you for the letters of support sent to the Minister of Families.  The petition also gives us a sense of how much support there is for truly developmental therapies, which we can share as we advocate.  Your efforts make a difference.

If you’d like to add your name, please download this form, complete it, and mail it to us.

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(1) Sally J. Rogers and Geraldine Dawson. (2010).  Early Start Denver Model for Young Children with Autism: Promoting Language, Learning and Engagement, p. 44.

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