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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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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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Very Special Special Olympics 2012

Tuesday, May 1st was our Special Olympics track and field events. All I can say is WOW… and that doesn’t even do it justice. There were over 250 children that participated and over 1500 fans, volunteers, and staff. And, believe it or not, I only got emotional ONCE! The rest of the time I was too busy with the kids to really let the enormity of this event sink in. But believe me… it was powerful.

My boys had a blast! They all did really really good in their events and seemed to have a good time despite the crowd and the noises. Kids with Autism probably have the most difficult time at the Special Olympics because of the sensory issues, but these boys held up like the champions they are!

Robin (my partner) came and took loads of pictures, but as you know, for anonymity sake, I can’t/won’t post pics of the boys… but I do have a few of the event in general to share!

The torch being carried in…

One of our local schools’ welding program made this amazing cauldron

for the event and a local painting place powder coated it for us!

The beginning of the parade of Athletes.

One of the biggest crowds to date!

There was one of these signs posted in most of the schools.

Kids that vow to stop using the word “Retarded” all got to sign it!

Some of the athletes!

One of our boys took 1st!!

I, personally, was having a blast!

Thanks for popping in to have a look see!

~Kari

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Updates and the Special Olympics!

Howdy folks. Been a while since I have been able to post. My Masters program has been pretty busy… just finished my first class on Friday! I am so stoked. Once you have the first one under your belt you feel so much better! I also lost a very dear friend to cancer and that has kind of kicked my butt.

So… with all that being said, I have quite a few updates. Grab some coffee and enjoy!

I have decided to use initials when I am talking about the boys so that way I can refer to them individually, but not name them specifically. Just easier that way… for me. LOL

So, my non-verbal guy, “J”, has been quite amazing over the last few weeks. To make a long story very short… HE SPOKE!!!
“J” has always made noises… happy noises, funny noises, jumbled words, angry noises, and a few interspersed words that were never in context. But for some reason, one day a couple of weeks ago, he had led one of the people in the classroom over to the freezer where there were Otter Pops (Popsicles) hidden inside. His iPad wasn’t around, so she said OTTER POP… and “J” repeated her!!! Now, along with the iPad, our guy can verbally let us know what he wants. This is with prompting and a lot of reward. You should see this kid. He is super happy and not as pinchy. I guess I would be in a better mood too if I was finally able to communicate!!

“N”, our quiet and happy go lucky guy has been doing fantastic! He is one that is in to routine and if that routine is broken, he will tantrum, but lately, we have been working on switching things up (within reason), and he has dealt with it superbly! He also doesn’t like to go places that are unfamiliar… but with a lot of work, he is taking our outings with stride and has come a long way. He seems to be happy when we are out and I think it is because he feels secure. His academics are soaring. Hell… even today he shocked the crap out of me. Normally when he washes his hands, he doesn’t get all the soap off, so we help him hold his hands under the water and count to 10. He counts so good! Well, today, he didn’t get rinsed, so I took him to the sink and helped hold his hands under the water and told him to count to 10… the little booger says “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1”! I didn’t even know he could count backwards!

“E” is our little artist. He can read and write and does pretty well academically. He can watch a video and then draw the graphics from that video. This is usually the end credits because he likes letters and numbers. They are all done in bubble letters. His memory of the details is fantastic! He is a great kid with a lot of potential. Love working with this kid!

“D”, our talker, and by talker I mean ALL DAY… lol… he loves to know “why”. He has made huge strides in his communication of how he his feeling. He is big on personal space and we have come a long way of being able to get closer to him to be able to work with him. He is getting really good at using his words to get us to back up if we are too close or if he needs a break.

Since September 2011 when I started there, these boys have come so far and they seem to enjoy being at school and working with us. They have all made such great strides! I am so blessed to be able to see such a change. It is pretty fantastic.

Tomorrow (May 1st) is our Special Olympics. I am so excited… it feels like Christmas! I am a big ol’ emotional baby when it comes to stuff like this. I will have my camera and will be taking loads of pictures of all the Olympians. I am hoping to post some pics (generalized un-labeled pictures) for you all to see.

We got the boys all ready and prepped today for what is going to happen. They seem pretty excited. We will see how it goes. I just can’t wait to see them feel good about their accomplishments.

I am kind of sad and happy all at the same time that the school year is coming to an end. I don’t know quite what to do with myself while I am off work… I am sure there will be plenty of honey-do’s!! I will still be blogging… just more generalized educational stuff.

Did I mention I have a 4 day weekend coming up… woot!!

Thanks for popping in!

Kari

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A Beautiful Hike!

This morning started out fantastic! We got to go play mini-golf!!! The boys were great!

Even my really nervous kid had what seemed to be a great time. He figured out that not only could he hit the golf ball with his club, but he could use his feet too! It was hysterical! My favorite was when he couldn’t get the ball in the hole with his club or with his feet, he reached down… picked it up… and dropped it in the cup. I laughed and gave him a high five and got a gorgeous smile!! It was like he absolutely knew what he was doing.

I think it was the fasted game of mini-golf in history and all the boys were pretty excited at the whole adventure.

What came next was my favorite part of the day. Please pardon the resolution on these pictures (as an amateur photographer I am quite embarrassed…lol), but they were taken with my cell phone as I didn’t want to lug my camera with us today.

We went for a long and absolutely stunning hike. The photo’s don’t do it justice AT ALL, but we were way up above the city. For the trained eye, you can see a teeny tiny Mt. Garfield on the top left of the screen and at the top middle/left is the Grand Mesa. You can also see the smoke in the background as it is burning season.

I was in a small slice of heaven and the weather was absolutely perfect. We even tied our jackets around our waists!

Tomorrow we get to go to the movie and I hope we have as much fun as we did today. I am sure that we will… nothing like a bucket of popcorn, 4 amazing boys, and a great movie on the big screen!!

One more pic to leave you with…

Have a fantastic night!!

~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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