Category Archives: Lessons

The Power of Choice.

I could have stayed under the warm blankets and thought more about this blog, or I could have turned my thoughts elsewhere, or I could get out of the bed and come and dump my thoughts. You guessed it. I chose to get up. Choices are a part of our every day routine. We may not always feel like we have a choice, but when it comes right down to it we do… in every situation.

People with developmental disabilities … namely autism, should no, they deserve choices. Some would think that these kids don’t know what they want half the time. But who are we not to try and give them a choice? “Would you like water or juice?” “Would you like to swing or ride the bike or just sit out in the fresh air?” Even a simple yes or no to a question gives us insight in to what the child might want or need.

One thing that I have learned is that these kids are far from stupid and have wants and needs just like the rest of us. Oh I know… it isn’t easy to figure out what those wants and needs are, but with some time and effort on the part of the therapist/teacher/parent/caregiver/ and the kid themselves, it can be done.

The puzzle (to me) is the best part. Trying to find what works for these kids and piecing it together is a challenge that I am up for. Giving these kids choices only helps to unlock their world. Letting them in on what is going on with them and having them help guide us will only make it a bit easier on everyone.

Start simple. Find two items that you know are preferred. You know that the child likes them both equally. Put them in front of him/her and ask. Let them choose. Or even show them Yes/No icons and ask if they want this item. Teaching them that they have power in choice also teaches them that they have power in communication. It goes hand in hand.

When working with these kids, I have learned that the choices offered are sometimes not what the child wants. However, they still have a choice. Watch to see what they do. They may surprise you. They may throw a holy terror temper tantrum. But we all know that sometimes the choices we are faced with are not always rainbows and butterflies… and we have to learn from that as well. So do these kids.

Yeah, this is what kept me from falling asleep. I am glad I made the choice to get up and write. I always feel a little bit better and a little more excited about what I am doing when I get to share it with others. If you have any questions, or if some of my sleepy time writing confused you, please feel free to comment below. I am always happy to help.

~Kari

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Read People Read!!

I just went to bed and took my little white shiny friend who helps me go to sleep.. her name is Ambien. I have always been a night owl and the schedule I work does not allow for me to stay up all night long (which I prefer) and go to work early in the morning. So, as Ambien and I are lying in bed looking at the Kindle, ideas started popping up in my mind left and right. Normally when this happens, I tell myself that I will remember the next day …. yeah right! I am now all a buzz with toothpicks holding my eyes open… forgive the typo’s please!

The title of this little blog serves 2 purposes…

  1. To get your ass on here to read this blog. I want more followers. I want more input. I need you guys. The people that are in this world day to day and know these kids…. I NEED YOU! I would really appreciate it if you pass this blog on to other parents/grandparents/caregivers/people who want to work with people like these kids!! ALL YA’LL (This is southern and plural for ya’all). Just take a few moments and put this on your Facebook page, twitter feed… or send it via email. I don’t care how ya do it… just do it!! Please?
  2. To get you to check out what I have been reading. I have been pretty good about keeping up my book list that is RIGHT HERE .  I love reading about parents and their struggles AND successes with their child with autism. I also get a lot of great ideas for me to insert in any practice that I am involved in. This helps me to understand more real world people since right now I am still in Grad School and need to read copious amounts of other stuff and don’t really get to see some of it applied. BUT, it will also help you too. It will give you hope and hope is so critical when you have a child on the spectrum.

Lastly,

I wanted to give a shout out to a few Facebook Pages that I find helpful/humorous/heartwarming/or just plain ol’ truthful.

  • Just another piece of the puzzle – This is my own little nook of Facebook… just a place to put neat things I find and to let you all know when a new blog is up. You can follow me on https://www.facebook.com/Justanotherpieceofthepuzzle
  • The Autism Life – By the Author of one of my FAVORITE books on a story of a child with autism. There will be a second book coming out soon!! This woman and her family are truly inspirational and a tad bit crazy… and I say that will all the love in my heart. Alicia fills us in on what Ewan is up to and it is really cool to see him grow up, think about his world, and show us all that autism can be hard, but that he can handle anything life throws at him. He is a super kid and you will fall in love with him like I did!!  https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Autism-Life/183254517299?fref=pb
  • Autism Shines – This site showed up after the Sandy Hook tragedy. It is a beautiful way for everyone to show their children that are on the spectrum in a shining light fashion. Please stop in for a gander… you won’t be disappointed!! https://www.facebook.com/AutismShines

I could go on and one, but this will get you started. Please feel free to contact me if you have anything you want to add. Like I said before. I NEED you guys!

Thanks for popping in,

~Kari

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Knowledge IS Power!

Long Time No See…

Well, for blogging, I have gotten a big fat “F” this semester. I have tons of excuses… no really I do! School, work, taking on the role of caregiver for my brother-in-law’s kids…. there are more I am sure. I thought now was as good a time as any to get you all updated… and I hope to be better in the near future.

The Boys…

Holy crap batman! I love what I do. These boys are making HUGE strides daily! I am so very proud of all the hard work these kids are doing on a daily basis. Compared to when I started, these kids can sit for longer periods of time and do tasks that were almost impossible. They take fewer breaks and are more excited to learn. I truly believe it is because they know that we believe in them and know that they can accomplish anything we give them. I can see that in their eyes and expressions.

“J” – This kid is really getting the idea of the iPad and has increased his vocabulary a ton! There are times when he grabs the iPad and tells us something and we miss it, so he will repeat it until we hear him… just like a typical teenager! The other day, he brought me his iPad and requested Waffles (breakfast item he has frequently, but he wanted it in the middle of the day). The funny thing was, is that he had already dragged me to the freezer to point at the waffles and I had told him that those were for breakfast. The even funnier thing was that when he brought me the iPad to tell me he wanted waffles, he pushed the button over and over quickly which made it sound like a Rapper… waf-waffl-waf-waffle-waffles. After that, I couldn’t resist popping one in the toaster for him. I am a sucker for a funny kid.

“E” – Has had many successes this year. He is so bright and so talented. It is really cool watching him figure out this world. He would be happiest if we just left him alone, but we can also see that he really likes to learn… on his own terms. We really don’t let him get away with that and I think he likes the structure… but would never admit it. This kid loves to dance. We play YouTube videos as primers for academics and there are some really cool ones that he just LOVES to get up and dance to. We let him… IF… he is in the “dance circle”. It is nice to see him cut loose.

“D” – Oh man… this kid has improved socially SO much. He is my football field sized personal space kid and he is really allowing more people – especially the ones he knows – in his space for longer periods of time. He is starting to trust more. His behavior issues have plummeted for the most part. That is a wonderful thing for us because it allows for more learning to take place. He is also our personal “time-manager”. He knows when things are supposed to happen and makes sure that we ALL know.

“N” – Dang this kid is so smart. He is learning to use the iPad more for communicating his needs and wants. It is so fun to see how FAST he is catching on to using it. It is like we have unlocked a part of him that has been just waiting patiently for the teachers to catch up. He is also super helpful in the classroom and is able to follow directions for cleaning up, pushing in chairs, putting away things, getting things… etc. He really has come a long way too. I am super proud of him and his accomplishments.

All of these guys have come a long way. I am so lucky to be a part of their lives.

Knowledge IS Power…

I didn’t want to bust out right away with my thoughts on the shooting and how the shooter may or may not have a spectrum disorder. I needed to settle my anger and think things through. So, here goes… Whether or not that shooter had an ASD is really not the point. The point is, he massacred kids. Whatever your beliefs on gun control isn’t the point. The point is, he massacred kids P.E.R.I.O.D.

What I am really getting at is that the world needs educated about ASD’s. The world would understand that someone with JUST an ASD isn’t likely to premeditate a massacre. I read somewhere (I would give the proper source if I could remember it… and will if I find it again) that people with an ASD are not PRO-actively violent, but they are REactive. They will not sit around and premeditate a murder, but they may lash out in fear… and by lash out I mean tantrum and if you happen to get in the way of the tantrum, you may get hurt.

I work with a child that is still working on communication. When he is frustrated because he is unable to communicate his needs, he will “tantrum” and that involves pinching… a small violence… but reactive to his frustration… not PRE-meditated.

I don’t live in the shoes of parents with a child on the spectrum, so I can’t possibly know what it feels like to have your child stared at, mocked, or thought of as a monster. I do know from my outings with the boys that there are a lot of looks and snickers, but there are a lot of kind people too. I don’t know how many times you have had to say the words “he/she has autism” or the pain that you must feel, but I do know that the more we educate people, the better off these kids will be. People will finally understand that the person that walked in to that school that day MAY have had an ASD, but he surely had other issues as well. The ASD alone was not the culprit.

I hope that I got my point across and that I did it in a way that is respectful.

Last but not least…

Something is brewing… something really cool. I will share all of the details when I can. Just keep me in your thoughts and prayers. God knows what it is so just put in a good word for me.

Thanks for reading!

~Kari

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Operant Conditioning – Reinforcement and Punishment

I have spent the better part of the last two days sick. It is hard enough to study when you are feeling your best!

Anyway, part of my readings for this week included Operant Conditioning and the wonderful world of Positive/Negative Reinforcement and Positive/Negative Punishment. This really should be review for me as I have had all this information before, but for some reason I really never could wrap my brain around this. It confuses me how there could be negative reinforcement and positive punishment!!

Lucky for me, I have to be supervised by a BCBA (what I want to be when I grow up), so for this weeks meeting (done on the phone while she was headed for Chicago), she sorted it out for me in a way that I can understand. AND… because I love dearly how she explains things to me, I thought I would share so that maybe it will help this concept click with someone else!

The best way to figure out what is happening is to use the phrase…

“In the presence of ___Reinforcement (R) or Punishment (P)__, the behavior ___increased (+) or decreased (-).

So, let me give you some examples that make sense in the real world.

Positive Reinforcement

We want “J” to use his voice (speak out loud), so we will reinforce his talking behavior with a skittle.

In the presence of a skittle (R),”J’s” talking behavior increases (+).

Negative Reinforcement

“N” will sometimes avoid a math problem. We want him to pay attention. We will use his favorite chip as a reinforcement to decrease his avoidance behavior.

In the presence of “N’s” favorite chip (R), “N’s” avoidance behavior decreases (-)

Positive Punishment

“D” does not like speech. To him, it is a punishment. He escapes to the Tan Room for a break.

In the presence of speech (P), “D’s” escape behavior increases (+).

Negative Punishment

“E” will sometimes stomp at lunchtime. We want him to stop stomping. We remove his plate of food. He stops stomping.

In the presence of plate removal (P), “E’s” stomping behavior decreases (-)

________________________________________________________________________________________

I sure hope this helps you as much as it did me!!

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Back to School and Back to Life

What an amazing summer!!

I know that I said that I would be blogging over the summer, but obviously, that didn’t happen. Because this is my blog for autism, I won’t go in to detail about what my summer entailed, but I will say that I am blessed and so fortunate for great friends that believe and trust in me!

We are now two weeks into the 2012-2013 school year…

…and WOW!! Just WOW!

Two weeks ago, I was all geared up for things to be crazy in the classroom. “These boys take time to adjust”, I said to myself. “Just remember that it will take time for them to get back in the swing of things”, I considered. I walked in to that classroom with my guard up and prepared for battle… both emotionally and physically. And then… they showed up. Smiles, high fives, same routines, EVERYTHING like they never even left for the summer. How cool is that? Super cool… super super cool!

We were all amazed at the way they were able to ease back in to everything we do. I am so excited at the opportunity to see these boys grow more and more in their school work and social skills. We have even gone on two field trips already. I didn’t think we would be able to do that for at least a month, but the very first Thursday, we were off and running.

These kids are so smart. I don’t understand why society thinks otherwise. They just don’t know these kids like we do I guess.

The boys…

“J” – is talking more than ever. He will, when prompted verbally (and it helps if you have a Skittle or M&M in hand), will say just about anything you want him to. And, most of the time, will get a huge grin on his face after he speaks. I mean can you even imagine not being able to talk and then all of a sudden you do and are getting HUGE rewards from it? He is on cloud nine. His aggressive behaviors are still there, but not near as bad as they have been in the past. He seems happy… and that is perfect.

“D” – Still our fun-loving, question-asking, silly man. He had a good summer and, although his personal space is still an issue, it is nothing compared to the beginning of last year. He is comfortable with us and that is awesome!

“E” – He had a good summer vacationing with family. I could tell that he was relaxed from his summer vacation. He and I go to art together every morning with typical kids and he does very well with guided assistance drawing whatever we ask of him. I am lucky to get to spend that one on one time with him.

“N” – This kid is so fun! He seems to be back in the swing of things and his anxiety outside of the classroom (on field trips) has diminished tremendously. He is holding his head up high and having a good time. I can see him making huge progress this year and I am so excited to get to help him!

We even have a new kid on the block!

Although “K” is not in our class, she gets to go on field trips with us! “K” is high-functioning autism and is super talkative. It is good for her to be around the boys and for the boys to be around her. For me, she is another child that I get the pleasure of being around and learning from.

Work school and Masters school!

On the very same day that I started back to work after summer vacation, I started 3 classes for my masters. *insert what the hell was I thinking* here. I took 2 classes over the summer and got A’s in both… so far a 4.0! The classes that I am taking this semester are

  • SPCE 610 870  – Behavioral Consultation – This teacher firmly believes in reading and I mean TONS of reading. Lordamercy, I am going to be blind by the time I finish this class. However, I am enjoying the reading so far and look forward to the knowledge I will gain.
  • SPCE 611 875 –  Advanced Applied Behavior Analysis – This class is THE pinnacle course to becoming what I want to be when I grow up. The text book for this class is the “bible” for ABA. I pretty much have to memorize it. *sigh*  I am super stoked about becoming a BCBA and this is going to get me there!
  • SPCE 683 873 – Practicum in Autism – This is my favorite class of the 3. I get to earn my hours at work and I meet with a BCBA (who happens to be my boss) once a week to discuss this amazing field. It is tons of fun getting my experience working with Mara and the kids! Yesterday, I got to go with Mara to observe a child at his home. This is great experience for me to be able to see therapy (other than school) in action, as well as experience in talking to families about their child.

I look forward to another amazing year of blogging. I sure hope you are enjoying this as much as I am!

~Peace,
Kari

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Did you know…

….that “sugar could be the entire cause of autism”???

Ok… so now before you hit the roof, please let me explain.

The other day, I had the unfortunate experience of running over something that gave me an awesome flat tire … so there I was sitting at Discount Tires awaiting the fine gentlemen to fix the flat. I sat outside because it happened to be a gorgeous day, pulled out my book for school, and began to study.

As time passed and my back began to cramp from leaning over the book on a very uncomfortable bench, I sat the book down and decided to people watch a bit. There was an elderly gentleman wandering around … likely in the same predicament I was in. I watched him for a bit and then offered him to have a seat next to me on the bench. He happily agreed and we had the obligatory discussion about the weather.

That is when he looked down and noticed my textbook, “Learners on the Autism Spectrum”.

Him: “Autism huh?”

Me: “Yessir, I am getting my masters degree in applied behavioral analysis with an emphasis on autism.”

Him: “What do you think about this thing called autism.”

Me: “I find it incredibly fascinating and am excited at the possibilities!” (insert a big DUH here…. why else would I do it?)

Him: “You really should read up on the Gastrointestinal aspects of causes for autism.”

Me: “Oh I have read a lot of stuff on a variety of different ideas about causes and cures for autism.”

Him: “Wonder if the parents of your kids know about sugar and its affect on the GI and autism. They really should check into it…”

At this point I am starting to get frustrated and his words are becoming very similar to every adult on Charlie Brown; wah wah wah wah wah… so I smile and nod, thank him for the lovely conversation, say my goodbyes and get my keys.

Now I KNOW how you parents/caregivers/and other teachers must feel. Don’t people realize that, for the majority of families, everything has most likely been tried? Lordamercy… it is so frustrating. I would love for a cure to be found for autism. I would love for these kids to have some “normalcy” in their lives. Unfortunately, right now, there is NO cure for autism… there are just a bazillion ideas and interventions out there to help these kids lead a more normal life… a life that suits THEIR needs.

I just find it amusing that people that don’t have someone with autism in their lives become automatic “Dr. So-and-So” when they hear that you have someone in your life with autism. One part of the conversation that I left out is that I explained to him that there are many things that work for one child with autism that don’t work for another. A miracle cure for one kid will not work on another. A very sad, but true, aspect of ASD.

All we can do is continue to help these kids until there is a definite cause and cure. And that is my intention… to be there when nobody else can or will… and to not try and cure them… just help.

~Kari

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Spring Break… well sort of..

Monday was the first official day of Spring Break for our kiddo’s.

Friday at school we had 3 out of four of the boys with fever, so it was an even earlier beginning to our very looked forward to break (they are all fine now, but it was pretty ugly on Friday). Nothing like 3 sick grouchy boys. LOL

Yesterday, I started my first day of my first Masters class! Woot woot *insert happy dance here*!!

Now because I am obsessive compulsive, I have already posted on the forum (3 times), found 3 articles for my first paper (due Monday), have started taking notes for another forum post, and have thought about my final research paper. This blog is a way for me to take a break.  And.. as a special surprise.. as I am typing this, my textbook just arrived! That just means more work, but right now… at the beginning of the first course, I am excited and not burnt out. So, I will give it my all and do the absolute best I can.

Interestingly enough, just from the first bit of studying that I have done, I realize that there are SO many different ideas and effective ABA treatments that are being utilized right now in the classroom I work in. These boys are definitely getting cutting edge, super powerful, and life-changing interventions. With, and without realizing it, I am learning so very much through my on the job training. I may not have had a name for the stuff we are using, but I am soaking it all in like a sponge. I have finally found what I want to be when I grow up. It is such an enormous weight off my shoulders and makes my whole body smile!

A lot of people that work with special needs kids say “If I make a difference in one kids life, then I will have done my job and be happy.” .. I won’t settle for just one kid. I NEED to make a difference in multiple lives. I desire to help every kid that I come in contact with. EVERY ONE.

Now it is time to get back to learning… studying… soaking it up.

Gentle hugs!

~Kari

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