Friday, April 27, 2007

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

OK - I was going to be blogging every Friday about our construction project, but there is really nothing new to show for this week so I had to quickly change my mindset. The only thing that happened this week was the plumbing and they back filled around the hole they dug. They couldn't do much else because the foundation had to set for 7-10 days so hopefully by next Friday I'll have some new pictures to show you.

So, when my mindset had to change I read back over the blog posts from the week. I then went to my folder full of quotes and came across one that I thought was fitting to tie in with this week.

Yesterday is but a dream, and tomorrow is only a vision, but today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. - Anonymous
Have a great week!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Leaving Crisis Behind

This is the time of year when many people in my day to day world go into crisis. In my school job I work with many teachers and staff who go into job crisis because there is so much to do and so little time to get it done before summer break. We are all scurrying around like mad people trying to accomplish more than can be done in a 7 hour school day. In my work as an RDI consultant I work with many families who begin to enter a crisis of their own when the end of the school year begins to loom. Not because there is so much to be done, but because there is a wide empty space of time that comes with the ending of school for the year. Many parents start thinking what will I do with my child for 10 whole weeks.

I admit I get a bit stressed at this time of year myself and can put myself into crisis mode. This is the way I was feeling yesterday as I rushed around and tried to do a million things in a day. I felt like I was on a roller coaster and I was exhausted.

I had the pleasure of doing a presentation with our OT, Sarah last night on the new feeding program we are using at Horizons. The presentation went well and I left feeling like I was helping some families. After leaving I decided to stop at Barnes and Noble as one of my favorite authors just released a new book and there was another book I wanted to check out. So I stopped and as I walked into the store I felt a calm come over me. I love Barnes and Noble and I love to read so I think I just felt good knowing I was going to get a book to read just for fun. As I was wandering around the store I made up my mind that being in crisis and all stressed out is no fun. It's just not worth it. So I went home got things ready for today and went to be early to read a bit and get a good night's sleep. I woke up this morning in a much better mood feeling refreshed and ready for the day. I don't feel guilty about not working on things at home last night. The work will get done. It always does.

The saying on my calendar this morning was "Do we ever do enough?" I think the answer to that question is sometimes, Yes! Sometimes what we have done is enough. We need to take time to "smell the roses" as the old saying goes. It is okay to slow down, take a night off, watch a movie, read, just be. Sometimes these things are enough.

Are you in crisis? Take a minute and ask yourself if it is really worth it. Slow down and think about what it might take to help you out of crisis. Don't be afraid to ask for help or just take a break for a bit.

I am going to do my best to leave crisis behind and I hope you will as well.

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Making a Difference

Yesterday Nicole blogged about participating in the miracle of remediation. Tonight I sit in front of my television watching American Idol in which they are spotlighting poor families from around the who are suffering or dieing from AIDS, starvation, Malaria etc... and they are asking for simple donations to make a difference in the lives of these kids, to make a difference for these families. Imagine if each person watching the show donated even a dollar they could raise millions of dollars. A small part from each person watching could build up to make a significant difference. There are many ways we can make a difference in the lives of children and families. We may not have the money, or time, or other resources to make a huge difference today, but the little differences we make in our daily lives can be what results with a huge impact tomorrow. Imagine what a little bit of time spent each day focusing on remediating your child's autism could do long term. Just imagine!

Marian Wright Edelman: "We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee."

What are you doing today to make a big difference tomorrow?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Participating in the Miracle

One of the families I work with submits their video clips each month on DVD’s complete with photo menus, music, and credits after each clip. It’s really fun to see the creativity they put into their videos! On the last two discs I noticed that they have named their “production company”. At the end of the each DVD the screen says “Participating in the Miracle”. What an awesome statement about working on remediation! As a consultant I get the privilege of participating in the miracle of remediation with families every day. RDI parents have the joy of participating in the miracle with their children every day. Some days may seem more productive than others, but the entire remediation journey is about participating in the miracle of child development. Are you actively participating in the miracle with your child?

Until next week,

Friday, April 20, 2007

Construction has begun!

Well, it's been a pretty exciting week around here this past week. We broke ground on Monday for the addition we're putting on. Monday was just loud. There were a lot of people here working outside and we could all feel everything going on outside. There was a hole being dug, cement being crushed, it all felt like a big earthquake inside. My desk would vibrate and at times had a hard time hearing people talk to me on the phone. Then later in the week a crew came and put the foundation in. This afternoon has been quiet because things need to rest for about a week. There will be some work done next week, but we're thinking it won't be too loud. I'll be keeping you posted as things progress. What an exciting venture! We're growing, growing, growing!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Positive Thinking

I was thinking this morning on my drive to work that it was Thursday and my turn to post, but what to post? I decided it would just be a general post about the past week.

This past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity not only to spend the whole weekend with some of my favorite people, but also to learn some really great new things that I know will help the clients I see. A bunch of us from the office traveled to Chicago for the HANDLE conference this weekend. In brief HANDLE is a holistic approach neurodevelopment that uses a variety of activities to integrate the brain and body for better functioning. Wow did I learn a lot about myself and many things to use with the children I see. I can't wait to start using some of them and for the results. We all talked about how this was that other missing piece we have been searching for. We'll keep you posted.

So the conference took the whole weekend so I wasn't really looking forward to the busy week ahead. I had several appointments and an assessment scheduled for this week as well as a lot of things that needed to be finished at work. The amazing thing is I just decided it would be a good week and that everything would get done and I can't believe how great the week is turning out. I am feeling really optimistic about several of my families at this point.

So I guess my message for today is the power of positive thinking. It really can make a difference.

Talk to you soon,

Friday, April 13, 2007

212° - Here We Come!

Well, after a lot of work we finally have our information ready for our new programming. All of the information is slowly making its way out to those of you who may be interested in pursuing some different instructional options with us.

Since everyone gave their stories this week, I thought, why not, I have one too. Some of you may not know, but I also used to teach in the school system. After a few years of teaching (in a job market that didn't do any good for me), then directing a daycare, we finally decided to move to Grand Rapids - the only problem was - I didn't have a job. This was probably the first time since I was 16 years old that I was unemployed. It was very scary for me. I really didn't know what I wanted to do, I just knew that I needed to be working. Thankfully, my mom was talking with Michelle and Michelle mentioned that Horizons was looking for someone to manage the office. My mom passed the word on to me and I contacted Nicole. Well, obviously I'm here so I got the job.

A year a half later I'm now working full-time (my job started at 30 hours a week) and I have plenty to keep me busy. There are always new ideas and thoughts flowing around here. I believe this is what makes us the one degree that makes a difference.

I knew fairly quickly after starting here that something was different. That something is RDI. I see the changes that are happening daily in families and am amazed at what this program can do. So, when we decided to go forth with our 212° Learning Opportunities I thought - YES - something that makes a lot of sense. Hopefully a lot of others will see how these programs can help them makes changes in their lives too.
So, check out the opportunities with:

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Life Changes

So what’s my story? It is much like Nicole and Michelle’s. As I’ve said
before I am a speech/language pathologist by trade and have worked in the
schools for my whole career. It was about 7 years ago when I first started
working with children on the autism spectrum in that capacity. As some of
you may know my goals at that point were to get the children communicating
in any way I could. What I was doing at that point wasn’t wrong it just
wasn’t the best and I was continually searching for new better ways to go
about this. The one thing I knew from the start is that I have a connection
with children on the autism spectrum and this was to be the path my career
was to take. Sometimes you are lucky enough to find your passion in life
and actually pursue it. I feel lucky to be one of those people.

So following that passion and having the great opportunity to connect with
Nicole 7 years ago I started to learn more about children with autism.
Three years ago I split my responsibilities at school between providing
speech and language services and being an autism teacher consultant. At
that point it was thought that in order for me to completely assume the role
of teacher consultant I should complete the autism certification program
which I did 2 years ago. I went through the process, but really just felt
like I was going through the motions to get the certification. I didn’t
feel I was learning much or adding to my knowledge base.

Amazingly it was at that same time that Nicole was completing her
certification in the RDI® program. She was so excited and enthusiastic
about this new way of thinking about autism. She invited Michelle and I to
attend the 2 day conference in Ann Arbor in June of 2005. Like I said above
I had just completed my autism certification through the state of Michigan
(which I totally paid for on my own). After an hour I knew I had found the
answer to all of my searching and wondered why I had just wasted all of that
money on certification that was so totally wrong. I left that two day
conference so excited that I decided on the ride home to pursue
certification myself.

Let me tell you what a big deal it was for me to make that decision that
day. I absolutely hate change. I do not like to rock the boat and had
always pictured myself staying in the schools as a speech/language
pathologist for 30+ years until I was ready to retire, but over the past few
years getting up and going to work just hasn’t been all that satisfying and
I knew I was ready for a new challenge and a change. It just so happens
that my cousin’s youngest child was diagnosed on the spectrum around this
same time so I felt like God was talking to me telling me to do this. This is what my life is supposed to be about.

This has been the single most amazing journey of my life so far. I
literally got on a plane for only the second time in my life to travel 1500
miles to Houston on my very first trip outside of Michigan by myself into
the best experience of my life! I have found my 212° point it is seeing all
of the amazing changes the families in the RDI program have undergone.
Every day brings a new challenge and a new excitement. I can’t believe all
of the wonderful things I see the children we work with doing. Each time I
watch a tape, work with a family or see our individual instruction students
I just can’t believe what a difference there has been.

So thank you Nicole for changing my life forever! I will be indebted to you
always for helping my find my boiling point.

Please take a moment and check out the 212° learning opportunities we will
be providing this fall. I think you will be as excited as we are.

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

It takes a village to raise a child

As Nicole indicated we are going to share our stories of what brought us the point of developing the 212 degree programs and why we structured them the way we did. For me the desire to see more happen was when I was working in the schools in a classroom with three children with autism. I did everything I was supposed to do and still little progress was made - especially with this one particular boy. One of the goals for this boy was to help him stop sucking his thumb. The parent's wanted to see this done, but the expectation was that this would be dealt with while he was at school. No matter what strategies were used or the energy put into eliminating the thumb I was unable to make progress because this was the role of the school. The school couldn't succeed on it's own. It takes a village to raise a child.

The next step for me was to work in the homes of children with autism. As an In Home Clinician I would develop schedules for the kids, work on life skill goals such as eating at the table, using the bathroom, cleaning up after finishing a task and so on, but every time I would return to the home, the same story was told. The child would be eating on the couch, or have a chair pushed up to the cupboards helping himself to whatever snack he desired. No matter the effort I put in when I was with the child, the progress was minimal. These strategies needed to be taught to the parents so they could follow through with it at home as well. I couldn't succeed with him on my own. It takes a village to raise a child.

One of the major concepts of our new instructional program is that the parents be fully integrated through one of our family based programs. Families will be involved and will have shared accountability with staff to implement strategies in the clinic and at home. This is a team approach between our staff and the families involved. Through dynamic intelligence being integrated both in the home and at Horizons I know we will succeed. Let's turn up the heat and work together! It's that one degree that will make all the difference...It takes a village to raise a child!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

212° Learning

If you read our blog regularly you may remember something Erin posted about a couple of months ago – at 211° water is hot, but at 212° it boils; that one degree makes all the difference. We have taken that concept and applied it to our instructional programs. This week in our blog we’re going to share with you why we chose this concept for our new learning / instructional programs. Each of us has our own story and a specific reason this concept hits home with us. Here is my story:

As a classroom teacher and school-based autism consultant I had a lot of strategies in my “tool kit” for building skills in my students. I was able to get students to complete tasks independently, to follow classroom rules and routines, reduce inappropriate behavior, play board games, eat in the cafeteria, participate in regular education classrooms, play with peer buddies at recess…the list goes on. The problem was, even on my best days I was not able to get my students to the next level of learning to think, to be flexible, and to have true friendships. I was able to achieve a lot of things that were viewed as “improvement” in my students, but at the end of every day I knew there was something very important that was missing.

I set out on a journey to find out what I was missing. I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for, but I knew there had to be information out there that would allow me to take my students to the next level. At the time I thought I was looking for some new strategies; maybe a new kind of social skills curriculum; maybe another approach to teaching communication. I had no idea that search would bring me to a completely new understanding of autism, actually of neurodevelopmental disabilities in general, and a completely new way of conceptualizing treatment.

I found the missing piece when I stumbled upon RDI one day while doing some on-line research. I began reading about a new way of understanding autism – a research-based way of understanding autism. It became clear to me almost immediately that DYNAMIC INTELLIGENCE was the thing I was missing in my work with students; that remediation of the obstacles of autism could be accomplished instead of constantly compensating. I can’t even describe what an awesome feeling it was to finally conceptualize autism in a way that made sense to me – made sense in terms of what I knew about the human brain, child development, and my experiences every day with my students. It was so clear that what I was doing with my students wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t nearly enough to achieve a quality of life. I needed to be teaching kids how to think about things; to have the motivation to engage with others; to become competent with change; to learn from the guidance of others. Those were all things I wanted to get at, but knew I wasn’t.

To me the concept of 212° Learning captures the “AHA!” moment I had when I discovered the possibility for remediation through the development of dynamic intelligence. That was the moment I discovered the degree that makes all the difference – the “thing” that would allow me to turn hot water to boiling water. My goal at Horizons is that we continue to provide families with remediation-based program options that assist them in meeting their goals for their children. We are a place where parents and children can have their own “aha” moments on a daily basis - providing the degree of difference that keeps families moving forward on the path of remediation.

Maybe something in my story has resonated with you. Maybe you want to explore some options for either beginning on the path of remediation or adding to your family’s remediation program. I hope you will take a few minutes to look at our new 212° Learning Opportunities on our website
Explore how you can “turn up the heat” for your child!

Until next week,

Friday, April 6, 2007

Explore, Dream, Discover

Since Nicole and Michelle tackled variations and elaborations this week in their blogs, I thought I'd try and find a cool quote to tie into that. Since everything you do can be broken down into simpler steps and can also be elaborated into different things, there is always something to do. Get out there and do something. Try new things.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
- Mark Twain

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Build it up!

Nicole did a beautiful job last night talking about elaborations. She took the standpoint of looking at the final elaboration and choosing prototypes to build competence incrementally in order to achieve success in the final activity. Another way to look at this is to take the activities you might be doing already and think about how these simple activities can eventually elaborate into something bigger and more complicated.

One of the examples used last night was the concept of peek-a-boo. One of the parents asked how to elaborate that activity. Nicole did a wonderful job of explaining this. When you start playing peek-a-boo it may be just you hiding behind a blanket. Then you might wait behind the blanket for your child to pull it off. Next you could put up a cushion or a beanbag between the two of you. As you slowly back up and increase the zone of connection your game of peek-a-boo slowly elaborates into the game of hide and seek. Jumping from peek-a-boo directly into hide and seek may be too confusing for a child and they may not make the connection between the two activities, but making slight variations to an activity that your child is already comfortable with can eventually bring you to a more complicated/challenging activity. Any small activity can be elaborated into something bigger.

The idea that Nicole mentioned in her last post about the garden started off about a discussion of how can you elaborate on building Lego's. The elaborations began to build and eventually the activity turned into building this garden. It's amazing how such simple activities build the foundations to doing bigger and better things as our children grow and develop.

For me, it has always been easier to take the final elaboration and then to think of the activities that would be appropriate for building foundations to eventually reach the more complicated task. For others it may be easier to start with simple tasks and think about how to elaborate them into something more complicated. Whatever way you like to think about it, I hope that these past two posts will make it easier for you to think of ways to expand what you are doing. What do you want your child to be able to do some day? What can you do now to start building competence in that activity?

Until next week,

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Break It On Down

We had a great chat tonight with some of our families about variations and elaborations. One of the best reminders that came out of it was that every activity can be broken down into component parts that allow you to build competence in increments. One parent mentioned that making a garden would be too complex for her child, but we were able to break that big project down into many small simple components (prototypes) that would eventually lead to making a garden. Here are some ideas (in no particular order): dig holes and put things in them, collect rocks to lay along the edge of the dirt as a border, plant flowers or seeds in pots indoors, work on one row of seeds / flowers at a time, water existing plants and flowers indoors and outdoors, rake grass or dirt together, take turns putting your hands in the dirt and lifting out handfuls to place in a bucket…the list could go on and on.

The point is that instead of looking at an activity and thinking, “My child could never do that” you need to think, “How can I break this down into smaller pieces so that my child can learn to do that?” Every complex activity has parts and pieces that can be elaborated and built upon. Michelle gave a great example of playing on a baseball team – you don’t just hand a kid a bat and a glove and send them out onto the field (at least not if you expect them to be successful)! You start out learning to throw and catch, playing in the backyard, starting out close together and increasing your distance when throwing and catching, hitting off a tee, etc. My challenge to you this week is to think about an activity you would like to do with your child but have put off because you think it’s too challenging or complex, and begin breaking it down into pieces so you can begin teaching the components in a way you and your child can manage right now. Remember that everything builds on a foundation of something else – what foundations will you lay this week?

Until next week,