Meg Proctor is an occupational therapist and the founder of Learn Play Thrive, LLC. Meg teaches and trains other therapists on how to use an in-depth understanding of autism learning styles and strengths to become more confident and effective in their work. Meg's website, learnplaythrive.com, has tons of free resources as well as a CEU course for therapists who are ready to truly go deep into their work with kids on the spectrum.
Learn more at learnplaythrive.com
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everybody welcome back to another episode of the autism and action podcast today we have another very special guest. We've got Miss Meg Proctor with learn play thrive at Asheville, North Carolina. Welcome to the show. I'm so excited to have you today.
Thank you. I'm thrilled to be here.
Well, I can't wait to learn all about what you're offering your community. And what it how it is that you serve the autism community.
Yeah, so I'm an occupational therapist. And when I came out of ot school, I was working in early intervention. And I really just felt like I didn't know what I was doing with my young clients on the autism spectrum. And I imagine a lot of people in your fields can relate to that. Yes. And I felt a lot of, of desire and pressure to be serving my clients while because families really needed me. And eventually, I worked in the schools and I worked in clinics, and I kind of settled into doing something. But I was never really doing what I wanted to be doing what really aligned with my values and how I wanted to work with kids. Because I really just didn't have the right training. So I eventually, I was appointed a clinical faculty member at UNC Chapel hills teach autism program. And they were one of the first programs back in the 70s. To say Autism is a culture, it's a learning style. It's not caused by refrigerator moms, and that autistic people have their own strengths. And that really resonated with me. And when I was there, I learned so much about autism in a way that kind of showed me where I had been going wrong before, and why I was feeling ineffective. And helped me learn how to really draw from the strengths and learning styles of my clients to help them participate more fully and joyfully in daily life. So I eventually left teach and I founded, learn, play thrive, where I teach and train other occupational therapists, and others, I do have some folks from the mental health field and speech therapists and teachers in how to work with our autistic clients in a way that really celebrates their strengths. And I'll give I'll give a quick caveat. I know a lot of people are used to person first language, a lot of us were taught to say person with autism. And I do say autistic, because we're hearing from autistic adults that that's for the majority of autistic adults, that's their preference. And also because autism isn't a disease, it's not something that we can or should separate a person from, unless they tell us they want to be separated from it. So just like we might see a neurotypical child because it's okay to be neurotypical, what I have learned from listening to autistic adults is that we can and should say, an autistic child because it's okay to be autistic. So that's my quick disclaimer on the language. So I teach a course called the Learn play thrive approach to autism, where I teach therapists how to understand deeply how an autistic child thinks and learns what their strengths are as an autistic learner and as an individual and build from that towards their interventions. And my goal is to move people away from compliance based interventions that Rob our kids of autonomy and joy, towards more strengths based interventions.
I think that is so awesome and very, very needed. Do you work with a particular age group? Where does that vary?
I tailor the interventions to kids as young as one and a half or two all the way through school age, with a variety of cognitive abilities. So every strategy, I give examples of how to use it with really concrete learners, so for example, very young kids or kids of any age, who are more concrete thinkers, might not be able to make sense of pictures. And so we say, oh, autistic people are visual learners. And then we put pictures on everything, including for kids who don't have a strong sense of symbolic reasoning yet. And so I teach how to use object based instructions for those more concrete thinkers, which a lot of our two year olds are and some folks are their whole life, but also how to use the strategies for kids who are older and who might have more abstract reasoning.
And that's really good to object based learning, because that's almost tangible, right? If it's there, if it's present.
Yeah, and draws from the strengths of autistic people so you can teach meaningful routines using an object that the child knows and understands what to do with. And that will be much more meaningful than this like symbolic picture on a piece of paper that doesn't really speak to the child's strengths or interests in any way. Right?
In a way, it's still abstract. Oh, absolutely, yeah. Yeah. Well, I think that is so awesome. Now the courses that you've created, I think you have three different options.
Yeah, so I have two courses. One is the Learn play thrive approach to autism. It's pre recorded, self paced, people take it online and work through it. But then we kind of come together in a Facebook group and share our ideas and apply the concepts to cases. And that's the eight contact hour course where I teach tons of really concrete interventions that people can use in their work. And I should say, I know people listening to this podcast are more in the mental health field. So what what that looks like for ot is, what does the kid need or want to do in their daily life in their daily routines? And how can we help them participate more fully, so we're a little less focused on their internal world, and a little more focused on participation in daily activities.
But module one of that course, is called a strengths based approach to autism and behavior. And I also teach that as a standalone live course, where I go through here's what we know now about how autistic kids think and learn. And it's different than what most of us were taught even recent graduates. And I teach my process for starting with a behavior, but looking at it through an autism lens, rather than a behavioral lens, or a sensory lens, but an autism learning styles lens, so that we can better understand our client, and then mapping from there to an intervention that doesn't just ask the child to change. Because if we think about autism as a culture, and the trouble that autistic people are having in this neurotypical world, as a sort of cultural disconnect, and there's really strong research supporting this paradigm, then it's not fair or ethical, really, to put the whole burden of change on the child to say you need to learn new skills you need to change and in fact, we're seeing that that leads to depression, suicidality and PTSD. So it's how can we map from what's happening? That's not working, understanding it through an autism lens, and then coming up with an intervention plan that balances what skills to the child or other people in their life need to learn? How can we change the context? How can we change the activity, given what we know about the child's learning style and their strengths? So that's my two hour live course where I teach that process, and then we work through it together. And then I think the third thing you're mentioning, I just have a free 45 minute masterclass where I teach sort of the, the why behind strengths based approaches, and some of the how for learning styles based interventions, and that's called autism strategies that transform ot practice. And all of those are on my website at Learn play, thrive calm.
Well, you just answered my next question. I was going to ask you to share where people can find you. And so your your online with a website? And do you have a Facebook page? Also?
I do. Yeah, it's facebook.com slash Meg Proctor ot. And from there, I, the police that I'm really feeling excited about being right now is my facebook group called learn play and thrive autism resources for professionals. And that's not just OTS, there's all sorts of different fields represented there. And the conversations happening there are so amazing. When somebody asks a question, we'll have dozens of comments that are that are strength space that consider the autistic perspective that are pro neuro diversity, but that are also helpful to the person who's trying to figure out what to do. So that's a really amazing community that your listeners would be welcome to join as
well. Awesome. Well, I just want to say thank you so much for all the wonderful work you're doing in the community, and for taking the time to be here and share this with families. We're here at the autism action podcast. Our goal is to bridge the gap with the services out there so that families have access to them. And you are one of those services. So thank you very much.
Now, we would love to hear from you.
Do you have questions? Do you have ideas? Do you have an opinion? Do you think we missed something?
Let's have a discussion in the comments below or head over to the Autism in Action Facebook group. We would love to hear from you!