Friday, 5 October 2012

Small Group JK Placement Open, Toronto

We have had a space free up in our ABA Style JK/SK class; hours are M-F 9:00-3:30 any takers? 

The ratio is 3:1 and we won't increase beyond 4:1. The teacher is a registered ECE with experience in an IBI setting and extensive experience working with children with social and communicative delays; supervised by the clinical coordinator of our centre/school program. 

We have made huge gains already this year in our program. The ideal candidate is waiting for IBI funding and looking to kick start development with a low ratio therapy-based class OR requires development of attention, language, focus and self regulation skills. An ideal candidate may possess a diagnosis of ADD, ADHD, Aspergers, Autism, or other Learning Disability. An ideal candidate mayrequire development of social and play skills.

Starting at $5/hour to a max of $12/hour

9:00-3:30PM (half days available but priority will be given to those registering for full days). 

Magnificent Minds Private School
Dufferin/Lawrence Area
47 Glenbrook Avenue

Reach Us

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Swap out and tag team teaching


From time to time, it can hectic in a group learning environment; even in a one to one learning situation, you sometimes need support. It is essential to your professional efficacy, and sanity, that you support your team members as you work together towards common goals. There are two techniques I have often called upon in tougher situations, behavioural meltdowns, or total stand-offs, which can help deescalate and manage your own emotional responses and maintain control of the situation. It goes without saying that teachers and therapists need to maintain calm, cool and collected; but, it’s not always easy. 

Saturday, 21 July 2012

We've moved.

To our wonderful and faithful followers: we have moved!

You can find us at our new home

Looking forward to continuing to support your families, and classrooms!

Warm regards,

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Summer Fun

We are 3 steps ahead of your typical day camp experience, with some important modifications to suit our learners.
From arts and crafts to sensory science, from sports to water works we participate in all your favorite camp-time games. Understanding the social skill development is the goal of a successful camp experience--it was important for us to hand-pick a team of qualified professionals to lead the troops.
With a 4:1 ratio our camp, with on average 12 children on site, we find exactly the right balance for our campers. Our campers are a dynamic mix including peer mentors who participate in inclusive cabin groups alongside their peers with a variety of social-considerations from Autism to Down's Syndrome.Whether typically developing or exception, there are distinction at our camp. Everyone is here to learn, have fun, and make friends. With enough hands on deck to provide every camper with a 1:1 as needed, we ensure safety and security while providing an authentic camp experience..."Let me see you're funky chicken...
What's that you say?
I said let me see your funky chicken...
What's that you say?
I said Ooooh Ah Funky Chicken Ooooh Ah One more time!"

Music is such a huge part of the camp experience; we use music to teach social skills from greetings to social rules, from echoics to intraverbals (those are verbal behaviour terms that mean increased communication). With specialty activities chosen to suit the age of the campers in the group, our campers experience the real-deal camp experience (from boondoggle to camp-wide meetings), with a few minor adjustment to meet the unique needs of children with special considerations like allergies, neurological impairment, sensitivities, behavioural, emotional or social concerns.

Having a quiet place to take a break is so important for kids with social challenges. Socialization is hard-work even for the extroverted, so for introverted kids, a calm space to recharge is essential. In each class we have a tent like this one, and/or other options for relaxing quietly in your own space; we have pillow-reading areas, huge floor pillows to curl up on, or quiet sensory games to play on the floor like digging in corn flour, sandboxes, or bean buckets. Especially in the summer, when the schedule is go-go-go and transitions are every 30 minutest, we need to make sure that our campers have enough down time, and enough time to recharge so that they are at their best when it comes time for activities. We love to take a break from the fluorescent lights by switching to a black-light-only atmosphere or soaking up the sun on our fantastic property. 

Monday, 2 July 2012

1 down...lots to go

A reflection on biopsychology, and the  biopsychosocial as a whole.

A Bigger Picture Perspective
This course has impacted my counseling style by giving me a deeper understanding of the characteristics associated with a wide variety of diagnoses from depression to anorexia (Pinel, 2012); uncovering the complexities of each condition has been fascinating. This course has given me insight into characteristics, coping mechanism and behaviour patterns associated with clients from infant to elderly.
Coming from a strictly behavioural background, it has become increasingly clear to me that the connection between mind and body is very powerful. I found Sigelman and Rider (2012) to be particularly insightful when it came to depicting the holistic perspective and cyclical relationship between mind and body.
Sigelman and Rider’s concept of social norms as a contributing factor to parenting style was insightful and relevant for me as a child-behaviour therapist; understanding the various perspectives has allowed me to be an active part of trouble-shooting, and parental support. A large part of my role is the education and training of parents; gaining insight into the various styles of attachment, and parenting was both relevant and informative.
As before I find myself learning towards alternative therapies (that is, alternative to medication) like diet, exercise, conversational therapy, behavioural intervention and so on; but after having taken this course, I appreciate that though medication should be a last resort, it is the missing piece of the puzzle for some individuals. The ability to know when to make a referral, is a very valuable (actually, an essential) skill.

Pinel, J.P. (2012). Basics of biopsychology. Boston: Pearson
Sigelman and Rider. (2012) Life span and human development (7e) Belmont, CA: Wadsworth
Woolfson, L. L., & Grant, E. E. (2006). Authoritative parenting and parental stress in parents of
pre-school and older children with developmental disabilities. Child: Care, Health & Development32(2), 177-184. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2214.2006.00603.x

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Sleep Issues

Discussion 8: Sleep Issues in Adults
By: Alley Dezenhouse, BA ABS
Sleep is an essential part of healthy development and functioning.  A good sleep is essential to proper executive functioning, and diagnosis of sleep disorders is essential to facilitate the process. Takahashi (1999) as cited in Pinel (2012) notes that it could take an insomniac over one hour fall sleep; this provides a good framework for assessing normal sleep issues, from sleep disorders.
Sleeping disturbances impact nearly every aspect of functioning, whether it’s insomnia or narcolepsy too much or too little sleep can be debilitating (Pinel, 2012). Sleep apnea impact the sleeping process by causing recurrent night waking, due to lack of airflow which causes the individual to stop breathing and awaken. Interestingly, many do not know that they have sleep apnea (Pinel, 2012); but rather, complain of sleeping poorly and describe symptoms of insomnia (Pinel, 2012). Not surprisingly, sleep apnea can be linked to comorbid asthma, which symptomatically worsens at night (Nihat Annakkaya, Akin, Balbay, Arbak, Toru, 2012). 
Restless leg syndrome is described as a build-up of tension that presents itself in the individual’s legs (Pinel, 2012); the individual complains about tension, anxiety and restlessness at bed time that is hard to shake. Interestingly, one of the primary interventions, or therapies, for sleep disturbances like insomnia, is “sleep restriction” (Pinel, 2012, p.393). In the process of sleep restriction, systematic teaching is used to slowly increase the time spend in bed; this intervention calls for a very behavioural approach to treatment (Pinel, 2012).
Annakkaya, A., Akɩn, N., Balbay, E., Arbak, P., & Toru, Ü. (2012). Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome
in Adult Patients with Asthma. Healthmed, 6(1), 53-64.
Pinel, J.P. (2012) Basics of biopsychology. Wadsworth; Allyn & Bacon

Saturday, 30 June 2012

GF in Niagara Falls, ON

Good Morning and Happy Summer!

I was lucky enough to have a few days off in between school, and camp--I traveled to Niagara Falls (Canada side) and had a few days of adventure and relaxation. I am happy to report that the entire trip was Gluten-Free and allergy sensitive. I wanted to post my experience, so that other families traveling to Niagara that are working on a GF or allergy-aware diet, will have some sense of direction. I found the city amazing, and very knowledgeable; a far cry from my last carribean vacation when I learned the phrase LIBRE DE GLUTEN and still got responses like...No seniorita, there are no flowers in the soup.

So where to begin...on the way up, it was nothing fancy, but breakfast was apple sauce from a Wal mart we spotted on the drive; of course, no road trip is complete without a million Timmy's stops.

There are a surprising number of Starbucks locations as well, that was a special treat because they have soy milk, so I got to have lattes, americanos and pike's place, OH MY!

Once we got into Niagara we were ready for lunch; we had been tipped off that the local ma and pa places were a much better way to go than the touristy stuff; what a great tip that was! We chose a Greek place; the name is escaping me, Kitikoukous or something else amazingly fun to say with lots of hard k sounds. (Even on holiday I never forget my communication-training roots).

The waiter was so friendly, and had all the time in the world to chat about my allergies. He checked 3 times, about 3 separate ingredient allergies for each dish I ordered...all turned out to be safe bets on the chef's good word. So I ordered: A lemon-chicken-rice soup; it was so creamy I actually had the poor guy double check that there was absolutely no dairy...sure enough, none whatsoever. A GFCF miracle. I also had a skewer, totally GFCF and delish, and a side Greek salad. All in all, we ate so fast it must have been good; did not even stop to take a picture until I was just about finished. THAT good.

Next up we went to check into the hotel; walked up and down Clifton Hill and the strip outside our hotel to scout out some allergy friendly locations to eat at over our stay. Our first stop was Starbucks and for how many there were in Niagara, you would think they would be a little more allergy aware. I ordered a soy-frappaccino and got it served to me with whipped cream...then they tried to just "scrape it off"; I was quick to inform them that that was not going to work for me. They were apologetic, but proceeded to roll their eyes as I turned away (thank goodness for travel partners who look out for you :P). Considering how much time I spend at Starbucks in general life, I was not impressed.

That night we decided dinner would be at Old Faithful; that's what we call the Keg  because it is always safe, they are always amazing about allergies, and it is always delicious (even without gluten or dairy...and their bread...just fyi for the gluten-indulgent, LOOKS amazing). So I ordered a lobster and steak combo--I know right, who does that? It was amazing, and good to the last drop. So good, I once again forgot to take a picture until I was half way done.

The next morning we went to IHOP; it was in our hotel. They were so incredibly accommodating, and even offered to substitute my bread for fruit; this is a big deal because most breakfast places are pretty strict about no substitutions. Then I got the bill, and realized that for an $20 breakfast, they had better be accommodating ;). I ordered eggs which I specifically requested not be fried in butter; I made sure NOT to order an omelet, because they put their pancake batter in it to make the omelets light and fluffy...yum, right?
Not so photo worthy; but yummy and safe for my tummy. By this point it was breakfast of Day 2 and still no accidental gluten...this is BIG!

We stopped at a grocery store to get some items for a pic nic lunch, we were heading to Marineland. We spent the morning checking out Friendship Cove, and thinking about how THANKFUL we were that we had the idea to bring a pic nic. There was not a single allergy safe item to eat there; it was all corn dogs, and pizza and hot dogs and burgers...yum, but not for me.
We made it back to the hotel and desperately needed a coffee after all that walking; we were so thankful that Starbucks was right in our hotel lobby; with soy  milk!
That night we headed out to the main strip and found a Mediterranean place to eat at; the food was nothing short of amazing and gluten and dairy free without having to order any special procedures. Since we have travelled to Israel, we know all about the ingredients and were confident in ordering. I did not eat the fries because they seemed like they might have been coated in flour...but there was more than enough tomato, onion, beef, pickles, hummus and beets to fill me up. It was so nice to sit outside on the strip, watching the tourists and the hustle and bustle of Niagara.

We didn't eat or drink much after that dinner, which is always a sign that it hit the spot. We did check out some attractions, they were definitely something I would do if I went with kids.
The next day...We went for a pre-breakfast walk along the falls, so magical! We had Starbucks in hand, and yes still with soy milk :). We decided to venture to a local place for breakfast; we found a place with tons of gluten and dairy free options, and filled our tummies. We headed to Niagara on the Lake, where we did not eat a single thing. We were full from breakfast until about 2pm at which point we found a hero burger for some good old fashioned GF burgers. 

Monday, 25 June 2012

Yoga is a piece of the puzzle!

If you have not heard about our Whole Body Program at MM, I encourage you to keep reading! Our Whole Body Program targets development from a sensorimotor perspective, while remaining true to the principles of IBI/ABA methodology....Another semi-academic post....

It is widely known that nutrition and exercise improve cognitive and physical abilities (Kraemer & Marquez, 2009). I have placement students at work, who shadow my team and gain invaluable insight into the field. Recently, a placement student—they are always full of question, asked why I used yoga in teaching. Could there possible be evidence in this?! It’s certainly not standard practice for behaviour therapist, but it is one part of programming that specifically targets arousal levels and the ability to self regulate (a particular area of concern for individuals on the Autism spectrum).

Mr. Billy is one of our Whole Body Program coaches
Yoga teachings consist of three tenets: Breathing, posture, and meditation.  Each tenet has its usefulness; all tenets work together to combat fatigue, increase heart-rate, regulate breathe and understand the body in relation to the rest of the world.

From a psychosocial perspective, being tuned-in to your body is an essential factor in the establishment and maintenance of identity.  Yoga bridges the gap between mind and body and has usefulness that extends physical fitness; yoga can successfully decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression (Descilo, Vedmurtachar, Gerbarg, Nagaraja, Gangadhar, Damodaran, Adelson, Braslow, Marcus, Brown, 2010).
In a study conducted on tsunami victims, there was a reduction in depressive behaviour relative to the yoga-breath intervention technique (Descilo et al., 2010); yoga is an effective way to decrease the psychological symptoms associated with depression. When combined with a holistic intervention plan, yoga is one piece of the depression puzzle!

Descilo, T. T., Vedamurtachar, A. A., Gerbarg, P. L., Nagaraja, D. D., Gangadhar, B. N., Damodaran, B.
B., & ... Brown, R. P. (2010). Effects of a yoga breath intervention alone and in combination with an exposure therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression in survivors of the 2004 South-East Asia tsunami. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica,121(4), 289-300. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0447.2009.01466.x
Kraemer, J. M., & Marquez, D. X. (2009). Psychosocial Correlates and Outcomes of Yoga or Walking
Among Older Adults. Journal Of Psychology143(4), 390-404.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Resources from the Amazing Autism Speaks

From Autism Speaks, via Autism beacon...what a blessing they both are to the ASD community!

Many Thanks!

Toileting Guide for Moms and Dads with ASD kids...

Behavioural Health Information ...

ABA is...

Personality from a Behavioural Perspective

The more I learn about personality, from a counselling perspective, the more I question the environmental variables. Let me back up a step, personality manifests in behaviour that is observable, and therefore measurable; that's a relief, right?

 Environmental factors are crucial in the formation of personality; they inform it, and even shape it. I am sure we have all experienced the child that is sweet as candy at his own home and then suddenly turns on a hyperactive switch when they get into any new environment, from Grandma's to a friend's house. Then there are the children that reliably exhibit certain behaviours in certain environments, and not at all in others.

For starters, I always tell teachers and parents that kids will always live up to the expectation you set for them; if you "write them off" because they are too this or too that, they will definitely pick up on it and act accordingly.

I reject the idea that kids with ASD are not perceptive and posit that they are very perceptive, but just don't' always know what to make of what they perceive. In my experience, non verbals kiddies are hyper aware of your demeanor, it speaks more than words.

Be positive, upbeat and genuinely engaged; if you don't love what you do, you can't fake it...

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Prader-willi Syndrome

Response: PWS
By: Alley Dezenhouse, BA ABS
Prader-willi syndrome (PWS) is often associated with certain characteristic cognitive profiles including a preference for sameness, consistency and routine (Woodcock, Oliver, Humpreys, 2011); perhaps this is motivated by inadequate adaptive behaviours. PWS is the result of insufficient chromosomal information (Woodcock et al., 2012); individuals with PWS often present with abnormal facial features, and a physical small appearance. Individuals with PWS typically demonstrate a mild cognitive delay, and a strength based treatment approach is recommended to manage quality of life (Woodcock et al., 2012). Individuals are impacted by their environment; according to Woodcock et al, (2012) frequent changes in routine and/or discrepancies between expectation and fulfilment result in increased behavioural issues like temper tantrums, repetitive behaviour and stereotypy  (Woodcock et al., 2012). A difficulty in the ability to shift attention, similar to what is often associated with ADHD, is often the cause of inflexibility and concerns pertaining to routine.
Whittington and Holland (2011) sought to determine what social delays exist in individuals with PWS; the Vineland Adaptive Scale of Behaviour can be used to highlight specific peer and socially based deficits (Whittington & vHolland, 2011). Understanding which social impairments impact individuals with PWS, will allow practitioners to produce individualized programs that make meaningful and socially significant change.

Whittington, J. J., &  Holland, T. T. (2011). Recognition of emotion in facial expression by
people with Prader-Willi syndrome. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, pp.  75-84. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2788.2010.01348.x
Woodcock, K. A., Oliver, C. C., & Humphreys, G. W. (2011). The relationship between specific
cognitive impairment and behaviour in Prader-Willi syndrome. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, pp. 152-171. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2788.2010.01368.x

Anxiety in the Teenage years

From me to you; if this is relevant for someone you know, pass it on! :)
For more information on the management of anxiety from a behavioural perspective, please reach me! Warm Regards.
Adolescence has become synonymous with self-invention, drug and alcohol experimentation and increased rates of anxiety (Pinel, 2012). On the cusp of child and adult, adolescence is about developing perspectives and testing limits. Culturally, angst and uncertainty have always gone hand in hand with adolescence, but at some point normal teenage angst can develop into a generalized anxiety disorder and require treatment. When anxiety impacts every aspect of a teenager’s life, it crosses the threshold from normal teenage insecurities, to social anxiety disorder.
However it manifests, anxiety is difficult to overcome without the right support system; anxiety has biological roots that need to be strategically considered (Pinel, 2012). Positive perceptions of self should be targeted proactively to avoid eating disorders, and other manifestations of anxious thought patterns. Coping strategies are essential; during adolescent experimentation can result in exposure to risky behaviour like sexual activity, self-harm, or smoking. Exposure paired with anxiety can lead to addiction.
 Are anxious adolescents crying out for parental attention? In an interview with Kate Fillion (2010), genetics specialist Dr. Leonard Sax says the answer is no. He suggests that most teenage cutters (like most users, and anorexics), are secretive and systematic. Most teenagers are trying not to get caught. Dr. Sax notes that in adolescence pressure is high; teens go to drastic measures to create identities with physical appearance and social status. Looking to establish identity, many adolescents fall into patterns of anorexia and bulimia, cigarette smoking, or other unhealthy habits.

Fillion, K. (2010, May 3). Inside the dangerously empty lives of teenage girls impressing each
Pinel, J.P. (2012). Basics of biopsychology. Boston: Pearson

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Home-Made Sensory Rooms

Browsing Facebook...yes I know, busted...I came across a post from a lady seeking support in developing..well actually expanding...her current sensory room for her son, on the Autism spectrum. It occurred to me that making a home-sensory space is probably something many parents seek to do; it is certainly something I recommend to many of my clients managing sensory integration issues at home. In order to put all my knowledge in one place, so that others may call upon it, here are some of my tips and tricks, acquired from consulting with professionals from OTs to naturopaths, to SLPs to psycho educational consultants and disability specialists. So here goes:

    Granted it does not usually look this oily;  pic was taken after a kiddo working for chips. The beauty is, the crash pad is fully washable.

  • Make a crash pad: If you have ever been to MM you know what a crash pad it. If not... what is Crash Pad...exactly what it sounds like. A giant pillow large enough to crash onto and into. In ours, we put small sensory objects of various textures; the kids loves to feel all of the soft items inside. All you need is a giant duvet cover; twin or larger, and some foam pillows (pretty cheap to buy, but you need a lot) which you cut up into squares. Insert the foam squares, along with any other soft plush items, and VOILA! Zip it up, and remove items for easy washing!
  • Make a ball pit; the sensory experience is unparalleled by any other. You do not need a lot of balls, just a space that is just big enough for your child to fit in. You do not have to spend 100s of dollars; use an old tent, a large plastic Tupperware box (no lid of course), or an old sandbox or kiddy pool. For a long time we used our Thomas Tent as our ball pit, our kids loved the lack of other sensory stimuli; entering the tent was like a private world only for the child (we made a rule: tent door stays open, so we can ensure no funny business lol). The only stimuli was colourful balls. Let the calm begin....
  • When it comes to visual stimuli, less is more...but that does not mean bare white walls, especially not in a sensory room. In our classes, we tend to pick 1 or 2 focus walls which have visuals. The others stay pretty much a blank canvas. As long as visuals are controlled, they will serve their purpose. Purchase a cork board, or use some old wallpaper (just sticky tac it up) to section off an area where visuals will go; even a Bristol board will create some structure and order. This will help create a sense of order not chaos. (Pictures to come!) We used old wall paper donated from a nursery, with lions, elephants and kangaroos!

  • Sensory Buckets: a bin or bucket, an assortment of sensory textures made from mostly edible products: pasta, lentils, beans, and some shiny colourful beads. We have several other sensory bins as well, including multi-coloured rice bins with buried treasure, and corn flour and kidney bean (yes, ALL gluten free).
  • IKEA inflatable bugs. BEST purchase of the entire room; kids love to lounge on the textured IKEA carpet (we have two red and green); they relax on their tummies on top of the giant IKEA bugs that are filled with what seems to be a mini yoga ball for the kids to roll around on. A bit pricey overall, close to 70 I think for the whole thing which comes separately (the bug pillow case and the inflatable middle). The good news is, ours has lasted pretty well...and we love it so much we got another one. 
  • Smell station: Cotton balls are your best friend. Use familiar flavours like cinnamon, banana, nuts (if there are no allergies), vanilla, lavender and other soothing smells. Fill a plastic bottle with the cotton balls which are all dabbed with the smell; place the lid on the bottle and poke some hole around the top. VOILA. Smell bottles.
  • Glitter jars: Very simple, be sure to use plastic containers...we once used glass and learned very quickly that was a disaster. Use water, oil, food colouring and sparkles to create a homemade glitter jar. Shine a light into the bottle in a dark room, and watch the magic!
  • Tray Play: This is something that developed because kids are the masters of losing small pieces, or getting stuff everywhere. We use trays to keep small pieces, like of lego, fine motor games like jawbones, kinects and others; the tray prevents roll away pieces while the child focuses on create play. We also use the trays for shaving cream play, and other messy stuff like goop, glorb or play doh.
  • Black lights make any room seem magical and there is tons of stuff to do with glow-in-dark fun! Make glowing glorb, play doh or stars to stick onto the ceiling; make them in white and you will only see them when the black light is on.... 
  • Art Table with all the fixings
  • Water: we have a water table, but a bucket or bin like one used for the sensory bins would be just as effective. If you have two, fill one with warm water and one with cool water for a nice contrast. Add food colouring for a magical feeling.
  • An Ikea crawling tube transforms into a sensory crawling tube by adding sensory items for your kids to crawl over and around. The kids love rolling around with the sensory balls, and especially love pushing senso-dot balls as they crawl from one side to the other.
  • If you use any of these ideas I would love to hear about it! Send pics too!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Anorexia Nervosa

An examination of anorexia nervosa
By: Alley Dezenhouse, BA ABS
On one end of the epidemic, children, adolescents and adults are going to extreme measures to stay thin; on the other hand, more individuals are becoming obese than previously recorded (Pinel, 2012).  The role of culture (Sigelman & Rider, 2012), and perhaps perception (Pinel, 2012), are huge contributors to the both grossly over consuming and grossly under consuming populations.
In the case of anorexia nervosa, maladaptive behaviours contribute to the desire for extreme thinness, pursued at the expense of physical health and wellness (Pinel, 2012).  Pinel (2012) suggest that 2.5% of Americans suffer from anorexia nervosa; I would suspect that even more suffer from mild and undiagnosed forms of the disorder. From episodes of binge eating, followed by episodes of guilt and self-induced purging (Pinel, 2012) anorexics are often fixated on the idea of thinness and/or the desire to control caloric consumption.
Pinel suggests that there is currently no widely-used and/or most effective treatment for anorexia nervosa (Pinel, 2012); but, the psychological component of the condition requires a holistic treatment. Behaviour modification is often one piece of the puzzle (Sigelman & Rider, 2012); but, the condition cannot be targeted in isolation. Courturier and Isserlin (2012) posit a family-based approach as a suitable intervention for anorexia. Courturier and Isserlin outline the value of an approach that examines patient history and cite the urgency and crisis associated with the clients decline in health, as a factor which contributes to the families tendency to act rashly often going into crisis mode (Courturier & Isserlin, 2012). An important part of this phase of recovery, is the families willingness to take ownership over the ability to challenge the anorexic behaviours; viewing the condition as a pattern of behaviours that can be challenged, rather than a disease that is chronic is an important factor in recovery (Courturier & Isserlin, 2012). 

Isserlin, L., & Couturier, J. (2012). Therapeutic alliance and family-based treatment for
adolescents with anorexia nervosa. Psychotherapy, 49(1), 46-51. doi:10.1037/a0023905
Pinel, J.P. (2012) Basic of biopsychology. Boston: Pearson
Sigelman, C.K. & Rider, E.A. (2012). Life span human development (7e ).
Belmont CA: Wadsworth

Thursday, 31 May 2012

ADHD diagnosis and gender-bias

From me to learning has allowed me to spend so much time thinking and writing about contemporary issues in mental health...loving it.

ADHD can appear as early as infancy (Seligman and Rider, 2012) and appears to have neurological foundations resulting in impaired frontal lobes (Seligman et al., 2012). There is some concern that over diagnosing may be occurring; for every two boys diagnosed, one girl is diagnosed (Seligment et al, 2012)—some have wondered what causes the disproportionate number of male diagnoses.
Harrison (2010) suggests that female adolescents with ADHD are an increased risk of “antisocial, addictive, mood, anxiety, and eating disorders” (Harrison, 2010). Harrison’s analysis is particularly relevant because as she points out, the majority of existing research consists of male dominated control groups (Harrison, 2010).  “Despite a possible difference in ADHD symptoms exhibited by boys and girls, our study clearly shows that exactly the same symptom picture is evaluated differently in boys than in girls.” (Bruchmüller, Margraf, Schneider, 2012, p136)
Gender based studies are important for several reasons, mainly because there are such clear behavioural differences between genders, that these variables must be considered in both diagnosing and treating ADHD. ADHD is considered by some to be on the Autism spectrum; females are diagnosed Aspergers far less frequently than males, and it is often attributed to social conventions (that is, it is acceptable for a female to be shy, smart and eccentric). I wonder if this is the case with ADHD; are females better at hiding symptoms, or coping and developing adaptive behaviours to compensate?  There are three times more males diagnosed with ADHD than female and the diagnostic  process is largely heuristic (Bruchmüller et al., 2012) leaving a bit too much grey area.

Bruchmüller, K., Margraf, J., & Schneider, S. (2012). Is ADHD diagnosed in accord with diagnostic criteria? Overdiagnosis and influence of client gender on diagnosis. Journal Of Consulting And Clinical Psychology80(1), 128-138. doi:10.1037/a0026582

Monday, 28 May 2012

Video Resources for Autism

Everything is better when you can see are some great supports.
Fill in the Missing Number Interactive Activity Book by Blue Cat Pie
"How much Longer?" Visualizing time
Pre-Pecs: Object Schedules for early learners
Pre-school classrooms with Picture Schedules
First Then Matching Schedules

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Cognitive neuroscience, brain imaging, language disorders

Written for a Masters level biopsych. class; thought I would post in case anyone find it relevant. Find references at the bottom.

An innovative therapist draws from a repertoire of treatment options, chosen for their suitability to meeting individual client needs; considering the neural basis of each diagnosis, is essential for an effective practitioner. In understanding principles of cognitive neuroscience, therapists can develop a comprehensive understanding of language-based disorders like Autism, Dyslexia, Aphasia and Apraxia. “The cognitive neuroscience approach is (...) dominating research on language and its disorders” (Pinel, 2007, p.471); it is informing new technology like brain scanning, allowing for a deeper understanding of the factors that impact language acquisition (Pinel, 2007). Understanding cognitive neuroscience under the umbrella of a holistic treatment approach that explores social, emotional, behavioural and psychological factors, allows practitioners to predict and understand the variables that influence the development of language in patients with language related disorders.
Understanding the characteristics of a diagnosis is essential for creating individualized, successful interventions. Providing individualized assessments based on investigation of client strengths and weaknesses provides the secondary component to effective treatment. Information acquired through cognitive neuroscience has informed practitioners about diagnoses, from a neurological perspective.  Aphasia and Apraxia, for example, are the result of left hemisphere damage; although interestingly, symptoms appear in both hemispheres (Pinel, 2007). Dyslexia is a “difficulty in reading” (Pinel 2007, p.475), though not always associated with a cognitive delay; Aphasia is a “brain-damaged produced deficit in the ability to produce or comprehend language” (Pinel, 2007, p.444). Apraxia, on the other hand, leaves patients unable to complete basic motor tasks on demand, despite being physically capable of completing the action without forethought. Autism is a communication and socially based disorder, not always associated with cognitive delay, resulting in language impairments from moderate to severe.  It is clear from what is known of cognitive neuroscience, that language develops in a systematic way (Pinel, 2007). Understanding the factors that contribute to language acquisition from a cognitive science perspective, will prove to be a vital starting point for clinicians working with individuals with language based disorders.
Pinel, J. (2007). Basic of Biopsychology. Toronto: Pearson. Allyn & Bacon

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Dreaming about warm weather, on a dreary day

It is a dreary day in Toronto and the summer seems far, far away.

It is times like these that I find myself thinking a warm summer breeze, sitting outside eating watermelon, or wearing flip flops on a walk to the park. I love the energy of the summer, the spirit of the our space changes--it switches into much more socially, play-based and I dare to even say...outdoorsy kind of vibe.

This year we have switched it up to include activity rotations that the campers rotate between; the idea is that each age group will have their own tailor-made activity at each activity rotation throughout the day. Activities are lead by our Senior programming staff, and campers are supported by their cousellors/teachers at a ratio of 1:4. We have additional support for those who require it, just let us know. Everyone learns together with specialized methods called on as needed and with social opportunities sought and facilitated.

We are fortunate to have a playground on-site, as well as an even larger sensory-playground (I might even say an  out of this world sensory playground) within walking distance from us. We have 4 indoor classrooms, a sensory-motor gym space and a property that permits outdoor exploration from chalk art to outdoor water play; we have shaded areas for a cool break, like snack time, and plenty of sunshine (we PROMISE to wear sunscreen). If you're wondering how we got so lucky in the heart of York (that is, Toronto), well you are not the only one wondering that.

We are so fortunate to have landlords that permit our use of their space with open arms and with the attitude "our home is your home"; we are located at 47 Glenbrook Avenue, in the lower level of the Beth Torah Congregation. We are very proud of the space we have created for our kids.

We're 10-second walk to the local grocery store (the wonderful Lady York), Dairy Queen (a summer time staple) and a dollar store, all serving to provide valuable social opportunities for our bigger kids. We're 1 block away is a community center that open it's doors for free swim every afternoon in the summer; anyone up for swimming and making some friends? We're excited to be planning regular trips to the pool, which is monitored by a lifeguard at all times to ensure safety.

In between walks to the sensory park, recess in our playground, snack in the shade, soccer on the lawn, water works in the rear-lot, arts and crafts on the lawn, sensory play inside and out, team sports in the gym, science for a break from the heat and lunchtime in your cabin group, you'll want to make sure to drink plenty of water! 

So when it's really dreary, and it seems like summer is a long way away...these are the kinds of thoughts I like to think! Here's to a short May....
Cheers! if this sounds like something your kids would like!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Dangers of an Unregulated Field

Dear Moms, Dads and Professionals:

As a professional with formal education in principles of behaviour, psychology, philosophy and child-education I can honestly tell you that I learn something new everyday. The day I've said "I've seen it all", is the day I will retire. Until then, every day is a learning experience.

It never ceases to amaze me how many professionals are in the "behaviour and special education community" without the credentials to back-up their expertise. Parents sometimes see the specialist as the expert (at all costs), and forget to ask the important hard hitting questions; how do you know what you know? Who trained you? What formal education to you possess in your area of expertise? If the answer is none or no one you are in BIG trouble. If the answer is "I possess strong interest" you are likewise in BIG trouble.

There are two kinds of misleading professionals out there; there are those with the credentials but not the expertise (i.e. they talk to the talk but don't walk the walk) and then there are those with expertise but not credentials (they walk the walk, but they usually don't talk the talk). If you are paying for a service, you deserve to have someone who can BOTH talk the talk, and walk the walk; if your consultants gets defensive about his or her educational background, or answers the question of expertise with what he or she wishes to do ("I'm may do a Certificate in XYZ, or I'm thinking of becoming an XYZ") you should probably seek support elsewhere.

Please note: I have worked with some incredible mentors and brilliant professors...BUT....No one can know it all and know one can be masters of all fields. The good ones don't claim to be; they work within their framework of knowledge and believe it or not...make meaningful change. If someone is claiming to know it all, they are probably full of it.

Don't take my word for it; hire a non-behvaiourally trained consultant and ask them for a behaviour protocol. If it looks like a short story or an anecdotal account, you are in BIG trouble. Run away. Run far, far away AND ask for your money back. If there is no data as to frequency, if the word baseline does not appear, if the words generalization and fading are not included...SPRINT away. Bottom line is, if you are not formally trained, you need to make way for the people who are.

What fields should I know about that are unregulated and what education am I looking for?







Friday, 13 April 2012

My Kid's been "Red Flagged"

It's common for parents to reach out to consultants when a professional mentions that certain "red flags" are occurring that may or may not be indicative of an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Professionals like early childhood educators, teachers or speech therapists may be the first to recognize these red flags. My kid has been red flagged; does that mean my child has Autism? No. Not necessarily.

The only person qualified to diagnose and assess are psychologists and doctors with specific training in diagnostic criteria. Not all doctors or psychologists have the same specialization; just because the credentials are there, doesn't mean the practical knowledge is.

What it DOES mean is that your child appears, based on the topography* of his behaviour, to share learning similarities with some kids on the spectrum; your child may or may not have Autism.
*topography is the way the behaviour appears; what it looks like to you as an observer,

Professionals like me, are not able to diagnose or assess accordance with DSM criteria; we work hands on with learners with with exceptionalities all day every day, and have a different kind of understand of ability and progress. I understand the term "red flag" to come from recognizing several key identifiers of ASD and it is often used interchangeably with word characteristics, and traits. Many individuals share traits and characteristics with individuals on the Autism Spectrum, and yet these individuals are neurotypical by all accounts. All humans demonstrate behaviours, so it's no wonder that at some point our behaviours share similar topographies, typical or exceptional.

If your child has been red-flagged, don't panic; proceed with caution until you find an educated professional, willing to work with your family to help you understand your child's individual needs, irrelevant of eventual diagnosis (which I do recommend if a psycho-educational assessment is feasible).

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Autism Advocacy...What a Community!

I posted a question on the Autism Ontario message board about navigating the IPRC process; I was astonished with how many people responded with thoughtful, passionate advice. Until today I did not feel the presence of the Toronto community, but here it is! If you're not part of this group, I recommend you search it in Yahoo Groups and join us.

It occurred to me that many parents are in the process of navigating the IPRC process and/or school board in general, so I here are some tools from me to you (some of which were shared with members of the Autism Ontario Yahoo group). An archive of questions and answers from parents to advocate Lindsay Moir; it's absolutely full of information that every parent should know. His words are inspiring, and well founded. Ministry of Education Information on special needs resources, rights Information on getting assistance devices for communication, mobility and so on.  Justic for Children and Youth to speak with lawyers regarding issues of children's educational rights.

Thanks to everyone who responded :) I promise to PAY IT FORWARD!

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

To those who think they have seen it all...

These pictures are here because they remind me, like this article, that perspective is extremely important.

Found this post in a draft pile; I think I was hesitant to publish it because there were a lot of emotions attached to it. Now, with some perspective, I am happy to share.

To those who think they have seen it all:

You know who I mean, the teaching professionals that have been in the game "forever" and always know just what is "best". Now I realize I sound like a rebellious teenager ranting about his parents but bear with me, because I am going somewhere noble with this.

A brilliant professor once said "just because you can talk the talk, does not mean you can walk the walk".

I can't help but think that when they (the people who know it all) talk, they are speaking the right language, but the words are all mixed up. They use words like reinforcement, negative and positive behaviors and re-direction and they think they have a grasp on a very complex field of study; they make judgments based on what will and won't work without acknowledging functions of behavior, or environmental variables to say the least. Worse yet, they Google "Autism" to find suitable courses of if suddenly by a stroke of genius, the answer should appear on a pop-up ad...when that doesn't happen, then what?

Now believe me I know, behaviorism as a field is fairly new; too new for it to be a topic of study when these so-called "seen it all" degrees were sought, but don't you think you owe it to your profession to get up to date? A successful professional is constantly seeking self-development; the day that a professional says "I have seen it all" is the day that professional should retire (that kind of attitude is totally out of date).

I know that behaviourism, or it's application of ABA, is a fairly new and eclectic teaching style, and I expected to face this kind of is an uphill climb to widespread acceptance. Resisting the ABA methodology because it is new and the effects are often long-term rather than immediate, is something I can begrudgingly accept, but resisting the inclusion of a child because he can't possibly be getting anything from the way he interacts with the world, is outrageous. It is not that this child's needs cannot be met, it is that you are not capable of assessing his abilities, needs or progress. Be wise enough to admit when something it out of your range of professional expertise, no matter how much you "know" you can't "know it all".

The hardest for me is when professionals ask questions like, why won't he interact with others? Why won't she join the group or sing along? Why won't she take part in play? It is almost like they cannot fathom how they could support a child unconditionally, given his differences. There is no way to convey my teaching philosophies in one blog, but if there was, it would start with the words UNCONDITIONAL ACCEPTANCE (upon which there can be no stipulations or fine print).

Saturday, 31 March 2012

MM Spring Fling!

Bouncy House
Ball Pit
Sensory Play

Playground Fun
Sensory Play
Finger Painting
Guess How Many

You and your family are invited to join us for our Spring Fling & Carnival!

Join us for:
-Sensory Activities: Shaving cream and finger paint
-Bouncy House
-Ball and Beanbag toss
-Pick a Lollipop Game
-Guess How Many Jelly Beans
-Face Painting and so much more!

We're looking forward to a wonderful community event that promotes acceptance, awareness and inclusion.

Come to check us out and see what we're all about, to meet some new friends, and to have a blast!

Get information on summer programs, our school year programs (including private school and after school programs) and specialized services ranging from IBI Therapy to Sensorimotor training.

For more information check us out online, or reach Billy or Alley today.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Accurate Dissemination of ABA

ABA as a field is exploding and it seems that everyone has their own take on it.

Maybe it's more of a question of branding than anything else, but it seems at least to me that everyone is trying to REVOLUTIONIZE the Autism Education Field. From "experts" popping up everywhere, without the education to back up their expertise, to consultants that possess the credentials but not the practical knowledge of the application of IBI; the industry is changing. My only hope is that  the increase in professional interest in Autism is driven by a desire to make meaningful change, and not a desire to capitalize on a growing industry.

1 in 88 has about a growing demographic.

The prevalence of Autism, though intriguing, is not the subject of this post. The true issue I am taking up with, is the tendency for Autism therapy practices to show up on web pages, in consultants portfolios, or on message boards, claiming to be evidence-based and peer reviewed, but negating basic principles of science in so doing. You cannot claim to evidence-based, if you are not fully committed to the application of principles of ABA.

You cannot have your cake, and eat it too! You cannot accept the benefits of associating yourself with an evidence-based science, while also claiming to be anything other than a direct application of ABA. It's false advertising, and it's confusing for parents who aren't able to tell the different between evidence-based and not. We wear the professional hat, and with that role comes power and a (perhaps false) sense of knowledge/expertise.

I am all for finding new-age ways of engaging with your clients ( At MM we are super hands on and play based, BUT and it's a big BUT, it's all within the framework of evidence-based philosophies which we stick to VERY strictly). The principle of behaviourism are pretty much set in stone, and though we can decide how we get from A to B, we have to follow certain rules to get there.

Practitioners shouldn't be wavering on these principles even a little bit if they are claiming to be ABA; it's not a  buffet where you can pick what you want and negate the rest. ABA is evidence-based, but if you're not doing categorical ABA, it's NOT evidence-based. Now believe me if you walk into my center you are NOT going to find robotic discrete trial learning going on, and yet, we are somehow adhering strictly to principles of behaviour in every aspect.

Please require a high standard of your practitioners, your kids deserve it; the ABA industry deserves it.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Floortime Lite Mama: Accepting Autism

Please read and pass along to anyone that will benefit...

Floortime Lite Mama: Accepting Autism: The other day I met a parent who is going through the initial diagnosis of autism I found myself recommending the usual bibles of new par...

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Love this tip, have to share.

As a regular school, with a specialized approach, we are inclusive in our classrooms; we think that everyone should be learning together. We are always looking for ways to bridge the gap between exceptional peers, and our peer models. We have a few tricks up our sleeve for encouraging social skills, but here is one I found online that I absolutely adore and want to start implementing immediately during recess goes.

Found the idea here, cannot take the credit...will post a photo when it's complete.

The basic idea is a way of dividing kids into partners; kind of a new take on the old "1,2,3,4" numbering system of the past. All you need is a jar, ideally one that is looking all cute and motivating, and you write the name of each child in your class. At play time, or opportunities for social skill building you can simply draw names from the jar and VOILA! A brand new partner every time...LOVE THIS.

Friday, 23 March 2012


Today was a loooong Friday. 

The dreary weather and less-than-summery weather did not help! But the blooming Magnolia trees were a pleasant surprise, even if it is March and they only bloom once per year.

Today started off with a TAG-Teach TM (not sure how to subscript here, but this is infact a trademarked term) type session...if you follow me, you know I recently discovered TAG-teaching  TM  as an ABA method and was itching to get into action...the reinforcement, the's all a little dreamy for an analytic mind like mine. 

The basic idea is shaping; it is desensitizing, breaking large chunks into smaller ones and providing clear and concrete instructions (SDs) one at a time, this should all sound pretty basic to any ABA-ers out there.

The less than basic idea, is that through shaping procedures we can not only overcome anxiety related to certain tasks (food issues, anxiety related to work tasks, and so on), but we can also use reinforcement to effectively motivate behaviour in a way that social praise alone cannot do. As long as you have a plan for fading the reinforcement....TAG teaching is is a home run and as I found just one session...IT REALLY WORKS! 

In honor of a little Dragon that made a HUGE first step today thanks to TAG Teach!
Because TAG-teaching TM sessions are short and intensive in nature, you do not need to be a drill Sargent (which, obviously if you know me, appeals to me); furthermore, you are much less likely to run into an issue of reinforcer satiation, since the click or tag you use to signify task completion is reserved only for TAG teaching sessions (if your an ABA-er you recognize that as reinforcer-deprivation). 

TAG-teaching TM  sessions are usually brief, and systematic. Large tasks (for example, today's was eating an orange) are broken down into more easily manageable steps. Only focusing on one step at a time, allows the student to master each step before being required to move is is hard core ABA and I absolutely love it. 

Here are some of my thoughts for my upcoming TAG teach TM  sessions....

-Food desensitization
-Letter writing and number formation
-Tying Shoes
-Independent Bathroom Use

-Teaching gross motor activities

What are your thoughts? Have you used TAG Teaching TM ? 

Photos from