Ideation

Ideation

I had dinner with and old and dear friend recently who happens to also be a wonderful Speech Pathologist. She and I were discussing a challenging client that she currently has. Our conversation went many places looking for something to support this boy. School support, parent support, respite, nutrition, sleep, siblings and screens. In amongst all of that, we weaved through motor planning and she said something so profound that I stopped her and had her repeat herself. "Motor planning starts with ideation." Well duh! But I had never thought of it in that way. Ideation, the thought that "hey I want to get that item," leads to telling your arm and hand muscles to go get it.

I circle back to this idea so often in my groups. Particularly in Exploration but definitely when working in Groupness, my focus is on providing opportunities, suggestions, and models, but not directions. I don't want students to follow me wherever I go and do what I do. I am not going to be with them for the rest of the day let alone their lives so what difference can I actually make if all they achieve is being good at being me? Instead, I offer materials and choices within a set boundary and then allow my learners to move within that boundary and discover their own ideas. What do they think is important or useful? What are their ideas for solving the problem? Why would my female, middle-age teacher idea be any better than theirs?

Especially in early teenagers and beyond, I see too many learners who are passive and prompt dependent. They have had their ideas squelched so many times that they don't even offer one anymore. This includes for their own needs or wants like using the bathroom or eating. Specific behaviors can be necessary (think don't walk in front of a moving car, don't touch the hot stove). But when it comes to using art materials, deciding on a snack, or even washing the dishes, there are a ton of right answers. Why can't people with ASD be supported to have ideation wherever possible?

School's out for summer!

School's Out For Summer!

Great! So now what? The summer can be a double edged sword for families who have a person with special needs. Changes in daily routine and even the weather can have a significant impact on people with sensitive systems. Here are some thoughts on how to approach summer

1) Structure- most people with autism do well within structured systems. This doesn't have to mean that every moment is organized for them but it should probably include rhythms and routines that add to predictability. That predictability will help everyone in the family feel less anxious about how time is spent over the summer. For example, going over the next day's events the night before can be a nice way to preview. This gives you a system for introducing new activities, vacations, or changes for other people in the home (sibling off to camp, grandparents visit)

2) Slow and Steady- summer feels short to us and we want to take advantage of the unique summer activities, but that doesn't have to mean rushing. Taking time to get acclimated to a new setting can make all the difference. This may mean doing a drive by the new camp before the first day or looking at photos on the Internet of the vacation spot you are heading to next week.

3) Pete and Repeat- don't try to reinvent the wheel all the time. Maybe Tuesday night is ice cream night. One week you check out the local shop, the next find one across town, the next you make your own and then repeat. Each ice cream event will have just enough similarity and difference to allow the experience to be meaningful.

4) Enjoy- don't forget that it is okay to enjoy yourself and involve your learner on spectrum. If they have never enjoyed gardening but it is your favorite thing, they can sit on a bench nearby with a radio or book and be exposed to the fact that you love gardening. Everything shouldn't be about their entertaining and enjoyment. The first reason is that outside of family, the rest of the world will not always cater to them in this way so it is important practice. The second reason is that just because you are a parent doesn't mean that you don't deserve to enjoy things too!

Here's to a safe and healthy summer for everyone!

The lesson of self advocacy

The lesson of self advocacy

The lesson of self advocacy: If I don't do it for myself who else will?

There are so many important lessons in life that it is tough to prioritize them all. Although, I have a soft spot in my heart for self advocacy. Whether a student is boisterous and verbal or timid and non-verbal or somewhere in between, they can learn to "speak" up for themselves. I would argue that it is imperative that they learn this skill above all others.

There are many reasons for making this argument. First, compliance and following a guide are excellent abilities, but at the end of the day, a person will definitely always have themselves. They may learn to be compliant but that can lead to bullying or other abuse at its most nefarious or simply passive people at its least nefarious.

Next, as a person matures, what they think about themselves and how they integrate that knowledge changes. It is important for others to value those changes but no one will know for sure if the person doesn't learn to advocate for themselves. Too often, I hear students asking questions as a way to make statements. This simple syntactical error is actually indicative that the student doesn't really know what they think until they here it confirmed back to them by someone else.

Lastly among my reasons, it feels good to the person doing the advocacy. We all want to be heard and when we are, it is a relief. Every week I see at least one student stand a little taller or smile to themselves a bit wider when they realize their idea was heard by me.

The act of self-advocacy is built over much time and practice. It starts in small ways with making choices and taking actions. Above all, it comes from having the time and space to self advocate. And that, is up to us no matter who we support. 708-955-5711

Big Picture

Big Picture

The big picture can be tricky to see sometimes. This is true for anyone but my students on the autism spectrum seem to consistently miss the grander scheme. I know why this happens for them. Their brains are gifted at minutia. Whether it be a piece of sensory information, remembering a long forgotten detail, or wanting to understand every aspect of one slice of the story, I know some students who excel at specifics. Whether it be verbal semantics or physical positioning, a person with ASD often has a clear picture of what is going on. But is their picture the big picture and is that important?

I would argue no and yes. No, their clear picture is not likely to also be the big picture and Yes, the big picture is important. It is through no fault other than their brain wiring that they have a clear picture but not a big picture. I don't fault people with ASD for this but I do challenge them to stretch their thinking. I am often corrected if I misspeak and I will reply with a simple, "I bet you still know what I meant even if I didn't use that word." Or when telling a story, if a student becomes tangential about a detail, I will make a confused face and draw their attention back to the main idea by saying something like, "that is a good detail, but I don't get what it has to do with __?" These are verbal examples but this kind of big picture thinking is practiced with non-verbal or more challenged students too. For example, I always slow down, bend down, and take a student by the hand to describe the big picture as I see it. At the swimming pool as the lesson is about to end, I focus on the incoming students and say, "I see more kids coming. Out turn is over and now it is their turn." Or in the hallway at school, I pause and point to the students walking and say, "I see the kids going to class. We can go to class." I don't expect these simple encounters to flip a switch in the person's head and make the big picture come to light. Instead, I think of each encounter as a small amount of light shining like a fader on a wall switch. Each encounter allows the big picture to come more into focus.

And the big picture is important. First, it is important for safety. One student I know has a large online presence but without a larger context, he has been the victim of hacking and trolling on the Internet. He doesn't understand that there are nefarious people out there and that not everyone is on YouTube for cat videos. But beyond safety, the big picture is what allows humans to be compassionate and forgiving, not just to others but to ourselves. Too often students are stuck in a right or wrong land that doesn't actually mean anything. The big picture give those rights and wrongs a reason for being. And what could be more important than that?

The Generation Gap

The Generation Gap

Several times this week, I have felt old.  I am not old, merely middle-aged, but I am old compared to my tween and teen students and their world is very different from mine at that age.  This can be a tricky thing for parents and teachers to balance and remember.  I know for me, the focus on screened entertainment and communication for that generation borders on overwhelming.  I obviously blog, tweet, Link, Face, and Insta but I view each of these as a necessity to stay relevant in my field rather than using it as a relationship point.  I don’t mean to offend those that are on social media, but rather state the preference that I enjoy connecting in real life.  Whether going on a hike, having someone over for dinner, or just plain picking up the phone and calling….and I mean just talking, not actually seeing the person on video.  Maybe that makes me old fashioned.

 At the same time, I recognize that this is in no way the experience of people under 20.  There are better sources than me for the argument for or against gaming and social media and the long term impact of both.  A quick google search can find you years of research by institutions of higher education and medical professionals.  My concern, of course, is for the students that have a different mode of communication and interaction before they even get in front of the screen.  I vacillate almost daily on whether screens are good or bad.  In the end, like most things, they are likely a grey mix in the middle.  I have seen students light up when they have an opportunity to share their latest digital conquest.  Quiet students find the language to express themselves while talkative students pipe down and listen to others.  Shy students enjoy being the center of a cluster around the tablet and sensitive students manage their tactile defenses while sitting next to a partner vying for the next set of points.  Aren’t these moments social in nature? Aren’t these interactions relevant practice?  And are these students learning valuable skills that will make them more successful in the world in which we live?

Oh that other side of the coin.  How you always seem to flip up.  I fear for students who spend so many hours each day on screens that their nutrition and sleep are disrupted.  I know the challenge for some parents who can’t engage with their children to teach them daily skills around the house.  My heart feels for those grandparents who have nothing in common with this generation and therefore both parties lose out.  I am troubled by the lack of physical capacity that this generation seems to have because they don’t go out and climb fences and trees and make mud pies.  These messy and unscripted, unscreened moments are what I love about life.  I prefer them actually.  I hope my students can spend at least some time out in the 3D world to find that for themselves.

Ch ch ch changes

Change is a good thing right?  We all know how difficult change can be for a person with autism.  Even the seemingly slightest thing such as eating a different food for breakfast or rearranging furniture to clean the floor can send someone who is sensitive to change into a tailspin. The reality of course is that change is coming whether we want it or not. The weather changes. Schedules change. Families change.

A person with ASD might communicate that change is not for them, but as instructors in their lives, we have an obligation to let them know they can manage changes. This is true for their first instructors (their parents), as well. We all need structure and routine because chaos is unsustainable, but too often people with ASD use structure and routine to control not only themselves but whole households or whole classrooms. When this happens, they act as a puppet master. This empowers not the individuals but rather the routine as the most important aspect of life. It also reinforces the static nature of autistic thinking and makes it bigger than it needs to be. This inadvertently also sends a message to the person who is not being the puppet master that their input is not as important as the puppet master. Haven't we all seen the quiet student or sibling who goes with the flow, stay in the corner while teachers or parents manage the puppet master's response to change? No one intends for this to be a message of you are more important than you but it does.

Those families that I know who have empowered, independent people with ASD in their midst have balanced routine and structure with spontaneity and change. This is true for classes and groups as well. The balance is really key for anyone though. Think of an exercise class you might take. There is probably a routine. Sign in, warm-up, stretch, workout, cool down. Routine is good but if you did the exact same workout each time, your body would never learn and therefore, at some point, not get any stronger. The same is true for our loved ones and students. The familiarity needs a sprinkle of change along the way to help them get stronger.

Black and White Make for Shades of Grey

Black and White Make for Shades of Grey

Black and White Make for Shades of Grey

This is just a sad coincidence with the release of a movie by a similar name, but I realized as I was thinking about this week's post, that I have a habit of discussing a point and then it's counter point later in the same blog. This may seem that I am not in fact making any point at all but I don't think so. What I am trying to do is make the point that one is true AND the other is true...depending. Nothing in life is black or white but rather all those shades of grey.

No where is this more difficult to articulate than in reply to the question "How did it go?" After a group session. There is the easy answer of "we had fun," the incomplete answer that describes behavior, and the totally unhelpful, "good". I know at pick up, a parent often wants to know that there kid is still in one piece after being away from them for two hours. The thing is that as I am facilitating a group of learners, I am evaluating and reevaluating constantly as we proceed. I am asking questions of myself to determine the function of a behavior. I am monitoring my communication as well as holding myself back from doing all the work of communication for the learners. I am thinking of how to expand an activity or interaction in the next moment or in the next week.

In short, I am thinking about all the grey areas in between that really make up most of life. Yes, we appreciate the triumphs and successes. Yes we remember the lows and dark moments. But the majority of life is neither of those things. The majority of life is on the way to a success or out of a low spot. And therefore the majority of time that I spend with learners is the same thing. We are working out of a low spot or we are practicing again, the skill that is needed to get to a high point. This is not good but it is definitely not bad. It is just a shade of grey.

Alphabet Soup part 2

...(continued from Part 1)

There is also an alphabet soup of professional and educational certifications that come at the end of a service providers name.  I am an M.Ed.  I was well prepared in my Masters teaching program for curriculum development, teaching, assessment, differentiation of learning, and class management.  But by looking at my letters, you don't see that I have 22 years of experience supporting people with ASD and their families.  That M. is important but it doesn't stand for the Multitude of presentations that I have encountered from the learner who reads and writes at the 12th grade level but cannot manage his tantrum when the computer freezes to the learner who becomes sensorily overwhelmed by the wind and sun on his skin when he moves outside.  There are no degrees in understanding that a parent is exhausted from 14 years of hearing the same version of a song from their daughter or a certificate in helping parents manage the bowel issues of non-verbal tweens.   

Experience doesn't tell the whole picture either.  It is important that I learned child development and principals of behavior analysis.  I would be incredibly ineffective if I did not access that knowledge to support my families. 

But I encourage families to consider all different types of support people in their treatment teams.  Education and certification are fantastic gauges but those alphabet soup letters are not going to replace the feeling you get when a professional treats you with respect and caring.   

In addition, I encourage professionals to remember that each parent has a PhD in their kid.  They may have things that they need to do differently for themselves, their child or the rest of the family, but it doesn't mean they should not be respected as a complete expert in their child.  

Alphabet soup has its place among many other pieces of information.  ASD can rob a relationship of the natural rhythms that we have come to expect.  It is important not to rely on alphabet soup but also allow the instincts that we have about families or professionals shine through as well.  When we do that, everyone benefits. 

What letters are in your Alphabet Soup? part 1

What letters are in your Alphabet Soup? part 1

I often think of diagnoses as alphabet soup. A learner is like a spoonful of ASD, ADHD, NVD, DD, or ABC and 123. These diagnoses are critical for understanding pathogenesis and prognosis for a learner. With many diagnoses, medications and dietary interventions can dramatically improve daily life for individuals. It is particularly important to understand any co-occuring neurological disorders such as seizure disorders or metabolic disorders such as mitochondrial disorder as these can have dramatic and lasting health implications.

Of course each of the spoonfuls of alphabet soup can be an example of whatever disorder is identified, or it could just be a set of letters. The letters ASD or ADHD might give you a starting point, but it is so critical to keep the individual that comes before the title "with XYZ" in mind when it comes to treatment and intervention. Good professionals always recognize that the person is more than the sum of their alphabet soup. They are a brother or sister, son or daughter, student, worker, friend, or maybe movie buff, reader, swimmer, chef, or pet lover. There are no acronyms for these descriptions of a person but wouldn't you want to be equally identified by any one of the aspects of you?

It can be easy to focus on "this is what a person with __ does". My hope is that professionals can guide families and teachers to change the sentence to be more like "this is what so and so does". Let's help her to be the best __ she can be. Or, let's support him to be the most independent version of himself that he can be. Alphabet soup might be delicious to eat but to focus on it when it comes to people ends up leaving a sour taste in my mouth and hungering for more meat on the individual bone.

...continue to Alphabet Soup - part 2

My cup runneth over

My cup runneth over

This saying comes from the Bible and refers to a person having an excess of good things happening to them to the point that they can no longer contain them all and their cup overflows. I have always had a strong image associated with this and can really see the flow of events spilling over the side.

But in addition to positive outcomes, I have also always been able to see when my own or another person's cup of misfortune runs over. I am sure you have too. There is a finite amount we can all "take" before it is too much and we just "lose" it. Internet down when you need to check email, ok I'll wait a little bit. No cream for my coffee at home, ok I'll grab a cup on the way to work. The blouse I put on suddenly rips, I can find a sweater instead. The dog helped himself to the lunch I had set out to take with me, there is more in the fridge. The car won't turn over because the dome light was left on....and there we have it. My cup runneth over in the non positive way. I could be resilient about the other four things but their is no room for the fifth one and I scream and have a grown up mini tantrum in the garage. Sigh. Regroup. Solve this problem too.

The challenge for people with ASD can be that they don't have as much experience at solving problems themselves so their cup starts out much smaller. They also don't have the same perspective to see the size of a problem as manageable. Tiny cup meets bucket of a problem and this person can only do so much to hold it together. From the outside, we may think, why are you reacting by hitting me when I tell you that we are not going to speech today after all because Miss Suzie is sick? We could have fun. We could go home and play or read or head to have a coffee date or go for a swim or, or, or, you could even choose. But from the outside, we don't see the cup already teeming with there was a different bus driver today. There was an assembly to honor the Civil Rights movement. The internet was really slow and wouldn't play the song correctly. Joey screamed in class and my shoes have been rubbing the wrong way all day. I HAVE HAD IT! But all we see is the tantrum and let's face it, adults are not always the most well equipped to handle that many changes and not feel overwhelmed eventually.

Of course learning is all about stretching the cup and shrinking the problem. Both are important and both are necessary for everyone to understand they can manage the unpredictability that will come their way. As parents and teachers, we need to support all learners through this but without solving the problems for them. They will not learn to stretch their cup and shrink the problem if we solve it for them. They need to have hands held while cleaning up a mess. They need to have exaggerated gestures while looking for a lost toy. They need to experience hiccups AND experience the resolution so they begin to know in themselves that they can be resilient.

And there will still be times when their cups will overflow. The goal is to help kids know where the mop is to clean up the puddle and take their cup back out in to the world.

You know what they say when you Assume....

You know what they say when you Assume....

You know what they say when you Assume....

It is really difficult to stop yourself from making assumptions. We all do it throughout the day. We assume the car in front of us will go through the green light. We assume the price listed on the product will be the price we are charged. We assume our loved ones will be there for us if we need them to be. These assumptions are beneficial and save time and energy because we don't have to analyze every piece of information as brand new each time we encounter it. I'm an advocate for many assumptions because they free us up to pay attention to other aspects of the environment or a relationship.

However, Assumptions can be a double edged sword for a person with special needs. Others can assume too much and think that a person with ASD understands because they didn't look confused or ask a clarifying question. They can assume that a student remembers common responses and how to execute them in everyday situations. They can assume that a person with special needs will behave in the same way that someone else with the same alphabet soup of diagnosis behaves. A former colleague called it the "look as though" problem. Too often there are students who "look as though" they know what is going on or what to do but really, they are lost.

Of course the other side of the sword is that people can assume that a person with differences cannot understand, participate, or engage. It is so frustrating when I have adults or other children come up to me to ask questions about a student or group that I am with. I see non-special needs people do this to each other all the time and I get frustrated then too. If you want to know something, why wouldn't you start by asking the person you want to know about? Why do you assume that you can't find out except by talking to the group leader? This is an extremely disempowering action. Each time this happens, it adds a drop in the "I can't do it for myself" bucket. It takes the power from the individual and robs them of the chance to learn and adapt for themselves.

Instead, imagine if each time we meet someone new, we have a clean slate of assumptions. Maybe they can speak to us or maybe not but let's ask them first like we would anyone else. Maybe they will get upset or be overwhelmed, but we can't assume that is definitely going to happen.

People with special needs learn invaluable lessons from these interactions. They learn not to assume either. They learn they can't assume that someone else will always manage everything for them or assume that they will always be overwhelmed. Instead, they begin to assume that they will be able to manage what comes their way. They assume they will have strategies for success. They begin to assume that they are competent and empowered human beings and interact with the world accordingly.

Happy Holidays?

Happy Holidays?

Think about how many news articles or radio interviews address the challenges that Americans have with the holidays. How many people do you know that struggle to connect with their families during this time of year? Now how many of those people have a neurological difference that makes regular life difficult? For some, this time of year is gifts! parties! family! friends! For others, it is gifts :( parties :( family :( friends :(

When it comes to "surviving" the holidays, people with special needs are no different from the rest of us. We could all use a little time to ourselves. We could all use a little slower pace. We could all use good, clear communication of expectations.

We can also all benefit from practice. How do we know what to expect from a family dinner? Well, we have done it enough times that we remember not to bring up politics when Uncle George is in the room. This is the same for any learner that has trouble in busy or complicated environments. They probably just need more practice than it seems.

I have a few ideas from my experience.

Rather than expecting that someone "will never eat THAT!" Expect that you could offer it to them and whether they want it or not, they can pass it to the next person.

Instead of "he really hates it when anyone sings" Perhaps the message is, "don't worry, they will only song one song".

Maybe "she doesn't play board games with others" becomes "you can bring us the box and if you want to play with us you can be on my team".

Perhaps bring food, music, or games from home that the learner is already comfortable with can be a bridge between where they are and where the rest of the family is?

Special learners deserve special times too so just because their first reaction is not the same as yours, doesn't mean they can't learn to be a part of the group in their own way.

I think they can be Happy Holidays. We at Engage and Mundopato wish you the very best at this time of year.

Empower

Empower

Quick! Name all the things you need to be able to do to get along with a group of people. I am guessing your list has things like communicate, collaborate, compromise, be flexible, or maybe have fun. Now quick, tell me how did you learn to do these things? Not as quick of an answer I'm guessing. It is really easy to identify what helps a group but much harder to think about helping someone else learn to do that too.

Learners need to take responsibility for themselves so that the group can be successful. As a very basic example, at the end of my group this week, the boys were very squirrelly. Instead of cuing them and reminding them or doing it for them, I simply said "when everyone has their stuff and this space is tidy we can go". Then I stood by the door to remind them that is where we were headed. This way, they each had to solve their individual problem of finding their coats or other items, tidying messes, pushing in chairs, whatever needed to be done. And they had to be the ones to figure this out. I gave them advice if they asked but I didn't tell them exactly what to do. I said things like, "you're almost ready but I still see one problem". It is a very basic illustration of what they all need to learn to do better with other people. They need to learn that they are not going to be told exactly what to do and they also can't just do whatever they want. They have to learn to read the situation to figure out what to do. And almost bigger than learning WHAT to do is helping them see themselves as people who CAN do it. That self knowledge is the key to learners knowing they can take these actions to every other group they encounter. That is the critical empowerment.

Not again

Not again.

 

If you are a teacher or parent, you have heard a child tell the same joke over and over.  The challenge for learners on the ASD spectrum can be that they aren't in the habit of reading the group to see whether their action was successful from the perspective of others. Learners will take action and if it feels right to them, they think of it as success. They do not assess the group as a whole to see if that action worked for others too. This could be as simple as telling a joke or sitting in a chair. The joke may be a little funny the first time, but if a learner is not "reading" the reactions of the group, she doesn't see that her peers are annoyed when she interrupts to tell it the tenth time.  And the chair is a just a chair, but if you didn't notice that someone else was sitting there before you, you are not taking up your end of the responsibility for knowing that they might be upset when they return and you are in the way.  

Mind you, I get that this is kind of the point behind the spectrum of disorders.  A lack of social awareness is one of the hallmarks of ASD. In my experience however, this is not because of a lack of motivation to be aware.  Instead, it is lack of understanding and practice.  Understanding that they can learn to better read the situations and practice at owning their own alternative action.

Too often, people with ASD are given scripts to follow and behavioral plans that dictate what they should do. For any person, a script is fine to guide, but it doesn't create ownership of actions and attitudes.  Instead each person learns to build those individually, based on their own personal experience.  When we shield people with ASD from real interactions by providing too much routine or script, we are also shielding them from the chance to try different actions out for themselves.  When they receive the genuine feedback, they are better equipped to build their own response.  When they build their own response, they are much more likely to use that response in multiple situations.

So maybe instead of secretly wishing they would stop telling the same joke, we should just say, "That was funny once but not really any more."  Give them honest feedback and then the chance to try something else.

Empowering

Empower = to enable or permit

Two boys in an Engage group had been getting along really well and having fun talking and playing together. (Quick side note. The names have been changed but the student stories that I share are my observations of interactions in an Engage group.) So much fun in fact, they had decided to have a play date after only a few hours of knowing one another. The next week, the group dynamic shifted when a new student joined. Changes like this are welcomed by one of the buddies, Jose, as an interesting development and feared by the other buddy, George, as too out of his control. His response to being out of control is to force control through his behavior and communication such as singing loudly to interrupt others and hide in a closet to elicit a known response of "come out of the closet please".

As the Engage instructor, it was important for me to provide both my personal feedback about these actions and also encourage the buddies to be honest about what they think or feel. Since everyone was safe, even if George was in a closet, I simply reiterated that I hoped George would join us at some point. Then I turned to Jose and said, "do you have anything you want to say?" He replied, "whatever, it's weird, but so what if he wants to hide, he can hide." By not requiring any member of the group to behave in a specific way, all are given the chance to try out what works and what doesn't. George came out of the closet on his own after a few minutes and tried some other actions, but all the while he was checking with the group to see what we thought.

When sitting on the couch and fiddling with various objects didn't get our attention either, George chose to join us in the activity but while physically there, he was very loud to the point of distraction. Again, we all gave him feedback in the form of comments such as "when you sing like that, I can't hear The other kids," and "I don't like that could you please stop?" And even "I like that song. You're funny!"

While the last comment gave positive feedback for what most of us thought was an annoying action, it was the truth and it was important. Sometimes the singing would be a good thing but George has to learn to do the work of figuring that relativity out. If I were to require him to take an action that I find important in that moment, he would gain MY understanding of how to approach these situations. He would NOT be empowered to build his OWN sense of how to navigate these relationships and circumstances if I tell him what to do and what to say. It would mean that the next time he encounters a similar challenge, he would look to me to solve the problem instead of knowing that he has his own abilities to call upon. To empower George, I provide him honest and clear feedback as well as the time and space to figure out what works and doesn't.

Because Jose and George had become buddies in previous weeks, George sought out Jose's ideas and changed his action based on that feedback primarily. George was motivated by the relationship to continue actions that were viewed positively by Jose and discontinue negative actions. I had nothing to do with his decision other than provide the platform for the two boys to figure it out between them.

Another Engage moment achieved. Next step, continue to Empower.

Engage is born

So now What?

We had a new baby but what is the next step? The Engage program was not only a new baby to us, but a new baby in the world. As long-time teachers and consultants in Special Ed, specifically Autism, we knew there was nothing quite like this out there. There are excellent programs for all different parts of a person with Autism's life (RDI for parents, Social Thinking for speech, ABA for behavioral concerns, TEACCH for independent work, or a host of medical interventions for physical issues) but notice that we don't have a lot of group activities represented in this list. Humans function in groups but if you have an Autism Spectrum Disorder, where among other things your mind has trouble generalizing knowledge across scenarios, you are taught 1:1 most of the time and then dropped into groups with a pat on the back and a "good luck". This is just unfair! Engage says we can do better as instructors. We can do small things differently and have a big impact. We can stop prompting and start trusting that people with ASD will figure out a way. We can stop telling the Autism that it needs support and attention and start telling the PERSON that they are smart and capable. But how do we get it out there?

Mundopato Inc. was our new baby's first advocate. Ricardo and his brilliant team recognized the uniqueness of Engage and gave us the platform to share it with el mundo. Partnering with Mundopato gives Engage a worldwide platform. We know that there are other Mrs. Banks out there holding up the pictures each time a cannon blows. They are amazing instructors and have incredible staff to help but it is a tiring and thankless way to teach. It is also not a long term solution for people with ASD. Prompting behavior, scripting language, and orchestrating relationships does not teach the learner that they are a person who can BE in the world. Like most parents, we love talking about our baby. We think Engage is the smartest, most in tune, and most affordable way to help special education learners.

*When I refer to "we" I am referring to the co-creator of Engage, Karen Harrison. Karen will be a guest blogger along the way.

Engage is Born

Engage is Born

One on one teaching is not realistic for most human beings in the world. It is definitely not the model in most schools or families. There are very few job situations that are in isolation, as well. read more...