Frequently Asked Questions

What is communication and why does it matter?

Communication is about exchanging messages with a partner — sometimes with words, and sometimes with eye contact, physical contact, gestures, pictures, or sounds. All children go through a series of stages of communicative development, as the move from non-communicating infants to fully communicative children.

Children with autism go through the same stages of communicative development as typical children, but their journey is often slower and they require much more practice to master each stage.

Communication is a central challenge for children with autism. Challenges with communication impair a child's ability to get basic needs met, to form relationships, to learn end explore and to complete basic tasks of daily life. Not surprisingly, when children struggle with communication, it shows in their behavior in the form of frustration, tantrums, aggression, and even depression.

Our central goals is to help children communicate more — more often, on more different topics, with more different partners, in more settings — in whatever way they can.

What are relationships and why do they matter?

Relationships involve emotional connections, communicative exchanges, and simply spending time together in shared pursuits. It is our firm belief that every person, regardless of ability, is entitled to experience warm and loving relationships. Relationships matter not only as a protection against isolation, but as a vehicle for learning. The truth is, across the lifespan, most learning occurs through social contacts, not through structured lessons. Helping children learn to be more socially skilled will provide them with more opportunities for learning throughout their lives.

What is learning and why does it matter?

Learning is about taking in new information through sustained interactions, play, and instructional activities. It is also about showing curiosity and a desire to explore new objects and ideas.

At IDS, our central focus is helping children master the process of learning. Our goal is not to teach information, but rather, to help children lean how to learn, so they will be equipped to continue learning throughout their lives.

Why is play an essential vehicle for learning?

We take guidance for Jean Piaget, the developmentalist who observed that children learn abstract concepts not from adult explanations and lessons, but from hands-on manipulation of objects in their environment. By handling, exploring, examining — playing! — children learn.

Play is also important for social development, because it is the primary means of interactions among young children. By learning to play, children can play to learn!

What are daily living skills and why do they matter?

We teach daily living skills to help children be more independent, and to help them participate more fully in family routines and community activities. The skills we target vary according to family needs — again, because the reason for teaching these skills is to help the child be more independent and included in family life.

Daily living skills may include learning to do a chore, hanging up coats and backpacks after school, cleaning up toys after play, sitting through a meal, toileting or personal safety on a neighboorhood walk.