Persons diagnosed with autism often engage in repetitive acts that were historically considered behaviors that served no purpose. These repetitive acts are now collectively referred to as stereotypy due to their formal similarity and the periodicity with which they are emitted. Equipped with a more contemporary understanding that stereotypy does indeed serve an important function for the person with autism, FTF Consultants are expert in designing effective teaching programs for humanely addressing stereotypy and building capacity in others to do the same. We emphasize balancing an individual’s freedom to engage in stereotypy with the consultee’s obligations to educate, habilitate, and create conditions in which persons with autism or intellectual disabilities are content and integral members of their families and broader communities.
Any intervention for stereotypy may seem unnecessary from a humanistic perspective, given the prevailing understanding that stereotypy may decrease anxiety for persons with autism. We understand the concern, but recent research has shown that persons with autism who engage in chronic stereotypy prefer to enter therapeutic contexts in which these balanced teaching programs are administered rather than spend time in concurrently available contexts in which they could engage in stereotypy freely and without interruption.
We build capacity in others to implement this model for addressing stereotypy within a three-step process. The first step is a half-day seminar in which the assessment and skill-based treatment process is illustrated via interactive lecture and multiple case examples. The second step is on-site implementation support following the seminar. FTF Consultants guide the process of designing and implementing personalized assessment for two children or clients served by the hosting organization. If appropriate consent is obtained, video technology allows for the analysis to be viewed by all participants. The skill-based teaching process is then outlined for each client and the initial treatment is often initiated on this day. The third step involves weekly consultative support via Zoom videoconferencing. An FTF Consultant supports the host organization’s personnel in progressing the skill-based treatment until critical social skills are developed under the conditions that used to occasion stereotypy. We support teams until treatment is extended to all relevant people and contexts and until a socially meaningful impact is achieved.