Summer Time, Fun Time!

I have been wanting to write this post for a few weeks, but as per usual, life has kept me crazy busy, so I have had to put it off.
Why the busy schedule you may ask? Well, with only two weeks left of this summer semester, final projects have been due, so of course that has kept my free time occupied… but also its my favorite time of year at work…SUMMER TIME! Summer time means more hours of work and play for the kiddos and it has been in full swing for a few weeks now.

Not only is summer time a chance to get my kids out and have a little extra fun, but it is also a great time to work intensely on some programs to prepare for the upcoming school year, and work on generalizing the skills that have been learned in the home setting to many other areas of the community.

One reason I love summer schedules is because we get to work a lot on morning routines! While it may seem weird to work on them during the summer, as the kids usually don’t have anywhere they need to be, like school, it is a great time to practice using the routines in preparation for the school year.

How do we work on morning routines? The answer is quite simple. Visual schedules! Essentially, each separate part of the child’s morning is broken down into smaller tasks and put on a schedule with a picture. For example, please see the picture below:

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This may seem like an easy visual to follow and complete, and you would be right…it is!

Kiddos on the spectrum work really well with visuals, and this schedule is a nice reminder of what is supposed to be completed in the morning, usually before going to school, but also before starting the day.

The visual schedule allows my kids to complete a big task (getting ready for the day) by breaking it down into smaller tasks which makes it less daunting, but also allows them to complete many small goals at the start of the day. As a person who makes their bed every morning, and feels a sense of pride from completing that small goal every morning, I love to try and instill that same sense of accomplishing small goals, starting right as they wake up, into the kids I work with. When these small goals are accomplished in the morning, it will encourage more small goals to be met throughout the rest of the day!

Anther reason for seeing the joy of summer time schedules is that I have more of an opportunity to take my kiddos into the community to work on skills.  Working on skills in the home with familiar people is a great way to learn a skill initially, but making sure that the child knows how to use that skill with unfamiliar people in an unfamiliar environment is just as important. This concept is known as generalization.

For example, when working on learning how to maintain appropriate boundaries, a child can learn the skill in the home and understand the concept with the technician and family, however, it may be more difficult to understand where appropriate boundaries are with people they have never met in a new setting. So, while a child may know how to ask a sibling to play Barbies, without getting all up in their personal space while playing, it can be difficult to learn how to ask a peer at the pool the same thing as they are a new person in a new place.

Or when working with a kiddo on eating new foods, having them be able to eat Chick-fal-a nuggets in their home may have a very different result then when being asked to eat the nuggets in the actual Chick-fal-a. There are many reasons for this. The home is a comfortable environment where the noises and expectations are something that can be anticipated, but the Chick-fal-a can have new sounds and is generally a new setting which can be overwhelming.

Being able to go to many different environments during the summer time to work on a variety of skills is the best! Seeing a child eat a new food for the first time in their home brings me so much joy, but seeing that they are able to eat the same food, is so much more rewarding, because it means that the concept we have been teaching really has stuck!

These are just a few things that make the summer time a blast! My job is so cool, and I love seeing the growth in my kids in small and big ways! So far, goals have already started to be accomplished this summer and it have been so rewarding. Goals that have been worked on and accomplished so far include, but are not limited to; a child eating ham for the first time, a child learning to greet their peers, a child riding a pony for the first time, a child learning that being told ‘no’ is not the worst thing in the world, and a child learning how to say important information such as their name and address. I cannot wait to see how far my kids come at the end of the summer!!

If any of this sounds fun, maybe you should consider being an RBT and future BCBA (in just 7 months for me, once I pass the exam). You too could be the reason that a child is learning to eat new foods, tie their shoes, or read a book!

 

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A year of Thanksgiving

So, life update: I love my job, my masters degree is going great, and I am good.

It has been quite a bit of time since I last wrote a blog post, but I thought since we are coming up on the holiday season, and my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, I thought I would give it another shot.

I guess you could call this a Thankfulness post?!

There is so much to be thankful for this year and here are just a few things.

  1. This time a year ago, almost exactly, I was contemplating what to do with my life, as graduation from undergrad was only a month away. It was a terrifying time, and I as happy as I was to go through those massive anxiety filled few months, I am glad that I have less stressful life goals to consider now. For those who do not know, I have come to the decision of becoming a Future BCBA, or Board Certified Behavioral Analyst! I am thankful that I have chosen a career path that brings me joy everyday and allows me to make a difference in kiddos lives. (Please see my previous blog for more info on my career field)
  2. The kiddos I work with are AMAZING! Each one of them is spectacular in their own way, and there are unique things about each one of them that make me excited to be the person that helps them reach their goals. I am thankful to see the growth in my kiddos every day, even baby steps.
    1. I love working with big kiddos. I was first introduced to this field by working with older kids, which is why they hold a special place in my heart, and no day is the same. Practicing social skills, playing board games, and working on other daily life skills that can be challenging for children with ASD are just some of the things I do with my big kids. Social skills are one of the funniest programs I work on, in my opinion, because kids come up with some crazy things to say, and everyday I always look forward to what is going to come out of their mouths next. (Ex. Talking to my big kid, and she says, “Ms. Caitlin, when I am 1000 years old, like you, I hope to look as good as you do.” However, the next day, I get told by the same child that I could pass as a 12 year old.)
    2. Not only is my big kid super cool, but I now have the opportunity to work with Littles, and let me tell you, it is some of the most exhausting fun I have ever had. I never realized how much energy littles had until I had the chance to work with them one on one. It is ASTOUNDING how quickly my littles pick up on things that they are taught. They are like sponges, and it is so cool to watch them start to understand concepts or programs that were just introduced in a matter of hours.
  3. My co-workers are pretty rad as well. While I have had jobs in the past, with awesome co-workers, I have never been more excited to go to my job and work with some crazy talented people. I get to work with people who I can look up to and aspire to be like one day, as they have been some great role models. It is a true blessing to work at a company that values its employees and pushes us to be the best version of ourselves. Without the support and friendship of my co-workers, I can almost guarantee that I would not be as good at my job as I currently am. So I am thankful for co-workers who I can call friends and supporters!
  4. My degree is going swell. Just to think, a year ago, I was almost done with undergrad, and now I am three weeks away from being done with my first semester of my Masters degree. That’s insane. As challenging as it has been to take three classes, compared to the recommended two, I am so excited to pursue higher education. In three short semesters, or as I like to think about it, by NEXT DECEMBER, I will have an MA in Applied Behavioral Analysis! WHAT!!? I have learned much in these past few months, and I have tried to soak it all in. Don’t get me wrong, I will be excited when I am officially done with school, but for now, I am happy for the chance to learn and actually go to school, as I know that some people are unable to do so. I am thankful and blessed for the opportunity to grow so I can make the best possible BCBA and prepare myself to be successful in the future.
  5. I am good. Truly and utterly good. And not only that, but I am happy. A few months ago, I had a friend tell me that I was “Thriving” and I honestly didn’t believe her at that time, however, I can see where she is coming from now. Life these past few months has been busy, and chaotic, and stressful, but it has also been fun, and joyful, and exciting. Some days are better then others, of course, but I overall happy with where God has me at the moment. I know there are big things ahead, I can feel them coming, but I am trying my hardest to live in the moment as much as possible. As excited as I am to see where I will be on the upcoming few months, weather it be with work, school, or life in general, I am thrilled to see where I will be in just the next few weeks, days, and hours. I am thankful that I am happy and good and for all the positive things in my life at the moment.

Thanksgiving is upon us this week, and there is so much that I have to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!

Different is powerful, not strange

You know that saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plan?”

Well, when I graduated in December and was in the process of looking for jobs, God must have been rolling on the floor in a fit of giggles because my plan was nowhere near what he was envisioning.

The funny thing is: I never imagined working with special needs children, let alone those on the spectrum. While studying for my undergrad I had the goal of becoming a social worker, but as per usual, God had his own ideas.

He seemed to close all doors to the social work field when I was applying to jobs, but he did open the window to the field of ABA! I am so glad he did, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This month marks 6 months working as a therapist for children with autism, and an RBT!!

Even though it has only been 6 months, I have learned some valuable lessons not only about my kiddos but also about myself and I thought I would share

  • Children on the spectrum are unique and each face their own separate set of challenges every day,
    • It is not possible or plausible to group those on the spectrum together. There are such varying degrees of this disorder and some children possess characteristics that others may not. Each child is different, but you know what, something to remember is that “things that make you different are what make you powerful” and that is what these kids have taught me. Different = powerful, not strange or off-putting.
  • Using “person first” language is important.
    • I have heard about this concept for so long, but didn’t realize just how important this phrase was until I started working in this field. Yes, the children that I work with are autistic, but they are not defined by this word; they are so much more then this! They are intelligent, funny, and creative. “Person first” language allows my kiddos to not be serotyped into certain categories and allows others to see them for everything that they are aside from their disability. I work with children who have autism; this characteristic is just a small part of what makes them special and powerful, and does not define their whole person.
  • The parents of children with special needs are amazing human beings
    • Parents, I work with your children for a small portion of the day, and have developed a new respect for the everyday challenges you face with raising a child with special needs. No matter the severity level of your child’s disability, there are some days where it is just a challenge to get though a few hour block, let alone a whole 24/7, 365 day period. You are superheroes!!!
  • This job is incredible rewarding but does not come without its challenges.
    • There have been days where I have been stretched to my physical, mental, and emotional limit. There are days where I have cried in my car. There are days where I come home feeling unequip to be doing the work that I am doing. BUT, there are days where I have felt joyful and excited when my kiddo reaches a new milestone. There are days where I have felt useful because I realize that I am the one helping make a difference. There are days where I have felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment with all the hard work that not only I but my child is putting in to achieve new goals. AND, and I am only six months in!! What an interesting and emotional six months it has been.
  • God has a plan!!
    • God has a plan for my kiddos! John 9:1-3 is the perfect illustration of this. “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’” There is a reason God has made my kiddos the way he did. There is a purpose and a plan for each and every one of them and their unique gifts. I cannot wait to see how God uses my kiddos in the future.
    • God has a plan for me! There was a reason that God closed certain doors and opened other windows. There is a reason God placed me with the children he did and has equipped me with tools and skills to be their therapist. God knows what he is doing, now I just need to learn to sit back and watch it happen.

 

 

 

I did not realize that I could learn so much in such a short time. Even though I am the therapist, I feel like these kids have taught me more than I could ever teach them.

The next 6 months are for sure going to be just the same roller coaster of emotions but will also be a new chance to learn more and grow in the field that I have come so much to appreciate.