Thursday, June 28, 2007

Isn't development amazing?

Over the past few months Michelle, Nicole and I have been working very hard to re-watch the over 200 clips we have in our current video library as well as all of the new clips that our families continue to bring to us each month. Why are we watching all of the old clips again you may wonder. Well the new operating system through the Connections Center will soon be operational and it is their goal to have clips for most of the new objectives for parents to watch. This has been a huge undertaking, but it is our hope that it will be very beneficial to all of our families and provide them with the opportunity to watch other families who are working on the same objectives that they are.

Anyway as I have been watching these clips, many of which I had never seen before either I have been spending a lot of time learning the new objective system at least the first few stages. I can't believe all of the amazing things that each of our families do everyday. There have been some really unique and creative things all the way to just everyday activities done in a manageable way for the child. This has been such a great benefit to me and I have found some new ideas to pass along to the families I work with.

Along with getting new ideas it has made me more aware of the developmental milestones that children go through and achieve as they are growing which has caused me to be increasingly more watchful of not only the children at the clinic, but of children in general. I was at my mom's house the other evening swimming and boy do I wish I would have had a video camera. My cousin brought her kids down to swim as well. Her youngest son (3 years old) wanted to help my mom water her flowers. It was the perfect master/apprentice moment which included some nice scaffolding as she helped him to lift the heavy watering can and decide how much water each plant needed. She then took one of the watering cans to a different section to water leaving him with the other can. He went into the water filled the can all the way and then said, "Too heavy" after which he emptied out some of the water to make it light enough for him to carry and proceeded to water more of the plants. Woah development in action!

Children are amazing no matter if the child is neuro-typical going through the stages at the appropriate ages or if the child has an autism spectrum disorder and is going through the stages at a later age as they are working with their parents through RDI. I love to watch this process in action.

Take a moment this week to just stop and watch you might be amazed at what you see!

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

We're on our Way!

Ok - my turn for blogging is coming a little early because I'm not going to be in the office the next 2 days and didn't want to leave you with a week without pictures. We have paint color on the wall, flooring in the new bathroom, furnace installed, new concrete out the main entrance (more to come later), and a wall knocked down. Tomorrow they are going to knock out the staircase that so many of you have traveled up and down - which means we'll be able to use our new staircase! The drywallers will then have some work to do again since a wall is now gone and a staircase will be missing and that will start on Friday. Our bathroom should get finished up next week along with more work on the parking lot. We're hoping for the paint to be finished up and hope for some carpet to be laid by the end of next week. Enjoy your pictures as things keep looking different around here.
The new hallway behind my office into the new addition!
Our friendly painter Tom!
The doors drying and waiting to be hung back up!
Who likes our new paint color? We do!!!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Camps Fun

I love the six weeks during the summer when our center is filled with kids here for our camps programs! It does my heart good to see the kids connecting with each other, some of them re-connecting from past summers, and working hard on all kinds of things together. While I’m not directly involved in the camps programs anymore, I do take time to chat with the kids each day and see what they are up to. Over the last week they have worked hard to get their garden prepped and planted. I hear we will have everything from zucchini to pumpkins to yellow tomatoes this year! There has been fun in the kitchen making snacks and, of course, lots of outdoor activities. Our goal is to provide the kids with many memory-making opportunities. It’s a privilege to have these kids around for the summer – a definite highlight of our year!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Always Changing

Well, a lot of things got finished up and a few other things got started this week. All of the siding is now up so the outside of our building actually looks complete. Our painter started and has all the walls primed and is working on painting the doors. He'll finish up with the wall color sometime next week. Speaking of doors - those were hung up as well. Today we started demo on our parking lot. A large section was removed in front of the main entrance where they will start to pour new concrete. Well, enjoy your weekly pictures. I'll try and get some up next week, but I'm going away for the weekend and might not be here to get my weekly pics.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Functioning - High, Low, Somewhere in between; Does it really matter?

The idea of functioning level has recently been a hot topic for those of us around the office. Why do some people get so hung up on whether children are "high" functioning or "low" functioning and what does that really mean anyway?

It really bothers me when people talk about functioning level. It has nothing to do with the autism. I think sometimes people are referring to cognitive ability, but even then it is very difficult to determine what a person's true cognitive abilities are. It is amazing to see what strengths a child has after a family begins remediation. Sometimes we are very suprised to find what our children are really capable of if provided with a bit of guidance.

Our philosophy at Horizons is that we are all a family and we accept all members of the family as equals. We all have strengths and areas of weakness. We are all different with our own set of unique needs and abilities. Even with all of these differences our children are the same in that they all have the core deficits of autism. These deficits may look a bit different in each child, but they are there all the same. This is what ties all people with autism together.

I really feel that we need to be mindful of how we think about children and people with disabilities. I challenge all of you to begin thinking in terms of strengths and what each individual can bring to the interaction or relationship versus what their "functioning level" might be.

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Days Are Long, But The Years Fly By

I read that some where recently and thought how true this can be. Staying home with children can make the days really long and yet how often do we hear ourselves saying - "how is she having another birthday?" I had a friend of mine who is a teacher say something similar in regards to her school day and then saying "I can't believe this school year is done already, I'm going to miss those kids!"

Last night we had a chat with some of our parents and we brainstormed some ideas to help make the days go smoother, to make the most of our days and to keep out kids busy! Here are some of the ideas generated in our chat last night.
1. Make a bowl filled with activity ideas to use when you hear the words "I'm bored". Have your child draw from the I'm Bored Bowl - it could be something fun or a chore that needs to be done.
2. Use a calendar to help everyone see what the week, month, and summer will look like.
3. Rotate kids between stations - especially good for large families. Stations could include: coloring/play dough/puzzles (quiet station), one on one time with mom/dad, and outdoor time or downstairs time.
4. Use a schedule for the day to determine what the day is going to look like. An example could look like: wake up, breakfast, clean up, get dressed, out door time, snack, take a walk or run an errand, lunch, naps or quiet time, snack, outdoor time etc... Having a schedule can be helpful for both the child and parents to know what to expect.
5. Get a babysitter to help out with the kids so you have time for yourself or to spend one on one time with each of your kids.
6. Of course the most important is to buy one of our calendars to come up with ideas!

Enjoy the slowness of summer, it also comes and goes way to quickly. Make the most of the time you have with your kids and do what you can to create those memory making moments!

Talk to you next week,

Friday, June 15, 2007

Moving Right Along!!

Wow - what a week! The drywall is finished, all of the walls are primed and ready for paint, the stone is up on the outside, and the siding is about 1/2 done. Next week the painting will get finished, siding completed, and doors hung. We've also picked out our paint color and carpet (sort of tough when you have so many female opinions!). It's still looking like mid-July when we will be able to move in! Enjoy your weekly pictures (thanks to Erin for taking them!)


New stone on the bottom, tearing down the old siding and putting up new!

Courtney's new office!
Michelle's new office! (too many windows I think!!!)
Siding up on this side of the building!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Non-verbal Communication is where it's at!

I have been working on non-verbal communication with many of my families recently. This can be tough for some people. It is hard not to talk, but wow how powerful this can be.

I recently reviewed a tape from a mom who has struggled with using non-verbal communication with her child. In this last tape I asked her to focus on using non-verbals. She made is her mission to try hard to use non-verbal communication as much as possible and to amplify her facial expressions as well as use a slow pace to her child could follow her gestures. She did a really nice job of using more non-verbals than verbal communication and she used many amplified facial expressions. Her pace was exactly right and the activity went very smoothly. Her child was able to pick up on her non-verbals and was successful in being co-regulated with her. He even used some non-verbals of his own toward the end of the activity.

I have another parent who has been working on this as well only her child will say to her "talk mommy, talk, can't you talk?" She has done a great job of not answering and continuing to use her non-verbal communication which has made a big difference in his ability to complete activities, stay regulated and focused. It has also reduced some of his verbal communication as well.

I find it amazing what a little less talking and little more non-verbal communication can do for a child. If we all stopped to think about what we convey with our face, our bodies, our tone of voice each day we would be stunned.

My challenge for each of you this week is to take 5 minutes and watch something on tv with the sound off or go to a public place and sit away from people who are talking and just see what you can pick up from just watching the non-verbal communication going on. Are the people happy/sad, do they like each other, are the good friends or have they just met.

So here's to non-verbal communication!

Talk to you soon,

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Turning “Can’t” into “CAN”

I’ve decided I don’t like the word “can’t”. It sounds so defeating – “I can’t do it.” “My son can’t do that.” Sometimes parents will talk about their children in terms of “can’ts” – “That’s too hard – he can’t do it.” “I tried to show him but he can’t understand.” When I hear those kinds of things I quickly reframe the discussion to how we can structure things so the child “CAN” do whatever it is we are talking about. In my opinion there are very few can’ts - it’s about thinking through how to help our children be successful with the things we want to help them learn to do.

If someone told me today that I was going to run a marathon next week I would laugh and say, “I can’t do that!” It would be true because I do not run on a regular basis and would be physically unable to run a marathon without training for it. However, if someone told me that I needed to run a marathon a year from now it would be doable. I could start running a little bit each day, build up my strength and endurance, and be ready for the marathon in a year’s time. It’s not that I “can’t” run a marathon, it’s just that I need time to prepare and get ready for it.

This is the same thing I want parents to think about in relation to their children. Instead of saying that your child can’t do something, spend time figuring out how you need to break it down and provide guidance so they CAN learn to do it. What are the components and how many should we tackle at once? Are there other things that could be learned first that would build up to this? What is the best way to help my child understand – tell him, show him, do it with him? Reframe your own thinking! No more “can’ts” – just “how CAN we do this?”

This week I’d like you to think about something you have put in the “can’t” category for your child. Spend some time thinking about how you can turn this into a “CAN” and start working on it. Remember to start slow, build competence, and before you know it you’ll wonder how you ever thought this was something your child would never be able to do.

Until next week,

Friday, June 8, 2007

Wow - how things have changed!

It's been a very busy week around here - with construction! As you can see from the pictures we now have insulation and most of the drywall. The drywall should be finished up today and next week the finishers will come in to ready the walls for paint! We may even have some new siding up on the outside - we'll have to wait and see! It's so exciting to see the changes that take place weekly. We will hopefully be ready to move in by mid-July which will be great because space around here is getting very tight! So, enjoy your weekly pictures and look for more next week!

Downstairs - our new sensory room!

Our new entrance up top!

Erin's new office!

Looking down the hallway upstairs where everyone's offices will be!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Finding Happiness

Last week I talked about making decisions and how hard it can be for me to make a decision for change, but that once it is done how great it can be. Well this week has been full of productive uncertainty and a major decision. I decided this past week to make a change in my job.

As many of you know I currently work full time for a school district as a part time speech/language pathologist and a part time autism teacher consultant. I then spend my evenings working at Horizons as an RDI certified program consultant. Over the past year Nicole and I have been talking about building my caseload so that I could work at Horizons part time and in the schools part time. About a week ago Nicole and I really started discussing the probability of this happening.

I love my work at Horizons and really wanted to do this, but in order for that to happen it meant leaving the only job I had known since graduating from college. I love the people I work with and the children I see at school, but I have been feeling for the past few years as if I wasn’t making as big of a difference as I could and that I was being spread thinner and thinner. At the same time I was working on my RDI certification and finding a way to actually make a big difference in the lives of children and families living with autism spectrum disorders and related developmental disabilities.

I’ve known for a long time that autism was going to be my passion. It is where my heart lies and I need to be working in this field. Therefore the decision was easy in regards to what I wanted to do, but difficult from the standpoint of leaving what I know and the kids I like working with. Knowing that I will still be there part of the time at least for now has made the decision much easier and the support of all of Nicole, Michelle and Betsy has been amazing. I couldn’t do it without all of them.

Ever since I made the decision and talked with my boss as well as filling in the staff this past week I have felt lighter. I have found happiness again. I know this is the right decision and I am so excited to be embarking on this new/old journey. The support of the staff at school has also been terrific and is making the transition easier as well. I will be continuing in my capacity as autism teacher consultant at school and working to build up my caseload more at Horizons. My biggest hope is to continue touching the lives of families dealing with autism spectrum disorders.

There have been many small signs over the year “telling” me this is the right thing to do so I just finally decided to “listen.” I truly believe that we can all find our happiness it just might be hidden under some productive uncertainty. Follow your heart and you will find your happiness at the end of that path.

Finally, I just want to say thank you, thank you, thank you to Nicole for believing in me and providing me with the support I needed to make these changes. Thank you to Michelle for her support as well and willingness to bounce ideas around. Thank you to Betsy for all her continuing support and behind the scenes work that keeps me on target. Thank for helping me to find my happiness

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Obstacles to Progress

You may think that I'm going to talk tonight about conditions that your child may have that hinder progress. My focus tonight instead is on how some of the biggest obstacles to your child's progress is not the child's obstacles, but instead the parent's. This may be a hard post to read and it can be very difficult to face the obstacles that you have that may be hindering progress, but they are very real and need to be dealt with. Let's think about that a bit. If you are burned out, tired, spinning in crisis, dealing with depression or having marital issues, how likely are you going to be able to put a lot of energy into your child's remediation? Not much!

One important thing to realize is that it does not make you a weak person to admit these things and do something about them. Counseling (whether individual or marriage) is not a bad thing. It can be very renewing and can make some wonderful changes in your life! Getting yourself medicated for depression/anxiety/ADHD etc. could be the best thing that you ever did for yourself or your family. Suddenly you could have that energy you've always needed or the focus that is necessary for being productive. The bottom line is don't be afraid to care for yourself. It's important that you are healthy, that your marriage is healthy and that in turn will give you what you need to be a much better coach to your child. So if you don't make some changes to do something about your obstacles for yourself, do it for your family. If you need a referal or additional support for making some of these decisions, please call! We see nothing more important than having happy healthy parents! You are the biggest tool for your child's success!

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Summer Slow-Down

As the school year winds down I find myself looking forward to the slower pace that summer brings for my family. Two of the kids are already done with preschool and our oldest finishes his school year on Friday. While we are involved in various activities throughout the summer, the constant, hectic, “have to do” pace of the school year goes away for a couple of months. We feel more free to do things we want to do, with fewer obligations and a schedule that isn’t as rigid as it is the rest of the year.

While some parents complain about the summer because their children are out of school, I hope you are thinking about all the wonderful ways you can use the summer for remediation. Plan some new experiences and / or make more time for familiar ones. It doesn’t mean you need to spend every moment doing something with your children (especially not feeling the need to entertain them every waking moment!). But I do hope you are thinking about ways to capitalize on the slower pace of the summer to have some great experiences with your kids. Many of my families feel they make the most progress with remediation over the summer because they have more time and less school-related stress. I hope you will join them in planning a slower paced summer with lots of memory-making opportunities with your kids!

Until next week,

Friday, June 1, 2007

Lights, Power, Action!

Ok - the changes weren't as visually obvious this week - we had all of the electrical stuff done. This means a lot of electrical outlets, can lights in the ceiling, and a lot of wire! Next week we should be getting insulation
and the starts of drywall, so things will hopefully look different in a week. Enjoy your weekly pictures.