After teaching and consulting during the day, the three of us drove over to the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids and checked into a room for our first Totally Social sleepover. HA! After settling in, having dinner, and prepping for the next day, we reviewed our PowerPoint once more and had a great evening of laughing and stories. The next morning we had Sabra and my favorite treat, Starbucks, and set up our presentation space. At about 8:00 am (we started at 8:15), Sabra and I noticed our fearless mentor was no longer with us. As we set out to gather her up from probably talking with someone she knew, Sabra noticed Temple standing right outside the next room. Knowing Chris would be bold enough to approach her, we knew we had to find her fast. All of a sudden we realized that Dr. Grandin was speaking with someone. As you can guess, that someone was Chris!!! We walked over like giddy teenagers and listened in to the tail end of their conversation. Chris was sharing our session topic and the legal issues she is becoming more and more involved in. Temple had quite the strong feeling about this outcome and naturally we were all ears to hear her speak. As much as we wanted to soak up these moments, we knew the morning had to go on. Chris said her goodbye and offered our session for Temple to come to, which she said she "might stop by" (!!!). We were just geeked! We were all set to share our programming experiences at the middle and high school level and hoped to inspire many to replicate programming in their own districts/counties. While we believe that those who attend are truly meant to be there, we had less participants than we expected. But, never to be defeated, we celebrated taking the risk of presenting to people representing parts all over the state of Michigan. We met great people who share our vision and hope that they too will spread the word about creating these electives for students. It was a great experience! After presenting, we scooted over to the ballroom to hear Temple Grandin be the keynote speaker, introduced by our Lt. Governor, Brian Calley, which we proudly said to each other, "we know him....we met with him about autism". Needless to say, Temple's messages echo much of what we believe in and loved listening to her thoughts, research, and perspectives. We enjoyed a nice lunch together, did some networking, looked at all the vendors and finally took the journey home. It was a whirlwind, but we had an incredibly memorable time. If you know of anyone interested in hearing our presentation, please feel free to let us know through email or in person. Sabra and I would like to extend our warmest thanks and sentiments of gratitude to Chris. She has encouraged us to do more than we ever thought we could in this field. We would not have so many of the experiences we do without her. There would be no Totally Social without her bringing us all together. Thank you, Rans. We can't wait to see what is in store for the three of us!
I found this blog post with a short video clip of what life is like on the autism spectrum. I thought it was a good one and wanted to share with everyone.
One of the sections of this video that impacts me the most as a social communication coach and educational consultant for my clients and their families is the one showing those with higher functioning autism being misunderstood by their teachers and viewed and treated as students with behavior problems instead of students who are in meltdown.
Another one that resonates with me from my experience working one-on-one with my teens with autism is the clip saying that they feel they are the only ones in their class without one single friend. This was a discussion that came up last week in all three of my social groups, girls and boys alike.
This does not have to be permanent! We can help these kids who have autism!! They need the direct social skills training and practice on a regular basis just like they need algebra class and English class!
What clip resonates with you?
My Book Full of Feelings is the resource we use to teach kids the problem and reaction sizes triangle. We talk about how the problem needs to be thought of in the correct size and then the reaction needs to be equal. My basic rule is the only reason we should have a BIG problem or reaction are the 3 B's: blood, barf, or broken bones. We expect big reactions to those times since they are so unexpected. The others we have to really think about whether they are little or medium sized. Something you may think of as little really could be medium to our kids, but teaching them to categorize it and respond appropriately is the main focus. You could hang this triangle on your fridge or in your house!
Written by: Megan McQuillan
Individualized Education and TRAINING of YOUR STAFF/CAREGIVERS in ASD
Although we knew that the general public, business owners, and community service workers were lacking in their knowledge on autism and how to interact and work with those on the autism spectrum, we had no idea just how much.
Over this past year, Chris, Megan, and I at Totally Social ASD have been working within restaurants, factories, churches, schools, assisted living facilities, mental health facilities, grocery stores, libraries, the jails, the legal system, and even the Lieutenant Govenor's office giving information on autism, answering questions and sharing stategies that work with those on the autism spectrum.
We know there are a ton of people with high functioning autism out there who are struggling to keep their jobs; they are struggling to communicate effectively with their coworkers who don't understand how they think nor do they have the strategies that can make the working enviroment successful for all.
Let us help you and those on the spectrum by coming in and training your staff, caregivers, coworkers, family members or community service workers on autism and strategies that work.
Go to our website to find out more information on the services that we provide or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking through some of the TED Talks (for topics about autism) on YouTube, I came across this 15 minute video featuring geneticist Wendy Chung. This presentation is titled: Autism - what we know (and what we don't know yet). Though there is quite a bit of science involved in her speech, she uses some visual examples that really made sense in what is happening genetically and why some individuals display skills other do not. While you and your family may be in a place of acceptance and action, you may be facing other family members who are still misunderstanding autism and the challenges that accompany it. Though we are a long ways away from the "refrigerator mother" theory, sometimes loved ones inadvertently or unintentionally place blame on autism being a product of, or perpetuated by, parenting styles. Perhaps you have someone in your life you think could benefit from more explanation. Sometimes hearing information from a third party helps even if you have said the same exact message. After all, when we get down to it, it's not about who is right or wrong, who said it best, or who said it first. It's about educating everyone that comes in contact with our kids so that we build people up; to be loving, encouraging, holding high expectations, and yet realistic with their understanding of what the brain with autism is really experiencing moment to moment.
I learn or confirm something new about autism every day! I hope you all do too.
Making Some Minor Changes this Fall to the Teen Social Skills Groups...
For those of you who have had a teen in my social skills groups over the last year or you have been curious and checked out the website page before, I have updated and made some changes for this fall. After reflecting on what has worked and what hasn't worked and what has just become a routine but hasn't been spelled out for all my clients, I felt it was important to make it clear for all of us. Changes made are minor but important, one being parent participation. If we are not having that face to face share out of information the progress will be lessoned for the teens participating in group. I can only deliver the strategies, you, as parents are the ones that will be implementing them and helping the teen generalize them over and over again until they become habitual.
I will be sending out a schedule for those of you who are returning group members within the next week. Groups will be starting back up the week of September 22nd! I can't wait to hear from all my teens how the beginning of school went for them! If you have questions about any changes or are interested in joining a group, please click here! I look forward to being TOTALLY SOCIAL with you!
Totally Social ASD Social Coach, Sabra Evans
WEBSITE'S NEW VERBAGE
"Totally Social offers social skills groups for teens with high functioning autism (HFA)/Asperger's Syndrome i.e.average to above average IQ, high verbal skills, systematic thinker/highly routine based, below grade level social communication skills and overall functional independence. Coach Sabra is certified, trained and ready to guide and assist them in enhancing skills in social cognition/communication. Groups will be created within communities of the Western Oakland, Livingston, and Northern Washtenaw Counties. Currently we have teen groups running in South Lyon and Brighton.
Small Groups of 3-5 teens
We will meet each week for a 1-1.5 hour session depending on the lesson and/or activity planned. A few sessions each month will be in a library study room where we will learn about specific skills and participate role play activities to practice the skills; we will then plan a session together within the community to practice the skills that we are learning in a more natural environment. This makes the teens practice generalizing the skills they are learning and it is also a way to make the group engaging and fun for the members. Many of my teens will say they don't get to 'hang out with their friends' in the community so this is always a selling point.
There is a seperate girl and boy teen social group but occasionally Sabra has them join together to work on the hidden social rules of girls and boys ie. what each group find funny, dating rules, friendship between the genders, flirting, etc.
Session Feedback and Parent Participation
Each group member will have a Social Thinking Binder provided that they will bring with them each time to the group that will house all updates and information for the parents to ask their teen about after each session. Sabra will be asking for parent participation once a month at the end of one of the sessions (TBD when groups are established) to update parents on specific vocabulary and strategies that are being worked on so they can continue these practices at home.
** THIS PARENT PARTICIPATION TIME IS NOT A TIME FOR PERSONAL CONSULTATION ON YOUR CHILD, IT IS INTENDED AS A SHARE OUT OF WHAT HAS BEEN COVERED AND TO ANSWER GENERAL QUESTIONS ON THE STRATEGIES AND HOW TO IMPLEMENT THEM.
If you have more specific questions and/or concerns you are encouraged to schedule an individual consultation session with Sabra.
PRICING INFORMATION: 50.00 each session
(Monthly payment is preferred)
First Time group members/clients only: First session: 50.00 + 25.00 registration fee, Must pay four weeks up front, totaling $225.00
You will receive an intake phone call from the Sabra Evans within 48 hours of registering asking specific information about your child/adult's strengths and challenges. We will then schedule an individual meeting to create a plan of action for your teen and family. Some times a teen needs 1 or 2 individual sessions with Sabra before joining into a Social Group to learn needed vocabulary and/or get a better grasp of how their autism affects them."
Parents and caregivers of children on the autism spectrum are told early on that their children rely on them to build structure and routine into their day utilizing visual strategies such as calendars, mini schedules, "First and Then" charts, etc. This is all absolutely true and will continue to be one of the first questions that parents will get, "How have you structured your child's day? What visuals does your child have to help him understand the routine reducing his anxiety?" BUT, what is equally important is to teach these children how to handle when there is a change in their routine. This often times gets forgotten because our kiddos on the autism spectrum get so relient on these routines that it makes life calmer for the parents at home. Although, because of that third symptom of autism "restricted and repetitive behaviors and/or routines" if we don't teach the skill of change continuously then anxiety occurs creating meltdowns.
I found this article that I liked mainly due to the fact that it is short and gives easy to follow ideas. But one of the suggestions that jumped out at me that made me want to write this to all of you was how parents need to make sure that the little routines that they do everyday do not become so rigid that the child learn there is only one right way. Over the years this has come up so many times with the response being that the parents have created these rigid routines out of survival but sometimes without even realizing they are doing it.
With the new school year upon us in a matter of days now, read this and start to be more aware of the little routines that you may be creating that can become challenging in the future.
Change Happens Article---Click this link
The one who is finding herself the busiest out of the three of us here at totallysocialasd.com is Chris Rans who services adults with high functioning autism/Asperger Syndrome and/or similar social communication challenges. Caregivers, community service agencies, and even government agencies are seeking out our services for individuals from the ages of 18 all the way into their 60's who are in desperate need of Life and Employability Skills. Chris has been everywhere from local job sites where she is training the empoyers on how to work with their employee with autism all the way up to the Lt. Govenor's office brainstorming together the future for adults with autism who have found themselves in the legal system.
Our children with autism become adults with autism. They either learn to cope and/or mask certain challenges of autism and have maintained jobs and families but are still greatly struggling with the social and emotional challenges of autism, or they have not been able to cope and still remain within the care of their parents hidden away in their rooms/basements stuck to their computers or video games or televisions unable to deal with the stress of the outside world. Both sides of the pendulum need help whether they are actively seeking it out or not.
I have attached an article I found this morning on some of the ways to identify the symptoms of high functioning autism in adults. It's never too late to ask for help!
"The news media, pediatricians' offices, and parenting books are all full of information about autism in children; however, it can be a challenge to identify adult autism. In decades past, autism received far less attention from the medical and education communities than it does today. This means that there are likely thousands of adults living with undiagnosed autism. Learning about adult autism symptoms can help these individuals find treatment options." Click Here to Read On
Have a great weekend,
- Sabra Evans
Many of my friends are going through the phase of life where they are having babies and experiencing the early stages of child development. Some of them will ask questions about the early signs of autism since it is so prevalent. We will then often talk about the beginning of communication as autism is a social communication disorder. While there are great websites, checklists, and videos about first signs of autism and developmental delays, I thought I'd capture some of the first stages of language acquisition from some notes I was going over. There are certainly more and I am not a speech pathologist, but it's a start!
Birth: Babies are born with the ability to cry through which they communicate various needs. Parents should be talking to their baby to expose them to language, tones of voice, and to begin to teach that communication is reciprocal. Babies are born with the ability to imitate and this can be noted from 6-8 weeks old when they develop spontaneous and reflexive smiles. Those reflexive facial features and imitation can be evidence of mirror neurons firing telling the brain to match what others are doing. This is very typical and developmentally appropriate.
0-3 months: Babies begin to explore different sounds, tones of voice, and cries. They will also develop different pitches or cries for different needs. Pitches may be higher or lower depending on what they assign to being hungry or wet. Listen for varying tonal patterns. Babies on the spectrum may not vary their cries that much if at all, research shows.
4-6 months: Babies will begin to babble at this age. They may play with speech-like sounds and begin to use "p", "b", and "m" sounds. Their babble may be in response to being talked to, they may begin to show emotions and respond to pointing. At 4 months their eye gaze is purposeful and beginning to show first signs of socializing behaviors.
7-12 months: The sounds babies will make will begin to change and contain more consonants. A first word may be heard such as, "byebye" "mama" or "doggy". Their receptive language at one year should help them find things you label (go get...) and act out actions.
1-2 years: Toddlers will be adding more words to their vocabulary and should be putting two words together. They may begin asking questions, "what that?" or "where ball?" They should be labeling everything and asking what things are. This is a great time to introduce nursey rhymes and begin modeling how to be a reader (parents can read to their baby beginning in the early months, and should).
2-3 years: Vocabulary is exploding! Sentences are formed and used regularly. Toddlers are able to get your attention and share it with objects, naming, commenting, and continuing to ask questions. Attention is joint and shared with eye contact, pointing, and gesturing. Conversations are starting, imaginary play happens, and one of my favorite ways to teach language, singing, is happening. Easy, natural things that parents can engage in.
3-4 years: Kids should be using 4-5+ word sentences. They begin to recall things that happened to them and share their experiences. Speech is typically fluent and clear (certain sounds are not developmentally supposed to be completely accurate until 8-9 years of age, so some errors are normal). Discussions about things can occur to expand language between parents and children.
4-5 years: Children are now speaking clearly and fluently using detailed sentences. Most sounds are correct. Play skills should be continued to encouraged.
And finally, research has been showing for YEARS that screen time for babies and toddlers under the age of 2 is NOT appropriate or healthy for their growing brains. After 2, in moderation, but babies do NOT need to be watching TV or using an iPad. Save that wonderful technology for when their brain is not growing so fast! Exposure too early teaches children to expect immediate gratification and impacts their ability to problem solve when things don't happen IMMEDIATELY! AHHHHH! Do not do that to your tiny ones! :) Ok, I'm being dramatic, but I have to say my background is in early childhood. I've done the research. I've read countless studies and I have seen children who do not learn coping skills naturally and become frustrated and dependent upon that immediate gratification. I have been one of the first teachers aside from parents to help teach that tricky skill of patience (waiting) and problem solving for children 3-5. It's a lot of work! But, the reward is fostering life skills so the pay off completely outweighs the time and energy put in. After 2 years moderate away. Under 2, let them play, let them watch you, and let them babble. TVs do not talk back and forth. TVs and iPad games do not teach reciprocity. Sure, they have some labeling and educational content, but it is no substitute for human contact and interaction. Last bit of research, if you happen to be a household that has the TV as background noise, children learn to "tune out" noises. Guess what else they are tuning out? You. It's not purposeful, but they have inadvertently learned to place language (including your voice at times) in that white noise category.
The purpose of our blog is to help, to give tips, and to educate. The three of us have done the work, read the research and taught hundreds of kids. It's still your choice how to parent. We just continue to share what we have learned and hope that families achieve a balance that works for them and most importantly is of the child's best interest.
As Rans would say, "the bottom line is" keep talking, keep engaging, and keep interacting!
Written by: Megan McQuillan
I just ordered these books online and am looking forward to reading them this summer! I am hopeful that they can give me even more insight into the mind of an individual on the autism spectrum and the way they see the world with all it's challenges. I am also always searching for more resources to share with my students, clients, and their families during my daily interactions with them. Let's hope these are good finds!
Click on the picture of the book for the link to find out more information about each book.
I'll keep you updated on what I think of the books as I am reading! If you have read any of them and want to give me your feedback, I'd love it!
Happy Summer Reading,
The Coaches' Corner: