Wish us luck that the former president is more motivating than I am (for my friend, he totally is)!
Now, you may be thinking politics here upon first sight, but this really has nothing to do with politics. The former president just happens to be one of my younger clients favorite interests. Whether it's learning more about him, watching clips of speeches, finding out facts about his childhood and college years, you name it, my client is interested! Thinking about a favorite topic, person, character, movie, game, show, toy, book, etc., is what we typically call the "preferred interest" of our clients. Recognizing that is a MUST for us. Parents know what these preferred interests are and we have to work together to use them as motivators. When we want to shape behavior, there are several approaches we consider, always starting with the positive. One strategy, which may be for younger clients or those with younger developmental social skills, is called a power card. If you google these or go on Pinterest, you can find samples. Essentially, you take the intense interest and use it as the who or what that gives directions or guidance. With my client, I have spent many hours alongside parents reinforcing expected behaviors and trying to replace unwanted or unexpected behaviors. Here is how I set this one up... First, I coordinated 3-5 behaviors to shape with the family. Once I had a few in mind I thought about how to word them in positive language. Instead of saying what shouldn't be done, always try to say what should be done. With the behaviors in mind and positive language I then spent time with my client first looking for pictures of their choice. This is not my card to use, it's theirs, it should look as they want it to. All three of us find that client involvement is critical to create change in behavior. One photo wanted? Great! 5 photos wanted? Make it work. Once these two were chosen I labeled it with the name it belonged to (ex: Megan's Power Card) to give ownership. We then talked about expected behaviors for the coming school year and what is expected of the age this person is. While we plan and understand developmental delays that come along with autism, we still reference how old our clients are and what age their peers are. That is part of staying out of (legal) trouble. I explained what should be expected of individuals at this age particularly with what we do with our hands and body. Volume is one thing, touching or using others as a sensory tool increasingly becomes more of a problem as children age. By 4th, 5th grade using parents for chairs, touching their parents all over, randomly squeezing them can all look inappropriate or odd even though the client may just be on sensory overload, may not be sure what to do in a social moment, or still wants that affection from parents (maybe even peers). Instead of acting on that impulse, teach to ask. Ask for a hug/squeeze, ask for a break, or ask to leave if on overload. With this card we chose to keep it at 3 reminders. The power card is intended to be short and quick to memorize so that clients can bring them up in their mind easily, reference it quickly to change or shape behaviors and feel confident or proud of themselves. As clients age, they may grow out of this type of strategy, but they will likely continue to have that preferred interest or obsession area. Use it! If you are wondering how, this is exactly what we are here for as social coaches! We would be happy to brainstorm and plan with you. We did not invent this strategy, but we certainly like doing what works.
Wish us luck that the former president is more motivating than I am (for my friend, he totally is)!
We all function as a team. The three of us together, the three of us with our individual and group clients, and the three of us with the family units of our clients. If there is lack of knowledge, misinformation, miscommunications, no communication, it impacts our clients. Every year we gather and talk about how to accomplish more parent training, more parent interaction among one another, and how to educate the public about high-functioning autism. As much as we do, we always want to strive for better. This year we have completed a handful of presentations. (Check!) We are now ready to begin meeting with and presenting to our families. Milford High School has allowed us to host a few parent sessions, free of charge. We are grateful as this enables us to waive any fees or costs for families. Our first parent session is coming up quite soon. As the school year is wrapping up for many, we are just beginning our summer work. We are proud to sponsor a fabulous occupational therapist, Tracie Schanen, to share her vast knowledge of the sensory system and how to stay regulated. Please see our flyer for more information. We would not suggest young children attend this session as it will be more training based. We do encourage parents/guardians to invite extended family who may benefit from this information as well. Our next session will be later in the summer and will be about life after high school. If you have ideas of content you'd like covered, please send us an email! Happy June!
Well it has certainly been a while! The good news is we have remained very busy working with our clients, attending conferences, and programming for our awesome clients. The downside is we have not been blogging! A few things on the horizon as we look to summer. First, we have completed our summer flyer for the seminar series we will be holding at the Bright Chamber of Commerce. We are so thankful they allow us use of their upstairs conference room. Each session we put up large post it paper and usually display our powerpoint on the TV in the room. It's visual. It's awesome.
This summer we are inviting a new guest speaker, Justin Blair, from Lake Trust Credit Union, Brighton. He will be teaching some of the financial skills those at any age could benefit from. We are excited to partner for that session. The others will be run by coaches Sabra and Megan.
Beginning in May, location TBD, we will be hosting some parent/family sessions. One topic we have learned a lot about (Sabra firsthand) is what happens after high school. How do we prepare, starting now, for that great unknown!? What supports are offered or NOT? What supports will families need to expect to provide for their son/daughter with high functioning ASD? We will also invite Tracie Schanen, OTR/L, ATP, to speak to clients and their families about the sensory system and how to stay regulated. A few other ideas are in the works, too, such as a parent meet & greet! How can we connect you as part of a very special community. We have some ideas we are kicking around. More to come!
As always please email us: firstname.lastname@example.org should you have any questions or if you would like to sign up for summer sessions. We can't wait!
-Coach Sabra & Coach Megan
2017 Summer Social Communication Seminar Series for Teens and Adults with hfASD and Similar Social Communication Challenges
The team at Totally Social ASD has put together a new summer program for teens and adults with high functioning autism and similar social communication challenges. We will be running a Summer Seminar Series; each week we will be dedicating the session to a different topic. We picked topics that both clients and caregivers asked for and from the topics we see as 'hot button' topics with our current clients.
All seminar sessions will be held at the Brighton Chamber of Commerce in the upstairs conference room. Click below the picture to register for the session/s you are interested in. Feel free to email us with any questions regarding the 2017 Summer Seminar Series at email@example.com.
The conversation went on from there with both of us having a reciprocal conversation about what social skills are, how to teach them, and the stylist bringing in her personal experiences with her brother into the conversation to connect and relate to what I was sharing.
The conversation that the sytlist and I had is one example of social skills: recipricol conversation by relating and connecting to the other person. But there is so much more that is involved with what we know as 'social communication skills'. For those on the autism spectrum, social skills or socialization is one of three areas of challenge including behavior and communication/language.
So what does it look like day to day, for me, as a teen social coach for those individuals with high functioning ASD (hfASD)? In today's day and age it comes down to daily contact through texting and phone calls along with our weekly or bi-weekly sessions. It all depends on the individual client and what they are dealing with at that time. I have found that I have three types of service that I give to my clients, depending on the time of year or what they are experiencing:
1. I have clients I only see during our weekly social communication group where we cover joint attention, specific social conflicts the clients have that week, cooperation and game playing skills along with all the skills mentioned in the attached document above.
2. I have other clients that I see twice weekly where we meet with the group one day, meet on another day that week to debrief, define and dissect the group lesson and any social feedback that was given as well as individualize the social communicaiton lesson to what is pertinent to the client at that time.
3. Another type of service I have found myself giving is the daily social coaching through texting/calls. I also see these clients during the week/month to teach new social communication skills along with processing the weekly text message communications that we have had.
24-7 contact and intervention is the one reason why the three of us at totallysocialasd.com can feel confident that we have and continue to make progress and claim success with the social coaching work we do with our clients with hfA. If we ca not break the barrier within the home, then little will be accomplished for the client long term. We know it takes the individual with autism and the parent/caregiver to take ownership over the behavior challenges that develop due to the anxieties related to their autism. Parents and caregivers, it is NOT a failure on your part to ask for support and training for your loved one. It helps us all at one point or another in our journey as parents to get that outside experienced opinion to shed a new light on what we have become accustomed to. It makes my day when I am working with a parent/caregiver and I can bring that clarity to them in a murky situation. Self-realization is empowering!
Thanks for taking the time to read and learn!
Autism Specialist and Social Coach, Sabra Evans
Is there a connection with eating disorders, such as anorexia and ASD?
This topic has been coming up over and over again lately for all of us who work with teens and adults with high functioning autism, especially our females on the spectrum. I was recently sitting in a meeting about a young girl that Chris and I are both working with who is struggling with illegal drug use, an eating disorder, and all the sensory, social and communication challenges that go along with autism. The biggest question on the table was which one do we tackle first? Isn't the best approach to recognize the autism first and foremost and approach the other two utilizing ASD based strategies? As we begin to plan a program that focuses on helping this teen become a more confident and healthy adult, autism will need to always be intertwined within our discussions.
I felt it was important to share some of the information that I have been reading in the hopes that it will help others who are struggling with similar issues.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Below are links to just a few great articles on the research being done on the genetic link between autism and anorexia and what many are now calling "the female ASD".
Click above for a great webinar that focuses on woman with hfASD, how they present differently than males on the spectrum and how their symptoms are misdiagnosed often as anorexia opposed to autism.
I spent the past week in my high school Social Skills elective classes reviewing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with the students. We discussed their individual strengths and challenges, how the students and their ASD attributes connect with each other and the information that was shared with them. It is by far my favorite week of the school year. It rejuvenates me; it excites me to see the light bulbs go off for students when they are able to connect with the information. It makes me recognize how incredibly lucky these students in the Huron Valley School District are compared to the many other students in the neighboring districts of Oakland County who don't get the same opportunity to take a Social Skills elective class specifically for students with high functioning autism.
I am currently in the middle of reading Steve Silberman's new book NeuroTribes and am enjoying it so much, I had the students start by watching the TED talk hosted by him called The Forgotten History of Autism. Steve has a very positive outlook on those with high functioning autism. One quote in particular that Steve shares by Hans Asperger that makes the students feel positive about themselves is, "It seems that for success in science or art a dash of autism is essential."
After watching this video, the students and I then read from the book Be Different by John Elder Robison where he gives his definition of Asperger Syndrome. He not only gives the official DSM definition but he puts his own experiences within to help explain it to those who have high functioning autism so they can understand and relate. This reading elicits so much conversation among the students. This year I was awed by the way a few of the students have shown growth over the four years they have been with me and could relate. A few of the comments were: "I am pretty sure that the first two under that section that Mr. Robison mentioned were why I was initially diagnosed." and "I used to struggle a lot more with not being able to mirror other people's facial expressions when they greeted me or passed me in the hallway. I am better at that now, but I still have to do it consciously." To know where these students started as freshmen in my classes and to hear them be able to articulate this way is empowering to me as their teacher.
We also watched a clip about a gifted young man named Jake with autism that inspired them. My goal when I present this unit to my students is to have them walk away with the feeling that they are unique, special and should be proud of what autism brings to their lives. That being said, they all have challenges that will never go away, but don't we all? They have to know what those challenges are in order to utilize their intelligence to learn strategies to overcome them. One way we we talk about this is understanding how their sensory system can't regulate itself if they have autism. They will need to learn about themselves and then how to be good self-advocates. An example in the school setting is to be aware of when they are over stimulated due to all the sounds, smells, and/or flickering lights, etc. that a classroom setting can bring and affect their academic performance.
The more we learn about ourselves, the more we can understand who we are, what we need, and how to ask for it. The more positive examples we have to show our teens with high functioning autism, the more they will feel confident and start to believe in their future goals and see success.
Welcome to the wonderful world of high functioning autism; it's pretty incredible! Make sure your teen feels how great their life is going to be by sharing with them the words of John Elder Robison, Temple Grandin, Naoki Higashida and Stephen Shore.
Wow has it been a busy fall! Our groups are underway, we are meeting with some individuals, and working with families. The time we have typically spent on blogging has been filled! But that doesn't mean we have not been continuing to learn by reading, meeting, and collaborating with others. One of the professionals we have worked with through the school system is the fabulous, talented, and incredibly intelligent, Tracie Schanen. Tracie is a pediatric Occupational Therapist. I have worked with Tracie for going on 6 years in educational system. Not only is she a great colleague but she is so knowledgeable about all things sensory, fine motor, visual motor, motor planning, and how all of that connects to learning. I am so excited to share this resource with you because it's such a great way to practice fine motor skills at home, with very little supplies and cost required. The skills may be presented for a younger child (preschool-elementary) but the skills are great to work on and practice for anyone who struggles with handwriting, grasp, and pincer tasks. I know you will find Tracie's calm and happy demeanor contagious and her presentation easy to follow and replicate.
Have fun and play!
Here we are, going into the third week of August already! Families are preparing for the upcoming school year, students are getting anxious and excited for what the new school year will bring, and some families are going on an end of the summer vacation. Then that strict routine comes knocking at all our doors that is filled with homework, activities, therapy appointments and sports practices.
Megan, Chris and I just wanted to remind you that we offer social skills groups for middle school and high school age children who have high functioning autism/Asperger syndrome. We also work with our tweens and teens individually on social thinking skills, self advocacy and other functional/life skills. If you are having a difficult time with your child transitioning into the new school year and are in need of family training and/or developing a plan with visual strategies for the home to get a routine put in place that will reduce the anxiety for the child and in turn the anxiety for the whole family, we can help with that as well.
Social Skills Group Schedules:
If you know of someone who has a child with high functioning autism that could utilize our services please forward the attached flyer to them. Enjoy the last few weeks of summer and good luck with the first few weeks of the school year!
Do you have friends in your life that may come and go, but then when you reconnect it's as though you've picked right back up where you left? This happy occurrence just happened to me this summer and I am excited to share a resource that came along with it. A wonderful friend, Bill, and I met at Western Michigan University in our undergraduate work. Bill studied Psychology and I studied Special Education. Bill later moved to Florida and continued his work in Psychology and ABA. We kept in touch and always had a kindred connection in the field of autism. This winter Bill moved back to Michigan and is now working for Autism Centers of Michigan.
One of the things Chris often says is people may learn about autism but do they truly "get" autism. I can tell you that Bill truly "gets" it. We are proud to share his hard work for those who are seeking ABA services near the Lansing area. Please see the flyer for more information about the upcoming open house. If you know of anyone who may be interested in these services please feel free to forward our email. And Go Broncos!
The Coaches' Corner: