Thursday, November 29, 2007

Being Grateful

This was the theme of my page a day calendar on Sunday.

It stated “Being grateful and thankful is contagious. Today, how about letting three people know that you are grateful they are in your life?”
I know that Thanksgiving was last week, but I think that the whole month of November has the theme of gratefulness so I’m going to take today to let some of the people in my life know how grateful I am for them.

First and foremost I have to say how grateful I am for my mom and sister. Without them I would not be where I am in this life and would not have the strength and courage to take some of the risks I have taken. I am also grateful for their listening ears and the shoulder to cry on when I need it. I am grateful for their unending support and encouragement and unconditional love.

Second, I am grateful for Nicole for without her I would not have started down the path of RDI and expanded my Horizons. I would still be stuck in my safe little school mold continuing on in an unending path that was heading nowhere. These past two years have been the best and most challenging of my life and I would not trade them for anything. I have learned so much and am looking forward to what the next several will bring. I am also grateful for her support and encouragement and her willingness to listen when I need a friend or just need a sounding board. Along with Nicole I am grateful for Michelle and Courtney and our ability to collaborate and support one another. I am also extremely grateful for Betsy and her ability to keep us all sane. Without her I would not be able to keep track of my schedule and wouldn’t have the opportunity to meet with all of the wonderful families I have met working at Horizons. She is the glue that holds us all together and I so appreciate her. I am also grateful for her friendship. I consider all of the staff at Horizons to be my second family and am so grateful that all of them are in my life.

Finally, I am grateful for all of the families whose lives have touched mine on this journey. You have all taught me so much and I find it an honor and a privilege to share in your journey. I am grateful that you trust in my guidance and that you care enough to provide your children with this opportunity to discover their quality of life. Please know how truly grateful I am for all of you.

There are of course many, many others I am grateful for, but I don’t have that much space so I’ll stick with these for now.

Who are you grateful for? If you are willing to share we would love to hear from you.

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Check out the poll

On the left side of the screen you'll see a poll that I've added to the blog. On a weekly basis, I'll be changing the poll and giving everyone a chance to vote. Please let me know if you have any poll ideas and I may include that in a future poll. This week I chose the topic of guided participation and whether our readers are more likely to overcompensate, under compensate or are beginning to feel that they have found a nice balance to guiding their child(ren). I hope you join in on the poll and that you enjoy seeing how others respond!

Until next week!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Autism Remediation-Friendly Holiday Gifts

It's that time of year when we're thinking about gifts..what to give and what we want to get. In the spirit of a remediation friendly holiday, here are my Top 5 sites for giving and getting great gifts:

1) FatBrainToys - This site is filled with awesome toys, games, projects, and books that actually require brain power. Many things can be done collaboratively or you can choose things for your child to do on their own. There is also a significant selection of items made in the USA for those who are concerned with the recent issues surrounding imported toys. Customer service is great; shipping is reasonable; and there stuff makes your brain check it out!

2) Highlights - Known for their popular children's magazine, this company also sells a fabulous assortment of toys, games, and books for children of all ages. Buy a Highlights subscription and it will be the gift that keeps giving all year long!

3) Mindware - If you're looking for some great active toys, building kits, science experiments, geography games, and the like then you'll want to check out this site! There is a list of parent award-winning items that is helpful if you're not sure what to look at first, and you can also idea lists by typing in the age of the child you are shopping for.

4) Cranium - This company makes really cool toys and games that are fun for kids and adults of all ages. We have a number of their items at our office (a favorite is the Cranium Super Fort Kit) and the parents have as much fun with them as the kids! You can also sometimes find Cranium items at stores like Target, but not consistently so you are better off ordering on-line.

5) Horizons - Of course you'll want to come to our sight to shop for the popular "Do Something Daily" perpetual calendar. These calendars make excellent gifts for any parent on your list! You can also purchase Horizons Gift Cards that are good for any Horizons product or service. Make sure to let your family members and friends know that you want Horizons Gift Cards for the holidays - they are the gift that keeps on giving for a lifetime!

Happy Shopping and Until Next Week,

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

For those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving, I want to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving! This is a wonderful time of year to slow down, eat good food and reflect on the many things you have to be thankful for. If you are a current family of Horizon's I'd like to encourage you to log into the message board and post a success story that your family has had this year. I've had several families sit down with me lately so excited about some big developmental gains their child has made, so there should be a lot of nice success stories to add to the message board. If you are not a Horizon's family or don't know how to get to the message board, please leave a comment here of something you are thankful for this year. What gains have you seen in your child? Take time to reflect and think about this. It's so easy to get bogged down by the things of each day and never take time to think about "wow, a year ago that never would have happened!" Please share, each person's success story is another person's encouragement!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Self-Inflicted Problems

This morning the quote on my daily calendar read, "Most of the problems we face in life are man-made, and we are the man who made them." How true is that?! Let's face it, when we run into a problem in life we typically look at what we can blame the problem on...and none of us wants to look at ourselves! We blame our problems on lack of time, lack of energy, lack of funds, lack of resources, lack of spousal support, lack of support from our boss....and the list goes on and on. When it comes right down to it, though, we generally have a very real hand in the creation of the problems we face on a day-to-day basis. It is our lack of motivation, or inability to get organized, or "poor me" syndrome, or unwillingness to try something new that creates the problems we face.

I was thinking about this in relation to some families I know. When they run into problems or struggles with their children they immediately list all the reasons things aren't going well - most of them relating to something with their child. We can all hear those excuses in our heads - "but my child is really tough"..."I have less support from my spouse than other people"..."this just doesn't work with my child"..."my child isn't interested - he won't do it"....and the list goes on. Those explanations we come up with to explain our problems primarily serve to turn our attention away from the real problem - us. We very often are the main culprit in slowing our progress or perpetuating the problems in our lives and with our children. I'm not saying that some kids aren't harder to work with than others, or that all couples provide each other the same amount of support, or that every strategy works with every child. What I am saying is that instead of being so quick to pass the blame onto our child, spouse, or circumstances, we need to take a good hard look in the mirror. What am I not doing that I should be? What am I doing that I shouldn't be doing? What issues in my life are preventing me from moving forward? What changes do I need to make to be more effective? Until we answer those questions for ourselves we should reserve placing blame and laying the responsibility on everyone around us.

This week I'd like you to consider the things that you have a tendency to make excuses for, or blame others for, before reflecting on yourself. I'd particularly like you to think about this in relation to your time and relationship with your child(ren). What problems are you facing right now and what have you done to make them or perpetuate them? Then - the even more important question becomes what are you going to do to work toward a solution?

Happy Thanksgiving and until next week,

Monday, November 19, 2007

Happy Turkey Day

Wishing you and yours a Thanksgiving full of moments to be thankful for and fun! Happy Thanksgiving!


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Update Assessments

I have had the great pleasure over the past month to complete 3 update assessments. Two of the three families have been in the RDI program for 1 year and 1 for 6 months. As I watched the families During RDA 1, worked with the child during RDA 2 and then coached the family through RDA 3 I was so pleased and amazed at all of the progress that had been made over the past 6 months to 1 year.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the time I have spent with these families and I am so pleased with what I am seeing. It is living breathing proof that this program is the best!

I have also just started the process with a two other families over the past few weeks. The families are just beginning with parent readiness, but have completed their baseline appointments. I find this baseline appointment so invaluable because it will be really great in a year to reflect back on where we started from. I am also really excited to work with these two children and their families as I see so much potential.

I have several more update assessments ahead in the next few months and I am really looking forward to seeing the growth that these clients have made as well.

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


The topic of compensations seemed to be a real popular one last week, so I stopped to realize how I overcompensate for my children. The times I find that I overcompensate the most for my girls is when I'm in a hurry, tired or just "not in the mood" to slow down and guide. What a gift I am stealing from my girls when I'm not at my best (another reason to keep the pacing of our lives slow). Wednesday nights are always busy for me as I work all day and by the time I get home it's after 6 - they go to bed at 8. My husband works late these nights, so I single parent it and just plow through the evening to get it all done. Here are ten (of I'm afraid of many more) ways that I've overcompensated tonight alone:
1. I helped my 4 year old get undressed for the bath (because it'd be quicker and I didn't have to fight it)
2. I tied my 4 year olds' seat belt because I just wanted to get home and didn't feel like waiting for her to get it done.
3. I let my 2 year old sit on my lap at the end of dinner to encourage her eating along (shoving the food in her mouth on my own) so we could get out of Wendy's and get home!
4. I brought my girls out for fast food because I didn't feel like arguing when they asked and it was much more simple than having to figure out what I could whip together when I got home.
5. I brought their clothes to laundry room once they were undressed instead of waiting to give them the opportunity to do that on their own.
6. When my 4 year old brought our trash on the tray to the trash can at Wendy's, instead of letting her figure out how to get the trash in herself, I quickly said "oh, don't throw the tray in too!" She of course was like "I know that mom!" I did let her figure out how to get the trash on the tray over to the trash can and even started dumping the trash without dropping anything before I stepped in - I guess that was one too many steps for my comfort level! She did a fantastic job in spite of me!
7. Instead of having them put their clean clothes away, I just quickly did it - again to keep the night rolling.
8. I carried all the stuff in from the car instead of giving them the opportunity to notice something of theirs is missing and then not get it tonight in order to discover that if they want their stuff from the car, they better get it when they are coming in.
9. I put their shoes away for them.
10. I went and got the mail instead of giving them the opportunity to do that with me.

Many days I try to give them opportunities to join in with what I'm doing or try to accomplish a task on their own. It's amazing how each hour holds so many possibilities for learning opportunities and how when we overcompensate we are robbing them of these opportunities for growth. It's nights like tonight when things are busy and I'm tired that the overcompensations over flow. Remember though that pushing them too much is also hurtful in that they are unable to learn when the expectations are too high. There's a perfect amount of support that will guide our children to learning at their best.

When do you find that you overcompensate the most and how do you overcompensate?

Have a great week! Michelle

Monday, November 12, 2007

Traffic Confusion

On my way home from school this afternoon, I experienced a new traffic issue which I have never experienced before. On M-37 (an interstate like road here in West Michigan), the traffic lights at one of the busiest intersections were not working properly. The red and yellow lights would come on when appropriate; however, when it was time for the lights to turn green, they would shut off completely. Needless to say, traffic was backed up for miles! As I sat there observing everyone's reactions to the light, I thought to myself that this is a great example of how we use appraisal and creative thinking/problem solving in our lives. Fellow drivers were appraising the situation as I was to figure out what was going on and where they needed to focus their attention. I saw people using creative thinking/problem solving skills by turning around, waiting their turns, etc. and I of course also saw those individuals who were not using these skills very effectively and creating more traffic problems instead. It was an interesting moment to sit back and watch how effectively most of us use these skills without even noticing it. I think this is a great example of how dynamic our world truly is and why it is so important for us to work on remediation in these areas with our children on the spectrum.

Drive safely...


Thursday, November 8, 2007


I was in a meeting with a parent at school the other day and we were talking about her child and how he was doing at school and home. The more the mom talked the more I was thinking about how much compensation she does for her child every day it makes sense why he does "so well" within the home setting.

Compensation can be helpful and important at times, but in general what is accomplished with compensation? By always compensating for our children just to keep them happy and things on an even keel what is that doing to help our children reach a quality of life? When we use compensation are we helping our child build life-long relationships, think flexibly and become a problem solver?

Having said all of this please take a moment over the next few days to think to yourself about whether you are compensating or guiding your own child.

Talk to you soon,

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Importance of Structure

Today, my students and classroom staff returned to school after a week off. I was very pleased to see the smiles on my students' faces as they walked in the classroom this morning. They were all so happy to be back. As the day progressed, I noticed how important structure is in the lives of special needs children. My students were craving the consistency and routine of our classroom, even when they are faced with gentle challenges each day. I sometimes take for granted the structure and routine that I have established in my life and in my classroom, but today I realized how hard it is for my students to do that when they are not in school. They have a difficult time planning their day and planning ahead, which can lead to anxiety and frustration. They need guidance and support from adult guides in order to do this. Please keep this in mind as the holiday breaks approach.

Until next week...


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Healthy Lifestyles

I was reading this quote last night and thought about how it relates to keeping a healthy lifestyle.

If our children are to approve of themselves, they must see that we approve of ourselves.

- Maya Angelou

In the line of work that we do it is not uncommon for us to come across parents who struggle with depression. This is something I think about on occasion and feel that the above quote speaks to this difficulty. When parents are struggling with something like depression it is hard to hide it and often times come across as us not approving of ourselves this is reflected in how our children feel about themselves.

For those of you out there that do suffer from depression I encourage you to seek ways to deal with it. Find a way to restore that healthy balance and find your approval of yourself again. For some of you it might be making time to see a counselor or psychologist, for some a course of medication can help. For others it might be finding that one thing that you do for yourself such as yoga, a date night, a night out with friends, a hot bath, etc.

Whatever works for you to find that balance and approval so that your child can approve of themselves.

Talk to you soon,