Thursday, December 20, 2007

Sharing your Love

"Love is the simplest thing in the world. Yet we often make it the most complicated." - Anne When we get too busy, we forget that love is a givt and that we are not in charge no matter what we do. Love is an energy flow. It can't be held. It can't be controlled.

How true are these words? I have found myself all choked up time and time again this past week with over things stories I have heard or seen on tv, from words that people have said to each other and to me, from gifts of thanks and from observing the amazing improvements that are taking place with the children and families I work with. The common theme running through all of these times is that they all revolve around the gift of love.

It is truly the simplest and greatest gift there is. You cannot help who you love. It is the only gift that is free and continues to replenish itself so go on and give it away.

To all of you who have touched my life with love this year, thank you!

I wish you the happiest of holidays!

Talk to you soon,

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Year is Coming to an End

It’s already the middle of December, which means that 2007 will soon be history. Where does the time go? While the weeks before Christmas are usually a blur to me, I always look forward to the slower pace of the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Our office is closed that week and is one of the few times each year that I really slow down, enjoy time with my family, and don’t worry about anything else. The slower pace allows time for reflection, and I often find myself thinking back on the year and reviewing it in my mind. As a family we spend some time talking about our favorite events and experiences from the year.

Anticipating the new year to come also provides opportunities for thinking about events and experiences that will be enjoyed in the next twelve months. I’ve never been one for making resolutions, but I do think about goals I have for myself. As a family we think about plans we have or things we hope to accomplish together in the next year.

Maybe the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is slower paced for you as well. I invite you to spend some time alone and together as a family thinking about all the things that have happened in 2007. As parents, spend some time celebrating all the big and little achievements you have had with your child this year. You can also think about things you are anticipating in 2008, and talk about goals together. It might even be a nice time to review the mission previews you wrote if you haven’t looked at them in a while. However you spend your holidays – I wish you many wonderful moments with your children. See you in the New Year!

Until 2008,

Monday, December 17, 2007

Holiday Memories

Reading through Michelle's posting last week regarding memories that make the holiday season meaningful made me think about the moments that I will be sharing with my family this year. I thought about the events that will be coming over the next few weeks and realized that the holidays are not about the hustle and bustle of the season, which many of us tend to get lost in, but about the quality time you spend with your family and friends. This year, my holiday traditions will be changing a little. My fiance and I are going to start our own family traditions and I am eager for the holidays to come. We will both be bringing our own family traditions and memories together and merging them into our own. I am very eager for the moments being home together and the memories we will make during our first holiday season.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday season full of fond memories and special moments for you and your family. Happy Holidays!


Friday, December 14, 2007

Lunchtime at Horizons

This is a very interesting time of day here at Horizons. The staff usually spends their lunch eating in the staff lounge while our instructional students eat around the kitchen table which is in the room next door.

Part of the instructional program is to work on preparing lunch, table manners, and then cleaning up. We have one staff member who works with these students during lunch but the rest of us have the opportunity just to sit and enjoy our lunch in the other room. We love to listen to what's going on and can only imagine to what is actually going on. We will periodically go in and out to engage with the lunchtime fun. We sometimes leave them on their own to see what they are able to accomplish together - like doing dishes together - it's quite interesting. Another fun thing that happens during lunchtime are polls taken on our dry-erase board on the fridge. We have many interesting questions pop up on there and we all love to give our opinions. The boys love to see our answers too!

Here are our lunchtime friends:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Living Life

Tagging along with Nicole's blog from this week about reaping what you sow I read something recently about living life. The information I read posed the question - "when my life is over will I feel that I have lived it or just gotten through it?"

A family friend's brother passed away last week and I attended a "celebration of life" for him on Saturday which started me thinking about life in general. I tend to spend time reflecting back on the passing of my father when I attend visitations, funerals or hear about someone I know losing a loved one. After leaving this particular celebration of life I thought about how nice this was to have all of your friends and family gather just to talk about all of the memories they have of you. What better way to show that you lived your life and didn't just get through it.

At this time of year when I am really in need of a break I tend to find myself just getting through life rather than really "living" it. Why is this when this is the time of year when I should truly being living life and taking in all of the experiences associated with the holidays which starts to happen around December 22nd. I should be doing this all year long. I think for the most part I do "live my life", but I do know that there are times when I "just get through it." One of my resolutions for this coming year is to be conscious of those times when I am just getting through and make an effort to change.

There is so much life to miss when we are just getting through. Life is short and what you make of it. So reap what you sow and live your life to the fullest don't just get through it.

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Encoding Holiday Memories

The answers so far to the holiday poll have intrigued me. As I put the options together I figured that things like Santa and opening gifts would be a popular answer. Isn't this what ends up being spotlighted as "important" while we are kids? I often hear people say "I'm going to let my kids believe in Santa and have a good time with filling stockings. Isn't that what makes Christmas fun?" According to the answers in the poll, I'm noticing that the gifts and Santa are not what people are seeing as important and triggering the best memories. Instead, I've noticed that things that produce good quality family time is topping the list - making food together, the food we ate together, the things we picked out together, getting snowed in together. Interesting... What are you going to do this holiday season to instill good family memories? If you haven't voted yet, be sure to do so!

Reaping What We Sow

A farmer walked into the local supply store to buy corn seeds for the upcoming planting season. He wanted to grow the best corn crop he possibly could and he wanted them to come up quickly. The owner of the store directed him to the variety of available options and helped the farmer determine exactly the types of seeds he should buy and how many. Before the farmer left the store the owner made sure he had given him directions and tips on how to properly plant and care for the seeds. The farmer left with bags of seed, fertilizer, and detailed instructions. He was feeling excited about the possibilities for the growing season ahead. He just knew this was going to be the best corn crop he ever planted.

By the time the farmer got home from the supply store it was dinnertime and he was hungry and tired. He carefully unloaded the bags of seed and his other purchases and set them down inside the barn. He had every intention of beginning to plant them the next day. The farmer went inside, had dinner, and went to bed.

The next morning the farmer woke up and the sky was a bit overcast. It looked like it might rain and he decided it wasn’t the best day to plant the seeds he had purchased the day before. After all, if this was going to be the best crop he ever planted he needed to make sure everything was just right. That day came and went and the seeds remained in the barn.

The next day came and the farmer had a huge list of things to tend to on the farm. There was broken equipment that needed to be fixed and some animals that needed tending to. He thought about his seeds many times, but decided they would just have to wait. That day came and went and the seeds remained in the barn.

The days continued to come and go, and the seeds remained in the barn. It seemed that something else more important or pressing always came up, or he was really tired from all his hard work, and it was never the right time to plant those seeds.

Finally one day the farmer woke up thinking about those seeds and realized he had to get them planted or he was going to miss the planting season entirely. He raced outside, grabbed the bags of seed and fertilizer, and started throwing the seeds all over his fields. By the end of the day he had all the seeds planted and he went to bed that night feeling pretty good about himself. He hadn’t followed the guidance provided to him when he first bought the seeds, but he was sure something good would come of his efforts that day to get those seeds in the ground.

The growing season continued on and the farmer periodically tended to his crops – watering them when they got really dry and dumping some fertilizer on them every once in a while. As the season reached it’s peak the farmer began to get frustrated at what he saw when he looked out on his fields. The plants that were coming up seemed small and fragile and they weren’t producing much. All he could see was a few pieces of corn here and there attached to spindly dry stalks. Where were the lush green stalks he was supposed to get from those seeds? Where was all the corn that was supposed to be growing on those stalks?

As the days wore on the farmer’s frustration grew and grew, and he began to get angry. This wasn’t how the growing season was supposed to work out! After all, he had bought the best seeds, the best fertilizer, and had a great vision for what the outcome would look like. One day, at the height of his frustration and anger he grabbed a corn stalk out of the ground, threw it in his truck, and sped down to the supply store where he had purchased the seeds many months before. He was going to look that store owner in the eye and give him a piece of his mind.

When he got to the store he was glad to see the owner just inside the door. He stomped inside, held out the pathetic stalk of corn, and demanded to know why the man had sold him such terrible seeds when he specifically told him he wanted the best that were available. The store owner looked at the corn, and then at the farmer, and asked him if he had followed the instructions and tips he had given when the seeds were first purchased. The farmer told him that indeed he had planted the seeds, used the fertilizer, watered them and this was the result. At first the owner was baffled as to why this farmer’s corn looked the way it did. As the conversation wore on, however, it became clear that the directions had not been followed and that hasty last-ditch efforts had been substituted for the carefully planned and well-tended care required to grow the best crops. The store owner shook his head and told the farmer that he’d be glad to help him select seeds again the next year, and would offer him advice, but that it was up to the farmer to follow through.

The farmer left the store feeling a mix of anger (that stupid store owner), resentment (who does that guy think he is anyway), guilt (I should have done a better job following those directions), fear (what’s going to come from this terrible crop and what if I try again next year and it comes out just as bad), and shame (I’m a bad farmer and should have known better, and now I’m trying to blame my failures on someone else). He went to bed that night tossing and turning.

The next morning the farmer felt slightly revived by his night of fitful sleep, and went out to look at his corn crop. He noticed that the ground was drier than usual so he carefully watered the plants and staked a few that were particularly droopy. He went to bed that night feeling somewhat better that the plants would look decent in the morning.

When he woke up and looked out upon his crops the next morning, however, they looked just as bad as the day before. The plants he had staked were still standing, but now there were others that had fallen over in the night. The farmer became enraged at the corn. He began running up and down the field yelling and kicking the corn stalks – blaming them for refusing to grow right despite his efforts. This went on for a little while until the farmer finally came to his senses and realized that he could be angry and scream at the corn all day long and it wasn’t going to make the corn grow any faster or better. He walked back to the barn feeling a mixture of anger (stupid crops that won’t grow-look at all the money I wasted), resentment (this corn just won’t grow right no matter what I do and I didn't ask for this difficult corn in the first place; this isn't what I thought I was getting), guilt (I should keep trying to do what I can for this crop since it’s all I’ve got right now), fear (what’s going to happen to these crops if I can’t get them to grow; what if I keep trying and they still don’t produce anything), and shame (here I am blaming the corn plants when it’s my own fault they aren’t growing).

The rest of the story is for you the reader to determine. How does the story end in your mind? Does the farmer give up? Does he get his act together and do what he can from that point on? Does he move on and find another supply store owner to assist him? However you end the story, think about this question:

What did the farmer sow and what did he reap?

Each of us has an area in our lives where we are the farmer and someone or something is the corn. It’s easy to sow poorly or half-heartedly and then blame other people or things for the failures we reap. We feel that mixture of anger, resentment, guilt, fear, and shame and we have to decide what to do with it. Do we just let those feelings continue to fester without taking any action? Do we give up? Do we move on to find the thing we are sure will work? Do we shape up and get our act together? It’s easy to blame others for our failures, but much harder to look at ourselves and point the finger.

My questions for you to reflect on this week are in relation to your children with autism and your remediation efforts: What are you sowing? What are you reaping? How does your story end?

Until next week,

Monday, December 10, 2007

Holiday Hustle

The malls are all dressed in their holiday best. Shoppers are out and about. Even though the holidays can be a busy time of year it is important to continue to work on remediation with cheer. Remember, it is not the quantity of time, but the quality of time.
Happy Monday!


Friday, December 7, 2007

A New Member of Horizons

Introducing a new member to Horizons and saying "Goodbye" to a trusty old friend.

"Old Friend"

After many years of hard work and dedication our trusty old copy machine decided to take a puke on us. It has served Horizons well. Nicole and Michelle were telling me the story of when they decided to purchase this copy machine and what a big deal it was to them - they were so excited to get a copy machine and Nicole was so nervous to spend the $300 on such a large piece of office equipment. That was almost 5 years ago. Well, it wasn't worth it to fix it so on to new and better things for the ever growing Horizons.

"New Friend"

This new purchase made me so excited. This is something I have been asking for for quite some time. My old friend took up quite a lot of space on my desk top and I new if we ever upgraded that we'd get something that would be off my desktop - so needless to say when my old friend took a puke I was a little joyful. I was threatened with not being paid for weeks so that we could purchase a new one, but we found a new friend that would work well for our growing business and would allow me to get paid - whew!!! So, one day I was out getting lunch and arrived back and to my surprise found a new friend waiting for me. I gave it a big hug - seriously! It does so many neat things that my old friend never did - double side without having to open the bottom tray and flipping the paper around, collates, staples, and the best feature of all it's off my desk and out of my office! I was told this is my gift for Christmas, my anniversary, my birthday, for the next 2 years so I better be good. Thank you so much to Horizons for getting this wonderful piece of office equipment - it's awesome! Who knew that something like this could make someone so happy!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Self Care

It is that time of year again when we find ourselves busier than usual at least I do with the preparations for the holiday and all of the extra events that seem to crop up. All the more reason to make sure we are taking care of ourselves.

I found this quote "Taking care of ourselves sets a good example for our children. When we think about the legacies we can give our children, self-care may be one of the greatest models we can give."

How fitting is this during this time of giving. Our children deserve to see that we value ourselves and that it is okay to take time for ourselves. I was talking to some parents today about their family schedule and this topic came up. The mom feels like she can take time for herself and doesn't feel guilty about it. The dad on the other hand doesn't feel like he can do this and when he does he feels guilty about it. We had a nice discussion about why taking time for himself is really important and I think was affirming to him to hear his wife say she is happy to let him take time for himself.

Even I am guilty of not taking good care of myself all the time and will readily admit that there are times when I am doing things for myself and feel guilty about it. This past weekend for example I went to see the Trans Siberian Orchestra and as I sat waiting for the concert to begin I was thinking of all of the things I should be working on, but as the music began I stopped feeling guilty and just enjoyed myself. I am thankful that my sister talked me into going and I took the time for myself because it rejuvinated me and I was able to be really productive on Sunday. By the way this was the best concert I have ever been to hands down and I highly recommend that if it comes to a venue near you to get tickets and take some time for yourself.

So during this crazy time of year try to find just a little time for yourself. What kind of legacy will you leave your children?

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Poll Results

The results to last weeks poll are in. Thanks to all who voted! Here are the results:
I overcompensate and do too much for my child.
4 (36%)
I under compensate and expect too much of my child.
1 (9%)
I've found a nice balance.
6 (54%)

Hopefully after thinking about this a bit, you have thought about ways to change how you paretn if you over or under compensate.

For this weeks poll I wanted to continue the thoughts of episodic memory that Nicole started yesterday. This week I'd like you to think about what things trigger the best memories of the holidays for you. I look forward to seeing what this is for most people so I can use these ideas with my kids! Please comment if you have more to add. I'll update the poll as I receive more ideas. Let's see how much we can generate between now and the end of the year!


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Holiday Episodic Memories

We started getting into the holiday spirit at our house this weekend by decorating and putting up our Christmas tree. My kids love going through the totes of decorations and reminding themselves about all the stuff they haven’t seen for the past year. Decorating the tree is a great time because each of the kids has their own ornament box with their special ornaments in it. My husband and I decided to carry on a tradition in my family where we buy each child an ornament each year so by the time they grow up and leave home they have a collection of meaningful ornaments for their own tree. Some of their ornaments are gifts they have received from other people or decorations they have made in school. One of my favorite moments of the year is sitting in the living room with holiday music on and opening up those boxes. The kids excitedly open each one and talk about where they got or who gave it to them, and then find a special spot for it on the tree.

Every year at Christmastime I am reminded of the power and magic of episodic memories. There are so many elements of the season that trigger memories of the past – the taste of Christmas cookies, the smell of fresh pine, the decorations, the sounds of holiday music. All of those things bring floods of memories of holidays past, of the people who are dear to us, and the special moments and traditions that bind us together as families. Here are a few ideas for making memories this holiday season:
• Purchase or make an ornament together for your tree (or a decoration for your home). At the end of the season pack it away with a little note about when and where you got it / made it. Then when you get ready to decorate next year you can review the memory of your experience together.
• Make some cookies together and take time decorating them. Take pictures of your favorite ones for a scrapbook page, or review the experience when eating them over the next few days.
• Build anticipation by making a Count-down Chain. Make a paper chain with the number of links equal to the number of days left until Christmas day, New Year’s day, or whatever day is important for you. Each day you can take a moment to tear off one of the links together and share your anticipation of the special day getting closer.
• One of my favorite Christmas books is called The Sweet Smell of Christmas, by Patricia Scarry. We had this book while I was growing up and we would read it all the time during the holiday season. The book has scratch-and-sniff stickers throughout so you can smell different things on each page while you read the text. I had forgotten about that book until a couple of years ago I found it at a small bookstore in the area. When I opened it up and began smelling the stickers I was immediately brought back to my childhood – the scents were amazingly familiar and it brought back all kinds of warm memories of the holidays with my family. I know read this book with my own children and it has created all kinds of great memories for them as well. If you can find this book somewhere I highly recommend it!

I hope these ideas get you thinking about ways to encode meaningful memories this holiday season. If you have some memory-making ideas or stories you’d like to share please leave a comment – we want to hear from you!

Happy memory making,

Monday, December 3, 2007

The New Operating System (OS)

Happy Monday everyone! I just returned from an exciting week of training in Houston for my RDI certification. We spent a lot of time familiarizing ourselves with the new Operating System and I have to say that I am very excited about! Some of you may feel a little overwhelmed with all of the computer and internet options, but I must say that once you spend some time working with the new OS, it is very user friendly. I am amazed by all of the exciting features the OS has to offer. Dr. Gutstein introduced us to a new inexpensive piece of equipment that is easily compatible with the OS. It is called a Flip camera, which you can buy at Target, Walmart, and other local technology stores. The camera will film up to 60 mins and has zoom in/out features. It is small and can be carried in a purse or pocket. The best part is that the USB jack is built into the camera! When you want to upload a clip to your consultant, all you need to do is plug the camera into your computer and Squish it in the OS. It is a really neat piece of equipment and a nice alternative to the larger video cameras. Please check it out by clicking on the title of this post. Have a great week!


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Being Grateful

This was the theme of my page a day calendar on Sunday.

It stated “Being grateful and thankful is contagious. Today, how about letting three people know that you are grateful they are in your life?”
I know that Thanksgiving was last week, but I think that the whole month of November has the theme of gratefulness so I’m going to take today to let some of the people in my life know how grateful I am for them.

First and foremost I have to say how grateful I am for my mom and sister. Without them I would not be where I am in this life and would not have the strength and courage to take some of the risks I have taken. I am also grateful for their listening ears and the shoulder to cry on when I need it. I am grateful for their unending support and encouragement and unconditional love.

Second, I am grateful for Nicole for without her I would not have started down the path of RDI and expanded my Horizons. I would still be stuck in my safe little school mold continuing on in an unending path that was heading nowhere. These past two years have been the best and most challenging of my life and I would not trade them for anything. I have learned so much and am looking forward to what the next several will bring. I am also grateful for her support and encouragement and her willingness to listen when I need a friend or just need a sounding board. Along with Nicole I am grateful for Michelle and Courtney and our ability to collaborate and support one another. I am also extremely grateful for Betsy and her ability to keep us all sane. Without her I would not be able to keep track of my schedule and wouldn’t have the opportunity to meet with all of the wonderful families I have met working at Horizons. She is the glue that holds us all together and I so appreciate her. I am also grateful for her friendship. I consider all of the staff at Horizons to be my second family and am so grateful that all of them are in my life.

Finally, I am grateful for all of the families whose lives have touched mine on this journey. You have all taught me so much and I find it an honor and a privilege to share in your journey. I am grateful that you trust in my guidance and that you care enough to provide your children with this opportunity to discover their quality of life. Please know how truly grateful I am for all of you.

There are of course many, many others I am grateful for, but I don’t have that much space so I’ll stick with these for now.

Who are you grateful for? If you are willing to share we would love to hear from you.

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Check out the poll

On the left side of the screen you'll see a poll that I've added to the blog. On a weekly basis, I'll be changing the poll and giving everyone a chance to vote. Please let me know if you have any poll ideas and I may include that in a future poll. This week I chose the topic of guided participation and whether our readers are more likely to overcompensate, under compensate or are beginning to feel that they have found a nice balance to guiding their child(ren). I hope you join in on the poll and that you enjoy seeing how others respond!

Until next week!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Autism Remediation-Friendly Holiday Gifts

It's that time of year when we're thinking about gifts..what to give and what we want to get. In the spirit of a remediation friendly holiday, here are my Top 5 sites for giving and getting great gifts:

1) FatBrainToys - This site is filled with awesome toys, games, projects, and books that actually require brain power. Many things can be done collaboratively or you can choose things for your child to do on their own. There is also a significant selection of items made in the USA for those who are concerned with the recent issues surrounding imported toys. Customer service is great; shipping is reasonable; and there stuff makes your brain check it out!

2) Highlights - Known for their popular children's magazine, this company also sells a fabulous assortment of toys, games, and books for children of all ages. Buy a Highlights subscription and it will be the gift that keeps giving all year long!

3) Mindware - If you're looking for some great active toys, building kits, science experiments, geography games, and the like then you'll want to check out this site! There is a list of parent award-winning items that is helpful if you're not sure what to look at first, and you can also idea lists by typing in the age of the child you are shopping for.

4) Cranium - This company makes really cool toys and games that are fun for kids and adults of all ages. We have a number of their items at our office (a favorite is the Cranium Super Fort Kit) and the parents have as much fun with them as the kids! You can also sometimes find Cranium items at stores like Target, but not consistently so you are better off ordering on-line.

5) Horizons - Of course you'll want to come to our sight to shop for the popular "Do Something Daily" perpetual calendar. These calendars make excellent gifts for any parent on your list! You can also purchase Horizons Gift Cards that are good for any Horizons product or service. Make sure to let your family members and friends know that you want Horizons Gift Cards for the holidays - they are the gift that keeps on giving for a lifetime!

Happy Shopping and Until Next Week,

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

For those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving, I want to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving! This is a wonderful time of year to slow down, eat good food and reflect on the many things you have to be thankful for. If you are a current family of Horizon's I'd like to encourage you to log into the message board and post a success story that your family has had this year. I've had several families sit down with me lately so excited about some big developmental gains their child has made, so there should be a lot of nice success stories to add to the message board. If you are not a Horizon's family or don't know how to get to the message board, please leave a comment here of something you are thankful for this year. What gains have you seen in your child? Take time to reflect and think about this. It's so easy to get bogged down by the things of each day and never take time to think about "wow, a year ago that never would have happened!" Please share, each person's success story is another person's encouragement!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Self-Inflicted Problems

This morning the quote on my daily calendar read, "Most of the problems we face in life are man-made, and we are the man who made them." How true is that?! Let's face it, when we run into a problem in life we typically look at what we can blame the problem on...and none of us wants to look at ourselves! We blame our problems on lack of time, lack of energy, lack of funds, lack of resources, lack of spousal support, lack of support from our boss....and the list goes on and on. When it comes right down to it, though, we generally have a very real hand in the creation of the problems we face on a day-to-day basis. It is our lack of motivation, or inability to get organized, or "poor me" syndrome, or unwillingness to try something new that creates the problems we face.

I was thinking about this in relation to some families I know. When they run into problems or struggles with their children they immediately list all the reasons things aren't going well - most of them relating to something with their child. We can all hear those excuses in our heads - "but my child is really tough"..."I have less support from my spouse than other people"..."this just doesn't work with my child"..."my child isn't interested - he won't do it"....and the list goes on. Those explanations we come up with to explain our problems primarily serve to turn our attention away from the real problem - us. We very often are the main culprit in slowing our progress or perpetuating the problems in our lives and with our children. I'm not saying that some kids aren't harder to work with than others, or that all couples provide each other the same amount of support, or that every strategy works with every child. What I am saying is that instead of being so quick to pass the blame onto our child, spouse, or circumstances, we need to take a good hard look in the mirror. What am I not doing that I should be? What am I doing that I shouldn't be doing? What issues in my life are preventing me from moving forward? What changes do I need to make to be more effective? Until we answer those questions for ourselves we should reserve placing blame and laying the responsibility on everyone around us.

This week I'd like you to consider the things that you have a tendency to make excuses for, or blame others for, before reflecting on yourself. I'd particularly like you to think about this in relation to your time and relationship with your child(ren). What problems are you facing right now and what have you done to make them or perpetuate them? Then - the even more important question becomes what are you going to do to work toward a solution?

Happy Thanksgiving and until next week,

Monday, November 19, 2007

Happy Turkey Day

Wishing you and yours a Thanksgiving full of moments to be thankful for and fun! Happy Thanksgiving!


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Update Assessments

I have had the great pleasure over the past month to complete 3 update assessments. Two of the three families have been in the RDI program for 1 year and 1 for 6 months. As I watched the families During RDA 1, worked with the child during RDA 2 and then coached the family through RDA 3 I was so pleased and amazed at all of the progress that had been made over the past 6 months to 1 year.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the time I have spent with these families and I am so pleased with what I am seeing. It is living breathing proof that this program is the best!

I have also just started the process with a two other families over the past few weeks. The families are just beginning with parent readiness, but have completed their baseline appointments. I find this baseline appointment so invaluable because it will be really great in a year to reflect back on where we started from. I am also really excited to work with these two children and their families as I see so much potential.

I have several more update assessments ahead in the next few months and I am really looking forward to seeing the growth that these clients have made as well.

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


The topic of compensations seemed to be a real popular one last week, so I stopped to realize how I overcompensate for my children. The times I find that I overcompensate the most for my girls is when I'm in a hurry, tired or just "not in the mood" to slow down and guide. What a gift I am stealing from my girls when I'm not at my best (another reason to keep the pacing of our lives slow). Wednesday nights are always busy for me as I work all day and by the time I get home it's after 6 - they go to bed at 8. My husband works late these nights, so I single parent it and just plow through the evening to get it all done. Here are ten (of I'm afraid of many more) ways that I've overcompensated tonight alone:
1. I helped my 4 year old get undressed for the bath (because it'd be quicker and I didn't have to fight it)
2. I tied my 4 year olds' seat belt because I just wanted to get home and didn't feel like waiting for her to get it done.
3. I let my 2 year old sit on my lap at the end of dinner to encourage her eating along (shoving the food in her mouth on my own) so we could get out of Wendy's and get home!
4. I brought my girls out for fast food because I didn't feel like arguing when they asked and it was much more simple than having to figure out what I could whip together when I got home.
5. I brought their clothes to laundry room once they were undressed instead of waiting to give them the opportunity to do that on their own.
6. When my 4 year old brought our trash on the tray to the trash can at Wendy's, instead of letting her figure out how to get the trash in herself, I quickly said "oh, don't throw the tray in too!" She of course was like "I know that mom!" I did let her figure out how to get the trash on the tray over to the trash can and even started dumping the trash without dropping anything before I stepped in - I guess that was one too many steps for my comfort level! She did a fantastic job in spite of me!
7. Instead of having them put their clean clothes away, I just quickly did it - again to keep the night rolling.
8. I carried all the stuff in from the car instead of giving them the opportunity to notice something of theirs is missing and then not get it tonight in order to discover that if they want their stuff from the car, they better get it when they are coming in.
9. I put their shoes away for them.
10. I went and got the mail instead of giving them the opportunity to do that with me.

Many days I try to give them opportunities to join in with what I'm doing or try to accomplish a task on their own. It's amazing how each hour holds so many possibilities for learning opportunities and how when we overcompensate we are robbing them of these opportunities for growth. It's nights like tonight when things are busy and I'm tired that the overcompensations over flow. Remember though that pushing them too much is also hurtful in that they are unable to learn when the expectations are too high. There's a perfect amount of support that will guide our children to learning at their best.

When do you find that you overcompensate the most and how do you overcompensate?

Have a great week! Michelle

Monday, November 12, 2007

Traffic Confusion

On my way home from school this afternoon, I experienced a new traffic issue which I have never experienced before. On M-37 (an interstate like road here in West Michigan), the traffic lights at one of the busiest intersections were not working properly. The red and yellow lights would come on when appropriate; however, when it was time for the lights to turn green, they would shut off completely. Needless to say, traffic was backed up for miles! As I sat there observing everyone's reactions to the light, I thought to myself that this is a great example of how we use appraisal and creative thinking/problem solving in our lives. Fellow drivers were appraising the situation as I was to figure out what was going on and where they needed to focus their attention. I saw people using creative thinking/problem solving skills by turning around, waiting their turns, etc. and I of course also saw those individuals who were not using these skills very effectively and creating more traffic problems instead. It was an interesting moment to sit back and watch how effectively most of us use these skills without even noticing it. I think this is a great example of how dynamic our world truly is and why it is so important for us to work on remediation in these areas with our children on the spectrum.

Drive safely...


Thursday, November 8, 2007


I was in a meeting with a parent at school the other day and we were talking about her child and how he was doing at school and home. The more the mom talked the more I was thinking about how much compensation she does for her child every day it makes sense why he does "so well" within the home setting.

Compensation can be helpful and important at times, but in general what is accomplished with compensation? By always compensating for our children just to keep them happy and things on an even keel what is that doing to help our children reach a quality of life? When we use compensation are we helping our child build life-long relationships, think flexibly and become a problem solver?

Having said all of this please take a moment over the next few days to think to yourself about whether you are compensating or guiding your own child.

Talk to you soon,

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Importance of Structure

Today, my students and classroom staff returned to school after a week off. I was very pleased to see the smiles on my students' faces as they walked in the classroom this morning. They were all so happy to be back. As the day progressed, I noticed how important structure is in the lives of special needs children. My students were craving the consistency and routine of our classroom, even when they are faced with gentle challenges each day. I sometimes take for granted the structure and routine that I have established in my life and in my classroom, but today I realized how hard it is for my students to do that when they are not in school. They have a difficult time planning their day and planning ahead, which can lead to anxiety and frustration. They need guidance and support from adult guides in order to do this. Please keep this in mind as the holiday breaks approach.

Until next week...


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Healthy Lifestyles

I was reading this quote last night and thought about how it relates to keeping a healthy lifestyle.

If our children are to approve of themselves, they must see that we approve of ourselves.

- Maya Angelou

In the line of work that we do it is not uncommon for us to come across parents who struggle with depression. This is something I think about on occasion and feel that the above quote speaks to this difficulty. When parents are struggling with something like depression it is hard to hide it and often times come across as us not approving of ourselves this is reflected in how our children feel about themselves.

For those of you out there that do suffer from depression I encourage you to seek ways to deal with it. Find a way to restore that healthy balance and find your approval of yourself again. For some of you it might be making time to see a counselor or psychologist, for some a course of medication can help. For others it might be finding that one thing that you do for yourself such as yoga, a date night, a night out with friends, a hot bath, etc.

Whatever works for you to find that balance and approval so that your child can approve of themselves.

Talk to you soon,


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Safety

Happy Halloween! Today is a day of fun, overwhelming activities and way to much candy! All of this can result in tough days to follow as children are overstimulated, sick from too much candy and tired from decreased sleep. It's important to remember to:
  • limit the amount of candy your child eats each day
  • eat a good meal before going out
  • get home early so they can get to bed on time
  • have some calming activities planned for when you get home so they are able to sleep when bed time arrives, such as reading books, taking a quick bath, or playing some calming music while getting ready for bed.
In addition to helping your child stay regulated through the craziness of the day, it's also important to make sure your child is safe. Click here for more information on things you can do to ensure your child stays safe while trick or treating.

Have a fun evening!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Our biggest problems come when we fail to keep perspective

Here's something to think about:

"We often spend so much time coping with problems along our path that we only have a dim or even inaccurate view of what's really important to us." — Peter Senge

Monday, October 29, 2007

Halloween Is Approaching...

This afternoon, I received an email from a concerned mother regarding Halloween. She was wondering what my thoughts were on her son's participation in his school's party and trick or treating. As many of you can well imagine, Halloween is a very unpredictable day for all children. The level of uncertainty is very high. I am sure many of you are wondering if your child will be able to cope with the events of Halloween and I would like to offer some suggestions. First, if your child struggles with uncertainty, please keep this in mind when planning your holiday festivities. Second, don't let them participate in activities that will over stimulate them too much. It will be important to guide your child through the festivities and to help them regulate and re-regulate themselves as needed. Third, if you find your child becoming anxious, please use strategies that you have learned to reduce their anxiety. Remember, if they are anxious and you then become anxious, it will only make matters worse. Lastly, if you find yourself and your child enjoying Halloween activities together, end the activities on a good note. Do not plan a strenuous schedule that you have to get through. Try a couple of activities, if they go well, then call it a night.

I hope you find these Halloween tips helpful. Please be safe! Happy Fall!


Thursday, October 25, 2007


I felt like talking about something fun for my blog this week so when I received the new HearthSong catalog in the mail yesterday I knew it was just what I was looking for. I’m not sure how many of you get this catalog, but it is great.

I think Nicole made a great point in her blog this week about all those ways that we used to “waste time” when we were kids and how many kids these days have no idea what to do with extra time if their electronic devices are not available. I too remember spending hours just “wasting time” with the friends in my neighborhood or with my sister. I loved taking trips with my family and searching for license plates.

This doesn’t mean that I didn’t have toys or never watched tv, but I feel like there was a good balance between tv time and “wasted time.” Wow did my friends and I come up with some creative ways to use our toys and everyday items. This is why I love the HearthSong catalog so much. All of the toys in it inspire creativity and imagination.

It makes me want to be a kid again, but that is the great thing about RDI I can be even if it is for just a little while. Check out the HearthSong website I’m sure you will be able to find something that your child will enjoy and amazingly enough they don’t sell electronic devices. One of the even greater things about this catalog is that everything is very reasonably priced.

The website is Enjoy!

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Today I received an e-mail from my sister-in-law that I needed to call some 800 number to register my cell phone to get on some do not call list. This was news to me, and it isn't often that you are notified via e-mail about this type of information. Sure enough I get on and saw that this was in fact a spoof. It's a great website to use by the way when you are unsure about the validity of an e-mail.

Isn't it amazing how many spoofs are out there? Just in our e-mails alone, I get dozens of e-mails a day telling me I won some big inheritance, or that my e-bay account has some fraud taking place. "Please respond immediately". Do you know how often I hear from Bank of America - I'm not even sure why and I receive job offers daily! I'm not even looking for a job!

Spoofs, they are everywhere. How often in autism alone do you see quick fix solutions. 2 weeks of dolphin therapy and your child will, well be swimming with dolphins, but I'm sorry, still very much have autism. I could go on and on about compensation strategies that can make your child look better or get her through the day, but in the end will still very much have autism. Remediating the core deficits over several years (remember it's a marathon) is the only way that your child will receive life changing progress that can end in an improved quality of life.

What programs are you looking at now that might offer that quick fix or promises great results? Make sure to not to just jump at these promises in hopes of a cure. Don't get caught up in the spoofs of autism treatment. What are your hopes and dreams for your child? What is it really going to take to make that happen?

Until next week,

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Time Wasters or Awesome Opportunities?

I recently came across an online article about ways to spend time while waiting with a child. The title of the article was "Time Wasters," but as I read through the list it occurred to me that all of them would be awesome RDI(r) opportunities. Many of them brought me back to my own childhood - trying on my Mom's watch and rings during long church services, looking for signs on car trips with my siblings, having contests to see if we could make each other laugh while waiting for food in restaurants...those were the days! I don't know how much kids today have the opportunity to do these things now that our society is so consumed with doing something every moment. When we are faced with having to wait we tinker with our phones, i-pods, or other gadgets. If parents know their children are going to have to wait they arm them with game boys and portable DVD players. I wonder if these great "time wasters" that we enjoyed as children are on their way to extinction. It's a shame because these little activities provide tons of opportunities for reciprocal engagement, emotion sharing, collaboration, negotiation, experience-sharing communication, problem solving, and flexibility. Think of all the things you could spotlight by arm wrestling, making funny faces, or playing "telephone."

The complete list of 101 "time waster" ideas can be found at this link:

In the meantime, here are a few to think about and try:
  • Thumb wrestle
  • Draw letters or pictures or words on your child's back or arm and have them guess
  • Take off your child's socks and use them as puppets
  • Let your child try on your wristwatch or jewelry
  • Play "I Spy"
  • Sort and/or count change in your purse or pockets
  • Have a staring contest
  • Blow imaginary bubbles
  • Show your child the pictures in your wallet
Think about your own memories from childhood - how did you and your family and friends "waste time?" Pick a few of these little activities and try them with your kids this week. Turn time that might otherwise be wasted on electronic stimulation, static interests, or your kids driving you crazy into time for cognitive growth and emotion sharing experiences. Please share your memories and "time waster" activities in the comments section - we want to hear them!

Until next week,

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Finding Balance

“The whole practice of yoga – the breathing, the postures, the meditation – is about balancing your life.” - Ani Kolfoyan

I know of several of our clients who use yoga as a way to find balance in their lives. I have even done a bit of yoga myself from time to time and it really does help center and calm me. Yoga isn’t for everyone, but finding balance should be. Everyone needs to find their own way to balance their lives.

Finding balance is truly important for without it we can burn out, get short tempered, get sick, be depressed and forget about ourselves. In this day and age there are so many things pulling us in so many different directions – work, family, church, friends, and on and on the list goes. This makes finding balance even more important. That is why we talk about schedules with each family and work toward helping you to slow down and find time for yourself.

None of us can go 24/7 and expect to be effective at anything. Finding a way to balance makes us better at everything we do. So take some time this week to figure out how you want to balance your life particularly what will you do for yourself to help establish that balance. Maybe even some of you will consider taking up yoga.

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Another Great Story

I don't think I'll be able to top the story that Nicole shared yesterday, but I thought since she shared a nice success story that I would share something that happened this week as well. I have been working with this family for just over a year now and they have begun their third assessment. For different reasons, each assessment has it's own challenge. This particular assessment has given me a challenge because this young man made each objective that I tested out on him seem so effortless. There was no spotlighting or scaffolding that needed to take place to show mastery in these objectives. Usually I'll hit a wall with one or two objectives and I'll know exactly what we'll work on next. Wow! what a great challenge to be faced with!

At the end of this particular component of the assessment I decided to just pull out a game to play with him. It was such a pleasure to spend this time with him. During the game we had a lot of general chit chat about the game, emotion sharing over things that happened and such natural facial gazing to see my reaction or to share his reaction to things that happened. We even came to a point where we didn't know what a particular card was to be used for, so we talked about it and he made a suggestion and then I suggested something else. He quickly responded with "yeah, let's use it that way". This coming from a kid who had to have control over everything when we first started! At the end of the game I ended up winning, he looked up at me, frowned and snapped his fingers with a simple shucks. I loved being able to see a gesture, facial gaze integrated with an expression and words used together to share his simple reaction to losing the game. How cool to see him communicating with such broadband communication. When I started working with this family, if there was a chance he would lose a game, he wouldn't play. The focus of any game was the competition and the goal was to win, now it was about the interaction that we got to share.

I continue to stand amazed by this wonderful program and look forward to sharing more wonderful success stories in the future. Now I'm off to try and figure out an objective to work on with him!

Have a wonderful fall week!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Really Great Story...and an apple guy update

Okay - I'll share the apple guy update first because so many of you have been hounding me about this. Apparently there is now an apple guy craze sweeping the nation! Here is a picture of the apple guys at our house today - a little over one week since they were created. You can see the change in facial expression and overall aging of the apples - pretty cool!

Now onto my really great story...
We have two young men at our center who come for instruction in the afternoons, including lunchtime. They usually eat in the kitchen with one of us while the rest of the staff eats in the lounge next to the kitchen. Today we decided to leave them to eat lunch without us while we (the staff) ate in the lounge. We heard the boys finish eating, and then they wandered out to see what we were doing. Without really thinking about it too much we told them to head back into the kitchen and we'd be there in a minute, since we were still finishing up our lunches. They went back in there and after a few minutes I could see some movement in the kitchen from where I was sitting.

I got up to peek through the door and I saw an amazing sight. These two boys had opened up the dishwasher, which was full of clean dishes from the day before, and were unloading it and putting the dishes away! One was taking the dishes out and handing them to the other to put in the cupboard. The cup cupboard quickly got full, so they figured out that if they stacked the cups they could fit more in there. When they couldn't stack anymore they moved on to other dishes in the dishwasher. But, they couldn't completely empty the dishwasher because of the remaining cups and a few other things they didn't put away. The next thing I observed was them closing the dishwasher and digging around under the sink to find a sponge and some dish soap. One of the boys tried really hard to get the cap flipped up, but couldn't do it. They both stood and looked at the bottle for a minute and then one of them unscrewed the cap - what a great idea! Together they filled the sink with water and some soap (I was worried we might end up with large amounts of suds all over the floor, but they appraised the amount of soap that was needed really well!). Then one of them scrubbed the dishes while the other rinsed.

I seriously could not believe I was seeing this. These two boys used to be incredibly passive and prompt dependent, not to mention failing to see the redeeming qualities of tasks like doing the dishes. What I observed today was two boys co-regulating with each other, persevering, problem solving, thinking flexibly, appraising, and initiating the whole thing without any adult interference. It was so great to see how well these guys are learning to think and act and work together without adult scaffolding. We all decided that we need to leave them alone in the kitchen more often - and make sure we have a video camera set up!

So - here's to guided participation, and framing, and experience sharing, and scaffolding, and everything else we work at so diligently to pave the way for moments like what I observed today. It was a good reminder to me that sometimes as adults we need to butt out and see what kids can do on their own - they may surprise us!

Until next week,

Monday, October 15, 2007


Over the weekend, I spent some time watching some of the children's programs on TV. I was appalled by some of the story lines and communication that was displayed during the 30 minute shows. We all get wrapped up in a particular TV show every season, but the content seems to be getting less and less appropriate. It is purely entertainment and there seems to be no thinking involved on our parts. I turned the TV off and thought to myself about the amount of time children I know watch TV and it became very disturbing to me. If they are watching shows for 1-3 hours a day, what is their mind doing during this time? Are they processing any new type of information? Are they really learning skills that can apply to their lives? The scary thing is, the answer to these questions seems to be no. A child's job is to learn and play during their years of development. Having these experiences is what makes the neurological connections in their brain connect and become stronger. I would like to encourage everyone to shut off the TV and involve their children in play and activities around the house. TV shouldn't be used as a babysitter and is not a substitute for play and learning at home. If your child is going to watch TV, please limit the amount of time they are watching and WHAT they are watching. There is a lot of crud on TV now, but you can still find age appropriate and educational programs.

Until next week,


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Oh Happy Day!

There is a song called “Oh Happy Day” and it pops into my head from time to time. Why I don’t know maybe it is my subconscious either telling me that I need to change my attitude and be happy or it is a reflection of how I am feeling at the time. Anyway I was reflecting back on my week and I started thinking about this Tuesday and Tuesday in general and that song popped into my head.

I have come to the conclusion that I love Tuesdays. They have become my favorite workday of the week. I think the major reason for this is that every Tuesday I get to spend time with two of my favorite boys. When they leave I walk around feeling so good and they always find a way to make me smile.

I have discovered that when I leave work on Tuesdays I am always happy and in a good mood. I just feel lighter somehow. I have energy and look forward to what the next Tuesday will bring. It is a bright shining spot in each week. Not that there aren’t others, but this is a guarantee.

I encourage each of you to find that bring shining spot in your week that you can just count on to make you feel good. Take a moment and reflect on your week to see if you can think of your “Happy Day.”

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Time Away

This weekend I had the most wonderful opportunity. I ran away from home with my dear friends from high school. There were 8 of us walking the streets of New York City and what a refreshing 48 hours it was. I came home remembering that I am an individual, that my arms and legs are used for more than serving my family. Most of all I realized how precious each person in my family is and was refreshed and ready to come home to my beautiful children and wonderful husband.

Having opportunities like this is essential for everybody just to become refreshed and ready to face our lives again. Flying away to a big city for a weekend isn't an option to everybody (nor would everybody find that relaxing), but finding time for yourselves is something we all need, whatever it is that we choose to fill that time with - just be sure to fill it with something that will revive you.

I was reading the October issue of Working Mother's magazine the other day and the title of this article caught my eye. "3 Guilt Free Hours - Leadership coach Jamie Woolf explains why sometimes the best thing you can do to be a better mom is take a break from everything - at least temporarily - and indulge yourself." Oh, sounds great! She claims that everybody can find that time and the quiz that she includes in the article will give you the answers of how you can do it. So take a moment to answer these questions for yourself - I shortened the questions, so if you want to read the entire article (which I encourage you to do) click here:

1. List three reasons you feel you can't slow down. Now imagine that you have to slow down. What would happen?

2. Write down a guilty mom moment that makes you cringe. Now think about if there were unexpected benefits for your child. Try to find something redemptive that came from that moment.

3. What makes you feel guilty on a regular basis?

4.List three activities you most dislike with your children. Choose one activity you could stop doing today. Choose another activity you could get help with.

5.List three things you realistically could do to make your life easier at home. What stops you from doing each of these things? Now take a hard look at your excuses. Is there something you could cut from your budget ot afford help once a month? Choose one of your lamest excuses and find a solution.

6. Imagine that all of your responsibilities are on hold for three hours. What would you do with that free time all to yourself? How would it make you a better mom, partner and employee?

7. Name someone you'd call in a crisis or someone who could help you get back on track if you drift off course.

8. Guess what? You just figured out where you can get three guilt-free hours see your answers to questions 4 and 5). You've also figured out why you so desperately need this time (see your answer to number 6). Now commit to it. You officially have permission to take three hours off, so get out your calendar and block out the time. To keep you committed, have the person from question 7 hold you to it. Now go. Be guilt-free.

What are you going to do to ensure you can remain a person outside of your children? Maybe you'd enjoy being a part of a book club or find refreshment in hitting the malls. Whatever revives you, make sure to find the time to make it work.

To a refreshed life and moments of freedom!! ~Michelle

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Apple Guys

For those of you who did not attend our parent chat last week (or read the transcript), we were discussing fall activity ideas. People had lots of great ideas, and I was inspired to try a few new things with my own children during this season. I mentioned the idea of making "apple guys", and no one knew what I was talking about. I would hate for any of you to miss out on the experience of creating "apple guys" with your kids, so I'm going to enlighten you all with an explanation and picture this week.

"Apple Guys", as they are affectionately referred to at my house, are little creatures carved out of fresh apples - and then left to sit for days, months, or years. You first need to peel the apple, and then use a small knife to carve out a little face of some sort (kind of like a pumpkin except you carve the face into the apple instead of cutting out pieces). If you'd like, you can stick little peppercorns or cloves into the eyes. Then you simply let the little guys sit around on your counter. After a couple of days they being to shrivel up, and as the days go by they get more and more shriveled and wrinkly until they turn into these almost petrified little creatures that are completely hard. I'm not sure if I'm proud or embarrassed to admit this, but we have an apple guy from 3 years ago still sitting in it's place of honor in our kitchen. It has been the subject of many a conversation over the past 3 years! The picture you see here is of the apple guys my kids made with my husband 5 days ago. You can see that the shriveling has commenced, but they will get even more so with time and the "aging process". Now, in case any of you are wondering, they do not get rotten or smell. I don't know why - I can't explain it. It is the magic of the apple guy!

You may be asking yourself why any of this matters. Well, there are so many ways you can use this with your kids! First of all, it's a funny thing to do together - picking out the apple, figuring out what kind of face to make, working together to carve it, admiring your creation, etc. Then there is the wonderful component of checking it together daily to see how it has changed. What a great on-going episodic memory review opportunity. Imagine the remediation possibilities with the apple guys! If you make them at home, and I hope you will, post a comment to let us know how yours turned out. Maybe you and your kids can think of a more creative name, but at our house they will always be the "apple guys"!

Until next week,

Monday, October 8, 2007

Statewide Assessments

It is that time of year again in the State of Michigan for statewide assessments. Over the next few weeks, children in 3rd grade or higher, will be participating in some form of an assessment. If your child is completing an assessment, it will be important to remember to be supportive and a bit more understanding. Anxiety tends to increase during these assessments as children feel the pressures to do their best. Opportunities to move around and have sensory breaks may also be limited. It will be important to try to integrate sensory opportunities into your evening family activities and to provide your child with some down time after school so that they can relax. Keeping a healthy and nutritious diet over the next few weeks and getting necessary amounts of sleep will be very important as well.

I hope these tips will be helpful! Have a wonderful week!


Thursday, October 4, 2007

A Sense of Community

I decided that I would blog about our bi-weekly on-line chats that we do with our current RDI families this week. I really enjoy doing this every few weeks. It gives me an opportunity to interact with several different families that I wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunity to chat with since I am not their consultant.

We chatted this week about fall activity ideas. I have to say that I love our activity idea chats. Not only do I like to share ideas, but I also get so many new ideas myself. We came up with ideas for apples, leaves, and pumpkins. It was a lot of fun even though there were only two parents on the chat.

I really enjoy this opportunity for community and sharing. I think parents also like the chance to chat with other parents in the same situation. Some of the newer families have the chance to learn from some of our more veteran parents. It can also be the other way around. It is fun to see the different ways that people approach the same difficulties or topics. I also love to hear the success stories. These chats truly provide a chance for the parents in our practice to connect with each other.

The sense of community and connectedness is what makes me so excited about our new “Cluster Coaching” sessions that we have coming up. I think this is truly a great opportunity for those of you in our nearby community that are interested in becoming a part of our Horizons family, but aren’t yet ready to delve into a full blown RDI program or need a lower cost option for working with your child. I am also excited about the opportunity for families to connect with each other through these clusters. We are beginning with an introductory cluster and hope to expand from there to special interest clusters. We are offering multiple day and time options to meet the schedules of families. If you are interested or want more information you can contact Betsy at

I think a sense of family and community is really important to making us all feel like we belong and that someone understands. Find the family or community that suits you best and embrace it. You’ll feel better for it.

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Too Much T.V.

There are days when I wake up and feel like I've got way too much to get done. The dishwasher needs to be unloaded and reloaded, I haven't had my coffee and it'll be noon before I can pop my head above the pile of laundry that has accrued over the past two weeks. Occasionally my children come and wake me up before I'm ready to crawl out of bed, so what is the easy answer to these problems. A nanny... or perhaps a maid?!? Unfortunately that's not an option, so I guess the T.V. will be a good starting point.

Let me set up this wonderful scenario. It's Saturday morning, we are waking up slowly, then I eventually get around to making my lovely family a wonderful homemade breakfast. (Can you imagine the Leave it to Beaver scenario?) I've got bacon and eggs, toast or cereal. I am willing to be mommy restaurant this one day and serve my family - how would you like your eggs? In order to get all this done I decide to let my girls watch t.v. and have a nice relaxed start to their day until I can get the breakfast made. I would love that and would be so grateful if one morning I could wake up and be told, why don't you watch a little TV while I make you breakfast. The wonderful, ideal morning is running through my head. The making breakfast part runs smoothly (as the girls soak in the TV) then it's time for breakfast to be eaten and suddenly this utopia of a morning comes crashing down. My kids are screaming (despite the five minute warning that TV was to be turned off) and when we finally get to the table after crying fits, time outs or whatever the next five minutes entail, the breakfast is cold and we are all crabby.

The television. You hear us often talk about the negative affects of television, video games, computer time etc..., but you won't get us to stop talking about it. More research came out this month regarding the negative affects of television. Please take time to read it. I'm going to make a conscious effort to either leave my expectations of a wonderful Saturday a.m. breakfast (thanks for that reminder in the last post Nicole) or to include them in the process so they can be proud of the breakfast they made. What changes are you going to make to decrease the TV time in your house?

To less TV and more memory making moments,


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Giving up the bows...for now

Those of you who know me know that I definitely appreciate the finer details of being female – the shoes, the jewelry, the lip-gloss - you get the picture. When our daughter joined our family I was thrilled with the idea of finally being able to put one of my children in dresses, buy cute little shoes, and do her hair. After three boys it was time for me to have another female in the house to share this love of all things girly! When she was tiny I was easily able to put cute little things in her hair and she left them there. Then all her baby hair fell out so there really wasn’t much hair to do anything with (I resorted to headbands for photos!). Fast-forward to the present time, and my daughter is now 14 months old. She has a lovely head of thick, dark, curly hair that is just begging to be done up in cute bows, pigtails, and tiny braids.

There is just one small problem – she refuses to leave the darn things in!! I have tried everything – winding the hair bands tighter, doing her hair while she has a snack to distract her, buying different types of clips, doing her hair while wet, while dry - you name it I have tried it. I really thought I had her beat last week when I washed her hair and spent time putting it in small little twists all over her head. I used tiny little hair bands that were guaranteed not to pull out. She looked so cute – and I was feeling really good about having finally triumphed over her in the hair department. And then she went to bed…and in the night I heard her up laughing and laughing and laughing…and in the morning her hair looked like she’d gotten way too close to an electrical outlet…and every single hair band was strewn around the floor of her room. What’s a mom to do???

My husband has been watching this drama from afar all these weeks, and has put up with my scowls when I come home and her hair is running wild all over her head. He gives me the story behind how it came to be that the hair d├ęcor she had when I left the house in the morning is no longer – she tried to eat the bows; she threw the hair bands on the floor; she got mad and yanked them out…and on and on. Finally this past weekend he said something that didn’t make me happy at the time, but that I know really makes sense. He suggested that our daughter just really isn’t ready to keep bows in her hair, and that soon she will be able to do that, but in the meantime maybe I should stop setting myself up for disappointment and struggles between us and just let it go. Darn – I hate it when he’s right!

There are many times in life with our kids that we have to know when to adjust our expectations. We have to know when to let things go, at least for now. Parenting a child with autism and working toward remediation often requires walking a fine line between having great expectations for your child, but also knowing when s/he just isn’t ready to do something. Many times parents will tell me that they just really want their child to have a friend. They may go to great lengths to “get” their child a friend – setting up play dates, hosting events, and bringing their child to every extra-curricular activity imaginable – all in the name of this quest for a friend. But the reality is that when kids are developmentally ready to have friends, they will. Until that time we can push and fight and struggle and devote ourselves to the cause all we want, but in that process we will depress ourselves, burn out our child, and probably not devote our time and attention to working on the developmental foundations that will allow our child to actually have a friend someday.

I think it really boils down to trusting the developmental process and knowing that “not now” doesn’t equal “never”. My daughter will keep her hair bows in at some point – but not now. Children with autism who are getting back on the typical developmental process through remediation will get to the point where they are able to engage in very real and meaningful ways – but it might not be right now. There is a process to everything, and half the battle is understanding that process and knowing when to let go…for now.

I am continuing to work on letting go of my need for my daughter to have her hair done all the time. I won’t lie – I still do something with it each morning before I leave for work. But, the difference is in my expectations. I don’t expect to come home to her hair still looking nice – I’ve accepted that it is unreasonable to expect at this point. She’s not ready for that yet – but someday soon she will be. This week I’d like you to think about the reasonableness of your current expectations for your child. Are there things you expect your child to be able to do that perhaps they just aren’t ready for? Are you constantly frustrating yourself, your child, and others around you by pushing and pulling to meet an expectation that is out of reach at this point? Are you spending more time trying to force your child to an end goal without working on the developmental progression that will get you there? If this is true for you, then I challenge you to reset your expectations. Be willing to let go for now – knowing that you are putting your time and energy into working on the steps that will get you there. Not now doesn’t mean never!

Until next week,

Friday, September 28, 2007

Oh the things we do at Horizons

You just never know what you'll find going on at Horizons. It's an adventure every day, which is why it's such a great place to be and work at! Some of you may remember that over the summer a group of our Summer CAMPS kids planted a garden out back. Well, it's been producing quite a crop. A few weeks ago, two of our instructional kids went out and picked some things from our garden and made fresh salsa. It was delicious!

Here is a picture of them working in the kitchen on the salsa.

Another thing that some of our instructional students are working on is fixing up an old checker cab and turning it into the "Horizons-Mobile". We're very excited to see the transformation that this car will take on. This week they cleaned up the inside and changed a flat tire.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about the cool things that some of our kids are doing. I'll make sure to keep you updated on their latest adventures.

Until next week - Betsy

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Turn It Off

The television that is. I found this quote on line today and thought it fit with what I wanted to say this week.
Television has changed a child from an irresistible force to an immovable object. ~Author Unknown

This topic has come to the forefront for me over the past few weeks. I have heard the recitation of so many television shows/movies over the past few weeks that I feel like I don’t need to watch tv for the next month. I’ve been asked about tv characters and given the diatribe about them as well.

For some children television becomes the coping mechanism when they feel stressed or incompetent or even just bored. One child in particular that I have interacted with over the past few weeks has been watching entirely too much television and if I have to hear about Ren and Stimpy or Itchy and Scratchy one more time I might scream. There are many of us around the office who feel the same way.

So my advice is to just turn it off. If you have a child that can recite back an entire episode of their favorite television show or even just the same few lines over and over again this is a problem. Your child is not able to regulate this for themselves so you need to do it for them. I know this can be very hard to do especially when we are all busy and just need a few moments of down time or need to get something done tv can be a great babysitter, but at the same time this can be extremely detrimental to your child.

For those children who are continuously reciting television episodes or talking about characters on the shows they watch tv needs to be limited or taken away all together. Why is this? When children are spending a vast majority of their time talking about tv it is limiting the amount of time they are utilizing and joining in experience sharing communication. It is also hindering their ability to be flexible, use appraisal and limits self awareness.

So for the sake of your child and those around him/her please turn it off or at least severely limit it. We will all be better for it.

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

How do you know your clients are satisfied?

Last Saturday we attended a resource fair at Sunshine Church put on by the Gray Center. The day was great and we met a lot of wonderful new families. So who attends these fairs? People who are wondering what resources are available to them and their families. They may or may not currently be involved in programming, but they are looking for more. Something else has to be out there and more has to be available, so they search. One observation I made during my time at the event was that none of our current families were at this fair. I interpreted this as them being content with the programming they are receiving and they aren't seeing the need to find more or something better. The bottom line: we are the best! What more could you want when you have Horizons, when you have remediation?

Until next week,

Sloooooooow Down

If you work with any of the staff at our clinic you know that we encourage families to slow down your lives in order to work on remediation with your children. Here are some stats about our current fast-paced culture:
1) The average workweek is 47 hours, up from 34 hours twenty years ago.
2) We aren’t eating home-cooked meals anymore – children consumed 300% more fast food in 1996 than in 1977.
3) Most of us are getting 90 minutes less of sleep each night as compared to our great-grandparents.
4) Many fewer families are taking vacations now than two decades ago.
5) The speed limit nationally in 1995 was 55 mph – and is now 65-75 mph in most states.

Obviously as a society we have gotten much more fast-paced compared to previous generations While it may feel like we continually have to get more and more done in less and less time, there are definite hazards to a continually hectic lifestyle. The October 2007 issue of Redbook magazine provides some valuable reasons for all of us to slow down in our lives:
1) Slowing down helps you lose weight by not consuming fast food calories or messing up body metabolism by postponing meals.
2) Slowing down allows us to be better moms and dads because we take time to really connect with our kids in quality activities Plus, research shows that the more time we spend with our kids during childhood the fewer conflicts and problems occur during adolescence.
3) Slowing down and not getting overly frustrated when waiting reduces risk of high blood pressure.
4) Slowing down boosts energy because we breathe more deeply, thus taking in more oxygen and increasing energy.
5) Slowing down improves our performance at work because we are more reflective and attentive to detail.
6) Slowing down while exercising through resistance training and slow weights builds more strength, endurance, and burns more calories than exercising quickly.
7) Slowly down helps us travel more safely – one third of all fatal car crashes are due to speeding!

This week I’m encouraging you all to slow down for long enough to consider the pacing of your life and your family’s life. Is the pace of life creating physical, mental, and emotional hazards for you? I challenge you to find one way to slow down in some aspect of your life – think of it as an investment in better health for you and your family!

Until next week,

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Importance of Routines

Now that we are several weeks in to the new school year, I feel it is important to remind everyone of the importance of routines. Over the past few weeks, I have seen several students arrive at school on Mondays extremely dis-regulated and out of sorts. I am finding that these are the children who have unstructured weekends. Since the weather is still warm outside, we are all trying to take in the last days of summer activities; however, it is very important for families to remember to try and keep a basic routine on the weekends that includes time for remediation. Every school child is currently going through a transition period and getting back into the school routine. It is important to help your child with this "uncertainty" at times, by providing consistency at home. They will appreciate the consistency as they become accustomed to their new routine.

Have a great week!


Friday, September 21, 2007

Always Learning

It's seems that there's always learning going on and it's so cool to see. Learning new things can be neat to watch in others and fun for ourselves as well. In RDI, both parents and kids do a lot of learning. Sometimes learning new things can be scary, but with the proper guidance it makes it easier to get through difficult tasks that may be new to us. There may be some rocky times going through the RDI process, but having the tenacity to stick with it helps you reach your goal of learning something new and doing what you wanted to accomplish. So, with that being said, Nicole came across this quote and sent it to me and I thought I'd share it with all of you. Enjoy your weekend!

"I'm not afraid of storms, for I'm learning how to sail my ship." - Louisa May Alcott

Thursday, September 20, 2007


You know how some days develop their own themes? Tuesday was one of those days for me. The theme for that day turned out to be apprenticeship.

I started my day with a speech session where my client is my apprentice in correcting an articulation error. This is one of the highlights of my week. I love this client and we always have a great time together and he is a wonderful apprentice.

I then watched a video that one of my families submitted to me. The father was giving his son his first “official” piano lesson. Wow was that a powerful video segment that showed great apprenticeship. How hard the son worked to do what his dad was showing/telling him. After learning about the black keys the dad sat at the piano and played a song that they made up the words for (it went to a familiar tune), and provided the son with a role in which he would be competent. They tried over and over until after about 5 minutes they were able to complete the whole song that was the greatest moment. I saw beaming smiling faces with true emotion sharing and a “high ten.” The apprenticeship was established. In that one shining moment at the end I saw competence (both father and son), emotion sharing, episodic memory and terrific non-verbal experience sharing. I am so looking forward to seeing this apprenticeship progress. I know it will be a great one!

I finished my day by meeting with another of my speech clients who is also my apprentice, but has also started a new apprentice role with his mom. They have started doing some home-schooling for part of his day. This has turned out to be a great experience for both mother and son and I love hearing about what they are discovering together. I am sure this will also be a great learning experience for all of us. I am excited to see how this develops as well.

Isn’t apprenticeship great? How else would we learn new things if we didn’t have masters to guide us. I’m looking forward to finding my next apprenticeship role.

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Unreasonable Expectations

Often times it's hard to distinguish what we can expect from our children and as a result get upset with them over something in which we shouldn't have or could have prevented if we thought ahead. Are we expecting too much when we require them to sit at the dinning room table when they are only 2? Should I be upset with my child when she doesn't want to perform in a school play? The October 2007 issue of Parents Magazine addressed this issue and helped to spotlight what we can expect from our children. (The ones in parenthesis are my own thoughts.) Here are a few of my favorites:

Unreasonable: Your 2 year old will be the cutest little flower girl in your sister's wedding-walking down the aisle and posing for photos like an angel
Reasonable: She'll get overwhelmed by all the attention, need you to carry he down the aisle, pose in very few group photos, and will be out of her dress before dinner is served.
(If you give a kid a wall to climb they will try to climb it)

Unreasonable: Soon after you've finally ditched diapers during the day, your child we be able to seep through the night wearing his undies
Reasonable: Potty training usually comes in two parts: daytime and nighttime. It may be months- even years - before he's dry all night

Unreasonable: Your 4 year old will sit patiently and watch his cousin open his birthday presents
Reasonable: He'll freak out because he hasn't gotten any gifts, and he'll want to unwrap the birthday boy's for him.

(If you give a two year old a marker, it won't stay only on paper)

Unreasonable: Your 6 yr old can answer the telephone and say "I'll get mommy"
Reasonable: Normally a motormouth, she's suddenly speechless after she picks up the phone and then decides to hang up.

If a child is well prepared they can do better in these kinds of circumstances, but it's still not reasonable to expect them to react/respond the way you would. If you go in with a reasonable mindset, you'll find that you won't get upset and are able to be proactive instead of reactive when the reasonable things happen. Kids will be kids, how we respond to them is important - getting upset won't help the situation. Instead the thought process needs to be more about "how can I guide my child through this and help her feel successful in the end?" or "what can I do before we enter this situation to prepare myself and my child better?"