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Hi friends! This week, I am honored to host a series of posts from four licensed clinicians and therapists who work with children on the autism spectrum. These four amazing women will share some of their insight and perspective on ASD, and also how these #ausome children have impacted their lives. I hope the series will be helpful and invite you to share any thoughts or questions you may have in the comments section of each post!

Understanding Autism: From profession to passion, a speech and language pathologist's journey | wonderfully-made.net

By: Amanda Rosenthal, MS, CCC-SLP

Is speech and language pathology a career kids dream of having? Perhaps it is for some, but my journey began a little differently. Growing up, our next door neighbor was a speech therapist so I was familiar with the profession, but, from age six to twenty-one, I dreamt of becoming a writer or an English professor. It was only in my junior year of college, when my mother reminded me that I needed to think about job security and suggested speech and language pathology as a career, that I began to think about pursuing it as my profession. I liked kids. I liked language. I liked the idea of having summers off in school. Why not!

I had no idea that this field would become not only my career but my passion. Specifically, I had no way of knowing that working with children with autism would not only be the majority of my caseload but also would impact my life profoundly.

When I meet new people and we exchange typical small talk questions (“Where did you go to school?” “Where do you live?” “What do you do?”) I almost always get the same response when I share my profession: “So you work with kids with lisps?”

“Yes,” I reply, “but it’s so much more than that. I work with children of all ages with language, articulation and developmental disorders. My kids range from nonverbal children on the autism spectrum to kids who can’t produce their /k/ sounds.”

At the word ‘autism,’ brows typically furrow, faces drop. “Autism?” they say, “Wow.”

I wish in those moments that I had the time to explain just how amazing these children are and how much they have taught me in my own life. I am currently completing my third year in a public school preschool, and this is the first time that children I evaluated at 2 years old for Early Intervention will be heading off to kindergarten and I could not be prouder of what they have achieved.

While others might be confused by their anxiety, their social quirkiness, their disorganized syntax, their emotional extremes, I look at these children in awe. I see how they have learned to verbally request what they want and need and to protest without hitting. I see how they have learned to ask questions to gain information and to be a part of a peer’s conversation. I see how they have learned to play in the dramatic play area. These are all skills that we so often take for granted, but that children on the autism spectrum work diligently to learn every day.

When I think about how difficult it can be for these amazing children, as others in their community might not realize their social challenges just by looking at them, and may roll their eyes or frown when these children bump into them at the grocery store or grab a toy from a child at the playground, I want to encourage anyone who may observe these behaviors to view them through a new lens, as there is such joy in helping these wonderful children to make friends and feel comfortable in their own skin.

These children are my heroes. As we near the end of this school year and I hear one of these children yell down the hallway to a peer, “Hi, Abigail! You are my best friend!” I can’t help but tear up.

Working with these children who have learned and adapted so much and continue to work so hard to reach new heights is a joy. My profession and my passion. And I would not change it or the children and families I am lucky enough to work with for anything. 

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AmandaAmanda Rosenthal received her undergraduate degree in English from the University of Richmond.  She received her Master of Science in Communication Sciences & Disorders from Emerson College.  Amanda received her certificate of clinical competence from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and is licensed to practice speech-language pathology within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  She has experience working in the public school setting and has worked with children who have a variety of speech-language difficulties/disorders including Autism Spectrum disorders and Childhood Apraxia of Speech.  She also has experience using the DIR/Floortime approach for Autism Spectrum Disorders and has been with Let’s Talk Speech and Language Therapy Services since April of 2013.  To learn more about Let’s Talk, visit their website or follow them on Facebook!

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Thank you, Amanda, for sharing your beautiful perspective and insight. Friends, if you have any thoughts or questions, please share them in the comments section below!

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Hi friends! This week, I am honored to host a series of posts from four licensed clinicians and therapists who work with children on the autism spectrum. These four amazing women will share some of their insight and perspective on ASD, and also how these #ausome children have impacted their lives. I hope the series will be helpful and invite you to share any thoughts or questions you may have in the comments section of each post!

Understanding Autism: What is DIR/Floortime? And how can it help my child? | wonderfully-made.net

By: Nikki Meribela, MS, LMHC, CEIS

When a family receives an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis, they suddenly receive a whole dictionary full of new terms that they are expected to learn. This never ending list includes different kinds of therapies (ABA, Occupational Therapy), words to describe symptoms (sensory issues, behavior) and stacks of documents that will be needed by the schools. A lot is expected of families during this very emotionally challenging time. Beginning new therapies can be exhausting for everyone, but finding the right match for the child can make a life-changing difference.

One of the many terms that is often new to families who have received an ASD diagnosis is a therapeutic technique called DIR/Floortime. This therapy is more of a philosophy for engaging with children than a set of techniques to be implemented during a therapy session. Using this approach, the therapist works with the family to build healthy foundations for social and emotional skills by helping foster the child’s motivation to learn instead of focusing on teaching isolated skills and targeting behaviors.

The power behind this therapy is the child’s motivation. As the founder of this therapeutic approach, Stanley Greenspan, MD, said “All children have within them the potential to be great kids. It’s our job to create a great world where this potential can flourish” (Stanley Greenspan, MD, Great Kids, 2007, www.icdl.com). So during a DIR/Floortime session the therapist works to see what the child is motivated by and joins the child in what brings them joy. This approach works to build upon the child’s social and emotional skills in a way that enjoyable for everyone.

This therapeutic approach is family friendly and can benefit any child, regardless of skill level—to me, that is the most wonderful thing about being a DIR/Floortime provider. Autism Speaks had a really interesting quote on their website, “Autism is a spectrum disorder. If you’ve met one individual with autism, you’ve met one individual with autism,” and this really makes me think about Floortime. No two children that I have worked with are exactly alike, and therefore, no two children should be prescribed treatment that is exactly alike. The DIR/Floortime approach allows me to address treatment by aligning to this philosophy. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about DIR/Floortime check out www.icdl.com to learn more. To find a DIR/Floortime therapist near you visit www.dirpractitioners.org.

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nikkiNikki is a licensed mental health counselor who received her Master’s degree and Early Intervention Certificate at Northeastern University. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Psychology at Albion College in Michigan. Nikki is independently licensed by the Board of Allied Mental Health in Massachusetts and is a certified Early Intervention specialist. She has previously worked in research settings assisting on child centered research at Massachusetts General Hospital and Children’s Hospital Boston. Nikki is also a training facilitator for the Regional Consultation Program providing topic based training to education and child care providers. Nikki has continued her clinical training in DIR/Floortime and is an intermediate level certified therapist. She incorporates this model with a family centered approach in her work with children and their families as the Clinical Director and Partner at Puzzle Pieces, LLC. To learn more about Puzzle Pieces visit their website or follow them on Facebook!

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Thank you, Nikki, for sharing your invaluable insight! Friends, if you have any thoughts or questions about DIR/Floortime, please share them in the comments section below!

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Happy Easter!

Happy Easter from Wonderfully Made

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

May you have a beautiful, blessed Easter Sunday, friends. He is risen!

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An #ausome story of friendship

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. (Eccl 4: 9-10)

Earlier this week, my dear friend Renee offered to give Jack a ride to social skills group along with her son Sam. Jack loves Sam and Sam’s three brothers, so he was thrilled to carpool to group with some of his very favorite people :)

As Renee and I were chatting yesterday, we pieced together the following acts of friendship and kindness exchanged among all three boys, and I wanted to share them with you:

When they arrived to pick Jack up, Renee’s nine-year-old son, Nate, hopped out of the car in the pouring rain to get Jack. Renee braced herself for what she felt would surely trigger a meltdown for Sam – he would want to go in, then he would refuse to leave, and then they would never make it on time to the social skills group. But to her joyful surprise, Sam called out, “Nate! Take good care of Jack please! Promise!” 

Nate arrived at our front door moments later and offered to help carry Jack’s things. When Jack saw Nate, he gave him a big hug and said, “I love you, Nate.” Nate returned the hug with a smile before Jack bounded happily down the stairs toward their car. When I got to the car to help load up Jack, he and Sam were sitting side by side while Nate set up Jack’s favorite movie for them to watch – Cars. 

Later, Nate filmed the two of them singing “Life is a Highway” in their seats, side by side and sent it to me. I smiled from ear to ear. Jack was so happy riding with his friends, watching his favorite film. And, as a mother, it was a joy to see him stand on his own and form friendships with others who opened their doors and their hearts to him.

These three precious children demonstrate that true friendship lives and grows beyond boundaries. It is rooted in love. 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Cor 13: 4-8)

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Do you have an #ausome story to share? We’d love to hear it! Email it to wmpsalm139 {at} gmail {dot} com and it may be featured here on the blog!

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I am often asked, what is autism? When asked this question, I first provide a definition much like this one:

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by deficits in social interactions and social communication and by restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior. It affects the development of the brain, causing difficulty with behavior, communication, learning, and social interaction. (May Institute)

I then point out that while having a definition of autism is helpful in defining the challenges children like my son, Jack, face, it does not provide any insight into the amazing gifts children on the spectrum have. And while this definition defines a condition my son has, it does not define my son.

So, who is Jack? Jack is a…

Loving

Determined

adventurous boy

brilliant

handsome

Joyful

Child of God

My child has autism. He also is awesome. And I believe your child is, too. Join our family in the My Child is Ausome™ campaign by sharing the badge below with your friends and family! Simply copy and paste the image or grab the button on the sidebar, then share!

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