We all hear that you should work on certain skills or use a particular program. Before diving in, we need to ask ourselves what we really are looking for. What do we want for children with autism?
From the spark* viewpoint, we want quality of life for people with autism, not just social skills, imitation skills, play skills, etc.
Quality of life (QOL) refers to a person’s general feelings of well-being, positive social involvement, and opportunities to achieve personal potential. QOL for individuals consists of eight hierarchical factors (1):
- Physical well-being – health, nutrition, exercise, activities of daily living, leisure and recreation
- Material well-being – financial security, employment, shelter
- Rights – being treated with respect, dignity, equality, privacy as well as having legal rights observed
- Social inclusion – the feeling you are a valued and important member of society
- Interpersonal relations – being able to participate with others in your community
- Self-determination – making your own choices and decisions, having a sense of personal control
- Personal development – having opportunities for education and purposeful activities, feeling competent and fulfilled
- Emotional well-being – including freedom from abuse and neglect, feeling happy, having a sense of security, having friends and caring relationships, feeling of contentment
Overall, QOL rejects a deficit approach to autism. It focuses, instead, on strengths, human diversity and human rights.
Self-regulation weaves through all aspects of Quality of Life. Physical well-being, for example, is achieved through planning and organization, balancing impulses (controlling the amount of chocolate cake you consume), remembering your goals and ways of achieving them, monitoring your progress and state of being, etc.