Ernie Els Center for Autism South Africa Newsletter – October 2021

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Latest news from the Ernie Els Center for Autism in SA, which provides families with fewer resources than children on the autism spectrum free access to effective education for their child through e-learning programs.

1. Measure the success of the Ernie Els #GameOn Autism Golf Program
The Ernie Els #GameOn Autism Golf Program includes 12 golf lessons, for young people (aged 8-18) on the autism spectrum. It aims to develop life skills, encourage social interaction and promote a healthy lifestyle, through golf. Each session is designed to build confidence and self-esteem, in a fun, welcoming and supportive environment, encouraging participants to learn golf skills, while practicing specific autism learning concepts.

Els for Autism, South Africa is partnering with four sites around the world, including the UK, the US and Ireland, in delivering a multi-site group project that takes place from September to November 2021. This international group project seeks to measure the success of the Ernie Els #GameOn Autism Golf Program, which provides a global evidence base to support a better Health Enhancing Physical Activity (HEPA) offering for young people on the autism spectrum.

To find out more about this program, please visit: https://www.elsforautism.org/get-involved/resource-center-ernie-els-gameon-autism-tm-golf/.

2. Empower parents with a new group telemedicine coaching project
In recent years, Els for Autism South Africa has offered parent-focused intervention. And since 2019 the team has added a short-term parenting coaching service, using the RUBI Autism Network manual as a guide. This parenting training manual was developed by Karen Bearrs and colleagues.

For over a decade, The RUBI Autism Network has been developing and testing a structured parenting (PT) training manual for children with ASD and disruptive behavior. The RUBI Parent Handbook consists of several core sessions, which include functional approaches to managing problem behaviors, as well as focusing on teaching appropriate alternative skills using evidence-based practical teaching tools. In South Africa, we have incorporated an “Autism 101” power point presentation as an introductory session to ensure that all families are equipped with fundamental knowledge about the autism spectrum.

Participants are expected to engage in each session and provide feedback on strategies practiced at home with their child. The strategies will then be modified to better suit the child’s learning style.

“The goal of this resource is to impart effective behavioral techniques to reduce disruptive behavior in children with ASD and promote the acquisition of daily living skills,” commented Shani Lits, program director at Els For Autism South Africa.

This approach is so valuable, as 25% -53% of children with ASD exhibit clinically significant externalizing, destructive or aggressive behaviors (Edwards et al. 2019). Additionally, challenging behaviors can interfere with language, communication, social skills and hinder the ability to learn adaptive behaviors required for daily life. (Edwards et al. 2019). Therefore, this approach of focusing on both decreasing destructive behaviors and concurrent work on functional replacement skills is a powerful and effective tool for families.

Why Parenting Education?
Parents or caregivers are the force and agent of change! Therefore, parent training allows you to tap into this powerhouse of knowledge (after all, who knows more about their child than the parent or caregiver?) By incorporating both parenting and training to help better manage the behavior of the child. their child in a family and supportive environment. Parent training has been shown to reduce destructive behaviors and set the stage for better adaptive functioning; and can be provided in a variety of settings.

We are excited to be part of an upcoming research project, undertaken by multiple organizations in three countries (South Africa, United States and Canada). This research project is being carried out for the first time in South Africa, where RUBI’s support will be offered in a group context and via telemedicine. We look forward to receiving feedback from our participants to see how we can change the project to better fit our context.

Why group and telemedicine?
Group parenting training is a low-cost service alternative, serving multiple customers at the same time. It also has the added benefit of providing social support to participating parents. Telemedicine allows greater access for clients and offers more flexibility for the family having a child with ASD. Together, offering parenting coaching in a group setting, via telemedicine, offers parents or caregivers the opportunity to learn the skills needed to reduce problem behaviors, and thus they will be more likely prepared for possible future challenges. This in turn will allow parents to feel more confident in managing their children’s behavior.

Els for Autism South Africa is thrilled to be part of this team and we look forward to offering the RUBI Parent Group Telemedicine Training Project in the future, to serve more families. We look forward to providing you with feedback on this incredible research in the coming weeks.

3. New teacher training sessions from Els for Autism South Africa
We are now offering introductory training for teachers and professionals in a school setting. In recent years, Els for Autism South Africa has found that this, coupled with identifying a gap in teacher support, has helped us embrace the opportunity to offer teacher support service.

The goal of this teacher empowerment training is to provide competent teachers, support staff and school management with general guidelines, using evidence-based practices, on how to manage challenging behaviors in the classroom. Together we work on the A, B and C of behavior, namely the Antecedent (what is the trigger), the Behavior (how to identify and define a behavior) and the Consequence (what happens after a behavior).

Our goal is to guide staff in identifying the function of the behavior (why the behavior occurs) and how to use a more functional behavioral approach, which could be useful in the classroom to identify adequate prevention strategies and consequences. We use classroom examples and provide practical advice to equip teachers with tools to handle a variety of challenging behaviors.

“Given the current South African regulations on Covid-19, we have only been able to offer this service through an online platform, Zoom,” explained Shani Lits, program director at Els For Autism South Africa. “We have had the privilege of offering this service to a handful of schools this year. The Teacher Empowerment Program is currently offered in four 1-hour sessions for four weeks. We have received tremendous feedback so far and are excited to continue providing this service to more schools. “

If you or your school are interested in this service please do not hesitate to contact us on [email protected] , or alternatively on (072) 961-5756.

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