A Therapuetic Lecture Series

2011-2012 Lecture Series Takes a Therapeutic Path

September 2011 Rudy Simone, author, speaker & Self-Advocate for those on the spectrum presents on Asperger & Employment. Rudy described her life on the spectrum. She explained how scary faces were & explained the anxiety & fears of people on the spectrum. She explained how she might freeze or flee a situation. She urged neuro-typicals to understand more how it might feel to those with Asperger. She explained how going to work has them leaving their comfort zone. Rudy explained the disappointment of the person on the spectrum thinking all they have to do is hard work & they will succeed. Nope, got to make small talk & talk about things of no interest to be accepted. Rudy said people on the spectrum must learn & then practice social scripts & etiquette for working. Rudy said employers should welcome their logical decision making, their honesty & their pride in their work. She listed supports that can help (maps & GPS, planning lists, wardrobe help, asking for instructions in writing instead of verbally). In her book Asperger & Employment there is a great tool for mapping out your best personal job. It is important for the person with Asperger to identify interests, current skills, job skills required, what the plan for getting skills is, triggers that could limit accepting certain positions and the solutions to all challenges they have identified on the Job Map.

The October 2011, Movie Time Social Learning: Using Kid-Friendly Movies to Expand Social Thought was presented by Anna Vagin, Ph.D., Speech & Language Therapist. Anna explained her Social Time Movie program, which uses popular movies as a tool to teach social thinking & to build language skills. Anna shared how she had her clients choose movies they truly liked so as to engage them. Then together they watched them, identifying feelings of characters, intentions, perspectives, facial expressions, gestures & other non-verbal language characteristics. Then she used role playing. Anna also helped us understand how gesture language often comes before language expression & how our kiddos need to develop a gesture system to help lead to verbal expression.

The Power of Play was the November 2011 lecture with Registered Music Therapist Lizz Domash http://www.marinautism.org/macresourcedirectory/listing.php?id=66 & Liz McDonough, licensed MFT http://lizmcdonoughmft.com/ & registered Drama Therapist. Both therapists explained the importance of PLAY. They demonstrated how play activities help build problem solving, spatial awareness, fine motor control, reading, math, social skills, listening skills, language development, visual skills, cooperation & coordination & motoring planning. Each therapist designs drama activities, art activities, movement activities, & music activities in schools & in their private practices to help children develop & grow in the above areas. Music, Art, Movement, Drama area also fun & engaging. Children hardly know they are working on all those developmental levels when involved.

January 2012 lecture showcased the LindaMood-Bell Learning Center’s reading program for ASD. Kat Vaughan, MBA & Center Director presented the lecture “Improving Reading Skills in Students with ASD”. The strategies that truly work with students with Autism are sensory input, visual imagery and language comprehension. Our students need to see the words in their minds. They need to also see the directions given to them in their mind. They need to work on word meanings so they can comprehend what they are reading. Pronouns are challenging and need to be addressed. Coming up with a main idea of what was just read is another activity needed.

The February 2012 lecture “Yoga Therapy for Every Special Child” was with Nancy Williams a Speech & Language Therapist from Arizona who had earned her Adept Instructor of Hatha Yoga certificate. She realized that Yoga & Neuro Developmental Therapy, another certificate she obtain could help special needs kiddos acquire a broad range of skills. In her presentation Nancy focused on how Yoga can improve the quality of life for our kiddos, increase their breathing, & help them self-regulate, socialize, process sensory information, sleep better & communicate. Her book, Yoga Therapy for Every Special Child http://www.amazon.com/Yoga-Therapy-Every-Special-Child/dp/1848190271 is easy to learn from & incorporate in classrooms and therapy sessions.

Diane Hunter www.afterautism.com , mother of a son with autism & life coach kicked off our March 2012 Autism Lecture with “Beyond Words” Diane shared her story of her son Ian & her realization that she was communicating things to Ian that she was unaware. She explained to the families and professionals that it is important to learn how our non-verbal communication sets our students to succeed or fail. She explained the work she is doing with parents and professionals, working with their non-verbal language systems (tone, pace, facial expressions, proximity, touch, eye gaze, inflection, volume and gestures) so they can get the best results & decrease their own stress and anxiety.

The April 2012 Autism Lecture, “Creating Therapeutic Foundations for ASD was presented by three amazing therapists, Christine Egan, MPH/PT licensed physical therapist, Miki room, OTR/L, licensed Occupational Therapist & Margaret Bourne, CCC/SLP, certified speech and language therapist. Their topic was all about an interdisciplinary approach to early intervention. It was apparent to all guests that it is critical for a collaborative team to be working together to resolve the complex challenges of kiddos on spectrum. Core Strengthening needs to be led by a physical therapist & strong body foundation set for learning. Sensory Processing challenges need to be identified by the Occupational Therapist and sensory strategies put in place to support learning at home, in school & the community as well as fine motor & motor planning. Addressing the receptive & expressive language challenges in all children with ASD is critical. Behavioral challenges stem from the inability to express needs, wants, choices, requests, likes, dislikes, confusion & anxiety. Without an effective communication system there will be behaviors that will express those needs. Language comprehension must be addressed so that our children can make sense of communication and what they read as well.

The final lecture of the season, May 2012 was offering the “Ten 10 Behavior Management Tactics for Children with Autism” and was presented by the Founder & Director of Gateway Learning Group, http://www.gatewaylg.com/ . Melissa shared the First/Then strategy, of having the child do a less preferred activity before getting to do a highly preferred activity. She told us providing choices is the next tactic. We might then set up a token system to increase appropriate behaviors & delay immediate gratification. Visual schedules provide understanding & clear expectations. Using praise is key but very specific. She said sometimes using Vicarious Reinforcement (complimenting on another peer) works too. Choral responding helps & teaching rules ahead of time also help manage behaviors.

Karen Kaplan
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