Exciting news about ASA’s yearly conference- it’s closer than ever to the Jackson, MS area this year, 2016! The yearly conference will be in New Orleans, LA July 13-16, 2016. They have extended the early bird rate through April 30, 2016. Discounted rates for individuals with autism, groups (2+), and speakers. Don’t let this wonderful opportunity pass you and your family by! Register today!
You won’t want to miss this opportunity to hear Dr. Temple Grandin speak. She will be at a Jackson conference Monday, December 8, 2014. Dr. Grandin is the author of many books about autism and an individual with autism herself. She always brings excellent information to families and professionals alike about what it is like to have autism and function in the world. If you have never heard her speak, you should register! Along with Dr. Grandin is her mother Eustacia Cutler and Dr. Melmed, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician who co-founded and directs the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center.
Pete Wright, an attorney for individuals with special needs, will be speaking about special education law on July 24 in Jackson, MS. The special education law and advocacy conference will be held at St. James Episcopal Church and some of the hosts include: Mississippi Coalition for Citizens with Disabilities, REACH MS, and Mississippi Parent Training and Information Center. This is a great opportunity to increase your understanding of special education laws. You can register here.
On January 25 of this year, I had the honor of presenting at the annual JACUS conference regarding children with autism spectrum disorders and related disabilities and how to accommodate and modify for these children in a typical preschool setting. The title of the presentation was “Making a Difference for Every Child: Teaching a Child with Characteristics of Autism.” At young ages, children may or may not have a diagnosis. It is important to remember regardless of differences, all children can benefit from an inclusive setting. *Here are 5 ways to accommodate and modify for these preschoolers who may have characteristics of autism:
#5 If the child is having trouble sitting for circle time or for center type activities, consider incorporating a movement song or two in between activities. Another strategy that may work is to give the child a “job” or responsibilities that allow movement, such as getting the calendar pieces or passing out instruments. Some children do well using a move-n-sit cushion because it keeps them in their chair or space, but allows them to wiggle.
#4 If a child is having trouble completing the same work that other children are completing, consider modifying the assignment to allow the child to finish the assignment and be successful. For example, if the child has trouble cutting out difficult shapes, cut out some of them beforehand and allow the child to cut some out. If there is a tracing worksheet, consider snipping off the bottom half to reduce the amount of work the child needs to complete.
#3 If there seems to be a difficult time of the day for the child or the child seems to get stressed out about a particular event, such as going to the bathroom or coming inside from recess, consider writing a social story to help increase understanding of what is going to happen, when, and why. Through understanding, anxiety and challenging behaviors may decrease.
#2 Use pictures to help increase understanding. Some examples are a picture schedule on the wall that gives the order of what will happen when during the day so the child knows what to expect. This can benefit all children. Some children may benefit from the use of pictures and/or written words during activities too.
#1 Use straight forward language that gets to the point. For example, “Sit down.” or “Line up.” Simplifying language helps ensure that the teacher’s message gets across to the child and is understood.
*Please keep in mind that all children are individuals and strategies that work for one child may not work for another child.
Jackson Association for Children Under Six (JACUS) recently had their annual conference at the end of January. I was so excited to be a part of this conference and help bring awareness to autism and other developmental delays as well as posing strategies for how to work with children with delays and disabilities within typical environments. It is most ideal to have children with disabilities in typical environments so that they have opportunities to learn from their peers as well as learning the typical curriculum. However, this is not always suited for each child as some children may need to focus on learning specific skills.
I was excited to share with these teachers and directors how they can accommodate and modify within the preschool or early learning environment to better hold the child’s attention, increase participation, communication, and social opportunities. Check back for part 2 where five of these strategies will be discussed.
During spring break, Lisa Gerard and I attended the Across the Spectrum Autism/Asperger Conference in Atlanta, GA. The 2 day conference was filled with great breakout sessions, keynote speakers, and inspirational individuals with disabilities. The sessions ranged from picky eaters to LAMP strategies for communication, video modeling, teenagers on the spectrum, and lots more!
Dr. Glenis Benson was the keynote Thursday morning and focused on communicative intent of challenging behaviors. She stated “if they could do better they would do better” indicating that children on the spectrum are not trying to be naughty when using challenging behaviors to communicate. It was encouraging to hear another professional focus so much energy on the communicative intent behind the challenging behavior. It is so important to not only describe and identify the behavior, but really focus on understanding why it is occurring. I was working with a preschool client the other day who was trying to jump out of his chair. If I had not taken the time to try and understand the behavior, I would not have understood that he was wanting to pick something up he dropped and I would have thought he was just trying to escape his work. If I had not understood, I may have kept him in his chair leading to a huge meltdown that could have been avoided. By focusing on what he was trying to communicate, we avoided unnecessary challenging behaviors and/or meltdowns.
Alexis Wineman, Miss Montana 2012, spoke Friday morning and shared her story. She talked about the challenges of the Miss America pageant as an individual on the spectrum and how she did not request accommodations. She currently attends college, but made sure the audience knew that she was not cured from autism and meltdowns, but has learned how to thrive with her disability.
The conference was a wonderful reminder of how much we need to push individuals to reach their potential as well as taking the time to understand behaviors individuals have and why those behaviors may be occurring. I have already marked my calendar for the 2015 conference!
I just received an email stating that the Southeastern “Across the Spectrum” Autism/Asperger Conference and Expo in Atlanta, GA, has 20 scholarships available for parents to attend the conference for $50! The coupon code is spectrum.
I am looking forward to attending this conference March 13-14, 2014. Check out the conference here. I hope to see you there!
Dr. Mullican has been invited to speak again at ATIA’s 2014 national conference this month in Orlando. The Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) assists individuals with disabilities using all types of assistive technology and helps parents and professionals be better prepared too!
Dr. Mullican will be speaking about the use of Speech Generating Devices (SGDs) with child-directed play. Since her years in the classroom, Dr. Mullican has found child-directed play along with the use of speech generating devices assists individuals with autism to communicate. Do SGDs only benefit individuals with autism? No! SGDs help a variety of individuals with disabilities to communicate, from children who are not yet talking to children who only use echolalia to individuals who have difficulty being understood when they speak.
Here is more information about all of the sessions that are being offered at ATIA. Hope to see you there!
Dr. Rebecca Mullican was honored to talk about Autism Awareness month during the early morning news on WJTV Channel 12 Monday, April 22. Beth Alexander interviewed Dr. Mullican on first signs of autism, how to help during autism awareness month, and what services Jackson Autism Center is providing to the greater Jackson, MS area.
Autism is diagnosed behaviorally. Some of the first signs to look for are atypical eye contact. This does not mean the child does not make eye contact; it just means the eye contact may be unique from typical eye contact. The child may have fleeting eye contact, look through the sides of eyes at people, or avoid gazing into another person’s eyes. Another sign is speech and language development. Children typically are babbling by 12 months, speaking their first words by 16 months (“mama, dada, dog”), and putting 2 unique words together by 2 years of age (“me eat, no touch, mama go”). Another thing that is looked for when diagnosing children with an autism spectrum disorder is the way they interact with others and their surroundings. They may line toys up, carry items of no significance around with them, or seem to not respond to their name being called. Children with autism do not typically point to communicate with their parents or caregivers to share something they see or want.
There are many ways you can help out during autism awareness month and throughout the year. The Autism Society of America not only accepts monetary gifts; you can also donate your car. It is a great way to donate if you have an old car that runs or doesn’t run. Several national chains are raising money for autism awareness, including Toys R Us, Babies R Us, Dollar General, and TJ Maxx.
There are several local opportunities to volunteer and donate during autism awareness month. Maurices in Northpark Mall is collecting books for Jackson Autism Center. We are so excited about this book drive and how much it can help our clients learn to read, learn language, and enjoy literacy. Besides donating books, you can also donate your time! There are some great programs in the area that serve children with autism such as Hope Hollow Camp and Ridgeland Parks and Recreation programs like Challenger League and TOPSoccer.
Jackson Autism Center continues to grow and provide more services to the Jackson area. Currently, one on one intervention is available for kids with disabilities, focusing on academics, communication, and/or social/behavioral goals. Another service available is small group sessions that prepare preschool aged or homeschool children for structured school programs. Social skills groups began this spring for adults and children grades 2-6 along with toilet training classes. JAC also provides individualized program planning, academic evaluations, and consultation to families who homeschool a child with disabilities. School districts and organizations can also hire Jackson Autism Center to assist with teacher training, program planning, and specific needs of children with disabilities.
It was a great experience to share about autism awareness month on WJTV. Please wear blue and give back to the community to honor individuals with autism and their families during April. Jackson Autism Center looks forward to collecting the books from the book drive Maurices had in honor of individuals in the Jackson area with autism.
In case you missed WJTV’s Autism Awareness segments, you can watch them here:
Dr. Rebecca Mullican will be on the morning show on WJTV Monday, April 22, to speak about Autism Awareness month and Jackson Autism Center with digital journalist, Beth Alexander. Make sure you get up early and tune in to learn more about autism awareness month and how Jackson Autism Center is serving the greater Jackson, MS area for kids with autism and other disabilities. Morning news shows will be at 5 am and 6 am.