About Dr. Rebecca Mullican

Received her Ph.D. in Special Education, Emphasis: Severe/Low Incidence Disability at the University of Southern Mississippi. She has seventeen years of experience working with students with autism. Learn more…

Getting the Most From OT

I personally reached out to Meg and invited her to share with us because I was so impressed with her when I first met her in January and then again, when she was our guest at Jackson Autism Center, to speak about picky eating. She is a great resource and is currently accepting new families in Mississippi and North Carolina to work with. Make sure you check out her new website also!             ~Dr. Becca

Getting the Most from OT

As a parent, sometimes occupational therapy can be confusing. What is it exactly? Sensory therapy? Fine motor? What’s a child’s occupation, anyway? To make matters even more confusing, what OT looks like from one therapist to another can be totally different! Here are some things to look for during OT no matter who your therapist is or where you see them.

  1. THEY SHOW YOU WHAT TO DO AT HOME

What might be happening. Let’s say you see your child’s OT in a sensory gym. You child loves playing on the swings and big exercise balls. He’s in a good mood for about an hour after therapy….and then everything goes back how it was.  You wonder if this is really helping. But he likes it, so you keep going.

How to get more. Next time you go to the clinic you ask, “How can I use this at home?” The therapist mentions that your child is better at doing his homework after he swings for a bit. The two of you talk and decide that he can go to the park and swing after school before you go home to do homework.

  1. THEY LET YOU TRY

What might be happening. You go to therapy and either watch the therapist or wait in the waiting room to hear about what happened. You try to do the same thing the therapist did later at home, but it doesn’t work the same when you try it.

How to get more.  Next time you go to therapy you ask, “Can I try that while you watch?” The therapist talks you through how you can help your child, and gives you feedback on what you can try differently when things don’t go well. When you get home, you feel confident that you know how to use the new strategies, and your child isn’t surprised when you try these new approaches at home. Your child makes progress so much faster because you are doing therapy all week rather than just for one hour.

  1. THEY WORK ON THINGS THAT MATTER TO YOU

What might be happening. You may not have gotten a chance to tell your therapist what your goals are for your child, or they may have changed since you started therapy. So your therapist helps her with some activities, but they aren’t the things you are really struggling with.

How to get more. An occupational therapist helps with a child’s daily occupations, meaning any activity they need and want to do. When you are having difficulty with your child’s daily activities like play, self-care, homework, or following a schedule, you ask your therapist to show you what you can do.  They revise the plan of care to make sure they are addressing the most important goals for your child, or they refer you to someone who can help.

  1. THEY UNDERSTAND AUTISM

What might be happening. Therapy just isn’t working. You really like your therapist, but she doesn’t seem to get your child. Everyone is frustrated, and after months and months he isn’t making any progress.

How to get more. You ask your therapist for a referral to someone else. You have to try out a few different new therapists, but eventually you land on someone who works well with you and your child. Your therapist isn’t surprised or hurt by this, because all therapists know that even the best therapist is not the right fit for every child.

Choosing a new therapist? If you aren’t in occupational therapy, these scenarios can help guide you in choosing a therapist who will be a good fit. When talking to a potential new therapist, consider asking questions like:

“How will you help me learn what to do at home?”

“During therapy, can you teach me to use the strategies?”

“I’d like to work on x, y, z, is that something you can help with?”

It can feel uncomfortable at first, but everyone benefits when your child gets more out of his or her time in therapy!

See more tips on getting more from therapy at learnplaythrive.com

Meg Proctor is an occupational therapist and autism specialist. She offers online occupational therapy for families in Mississippi and North Carolina, and free ebooks and video tutorials for parents. You can find her at learnplaythrive.com.

Why am I so Emotional?

Recently, I have had the joy and honor to speak to others through a few different venues about autism spectrum disorders…and I tear up each time. I ask myself- why is something I do every day having such an emotional reaction when talking to others? Let me answer that…after much contemplation…I am so passionate about autism and making a difference not only for kids, but for families also, that speaking to others about it just makes me cry. I love making a difference for kids every day…and more importantly, for their families too! I do not take the work I do lightly and each moment and each accomplishment means so much to everyone involved. When a child says mama for the first time, we swell with pride…and the accomplishments my kiddos are making are just as phenomenal. It’s amazing when you look at the world with rose colored glasses because every single thing means the world to you and you just can’t wait for the next “little” thing. So, to my life of “little-not-so-little accomplishments,” I’m so happy to be a part of your child’s daily, weekly, monthly accomplishments.

2016 Summer Day Camps Now Available

We are super excited to be able to offer our first ever summer day camps! They are set up to allow 2 preschool weeks and 2 school age weeks of Monday through Thursday 9 am to 12 pm noon with lots of activities, arts/crafts, sensory experiences, and small groups and teacher to child ratios! This is an awesome experience you won’t want to miss! The preschool class will consist of 4 preschool age children with 2 adults who have lots of experience with children with autism and similar special needs and the school age class will consist of 6 school age children with 2 adults!  Sign up while there is space available!

Friday Five: Five Summer Activities to Keep You Busy

Summer is coming and parents are looking for things to do! How can I keep my child interested and engaged for the rest of the summer?” If you are one of those parents, I hope this list helps you find something fun to do!

5. Stay cool indoors! Try going bowling- it’s a great activity that not only allows you to interact with your child plus many of the newer bowling alleys have a computer screen that shows silly scenes after you bowl which may catch your child’s attention and even motivate them to bowl again! It usually isn’t too crowded during the day and you might even save a few bucks. Put the bumpers up and if your child doesn’t have great fine motor skills, teach them to granny bowl (put between their legs and roll). The fan by the bowling balls that cools your hands may also be a sensory bonus.
Take turns bowling and move as quickly or slowly as your child prefers! I have even had kids who wanted to take my turn and their turn. We turned it into a great game and cheered each other on. It’s not about who wins or loses- it’s how you play the game…

4. Buy sidewalk chalk with the 3-D glasses. This is a great opportunity to draw pictures, write letters or words, make a hopscotch board, etc. The 3-D glasses just add more fun. Some ways to engage your child: take turns, ask questions about what color they want, get them to tell you what to draw or what color to use, and even “erase” the scene with water and watch it dry in the sun.

3. Another great summer activity is going to the movies. In the Jackson area, Tinseltown and Malco (maybe United Artists too) have weekday showings in the morning at a special summer price. It may be busy, but this is a good time to try going to a movie and not feeling self-conscious about your child being too loud or not sitting still. There are all ages at these showings and everyone is typically friendly. AND, if you have to leave early, it’s much cheaper than usual admissions, so you can always build up a child’s tolerance of the movie theatre while you are not paying full price.

2. A way to incorporate reading with fun in the summer is to set up a tent in the house or in the backyard and get cozy with books. Camping items are great for kids with autism- and add a lot of sensory fun too. You can use flashlights, glow bracelets, and sleeping bags. Step it up a notch and include a little fishing game with the magnet poles and circular moving pond, fishing hats, books about wildlife and camping, and stuffed animals that live in the forest. These toys allow you to interact with your child in ways that may not have occurred on your usual summer schedule. Of course, no camping trip is complete without a special snack like s’mores- and they can be made gluten-free as well. Happy camping!

1. One of the programs that I think is widely overlooked in the summer is the local library reading program. The Jackson Hinds Library System has an awesome summer reading program that not only gets your child reading or you reading with your child, but also plans lots of activities for the kids- almost daily! Activities are free to anyone and with lots of libraries, there are lots of special things going on usually including “The Snake Man,” a real helicopter, plus lots more! This is a great way for your child to not only be included, but be exposed to new and interesting things.

These are just a few things that stick out in my mind from the many summers that I have taken children with autism into the community. I hope you will try some of these activities and find them as enjoyable as I have. If you try any of the above activities or have any topics you would like discussed in news and updates, please let me know what you think by completing the contact form. Happy summer!

Daddy Writes about His Daughter’s Disability

Another book repost…not about autism, but an in-depth look at a family whose daughter uses a Speech Generating Device to speak. Schuyler is now a teenager and I still love to read her dad’s blog and see what she is up to! She now uses an ipad to communicate. If you have a child that is non-vocal currently or does not use speech to communicate, speech generating devices are opening doors for these kiddos! It’s so exciting to see kids learn how to communicate!

 

I recently read a book, “Schuyler’s Monster” about a father’s experiences with his daughter, Schuyler, and her disability. Robert Rummel-Hudson refers to his daughter’s disability as a “monster” throughout the book that left her unable to communicate verbally. His honesty regarding what he went through before, during, and after diagnosis offers real understanding for professionals and may allow parents to feel understood or not alone. Although some parents and professionals may not like his opinion about disabilities or religion, I found the book to be inspiring and full of hope. Schuyler’s parents never give up on helping her have her own voice through a speech generating device. “Schuyler’s Monster” is a book for all individuals who work with kids who have disabilities.

And if the book leaves you wondering what is going on now for Schuyler, you can read Robert’s blog to find out more!

http://www.schuylersmonster.com/

Sgt. Mom Shares About Autism

As we reach the end of Autism Awareness month, I want to help us focus on all aspects of autism and the reality of autism for families. I found this post from two years ago and thought it was a special one to share. A Mississippi mom shares her journal and letters to her daughter with autism in her book. It’s a great read and I highly recommend it!

I wanted to share an amazing mom’s journey with her daughter who has autism. After I met Bri in December of 2013, I poured over this book, devouring it within two or three days, amidst Christmas company, Santa, and the busiest time of the year. If you are new to autism or have a child on the spectrum, this books will help you realize you are not alone. If you are a professional or are in school to become a professional in the field, this book will give you insight into a family’s life with autism. Thank you, Sgt. Mom for sharing your journal and journey!

Disney Vacation- No Problem

As summer nears, more families may be planning not only vacations, but possibly Mickey themed vacations. A family who recently left on their Disney vacation shared a website they found very helpful when planning to go to the Disney parks. Autism at the Parks is a website of a family who moved to Florida in 2007 and visits the parks nearly every weekend. It is full of helpful information! As a personal Disney lover and frequent visitor, some of the things I recommend are:

  • Visiting in non-peak times. Even if you go in the summer, try to go later in the day or the evening when people are headed back in or are tired. Evenings are typically less busy than day time and less hot!
  • Utilizing the baby care centers which are also set up to assist kids with special needs. There is only one per Disney park and it is usually at the front, so don’t wait until full meltdown mode to try and find one! They are cool, relaxing, quiet, and a great place to rest from the parks.
  • Don’t pack the schedule! Make sure and have down time, pool time, and follow the child’s lead. If he/she wants to ride Dumbo over and over and the lines aren’t long, go for it. If he loves Nemo and music? Do the Nemo musical at Animal Kingdom. There’s something for everyone!
  • Take advantage of the Disability program Disney has. Plus fast passes! You can book fast passes 90 days out if you stay on property and approximately 30 days in advance if staying off-site. These really make the lines shorter. The new disability program allows one “fast pass” type ride at a time.
  • Do fun things out of the parks! The mini-golf and Chip & Dale’s Campfire Sing-Along and Movie are truly fun. There’s a movie somewhere every night on property and it’s free for resort stayers.
  • Prepare beforehand as much as possible! Watch youtube videos of parades, rides, and look at pictures of the things they will see. Even making a social story about the Disney trip can be helpful and relieve anxiety or stress.
  • Keep expectations low for each day. What are three things you want to do each day? If you do those three, count the day a success. After all, it’s quality vs. quantity and quality wins. If they want to ride the train over and over or watch the Electric parade every night, enjoy those special moments. It will be a vacation to remember!

What to Consider When Repeating a Grade…

This is an old article written back in 2013 that I thought was a great reshare for this time of year!

With it being “IEP season,” a great question comes to mind: should my child repeat a grade in school? There are many schools of thought about this subject matter. I will share a variety of reasons an IEP committee, which includes the parents, may decide that it is a good idea to repeat a child in a grade in school. I will also share a variety of reasons an IEP committee may decide it is not in the child’s best interest to repeat a grade. This decision is considered an IEP committee decision and parents have equal rights to share their feelings and thoughts regarding this matter. No one knows the child as well as mom and dad.
Sometimes, a child may repeat a grade because he/she is socially immature and needs extra time to mature. This is a common practice in younger grades for typical children as well as children with disabilities. By giving a child an extra year, more practice, and younger peers, the results may work really well for the child. No teacher or principal can ever know 100%, but they try to make their best judgement based on experience and knowledge of the child.
Another reason a child with a disability may repeat a grade is to gain essential academic skills that he/she may have missed for whatever reason during the academic school year. Although children can not stay in each grade two years, there may be some years that they need more time to gain the foundational skills they need to continue to progress alongside their peers. Kids with disabilities may not always be able to gain as many skills as typical children throughout the school year, but it is important that they gain the foundational skills that will be built on year after year.
Sometimes, a child whose disability impacts them moderately may benefit from repeating a grade in order to be included in general education activities more than they would be if they moved to the next grade level. Inclusion in the general class is important for building social skills, relationships, increasing academic opportunities, being a part of a group, and many, many more reasons. For this reason, it may be decided that a child repeat a grade merely to be able to be appropriately included in general education more. As children progress to higher elementary grades, children with disabilities tend to spend less time in general education because the materials become increasingly difficult.
The above are a few reasons why a child may be held back from moving forward. So what are some reasons that a child may move forward and not repeat a grade?
One reason to decide not to repeat is merely to keep a child with their peers. It is difficult sometimes for kids with disabilities to form friendships and when a child repeats a grade, they start all over with building relationships. As we know with kids who have autism, they already have a difficult time building these relationships and if we hold them back, they end up having to start over the next school year. This can be detrimental for some students. Kids not only have built friendships in their current grade, but they have also more than likely built support systems. Support systems are typical kids who assist them in a variety of ways, such as with following directions or advocate for them when they need a break or are having trouble communicating. Support systems are not built overnight and once they are in place can be helpful to a child with a disability.
Another reason to progress a child depends on the child’s attributes. Is he/she already a foot taller than everyone and bigger? By holding him/her back, does he/she stand out in the crowd? If so, this may not be a good time to repeat. All children should feel comfortable with their peers.
The IEP committee should determine which of the following items pertains to the child and make the best decision based on the individual child and situation. Sometimes, there may be extenuating circumstances that require a team to consider other reasons to repeat a child in a grade. However, decisions should not be based on overcrowding at a school, convenience, or fear of moving forward. Remember to keep the “I” in IEP. If you feel uncertain about the decision, you can always request more time to decide or another IEP meeting. Ask your teacher to explain why they feel either way and share your thoughts and feelings. If it is appropriate, ask the child what he/she thinks and have him/her in the meeting.
These are just a few personal thoughts regarding repeating a grade. It is important to keep in mind that the IEP committee comes together to make decisions for one individual child. As long as that child is the focus, decisions should be made that will be in the best interest of the child.

Friday Five: Five More Favorite Apps

Here are five more apps that are sure to please!

  • Toca Boca Kitchen & Kitchen 2– These are awesome for a variety of ages and goals! From simply requesting which character and telling them to “cook” or “eat” to making complex sentences or directions about what to cook, how to cook something, etc. Always a big hit!
  • Daniel Tiger Day/Night– This app is fun because it visually shows a picture schedule of the things Daniel needs to do to get ready for his day or ready for bed. There are special things in the app to work on buiding imaginary play skills too.
  • Feelings with Milo– This one is also great for a variety of kids- from simply choosing an emotion to writing a journal about which feeling you are feeling and why. It makes an emotion train that gets longer each time you use it!
  • Spin & Speak– This app provides an opportunity to work on skills from feelings to answering questions to more complex questions about getting lost, explaining what makes you mad/sad, and problem solving skills- all while you move through the game board. First, you “spin” and then you “speak” and answer your question.
  • Touch Math– By adding touch points to numbers, this app gives kids a multi-sensory experience for learning numbers and giving an understanding to “how many is 2?” After learning the touch points, kids can use them to add, subtract, multiply, and divide- and they are also able to be faded in some cases/with some kids.

Ten Days Until We Bounce for Autism!

Bounce for Autism coverThis is our second year to Bounce for Autism at Premier Tumble and Cheer! We are overjoyed at this special time to let the kids be kids, adults mingle, and be in a relaxed environment. Tickets are $10 per child and the Bounce for Autism will be Sat. April 30 from 10 am to 12 pm. Light refreshments will be available for sale.

While you are at PTC, check out the variety of classes they offer INCLUDING a class for kids with special needs! This is a new class that began this spring and is doing amazing things!

Purchase tickets in advance here.