Have fun and play!
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!
Megan and I have finished our second week of Life Skills camp for teens (13-18 years old) with high functioning autism, one week to go. It was quite a first week; Monday started with a lot of struggling campers trying to transition to a setting where they were technology free and forced to socialize and interact with peers for six hours of their day. The typical teenage complaining came out in full swing as well as the typical autism transition behaviors. But on day two, it was a complete switch and we were on a roll with much better attitudes and campers who were open to the activities and positive about learning. The second week flew by with lots of activities and field trips and the campers are well on their way to grasping the life and social skills they are being taught. The final week will be about mastering the skills by repitition.
In this camp, Megan and I focus on the daily, adult life skills that those who are not on the spectrum have learned by watching their parents and do now without thinking about. One of our first lessons on day one was on body odor and how wearing deodorant is so important to making and keeping friends and/or a girlfriend and getting and keeping a job. Along with this lesson we talked about the importance and process of brushing your teeth, washing your hair, combing your hair, how often you should get your hair cut, clean/unwrinkled/matching clothes, shaving, wearing a beard or other facial hair, etc. We incorporate an after lunch hygiene check where they reapply deordorant and brush their teeth and comb their hair if needed. I have always found that my teens in high school are usually most influenced by this lesson when I bring in the dating factor and how poor hygiene will negatively effect their chances.
Some other life skills that we work on are: budgeting, planning meals for a group/family each week, making a grocery list, we walk up to the local grocery store together where we are working on walking together as a group of friends, working on small talk and walking side by side. We look for sale items at the store and talk about safety skills regarding how much information we should be sharing with strangers as well as expected greetings while out in public. We have the campers pay for the items using cash.
Through our experiences, Chris, Megan and I have found that the majority of our teens are not active in the grocery shopping experience with their parents. Between the three of us, we have had many teen and adult clients who are not experienced with paying for items using cash, waiting for their change and checking for accuracy, understanding where/how to ask for specific items or assistance if needed, how to leave a tip and the list could go on.
This is why we feel it is so important to get out there and do these activities with our campers and clients. If you were to think of a typical 16 or 17 year old without autism, most would be able to run into a store, find what they need or ask someone for help, pay for the item and leave without too much of a struggle even if they don't do it often. Teens with high functioning autism are just as capable of the same experience! They just need to be exposed to this experience OFTEN, taught DIRECTLY each step of the process, and then forced to practice, practice, and practice in multiple stores for generalization!
Another challenge that Chris, Megan and I have found to be true more often than not is the lack of stamina that the teens with hfASD have for just about any physical or work related task. We are equating this to a lifestyle where they are focused on 1 or 2 activities that typically are sedentary and almost always involve technology in some form or another. Many times the three of us have made plans for a client or group and have had to adjust them in order to scaffold the task to build up their tolerance levels. Some specific examples of a lack of tolerance for physical and/or work related tasks have been: washing a car (only able to sustain attention and tolerance for 1/2 the car), going for a walk with a group to a destination, loading/unloading groceries, etc.
Besides the above, the following are life skills that many teens with hfASD have either never done or haven't done in years:
Parents, teachers, caregivers, and social coaches...PLEASE work on these skills now! Teens with hfASD are intelligent and are very capable of holding jobs and being independent as adults. Without working on these life skills would be a detriment to their success at functional independence. Being capable of doing them also is a huge confidence booster, helping them make and keep friendships which is what they are all desperate for at this age. I tell my teens all the time, even just for friendship that you have to make yourself attractive; that means being able to take care of yourself and being comfortable with participating in many activities instead of just one or two.
I have attached an article, Daily living skills prove more important than autism symptoms, language or IQ when it comes to employment and life satisfaction. I can imagine that reading this is hard for some; and I know that some are ahead of the game and have been tackling these skills for years with their child, and then there are some that just needed a reminder. Parents, caregivers, teachers, DON'T WAIT! Step it up now and start incorporating life skills training into your daily schedules so our teens with hfASD can grow into gainfully employed, fully independent adults!
Something light for your Saturday afternoon. My teaching partner found this little Arthur clip, and working with elementary aged students, we were of course intrigued! What do you think of this episode? Would you use it for a teaching tool for groups, organizations, or family members that may not "get" autism? It is certainly a great effort at educating society early on about the world of autism! We have a long way to go, but what a great start in the children's television world! What do you think?
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 email@example.com.
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.
The Coaches' Corner: