Monday, June 10, 2013

Learning to Work

Samuel has finished an amazing year of 8th grade at one of our local public high schools! His plans for this summer include a vacation with the family to Maine, and extended school year.  In the weeks that we are waiting for these to happen, Samuel is going to start "a job" at home.  He will be working as our family weather forecaster! Where did the idea for this come up?  Well, the thought has been milling around in my mind since I heard Temple Grandin speak on this subject at "The Accessibility Summit" conference in McLean, Virginia in 2011.  The attached video is not from that conference, but touches on what she discussed. In Samuel's case, he is not ready to go out and work in someone else's home or out in public like Dr. Grandin started, but he is certainly reading to learn about what a job is and how someone gets ready for one.   So far I have written out two social stories for him, "What is a Job?" and "Starting a Job."  Tomorrow he begins "training."  I am planning to share his progress this summer on this blog and (with any luck) I will give an update on what has been going on these past few years.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

2012 Accessibility Summit

The Accessibility Summit is a conference held in the Tysons Corner area of Northern Virginia at McLean Bible Church.  I attended it for the first time last year and I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to hear and be around those who look at the positive side of living with a disability and is interested in helping to integrate his/her self, his/her child, student, or client with special needs into all facets of everyday living.

Attendees can go to anywhere from 3 to 5 workshops (the pre- and post-conference workshops cost extra, 3 are included in the cost of attending) and they are categorized into family/caregiver, faith-based, and professional. A pre-conference and regular workshop are held on Friday afternoon/evening and two workshops plus the post-conference workshop are held on a Saturday. 

One of the keynote speakers last year was Temple Grandin and one of this year's is her mom, Eustacia Cutler.  If you are within a day's drive of Northern Virginia and the conference appeals to you, this is something worth attending!  (From what I have heard, attendees come from all over the county.  Washington D.C. isn't too far away, so some people attach a trip there onto attending the conference.)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Time for a New Schedule!

Samuel has been using the same visual schedule, slightly modified over the years, since he was six years old.  I always had it as a goal to get him to a new schedule system by the time he was age twelve.  Well, now that age twelve has come and gone, it ends up that I have not yet attained that goal.  Samuel turned thirteen a few weeks ago.  Today, as I was prompting him to go check his schedule he turned to me and said just as matter-of-factly as he could, "Mom, I'm thirteen years old now, leave me alone!"  Definitely time for something new, my boy is growing up!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Reminder Boards! A Type of Visual Schedule

Besides the wall schedule Samuel uses, we also make use of "Reminder boards"  These are 6" X 3" laminated pieces of poster board that we use in order to help keep him on task, while minimizing verbal prompting(Two psychologists, Lynn McClannhan, Ph.D., and Patricia J. Krantz, Ph.D., of the Princeton Child Development Institute, did a 10 year study regarding the teaching of independent behavior in children with autism.   I highly recommend their book Activity Schedules for Children with Autism.  This is a great book to help parents understand why acitivy schedules are helpful and the importance of correct prompting.  If you look this book up you'll notice there is a more recent edition as well.)

These first two reminder boards help him during his school work. They sit on the table along with the third board showing what subjects he will work on at that current "session" of work.

(This "reminder board) prompts him to get his pencil box, and then put it away when we are finished.)

(This reminder board is to help him remember what his physical demeanor should be during "work time.")

(This shows what tasks he will complete during that session of "work time."  There is space for 5 activities, but I learned early on that trying 5 at a time is not optimal, even though the amount of work he does is quite minimal.)

It can be cumbersome to work with all 3 of these reminder boards at one time, and this does not even include the maneuvering of his papers and books on the table as he does his work.  Also, I had forgotten that initially I was maneuvering not only all of this, but also a token board and small edible rewards!  I haven't needed those in a LONG time!  I try to stack these boards one on top of the other so that not as much space is taken on the table.  It took weeks and weeks for me to figure out how to manage it all.  It took months after that for me to see the benefit of using these. If his attention wanders during school work now, all I have to do is remove his papers or books.  That action seems to serve as a prompt to draw his attention back to his work.

This next board is one I made up to use at church.  We have been using it for almost four years now.  I have found it difficult to use because of its large size, but have kept it as is.  In the coming months I may try to change it.  He has recently taken interest in a "sensory story" about going to church that we got from one of his past Occupational Therapists.  I have done several posts about Samuel's church behavior.  I'll post more about it in the future.  I am doing my best to juggle my desire for him to attend church with us, the reality of his ability to participate, while minimizing the disruption that his behavior might be to others sitting around us. 


This last reminder board is for when we eat at the table.  Teaching Samuel to chew with his mouth shut has been very difficult.  After watching him for a while, I realized that he seems to not be able to breathe through his nose while he is chewing food.  A speech therapist we saw for a while was starting to help me work on this, but we had to stop seeing her because of his behavior difficulties.  The therapist recommended that I take him to an ear/nose/throat specialist, which I will do one of these days!  In the meantime, the reminder board is effective for short amounts of time. 

You may notice in the photos that these reminder boards are well used and worn.  Some of them have been around for 3 or 4 years now!  I am in the process of re-doing some of these, and am finally getting around to making "reminder strips" to break down some of Samuel's self-care tasks.  In trying to answer another mom's questions about getting a visual schedule started for her son, I came across this website that has given me some ideas.  I'll post about these as soon as I can!

In recent weeks Samuel has taken a lot of interest in these reminder boards.  He gathers them all together and talks about them.  He even put together his own board about what he should do when he goes shopping!  (Long ago I had made a "fill in the blank" schedule piece.."When I _____________ I should ___________."  It has sat unused in his schedule binder, but now it's there to work with!) I'm trying to take advantage of this interest he has!

I would love to hear comments and suggestions from others about these, and about what kinds of visual aids you use to teach your children.  The development of visual schedules is time consuming and the progress can be very slow.  However, I have found them to be very helpful. Some challenges we still face regarding them:  moving forward to the point where Samuel is more independent in following/creating them and getting the school to use what we use.  (They use visual aids, but not like mine, and I don't think he has his own.. he uses what the entire class uses.  Also, I'm not sure if teaching staff understands the importance of minimizing verbal prompting..)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Back to School

Samuel returned to public school last October. For the next four months he was both a public school student and a homeschooled student. He started out attending just 2 hours per day and during that time had Life Skills and Science. I continued Math and Language Arts work with him at home.

In November the length of his school day was increased to include all but the first class of the day, English. I did Language Arts work with him at home. In March he started attending all day. I have enjoyed working with his teacher to get things in place. She has been so flexible. There are wonderful teaching assistants who help him, and he also has "Day Treatment Behavior Services."

Samuel seems to like being at school but boy does he complain at home about having to go! His behavior at school is just fine, but has become rather challenging at home. I am back to making sure that schedules are in place for him to refer to most of the day.

I am relieved to have the help with Samuel, but I miss his presence here at home during the day. Ironically, in the few months before I enrolled him things really had gone well with his school work at home. However, I just couldn't provide the right kind of social environment for him. He seems to be very happy to be part of a routine at school.  He is already talking to me about the routine he wants to have in place here at home when he is out of school this summer!

Although he is not very cooperative in answering questions I ask him about what he does at school, he has started sharing things with me as he gets ready in the morning (after he's done complaining about waking up!). "Hurray, today is 'Reading Wednesday.' I'm going to read that American History Book." "Today is Books and Barks! I don't care about the dogs, but I like the books!" It's so much fun to hear him say these things! He didn't communicate quite like this when he last attended school 3 years ago.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Top 50 Blogs About Autism

Rachael, a pediatric nurse who has a blog entitled "Pediatric Nurse Practioner Blog", has posted a list of top autism blogs. They are in three categories: Research, News, and Info.; Living with Autism; and Support (for those who work with children with autism).

I'm honored that Rachael included my blog in the "living with autism" category! Although my blog has been quite neglected this year (as I have been extraordinarily consumed with gradually entering my son back into public education while continuing to educate his 3 siblings at home) I tried to write it in a way that those who live with autism could appreciate it at any point in time.

Check out the list! Thanks again Rachael!

Monday, September 6, 2010

What's on our Plate Right Now!

Oh so much is going on right now! I could do lengthy posts about each of these things, but the time to do so just isn't here right now.

We have decided to enroll Samuel in public school. He will be entering 6th grade and will attend a "middle school." I am in no rush to get him there, they are moving to a new building. I'm sure I'm correct in guessing that the finishing touches of the building's renovation will be going on right up to the moment of the doors opening tomorrow! Also, I want him to transition VERY GRADUALLY back to school. We haven't even had the IEP meeting yet. All the details of his returning to school have yet to be worked out. I am looking for a part time start beginning with just the same amount of Speech therapy he has had at the schools for the past 3 years, then getting him to go to classes in the afternoon. My primary concern is for him to have the opportunity to work on his social skills.

In the past few weeks we have started some new in-home services, to specifically address Samuel's behavior difficulties. We are receiving them from a different source than we did 5 years ago. I am very impressed with the people who are working with us and I hope to post more about what we are doing soon.

Samuel is continuing to develop a strong sensitivity to the expression of emotions. Funny, I have been reading on one or two other blogs about how other children on the spectrum that are around Samuel's age are going through the same thing. If he hears songs on the radio that are emotional or sad he immediately wants the station changed! During a reading at church yesterday he asked, "Is this serious?" He asks the same question when he listens to news stories on TV. And, as has been happening for a while, he absolutely cannot tolerate discussions between my husband and I in which our vocal expression has anything resembling "seriousness." The problem with this is that my husband has a rather deep voice and an intense personality.. so Samuel is always misreading his mood! I am thrilled for Samuel's increased awareness of what is going on.. but it is making life rather crazy!

Let's see, what else is going on? After having some success with Samuel in a temporary tae kwon do class this summer I want to start him with some classes this fall. That might have to be on an individual basis at first. I had to closely shadow him during the summer session but I want him to learn to participate independently.

Samuel is taking part in a computer study being done by a phd student, who wants to test her hypothesis that word-recognition software helps students with autism improve their writing abilities. (This has been lots of fun, but has been challenging!)

At home he has started to work independently on some phonics curriculums, both on the computer. His attention span is so much better when working on the computer! Ironically, as we are considering putting him in school I feel like I finally "have it figured out" with his academics at home! I will consider this strongly as we develop his IEP.

Also, we are continuing to monitor his behavior after starting him on Risperdal a few months ago. If you have read my blog or if you know me, you know that I have always considered medication as a last resort. Well, we reached a critical point this past winter. If I ask Samuel why he takes the medication his answer is, "to help me be a good boy." Interesting, we certainly never explained it that way to him, rather it was explained as something to help him control himself when he got upset.

Do we have enough going on?!

I should not forget to mention... these are only Samuel's "goings on," there are 3 other children I have things going on with too!