Thursday, May 31, 2007

Making a Change

Going with this week’s theme it is that time of year when many school decisions are being made. I too have talked with many families recently about school next year. This can be such a quandary for so many families. What to do, where to go, what services do I choose, what is the best thing for my child.
My best advice for parents is to really think about what is the most important thing for their child at this point in time. Once they have figured this out the next step is to figure out what is needed to get to that goal. For some it might be utilizing the school system and the services that are offered. For others it might mean an alternate school setting or home schooling. Whatever it is that parents choose it just needs to be what is best for that family.
What an agonizing decision this can be especially since this may mean making a change. This is coming from the queen of difficulty with change. What I have found though is that once I have made the decision to make the change and forge ahead with it everything seems to turn out fine and often times the change is for the better. This is not to say that there aren’t bumps and bruises along the way, but nothing worth having comes easily.
Take some time over the next few days to really think about what you want for your child and then make the decision based on that.
Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sit back, relax and enjoy!

I am once again going to roll with what Nicole has talked about and add my thoughts. We have found a pattern as we continue our work with families. May is the time of IEP's and thinking about the year to come. This is the time of year when phone calls and e-mails are endless looking for support on what to do with the next year. Here are some thoughts to help you through this stressful time of year:

  • Plan ahead. You know that the IEP will be coming, take some time to visit different classrooms, teachers, schools etc. and get a feel for what kind of setting you are looking for.
  • What are your priorities with your child over the next year. Will this setting help you to reach these goals?
  • Write pros and cons for each educational setting you are considering. Don't be afraid to think outside of the box. School is just what you do in our culture - but why does that have to be if formalized schooling doesn't fit with what you are looking for? Options can range from being home all day to being in school all day, but why not do 1/2 day at school and 1/2 day at home? What about private schooling or Charter schools? Just because you have a child with a special need doesn't mean you have to fit into the box that their label puts them in. Options are out there, feel free to shop!
  • Don't be afraid to ask for progress reports from your school. Is your child making progress? If not, don't wait until the next IEP to think about what needs to happen to ensure success. Work with the teachers to make sure that gains will be made.
  • It can be stressful to make a decision, but once the decision is made, you aren't married to it. There is the option of moving your child to another setting if it's not working out.
  • Enjoy the summer with your children. Don't feel you have to fill it full in hopes that your child will make more gains. Often times slowing down will help your child's success speed up. Perhaps a relaxing summer with less expectations can help your child start the next school year more regulated and ready to learn. By the way, relaxing in my mind does not mean t.v., video games etc. try going swimming, building sand castles, growing a garden, planting flowers, riding bikes - let your imaginations go!

On that note, I just want to encourage you to enjoy the ride of raising your children. They grow up so fast and it is so easy to get caught up in the stress of school and in the mean time miss so much valuable time with your children. I know as a working mom there are days that I have a lot on my mind and a full day can go by without truly engaging my girls because my mind isn't with them, instead it's on getting x done or scheduling y. In the mean time I've missed a day of their quickly changing lives. Don't be afraid to sit back, relax and enjoy your children and the process of watching them grow.

Until next time! Michelle

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

School Quandries

With the end of the school year upon us I have been talking to many families lately about school issues. School-related decisions seem to be an ever-present issue for all families, but especially for families with a child with unique learning needs. Here are some things I have found myself saying to families recently in regards to their child’s education:

• Just because a service or option is available doesn’t mean you have to take it. Go with your gut feeling and do what you believe is right for your child. If you don’t think the speech sessions are helping then stop them. If you don’t want the weekly home visit from the early intervention specialist then don’t do them. If you think your child needs to be home with you rather than at school for some of all of the day, then do it. Do not allow what “other people” say or do to steer you in the wrong direction with your child. Do not allow “the professionals” to over-ride your own good judgment about what your child needs. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain or make a different choice in the best interest of your child and family.

• Don’t hem and haw over the next 15 years of your child’s school career when you only need to be making a decision about what to do for right now. I have met with too many parents who are paralyzed at the thought of pursuing something different from the status quo because they wonder what the ramifications will be 10 years down the road. Schools make decisions about placement and services one year at a time based on the current needs of the child and parents should do the same. You may feel that something is important for your child right now, and feel completely different about it a year from now. None of us can predict the future with certainty – no matter how hard we try! What is important is making the right decision for this point in time, and re-evaluating as you go along.

• Do not buy into the idea that there is a certain place out there that is a perfect fit and if you just keep searching long enough you will find it. No setting is perfect and there will be flaws and problems that crop up wherever you go. What is important is finding the right people who are willing to customize things to work for the best interest of each child – people who will bring you as parents in as part of the team and will work with you to ensure progress.

• Don’t get hung up on labels! I couldn’t care less what a certain classroom is called as long as the people are invested in setting high standards and helping each child reach his or her potential. Very often programs have the names they have for the purpose of paperwork and reporting – nothing more. Visit lots of places – meet the staff and watch them in action; get a feel for the environment; watch the other students. Those are the critical elements in determining whether a classroom is a good fit for your child – not whether the name of the classroom matches the label of the child.

• Finally, keep the developmental level of your child and the amount of stress school creates for your child in mind when making educational decisions. There is tremendous pressure to put children, particularly those with autism, into formal educational settings earlier and earlier, but that may not be the best decision for your child. If you know your child is not ready for a classroom-based program then don’t send them. There is a tremendous amount to be gained from allowing children to benefit from the guidance of their parents during the early stages of development – and that process can take longer in children with unique learning needs. The same goes for children who experience significant amounts of stress in school. Parents must carefully weigh the potential benefits of a school environment against the amount of stress that is caused and the detrimental impact of that stress over time. Each of us as parents needs to take a good hard look at our child and decide if they are ready to enter a school setting for some or all of the day, or if they need more time to be truly successful and derive benefit from that environment. Again, don’t be afraid to make a different choice; to say “thanks, but not now” to school-based options if your child is not ready.

Maybe some of these things touch on issues you have been thinking about in relation to your child’s education. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and do what is right for your child at this point in time. You are your child’s best advocate and are in the best position to make decisions regarding your child’s education – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

Until next week,

Friday, May 25, 2007


Ok - another week has gone by. We now have windows, a shingled roof, all the plumbing, duct work, and the electrical is getting started this weekend. I'm assuming that next week they'll be able to get started on drywall. We all just love going out there and walking around - once the drywall goes up it will look even more different. Enjoy the pictures (even though it's hard to see the changes that are happening now). Check back again next week for more!


It's huge!

Upstairs offices.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Power of Time

The power of providing processing time is truly an amazing thing. I recently watched a video of one of my clients making a snack with his mom. They made a dog out of fruit and when they finished putting it together mom made a great comment wondering what other type of animals they could make. She then just waited and amazingly about 15 seconds later he came up with the idea to make a giraffe. Now that was truly a spontaneous response. They then went on to discuss what they could use to make the long neck and spots. It was such a great experience sharing conversation that had mom not provided processing time would not have taken place.

As I sit here with tears in my eyes thinking about the progress this child has made in 6 months due to parents making some changes in communication style, slowing down the pace and working on guided participation I’m in awe. I can’t wait to see what the next 6 months brings especially now that parents are tuned into providing him with processing time. I know we are going to get some really amazing spontaneous thoughts from him.

So my advice for this week is to slow down and wait. You just might be surprised what you get.

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


As we stated last week, Nicole and I went to Paris to work with a couple of families. Our time out there turned out to be quite different than planned with some unexpected events, but we got done what we went there to do. The families we worked with were wonderful. What a pleasure to work with them and to spend so much time with their beautiful children!

One thing that Nicole and I observed about Versailles (the town that we stayed in) was that everything was much smaller than in the United States. For instance, the coffee cups were small, the streets were small, the cars were very small - don't even try to drive a Ford Expedition out there, you wouldn't make it down a street and if you did, you wouldn't be able to park. The elevator was so small it had a max load of 4 people, the T.V. in our room was only a 19 inch, and they had the smallest spoons I've ever seen.

The language barrier was also an issue, although the locals were very helpful in trying to understand us. We found one cafe' in particular where they went out of their way to help us out, so we ate there often. The architecture was beautiful and it was fun to walk through the town. We were however very excited to be home with our families and surrounded by english speaking people. Being home with our families has never felt so good. I know I've been talking about priorities lately, being so far away from family really helps to reset this priority and appreciate them so much more! My mission - my family!

Have a great week and enjoy your family. Make sure to value what you have!

Friday, May 18, 2007

It actually looks like something!

Wow - what a week! It's been great to see the tresses go up and then boards on top of that for a roof! The plumber was here too and connected the water to the inside of our main building. We've taken walks through the inside to get a feel for what it will be like - the drawings do no justice - it's so big! Once you stand inside it's crazy to think how much room we'll actually have when it's all done - can't wait :) Enjoy your weekly pictures!

I wonder what it will look like in a week from now - you'll have to wait and see!!!

These pictures were taken in the AM so if things change by the end of the day I'll give you another updated picture later!


Thursday, May 17, 2007


First I just want to say that I am very happy that my friends have arrived safely in Paris. We miss them already :)

As the school year is rapidly coming to a close this is the time I begin to reflect on what has been accomplished over the past nine months with all of the students that I see. It is hard to see progress as it is happening especially when it comes in baby steps, but when you look back at the whole picture it can sometimes be amazing and a bit overwhelming.

Last Monday and then again this Monday that feeling of amazement, happiness and pride came over me when I was working with my small group of kindergarten students. They each have their own challenges that they bring to the table, but they have also all made such progress this year. When I think back to September and how this group used to go I can't believe what is happening now. Back in the fall it used to be me directing the whole process asking questions or making comments waiting to see if I would get a response. For some I could hardly understand what they said and for others I received a one word response or nothing at all. Talking to each other was out of the question and offering spontaneous comments for all, but one was unheard of. The one who did offer information was overly verbal and very random with comments.

Oh how things have changed. The overly verbal one still talks a lot, but her comments are not so random and not just directed to me anymore. The whole group has made progress. It isn't just me directing the interaction anymore. I don't have to deliberately keep them on track, reminding them who's turn it is in the game or even teach them how to play a game. They are talking to each other and truly enjoying their time together, laughing and just being kids talking about kid things. One of the children is reading very well and this has really boosted his confidence. He has become a little helper reading things for the other children in the group. Another one is very strong in number skills and can help in counting.

It has just been such a great year with this group. They make me smile every Monday. I know next year will bring just as much progress.

Reflection is so important especially when you are feeling down or unsure. It can really lift your spirits.

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

We Have Arrived

We arrived safely in Paris today. After a near miss in Newark for our connecting flight, we were happy to arrive here only 5 minutes late today - instead of an entire day!

We are tired, we miss our families, but we are excited to be here. We've already seen more in one day than we expected to. It's 3:20 Michigan time and 9:20 in Paris, but on 2 interupted hours of sleep we are ready for bed! We will update more on our adventures next week.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Taking Our Show on the Road

In a few hours Michelle and I will leave for Paris where we will work with two families for the next week. It's exciting to be able to share the gift of RDI around the world! I will be sure to share some pictures here when we return. Enjoy your kids this week!

Until next week,

Friday, May 11, 2007

Update #2

Well, things have been progressing throughout the week. With a day off because of rain, it didn't get as far along as we hoped for. Things are moving along and we like to stand in the middle of it where the framed walls are so we can figure out where things are going to be once it's finished.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Family, there is nothing so important in the world. Family comes in many different “shapes and sizes.” Many people have multiple families. There are nuclear families usually made up of blood relation, families of friends, workplace families, church families and on and on the list could go. Family is my number one priority in my life. My nuclear family of course comes first followed by all the other types of families.

I write about families this week in honor of my mother as Sunday is Mother’s Day. Most of you who read this blog don’t know much about me, but almost 15 years ago I lost my father after his battle with cancer. This left my mother as a single parent to a 20 year old college student and a 14 year old. I cannot even imagine what this must have been like for her, but she kept on supporting both my sister and I through it all. She was the rock in my life and we have developed such a great relationship. I respect her so much and consider her not only my mother, but my friend. I feel so lucky to have such a great women in my life.

I can only hope that all of you are as lucky as I am to have such a great mom. So on this Mother’s Day honor your mother. If you are a mother yourself take time to honor yourself. Tell your mother what she really means to you and cherish every minute you get to spend with your mother or being a mother.

Here’s to all the mothers out there! Enjoy your day!

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

A New Beginning

With spring comes a new beginning, fresh flowers, new leaves on the trees and unfortunately a lot of new bugs and bunnies that eat our new flowers. Spring each year is a time of new beginnings - especially in my family. My husband and I began our relationship in the spring, we were married in the spring, and both of our girls were born in the spring. I am reminded each April/May of new beginnings. Last week I wrote about priorities, today I'm going to elaborate on that a bit and encourage you to think about some personal new beginnings.

Right before my husband (Kevin) and I were married we attended a church service in which the pastor encouraged each person to write a mission statement for themselves and/or their family. Kevin and I took this challenge and decided we'd like to start our marriage off with a mission statement. Unfortunately we got as far as getting some bulletted points down, but never developed those thoughts into a mission statement. I began thinking about that concept again this week and thought it really makes a lot of sense. Who am I? What are my priorities? Where should my focus be in life? It's important to occassionally stop and think about this, but how great would it be to have a personal mission statement in which you can reflect daily on your mission in life? Each year or so you can take time to revamp it as things in your life change and continue to use it as a road map for your life.

This week I'm going to start thinking about a personal mission statement and I encourage you to do the same. Here are a few things to think about to get started:
Who do I serve/give time to?
What do I hope to accomplish in the next couple of years?
In what things will I put my energy?
What makes me unique?
What are my goals?

This is a great way to create a new beginning - put things in perspective and live your life according to your priorities. When your boss asks to put in some extra hours, you can quickly reflect on your mission statement and think, nope, that's not what I'm about or absolutely - my job is my priority at this point. When you are asked to do something else, does it fit with my mission statement? What a wonderful way to keep your life organized and with priorities in order.

Check out this site for a few more ideas in developing your mission statement.

To new beginnigs! ~Michelle

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Piano Duets and Co-regulation

As I observed my son’s piano lesson this afternoon the concept of co-regulation came to mind. He had practiced a song this past week and after he played it for his teacher she suggested they play the duet together. She joined him at the piano and they played the song together – my son doing the part he had practiced and his teacher doing the more difficult part. The thing about a duet is that both people have to be playing their part in a synchronized way with the other. If one person plays their part without any regard for what the other person is doing it is very unlikely that the song will sound like it’s supposed to. In fact, it will probably end up sounding like two people playing two totally different songs at the same time.

The essence of playing a duet is co-regulation – each person has a role to play and there must be continuous awareness of what the other is doing. They must check with each other for readiness to start and to stop. Each must constantly monitor their tempo / pace in relation to the other. Each must continuously check their volume in relation to the other. If one person fails to do their part and takes off on their own, one of two things happens. Either the other person constantly adjusts their actions to stay coordinated or the entire thing falls apart. I noticed this with my son and his teacher today. He is only 7-years old and has been taking lessons for about 7 months, so he is not very good yet at monitoring lots of things at once when playing. His teacher recognizes this so she makes sure to regulate her playing around what he is doing. If he loses his place for a moment she pauses her playing to wait for him to get back on track. If he starts playing faster she speeds up to match his pace. She knows that with practice he will get better at knowing how to do his part and also monitoring what she is doing so they can each share the responsibility of staying in synch with each other. Sometimes she doesn’t change her pace and lets him finish well before her – and he learns that people can get out of synch and that he needs to change something when that happens. He will continue to become competent at taking more shared responsibility for maintaining the co-regulation of duets by practicing with her and making these discoveries. She will continue to let him experience success for the most part, but just enough difficulty to allow him to learn something.

This is the same process we use to help our children learn about co-regulation within any activity. This is a critical concept for remediation and we need to be working on it in everything we do with our kids on the autism spectrum. They need to learn about co-regulation – not just you and I both doing something in the same place at the same time, but true co-regulation where we both have a shared responsibility to make things work. As parents we need to balance carefully between modifying our own actions enough that we can experience success together, but not so much that the child has no recognition of the importance of continuous monitoring of us in relation to what they are doing. The next time you are doing something with your child think about the piano duet. How much are we both doing to contribute to the success of this? If I stopped modifying my actions in response to what s/he is doing would the whole thing fall apart? What kind of discovery can I help my child make about his/her own actions in relation to mine?

Until next week,

Friday, May 4, 2007

Update on Construction

Just a few pictures this Friday to show the progress on our addition. We're excited to see it coming together. We all took turns standing in the middle of it today to visually see where things will be. Hopefully we'll have our 2nd floor walls next week. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Unconditional Love

Sometimes it is amazing how much we at the office think along the same lines. I knew already on Saturday night what I would blog about this week. As Michelle said in her post this week I got my priorities in order. I had the great pleasure of spending a few hours on Saturday night with my cousin and two of her three sons. The oldest was gone to the races with his grandparents which really gave me a chance to spend time with the two younger ones. This is significant because the oldest and I have a strong bond and when I am with the whole family I tend to spend most of my time with him talking and playing so I don’t get as much time with the other two.
I haven’t seen them for a while so of course they had grown and changed. The middle one recently turned for and the youngest recently turned 3. Well something amazing has happened to the youngest in the past few months. He has really started talking to the point where you can understand most of what he says and he really wants to communicate with you. He has also calmed down a ton and has left the tantrums behind for the most part. When I arrived he was so excited to see me and he spent the majority of the next two hours on my lap chatting away. He was so cuddly and loving.
As I have been thinking about this over the past few days and after reading Nicole’s blog it really all makes sense to me why his behavior was the way it was for about 6 months and why most children go through a terrible twos stage. If we stop to think there are so many things happening during that 3rd year of life. Not that there aren’t a ton of things happening before that, but this is the time when the language piece of communication really starts to kick in, kids motor skills take another leap, some children start potty training and on and on the list goes. It is no wonder kids have a tough time behaviorally during this time. They have so many new things to figure out.
It is so great to see that they do come out the other side and behavior improves until the next big growth spurt comes along. Until then I’ll just enjoy the unconditional love and calmness.
Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


I have often found that setting priorities in life can be very difficult. I know where my priorities lie and in which order they should be listed, but it seems that it's much too easy to get those priorities mixed up, reversed and suddenly I wonder why my relationships are suffering. One of the early appointments we hold with new families is to look over their schedules, to assess where the majority of their time and energy lie and if they are finding time for the important things and people in their lives.

Do you ever see a whole week go by and never connect with your spouse or kids? I do, I fill my time with work, household duties and other things. By the time the weekend comes around we as a family are feeling distant, sometimes grumpy toward each other and just plain on a different page. My husband and I described last weekend to each other like we were oil and water. Can't we all just get along?!?

This weekend my husband and I are celebrating our anniversary and taking the time to reconnect, remember the vows we made to each other and to make each other our priority again. How are your priorities? Are you noticing where your time needs to be and investing in that area? Are things like church, friends, work etc taking too much time away from your spouse and kids? Take time to write down the things that fill your time, then think about what order those priorities should be? Are they landing in the right order? What needs to change to put those things in the right order? I challenge you this week to not only put your priorities in order on paper, but to take action to make it happen.

Until next week,

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Dysregulation and Development

I’ve been thinking about dysregulation and developmental “growth spurts” lately as my 9-month old daughter has had a week-long stretch of frustrating behavior. Normally she is a very easy baby – content to hang out with us and do whatever. She generally likes to be held, likes to play with toys on the floor, sleeps through the night, etc. Two weeks ago she learned to crawl – that funny army crawl where babies kind of use their elbow and knee to propel themselves forward as they move across the floor (OT’s in the audience-yes I know the importance of doing a cross-crawl but for now she is doing it this way!). She wants to get everywhere and she is FAST! So there is a lot of time spent telling her “no you can’t go there” and picking her up to move her back to a space where she can be. She has also started to wake up quite a bit in the night – crying out and banging on her crib rails. I’ll go into her room and she will be trying to pull herself up in the bed and then gets mad when she falls down onto the mattress. During the day she is mad about everything – doesn’t want to be on the floor unless she is allowed to crawl wherever she wants to; doesn’t want to be in her jumper or her exersaucer, or her swing…and doesn’t really want to be held either. Basically she just wants to be on the go and exploring her newfound mobility – and if she can’t then she is MAD!

I remember this happening with my three boys as well when they were this age. It seems like my kids go through a period of falling apart around the time they make a developmental leap forward, and even for some time after that as they settle in to their newfound abilities. It’s obvious to me with my daughter that this is what is going on right now because she is my fourth child, but I remember with my first one thinking that he had turned into a nightmare overnight! Now I’m able to ride it out knowing that they all go through periods of time like this and it will end.

In the RDI® work I do with families I see this same phenomenon occur. Sometimes parents will call or email to say that their child is suddenly going through a very dysregulated time period – and when we look closer they have either just developed a new skill / way of thinking about things, or they are about to go through a developmental spurt. It seems to be the brain’s way of reorganizing itself - which can be a dysregulating process. Obviously not all dysregulation in children can be attributed to cognitive reorganization / developmental growth spurts, but it is something worth considering if you see it happening with your child. Considering it from this perspective allows us as parents to slow down and wait to see what happens without immediately worrying that our child has regressed or become permanently dysregulated. Sometimes in development we take a step back to take a few steps forward – good to remember for all kids!

Until next week,