NACD (National Association of Child Development) is one of the therapies that is currently catching on for use with autistic children. Actually, it is a set of techniques that can be used with any child to accelerate learning, be they normal; developmentally delayed or even severely impaired.
This type of therapy is a neuro developmental therapy and actually uses techniques that allow the child to learn and acquire skills himself rather than actually directly teaching those particular skills. It uses simple repetitive exercises that target development of those areas of the brains / or basic fundamental skills that are required for acquisition of a particular type of learning.
I personally love some of the precepts of NACD i.e.Frequency or doing the same set of activities several times during the day, Intensity i.e. doing the activities in short bursts so that the childs motivation to achieve is at a higher level, instead of repeating the same things ad nauseum. The design of some of the activities is so simple that anyone can implement them with very little training. The other advantage, which is important for me is that you don’t need the patience of a saint to implement these activities.
The other things that NACD stresses on is “Processing” or the ability to hold and use information in short term memory and “Dominance” or the correct alignment of our sensory channels for optimal learning, retention; recall.
One of our first success stories with Sahil was an exercise for increasing processing involving following more than one instruction in sequence. We had tried this earlier using ABA and Special Education techniques whereby he was given two instructions in a row and had to comply with them in the same sequence. He appeared to have a lot of difficulty with this and we could not achieve 100% accuracy with even two random instructions.
Enter NACD. We started with two random instructions in a row and prompted him through this without testing him for a few days. Since the duration given for this was a few minutes only, we could only manage about 2-3 sets of instructions during this activity. However, the activity was slotted in at least 4 times in a day. Within a day or two we noticed that he was following the instructions by himself even while we were trying to prompt him through it. Then, when we reduced our prompting he was doing it totally independently. When we increased the number of instructions to three, again with a little practice he was able to achieve this. By the end of the quarter, It was time to evaluate him. Sahil could do seven instructions in a row! This was in line with his digit span processing and was the correct target for him.
How did this happen? I don’t know. I think maybe when the child knows that he is only going to do the activities a couple of times with help, he is not particularly anxious. Then when the same thing is repeated after a gap, the pattern of learning starts forming in his mind without the interference of failure or boredom. This is my theory, but I suppose Bob Doman the founding father of NACD would probably be able to explain it better…