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Friday, January 15, 2016

My Little Cricket’s Delay: Mommy and Me JASPER Program

Three days ago I spoke to my first mom of a child with autism and she just happened to be a super rock star mom – I don’t know how I got so lucky. Her son was diagnosed early, at 18 months, and with her A type personality she sought out every program, tried every therapy and even involved herself and her son in some clinical trials. One of those trials was JASPER, a program to treat autistic kids created at UCLA. Without going into crazy detail it is a therapy somewhere between Pivotal Response treatment and floor time and it is specifically to help children with autism learn how to play, strengthen social skills, work on their eye contact and communicate in a more natural play based environment. After she finished the clinical trial she wanted to continue with JASPER, since the clinicians were still in trial and since there were very few therapists who could actually do JASPER she convinced them to start a 10 week Mommy and Me program to teach parents about the method.

In an effort to better educate myself on the therapies out there for Autism I have already done a ton of research. Some methods seem too intense for what I want for my Little Cricket at this time. 40-45 hours of ABA therapy, mostly at a table, with a strong emphasis on a reward system including food, just seems wrong for what my goals are. An outpatient hospitalization program where my child is kept inside with therapists all day long 5 days a week 6 hours a day also feels crazy intense right now. My son after all isn’t even three yet. I feel much better cobbling together my own program with therapists I pick and a schedule where I can build in some down time. As a piece of the set of therapies I want to try and get for my son JASPER seemed right up my alley. So when the mom offered to have me join them to see what the program was like I jumped at the chance.

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Today I left my kids at home with a sitter and I went to the 2 hour JASPER Mommy and Me class at UCLA. I was nervous, after all I would be meeting more specialists, meeting parents of autistic children, meeting autistic children; but I really liked it. Not only do I get to go with my son into treatment, they will train me in their way of therapy. They start the Mommy and Me class with circle time and songs (just the moms and the children), the clinicians break out to do a 45 minute JASPER session with just the kids as we parents work with them and practice the technique, and the children break for snack and some play time while the parents are given a brief lecture about a certain aspect of the therapy. This is a whole new world for us but I am excited to start our 10 week program sometime in February.

I am really hoping that JASPER is going to work well for my son, but as an added benefit I am meeting other moms of autistic children. Talking with them has made me feel more normal with what has been blowing up in my head. They have been here, they have lots of great advice, and they are open about sharing what is working, what has worked and what was not for them. And I am also learning lots of different philosophies and approaches to dealing with varied diagnosis. The class is going to be good for us, I feel it in my bones that being in this environment is EXACTLY what we need.

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