The right motivation can increase the likelihood of completing a difficult task – something that’s even more important for children with autism, says Stanford psychologist Grace Gengoux. But it’s not always easy to tap into something that motivates an autistic child who struggles with social interaction to communicate and engage with others.
Gengoux, a clinical professor and director of the Autism Intervention Clinic at Stanford, works with pivotal response therapy (PRT), a type of treatment that follows the child’s lead in finding the motivation to communicate and interact. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced her and her team to take their program online, they found unexpected benefits in this new way of delivering treatment.
On this episode of School’s In, Gengoux joins Stanford Graduate School of Education Dean Dan Schwartz and Senior Lecturer Denise Pope to talk about what characterizes a person with autism, evidence-based practices to motivate this population of children to interact socially, and the advantages her team discovered when they brought their program online.
Before the pandemic, the Autism Intervention Clinic provided two types of direct service: a classroom-based program for young kids, with a therapist administering direct treatment; and parent training sessions at the clinic, to help parents learn how to deliver PRT on their own at home.
When COVID-19 hit, Gengoux was surprised by some of the benefits of moving the program online – including access to a practically unlimited library of digital props to align with a child’s particular interests, as well as the ability to create a virtual environment online, a more appealing space for the child to learn complex social communication skills.
“These are the core skills that children with autism need to practice – but using their interests, which are at our fingertips when we’re online.”