Daily Life Therapy (DLT) method also known as Higashi was developed in the 1960s by Dr. Kiyo Kitahara at the Musashino Higashi Gakuen School in Tokyo, Japan. She developed the method through what she learned from teaching a child with autism in a mainstream education kindergarten class. Her main objective was to develop self-esteem of the autism children and create emotional security for them.
Higashi is a Japanese word which means ‘hope’ and it is a holistic approach to integrate autism children with other normal children to study together in one group. There are a few methods used in this approach such as providing a systematic education by involving group dynamics, modelling, physical activities, art, music, academic, and vocational training.
How DLT (Higashi) works
Behavior management in DLT does not involve the measurement of neglect, punishment, time-out procedures or through medication. DLT is not to treat or to cure Autism Syndrome Disorder (ASD), but is believed to provide other important benefits such as improving the skill of ability, flexibility and function appropriately when they are with internal community and also activities involving family. Activities are group-oriented and highly structured with an emphasis on learning transmitted from child to child through synchronisation and imitation.
The Higashi approach emphasises group learning in the context of a programs which includes vigorous physical activity to develop both strength and concentration. Physical activity is one of the academic curriculum’s of children with autism and it is a challenge for their ability level as well as to increase their interest to engage in activities conducted. Practitioners believe that through exercise, children will be able to control the level of body coordination and at the same time control their behavior. Physical activities such as exercises and games have the positive impact on behavioral, psychological, and physical specifically in individual with ASD. DLT programs are normally using an appropriate instruction, equipment, and daily movement activities such as walking, running, climbing, and jumping to improve gross motor skills which allowing children with autism learn to acclimate to the stimulating world around them.
Among the main principles of Daily Life Therapy (Higashi) are as follows:
i. The focus of curriculum is on movement activities, music and arts.
ii. Children engage in vigorous physical activities throughout the day.
iii. Instructions are group oriented, example all children in the class are taught the same thing and at the same time.
iv. Children learn through imitation, for example they imitate exactly what their teacher do.
v. Routine activities are very highly structured.
DLT using the Higashi approach is an educational program for children with autism based on three interrelated principles: vigorous physical exercise, emotional stability and intellectual stimulation. By using these three core principles of DLT, children with autism learn to naturally focus their attention, diffuse their energy, feel calm and relaxed, and allowing them to learn without the need for medication. DLT also provides other important benefits such as improved coping skills, increased flexibility and improved appropriate functioning within the home community and family events. The ultimate goal of DLT is to archive lifelong inclusion in the community and high quality of life.