Thursday, January 31, 2008

More on Vision

Piggy backing on Michelle’s blog from yesterday I have been doing quite a bit of researching on vision lately for some of my current clients. I have a few clients that definitely have vision difficulties that affect their ability to accurately process their world. We at the office have spent time off and on in the past looking for explanations for what is truly going on or how to improve these difficulties.

Not until I started doing some research for a particular client did I come across the term agnosia. There are several types of agnosia that have different affects on the vision. As I was reading about these different types I found an explanation for at least two other client’s vision difficulties. Alas there isn’t a lot out there that talks about treatment for these difficulties, but at least now I have a better understanding and have hope that I can (with the help of the other consultants) devise a plan for making improvements. One thing I will be for sure recommending is some of the HANDLE activities. I’m sure I will discover other ways to improve this difficulty as we go along.

So like Michelle said yesterday checking your child’s vision early and regularly is so important. The thing you as parents should know is that just a routine eye examine probably isn’t going to pick up on the agnosias so if you have a feeling that something is really going on with your child’s vision I encourage you to see a developmental ophthalmologist. I would also encourage you to research on your own. You know your child best.

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Importance of Vision

As I read the Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan's newsletter I was struck by something I read by the American Optometric Association regarding vision. Here is a stat from that article that really hit me.
  • Approximately 80% of children's learning during a child's first 12 years of life comes through vision
Wow, think about the importance not only of being able to see, but knowing what is the most important thing to attend to. If our vision is good, but our appraisal skills are lacking, how much learning is being missed? Isn't this similar to a vision impairment if your child isn't focusing on the most important things in his or her environment? When appraisal or dynamic analysis is poor, the memories and the things being learned are inadequate. This is only one small part of why remediation for children with autism is so important.

80% of his learning is taking place through what he sees and these are the memories that are being encoded. Remember to slow down (both in the pace of life and in the midst of doing things with your child) to help your child encode the meaningful things in his or her environment and begin that critical element of remediation in your child's life.

In addition, make sure that you child is receiving regular eye exams to ensure there isn't a co-occurring eye condition taking place. Do you have regular eye exams for your children? To read more about the importance of regular eye check ups, click here and to see how often your child should be receiving check ups, click here.

Until next week,

Monday, January 28, 2008

Guided Participation

Over the past few weeks, I have been devoting quite a bit of time thinking and talking about guided participation. As a teacher, I have been trained to teach skills in many different ways; however, guided participation is so much more than that. In guided participation not only are you engaging the child in something, but you are engaging their thinking skills and problem solving skills as well. Guided participation supports the whole child through something that would otherwise be challenging for them and allows them to feel a sense of competence and confidence. It also allows children to make new discoveries, which is such an incredible experience for them. This pathway for acquiring knowledge has a terrific impact when working with children. As a guide to your child, I appreciate the impact you are making in your child's life each and every day. Keep up the good work!


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Development is Amazing!

I have been spending a lot of time thinking about development the last few weeks and all of the things that happen at each stage of development. In thinking about how the objectives in the RDI system fit in with neuro-typical development and at what approximate age a child is when they hit each new stage of objectives/development. Over the past few weeks I have had at least 3 examples of things happening with kids that highlights what "age" they are on the developmental path which amazingly enough fits right in with the stage in the objective system they are at.

One parent recently wrote me about how her child has recently started to experience some seperation anxiety when she drops him off at school in the morning - telling her that he feels sad and cries some when she leaves because he wants to be with her. He has also recently started to drop what he is doing to run and tell her goodbye if she leaves to do something in the evening or on the weekend. These behaviors completely fit in with the stage of development he is in within the objective system.

It never ceases to amaze me how working through each stage of objectives and really filling in the gaps for our kids on the spectrum results in behaviors that are seen in "neuro-typical" development.

Here is to all of those families who are working so diligently to help their child get back on the developmental path and achieve a quality of life.

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Popping or Kneeling?

Last night my husband read me a story from John Ortberg's book "When the Game is Over It All Goes Back in the Box". In this book , Ortberg shares two stories. The first is a group of young children all asked to play the game where everyone ties a balloon to their ankle and try to pop the balloons of the other children. The winner is the last one to have an un-popped balloon around his or her ankle. The winner ends up feeling great, but the other's are left to not like him or her a whole lot and they are all ultimately losers.

The second is a group of children with developmental delays in which the directions are given too quickly and the children get the wrong idea of what is expected. The children see the point of the game as getting all the balloons popped. As one child begins to struggle to pop his own balloon, another kneels down to hold the balloon (nice scaffolding) so he can be successful. At the end all the balloons are popped and the children cheer over their success. Which group is left feeling better about themselves and who got the game right?

My husband and I agreed that it's important to take these two stories and look at them carefully. Life without competition keeps us from trying our best, yet life without the concept of working together to reach a goal puts us out there to do it on our own and ultimately never winning. There will always be somebody that is better than us and if we function under competition alone, we will fail. Team work is an important element in finding success.

At Horizons, we have a wonderful group of consultants working together to provide the best quality of care for the families we service. If we tried to do it on our own we could still provide services to families, but never to the same quality that we can when working together. We, together as a team, can provide more than we ever could if we tried to do it on our own. If one of us is struggling with how to address an obstacle we've run across, the others kneel down to hold the balloon until we are ensured success, which ultimately leads to success for the family we are working with. We could become competitive and see who can move our families through the stages the quickest or who can service the most families each year, but if we approached our work with this mindset, we would only continue to fail, not only ourselves, but also our families. I am so thankful that we work as a team, ensuring success for all families we work with!

The same goes for working with your child with autism. As parents you could become competitive and say "I can do this best on my own" or "I can do RDI better than my spouse" but ultimately for to be successful, a team must be formed. Are you popping each other's balloon or are working together and kneeling down to the other's balloon when times get tough? What do you need to do to work as a team and to get others on your team so that you and your child can make the best progress possible?

Until next week,

Monday, January 21, 2008

Snow Days

Winter has sure hit home here in Michigan! We have been watching the amounts of snow increase each day along with the school and event closings. Here are a few snow day ideas for you to use when you find yourself at home with your kids.

~Build a snow fort
~Build a snowman
~Shovel snow
~Make colored snow (put food coloring in spray bottles and spray the snow)
~Make snow angels
~Make hot cocoa
~Make soup
~Do a puzzle
~Play a board game
~Have a PJ day
~Build a fire
~Switch meals for the day (eat breakfast foods for dinner)

Enjoy the winter season! Stay warm!


Thursday, January 17, 2008


"A child must have some version of, "Yes I imagine I can do this." And a teacher must also view the present child as competent and on that basis imagine new possibilities." Dyson 1999

This quote comes from a book I am currently reading, Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children's Learning. Nicole introduced me to this book and even though I am just beginning I can already tell it is going to be a great book (and it is short so it will be a quick read). When I read the quote I immediately thought of RDI and competence.

In terms of our children they must have some sense that they will be successful or we get resistance (in all its many forms). When our children imagine that they will be able to do something or have achieved success and felt supported in an activity previously there is a greater likelihood that they will attempt the activity again. For many children they need to develop a trusting relationship with their parents where they feel supported and learn to build competence. This is exactly what the guided participation relationship is all about.

The quote mentions that the "teacher" needs to perceive competence in the child in order to know when to provide variation and challenge. For our parents this is a crucial step. They need to recognize when their child is beginning to gain competence in something they have been working on in order to know when it is time to add some variation or challenge and when to reduce scaffolding.

As both partners take part in this dance the child begins to perceive themselves as competent in more and greater roles and parents continue to raise the bar. In what ways does your child imagine themself as competent? How can you provide more possibilities for him/her to explore?

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Happy Belated New Year

Thanks for everybody that participated in the holiday poll. It was interesting to read people's responses and I was surprised to see the results. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday break and were able to develop some new memories together as a family.

With the new year, many of us have several hopes and dreams for the new year. According to, here are some of the most popular resolutions for the year:
What of these resolutions do you see as important? Did you notice how all of these will help to improve one's overall quality of life? Please feel free to comment here if you have more ideas of what you hope to accomplish to improve you or your families quality of life this year. Please also take a second to vote in the new poll.

To a new year and a new start!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What Color Do You Choose?

I came across this quote last week and it really resonated with me on both a personal and a professional level:

"Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens. Circumstances and situations do color life, but you have been given the mind to choose what the color shall be." - John Homer Miller

I've been thinking about how I use my mind to "color" different things that happen to me. How about you?

Until next week,

Monday, January 14, 2008


When you look at your life, the greatest happinesses are family happinesses. -- Joyce Brothers

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Explorations in Eating

As Nicole mentioned in her blog on Tuesday we have many new and exciting products planned for this year the first of which is the food calendar I created. I have spent the past few months working on the calendar and companion food journal. The idea for this project came to life one Sunday evening as Nicole and I were flying back from a meeting in Houston. We tend to do our best brainstorming on trips like these. At that point I was trying to think of a way to extend what I am doing with the feeding program that I am implementing with some of the children we see at Horizons. How could I meet the needs of the multitude of families out there with children who struggle with feeding difficulties in an easy to understand and implement format. I also wanted something that tied in with some of the principles of RDI®. Thinking about our current calendar brought it all together and ta-da the food calendar was born.

Explorations in Eating – 365 Memory Making Opportunities for Expanding Your Food Horizons provides the consumer with 364 different food items to explore. The calendar is designed to assist children with feeding difficulties in trying new foods. Each food is presented as a pair. The second food in a pair is a variation of the first. For example one day is pineapple and the next day is dried pineapple. The calendar contains pictures, quotes, food facts and kids trivia in addition to the multitude of foods.

The companion food journal is designed to help children write/draw about their food discoveries. Each day asks children to log about the food they explored, whether they liked it or not and when they plan to try it again. There is also space to draw a picture or add a photo of the food.

I am really excited about the launch of this product and can’t wait to share it with all of you. I’ll be sure to let you know when production is complete and the calendar is ready for purchase. In the meantime challenge yourself to try a new food you might be surprised by what you like. For me it’s onward to the next project!
Talk to you soon,

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

2008 is Gonna be Great!

Happy New Year everyone! I'm getting back into the swing of things after taking almost 2 weeks off to spend the holidays with my family. I hope you all enjoyed some time with family and friends over the past few weeks. While it's always a bit hard getting back into the routine of work, school for the kids, etc., there is something really renewing and exciting about starting off a new year. Do you feel the same way?

Our team at Horizons is ready to rock and roll again this year and we've got lots of BIG things planned! Here's an inside scoop on some things you can expect over the next few weeks and months:
  • A brand-new fabulous website with lots of content for current and prospective families, as well as professionals (coming within the next week or so)
  • Lots of new products and resources - look for Erin's AMAZING food exploration calendar and journal coming in early February; many more helpful ideas in the works that will be released throughout the Spring and Summer (including things you've been asking us for!)
  • A major event for school professionals in August, along with the return of our usual line-up of workshop options throughout the year
  • New group coaching options for families who aren't ready or able to get into an individualized program right now (new groups will start in March - watch your email for info.)
  • Expanded summer program options for clients of all ages - and even some family fun!
  • And more - hey, I can't release all our's only January!!
We look forward to another fabulous year of working with families and professionals around the globe. If you've got ideas for things you'd like to see us do or create this year - post a comment to let us know. We love hearing from you!

Until next week,

Monday, January 7, 2008

Thought Provoking...

Good evening! I hope you and your family had a relaxing and enjoyable holiday season. It is so nice to spend time with our family and friends! Now that we are back into the swing of school and work, it is nice to refocus ourselves and look towards the year ahead. I recently began reading a book entitled "What Great Teachers Do Differently". Even though this book primarily focuses on education, it has some wonderful implications for all adults who work with children as parents or professionals. The primary focus of this book is not placed on the children, but the adults who work with them. The author begins by focusing in on the adult and the type of person they are in everyday life. He then talks about the importance of setting high expectations for our own performance, which is something to really think about. We sometimes focus too much on the child and not enough on ourselves and yet we (professionals and especially parents) have the strongest impact on our child's life. This book has some wonderful thought provoking questions and ideas. It ties in very nicely with many of the reasons why we are focusing not only on child objectives, but on parent objectives as well in RDI. I would encourage all of you to take a peak at it. I hope you have a great week!


Thursday, January 3, 2008

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I just wanted to take this opportunity to wish all of you a very happy new year. May you find a new sense of renewed focus on remediation throughout this year. I am sure that you have many new experiences with your child this year. Remember to slow down and take time to relish these experiences.

Talk to you soon,