Friday, December 29, 2006

Happy New Year!

Here's wishing you all a Happy New Year!
We hope 2007 is filled with many happy memories.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

No Regrets ... Only Possibilities

I was having lunch the other day with my sister and grandma. As we were enjoying our lunch we started talking about vacations and the places my sister and I were planning to go over the next year. We were talking about how expensive some vacations can be, but my grandma put it into perspective for us saying we should go and visit as many places as we can now so that we don't have regrets when we are older. You see, my grandma now has macular degeneration and can see very little and she talks about all the places she has been, but also says she regrets not getting to more places while she still had good eyesight.

After that lunch, and with the new year approaching, I got to thinking about all of the wonderful things that have happened in my life in the past 18 months. A year and a half ago I hadn't really even heard of RDI, and then thanks to Nicole all of that changed. I attended the two-day in Ann Arbor in June of 2005 and just knew that this was something I needed to pursue. In August of that same year I took my very first plane ride ever, and have now flown a total of 5 times. For someone who was very scared to get on a plane it is now such a great and convient way to travel.

Back to RDI - making those three trips to Houston, completing my supervision and having the opportunity to work with some of the greatest people in the world has made such a significant change in my life. Eighteen months ago I had no idea what was ahead - only that there were many changes coming, but also many possibilities. I am so happy that I made those changes and have discovered some amazing possibilities. So in the words of my grandma, I will forge ahead accepting/making changes and searching for all of the new possibilities that 2007 has in store for me. No regrets ... only possibilities.

I hope that you will be able to discover many possibilities this year as well!

Happy New Year!
Until next week,

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Success Stories

I received this funny and exciting story from a family today and had to share. It brought me laughter and tears as I read it. I of course took out names, so it might read a little over confidential like, but you'll get the idea.

"The trip to California (last week) was just for pleasure. I had meetings in LA on Monday/Tuesday but we spent the rest of the week hiking and playing on the beach. However, we were home in time for Christmas and my mother-in-law and my parents all commented on how much more relaxed our son appears and how well he handles himself.
He also had a few situations while traveling that would have completely been overwhelming for him a year ago and he handled these very well (including a woman who was very rude to him on the airplane because he was accidently kicking her seat -- but he handled himself beautifully). Lucky for that woman that our son is in RDI or that may have been her last flight!"

We always appreciate hearing the little and/or big successes that take place. Below every post is a place to leave comments. Please take time to click on the comments and share your successes with us. These are the moments that keep us excited about our jobs and what we do! This is also what keeps other families motivated. For those of you in a rut, hang in there. Development is like a rollercoaster. Sometimes progress is happening so fast that it passes like a blur, but other times it feels like you are climbing so slowly that you wonder if what you are doing is worth it. Drudge through the slow times with much anticipation of what the good times are going to bring.

Have a wonderful start to the new year!


Friday, December 22, 2006

You can all be creative!

A lot of you are off for a few days or maybe even a week over the holidays and so time is in your hands. Some of you may be thinking - what am I going to do with my child during this time? You shouldn't be hearing - "I'm bored," or "There's nothing to do" - because being home all day with your child provides so many opportunities to do some great things. We invite you to check out the latest RDI newsletter and also our message board to find many wonderful activities that you can try.

REMEMBER - an activity is anything you can do when you're not dead!

A few reminders to think about in regards to coming up with activities to do with your child:
  • Creativity is not the finding of a thing, but the making something out of it after it is found.
  • The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Schools Clarification

In my last post I wrote about my two different jobs and that I would be blogging about a variety of things one of which being RDI in relation to schools. After thinking about it for the last week I wanted to offer some clarification to what I meant by that.

First of all, RDI is not a school based intervention. It is not intended to be carried out by school staff with children It is intended to be a family intervention process. This means that the consultant works with families to carry out specific objectives centered around that child's developmental level and the family's needs at the time.

This being said, some of the principles covered in the RDI program are great strategies that can be used in a school system and are really good teaching methods for all students. Some of those strategies include communication style - experience sharing versus manipulative communication, using more non-verbal communication, providing wait time, etc. Other strategies include highlighting emotions, slowing down and simplifying activities, and beginning by teaching new strategies with an adult first and then moving to peers. We can also work on things like developing patterns and routines and then varying those routines to increase flexible thinking and competence as well as understanding the concept of "good enough" thinking.

So, while RDI is not an intervention that is done in schools, many of the concepts of remediation are applicable to the school setting. At times I will be writing about my thoughts or experiences using some of these strategies in the school setting and how it relates to children's performance or abilities. I look forward to blogging about these experiences in the future.

Enjoy your holidays!
Until next week,

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Many of you have probably heard the phrase Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS). I was writing this down for a family the other day when a fellow employee says "I don't like that word", refering to stupid of course. Ok, so it's not nice, but I didn't make up the phrase! So anyway, I have now changed the phrase to Keep It Simple and Short. I thought this was a great little phrase to keep in mind when doing "RDI activities". A big struggle as a parent is to continue to push our kids to learn more or do better. So as a result, we introduce complicated activities to our children and end up setting them up for failure. So as we often say, take what you think is simple and simplify even more. Once our kids are competent with it in the simple form, it is time to add a little more complexity - as Nicole put it so nicely in her last post.

So the next part of the phrase now is to keep it short. I don't want the this term short to be seen as doing tid bits of activities here and there, rather just making it a bit shorter than how you planned it. Keep the kids wanting more so they look forward to rejoining you and doing this again in the future. A problem that we create by engaging our children longer than we should is frustrated kids and parents. This may also result in kids not wanting to do this activity in the future and potentially keeping them from wanting to join in other activities. One way to prevent this from happening is taking the amount of time you think your child will enjoy the activity and shortening it just a bit from there. So I want you to think about the "short" part more as keep them wanting to come back for more. For those of you who are just starting out, the word "short" may literally mean 10 seconds here and there until your child's competence begins to build and they realize that these moments of interaction with mom and dad are moments they can trust. It's amazing to watch these 10 seconds of time eventually evolve into 15 minute activities with parents. What a joy to see this interaction take place that parents never thought could happen.

I just got a note from a parent last week that went something like this: "We went to pick out Christmas trees this year, and our son was actually able to understand what we were trying to do. Last year was extremely stressful, but this year it was enjoyable!" What a wonderful note of progress to receive.

Wishing all of you a relaxing and enjoyable holiday break!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

What do piano lessons have to do with Broadband Processing?

My oldest son is in first grade and started taking piano lessons about 8 weeks ago. This is his first experience with playing the piano so everything is new to him. So far he has been exposed to rhythm / beat counts for each note, note names, using the right and left hand, where to place his hands on the keyboard, dynamics (loud, medium, and soft), and keeping his eyes on the music to look at the notes. Today the teacher added the "staff" into the mix so he now has to look at where the notes are placed on the staff in order to know what they are.

As I watched his teacher work with him and introduce this new lesson, the concept of "broadband processing" came to mind. From the very first lesson the teacher has carefully scaffolded for my son so he is able to integrate the new concept for each week with what came before it. Whenever they start a new song she has him first focus on the notes and where to place his hands, then she adds in the rhythm / beats, then the dynamics, etc. She never expects him to look at a new song and integrate all the components at once on the first try. He needs time to process each component separately and get practice with it before he can be expected to sit down and put it all together. Once he has played the piano for longer - learned about all the elements and done lots of practicing - he will be able to tackle a new piece of music and pull many components together seamlessly. I remember this being my experience with the piano as well. I took lessons for 14 years and the more I practiced the more I was able to process multiple elements of the technique and musicality at once when learning a new piece of music. But with more complicated pieces I needed to separate out the elements and practice one at a time before bringing them all together to sound like it was supposed to.

This is the essence of broadband processing - being able to pull multiple elements together at the same time into something that makes sense as a whole. The ability to process information along multiple channels at once is essential for functioning in the real world. In order to fully understand communication and information around us we have to be able to take in the words that we hear, the tone of voice, the volume, the context, the intonation, the gestures and facial expressions we see, physical distance, previous experiences, etc. in order to generate meaning from the communication of others. We also need to pull together those elements in order to communicate in meaningful ways with others. But - this is a complex process, and one that we take for granted because it is so easy for us! Young children have so many hours of practice with each of these elements as they grow in their early years - by the time they learn to talk they are already quite proficient at broadband communication. They have been able to learn about and practice each of these elements as part of the natural developmental process from birth on up!

In order to help children on the spectrum learn to process in broadband ways we need to take some notes from my son's piano teacher - start slowly with one element and add new components one at a time once competence has been established. Just as I would never expect him, at this point in his piano career, to play a piece of music perfectly the first time with the right notes, rhythm, volume, and hand position, I should not expect a child on the spectrum to be automatically able to process all aspects of information / communication together at the same time without lots of scaffolding and practice. Watching the piano lesson today was a good reminder about the importance of slowing down, adding in and spotlighting one element at a time, and continually practicing in order to build competence with broadband processing of many elements at once.

Since I won't be posting again until next Tuesday, I wish all of you a very happy holiday!

Until next week,

Monday, December 18, 2006

What's HOT! (Horizon's Occupational Therapy)

A couple of weeks ago I attended a great workshop on the vestibular system. This area significantly impacts many of the kids that I see. Many of the children have difficulty figuring out where their bodies are in space, feel disoriented in new or overwhelming environments, and have difficulty with awareness of time. I was excited when I learned about the use of nature sounds on CD's (not music) to help these kids to feel oriented, more secure in their bodies, and become aware of moments in time. In trying a nature sounds CD with one of the kids I work with, I found that she settled down quickly, stopped her activity at times and turned her head toward a various bird chirp or clap of thunder sound, then was able to re-connect with me and the task that we were doing. This is important because of the natural rhythms of nature, and even using the natural rhythms of a mother holding a child and letting them hear their heart rate, and breathing rhythms demonstrate a calming affect on these kids. If this sounds like something you'd like to try out with your child, just look for a CD with nature sounds on it and see how it affects them. Sarah - OT

Friday, December 15, 2006

Something to think about...

I will be posting on Fridays to hopefully enlighten you over the weekend. My posts will mainly be quotes, poems, sayings, or activity ideas I come across over the week that I feel will be appropriate for many of you out there.

My name is Betsy and I'm the office manager at Horizons. I make sure that everything runs as smoothly as possible day to day and also help out with the kids from time to time. I have to say - the work that Nicole, Michelle and Erin do with the families that we see is amazing. They are so dedicated and enthusiastic about their work.

I came across this poem from a newsletter we received from a local organization who also works with children with disabilities and I thought it would be nice to pass along to all of you.

Beatitudes for Friends & Family of Exceptional Children
Blessed are you who take time to listen to difficult speech,
For you help us to know that if we persevere,
We can be understood.
Blessed are you who walk with us in public places,
And ignore the stares of strangers,
For in your companionship,
We find havens of peace.
Blessed are you who never bid us to "hurry up",
And more blessed are you
Who do not snatch tasks from our hands
to do them for us,
For often we need time rather than help.
Blessed are you who stand beside us
As we enter new and untried ventures,
For our failures will be outweighed
By the times we surprise ourselves and you.
Blessed are you who ask for our help,
For our greatest need is to be needed.
Blessed are you when you assure us,
That the one thing that makes us individuals
Is not in our peculiar muscles,
Nor in our wounded nervous systems,
Nor in our difficulties in learning,
Nor any exterior difference.
But is in our inner, personal, individual self
Which no infirmity can diminish or erase.
Author Unknown

Thursday, December 14, 2006

How Early It Starts

Hi, My Name is Erin and I will be blogging on Thursdays. I have been working at Horizons for a little over a year now. I started as the Speech/Language Pathologist at Horizons and have recently become one of the RDI(tm)Program Certified Consultants on staff. I love working at Horizons and enjoy all of my time with the children and families there.

A little about myself: I am single with no children, but have lots of children in my life to keep perspective on neurotypical development. In addition to working at Horizons I am a speech/language pathologist and autism teacher consultant for a local school district so I spend my days surrounded by children. Having said this some of my posts will relate to the things I see or deal with in school in relation to children on the autism spectrum or RDI in relation to school.

So on to my story for this week. In the lounge at school one day this week one of the teachers was talking about his son and what was really important as far as creating a "meltdown." Another teacher chimed in with how early real and fake distress begins and how quickly children pick up on using this technique. He was talking about his 18 month old son and how he will decide when a crying fit is appropriate. His son will throw himself to the ground, peer out of the corner of his eye to see if anyone is watching and then will proceed to cry and carry on until the audience is gone, he gets what he wants or he is told to stop. We were then just chatting about how early children figure out this tactic of using crying to get your way, but it only works if someone is willing to listen and play into it. This made me think of all those times I've seen children in stores, church, or even at school who will throw little fits, but as soon as no-one responds the fit magically stops. I thought about this in relation to our nonverbal language and what our "body language" is conveying. If we as adults don't seem to be affected/stressed by the crying then most children will eventually give it up and learn that there is a more effective way to convey dissapointment, frustration or stress. So the next time this happens to you just take a breath and think about what your nonverbal language may be conveying.

Until next week,


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Trauma at Meijer

This is my firts post to the Horizon's blog and if you haven't guessed already, I will be posting on Wednesdays. My name is Michelle and I have had the wonderful privilege of working at Horizons for over three years now. I am one of the RDI(tm)consultants here and am also the Assistant Director. It has been a wonderful journey and I look forward to many more years working here.

A little about myself: I am married to a wonderful man with whom I share two beautiful girls. Our daughters are 3 and 1 so I too have development right under my nose. It's amazing to see the tremendous strides they make daily and how they can wake up one morning and suddenly have entered the next stage of life. My three year old suddenly became a preschooler. She no longer has the toddler look or feel to her. At the same time my 1 year old became a toddler, she is no longer my little baby. When does this happen? I believe it literally happens over night.

So onto my trauma at Meijer. Yesterday I was shopping with my girls when I get in line to check out. There is a man checking out with one bag of Jelly Beans. The cashier looks at him and says "$4.68". He looks at her and with sternest voice and with his finger waving away says "$4.68, it can't be $4.68. Get a manager up here right now!" In the mean time I'm revving up my grocery cart, ready to run him over if he so much as touches the young cashier. Things get resolved and he comes back to talk to all of us in line. "Check your receipt," he says, "that girl doesn't know what she's doing!" I just smiled and said, "Thanks, have a Merry Christmas". To that he walks away and then turns around and says to me "I'm Scrooge". To that I smiled and thought to myself "yes, sir, that's what you are!"

In a moment that most of us would have handled with ease, this man decided it was worth getting extremely upset about and worth ruining this poor cashier's day. This got me to thinking again about what is important in life and to what could we give the honor of a "crisis moment". Children having a temper tantrum or moving at snails pace is a moment that will quickly pass and is not worth stressing over. An extremely sick child or the death of a family member is what I percieve as a moment that can put us into crisis. Take time to think, is your perspective of what is worthy of stress right now on track or are you overreacting over the small things? This is certainly the time of year that things become more stressful than usual. Take time to relax, reflect and enjoy life and don't become the next trauma at Meijer.

Happy Holiday's and until next Wednesday,

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The first post of our blogging adventure

Well, it's a Tuesday evening and you are hearing from me for what I hope will be the first of many Tuesdays to come. My colleagues and I are undertaking this blogging adventure as a way to put our thoughts, stories, ideas, observations, and wonderings out there for anyone in the world who is interested in reading them. Just as in the work we do together each day, this is bound to be sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes thought-provoking, sometimes entertaining, but never dull. We hope you'll tune in often to join us on our adventure!

I'll start by telling you a little bit about myself. I am married with four children - 3 sons (ages 6, 4, and 3) and a daughter (age 4 months). There is alot of child development to observe at my house! I own the Horizons clinic and am blessed to have the most talented and wonderful staff anywhere. I am also blessed to have an amazing group of families who allow me to consult with them and learn from them as they evolve on their own journey with their children. I have a teaching / special education background and currently do some school consultation in addition to RDI consultation with families. My main extra-curricular activity outside of my family and work is taking classes toward my PhD in Clinical Psychology. I'm on the slow boat with that, but I figured if I never started I'd never finish!

Tonight I am thinking about my role as a consultant in the life of families. A consultative role is really about guiding more than doing. Just as we talk about the master-apprentice relationship between parents and children, there is a similar relationship between consultant and family. My role is to guide and scaffold for parents so they can be more effective guides for their children. There is a tendency for me to sometimes feel that I need to solve everything for families (or at least provide some ideas), but my real role is to make sure that families find their own path for success by staying focused on what is important to them and helping them achieve a productive problem solving process for themselves. Consultation is a paradoxical thing - the better job you do the less you are needed! It can be a difficult role at times when I want to jump in and "do" things, but I am learning that it is far better for me to stay in a guiding role so that families can become competent and truly own the competence that develops. It is not about my competence - it is about the competence of parents and children together.

Until next week,