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

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Gluten Free in the City

Being GFCF can feel super isolating...spending entire days dreaming about the elasticity of regular pizza dough, the taste and smell of fresh melted cheese, and dreaming of how I once ate sushi with soya sauce....I know you feel me on that one. I am so grateful that I was blissfully unaware of my intolerance as a child..I got to experience real unaltered deliciousness...though I seem to remember spending a lot of my childhood doubled-over repeating to myself "this too shall pass". Whether you are new to GFCF life, or a seasoned veteran, read on and maybe share some thoughts at the end to provide solidarity and knowledge to a growing community...

If you think it's hard being GFCF, try being the parent of a child that is GFCF... I am speaking anecdotally of course, but having a little one on a GF or GFCF diet can feel SUPER DUPER isolating in a world of donuts and ding dongs. 

Birthday parties are the cake, no cookies, no cupcakes...and no ice cream. Ok, there are alternatives...but common...try selling rice dream to a 4 year old. It is one thing to be old enough, like I am, to understand that if I eat gluten I will get sick and therefore I should avoid it...even then I admit, sometimes I indulge and feel the wrath later...but it is a total different story when you are kid. Just TRY reasoning with a 4 year old who REALLY REALLY wants that ice cream, cake, pizza, cookie, bread, cheese, milk, and so on and so on.

Then there are bagged lunches...Oh what in the world do you make a sandwich out of bread that has to be toasted to be edible?...I am all for a piping-hot toasted sandwich, but a -3 hours later- toasted sandwich...NO THANKS! Thinking up creative packed lunches takes effort, and a lot of ambition...they have to be healthy, delicious, and GFCF...AND they have to be good enough that the kid actually eats it (send 2 hard-boiled eggs and a bag of carrots and see what happens)...A full lunch bag at the end of the day is the WORST.

Working at MM, it is becoming increasingly obvious to me that allergies are a top issue in today's schools, summer camps, and day cares. We are scent-sensitive, because many of our kiddos are prone to sensory overload; we provide an allergen-sensitive environment, in which each child's allergies are thoroughly considered before materials are placed into each student's homeroom. At MM...we get it. We know about dextrose, semolina, and milk derivatives; we know about sulfites, mono sodium glutamate and caramel colour! TONS of us at MM happen to be on GF and, or GFCF diets, and we provide a Gluten and Casein Sensitive environment all year round, including in the summer for camp. 

If you are concerned about allergies and summer camp, give us a call! We are allergy-sensitive, down to our play dough :)

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Play-Based Early Intervention Therapy, Toronto

Our play-based approach is really the cornerstone of our therapy programs; it's how we reach the littlest ones. We (my incredibly dedicated team and I) use play to target goals from all domains (that is, from fine motor to gross motor, from toileting to self care using the ABLLS-R to guide our assessment).  We are constantly looking at the whole picture to make sure meaningful change can happen that lasts overtime, and across environment...otherwise, what's the point?
 All of our learners are unique in their specific profiles, but many share similar needs including a large focus on the development of communication skills. Our team of therapists acknowledges that before meaningful two-way communication can occur, a child has to be willing to accept feedback from another person. This is important in how we relate to early-learners, who are still developing these essential learning to learn skills. 
In early-intervention we want to set the child up for success (that's why we use error-less teaching to inspire confidence), so we always add "demands" but let's call it, invitations to perform... in a very calculated and systematic way using the principle of shaping to gradually impact overall performance ability. It is so  important to remember that a 1:1 experience can be intense for a child that is most comfortable in isolation or with their parent/caregiver. It is important not to place demands quickly with an early-learner, or at all (with any learner) if it "seems like" a demand (this is true at any age).  I am not saying the child should never have to follow rules, there should be rules for safety and even conformity, BUT and this is the big BUT...I cannot stand when I go to a school a school, or class, and there is a rule for EVERYTHING. Here's my rule about rules...if you cannot remember all the rules off the top of your head, you have too many. You are not a drill Sargent, even if you are strict in your requirement for the top priority rules to be followed. Like, we are strict about no running in the halls, that is an safety issue. We are strict about not leaving the room without a teacher, it's a safety issue. We try to remember to put caps on markers, and we try to remember to listen when the teacher is talking. We are not perfect! We don't let kids run loose, but we also know rules won't do the teaching!
I tend to remind my team that if  an instruction or SD sounds like "do it or else" you are doing something wrong. Instead, I guide my  team to use play to entice the child into the world of whatever your subject matter is; to set the environment up so the child comes across poignant materials, and relevant stimuli. I recommend using gestures, issuing consistent and specific social praise, and maintaining a high level of energy. That's the difference between a good therapist, and a great therapist.
It's so important to be hands-on, but also to stand back long enough to follow your child's lead and to assess what he or she already knows about the subject matter/skill. Following the child's lead is one of the only ways we can truly ensure that our play-based approach remains child-centered and authentic. It's not to say that we don't have overriding goals, like eye-contact, increased speech, answering what questions, labeling various items, performing motor imitation and so on, but we are using novel stimuli.We strive to be very natural in delivery, so as not to come across as a someone who will tell you "how it is", but rather as someone with whom you can explore the world, and better yet, someone you can invite into your own play. We set up mini-discoveries all over the room, and explore the stimuli with the child, as a partner not a drill Sargent (I always go back to that word because of the bad rep. ABA has). 
Why exactly is what we do called Applied Behaviour Analysis and not just Autism Education?
We use principles of reinforcement to shape behaviour/skill development! We analyse behaviour by acknowledging that each behaviour, or habit, plays an important role in communicating something. We know that by analyzing its trends, we can figure out the function it serves and ensure that the child continues to have his or her needs met. This kind of analysis helps us gain a deeper understanding of the child, and when children are nonverbal, or even non conversational, this can be really meaningful. We use principles of verbal behaviour developed by B.F. Skinner, to elicit communication skills in children with language delays. 

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Anxiety Intervention: That is What Summers are For!

It often amazes me how many kids I encounter with anxiety issues. On some level, anxiety is a natural part of life and helps us understand our own arousal levels, and ability for toleration. In other ways, anxiety can be all-consuming, and scary, meaning that it has essentially crossed the threshold from normal nerves to classical anxiety. I think that anxiety is a fairly normal, cue gasp, aspect of life that can be overcome and managed.

We use systematic teaching strategies.
I always hear the same story from parents, the academic year is full of anxiety; there is school, after-school programs, dance lessons, piano, Speech, ABA, OT and so on and so on until your child is just a ball of nerves ready to burst... Is it all a bit too much? Maybe. But what other option do we have, than to constantly push our kids to their maximum potential? We want gold for your kids, and so do you...that is why we give everything we have to making sure your kids meet milestones, develop self-awareness and become successful self-advocates. We want it all don't we? A happy, healthy and well adjusted kid that also does well in all arenas, from social to communication. We want the full package, we want every child to reach his or her potential, or better yet, surpass it.

So what it means, is that we as professionals, and you as parents, need to come together to understand your child's anxiety. Come together to understand how to combat and manage the anxiety, as well as using a behavioral approach to analyze the antecedents and consequences that come before and after the episode of anxiety, so that you can plan and manipulate variables as needed. By helping your child cope with anxiety, you shape the behavior needed to be able to deescalate one's own feelings of angst...what better gift is there?

Spending the time to address anxiety concerns, is crucially important for social, academic and inter-personal growth. Having the time to target anxiety in a hands-on way, is easy when you think about it....

Summer vacation is a time to recharge for students; it's a time to develop social and interpersonal skills, a time to develop hobbies and skills. Summer vacations can also be an incredible time to target the obstacles that prevent skill acquisition during the academic year, in a way that is intensive and hands-on.

Anxiety, for example, can be a difficult barrier to overcome without explicit intervention, and can hinder academic development among other skills. Overcoming anxiety will allow your child to be his or her authentic self; to experience self-love, and self-understanding, and most important self-confidence.

A successful intervention for social anxiety, would include a combination of 1:1 and group learning; it would involve a comprehensive program in which desensitization is targeted and reinforcement is used to pair social situations with reinforcement. Through a variety of presentations, students participate in both individual and group therapy, ensuring that all needs met throughout the day. Participating in a variety of activities, chosen for each unique learner's profile, kids can expect to overcome barriers, and become confidence and social learners. Most importantly, participants will return to school with strategies, and management techniques and abilities, which increase overall ability to perform independently.

P.S. Magnificent Minds offers a program like this. for more details about our Summer Camp Program 2012

P.P.S. If you like the font used in the pic above, Google free fonts and get loads of amazing fonts for teaching purposes and making visuals :)