Friday, 30 December 2011

DIY Classroom Projects

1. DIY Concentration-Focus Station for Independent Work:


I was googling different items that I wanted to purchase for my classrooms, when I came across something called a concentration station. Such a brilliant idea; I remember using something similar in school, but it was as a punishment not an antecedent intervention. It got the ball rolling on this...
View of the inside; not painted yet. I think I will paint it one solid colour for minimal distractions.

Side view

View from the back
We got a new computer for Christmas, and it came in a neat little box. It is narrow, but high, and opens like a drawer to reveal a little shelf inside. When I saw how conveniently it folds up, I knew it was perfect for my DIY craft.

2. DIY Crash Mat for in-Class Relaxation, Quiet Reading:
At school we made a huge crash mat, under a lovely OTs recommendation. We took an old duvet cover, and filled it with pieces of square foam which we bought (and cut up) from Walmart. Though it was DIY it was still a bit expensive, but nothing compared to what it would have retailed for at a therapy store :)
In this photo you can see that the crash pad is a bit wet in some spots; because it is a duvet it so super easy to spot-clean. When you need to give the whole thing a solid wash, throw the duvet cover into the washing machine. Please remember to take out to foam!




3. DIY Sensory Cool Down: it is Mobile too!
I have talked about my bean buckets before, but in case this is the first you are hearing of it...here is some more information! After sesnory overload, or sensory meltdowns, some of our kids needs help learning to self regulate. By offering tactile opportunities, without demands, we provide a wonderful way for that child to regroup (which is something many of our kidlets struggles with). Kids plunge hands into bean bucket (usually initiated by he instructor at first, then the child once he or she begins to receive feedback from the tactile opportunities. See image below for example; here is what can go into a bean bucket!

-Dry beans
-Dry lentils of various colours
-Textured beads, multicoloured
-Gluten Free Pasta shells
-A sprinkling of corn flour
HAPPY DIGGING!


The bin is from Wal Mart; a nice heavy duty plastic that can withstand lots of use and transportation...do not forget that this is very mobile! When you are in a shared space like us, mobility becomes top priority for clean-up days!

4. Re-purposed Book Rack
I really love book racks; I think they are a fantastic way to present themed literature to my little ones. I scoped it out online, and the best I could find was somewhere between 45-75$ for what I considered a decent purchase. I knew I could do better than that, so I headed to IKEA. I found a dish rack, the perfect size for paper back children's books; for about 10$ I had my new book rack and boy was it a steal! I still had overflow, so I purchased a few square tuperwares from the dollar store...and my book area was complete. I also found an increadible crash-mat-like item at a discount store, which I picked up for 27$ and VOILA! A DIY book area....for less than the cost of a book rack. I will post pictures as soon as it's set up at school.


Sunday, 25 December 2011

Baking Baking!

Icing, Filling: GFCF Fluff and Jam
The batter is Betty Crocker White Cake; I made 2 batches, 1 with dairy-free chocolate chips, and 1 without. I did not put icing in the chocolate chip ones...overkill I thought :)


Love the baking tray; it was a Christmas gift I was itching to use!

I stuck the icing right into the cupcake; it was an airy batter so I did not need to scoop anything out.
The glossy look is from the fluff; not my cleanest work but GFCF and YUMMY!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Tis the Season Around MM

Kids Craft!
Getting into the Holiday spirit is inevitable with an impending Winter Holiday Concert; on top of rehearsals and learning new holiday songs, here are some ways we set the mood in the class and around school in a way that is sensory friendly!

-(Activity)Gluten Free Ornament Making; a sensory activity that requires kiddos to press down salt-dough, make an imprint with a cookie cutter, and peel away the excess; we added glitter to make our batter extra sensory! Next, you bake the ornaments--don't forget to poke a hole for the string! Microwave the dough on high for 2 minutes, flip it over half way through and be careful, it gets super hot! Kids practice waiting, and maybe eat a holiday treat or two. Equal parts salt and gf flour, add water gradually until you get the right consistency.

-(Theme)Candles: Candles are a universal sign for the holidays, and happen to be an important component of Kwanza, Channukah and Christmas; similarly for Diwali, it is customary to light lamps (just ask Miss Stephanies class, they have learned ALL about it). For our concert we will be singing several songs about Candles, and have decorated our classes with Menorahs affixed with all the necessary candles; we use these to practice counting 1-8. I cannot stress enough that candles are best not lit; they provide tons of colour without being overly stimulating and often evoke conversation and important terminology in our kids.


-(Decoration) Iridescent Winter Streamers: You know those streamers that change colour depending on the way you look at them, we found great ones at the Dollar Store and they are complete with Santa, Penguin and Snowman. We hung them from a re-purposed drying rack turned mobile (we are very thrifty) and hung the mobile from the tiles in the ceiling; the kids love to look up and watch them twirl and spin. Add a slight freeze from a fan and it is even more exciting.

-(Decorations, Activities)Dreidels:  Dreidels are a game traditionally played at Channukah; the simple fine-motor game involve turn-taking, waiting, and most importantly involves at least one period where every child gets to be either ahead or behind (both important skills to practice being gracious about). We have decorated our classrooms with multi-coloured dreidels, also purchased at the dollar store and used to increase reciprocal play (hint: provide a guide so that everyone can remember what each Hebrew letter means for the person who rolls it).

-(Decoration, Theme, Activity) Snowmen: If you walk into the office, a snowman will greet you on your way in; in our classroom, we have snowmen chair covers on select chairs, also purchased for $2 at the dollar store...such a bargain. I find myself calling upon snowmen a lot as a theme during Natural Environment Teaching (NET), I think this is because it seems to be on the minds of my kids...in everything they do. Look Miss Alley (we made a)* snowman! (Out of yoga balls in the gym!) Look Miss Alley, (I made a)** snowman (out of Glorb in the fine motor area); not to mention it also came up in Circle time (weather) and math (shapes). *was not included in original statement :P **was not included in original statement :)

-Bean Bucket On-hand: Kids sometimes feel the stress of the end of the year...can you believe it?
No matter the season, sensory meltdowns happen and when they do, you need to be ready to redirect and deescalate. One way we do this at work is by having a bean-bucket on-hand, to be introduced systematically and carefully, as not to reinforce undesired behaviours.

To be continued...pictures to come.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Zoom Zoom Zoom We're Going to the Moon

Some of you asked about more information about our brand new Drama Club!

Fridays second class was a huge success; with the class in almost-full attendance and with Going into Space as our theme, we practiced social skills in a totally hands-on way. Old friends reunited and the seeds were planted for new friendships to come.

Here are some of the skills we targeted...but shh don't tell the kids.


-Attending (Looking at at the teacher)

-Following instructions in a group
-Motor imitation 1:1, in a group
-Reciprocal Play
-Self-Regulation
-Imagination/Pretending Skill Building
-Social engagement and sustained interaction
-Responding to peers
-Imitation

-Inviting others into play
-Accepting invitations from others

-Basic drama vocab
-Voice modulation
-Interpreting Facial Expressions/Body Language


We hit these marks in ways that were fun, interactive, and child-centered (THAT'S the buzz word around MM).

We had some goals in mind, and a handful of activities in our back pocket to ensure meaningful learning, but we also really let the kids lead the way. Coached by my team, it was incredible to see how these kids came together and formed the beginning of social relationships.

It is so incredible how a piece of costuming or a prop can bring a shy child into the world around him or her; with some good quality modeling (of appropriate behaviour and expectations) I can tell that our kids are going to thrive

See you next Friday!

The Director ;) 

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Eek. Stage Fright.

I started this post this weekend, and am now finishing it as I am home on a sick-day....so, if some thoughts are not fully developed I apologize.

When I first saw "Autism the Musical" I knew somehow it would impact my career; I wasn't sure at that point exactly how, or when, but I knew at some point it would become obvious to me. When I was a kid I lived for my drama programs and I have always known that I wanted to somehow recreate that for other kids. I don't think I would be where I am today if it wasn't for the confidence I developed on stage.

Recently in my career, as many of you know, I have considered the characteristics of Autism as barriers to be overcome, and have been coming up proactive and stress free ways of practicing these skills on a regular basis in my therapy-based school programs. My thoughts are...if you practice overcoming barriers, you obviously get better at it. That is always the goal.

As a centre-based practice that incorporates a lot of arts by our approach, I have seen what the arts can do to bring a child with Autism out of his or her own head and into the active world. After giving it some thought, I realized that drama is used in my programs more than I realized; rehearsal is a natural part of learning for children with Autism, we do it every day (5 to 10 times).

After a recent meeting with our clinical supervisor, and assistant, I found myself drawing ties between what was said about performance anxiety related to speech deficit and the programming I am doing for our new Drama Kids program. Essentially, the main point was that no matter how well-rehearsed a child is (or how rote for that matter), he or she may still suffer from performance anxiety when it comes to actual functional interaction. I think he meant that I should be playful in my programming and avoid rote learning, but also...I think...that I try to break down that barrier and increase the overall occurrence of comfortable language use, and make it reinforcing so its likely to occur again.

As I plan for our new drama kids program, I am struggling a bit to find ways to elicit and practice communication skills within a  group dynamic... without eliciting the dreaded performance anxiety. I know that as the kids get to know each other and us as teachers, it will become easier. Now how do I tell them that? 

One strategy I will use is breaking the group into small fragments (dyads or triads); meeting too many new friends all at once, is overwhelming even for me. Of course, we will meet to warm up and cool down as a group, but most activities will happen with just a handful of kids, so everyone is super involved.  Hopefully, this will help ease the little actors into their new friendships. With so many different learner profiles in the class, it will be interesting to see how the dynamic plays out. I have developed a whole curriculum's worth of materials and am certain that at the very least, we will produce happy and confident learners. Though I know social skills will always be the focus, and will always be incorporated to rules and expectations, there will be limited demands at first, allowing for true self-expression.

Any tips and/or advice is always appreciated.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

ABA/IBI and ABLLS-R Assessments

You know it has been a busy month when you visit your own blog and realize it has been just about a month since your last post. Sigh. I am one of those people! I apologize, life got busy...really busy!
Needless to say, things have been getting hectic at MM and new staff is just the beginning.

We are excited to be taking on IBI clients funded by TPAS and are looking forward to meeting their strict requirements for delivery. Working with a registered psychologist, and under our fabulous BCBA , we are lucky to be learning, growing and programming a lot.

We have also been busy transitioning new kids into MM. With new clients comes more ABLLS assessments, which seem to be taking up a whole lot of my attention lately. ABLLS Assessments are the only part of my ABA world that makes me feel like a drill Sargent; it can be painful. You barely know the child, and you have to get through a whole kit of material.  If I were the child, I would not want to answer me either; I imagine if my kids had the ability, they would say ENOUGH ALREADY or WHY ARE YOU MAKING ME DO ALL THIS STUFF?! But, since the assessment is vital to the program I am constantly trying to find fun, hands on and almost-sneaky ways to test knowledge without putting pressure; might I add that it is so incredibly hard to stop myself from prompting some times. I am so used to most-to-least prompting, which really eliminates the whole frustrated child element; now I remember why we use that philosophy!

It seems like over the past month, I have really made a dive into the world of IBI. I love being able to create such comprehensive programs; the ABLLS-R allows me to ensure development across all domains in a really systematic way. The only time I get to target every single domain, every single day, is when the child is receiving somewhere between 20-40 hours per week (i.e. IBI). It's dreamy to create those programs.

Even though in the past, I was doing TONS of ABA Therapy (1:1, Dyads, Tryads, you name it), it has always been less than 20 hours per week per child  (way less, more in the area of 3-8 hours in general for most of my kids and with much more of a ...dare I say....almost-floor time approach (but all the while having my behavioral principles in my back pocket). Getting busy on the IBI side of things means room for more staff; we are always looking for additional professionals to join our team. There has been tons of inquiry lately, but I do stress that applicants ought to have a minimum of post-graduate training in a related field; if you know a dedicated professional that works with the exceptional population, and has formal training in ABA, Education, Psychology or Disability Studies give us a shout!

These days, I have both ABA and IBI going on in-centre daily; I get to see the results of  traditional IBI (20 or more hours), the results of ABA Therapy and Enriched Group Learning at MM, and the results of ABA Therapy and public school; it certainly is interesting to have first-hand experience analyzing the benefits and risks of each learning situation, for each child. Parents always want to know what path will produce the best outcome, of course it is always relative to the child, but that is not to say that having insight into the types of learners that thrive in various scenarios will not be valuable to us as professionals and you as parents.

On top of all of that, we are already somehow gearing into summer as we seek accreditation from various boards in Ontario and let's not forget Winter Break Camp, which is just around the corner.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

ESL Learners and language delays

I LOVE working in the heart of North York;  we don't have to go too far to experience various regional cultures, it's charming and welcoming.

A social experience is always just down the hall, street, or down the block at the local grocer. Working with clients from diverse backgrounds is an obvious reality for most professionals in the Greater Toronto Area; as Torontonians we are diverse, and proud of it. In addition to being multi-cutural our city is also multi-lingual. I speak English and French, but that's it (and is barely the tip of the ice berg in terms of the languages spoken in T.O.).

When working with early learners with language delays, it is essential to examine the child's language skills relative to the primary language spoken in the family home; too often a child is scored too low because his first language is French and the assessment is conducted in English. A thorough practitioner would account for all of these details, and believe me it can be difficult. There are a tremendous number of variables which impact learning style and rate; before a meaningful program can begin an intensive assessment always occurs. The assessment results are held as the baseline upon which future progress is measure; as a result, it's important that as practitioners, we get it right (not over or under estimated any child's ability). The results of which are delivered to the parents in an individual support plan (ISP), which also must consider that English may not be the parent's first language. SO many variables, but it seems like the least we can do as practitioners.

A child with limited language requires systematic instruction tailored to the unique learner profile. Personally, when working with early learners that speak English as a second language,  I tend to focus mostly on pairing single words with gestures; I try to use the child's name a lot "Timmy come" while gesturing towards me; "Mikey play" while gesturing to the toys. Like always in my teaching, I strive for maximum spontaneous eye-contact and try to meet the child's sensory needs through various activities aimed at keeping the child calm and regulated (play dough, small patterning materials, glorb, shaving cream, corn starch, seeds and rice).

When the learner is more advanced, and assuming he or she still speaks English as a second language, I tend to  break down my sentences to short and clear phrases; I continue to pair gestures with words and use varied visuals to assist in the process of generalization. I like to focus on labeling programs to start, because it gets momentum going. I tend to stress the importance of annunciation (this often leads to phonics review) and depending on the child, may target any combination of social skills, math skills, reading skills, and conversational skills. Receptively language is another go-to goal whether or not the child has language delays. I find that a lot of the students that speak more than one language, while also possessing a language delay (however slight or severe), benefit from several components of ABA therapy including but limited to the domains listed above.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Making the most of teachable moments

Whenever we venture into the community for a field trip, I give special thought to my approach. I end up having lots of time to chat with my staff about encouraging those teachable moments, and also have a chance to interact with both staff and students in a truly hands-on and interactive way. Going into the community provides both teachable moments for my talented teaching professionals, and also my talented early learners; both of which help generalize skills taught in the school environment.

In the past 3 weeks we have attended a Fun Fair, the Ontario Science Center, and the Royal Ontario Museum. Some were more accommodating than others (not impressed that the ROM wanted to charge us to check coats when bag check was free); the Fun Fair even discounted our rate by 50% because our group had extra needs. All the places allowed our 1:1s to attend for free, and we only had to argue with the TTC once about it. All in all, it was a huge success and the community was warm and receptive to each teaching moment.

The Science Center was FULL of teachable moments, the most important of which was to focus on the requirement to communicate (for example to "go this way" or "come see this", "hold my hand"); with 1:1 support, this was more than possible for our kiddies. A lot kids get in the habit of not using their words, but the more motivating the ultimate destination or tangible, the more likelihood of you getting a desired response (i.e. using your words). Because there was SO MUCH to see, we got to practice this skill over and over as we viewed each unique exhibit; we probably practiced the skill over 50 times. How's that for repetition? GO TEAM! :)

During all of our community adventures, we practice an important social skill; we practice "waiting nicely" over and over and over again. Waiting in line, waiting for the bus, waiting for our turn, waiting for an activity to start, waiting for friends to finish, waiting for snack/lunch; during these moments, we practice different ways of engaging ourselves and actively plan for these skills to generalize into the class and community. We often sing waiting songs to remind us what we are doing; we choose one word like "waiting" and sing it over and over to a tune we all know (head and shoulders, London bridge, and so on); I find this activity helps prevent that feeling that some of our kids get when they are unsure of exactly what is happening (I imagine it is something like...."why aren't we moving, whats going on, I want to move...AH!"). Keeping focused on the waiting song also helps keep my little ones from getting lost in the sensory overload that could be impending at any moment when out in the community.

Out in the community there is also the opportunity to practice minding personal space, making eye-contact, receptive listening, quiet voices, calm bodies, walking feet, and using gentle hands to name but a few. Really, the list just goes on and on...there are so many opportunities to teach and generalize skills, you shouldn't have to search that hard to make skill development happen. There's also the obvious need to be reinforcing those spontaneous skills that emerge; anytime a skill happens in a new environment, that's a small victory and should be celebrated as such! Don't be afraid to throw a party, even if you are the Royal Ontario Museum.

On that note, I thought I would go into detail about some of the ways I have embarrassed myself and inspired my kids....all within the community.
1. The impromptu Hokey Pokey at the Fun Fair (some even joined in)
2. The Goodmorning Train sung while riding the TTC
3. The Hokey Pokey AGAIN on the sidewalk
4.Little Fish sung in front of the Aquarium

I may look silly, and I may bother some people, but for my kids this is just one way I support skill development and ensure that meaningful contextual learning occurs. If I sparked just one light bulb...I have done my job.

How do you support learning in the community?
Comments? Questions? I am all ears.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

We are not CURING we are TEACHING!

Everyday Magnificent Minds (Toronto, ON)  students take steps towards success and I become re-inspired by their infinite potential. A child with a generalization-deficit exclaims a phrase that was never explicitly taught; a child makes a genuine learning connection; a new untrained request/utterance is made and... meaningful change has just begun. 
Every day we witness those small steps that make learning possible; we understand how to successfully lay the foundation for learning, at any skill level. Occasionally More often than you'd think, a specific child will surpass his/her goals, and really soar above our expectations. Our kids on the spectrum are in a habit of impressing their teachers; and we're so proud. Raising the bar for our concept of progress and development, my team has created meaningful change in the lives of our kids, and it's directly because of their knowledge, their efforts, and their dedication to principles of Applied Behavioural Analysis. 
Surfing the web I came across this article, linked to the success of social skills interventions for children with Asperger's syndrome; I couldn't help but think nostalgically back to our own  2011 summer program, and consider the impact we had on our young learners. Just like the article reports, our kids are functioning better in a group, individually and exhibiting more verbal behaviour. We knew that our group therapy/learning programs would support generalization, and we have anecdotal/professional and research-based/peer-reviewed proof to support our cause. 
Though our summer intervention only runs between July and August, we remain dedicated to the teaching framework which propels learning and socialization all summer long. 


Our Enriched Group Learning program is rooted in the same basic principles of ABA, play-skill building, and a focus on the coping strategies which enable full participation in the natural environment. The success of the program is rooted in it's ability to propel skill generalization and ensure skill maintenance; this is half the battle for children on the spectrum, making our programs highly effective. Each parent has a unique set of aspirations and goals met, and it's this kind of progress that really inspires and instills hope. Note: We are not CURING children, we are TEACHING coping strategies and generalization skills.


With weekly Friendship Clubs we continue to support the social development of our learners into the fall and winter months; many of our summer camp friends join-us for weekly friendship clubs to continue building on social skills development. Split into two groups based on age (Junior and Senior), our kids develop pre-social skills, or beginner/intermediate social skills needed to thrive within the group dynamic. We teach skills like  conversations, making a phone call, ordering at a restaurant, and asking for more information; we target skills based on comprehensive needs assessments conducted at the beginning of each new academic semester. Our summer program went so well, we couldn't imagine not offering some version of it all year long; it's called Social Skill Sundays at Magnificent Minds, and it's TONS of fun.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

That's it....Time Out!

Why isn’t time out working?

There are several factors that could be contributing to why your time out procedure is ineffective as serving for a deterring consequence (punishment procedure).

To begin with, consider whether you are forgetting to account for the variables controlling the behaviour.  If your child wants to escape a situation and throws a tantrum, sending him or her to his room for time out is not  ideal if the goal is preventing future similar behaviour.  
Young Girl Point The Alarm
Assess whether you are fighting fire with fire so to speak. Put it this way, if you daughter is acting out for more attention, and you suddenly become much more of her (and can you blame yourself, really!?) she becomes wise to it and realizes that more times than not, acting out means more mommy/daddy time (time out isn’t so bad with mom or dad). Something they never taught you in parenting class is that an inconsistent pattern of responding will strengthen behaviour 9 times out of 10. Eek. That’s a lot of pressure; what it means is that you need to be consistent....realistic, and consistent. One major rule in my day to day routine is only make rules you are willing to enforce on a daily basis. Pick your battles, and know you can't win them all.

The reason I don’t love the idea of time out, is because it doesn’t teach the child what he or she is expected to do; there is a bit of a failure to address what kind of replacement or alternate behaviour the child can engage that serves the same function, whether the child wants attention, escape, or avoid or to get a specific item. 

I like the idea of a time to stop and think about your actions, but at least with my clients time out is a bit too abstract to be functional. I prefer to use behaviours as teachable moments for increasing coping skills; sensory breaks are must, but are conditional on good behaviour rather than questionable conduct. Of course, every situation is different.  

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Social Skill and Making Memories

A bubble machine does wonders for getting a group of kids to focus on the same stimuli, for an extended period of time, in a small physical area. It hits ALL the bases.

Kids that would otherwise find a quiet space away from others to work or play are suddenly heading straight for the fuzzy red carper and participating in sustained joint-attention with their peers. One child says "pretend they are mosquitoes" an instructor follows along and says "catch a mosquito" and shows the other students how...she then instructs each child by name to catch a mosquito "Billy, catch a mosquito like this!" "Alley, catch a mosquito like this!"

In a new group, some kids just won't respond unless addressed  by name. Whatever it takes, right?! And eventually I will shape it and fade it, but for now...it's baby steps. Especially since it's only day 2.
All of the kids were engaged, and performing the same repetitive pretend skill, together. Some were even exclaiming "GOTCHA" to the bubbles/mosquitoes. Ah, success.

I started singing a song about mosquitoes and immediately a child covered his ears in horror. Eek, I should have known. I didn't realize my vocal skills were that bad, but hey I heard him loud and clear. I put on some phonics related songs instead.

Eventually, the bubbles ran out and everyone was feeling happy and satisfied. next we moved into the gym to use our sensory motor toys; I have to say, toys that are designed for two people (see-saw specifically) is ideal for eliciting social skills in a natural way. You literally have to ask someone to play in order for it to be fun. I love that! After some fun in the gym, we washed our hands and headed to class for a much needed drink, and snack.

Snack was yummy as always. We worked on answering what questions; what are you eating? What is Alley eating? What is Billy eating? What did you have for breakfast? We worked on labeling various items and saying them in a sentence "I have a ________" "I am going to have _________" and of course "Can you open this please?!" After snack it was time for musical-circle.

Props made my beach themed musical-circle a of fun. Giving each child a prop or costume item helped remind us that we were learning about the beach! It also helped us practice waiting, and using those important words (let's be honest, some of our kids are working on the ps and qs, but others are working hard to master simple manding and tacting first). Whatever the important words are, our kids were using them.

Adding maracas to the mix gave it the island feel it was missing. We shook our instruments to the beat and practiced following instructions in a group. This was easier for some of our friends than for others. By the time wheels on the bus came around I was feeling like pushing the envelope a bit. They were echoing back to be beautifully for each song, and I really want to see if they could mimic not only the words but the pace. I started going really fast, and sure enough the group did the same; ok not every single person, but it was definitely a success.

A lot of the time I find that the failure to acquire skills is the result of a tendency to avoid and escape demands; compliance, though the word itself seems almost animalistic (not a word according the blogger), is a really important part of learning. Especially when the goal is speech acquisition; without basic willingness to comply, there is a limit to your child's overall success. Once you have a child that is willing to engage and interact freely with you, without any (or at least not any indulged) escape and avoid behaviours, they become much more willing participants in the exchange. Not to mention it becomes much more comfortable and less stressful.

I agree though, it can be hard to get a child to relinquish control, especially when they have language delays and use behaviours as the primary means of communication.

As always pictures from freedigitalsphotos.net

Saturday, 3 September 2011

The MM Perspective

Looking for something, but don’t know what?

Often times, parents are looking for maximum engagement as a way of increasing overall independence and quality of life for their kids. The reason you have yet to find the “right” additional programming for your child, is because it has not been created yet...wait a minute, what do I mean!?

Perfect programming comes from individualization, parent and professional communication and so many other variables that are relevant based on your unique situation. The perfect additional program is waiting for you, but it will take some meaningful communication first!

We provide holistic programs, meaning we target development of the whole child.

We are guided by principles of ABA in everything we do, meaning that our standard is high and we implement only evidence-based techniques.

In consult with other multi disciplinary professionals including SLPs, OTs, BCBAs and educational professionals, we support development across all domains including (but not limited to) life and leisure skills. Life and leisure skills contribute to your child’s overall quality of life and often need to be targeted systematically for maximum gains.

It’s September, and it’s time to start thinking about additional ways to keep your child engaged. After-school, weekends, or during the day there is always something going on at Magnificent Minds. Offering group and 1:1 learning, we are able to meet your needs. To set up a tour of our space, call us today!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

FREEDOM FOR AYN: FREEDOM FOR AYN

FREEDOM FOR AYN: FREEDOM FOR AYN: This blog is dedicated to Ayn Van Dyk and her father Derek Hoare who have not spoken to nor seen each other for 77 days since she was abduc...

Hop over if you have a second.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Social Skill Building the MM Way

Social skills classes are great in theory, but in practice I have seen some that are... less than stellar. 


According to my research, which comes from a number of peer reviewed sources including but not limited to several text books from my post graduate degree, articles written in academic journals, and too many years of teacher preachers to cite; the main reason social skills groups fail is because of a failure to plan for social skill generalization.


It almost seems obvious doesn't it? Autism is itself associated with an often times great aptitude for skill acquisition, but with a deficit in the ability to transfer that skill to novel environments. Kids with ASD are often incredibly bright, but struggle to conceptualize the use of skills in environments in which they have not been explicitly taught. Many people never even think about how naturally skill generalization happens for typically developing children; it is something I certainly took for granted. 


Knowing what I know...How do I actively plan for generalization in MM social skills program?


Where do I begin?! By scheduling the group to float between classrooms (sensory, sensory motor, class, office) outdoor locations (playground, park), and by constantly changing the teaching materials (stimulus) and the structure of our physical  teaching environment. We are constantly exposing our students to novel environments as an active pursuit of generalization.


Having our students work with several instructors and educational assistants allows us to ensure that skills generalize across people; as a class, we interact with each other and become comfortable in a controlled social dynamic! The more positive interactions with people we have on a daily basis, and therein practice the elementary social skills (relative eye contact, pitch, greetings, answering basic questions, etc.), the more we are able to call upon these skills at another time; eventually, they join our repertoire. The more we practice, the more fluent we become.


Most of our kids thrive in a 1:1 setting, but working in a group we automatically tackle the other major concern when it comes to generalization; that is, will the skill taught in 1:1 generalize into group environment? Usually, it does take time but when instructors are skilled at eliciting these skill sets, students are able to stay on-task and motivated. The ALLSR includes this skill as a target, which at least to me, says it's worth considering.


When planning for maximum engagement there are themes....and there are themes.


Themes are a great way to keep social skills classes focused and age-appropriate. When working with themes it is important to do your research, not every idea on the internet works out and it is best to test it out before hand. I also like to have a few "in case of flop" ideas hanging around to; sometimes, you just can't plan for a lack of interest or a failure to launch. Some ideas just don't work, and it's best to let it go and move on. 


When planning themes, and all the while planning for generalization, I try to make themes functional, but also subjects of interest; anytime I can toss some life-skills into the mix, I do that too. I recommend you take your themes to the "next level"; include vocabulary, theme based games and of course arts and crafts should reflect a clear theme (from fish to french fries, topics and themes come in all shapes and sizes).


I always try to simulate real life scenarios; in a french fry unit I might host a mock restaurant, or in a shapes unit we might try cooking with only things that are round. This year I plan to simulate a buffet; a particular area of concern for some of my little ones.  Keeping it hands on, theme based, and outside the box helps our kids stay engages with the activity and with each other.


As always, thank you to freedigitalphotos.net

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Increasing Play the Professional Way

DISCLAIMER: This blog post ended up full of jargon; I didn't mean to, but it just happened. If you make it through to the end, there is a great anecdote in it for you :)

As I sit at my desk, waiting for my printer to cooperate, I have some time to think about what exactly I am trying to achieve in what I call the "revamp" of the office play space. When I work with kids in my ABA office, I think it's really important to systematically target those play skills, in a way that is natural and child-centered. One of the ways I have decided to foster this, is by creating a Structured Play Area. Discrete trials are an incredibly important part of my ABA programs, but they do not take the place of child-centered play skill building. The at the table learning is only one of many components of a successful ABA program.

As I was saying, the first thing I do to ensure that it is child-centered, is provide tons and tons of choice. I do this by providing choice boards, but more so, by teaching my kids how to  make choices, how to engage with options and how to plan their play. Using a dry erase marker and a laminated schedule, we check off one box after each activity is complete and tidy; in this way, my kids are able to anticipate the beginning, middle and end of their play.

I always plan for momentum. I structure my activities as such: a highly preferred activity, then a a less preferred activity, then a highly preferred one, and then a less preferred one. This helps with momentum, but also helps with engagement. At the start of a play intervention, guided play is the only way! Lots of modeling and imitation with objects leads into following plat activity schedules; first simple 2 step schedules, and eventually more complex 3-step schedules.

My main goal in working with kids on the autism spectrum (and other language deficits), is to increase the appropriate and functional language that stems from appropriate play. This kind of language is easily generalizable into the home, since most often kids do the most playing at their homes. Play is one of the primary ways children expand functional language, and it gives your child a way to interact with various toys and objects, through the use of speech. The more speech we use, the more fluent we become in it.

Like all of our teaching, we use most to least prompting to motivate performance and increase the likelihood of reinforcement; we use transfer trials in a skillful and systematic way to ensure skill acquisition and prevent prompt-dependency. Fading prompts like we would in a discrete trial, or in a language or math lesson, we go backwards down the prompting hierarchy (starting with full physical prompting and ending at independence). I have been doing all kinds of research about evidence based methods for increasing play skills, I will post a few great links that I feel all educators should have on hand; parents, if you want me to decode the jargon for you I would be delighted, just send me an email.

As promised, your reinforcement: Today we took our kiddies to the grocery store, it was the field trip of all field trips! We chose our own snacks and then shared our choices with our friends. As we were walking into the store an elderly gentlemen extended his arm to choose his shopping cart; well one of my little monkeys thought this was a personal invitation and proceeded to hold the elderly gentleman's hand in delight. "Oh my!" exclaimed the gentleman, "isn't he friendly!". We laughed, and promptly made a note to write a social story about touching strangers. Eek. At least it was a nice old guy; if you are out there in cyberspace somewhere, thank you for accepting my monkeys the way they are, and having a sense of humour!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Pretty in Purple

And the verdict is...................................we LOVE the new purple walls and so do our campers!


We have had a very busy summer of moving into our new space, getting set up, getting set back by some flooding, and finishing with a fresh coat of purple paint on the walls. Yes, you heard it here first, MM has gone purple. In addition to setting-up the center for September classes, we are gearing into the first year of Social Skills Sundays and we could not be more excited. We are looking for peer volunteers to take part in the Sunday fun (free of charge) and support the development of play and social skills in our little (and not so little) ones. There are still a few spots open for Social Skill Sundays, so I encourage you to tell your friends; the more the merrier. It costs 17 per hour, we are able to accept most funding for recreational services, 1:1 support, and ABA based therapy programs.

We are also very excited to be offering parents the opportunity to observe a social skills class, to take part in our lessons and develop a better understanding of his or her child's abilities at MM. One parent will be permitted to attend each week; this will be determined on a first come first serve basis.


This week is the last week of camp, and it is all about field trips and increasing overall exposure to new environments. We are headed to a whole new camp for the day, yes we will be fully integrated! We are heading on a shopping trip and to a fun house! We will be meeting friends, introducing ourselves and taking turns...and we cannot wait to show off the skills we have been practicing all summer long at Social Skills Camp.

Program Availability

There is some availability left for September start ABA program; AM sessions are still available, but PM sessions are mostly booked up. E-mail or call us ASAP regarding either AM or PM sessions for Fall.


There is some availability left in our school-age (6+) class. Full or half days available.


There is some availability left in our pre school (5 and under) class. Full or half days available.


There are tutors ready to start in your place or ours, call before School starts to secure your spot.


There are Fitness & Coordination sessions available (1, 2 and 3 hours) in both AM and PM.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Gluten Free is good for me! By: me

I am feeling extra itchy this morning, so I decided to post this rhyme I wrote to help explain allergies to one of my students. If you are feeling creative and want to add another line or two, feel free to post in the comments! 

Gluten-Free is Good for Me

Some foods make me sick, make me sleepy, make me silly, and make me itch.

I don’t know why, but I sure know how; I can’t have gluten or milk from a cow.

If I do by mistake, or because I didn’t know, my face gets hot and hives start to show.

I itch and itch but I just can’t catch the source of that itchy, itchy scratch.

My tummy might hurt, or I’ll get a foggy head; the light will hurt my eyes and I might just go to bed.  It makes me mad because I like to eat bread, so the gluten-free version is what I’ll have instead!

I can’t eat some chips, most pasta it’s true; but I did adapt and so will you.  I love to eat rice, pizza, chicken and stew; I love to eat rice-pasta, quinoa and beans too!

At first it was different, but now it’s sort of cool; I even bring a gluten-free lunch with me to school.


By: Alley Dezenhouse


P.S. Please note: this post is about allergies, and not meant to support the theory that the removal of gluten and/or casein from a child's diet will alleviate symptoms associated with Autism. That being said, if an Autistic child has never been tested for allergies, you may want to consider the various ways that an allergy could manifest (hives, digestion issues, loose BMs, rashes, grumpiness and tiredness, foggy head, stomach ache, bloat, nausea, headache, joint issues, and on and on and on). 


It's your job as a parent to be extra aware of these symptoms when your child is non verbal; even if your child is verbal, he or she may not be able to properly articulate the source of the problem (or even worse might just think that's how everyone feels all the time, it's all relative, right?). 


It takes time for neurotypical kids and kids with Autism, to develop a sense of what a headache feels like, what a stomach ache feels like, what a rash looks/feels like, how to articulate feelings of nauseousness verses a bruise. One of my staff recalls being 3 years old, and telling her parents "my knee hurts" and proceeding to throw up all over the back of the car.


In short, be a detective because it's your job to make sure your kid is functioning as his or her best possible self.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

You will find me under the desk.

Today I spent the afternoon on all fours under my desk; no I was not preparing for an Earthquake drill.

In afternoon ABA, it all of the sudden struck me that my little monkey was getting a little edgy. Taking a break was out of the question at that moment, he had not earned all his tokens and I wasn't about to falter there; how was I going to regain the focus I had lost, and what exactly was I competing with anyway? How could I simultaneously meet what I perceive to be sensory needs, while not inadvertently reinforcing a behaviour which could be misused as an escape at a later point. What a puzzle.

In a moment of genius I remembered a note I had read on increasing focus and self regulations by using heavy activities in lesson plan. I instructed the little monkey to "first go under the table, then get on your knees, next look at me"; I repeated it twice, because even I knew it was a bit random, for lack of a better word.

We continued with the same activity we had been doing table-top, only now it was on the ground, on all fours. I drew a square, passed the pen over to the little monkey, and said "your turn". We went back and forth until the page was full of squares and triangles (those are the two current targets); each time in addition to practicing copying shapes, we also practiced saying "your turn" "my turn". Such beautiful concentration, such fantastic precision and hand-eye coordination; not only that, a smile from ear to ear as if to say "you get it!"

After 20 minutes of copying shapes under the table, we came back up for air and decided it was time for a snack break (by this point, all of the tokens had been earned from the hard work done). After a crunchy snack of carrots and a quick trip to the gym to roll on a yoga ball (and sing the preferred "Rolly Polly" as we roll), we were ready to get back into it.


Monday, 15 August 2011

Allowing for Mood

As an ABA Therapist and proponent of a very systematic curriculum, it is important to me that my therapists and myself engage in daily analysis of the variables involved in teaching our students. If we get too rigid about how things are supposed to go, we miss the signs that help us indicate how to best meet our kids needs. Though we rely heavily on predetermined programming, we make plenty of choices day to day, accounting for anything that may impact the acquisition of skills in that moment (from interests to mood). The choices we make provide momentum to our sessions and quite often mean the difference between a good therapist, and a great therapist. All children, including those with Autism, display various emotions from elated to upset, from anxious to overtired; as therapists and arguably as parents, we should become skilled at recognizing each state in our kids.

The ability to tap into the child, and "pull him out" as it was once described to me, is something I require of my therapists daily, especially in working with children on the spectrum. Of course, a successful rapport between student and therapist propels learning, but equally as important is the ability to assess your client's most preferred domain, in any given moment. Being able to pull upon the right task at the right time, and in the right order to ensure focused completion, is something which provides behavioural momentum to learning. In a moment where the therapist really nails it, the completion of the task itself serves as the reinforcer. By structuring sessions this way or that, a therapist can ensure that sensory and sensory motor needs are met, among other variables impacting skill acquisition.

It's like how math, when you get it right, is really satisfying in itself; or that feeling that comes after completing the last piece of a 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. That is called intrinsic reinforcement; reinforcement built-in to the actual activity.

A successful therapist or teacher is able to appreciate each of the child's moods, and understands how it impacts skill acquisition; this takes practice, and getting to know each client individually. Flexibility is something many ABA programs lack; flexibility is something many children on the Autism spectrum desperately need in order to thrive.


Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Sensory Aquarium



The overhead lights are off, the mood is mellow; the room is lit up with desk lamps shinning rays of blue and purple light (i.e. grown ups call it a blacklight). Everything around us seems to glow as it moves; videos of dolphins jumping through waves keeps our attention, while bubbles fill the air. Watch them pop, one by one. The kids are lounging on a big blue crash pad; it is the ocean, of course. The foam inside replicates the waves of the ocean moving beneath you; feel them crash into your legs! Take a big deep breath before you go underwater; ready, set go!



Just another morning at Magnificent Minds Summer Camp, this week our theme is Under the Sea.


Images from freedigitalphotos.net

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Appreciation

Progress is really a measure of appreciation; without appreciation of true ability, there is no way to account for or track progress. Tracking your child's progress requires you to appreciate his or her strengths and weaknesses, in a way that is way beyond what you ever expected you could do. Doing what is best for your child means looking at him or her with unconditional acceptance and appreciation; anything but unconditional acceptance is a roadblock to success.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

A very special birthday party

Often times my clients report one of two scenarios when it comes to birthdays; either, they are utterly unable to fathom how their child might respond to a b-day bash and would have no idea how to anticipate his or her actions in the novel environment, making it very hard to relax therefore usually coming to the decision to avoid or  that they do not attend birthdays because they simply do not get invited to birthday parties.

Either way, not ideal for the child who at some point, will be exposed to a birthday party type situation and should definitely know what to expect and how to respond and dare I say, how to have a good time.

I have supported several birthday parties over the years; it is something so meaningful for me to be a part of.

I love to be able to demonstrate to parents and family how receptive their child is at any given moment; to demonstrate effective ways of engaging with the child that is on his or her terms,  facilitate peer relationships and most importantly, increase overall understandings and acceptance.

I started this beautiful long weekend off with a birthday party that I just had to write about; from the moment you entered the party you could feel that it was a safe space (from the note on the door that said "come on in we're in the back" to the thoughtfully orchestrated party and visual representations of birthday party fun and the name tags so everyone felt comfortable). The children in attendance, were predominantly accompanied by their parent or parents; some were typical, others were exceptional.

Set up in the backyard was a bubble station, a digging station, a water table, a launch pad (very cool cause and effect toy; when you jump on it, it launches a rocket 20 ft. into the sky), colouring and balloon crafts, pin the tail on the donkey, a pinata, a dress up path and even a mineral science garden. Everything worked so well because it was set up for the kids to explore, without any pressure or timeline in mind. For some it was the first birthday they had gone to, for others it was the first successful birthday they had ever made it through.

Family and friends alike, everyone came together over an outdoor dinner and as the kids played, the parents found support in each other's company and two and a half hours later, everyone was still having a blast. Every child had his or her moments, every parent dealt with it differently, but every child and parent was accepted unconditionally into the party, and it was clear from the get go. The sense of community that emerges when like-minded people gather, is truly inspiring. What an incredible way to begin the long weekend, and can you believe this is my job!? I am incredibly lucky!

Birthday parties are controlled way to expose your kids to a social norm that can be tons of fun when you know what to expect; the biggest injustice you can do is to assume that your child wouldn't want to go, or wouldn't have fun. Whether or not you truly understand the way your child(ren) interact with the world, you owe it to them to expand their horizons and allow them to interact in whatever way they choose, with as many circumstances as life allows.

Again and again, photos from freedigitalphotos.net

Saturday, 23 July 2011

It has been a hot, hot summer!

MM Camp is in full-effect! We have been battling the heat by staying cool in our school, and going outside equipped with water, hats and lots of sunscreen. Here are some of the coolest things we did at camp this week and last:

-We made ice-cream from scratch! We practiced turn-taking, following instruction in a group, and reciprocal play. We rolled the ball of ice-cream (yes, the ball!) back and forth and had our campers take part in pairs as well as in a larger group. The more we rolled, the faster it would become ice cream! It was a huge success, and we LOVED to eat the finished product.

-In a heat wave, one must stay cool! We went skating on shaving cream! A sensory experience for the feet, and eye because we illuminated the room with black lights. Pulling back the carper, we had the perfect canvas for sliding around and driving cars, trucks and boats through the gloopy ground. The shaving cream turned a lovely colour of violet, beneath the black light,  and our Art-Shirts glowed as the kids glided around with 1:1 support (their partner) to ensure safety and fun. Even some of our sensory-avoiders could not help but join in on the fun.  We practiced following safety rules, and using our words to invite our partners to play.

-We took a tour of the fire station! It was especially neat when the FANTASTIC fire fighters showed us how they also wear headphones when it gets too noisy. That was a HUGE hit among our group as you can imagine. We sat in the captain chair, climbed on the truck and LOVED to see the pole that the fire fighters go up and down. We practiced answering questions, exploring new places and following community safety rules. We practice using our manners to say please and thanks, and most importantly remembered to stay safe. A huge, HUGE thank-you to the Toronto Fire Fighters who were incredible in the way they interacted with our group.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

What kind of options are out there for special needs kids? TORONTO

Once provincial funding runs out, or expires, what kind of options are available for children on the spectrum, children with down's syndrome, or children who require more support than mainstream education can provide?  In pursuing the future, and moving forward what kinds of options exist for our special kids?


1. Getting in with the public or religious board:
The Catholic School Board is a huge proponent of full integration, so that's what you can expect from a placement therein. Like in most boards, EAs are provided based on need; EAs typically tend to several children in the class over the period of the day.

The Public district in Toronto has several options within it; there are classes specifically for children with DDs, in addition to those which act as academic support during specific times of need. Many schools in Toronto consult with psychologists and support that ABA should be implemented in many cases. (google: PPM 140)
It all looks good on paper but it's up to each school to ensure proper delivery. The public board is strict about who is allowed to work in their school, so supplying your own support is usually out of the question. Sometimes, volunteer support staff will be permitted.

2. Intervention: Intervention usually looks like between 10-40 hours of therapy a week targeting a range of skills from gross-motor to self-help. As the child develops, programs are adjusted and adapted for relevance and maximum functionality. Intervention is useful in cases where group learning is incompatible with development, and/or when goals are best targeted in a contrived way. A success intervention addresses all domains of development, including behavioral patterns which interfere with learning and/or skill acquisition. Intervention is available privately, or through ABA Centers, Educational Centers and Private Schools.

3. Home-school is an option for parent's who cannot find what they are looking for in the school's in their area. For parents that like to take a hands-on role in determining goals, setting standards and monitoring progress this may be an option to consider. Professionals would come into your home, and under your supervision and hopefully as a team, you would develop a course of action. This option is not ideal for a child already struggling to generalize across setting, but may be a suitable alternative for other children.

4. Private ABA Schools are an option for parents who want less strict adherence to Ministry policies (though many private schools do use the Ontario Ministry Curriculum, it is not required). For children that have gone through the ABA and IBI stream, an ABA School program is often the next step to meaningful learning. Tuition ranges from 15,000-40,000 annually
There are a handful of places delivering ABA school based services; to get more information on these places please contact us at AlleysMagnificentMind@Gmail.com

5. Private NON ABA Schools are an option for parents who are not seeking the integration of ABA Therapy into their child's future development. Typically, private schools will allow you to bring in your own professionals to support the overall success of your child within the classroom. This may be useful if your child has sensory or environmental considerations and/or physical considerations. Be weary of assessment procedures which could not possibly effectively evaluate a child's capabilities, I have seen many. Tuition ranges from 15,000-40,000 annually

6. After-Hours Social Skills Academies exist to provide meaningful extra curricular activities to kids who require additional support development relationship and expanding social skills. Programs usually run on the weekend and go for 2 or 3 hours depending on the age group; social skills programs are like summer camp all year long, and gives many of our kids one of their only chances to focus only on supported socialization.

Photos from freedigitalphotos.net

Friday, 8 July 2011

Integration, Acceptance other stuff that moves me

Working with children in various learning environments has allowed me to see the way a variety of establishments foster (and I use that word loosely) integration. From nursery school to kindergarten, from camp to centers, it seems everyone is all for inclusion, at least in theory (and a lot of times only if you are willing to make him be quiet, sit still, look at the teacher, and keep his hands to himself).


From what I have seen, being "for inclusion" means actively taking steps to provide the right learning environment, and fostering development on an ongoing basis for each child regardless of diagnosis or learning style. Inclusion means ensuring that a child is not singled out, that acceptance is required and that professionals are trained in each student's unique profile. In the pursuit of integration, we must not forget to allow for our kids, or adults, to be themselves (diagnosis and all!).




It all reminds me a lot of a debate in school, Medical vs. Social model of disability; in short, the medical model seeks to "fix/cure the person that is autistic" while the social model seeks to "fix/cure the society that is intolerant". Prescribing to the social model in practice, it is important also to remember that in preserving the character of each of our autistic students, we are also teaching and instilling coping mechanism to adjust to the natural world (which will likely continue to be overwhelming and uncontrolled for all of time, despite our best efforts). Susceptible to stimulus over load, our learners require us to manipulate our environment to suit their needs, so why can't the same be expected of society?  


I have been profoundly impacted by children with autism (among other diagnoses), who defy the odds on a daily basis, struggling to cope with a confusing and constantly changing world that expects students with autism to act and look normal. I try to explain to my clients to "do away" with whatever preconceived notions they have about autistic children; autistic children can thrive, but it requires us to alter the way we structure certain daily events, activities and developments (its the least we can do to set up success). We owe it to our kids to take these steps to ensure that their futures are bright. In order to provide an ideal environment for a child with autism, all of the variables (from lighting to carpets) ought to be considered.


As a summer goal, our campers work towards developing social skills in a way that is individualized and systematic. Understanding the ways that autistic children socialized, allows our therapists to provide meaningful learning throughout the day, in a way that is controlled, choice based and child-centered. Spending a good chunk of the day on 1:1 or 1:2 basis, provides our campers with repeated opportunities to engage with other people. Art is an especially social time, while our campers sit at one table and all focus on the same activity at the same time; conversation is modeled, but not required. This activity is incredibly motivating for our students. The social needs of children with autism (among other dds) is not the same as for neurotypical people; it seems at least to me, that social interaction is not inherently reinforcing for many children on the spectrum, the way it is for many other children. Having extensive experience with high functioning Aspergers into adulthood, I have seen first hand what can result from a society's inability to adjust its expectations based on evidence of diagnosis and/or other variables that impact functioning. It's sad to me that people with a diagnosis are not entitled to their own set of expectations about life. Equality is a double-edge sword when it means holding everyone to the same exclusive standards (without accounting for variables that are a fact of life); this is the standard upon which success is measured.


When success is measured based on relative gains, that's when society will have it right and in the meantime I will keep speaking for those who would rather not :)

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Summer Social Skills Camp is off to a great start!

Our low-ratio summer camp experience provides the perfect place to develop friendship and social skills. Our staff are university graduates, and then some, with a passion for working with families to create an ideal learning environment for all of our campers. Trained in principle of Applied Behaviour Analysis, our approach is scientifically validated.

We have a private playground, an expansive and secure site, and tons of equipment that is sure to evoke fun! Targeting one social skill each week, we all work towards group goals while simultaneously working towards individual goals developed by camp directors Lindsay and Alley. This week, our group goal is Saying hello! Every morning we say hello during morning circle, sing greeting songs and discuss the daily events; with a little less structure than school, circle time is an opportunity to exercise choice in addition to following instructions in a group. All of our activities are designed as such, satisfying many goals at once.

With campers ages 3+ many of our little ones have never been dropped off before; our low ratio and attention to detail ensures that first-timers are provided with as much, or as little, assistance as required for a smooth transition. We have all kinds of things planned for summer, including increasing communication skills, developing social skills and encouraging team work. With weekly outings to a nearby sensory park, adventures into the community (with 1:1 support as needed) and daily in-center extravaganzas like a bouncy castle, tug of war, 360 teeter totter, mini golf and a brand new sensory experience room. We are looking forward to ensuring your child has the routine and consistency he or she needs over the summer, while still remembering that summer is a time for fun, outdoor adventures and water play!

There are a few spots open for July, and several open for August. Call us today to book a tour of the center, and see us in action! Looking forward to hearing from you! www.MagnificentMinds.ca

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Why choose Summer Social Skills Programs?

I wanted to take a moment to explain the value of our social skills summer camp program, this might help give you a better idea of why it is a fantastic way to spend the summer. I also invite you to come check us our in-center to see for yourself! :) 

After a summer MM, your child will have been set-up for success in a group learning environment; all summer your child will be supported by ABA therapists acting as camp counselors, and will be participating in activities designed to elicit social skills in our learners.The reason our summer program is so successful, is that we maintain a low ratio and ensure that every child has the support he or she needs to thrive in a group setting.

Each week, we target a various social skill which by week's end, should be mastered by each student; some of these goals include initiating and reciprocating social greetings, street safety and community rules, waiting for your turn, learning to share, and using your words to ask. These goals are taken from a social skills curriculum designed to meet the needs of early learners. 

Without the pressure of the academic year, summer is a fun time to target social skill development, including the building blocks there of like imitation skills, listening skills, and ability to stay with the group among others. The majority of our children will continue on into the fall with us in some capacity, to maintain the skills acquired over the summer; this can look like 1 or 2 hours of 1:1 tutoring come the fall (at your place or ours) or it can look like once a week social skill Sundays to keep developing those skills and maintaining the already acquired ones.

A lot of our kids require systematic instruction in order to pick up on the skills that other children develop naturally, with some hard work all of our kids can learn the social rules, and their overall ability to learn within a group environment will improve as a result. Questions or comments? Please call me! We do have 1 or 2 spots left for camp and I wanted to make sure you truly appreciate the value in a program of this nature. If the cost is your main concern, please do not hesitate to discuss this with me and I will try to make it work.

As always, thank you to freedigitalphotos.net

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Fantastic Discovery right around the corner

Scouting out our new neighborhood, Billy (that is my Director of Accounts) and I found a huge sensory park three blocks away from our new home in North York. We are super excited to announce that several afternoons this summer will be spend pin-nicing in a FANTASTIC sensory park; the park is inset from the road, in a private area shaded by trees. It is not near  any major roads, and is lined with trees providing an excellent visual reminders of physical boundaries. It could not be more ideal for our learners.

In the park there are two huge structures and three or four smaller ones; each one is taller than the next, and performs one of several motions (spinning, rocking, sliding, swinging and so on). There is one structure that is over 8ft tall; it is a cascading climbing wall that even a grown-up would find enticing. The park is surrounded by tons of grass, perfect for pic-nics and soccer games. The park is amazing because there are activities for children from 3 to 18+ right in the same physical area. I guarantee my employees are going to love the park, and would bet money on at least one of them getting on one of the toys and taking it for a ride (I know I sure did). The majority of the toys require little physical strength and are designed for maximum motion for minimum output; this means that many of our friends with low muscle tone, and poor coordination are still able to participate in an active way.

The second major find in our area, besides the local grocery store and DQ, is a community center and outdoor pool; the next step is to find out whether there is a lifeguard on duty, if so...we will definitely pay a visit this summer once or twice!