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Duluth clinic helps autistic children communicate
Sat, 10/03/2009 - 8:35pm
DULUTH - The Scottish Rite Clinic for Childhood Language Disorders sees 90 children a week and has 38 on a waiting list.
And for parents, the services their children receive at the Duluth clinic are priceless.
Six year old Alex Kinney was diagnosed with autism – a neurologically based interaction disorder – when he was three and a half.
"It is a communication, a connection challenge," said Beth Kinney, Alex's mother. "Kids with autism spend a lot of time in their own world. So as a parent it's really... You feel shut out."
"It's devastating but you get through it and then you get to work," said Beth.
To help Alex become a more effective communicator, Beth brought her son to the Scottish Rite Clinic where he now works with speech language pathologist, Tahirih Bushey.
But Alex isn't the only one learning.
"If I teach a child how to communicate effectively just with me, in one setting, they won't, especially with children who have autism, won't necessarily understand how that applies to the next setting," said Tahirih. "I can't be in all those social situations with them. Their parents can be in many more of those social situations with them."
In working with autism, Tahirih places just as much emphasis on the parents as she does with the children.
And she does it all through playing games.
"It appears that kids do better if you integrate movement into their learning," said Tahirih.
Some of Tahirih's methods are counter–intuitive to what parents might think would help their child's communication.
"It's hard for people to believe you when you tell them that it will really help if you ask less questions of to your child, for example. Your child will talk more if you do," said Tahirih.
Tahirih recognizes the amplified stresses and challenges parents with autistic children go through, that's why she's happy the Scottish Rite Clinic lets her provide her clients with therapy, free of charge.
"It can't be a cookie cutter process, it's very individualized for every kid. And so as a parent you feel like you're treading water and they were a life preserver, I guess," said Beth.
"It's rewarding to see the kids change," said Tahirih. "It's also rewarding to see the parents become more effective, feeling happier, feel like they're gonna be able to manage this. I think that's probably the most rewarding part."
And Tahirih's play–based therapies are helping alex communicate more effectively.
"The difference is incredible," said Beth. "This last year has been just an acceleration of everything. He's catching up in a lot of ways with his peers. I don't think that would have happened without Tahirih..."
For more information on the Scottish Rite Clinic, visit: