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Mind-mapping, action plans and autism

Key developmental lines
Mastery of developmental skills (e.g., self-cares, eating, sleep, safety, language, social interaction, education, prevocational and vocational skills, object relations, emotional regulation, etc). Mastery really helps lighten the load and stokes the flames of hope.

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Mind-mapping serves as a useful tool to map out the development of these skills. When I meet with parents and professionals, I have blank paper and markers nearby to create a mind map.

I have used a strategy like this since I was a boy. When my son was in grade school he was taught about mind-mapping and passed on his knowledge to me. Both of us use mind-mapping regularly at work.

What to do?

You place a skill in a circle on a mind map, just like circling a location on a city map. Then, you map out "where you need to go" to achieve success in "traveling" that "developmental line."

Start with safety first. Think about key activities that need to be mastered.

Safety Examples

Crossing streets, kitchen stoves, electrical devices, swimming, etc.

Diagnostic instruments and schedules

Diagnostic instruments and schedules can give you useful and very specific "stuff" for creating a detailed mind map of the developmental lines.

Why is this important?

Children with pervasive developmental disorders have challenges across developmental lines. Without mapping out a systematic approach, nearly anyone could eventually become overwhelmed and lose direction.

Developmental strengths

It's important to keep in mind developmental strengths as well as the problems.

”Star” and reward success

You want to "star" the strengths. Strengths often have value across the lines. They can help in the mastery of other developmental tasks

Rank-order your developmental “travel plan”

Place safety at the top of the list. If safety skills are mastered, then safety can move down the list. Safety skills always need to be periodically reviewed and reinforced.

Review your mind map and celebrate the efforts and success

It helps keep things in perspective and boosts spirit and motivation. Review of the mind map illustrates how far everyone has come. It also gives you cause to celebrate efforts and success.

The who, what, when, where, why and how of development

Keep in mind, a child’s skills are often supported by specific adults, routines and structures. Remove them and things sometimes regress.

Stress, fatigue, hunger and sickness can do the same thing.

Sometimes, when you take two steps forward, you take some other steps backwards for a while. Developmental progress in one area can lead to temporary regression in other areas. (That’s normal.)

Apply the 80-20 rule to your action plans

Usually 80 percent of the value we want comes from 20 percent of our actions.

What will give a child and the family the greatest value and benefit?

What are the most likely goals that can be achieved efficiently and effectively?

Patience and persistence will pay off, especially when people see real benefits and value from their efforts.

Organization and archives

Keep your mind maps and action plans. Don't throw them out when you're done with them.

Imagine you have a system built around a "To Do" and "Done" Folder. One pocket keeps the tasks that you need to do. The other pocket is where the done work is moved.

As you achieve your goals, move your mind maps and action plans to a folder for each developmental skill (e.g., self-cares, play, etc).

Daily review and reward

It helps to review the "To Do" goals and progress daily.

"Pats on the back” for EFFORTS as well as success are important.

Daily review can help improve the action plan and eliminate problems.

Ongoing review of action plans

It helps keep things moving, disciplined and realistic for the next week, month, year, etc.

Delegation, rest and respite

It also is a time to consider DELEGATION.

Children and families may need respite care. The mind map and action plans can help keep things on track. It also helps evaluate the quality of respite care.

Brain development and treatment

Dr. Minderaa (a Dutch child psychiatrist) and I clinically evaluated children during the early 1980s and discovered that autistic children had problems in how the frontal lobe, cerebellum and related areas of the brain were developing.

This clinical information about the children's brains helped to direct the physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and language and educational work.

”Get-along” Book

Many of these skills ordinarily unfold in a “spontaneous” manner during childhood. However, the neurobiological problems faced by a child with autism require specific repetitive and rote practice.

I created individualized “Get-along” books to help map out activities a child needed to acquire better social and communication skills.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is informational. It does not represent medical recommendations or treatment. It does not replace the need for care and advice provided by a team of health professionals with expertise in developmental disorders.

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