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  • “An Introduction to Exercise and Sport for People Who Have Autism”

    By Susie Appleman | August 11, 2009

    I just heard about this new book that deals with exercising and sports for people with Autism.  It’s written by Amanda Durrant and is available on Amazon as of 09/01/09.  This book contains helpful guidelines for providers which could encourage individuals with Autism who would normally find it very difficult to ineract in a sports setting in a focused way.  The books describes how to improve health, interaction, shoulder control, pelvic control, visual skills, hand or foot to eye coordination as well as symmetrical awareness, etc. 

    Should be a very useful book.  If anyone else gets it, let me know what you think!

    Topics: Living with Autism, Uncategorized | No Comments »

    Language is a classroom skill.

    By Julie Neenan | September 20, 2008

    I was recently in an IEP where we (the family and representatives of the family) suggested an IEP goal that the student would “verbally demonstrate knowledge of learned ideas or concepts each day”. The point was that, assuming that this child was in school to learn, and, assuming he is taught something every day, he should be expected to demonstrate that learning occurred in the classroom. But we were told that “verbal” targets would need to be listed on the IEP as a Speech/Language goal to be monitored by the Speech Language Pathologist (who sees the student weekly).


    Aren’t students expected to talk in class? Aren’t typical students asked questions every day? Don’t we teach them to raise their hands and give an answer? Why shouldn’t an ASD student be expected to do the same?

    I don’t know the answer. I suspect it’s because our school districts are still learning how to teach the growing population of ASD students. They are influenced by an over-generalized perception that ASD students are “visual learners”. And they are still influenced by years of lowered expectations for students on the autism spectrum. But, we are seeing the results of effective teaching strategies for more and more ASD students, who are raising the bar for themselves and others. ASD students can be and often are “verbal learners” as well as “visual learners”. For those ASD students who can use verbal language, their IEP goals should include increasing language in the classroom.

    Topics: ASD in the Classroom Environment | No Comments »

    Attention Please!

    By Julie Neenan | September 20, 2008

    Seriously, attention, please.  Attention is an often overlooked skill on IEPs for children with autism. But, attention is a precursor to ALL other learning, and usually needs to be specifically targeted for development for ASD students.

    How many IEPs specify things like “Johnny will count aloud to 100”, “match number to quantity to 20”, “identify 20 common actions from picture cards”, etc.?

    How many specify that “Johnny will increasingly attend to teacher instructions in a group and from a distance?” or “Johnny will increasingly retain and later demonstrate acquisition of information relayed to a group or from a distance”?

    Usually very few, even though there are essential skills for ANY child to be successful in school. And while the typical child can (usually) pay attention and learn in a large group setting, the ASD child (usually) misses many daily learning opportunities.

    Attention is directly related to motivation. The typical child generally pays attention for one of several reasons:

    Other “reinforcement contingencies” could be related to impressing another student or a favorite teacher (social positive reinforcement).

    But the ASD child often does not have these same motivational drives. He or she is likely not interested in getting a good grade, or in not getting a bad grade. But, given the right reinforcement contingencies, many ASD students can be taught to improve their attending behaviors - and consequently learn more! – in school.

    One student might be motivated by earning pennies each time he is caught with his eyes on the teacher (that can later be traded for computer time). Another might be motivated by earning points for the treasure box each time she raises her hand to answer a question. It is up to the IEP team to strategize and test different approaches until a successful approach is found, but don’t quit until one is found. It could be the difference between learning a little or learning a lot every day!

    Topics: ASD in the Classroom Environment, Autism Therapy | No Comments »

    Funny Moments

    By Susie Appleman | September 8, 2008

    I remember working with a 2nd grader who has ASD and trying to explain to him different “social rules.”  He looked so bored and I was really trying my best to keep him interested.  All of a sudden, he turns, looks me straight in the eyes (one of those rules I was drilling) and says to me really fast, “Why was Tigger looking in the toilet?”  I was so confused and said, “What?!”  Again he says, “Why was Tigger looking in the toilet?”  I said, “Why?”  His answer: “Because he was lookin’ for Pooh.”  I just had to laugh!

    So here’s another one:  This past week, I went to a conference in Denver.  On Thursday, I took the boys to school and then left for the airport.  Saturday morning, 2 days later, Jacob is wrestling with my husband on the bed when he turns to my husband and says, “Hey, where’s Mommy?”  I’m gone for 2 whole days before he realizes I’m gone.  How’s that for love?  Of course, my husband thought this was the funniest thing in the world and had to call me during the conference!

    Read this:  I remember when Jacob was learning to wipe his own bottom.  Usually when he was finished, he would call for me and I would finish up the “dirty job.”  This time he didn’t call, so I walked into the bathroom.  I asked, “Need help?”  Jacob’s response, “Nope, I’ll do it myself.”  I then watched the most incredible thing I have ever witnessed….  He takes 1 square of toilet paper, stuffs it into his bottom, counts on his fingers ’till 5, pulls out the toilet paper, throws it in the bowl, smells his fingers and then tells me that he’s done.  I just stood there with my mouth open.  :O

    Here’s a therapist one…I’m working with this cute, little boy on producing 3-word sentences.  We were pretending to be sleeping using his blanket and pillow.  I’m modeling tons and tons of 3-word utterances and he’s not imitating any of it.  At one point, I had my head on his back while we were on the floor.  Out of no where, he says, “Get off me.”  That was his first 3-word utterance!

    On Wednesday evening, I worked with one of my oldest clients (14 year old girl).  We are working on social things.  We were lookig through a magazine and she said, “That looks like TinkleBell.”  I said, “No sweetie, that’s what you do on the potty.  Are you talking about TINKERBELL?” 

    Here’s another one:

    We’re in Mexico, lying on the beach & Jake says to me, “Mommy, what’s God?”  Well, I needed to think a little about that but I told him “God is everywhere, he’s in your heart, he’s anything you want him to be.”  Jake looked at me, was silent for a bit …..and then he turned to me & said”I think I want God to be a raccoon.”  All I could do was laugh.  S

    I would love to hear some funny stories from other parents!

    Topics: Blog | 1 Comment »

    Get Educated About the Benefits You and Your Child With Special Needs Qualify for in Your State

    By Susie Appleman | August 24, 2008

    I just went to another meeting where not only did the parents not know what to do, but the “experts” did not know either. It’s that old saying, “the blind leading the blind.” It was a meeting within one of my local school districts, where everyone is supposed to be acting in the best interest of the child but weren’t. The district employees are overworked, under paid, and sometimes do not have a clear understanding of the available services themselves. I get that; been there, done that. Remember, I used to be one of the “school experts.” It has been an eye-opening experience being on the other side of the table as the parent, instead of the therapist. Now, I can totally understand parents’ frustration and confusion.

    Here’s my advice … Get Educated!I once heard that parents in Arizona spend more time investigating a new car than their child’s daycare situation. As Special Education Parents, we don’t have that luxury. When you get into a meeting, know what your child’s rights are and what you are looking for from the school district. If the district does not provide you with a copy of the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) ask for one.  Get all written notes as well as a Prior Written Notice at the end of the meeting.  Make sure that you find out who is in the meeting, what supports/accommodations your child is entitled to, and who you can appeal to.  Accommodations cost money.  The district will try to low-ball services if it can.  Their first offer is a starting point for negotiations. Don’t sign anything until you have read every document, and agree with the level of services the district will provide.  Talk to other parents of kids with your child’s disability.  You will find that extra services are provided to parents who are vocal and involved in the process.  Yes, you can hire an advocate but that’s really expensive. Look to the non-profit agencies for advice.  You might learn something without costing you your child’s college fund.

    Topics: Where to Start | No Comments »

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