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Successful Synthesis #1 | Ep 5

Connect with S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Podcast - Episode 5, Launch Date: May 12, 2021

With Dr. Richard Smith and Dr. Lynette Scotese-Wojtila

Subject: A review of episodes 1-4


Episode 5 is a review of our first episodes. We talk about The SUCCESS Approach, transdisciplinary care, observing readiness, sense-making, sensory processing and how all of these concepts relate to one another.

Listen to Connect with S.U.C.C.E.S.S. on major podcast platforms, and here: https://thesuccessapproach.org/autism-podcast


Connect with S.U.C.C.E.S.S. is a podcast built around The S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Approach (SM) and the person who coined it, Dr Lynette Scotese-Wojtila. Episode 5 is special because we're going to be presenting in the first of many sessions called “Successful Synthesis Sessions.” In these synthesis sessions, we will provide a review of key ideas, covered in the last three or four episodes that will help you kind of integrate or synthesize the information into something useful in a particular situation.

In Episode 1 we talked about transdisciplinary care, and how we use it in The SUCCESS ApproachSM to really get to the meat of that neurodevelopmental model. And then from Episode 2, we're going to revisit readiness, a very important topic, and how we identify readiness in the child or the adult, and what it looks like. And from Episode 3, we're going to revisit the idea of sense-making. And how human beings move through this really cool cycle that allows us to make meaningful contact with people, places and things. And the last thing we're going to try to lay around here, is the idea of a sensory systems and how efficient or proper sensory processing really allows us to function and thrive in the world. But when sensory issues plague some of our kiddos, they limit those children's ability to be adaptive and function within the world.


About "Transdisciplinary Care" from Ep 1:


The idea of transdisciplinary care equates to a full team and must include our wonderful parents and family. And these people, these professionals and family together, work to assess, plan for, and then treat and teach the child, which creates this unique web of support to fully facilitate the child's progress. This good team approach results in listing the ingredients -- like if we're going to make a cake -- that kind of listing of ingredients that we're going to need to bake the "just right" cake and how much of what you need. And when you have those ingredients, as defined by the team, what we want to do next in a transdisciplinary model is cross train and role release. So that's going to ensure proper blending or synthesizing of those ingredients.


So this blending isn't entirely easy, it does take a lot of work, and while The SUCCESS Approach (SM), again, I will emphasize can beautifully be applied and effective for all children and adults with special needs, especially those with autism because that's what it was designed for, it's a little harder to say that about the adults who are actually providing services. And the reason is because not every adult has that orientation. Not every adult or family member even has that capacity to really collaborate. And it's because it takes specific skills.


About "Readiness" from Ep 2:


Some of the key points that we want to revisit from episode two about readiness:


Readiness is an observable state wherein the child is adequately prepared to meet the demands of the environment. They are ready to function and respond to what's going on around them.


About Sense-Making from Ep 3:


Sense making is basically the same thing as comprehension or learning, and sense making is the outcome of a process, so it's an end product. And it's the centerpiece of one of the concepts unique to Gestalt theory, that's from the field of psychology and Gestalt theory, and is truly one of the key theories of The S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Approach (SM) that makes it work so well. I mean it is the secret sauce, in my mind. And Gestalt theory actually is the hallmark theory of my doctoral research.


I spent a lot of time and intimate research on Gestalt theory. And what's so cool about it is that it provides us the schematic, the circular schematic, that was created and recreated by many Gestalt theorists, over time, that helps us conceptualize a circular process through which our brains travel, as we experience sense-making.


This circular process starts with none other than sensation, and it moves them through other various cycle parts and kind of comes to contact. So there are steps I am leaving out in between, but we go from experiencing sensation to moving through this cycle of making contact and therefore understanding or wrapping our brain around, whatever it is that we came in contact with. It's kind of an automatic process we don't often talk about it.


According to Gestalt theory, to achieve proper sense-making, one must go through several steps of the Gestalt cycle of experience without getting stuck.

About Sensory Processing from Ep 4:


In episode 4 occupational therapist Ellen Winney discussed the topic of sensory integration. Here is a clip from the podcast:


Dr. Scotese-Wojtila:

And some of the key things for sensory integration are, again, sort of understanding this process, this subconscious, subcortical quite literally, subcortical process that kind of happens at the brainstem, you know the primitive parts of the brain, where information comes into the sensory system, and gets processed and interpreted and sort of utilized for function. And we kind of talk about it as almost a reflexive sort of thing, because it is brain STEMmy, so to speak. We're not thinking about that accidental scratchy sound at the window at night and consciously, putting meaning to it. It's a quick reaction -- “Is that a robber? Or is that a raccoon?” And it’s fast!


Dr. Rich Smith

Right, and some of them really do get stuck in that processing piece, and trying to assess their environments all around them. And us unwillingly doing things could just be kind of pushing them into that loop.


Dr. Scotese-Wojtila

That's right, and it's stuff that we don't even realize. So when we're talking about the sensory systems, another key point is these children don't often inhibit. They can't turn off, or turn down, the sensory impulses, or the sensory perception, and so it might be that something that we perceive every day, like the humming of a refrigerator, that is quiet background noise for us is unfortunately salient for that child. And that's what is in their consciousness; they can't suppress it, or they can't inhibit it. And it's because autism affects the sensory processing. That's a really important part of the DSM FIVE now, that there are sensory symptoms that can go along with the disorder, and that helps diagnosticians to make the right call.


Dr. Rich Smith

I mean we see it a lot in our students in classrooms. We see it with our own children, as we're going through just this, constant overstimulation, and it's them trying to make sense of everything all at once.


Dr. Scotese-Wojtila

That's right. And sometimes it's the opposite. It's under processing. So you know, “lights on nobody home” kind of thing. When you look at your child, they're not quite perceiving that there's a fire alarm. They're not quite perceiving that there's an ant crawling on them. They're not perceiving that there is the smell of dinner being ready. And so they're not getting cues from the environment like the rest of us, and therefore their behavior is reflecting that.


Dr. Rich Smith

And you bring up a good point about the behavior, because sometimes in order for them to cope, their coping mechanism might be something verbally not acceptable in a particular public setting, and it's just misconstrued as misbehavior, but it's really the stem trying to cope with that overload.


Dr. Scotese-Wojtila

That's right. Oftentimes it looks disruptive to the naked eye. So if a child is irritated by the tag in their shirt, they may have to pace, to tolerate, or cope with that load -- that tactile load. What that looks like, maybe to a teacher or to a principal or to a nanny or to a grandma or to a bus driver or somebody, that the child's disengaged, or worse yet, being disrespectful. That it becomes sort of this attribute, this personality type, and not at all. Is the child disrespectful?

Dr. Rich Smith Labeled as defiant.


Dr. Scotese-Wojtila

Yeah, that's right. And so these adjectives come into our description of these kids that really couldn't be any farther from the truth, which is kind of sad I think takes a toll on parents. You know parents see the beauty, and parents see the uniqueness and the strengths in their child, and the beauty, really, again. And when you hear some of these terms it’s like wow that I don't consider my kid aloof, like, “What is everyone seeing?”, Or defiant. I don't see that, you know, I see him troubled, I see him distracted. I see his nervous system on fire. You know those are very different ways of describing a child than deliberate, or class clown, or something else more negative.

Podcast 5 Challenge:


So our challenge for this episode. Today listeners, I invite you all to revisit your own ability, and your team's ability, to do three things:

  1. To assess and facilitate your child's readiness.

  2. To support his or her ability to really connect and make meaning from people, places and events around him.

  3. To define what sensory supports your child may need most to function and stay adaptive, and maybe identify one way that you can be an extension of your child's occupational therapist (OT) to provide that sensory input.


Listen to Episode 5 of Connect with S.U.C.C.E.S.S. on major podcast platforms, and here: https://thesuccessapproach.org/autism-podcast

For more information about The Success Approach, please go to our website at www.thesuccessapproach.org.

Want to help your child and your whole family using The SUCCESS Approach? Check out our online course: https://www.thesuccessapproach.org/online-course

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