“The cognitive model”
Understanding the cognitive model
The first preoccupation in the education of the autistic person is the ability to offer a therapeutic programme that will enable a maximum reduction in the devastating effects of the handicap on the cerebral organisation, support the person in acquiring a more appropriate functioning of thought, assist him in acquiring functional knowledge, and communicate the pedagogical tools to his family within an assignment of reciprocal collaboration.
Whether it involves the need to acquire a communication tool, better control of the emotions, integration of information for the construction of knowledge or simply to carry out learning, autistic people require a highly specialised structure. Although several procedural models exist and have contributed to a significant improvement in the quality of life of these persons, our knowledge of the handicap, the cerebral damage of autism and its effects on development have led us to develop ever more appropriate clinical approaches.
The cognitive revolution has progressively transformed the image of psychiatry and psychology. Some encouraging results have been obtained by cognitive therapies in a considerable number of pathologies and maladjustments. Education, in offering more suitable pedagogical tools for learning, has also been influenced by this revolution. The cognitive model, by examining the clinical disorders listed for autism (deficit of sensory integration, disorders in emotional control pathology, loss of intentionality and mental conduct), can provide us with particularly interesting solutions and tools, and it is from this angle that our clinic specialised in autism saw the light of day and from which our programme has been developed.
What is meant by “cognitive”?
Frequent usage of the term “cognitive” suggests that it is well-defined, but the term takes on a different meaning according to the authors and the proposed theoretical models. What is said to be cognitive may represent distinct aptitudes or capacities for affect, such as reasoning, development of thought, language and learning capacity. But the term cognitive also defines the faculty of the brain to treat and organise information coming from the senses or experience. This faculty offers the possibility for the individual to carry out a certain number of elementary and organised operations that enable him to understand and interact suitably with the environment. It may concern operations that make possible perceptive encoding, memorising and treatment of information, creation of thought patterns, selective attention, expression and comprehension of language, learning ability, deep feeling, control and expression of the emotions, and logical thought. These faculties would be the autonomous and interdependent modules of intelligence, giving a specific and unique response allied to their respective characteristic (Fodor 1986). It is according to this second definition that the therapeutic model in autism has been developed.
The clinical procedural model
The clinical procedural model was first conceived for young children who displayed disorders of an autistic nature. Nowadays, it is held that the model and approach are also appropriate for adolescents or adults, and for persons who have similar disorders (e.g. X syndrome X fragile). The programme is of a psycho-educative, development and cognitive nature. It is situated at the intersection of therapy and education. The approach insists upon the importance of operating the mental processes that underlie intelligence, and incorporating the emotional and affective aspects existing there.
The theoretical and referential are founded upon:
– The understanding of the autistic syndrome from the neurological, psychological and development point of view.
– The model of intelligence and affectivity functioning in keeping with the work of Stanley Greenspan.
– The interpretive models of the functioning of thought by cognitive psychology and education as a systematic approach to communicating the tools for its functioning.
We consider that, as long as the autistic person has been unable to set up a more adequate organisation of thought, development will remain greatly disturbed and learning will be deficient and limited. The earlier the therapeutic processes of reorganisation, stimulation and integration of intelligence and affectivity structures are adopted, the greater are the chances of recovery and the less harmful the effects of the handicap on the functioning of the person within his environment.
The clinical work that we propose is sustained and highly specialised. It supposes an individualised and regular work that includes the participation of the family. For observable and significant results within the entire spheres of development, the number of sessions per week varies from one to five. The therapeutic approach is global and can be applied within the specialised educational services that receive autistic persons.
Goals of therapeutic work
For the person
– Work in emotional control and the establishment of the emotional intelligence construction, support and development of intentionality.
– Stimulation of mental conduct, connection and maintenance.
– Stimulation of language, work on the communicative function, communication circles and active language, flexibility of production, progress from the communicative mode to more complex developments, and creative thinking.
– Functions of learning, observation, acceptance of simultaneous and integrative information, imitation, problem solving, guidance and maintenance of conduct, development and organisation.
– Prevention of behavioural problems
For the family
– Responding to the need for information and understanding of the child’s difficulties.
– Communicating the pedagogical tools that will encourage learning and are suitable for the child.
– Establishing an individualised educational project
– Collaboration with scholastic establishments, medical circles, and medico-pedagogic services.
– Theoretical and practical training for the parents.