Therapy For Daily Living

2 Sep

This year alone, Alphonse has gone through five trampolines. All are in various stages of disrepair, with broken springs, bent frames, and torn fabrics. We buy trampolines almost as fast as he can destroy them – well, perhaps, not fast enough.The Jumper's trampolines

Alphonse likes to jump. I remember that he started jumping before he could even walk. One of our family videos shows him jumping on the living room couch while his nanny held him upright, her hands firmly planted on his armpits. He was only eight months old at the time. When he did learn to walk a few months later, we were amazed to see him jumping unaided very soon after.

And boy, can he jump! Even now, he jumps tirelessly, his arms swinging front to back in regular, sweeping motions. With knees bent and his spine straight, there is ferocious grace and impeccable balance in his movements.

The Jumper, age 2

The Jumper, age 2

We’ve always known that he loves physical movement. Jumping is an important avenue of expression for our boy without words. When he jumps, all is right in his world, and in ours. He is happier and calmer; he smiles more, he has less tantrums.

When we began to lose trampolines to the trampoline graveyard in quick succession, we realized that we needed to channel his energies to other, more age-appropriate activities. Through his teachers’ patient mentoring, Alphonse has learned the basic rudiments of basketball  such as shooting or dribbling, but the sport itself didn’t hold any fascination for him. Ditto with soccer or bowling or miniature golf. I guess the importance of shooting a ball into a basket or kicking a goal is simply lost on him. He performs these actions mechanically, and performs them almost to perfection, but it’s apparent that they hold no special meaning for him.

However, the game of tag, or “habulan” in the vernacular, is another matter altogether.

It was an accidental discovery, a fortuitous turn of events.In the garage Alphonse has always liked to gallop aimlessly in the garage, touching certain objects in ritualistic fashion. Once, Nanny decided to play a trick on him by running away with his bottle of bubbles. He ran after her to retrieve the item but she was too quick for him. He pursued her, she dodged him; he chased her, she evaded him. A few minutes later, the sound of squeals and laughter filled the house. He had caught her, and having done so, recovered his toy. To our amazement, though, he started running, this time glancing backwards to see if anyone was following. When we did, he started shrieking in delight again.

These days, Alphonse’s tag is part of our afternoon regimen for him. It may not be as sophisticated as organized sports, but it engages his attention to others around him while providing him with exercise and activity.

The benefits of play and exercise are borne of much more than pure common sense. True, our own parents had a similar advice for us at the start of our child-rearing experiences: “Pagurin mo ang bata sa laro at matutulog yan nang mahimbing.” (Literal translation: Wear a child out with play and he will sleep soundly.) But beyond sleep and rest, both are known to help children focus their wandering minds, enabling them to perform tasks better. They can calm frayed nerves and diminish the effects of stress.

It makes sense, therefore, that combined play and exercise became one of the cornerstones of Daily Life Therapy, an integrated approach to learning, education, and wellbeing for individuals with autism in use in Higashi schools. Higashi schools (there is one in Tokyo, Japan and another in Massachusetts, USA), one of the few Eastern models of special education widely recognized in the world, work on the principles founded by Dr. Kiyo Kitahara in 1964. Its longevity is a measure of its general acceptance as a tool in the integration of individuals with autism into society. Believing that the individual with autism must be a whole person — in terms of learning, behavior, and well-being — Daily Life Therapy, as the name suggests, is an integrated, multi-faceted approach to the challenges of daily living.

Mr. Toshihiro Ogimura

Mr. Toshihiro Ogimura

On the occasion of Autism Society Philippines 11th National Conference  on October 24 and 25, 2009 at the SMX Convention Center, we are given an in-depth look into Daily Life Therapy, the Higashi Schools, and their residential programs via conference speaker Mr. Toshihiro Ogimura, who currently holds the position of Director of Training Institute of the Boston Higashi School. He has worked directly with students with autism as residential director in the high school division. He is also one of two special post-conference speakers, with a whole day dedicated to “Teaching Strategies and Behavior Management  of Daily Life Therapy”  on October 27 at the Skydome of SM North EDSA.

Truly, there is much to learn in the world about autism. That we get to exchange ideas and share concerns with others of a similar vocation, even for a brief four days, is an opportunity simply too good to pass up. So, hurry and register now! Early bird rates apply only until September 30. Autism Beyond Borders (where HOPE prevails) will open the world for you.

For more on Daily Life Therapy, please visit The Boston Higashi School website.

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One Response to “Therapy For Daily Living”

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  1. TrainyBrainy » Blog Archive » Posts about Special Education as of September 6, 2009 - September 7, 2009

    […] California’s high school students are continuing to meet the challenge of higher expectations. Therapy For Daily Living – okasaneko.wordpress.com 09/02/2009 This year alone, Alphonse has gone through five trampolines. […]

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