Upcoming New York Family Workshop & Support Group Events

Parent to Parent New York, Inc. will be hosting a free workshop and several family support groups throughout March that you won’t want to miss! Their free workshop “Special Education Mediation: A Collaborative Option for Resolving Disputes” aims to help parents and school districts become more effective partners, offering attendees an opportunity to look at conflict differently, learn about resources that enable people to communicate more effectively, and meet with representatives from organizations to assist parents and schools with communication issues.

Special Education Mediation: A Collaborative Option for Resolving Disputes
10:00am–12:00pm EST
Thursday, March 19th, 2015
Institute for Basic Research
Parent to Parent NY, Inc.
1050 Forest Hill Road
Staten Island, NY 10314

Those who wish to attend should RSVP by calling (718) 494-4872 or emailing SIPTP@aol.com.

They will also be hosting several support groups throughout the rest of the month. The Aspergers, Mothers, and Sibling Support Groups will also be held at the Institute for Basic Research. The Fathers Support Group will be held at the Page Plaza Diner in Tottenville, Staten Island. Please find the times and dates below for each support group:

Aspergers Support Group
10:00am–12:00pm EST
Wed, March 4th & March 18th, 2015

Mothers Support Group
10:00am–12:00pm EST
Wed, March 11th & March 25th, 2015

Fathers Support Group
6:30pm–9:00pm EST
Wed, March 11th, 2015

Siblings Support Group
6:30pm–8:00pm EST
Fri, March 6th & March 20th, 2015
RSVP is required, by calling (718) 494-4872.

For more information about these parent support groups, please call (718) 494-4872 or send an email to Parent to Parent New York at SIPTP@aol.com.

NEW Product Spotlight: Independence Day GPS-Enabled Clothing for Kids with Autism

This week, we’re thrilled to introduce you to a one-of-kind clothing line developed by autism mom Lauren Thierry. These unique shirts improve the quality of life, self-esteem, safety, and independent dressing skills of children and teens with special needs. Inspired by preppy American fashion brands, these stylish shirts come with a discrete GPS tracker embedded in the seam enabling you to locate your child at any time. Each pullover features stretch Lycra panels instead of buttons, zippers or laces, and no scratchy tags at the waist and neck, optimizing the shirt for comfort. Best of all, each shirt is double-faced so it can be worn backwards or inside-out and still be on the “right way”!

This week, we’re offering two of Independence Day’s stylish shirts at a 15% discount. We think these shirts offer quite a bit, helping individuals dress themselves appropriately while providing the comfort of knowing that you can locate your child if they should ever wander.

We’re also excited to introduce you to Independence Day founder and autism mom, Lauren Thierry. She’s written an excellent article just for us on her experiences with her son, Liam and how she came up with this ingenious idea. We hope you enjoy!

As Most Autism Moms Know, Revolutions are Relative
by Lauren Thierry

I have just been feted at lovely party in a lovely suburban hotel, where the emcee called my clothing line, Independence Day, “Revolutionary!”

As a former media person, I’m used to hyperbole. I know they have to have a hook, an angle. But I admit this made me blush and, well, made the journalist in me pine for “accuracy.” What I did was not revolutionary. It was simply something that had to be done. Like the moms in the 1960’s who safety pinned mittens to their kids coats before there were mitten clips. The moms did it because those “kittens” might lose their “mittens.” Revolutionary? No, just “mom sense.”
So when I figured out a way to “fashionably” GPS-dress Liam, my son with autism, it was pretty much “the mitten thing.” To the tenth power. No longer are moms talking about frozen fingers. They are talking about saving lives. Finding the one who wanders.

I took a mainstream rugby shirt and tweaked it just a bit, so that my son with autism could wear it easily, and softly folded a GPS into the fabric. That wasn’t a revolution. It was however, the start of a 14-piece clothing collection for those with disabilities. And it did start a “thought revolution.” That maybe those with cognitive impairments, or physical handicaps, could – and should – get dressed independently and look just like everyone else. And be safe and accounted for. So I cringe when I’m called a “designer.” I’m not even a fashionista.

ID Clothing Comparison

So why would someone like me start a “trendy/preppy” clothing line? Why would I carve out a niche in the preppy apparel space already dominated by Gap, JCrew, Abercrombie, Lacoste, Lilly, and Ralph?

Because that’s the stuff I wear, my typical 12-year-old twins wear. But my son with autism – and some 12 million other tweens/teens/young adults – cannot wear. Because tags, buttons, zippers – even collars – make those rugby shirts, cargo pants, and pretty pastel dresses impractical, uncomfortable, inaccessible and sensory-averse to those in that disabilities demographic.

ID Clothing Lauren MomBecause I’m an autism mom. That makes me a warrior mom. An activist mom. Someone who sees a lot of families, like mine, just trying to get through the day with a kid who can’t dress himself, except in baggy sweats and mono-color T-shirts. Even then, my Liam runs a 50% chance of getting those clothes on backwards. Or inside out. Or some other way that embarrasses his siblings and starts our day off under a cloud.

I’m not re-inventing the preppy apparel wheel here. I’ve just made some ingenious (patent pending) tweaks to these classic clothing lines, so that this population can have the opportunity of looking like any other kid going off to Greenwich High School, and the dignity of putting those clothes on independently – without Mom’s help for 30 minutes every morning.

I’m not just some suburban mom with a half-baked “really cool idea.” I’m a Columbia grad with a 20-year career behind me as a Financial TV news anchor. I’ve worked for small TV stations around the country as well as for Los Angeles and New York outfits from ABC/Disney to Time Warner. I’ve learned how to “think small” and “think big.”

ID Clothing Lauren CNNI quit my job as a CNN Financial news anchor to take care of my son and advocate for autism causes. I shot a documentary, “Autism Every Day,” which premiered at Sundance. Shooting that doc, I spent 24 hours in the homes of 8 “autism families.” I saw that, like my son, these kids learned by “rote” the fundamentals of dressing. But due to simple design obstacles like “fronts and backs,” there was a wide margin for error. That was my first “focus group” on the dressing issue, all down on film.

I shot footage of stressed-out, exhausted parents who’d given up trying to dress their special needs children fashionably, just putting their kids on school buses in pajamas.

I shot footage of siblings of these kids, embarrassed to be seen next to their minimally-dressed brother or sister. Their experiences reflected my own.

I’ve seen where my son Liam and millions of others with special needs are forced to adapt to a world that is simply not adapting to them, in some of the simplest of ways. Like getting dressed.

I’ll leave finding a cure for autism to the scientists. But I can put out a clothing line that’ll get these kids up and into clothes just as beautiful and classic as the major designers…and out the door in 3 minutes. On their own, independently. Mom won’t be here forever, you know.

Getting dressed – on trend, and on time – every morning. Now that’s Independence.


 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lauren Thierry HeadshotLauren Thierry is the founder of Independence Day/ID, a technology and fashion convergence designed to address a myriad of safety and dressing issues for the special needs population. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Thierry was a TV Anchor in local, national and business news for more than a decade before she left her job at CNN Financial News to care for her autistic son, Liam. She became a driving force behind numerous autism education initiatives. Among them, she created the fundraiser known as Autism Awareness Day at Shea – then at Citi Field – for which the New York Mets to devote one game a year to autism education. She brought in strategic partners Hess Oil, Prudential Elliman, Bear Stearns, Royal Bank of Scotland, BNY Mellon, and various hedge funds to the effort.

Thierry produced the documentary, “Autism Every Day,” described as “The shot heard ‘round the world for autism,” when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. Shooting the film, she saw that wandering/elopement were major issues for autism families. She also noted that the simple act of getting dressed for these families was a grueling obstacle course of “fronts and backs,” “insides and outs,” zippers, buttons and tags. That was Thierry’s first “focus group,” all down on film. Independence Day/ID Clothing was started to address those issues.

Independence Day/ID is an American Express Passion Project winner for 2013.

Pick of the Week: NEW! Inferencing Card Sets

Help students improve their inferencing skills with these brand new inferencing cards we’ve just added to our catalog! This week, you can save 15%* on the Inferencing Quick Take Along! Mini Book or the WH Inference Question Cards by applying our promo code INFER15 at check-out!

The pocket-sized Inferencing Quick Take Along! Mini Book is perfect for the busy speech-language pathologist, special educator, teacher, or parent. Help students practice their inferencing skills by responding to 520 prompts in 13 different categories covering: Actions, Categories, Cloze Sentences, Context Clues, Descriptive Clues, Emotions, Locations, Naming Tools & Devices, Occupations & Jobs, Problems & Solutions, Pronoun Antecedents, and Time & Seasons.

This small 5″ x 3″ book is spiral-bound, so you can easily flip pages and keep it open to the page you’re working on. The sturdy, laminated pages are tear-resistant and easy-to-read. Includes an Answer Key.

WH Inference Question Cards is a robust set of five card decks ideal for helping students reach the next stage of Wh-development, once they have mastered the basics. Each deck contains 56 double-sided cards that provide clues and hints to answer various Wh- questions. Side A has a colorful picture and a Wh-question (“Why is Karla waving?”). This picture provides clues that the children must use to infer the correct answer. Side B has a second, related picture and the answer (“She is going on a trip”).

The durable tin comes with 5 decks for Who?, What?, When?, Where?, and Why? Questions, each on a long-lasting metal ring for convenient use and storage. Leave the cards on the color-coded rings as you teach, or easily remove them as needed. Each of the 56 cards in the five decks measures 2½” x 3½”.

Don’t forget – you can take 15% off* either or both of these inferencing card sets by using our promo code INFER15 at check-out this week!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EST on February 24th, 2015. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

Valentine’s Day Craft Ideas for Kids

Valentine’s Day is coming up, so we thought we’d share with you a few craft ideas we came across online to help you add a little lovable learning into your weekend with your child. These crafts and activities are great for practicing skills in fine motor development, matching and sorting, sequencing, identifying emotions, and more!

Valentine’s Day Bingo

These Valentine’s Day-themed Bingo cards, created by Kristy over at Libbie Grove Design, are a great way to get kids excited about learning about numbers. Download and print them out for free on regular A4 paper to get started.

 

Valentine’s Day Same or Different

This packet, designed by speech & language pathologist Jen, contains eight different worksheets that target identifying items that are the same and items that are different.  There are two color worksheets and two black and white worksheets that target identifying items that are the same in a row.

Hearts-Themed Missing Letters and Matching Numbers Activity

Sherine at Trial & Error Mama came up with these adorable hearts-themed activities to practice spelling, counting, and matching with her daughters. For some inspiration, check out the different ways she got crafty on Valentine’s Day with her girls.

Valentine’s Day Feelings Book

Valentine’s Day is the day to show your love to those you care about. This Feelings Book idea by Ruth is a great way to help kids identify and talk about feelings. Download the Feelings Book template for free here!

 

Let us know how you’re getting crafty this Valentine’s Day with your student or child!

 

TDF Presents an Autism-Friendly Performance of “Aladdin”

Mark your calendars! On March 8, 2015, the Autism Theatre Initiative of the Theatre Development Fund will present an autism-friendly performance of the acclaimed musical comedy “Aladdin” at the New Amsterdam Theatre in New York City.  Tickets will go on sale on Monday, February 9th, 2015 at 12:00pm EST.

All tickets for this special performance are being specially priced to ensure that as many individuals, as possible, affected by autism, sensory and communication disorders, or learning disabilities, are able to experience this extraordinary production. This show will be performed in a welcoming, supportive environment for individuals on the spectrum, with sensory and communication disorders, or learning disabilities. Slight adjustments to lighting and sound will be made for the performance. In the downstairs lobby, there will also be a break area staffed by specialists in the field, if audience members need to leave their seats during the show.

For more information about this performance, visit the Theater Development Fund’s website.

Article by Michael John Carley on Huffington Post: Examining the Legitimacy of ‘Autism Life Coaches’

In this article, Michael John Carley, Founder of GRASP – the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership – shares his thoughts on evaluating autism life coaches for individuals on the spectrum. Diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in 2000, Michael John Carley is the Founder and first Executive Director of GRASP, the largest organization comprised of adults on the autism spectrum. Some of the great takeaways we found in Michael’s article are: 1) discern which [coaches] are conveying information that resonates as authority or as new to us; 2) find coaches who are great listeners; 3) examine your coach’s own life and how he/she has made informed choices towards happiness; and 4) be wary of those who do not provide face-to-face contact.

Click to read: Examining the Legitimacy of ‘Autism Life Coaches’

Tip of the Week: Read Books from the Autistic Perspective

If I were to describe my job in one sentence, it would be this: My primary goal is to increase the independence of my students in ways that are meaningful to them and to their families. With that goal in mind, it makes sense that I would seek out input from my students and their families, but also seek out writings by people with autism, Asperger’s, and other developmental delays in order to gain a comprehensive picture of needs, desires, and issues of which I may be unaware.

Sometimes a book or article written by an individual with autism hits the news in a big way. I encourage you to read more than one book, because you’ll quickly find that each individual’s experiences and personalities are quite different. It is not helpful to read the perspective of one person with a developmental disability and apply it to all people with developmental disabilities, but this frequently happens with autism. Here are a few resources you may want to check out:

 

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida – This book was all over the news last year. Set up as a series of questions and responses, Higashida answers all sorts of questions related to autism. His writing is very direct and he shares a lot about the emotions he feels but is unable to convey.

 

 

Any books by Temple Grandin – Temple Grandin is a force in the autism community and has provided a wealth of resources. You can read some of her early work, such as Thinking in Pictures to get a view inside the mind of an individual with autism, but I also have great appreciation for her later work as an advocate for people with autism, such as Different…Not Less.

 

 

Episodes by Blaze Ginsberg – This is one of my all-time favorite books. Ginsberg sets up his life experiences and relationships as if they were different seasons of television shows. He presents his teen years as if you were flipping through the channels, seeing different episodes of his life. He even has songs for each episode!

 

 

Finding Kansas by Aaron Likens – This one is unique because it is written by a man who was diagnosed with Asperger’s in his 20s. Likens is eloquent in his use of metaphor to help clearly define aspects of his behavior.

 

 

www.wrongplanet.comWrong Planet is a community forum for individuals with autism and their families. You will see a wide range of questions and opinions here. It also serves as a forum for individuals with autism to express their feelings about topics such as whether or not they prefer people-first language, how people with autism should be depicted on TV, legislation related to autism, and more.


WRITTEN BY SAM BLANCO, MSED, BCBA

Sam is an ABA provider for students ages 3-12 in NYC. Working in education for ten years with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental delays, Sam has developed strategies for achieving a multitude of academic, behavior, and social goals. Sam is currently pursuing her PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis at Endicott College.

Pick of the Week: Sensory Tubes – Reinforcers filled with endless possibilities of stimuli!

We love these Sensory Tubes here at Different Roads to Learning! This set of 4 clear and sturdy Sensory Tubes is remarkably versatile.
What we love about them is that you can fill each one with assorted visual or auditory stimuli that a particular student finds reinforcing, completely individualizing them. This week, take 15% off* your order of the Sensory Tubes by applying promo code TUBES15 at checkout!

Each tube features dual openings with 2 solid lids along with four vented lids that let children explore their sense of smell or even observe little critters.

The lids easily twist off and on, and the solid lids hold liquid securely inside. The tubes measure 12 inches in height and 2.5 inches in diameter. These Sensory Tubes will make your student’s reinforcement possibilities endless!

Don’t forget to save 15%* this week on your set of Sensory Tubes by applying promo code TUBES15 at checkout!

 

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EST on December 23rd, 2014. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

5 Tips on Teaching Safety Skills to Children with Autism

This week, we’re thrilled to bring you a second guest article by Sarah Kupferschmidt, MA, BCBA. Sarah has written a very comprehensive article on teaching street safety skills in children with autism and other developmental disabilities. Learning to navigate the real world involves many complex skills that we may often take for granted. So how do we teach our children when to cross the street and what to watch out for? Read on for Sarah’s tips on how to teach and reinforce safety skills in children.


I am passionate about empowering children with special needs and their families with skills and knowledge that they can use to improve their quality of life. This is why I am super excited to be sharing tips and strategies that relate to keeping your child with autism safe on the street. Learning to navigate the real world involves a lot of complex skills that we sometimes take for granted. For example, learning to determine when it is safe to cross the street requires the ability to attend to your environment, the ability to identify moving cars from cars that are still, the ability to identify the signal at the cross walk that lets you know it is safe to cross, among many, many, more. In some cases even more advanced problem solving is required because if the sign says it is safe to cross and a motorist continues through the intersection we need to be able to identify the moving car is approaching and that we need to wait for it to pass before crossing the street. So where do we begin?

Tip #1: The Learner is Never Wrong

I love the saying “the learner is never wrong” because of what it implies. Whenever considering teaching a new skill to a child or student we need to focus on that unique child’s strengths and weaknesses. Where do we need to boost up their skills and what do they already know so that we can capitalize on those strengths. Before going out to teach your child with autism how to cross the street safely, they should have some imitation skills, be able to respond to instructions and attend to you or a teacher amidst a lot of distractions (e.g., cars, background noise and pedestrians, just to name a few). Once you have determined they are ready to learn this important skill you would want to use things that are of interest to them and that you know align with their learning style. For example, are they a visual learner and if so, how can you incorporate visuals to maximize their learning potential in how you go out and practice crossing the street safely?

Tip #2: Simplify the Complex Skills

As mentioned earlier in the post, many of the skills that we use actually have many components, something we take for granted. In this case, teaching how to cross the street might involve the following steps:

  1. Stop at the curb/crosswalk
  2. Look at the crosswalk signal
  3. Decide if it is safe to cross (e.g., does it say ‘walk,’ or does it say ‘stop’)
  4. If the sign says walk, then look both ways
  5. Decide if it is safe (e.g., is there a car moving or not)
  6. Walk safely across the street (e.g., this means walking not running, perhaps holding your hand)

It is important to remember that these steps are just an example of what you might teach. You would individualize this based on the environment in which you live (e.g., if there is a crosswalk sign or crossing guard, or not) and the expectations you have as a family (e.g., to hold the hand or not). Teach this using tools that you know are effective with your unique child. For example, you may decide to print out a visual depiction for each of the steps and show them as you talk about it and practice. This depends on your child’s unique learning style. As with every skill that that we teach, it is never enough to just tell someone or show someone how to do it. We need to actually go out and practice.

Tip #3: Practice, Practice, Practice

Use every opportunity that you have to go out and practice this very important skill. I would also recommend that you set up specific times to go out and practice. You can use the visuals that you printed and go through each of the steps while you are out. If you notice that your child is struggling on a particular step, then practice that particular step at home even more. For example, if your child is not identifying the walk signal when you are out on the street, set up times to go over that at home.

Tip #4: Monitor Progress

In order to see how your child is doing on each of the steps it is a good idea to record how they do on each of the steps. You might print off a checklist with each of the steps that looks something like this:

Street Safety Chart

You would calculate the number of times you recorded a Y over the total number of steps (e.g., in this case 6). For example, if I worked on this with my child and he did all of the steps he would get a 6/6. If he missed a step his overall score would be 5/6 or 83%. This score can then be used to monitor progress. I would also suggest that anytime you go out and practice you highlight whichever step(s) that they missed, if any. This will allow you to see if you need to work on something a little bit more before you go out and practice.

Tip #5: Notice the Good Stuff

Feedback is critical when you are teaching a new skill. Otherwise how is your child going to know how they are doing? This means that when they get it right we need to notice it and we need to be specific about what it is they did well. You can even use the visuals if you have them. You might say something like “I love the way you followed all of the steps of what to do when crossing the street safely! You stopped at the curb, looked at the signal…etc.” You may point to the visual as you tell them. If they missed a step remind them that next time they should try to remember what it is that they missed. Anytime they do one of the steps spontaneously, point it out to them and give lots of praise. Over time we can fade the praise out but it is really important when teaching a new skill, especially at the beginning.

If you have any questions about any of the tips listed here feel free to contact me or a local Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). I am passionate about keeping our kids safe! Sign up for my newsletter or follow me on Twitter for regular tips and strategies!

WRITTEN BY SARAH KUPFERSCHMIDT, MA, BCBA

Sarah Kupferschmidt is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) who has worked with hundreds of children with autism and their families across Ontario. She has had the privilege of supervising ABA programs and training clinical staff in those programs.  Currently Sarah offers parent coaching and workshops to teach parents but also educators on the most effective ways to teach children using the principles of ABA.  She is also a part-time faculty member at Mohawk College in the Autism Behavioral Science program, in the social sciences program at McMaster University, and an Adjunct Professor at Sage Graduate School.  Sarah is CEO and co-Founder of Special Appucations, Incwhich is a company that creates educational products that help maximize the learning potential for children with autism because they are designed using the principles of ABA.  Sarah has appeared as a guest on CP24, CHCH news, Hamilton Life and the Scott Thompson radio show as an authority on autism.

Pick of the Week: “Getting Started” by James Partington, PhD, BCBA-D

The latest book from James Partington, PhD, BCBA-D, author of the ABLLS®-R and AFLS, Getting Started: Developing Critical Learning Skills is an accessible guide that teaches parents and educators how to develop critical skills for learning in children who have no, or very limited, language skills. Save 15%* this week only on your copy of Getting Started. Just use our promo code GETSTART at check-out to redeem these savings!

Written in non-technical language, Dr. Partington explains how to teach these children how to ask for items they want, imitate actions and vocalizations, attend to actions with objects, and to initiate social interactions.

Getting Started provides evidence-based Applied Behavior Analysis and Verbal Behavior methodology along with critical information on where to start and the procedure involved in teaching these critical learning skills that form an important basic foundation for a child’s overall development.

Step-by-step instructions allow a parent or teacher to implement training and track the child’s acquisition of these important skills. All of the strategies in this book are linked to the skills in the ABLLS®-R. In addition, it provides the reader with strategies to motivate the child to participate in those learning activities as well as identify appropriate goals. This book is printed in soft cover with 260 pages.

Don’t forget to apply our promo code GETSTART at check-out to take 15% off* your order of Getting Started: Developing Critical Learning Skills for Children on the Autism Spectrum.

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EST on December 9th, 2014. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!