Cumberland Academy

Notes from ‘The Desorgher Method’ — Behavioral intervention

The Desorgher Method is a holistic approach to bringing about emotional, spiritual, mental and physical well-being in people suffering under the condition of autism. It grew out of the Professional Parenting model known as ‘The Magic of the Family’.

It has been most successfully used for those exhibiting the stresses and conflicts of adapting to a world where their condition is poorly understood and their survival has depended on developing coping strategies which have come to be labeled as ‘problem behaviors’.

It can be adapted for uses in many settings and for a wide range of problems and age groups, wherever struggle and survival strategies are standing in the way of relationship, growth, fulfillment, health and happiness.

Download the full article here:– The Desorgher Method — A short introduction (PDF) to our Autism Recovery Program.

1. Methods for applying behavioral intervention is based on the findings from the functional behavioral analysis and knowing the child.

2. Target the most serious behavior(s) first.

3. Set the child up for success.

4. Separate symptoms from behaviors and this means the child must have all necessary
medical and professional evaluations.

5. The behavioral intervention must be modified and adapted instantly to meet the ever- changing needs of the individual.

6. There must be consistent effort to instantly recognize symptoms or behaviors which are resulting from their experiences and attitude about themselves and how they are coping with their physical and mental state in response to the current setting and demands.

7. Frustration levels rise and fall continuously during any given day and during each activity or period of inactivity, so do hormone levels.

8. The schedule must be in place and supply the child with visual information which identifies the next break, the next change and the time frame must be adjustable but consistent.

9. Break down behavioral complexes to manageable goals and objectives for reducing and eliminating the most significant behaviors first.

10. Meet the child’s basic human needs unconditionally, in a timely manner and work towards developing trust.

11. Keep it simple.

12. Identify what the child likes and dislikes and incorporate these as rewards and
consequences – positive motivators – when appropriate.

13. Re-frame – replacing negative experiences and associations with positive experiences and associations.

14. Limit unnecessary verbalization. Words spoken to and in the presence of the child must be meaningful and clearly spoken.

15. For some people with autism failure is the norm, the expectation; and for some failure and the expressions which indicate failure have come to be their measure of success.

16. Some are working for reprimand, chastisement, negative consequence and reducing expectations. The rewards for success have often included more difficult tasks, more tasks in a session and increased expectations. The more they do, the more they are expected to do and this is not always acceptable to the ASD individual. Often they want the least demands and their physical discomfort, personal goals and objectives and previous experiences are key factors.

17. Our goals should be to provide our children with every opportunity for developing self-control so they do not have to rely on the bonds that hold them captive in a world of their own, in a world with limited choices, in a world which they are unable to access because they do not have communication tools.

18. The freedom they experience must be in a safe and nurturing environment.

19. It is important to know the difference between unacceptable and undesirable. For some, moving away from self abuse to more normal expressions of anger can be accomplished by teaching undesirable but ‘normal’ temper responses.

20. Describing behaviors is more appropriate for addressing hitting, biting, kicking, pinching and self injurious actions. Tracking the incidents is essential to identifying when the problem occurs.

21. People who work with dangerous and violent children who may have committed acts such as fire starting, sex offence and animal mutilation recognize the power of adrenaline – the rush which some experience when they commit these acts and which can lead them to repeat these same acts again and again. Many of these individuals have been institutionalised and case histories have
been used to produce information, profiles which can be used to develop greater understanding of these individuals. Genetic and environmental factors have been used to explain some of the factors which can lead to attachment disorder, violence and dangerous behavior.

22. Coping skills for people with autism most often include ‘withdrawal from the fabric of social life’ and this explains the isolation that families experience who are dealing with autism.

23. For some, coping skills include isolating themselves from the demands of the world and tuning out the world with every ounce of their being. When they have the most withdrawal possible, limit the incoming stimuli and develop ways to cope with their bodies and are left alone, many are able
to entertain themselves endlessly. Most often, parents are unable to accept that this is all that is possible for their child – more so when the child had previously developed language and was social before the onset of symptoms became obvious and increasingly severe.

24. This ‘safe world’ that these children have created to cope with their autism may be far more comfortable then any we can offer, especially if the pain and differences which they are experiencing are not addressed and treated, identified and accommodated. We must have the same determination to gather information, develop profiles and understand people who have this condition before we can begin to effectively develop programs and therapies which are designed to help them overcome their ‘withdrawal’.

25. It is very overwhelming to accept that some of these individuals who were isolated but coping in ‘their world’ have been brought into programs and therapies which forced them to develop more dangerous, violent and aggressive means of being left alone by parents and professionals hoping to find the right therapy, right drug, right intervention that will somehow release their child from this invisible bondage.

26. Some of the children interact in their environment and with people in their environment on their terms. In some of these families there is little peace. Instead of isolating themselves and self-entertaining, the child feels the strength and determination to explore outwardly and demand learning tools, entertainment objects. Some experience the early excitement of control and use their experiences to control their familiar environment. Often they are able to transfer these skills to other environments.

27. To those living with these children who are lining up objects, tearing paper, touching ritualistically the walls, eating non-food items, are obsessed with finding the toilet or engaging in water play and more complicated displays of interaction such as emptying the contents of purses, stepping on toes, flipping the light switches on and off, touching personal objects and expensive equipment, touching people inappropriately, the response is to want to spend less and less time with these children.

28. Possibly there is a subconscious effect which has rippled through society: “If I do not want to spend time with this child, these children, then no one else would either.” No one wants to be subjected to this kind of experience. No one should be expected to manage this type of child other than a trained professional. If we cannot provide the kind of care and program which would be able to maintain staff to work directly with these children then they are destined to life in an institution. With psychiatric hospitals full and no alternatives available we can only accept the full impact of our continuing ignorance and this is being realized as more and more people with autism end up in jail cells.

29. One of the most studied aspects of the criminal mind, or the juvenile delinquent fire starter, is adrenaline. Some people get a high, a rush, a feeling from their activities which becomes ever increasingly powerful. Some papers have been published about Asperger syndrome where the ‘power trip’ is recognized as part of the syndrome. The earlier we begin to work with these children and recognize this potential for adrenaline, the ‘fight or flight’, war between the immune and emotional systems which influences endocrine response and behavior, the more effective we can be at providing them with the tools and life experience to prevent, deal with or overcome the addiction.

30. Gentle but affirmative action based on unconditional love, our method of behavioral intervention has brought together the most positive aspects of applied behavioral analysis developed for people with autism (Lovaas) and people with attachment disorder (Jones). We include in our approach recommendations for ‘treating the whole child’ and modification and accommodation for their disability determined on an individual basis. We recommend treat the cause and not just the symptoms of autism.

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