Friday, August 31, 2007

Little but Big

I cheated and looked ahead to my daily calendar for Tuesday (since we have a nice long weekend) and found this quote. I found it to be "oh so true and oh so hard to do sometimes."

Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.
-Robert Brault

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Yesterday I started back to school and spent the morning listening to speakers get us ready for a new year. The presentation by our superintendent included a power point presentation called Did you know.... It was basically a presentation filled with many facts about the upcoming years in education and the fact that we are preparing children right now for jobs that have not even been thought of yet. It also talked a lot about technology and the fact that everything will revolve around technology very soon in the future.

My sister was then telling me about a speaker they had at the school where she works yesterday that talked about the fact that school should not be so much about all of the "tests" that we must give (MEAP, ACT, SAT), but about problem solving and relationship building. This included the idea that the school would need to be willing to let test scores decrease for a time being in order to build the relationships that will ulitmately help students to be successful at the tests and more importantly in life.

What an interesting and novel concept for schools. Sounds very familiar to me. I am anxious to follow what her school does with this information.

So here's to building relationships and strengthening your child's problem solving ability this school year.

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Importance of Discovery

It's so easy to go through life making sure that life is "easy" for kids. A natural response as a parent is to do things for our kids and over compensate to ensure success for our kids. Isn't it during the times that we've made mistakes or failed at something that we've learned the most? Isn't it the times when we face challenges and work through them that we become a stronger, wiser person? Sure, it's absolutely important to get our kids to a point where they feel succesful, that their competence is built, but then it's time to make them think a bit (with some nice guided participation by a parent of course).

Think about your child. Are you making sure there are opportunities for discovery throughout the day? What happens if you let him try to crack the egg on his own? I bet he'll eventually figure out how hard it needs to be hit to crack it appropriately. How about letting her pour the laundry detergent into the measuring cup? Will it matter too much if there's a little extra soap in the laundry machine? How about moving something that has been in the same spot for a long time? Just because the trashcan isn't where it was, doesn't mean that it doesn't exsist - an important discovery to make isn't it? Think about some things you can do this week that will stretch your child or children. These discoveries is what will help him cope through the bigger challenges in life. Building memories of success during trying times is critical for anybody to have. This is what develops perseverence. There are several articles written about people who persevered through challenges and as a result have done great things - think about electricity, flying etc.. These weren't created through getting things right the first time, no they were created through a lot of failure!

Here's a great quote by Adrian Savage in his article How fear of failure destroys succes:
"Trial and error are usually the prime means of solving life’s problems. Yet many people are afraid to undertake the trial because they’re too afraid of experiencing the error. They make the mistake of believing that all error is wrong and harmful, when most of it is both helpful and necessary. Error provides the feedback that points the way to success. Only error pushes people to put together a new and better trial, leading through yet more errors and trials until they can ultimately find a viable and creative solution. To meet with an error is not to fail, but to take one more step on the path to final success. No errors means no successes either."

What challenges are you going to present this week?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Employment-Related Supports for Parents

I was recently asked to contribute a disability-related article for a business publication and I chose to write about the employment-related issues facing parents of children with special needs. There are many studies that have been done in this area, but a recent five year study done at MassGeneral Children's Hospital provides some important statistics and recommendations for both employers and employees.

It is no surprise to parents of children with disabilities that all aspects of their lives are impacted by their child's needs, including work. Many employers, however, do not recognize the unique needs these parents bring to their employment situation or how to provide supports that assist families while improving workplace productivity. One of the more practical outcomes of the MassGeneral study was the publication of two booklets - one for employers and one for employees.

These booklets summarize research findings and provide best practice recommendations for the workplace. Some of the supports in the employer booklet include providing flexible schedules, assisting with finding appropriate childcare resources, and instructing employees in best use of Flexible Spending Plans and other benefits that aid families financially. The booklet geared toward employees (parents) outlines ways to maximize benefits, approach employers for support, and access community resources. Anyone wishing to download a copy of these practical resources can do so at:

Feel free to pass the link along to any family or employer who may benefit. Let's encourage supportive employment practices for our families affected by disabilities!

Until next week,

Monday, August 27, 2007

Walk A Little Slower...

I came across this poem today as I was sorting through educational materials at school. I read it and thought it relates very nicely to the work we are doing in RDI. We want our children to follow in our footsteps (Master/Apprentice) and we want to walk slow enough so they don't fall (Framing and Scaffolding). I hope the poem brings a mental image to you of when you were following in your parents footsteps as it did me. Happy Monday!


Walk A Little Slower Daddy

"Walk a little slower Daddy,"
said a child so small,
"I'm following in your footsteps
and I don't want to fall.

Sometimes your steps are very fast,
Sometimes they're hard to see;
So walk a little slower, Daddy,
For you are leading me.

Someday when I'm all grown up,
You're what I want to be;
Then I will have a little child
Who'll want to follow me.

And I would want to lead just right,
And know that I was true,
So walk a little slower, Daddy,
For I must follow you."

Thursday, August 23, 2007


I have the great pleasure of being able to post on my birthday this year. Not only is it my birthday, but it is the day of our Open House to show off our large expansion. What a great way to spend my day.

I turned the page in my day-to-day calendar this morning to find a very fitting quote for the day. It said, "I love getting older. The essentials become so much clearer...and fewer!" Elizabeth
I'm sure this will become truer with each passing year. I already find this to be somewhat true when it comes time to think of things I might like for my birthday I have a harder and harder time because do I really need anything other than essentials? Not really of course birthdays should be about the things that we don't really need, but about things that we want or that make us happy. I also find this to be true.

Anyway I know many people begin to dread birthdays as they get older. I have never been one to dread turning another year older my philosophy has always been age is only a number you are only as old as you feel. Of course some days that feels pretty old, but not usually. I really enjoy having birthdays because the day usually turns out to be special and unique.

So for those of you out there who dread your birthday try to look at in a new way this year. Look for the special uniqueness that the day brings or represents.

Enjoy your special day whenever it comes!

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Non verbal communication

I continue to stand amazed at the power of using non verbal communication. I was just watching a tape of a family in their assessment from six months ago in which they talked a lot. As a response their child would do one of two things - repeat it or get up and do what he was just told to do. In either situation, the mind of that child was not being pushed to think beyond responding. The communication was inappropriate and carried no meaning.

Now six months later as the family as integrated much non-verbal communication into their lifestyle, the child is relaxed in the silence. When we first started using non-verbals with him, he would cry and whine or just start talking about anything just to fill the silence of the room. He wasn't used to it and didn't know what to do. Now he is much more regulated and often uses much more appropriate language. There is still more work to be done, but it is amazing to me how when the words are gone, he begins to look around the room and discover what is around him. He has time to think and observe without having to constantly process what is being said to him. He is more attentive to his parents because he isn't able to get information from them any other way. He is sharing with them many more smiles and references when uncertain. His mind is now being pushed as he has to determine what having your hand out means. Is my mom looking for a hand slap or is there something in the room she might want handed to her? Often the hand slap happens first and when the hand stays out, he begins to look around to see what else might need to happen. The mind is working, processing is taking place and awareness of his environment is expanding. Simply amazing!

It is so easy to slip back into the world of talking, guiding through words, telling your child what to do etc... If you have found yourself talking a lot again, or if you haven't tried offering a non verbal environment to your child, give it a try. It may be very hard on your child at first, but what begins to evolve is amazing. If you are a classroom teacher, try implementing a quieter atmosphere for your students. Watch and see what happens!

Enjoy the last days of summer and until next week,

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Showing Off

This Thursday evening we will be hosting an open house for the community to see our newly expanded facility, meet our staff and families, and see what all the excitement is about at Horizons. We have been busy preparing for the events that will take place that day, including getting the new space decorated. When our staff discussed how to fill the empty wall space we decided to have our families help us. Instead of going out and buying some art to hang on the walls, we gave each of our families a blank canvas and asked them to create something. They had free reign to create whatever they wanted – a collage, painting, drawing, photo board, etc. Each day we wait for more to come into the office to see what people have done with their canvases. They are all so different – and all so wonderful! Each one represents the family that created it, and the connection they have to our larger clinic family. It will bring us great joy to be surrounded by these unique creations. I am really excited to show them off at the open house for everyone to see how amazing our families are!

For those of you in town we hope to see you on Thursday! For those of you far away we will be putting images of the family creations on our website at some point for you to enjoy.

Until next week,

Monday, August 20, 2007

Keep Swimming

Happy Monday everyone! I hope everyone was able to rest up and enjoy some rainy day activities, at least for those of us here in Michigan! Today was a very insightful day for me. I have been working with a child for 6 months now who has struggled greatly in all aspects of life. There have been many bumps and holes in the road along the way, but I have to say that today, August 20, was the day that this child reached a new milestone. For the first time, I saw this child regulate themselves in order to handle a difficult situation in an appropriate way without significant adult support. I was in awe! I stood their for several seconds thinking about the past 6 months and the struggles that everyone has endured; and in that second, I realized that I would face all of the countless bumps and holes in the road all over again for that moment. I saw the importance and the impact that we, as professionals and parents, can have on the lives of children. I know many of us, at times, feel like we are just treading water, but, we still need to keep swimming because the shoreline is in sight, no matter how far off in the distance it may seem! Keep swimming strong and you'll reach the shore!

Until next week,


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Stress Reduction

As I was preparing for bed last night I was thinking about the past week and thinking ahead to what is coming up. I can’t believe that over a week has already passed since I arrived home from San Diego so much has happened since then. As I sat preparing for the last quick trip of the summer (an overnight to Chicago) I was reflecting back to where I was 1 year ago.
For the past 12 summers I have spent at least a few weeks of time organizing my schedule, trying to make preliminary groups of speech students and outlining an overall plan for the year for each of my speech students. As the school year approached I would feel my stress level begin to rise just thinking of all of the things that would need to be accomplished over the course of the year.
This summer is different. I am only working part time in the school this year and during that time I will be the autism teacher consultant for the district. This meant I did not need to spend the weeks preparing for a speech caseload. While I will miss working with these students I have one less thing to focus on this year. I am so excited about working at Horizons part time. My stress is so much less heading into this school year.
So as the new school year quickly approaches take a moment to evaluate whether there may be something that you can reduce or eliminate from your child’s or families schedule to reduce the stress in all of your lives. Believe me it makes for a healthier, happier lifestyle.

Talk to you soon,

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Electronics-Free Zone

We made a decision as a staff a couple of weeks ago to declare our clinic waiting areas electronics-free zones for kids. As the summer progressed we began noticing many more clients, siblings, and friends, coming into our office with handheld games, laptops, gameboys, etc. Instead of exploring and interacting with things that required using their minds, the kids were spending their time waiting with their faces close to a screen and their minds absorbed in isolative games. In the spirit of wanting our entire clinic environment to be about growth and development, and to model for parents what we would like them doing at home, we have decided to not allow this to continue. We want our clinic to be a place where clients, their family members, and their friends can explore new things, use their minds, and enjoy each other's company. We now have a big sign posted that alerts people to our "No Electronics" policy. There have been a number of grumbling kids over the past two weeks when they are informed that they need to find something else to do, but it has been great to see them find other things to occupy their time. Just this morning we had two siblings using the unifix cubes to make the longest line they could using all the blocks - and to see if they could make it through the doorway. We have lots of things around here to do and are happy to give kids access to them. So - next time you are in our waiting room we look forward to helping your children find new interests to explore!

By the way - there are many good articles available that discuss the negative effects of "screen time" on children's development. Jane Healy is one of my favorite authors on the subject for those of you who would like to read more about this important topic.

Until next week,

Monday, August 13, 2007

Preparing for School

Hi, My name is Courtney and I am going to be joining the Horizons' blog on Mondays. I have been working at Horizons for a little over 2.5 years now. I started as the Supervisor of Instructional Programs at Horizons and have recently began training to become the next RDI(tm)Program Certified Consultant on staff. I love working at Horizons and enjoy all of my time with the children and families there. During the summer, I coordinate all of the summer camps and instructional programs at Horizons. We had a wonderful summer this year and I am looking forward to seeing all of our campers again next year!

A little about myself: I am single with no children, however, I have several horses who keep me busy. In addition to working at Horizons, I am also an elementary special education teacher for a local school district. As our blog continues, I hope to share with you some of my insights regarding my work in education and in RDI.

On to tonight's idea, I would like to share with you the importance of making small moments count. I recently talked with a mother who has a child on the spectrum and she discussed with me how hard it has been for her to keep on schedule with her remediation work the last few weeks. She has been preparing for the start of school and in the midst of the preparation, she has not be able to find the time to work on remediation with her child. Even during the busiest of times, it is important to bring your child into your daily activities and use small moments to work on communication, problem solving, co-regulation, etc. As you are preparing to send your children off to school, have them involved in the planning and shopping process. There are wonderful ways to include your child in these activities and they don't have to take too much time.

Until next week...


Thursday, August 9, 2007

Being Present

As Michelle blogged about yesterday we are back from our annual conference in beautiful San Diego. I was lucky enough to go out ahead of time and spend a few days vacationing in the area with my family. It was a great time and I learned several new things while I was there. It gave me a chance to slow down and just enjoy life. I was able to visit Disneyland, the Wild Animal Park, the San Diego Zoo, Coronado Island, La Jolla and Old Town as well as do some shopping. I of course also found time to just be lazy and do nothing. What a fabulous way to spend a few days.

After returning home and going through my huge pile of mail and reading through my page a day calendar I found this quote which I think ties in my vacation and also some of what we talked about in our parent presentation at the annual conference.
"Take some time today to be present to the summer. We don't have to do anything special - just be present. That's more than enough."
I think that sometimes we get so bogged down in planning out every moment of our life or trying to come up with all of these great activities to do with our child that we forget that sometimes it is okay and even really beneficial to just be present in the moment(s). Just being is enough.

So challenge yourself over the course of the next few days to find some time to just be.

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

We're Back!

We are happy to have returned home safely from San Diego for the RDI annual conference. We had a wonderful time conversing with other consultants from all around the world, participating/presenting at small group sessions, and listening to the large group presentations by Dr. Gutstein and another by Dr. Fogel. We of course also enjoyed the lovely 75 degree weather with no humidity. We laughed about how we could do our hair in the morning and it would still look OK by the afternoon - not so much the case with Michigan's humidity! We were hit by a big disappointment as we got off the plane in 90 degree temperatures with 100% humidity. We had another good laugh over the fact that there were even meteorologists in San Diego - the weather was exactly the same every day! They must get a little bored with their jobs!!

My favorite part of the entire conference was having the opportunity to co-present with my fabulous co-workers at the parent portion of the conference. We met wonderful parents from all over the world and enjoyed watching several parents have little or not so little 'ah ha' moments. For those of you who were there in those sessions, we truly enjoyed the interaction and participation during those sessions. It was a real pleasure spending time with you!

One of the activities we did with the parent portion was to come up with several different things you could do with the same activity. Parents were extremely creative in coming up with different ideas. My personal favorites were: playing games or writing things in the dust on the bookshelf, making hand prints in playdoh and guessing which hand print belonged to who, and making impressions in playdoh and then filling them with water and freezing them to make ice cubes (a nice transformation activity). Thanks for all the wonderful new ideas!

Looking forward to next year!

Friday, August 3, 2007

We're Still Here

Sorry about the lack of blogging this past week - we've all been a little busy. Nicole, Michelle, Erin, and Courtney are all in San Diego at the RDI Annual Conference until next week and Sarah leaves Monday for California for a 2 week HANDLE conference. That leaves me to hold down the fort. Needless to say, when no one else is around, you get a lot of work done. It's amazing, but it is also getting lonely. I was so excited today when Sarah came in to see a few clients and Erin called on the phone. That made my day! Now, I just have to wait until next week to see their smiling faces once again.