Friday, September 28, 2007

Oh the things we do at Horizons

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

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

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

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

Until next week - Betsy

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Turn It Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

How do you know your clients are satisfied?

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

Until next week,

Sloooooooow Down

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

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

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

Until next week,

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Importance of Routines

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

Have a great week!


Friday, September 21, 2007

Always Learning

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

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

Thursday, September 20, 2007


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

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

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

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

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

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Unreasonable Expectations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Watching It All Come Together

I had the pleasure today of doing part of an update assessment with a peer dyad. The child with autism has been working on remediation with his parents for the past two years, and I got to see all the pieces come together today for the first time with another child. It was such an awesome experience to sit back and watch the two boys interact with each other – experience sharing, co-regulating, collaborating, negotiating, thinking flexibly, and having a great time together.

As I watched the interaction unfold between these two boys I was struck by a number of things:
• How this never would have happened if we had prescribed to the philosophy of “just put him in situations with typical kids and his social skills will improve.”
• How this never would have happened if we had put him in a social skills group to learn rote responses to social situations.
• How this never would have happened if parents had not persevered and worked diligently to understand his core deficits and how to build developmental foundations.

What has worked is starting with an understanding of how autism impacts his ability to develop the cognitive, social, emotional, and communication abilities necessary for meaningful relationships and real world problem solving. We then based our work on that understanding and figured out where he did not have the developmental foundations for those abilities. The next step was working diligently with parents, who learned how to guide him so he could learn to be an apprentice to them. The result at this point is a child who has blossomed through the process of getting back on a typical developmental pathway. He has learned how to think about people and the world through the guidance of his parents, and now that is enabling him to engage with peers in the ways we would expect a typical child to do. And I saw it today with my own eyes – and it was awesome!

To all of you working hard at remediation with your child everyday – I can’t wait for you to see with your own child what I saw today. To those of you who are not yet working on remediation with your child – get started! It’s can be a long and sometimes difficult journey, but if you never get started you’ll never finish. I am here to tell you that the results are more than worth it!

Until next week,

Monday, September 17, 2007

IEP Information

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you all had a well-rested weekend! Today I held my first of many IEP's for the 2007-2008 school year. When preparing for IEP's, whether you have them in the spring or fall, I like to think about many of my own "mission previews" that I have for the students in my program. I also encourage all parents to do this as well. I like to ask myself what types of things the students will need to achieve in order to increase the quality of life they have here at school, in the community, and at home.

I have worked with many parents over the years during IEP time and I find that parents, overall, tend to struggle when preparing for their child's IEP. I have been providing the parents in my program with the following questions to help them think about their child and what they want to accomplish over the next year.

1. Where would you like to see your child 1 year from now? What types of skills will be important for their development and for your life as a family?
2. Where would you like to see your child 3-5 years from now?
3. Where would you like to see your child 7-10 years from now?
4. What do you struggle with when parenting your child with disabilities?
5. What outside resources/agencies/private services is your child receiving?
6. What are your child's strengths?
7. What are your child's obstacles?
8. What remediation strategies are you using at home? Can they be used at school as well?

If you can begin to think about and answer these questions prior to your child's IEP, you will be more prepared to provide your input. The more closely that schools and parents can work together, the better.

Have a great week!


Friday, September 14, 2007

Looking good and feeling good!

We've noticed lately how good our parents (especially our mom's) have looked lately. They've come into the office with new, fresh haircuts and a little lipstick on - they just look so nice! Along with looking good comes the sense of feeling good. It sort of goes hand in hand. Some parents are even starting to do some things just for themselves - because they want to. That is so awesome! It's just great to see that you as parents are able to take time for yourselves and make yourselves feel good and look good. We all know, I'm the first one to see you come through the door and I want to see you looking good! So here are a few quotes for you that sort of go along with looking good and feeling good.
  • It’s good to be queen.
  • All seasons are beautiful for the person who carries happiness within.
  • Self-confidence is the key to the universe.
  • Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


One of the students that I work with in my school position has been working to learn to tie his shoes since last spring. His mom worked with him all during the summer, but was unable to get past the first step of making the knot. His para-professional aide decided that she was going to get him to the point of tying his shoes this year. Prior to starting school last week she bought a package of “shoestring” licorice to use for practicing. She told him that when he was able to tie the licorice he could eat it. He practiced all last week and on Monday he finally was able to tie to licorice and even managed to tie one of his shoes very loosely. He was able to eat his licorice. On Tuesday I received an e-mail from the para-pro stating that he had mastered tying his shoes and they wrote a note home to mom telling her about his success. As of today he was noticing each time his shoes were untied and was quickly tying them on his own. Wow, what a little licorice will do!

How many times in life do we encounter “shoelaces” in life where we need to practice and practice until we are able to master the task. Sometimes our need for lots of practice is the difficulty of the task, or our feelings of incompetence or sometimes it’s just that we haven’t found the right motivator. Whatever the reason for the practice with perseverance we can master new tasks especially if we have patient guides who are willing to build our confidence and seek the best motivator.

Here’s to all the “shoelaces” to come!

Talk to you soon,

Monday, September 10, 2007

Cherish the Moment

I came across this quote today about the important moments in life and parenting. I think it brings great attention to the moments that we need to cherish with our children. We are all so busy living our lives that we forget to cherish the moments that really matter. Spend that extra minute with your child playing baseball or laughing at a funny joke together. Cherish the moments you have. Enjoy! ~Courtney

“Let your eyes light up when your children are around. Laugh more. Tell them how empty and quiet it is when they’re not there. Enjoy the things they bring to your life. Attend their activities, not as if they were compulsory for parents, but throw yourself into their lives."

--Valerie Bell, Getting Out of your Kids’ Faces and into Their Hearts

Thursday, September 6, 2007


I wanted to piggy back on Nicole’s blog for this week about the first day/first week of school. For those of you who follow our blog on a regular basis you know that I went down to part time in the school’s this year, but made a commitment to spend most of the first week at school to ensure that everyone got off to a good start. So far so good. All of the students that I work with seem to be adjust back to school very well and teachers and para-pros are adjusting as well.
We are all working our flexible thinking skills as school gets going. I am working out of the sensory room at the elementary school where most of our children on the spectrum attend. Unfortunately our sensory room is dysfunctional at the moment. It is full of old furniture that either needed to be claimed or it will be tossed. The promise was it would be moved yesterday, but as of this morning it is still here. We are all being flexible and trying to work out our sensory needs within the classroom or on the playground for right now, but it is rapidly becoming more difficult to be flexible. It will all work out. I am also having to be flexible as we get started again in not having a computer that can access the network at this point. My goal is to have this fixed next week.
Flexibility is the order of the week as school gets going again. It is not only the time for flexibility on the part of staff and students, but also for parents as you once again get back into the school routine. Give it a little time and remember modeling flexibility for your child can be a positive thing.
Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Finding Contentment

I often find myself always wanting more, rushing through life and forgetting to take time to appreciate and enjoy what I have. As we finish the summer I am so thankful for the time I've had with my kids. We took time to enjoy bike rides around the neighborhood, swim a lot, plant a garden and watch it grow (we have more tomatoes than we know what to do with), and just enjoy the wonderful things that summer provides. As fall approaches and school starts, I appreciate the newness of what we have; a little more structure, earlier bed times and time apart for the girls.

During these transitions it's so easy to think, "if only..." I'm really making a conscious effort to think, "wow, life is good". It's amazing how this helps me to keep a positive attitude each day. I feel so much more content with life - it's worth the mind shift! Take time to appreciate what you have. If you have a computer and are able to read this you are one of the wealthiest people in the world! That alone is worth finding contentment. Trying to keep up with those who have more will only keep you wanting more and finding that contentment will be difficult. Which way are you going to approach each day?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

First Day of School

For those of us in Michigan, today marked the first day of the 2007-2008 school year. At my house we were up early and getting ready for the bus for the first time. My oldest is starting second grade, but up until this year we transported him ourselves. This year he and his kindergarten-age brother are riding the bus together to and from school. It was a new adventure waiting for the bus this morning and then again at the end of the day. I’m sure the novelty will wear off relatively quickly, but it makes for some temporary excitement!

Over the course of the day I received numerous emails from families regarding the first day of school. Some emails were happy – “Great first day!” “Everything went smoothly.” “I survived leaving him for the first time!” Others were not so happy as problems arose, children were resistant to leaving home, or the school was not ready. Whether the first day back was great or awful, another school year is upon us and we have to decide how we are going to handle things that come up. Some things are best shrugged off or ignored because in the large scheme of things they aren’t important. Other things are critically important and will require a team approach and lots of problem solving. Some of you will be faced with hard decisions about what is in the best interest of your child and family. Others of you will relish having a year of successes and celebrations.

Most families will have great moments and not-so-great moments as the year progresses. I want to remind everyone that how we approach the good and the bad will determine how we fare over the course of this school year. Are we being proactive about communicating our child’s needs and providing resources? Are we guiding school staff to understand how to address problems that arise? Are we recognizing the successes along with the failures? Are we stepping in when our child’s needs are not being met? Are we taking time to evaluate the “fit” of our children with their current school environment? These are important things to consider not just at IEP time, but throughout the year. There should be on-going proactive communication between home and school. At the annual RDI® conference this year we talked about the concept of education being a fluid process that should be happening wherever and whenever. Learning and education is not something that happens within the walls of a traditional school – learning should be happening all the time and parents should be guiding the overall process of what the child is learning and how they are learning it, even when the child is not in their presence. Many times this is easier said than done, but I think it’s something worth striving for.

Maybe the Serenity Prayer provides the best guidance for approaching school issues with our children:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

May you all have serenity, courage, and wisdom as you embark on this new school year.

Until next week,