Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Efficacy… Essay

The Efficacy of Sensory and Motor Interventions for Children with Autism essay, by Grace T. Baranek, assesses numerous studies on therapies that set out to aid the behavioural and academic development of children on the autistic spectrum. Baranek’s rhetoric is consistent throughout, evaluating the methodology of the studies objectively and concisely. The text is broken down into sections of the different therapeutical approaches, the relevant studies acknowledged within, and is appropriately introduced by rubrics of the overall delivery and cost methods of the approaches.
Physical Exercise Section
Baranek claims in The Physical Exercise section that “Although physical exercise is included in many regular education curricula, it is not systematically or consistently utilized with children with autism. Health benefits of various exercise programs have been touted, including changes in physical as well as mental wellbeing.”
Baranek then goes on to analyse the studies on the effects of physical exercise on children with autism. “…studies also measured aspects of academic and play tasks in children with autism (Kern et al., 1982; Watters & Watters, 1980). All studies found some beneficial, albeit short-lived, effects of exercise for decreasing self-stimulatory behaviors and mixed findings for improving other simple cognitive/play tasks. Effects were greater for more intensive aerobic activity…” Positive effects have been noted in physical activity studies but it is theorised that in order to maintain results that continuous regimes should be implemented. “Repeated treatments were certainly useful with exercise therapies…” However the main defect with physical exercise studies is the lack of correlative evidence between physical and academic performance: “Watters & Watters (1980) study also concluded that there was no evidence to support that decreases self-stimulatory behavior would automatically generalize to improved academic performance.”
Visual Therapies Section
Visual therapies are hypothesised to enhance the visual acuity of autistic children and therefore aid academic performance. Baranek said that “Anecdotal data are plentiful; however, empirical studies regarding the efficacy of visual therapies specific to children with autism are limited.” There were small findings reported in visual therapies - positive effects on visual-spatial perception were noted, but the improvements failed to be recognised as long term progressions. Baranek stated that simultaneous visual training tasks are often formulated with more promising outcomes.
The lack of evidence in this section aroused some concerns about the visual aids in my project; if positive effects were to be little and short-lived, is there much need for them? Although, Baranek’s statement on simultaneous tasks enlightened me with hope and nurtured my following speculation: the visual aids in my project are relevant to specific exercise patterns, therefore the children will associate the perceived images with specific movements performed; thus resulting in a deeper form of processing than if the approaches were to be merely adjunct. I intend to integrate visual aids in accordance with the physical aims of each session in the hope that this theory of association will enable the children to learn movement patterns more effectively. Visual aids also uphold the spirit of fun in the project - a top priority when it comes to encouraging children to indulge in continuos physical effort.
Auditory Therapies Section
Auditory members, such as otoliths, are of paramount importance when it comes to the vestibular system. The vestibular system is composed of auditory and visual nerves that synergise to control equilibrioception (balance). Among children with autism this system often appears deficient, hence the call for auditory therapies. In the studies that Baranek reported it was found that “Lower-functioning individuals seemed to make greater gains. However, there was no significant relationship between level of sensitivity pre-AIT and the behavioral outcomes post-treatment.” Again, sufficient empirical evidence failed to illuminate during these analyses with mixed results being noted. Positive effects were observed but were deemed as nonspecific treatments. With these mixed results coming from isolated therapies, my current thesis on association could be applied with auditory treatments as well as visual.
The Efficacy… essay has proved insightful in my research and has beckoned many thoughts on specific measurements they may need to be taken during my project. The therapies assessed all bear mixed results and as Baranek goes on to lucidly conclude, more rigorous research is required to present any solid treatment plans. For the time being, my project will remain as a mongrel of therapies in the hope that continuous simultaneous treatments may prove to be a potent aspect of channelling the development of SEN children.
Live life to the full.

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