Autism success: Devastated to Inspired.

Kathy with Starbuck's card from RobKathy’s work as an SLP/BCBA in our local high school provides nightly stories. Sharing vicariously in the triumphs she celebrates with her students each and every day is a treat. The successes range from tiny steps to huge breakthroughs. What they have in common, though, is making a difference.

 

Hopefully sharing these stories with a wider audience will inspire…

 

“Rob” is a young man on the ASD spectrum. The roots of this story are familiar to anyone who lives and works with individuals with autism: Melt downs, anxiety, frustration, empathy, difficulty finding friends, etc. Rob’s team has dealt with all of these issues over the years.

 

 

This particular story starts a month ago, after many hours of coordinated team work and coaching. Rob stands in line with a five dollar bill clenched tightly in his fist. He has made the giant step of asking two friends to go with him to the high school football game that upcoming Friday. This is no ordinary game, however. It is “The Game.” It pits Rob’s high school against their biggest rival, includes several days of activities, and is circled months in advance on everyone’s calendar. 

 

You know what’s coming, don’t you? The student directly in front of Rob buys her ticket. As she walks away, the ticket vendor looks up at Rob and says, “Sorry, Buddy, she just bought the last one- we’re sold out.” Rob somehow manages to hold it together, by falling back on hours of role playing. As his aide told Kathy soon afterwards, though, Rob was clearly devastated.

 

And that’s when Kathy and Rob’s aide decided to turn this into a life lesson. Kathy pulled some strings (no surprise to anyone that knows her) by explaining the situation to the admin team, and was able to purchase a ticket.

 

The next day Rob was in a group session with several of his peers. Kathy steered the conversation: How do we deal with disappointment? What strategies can we use to get what we want? How could you help a friend with a problem? Towards the end of the session, Rob was thanked for sharing his story from the previous day. Rob’s aide reminded him to check Miss Kathy’s calendar for the date of their next session.

 

Rob was startled, because there was an envelope with his name taped to the calendar. “What’s this?,” he asked. “Open it up and see,” was the response. Inside, of course, was the ticket. The ticket to not only the game, but to a night of promise. 

 

The very first thing Rob did, was pull yesterday’s five dollar bill out of his pocket. As he passed it to Kathy, Rob’s aide said his smile was the biggest he’d seen. You know the kind- that surprised smile from something unexpected. And here is where the story gets interesting, because Rob’s two fans weren’t finished yet.

 

Kathy thanked Rob for paying her back. She told him the reason for the ticket was because of how well he had handled himself yesterday, and how he had shared about his disappointment today. Kathy then added that she had something else. She asked Rob to remember what they’d talked about over the previous hour, especially about helping others.

 

Kathy handed Rob a five dollar Starbuck’s gift card, and told him that she had an assignment for him. She asked Rob to give the card to someone he knew. But not randomly, she explained. Kathy wanted Rob to give the card to someone in return for doing something nice. And lastly, to make sure that his gift was as unexpected as the ticket that he had received.

 

Fast forward to five weeks later- yesterday. Kathy has just finished a group session that rocked. Four students were interacting with each other in ways she would not have believed possible when the school year started. As one of those students, Rob, was walking out the door, he turned back into her classroom. “Miss Kathy, I want to tell you something. I want you to know how much you’ve helped me, and how you really help lots of people. I like coming to your classes.” And then, as Rob left, he handed his gift card to Miss Kathy. 

I Love You Mom

Kathy-Marie-with-123TokenMe-on-the-SmartBoard-300x300I love you, Mom.” Imagine a mother who has never heard those words from her child? Or been hugged in years? When Kathy asked Marie what social skills she would like to tackle this month in her class of teens significantly impacted by autism, it was an easy decision for Marie. It would be a tough task, so Kathy invited Me to be part of the team. If successful, they knew these new skills would make incredibly memorable Mother’s Day gifts. 

 

“Where’s Mom?” Photos of families were used to develop an awareness of this very special group- mothers. Lots of pointing, smiling, and “Can you find the mom?” Gradually each student recognized the special attributes in mothers. 

 

Three magical words: “I love you. With a mixture of verbal and nonverbal students, this was a unique lesson. Simple social stories about why their mothers are special added meaning. Makes me dinner. Takes me places. Watches movies. With support from visuals and shaping words and hands, “I love you” was a mission accomplished.

 

Hugging was tougher than many would expect. Being touched and so close to others is not easy for these teens. With lots of reinforcement and encouragement, the teens practiced the simple steps in giving hugs: stand up, walk close to the person, circle arms around the person, and squeeze. Kathy said that being hugged by this favorite group of students was a highlight of her school year. 

 

My part?? The teens were familiar with 123TokenMe, but this was a treat. By connecting Me to the SmartBoard’s projector, everyone shared in the excitement when the whole group earned a token for practicing “I love you” and giving big bear hugs. Woohoo- we rock! Before long the avoidance and protests disappeared. Thanks to an incredible classroom staff, Marie’s students not only learned challenging new skills but had some fun.

 

And… Mother’s Day. Hopefully these “I Love You’s” and big hugs are celebrated with their mothers this Sunday. Our entire team wishes a very happy Mother’s Day to mothers everywhere. You are loved. And hugged.

 

Please share with the mothers in your life!

“B” is for Bakersfield

Summer-and-123TokenMe-visit-autism-classrooms-in-Bakersfield-to-help-with-transitions-300x300If you could visit any city in the world that began with a “B,” where would you choose? Barcelona? Beijing? Buenos Aires? Not Me. Bakersfield. And, thanks to Summer, my 123TokenMe dreams came true. Just returned from a visit to several autism classrooms in Bakersfield. The two of us were enlisted to collaborate on improving classroom transitions.

 

Transitions can be extremely stressful for both teachers and students. Since they happen throughout the school day (Center to center, small group to outside, going to bathroom, etc.) it is important for teachers to have a plan and share it with the class. Some of the ideas we demonstrated were the use of a bell, transition cards (Colors, shapes, animals, etc.), and a song to signal transitions. We also showed how to set up 123TokenMe to award tokens when students transitioned calmly. Smoother transitions? They lead to less stress and more learning. Bakersfield? When can we return? 

A new high school student?

IMG_0911-300x300

 

 

Who is that student? The one with the pink shirt hurrying to class? Actually it’s not a student… it’s Kathy. After over fifteen years of working as a SLP in early intervention, she is now working at the high school level.

 

Kathy is looking forward to an exciting year with lots of learning. A chance to shake things up at a different level. To make a positive impact with students in their transition from school to life. And a great opportunity to model safe behavior by properly using crosswalks.

Welcome to our Website!

Imported-3-2-12-010-300x300

Kathy Murphy and Summer Conway welcome you to our brand new website. We have been blessed to work with incredible families and colleagues. All of us share a passion for individuals with autism and other special needs, and a desire to make a positive impact in their quality of life. 

 

After many years of working collaboratively and implementing numerous new ideas, we caught a bug. The entrepreneurship bug. We decided to make the leap in the summer of 2011. We translated our ideas into two main projects: 1) Apps to assist teachers, parents, and therapists in improving and measuring behavior, and 2) A website with an interactive forum to share ideas.

 

Surprisingly, the new venture bug that led to the 123apps4Me apps was rooted in frustration. The frustration of knowing that there must be a better way for all of us that work in the education and therapy communities. Teacher? Parent? SLP? Therapist? Other caregiver? We all want to do our jobs better and more efficiently. 

 

The apps are designed with a unique “inside the classroom” perspective and are focused on improving and measuring behavior. In both the general education population, as well as for managing programs and enhancing skills of individuals with autism and special needs.  What makes the123apps4Me apps different from any currently available? They generate and summarize data in various formats to make decision making more effective.  Another difference? They are engaging for both the caregivers and the individuals whose behaviors are being worked with. Put another way, the apps are effective and efficient, with a touch of fun.

 

It is not our intention, of course, for information on this site to replace any evaluation, intervention, or recommendations provided by a credentialed professional. The 123apps4Me journey has taught us that everyone has much to share based on their unique perspectives and life experiences.  We hope this website enhances collaboration with and learning from each other. We look forward to seeing our apps help you with the wonderful work that you do.

 

123ThankYou,

 

Summer & Kathy

What’s New?

Grand OpeningOur website is new! We launched in mid- 2012.  If this website was a store, it would still have the “Grand Opening” banner hanging out front.  Thank you for visiting while boxes are still being unpacked.

 

Our hope?  That the site is a valuable resource. A content-driven site where every visit results in a “take-away” idea. A place to showcase how the 123apps4Me apps can help you with improving and measuring behavior in your students, children or clients. And, a place to have some fun. 

 

We have been asked, “How can I help?” Here are three answers: 

1) Interact with the site. Post or comment. Click “Sign Up” on the Home page to get started.

2) Share this site address with your friends/contacts. This will help speed up the sharing of this website with the families, teachers and support staff that will benefit. 

3) Use the Contact form under the “About” tab to contact the 123apps4Me team. Your comments, questions, and suggestions are appreciated.

 

Are you interested in the background and history of the 123apps4Me start-up venture? Read the ongoing autobiography, Is Today My Birthday? You will find it by scrolling down the ”About Our Team” page under the “About” tab. Join us on our roller coaster ride of learning!

 

Follow the 123apps4Me team on Twitter

Twitter iconTwitter: 123TweetMe in 140 characters, or less. Can drive you #crazy!

 

 

 

 

 

Kathy Murphy Twitter Profile- 4/21/12Kathy Murphy is @123itzMe – Kathy tweets on SLP’s, BCBA’s, collaboration (Her hot button issue), early intervention, best practice, ASHA, autism, and special needs. Whew! How does she ever fit it into 140 characters, or less?

 

Summer Conway Twitter Profile- 4/21/12Summer Conway is @123hugMe – Summer tweets on teacher hints, classroom ideas, pre-school classrooms, early intervention, autism, special ed, special needs, tips for parents and more. The “more” has been known to include Happy Hour tweets.

 

Dan Murphy/123apps4Me Team Twitter profile- 4/21/12The 123apps4Me team is @123apps4Me – These tweets concentrate on the start-up aspects to the website and the apps. The ups and downs that anyone ever connected with a new venture has gone through.

The Friendship Book

The friendship bookSeveral years ago my SLP introduced a great way for my class of kiddo’s to learn classmate names and other special information. We ask each student, or their parents, for their favorite food, toy and place. Each student has a dedicated page in a Friendship Book.” Their page consists of their photo and photos of their favorites. Each student is given their own Friendship Book to take home to read. Several copies are also put in the classroom library. The kids love reading about their friends and learning their likes. They especially enjoy finding when their favorites match a friend’s. 

When the students know everyone’s name, we cover up the photo. The kids guess who it is, based on the likes. We also use it to practice asking and answering questions. For example, based on a picture of the friend’s likes, the student has to think of a question to ask. If his friend likes Disneyland he might ask, “What is your favorite ride?” It is a great tool for students to learn about each other and to engage the class in a variety of learning activities.

Hooray for School!

We borrowed copies of the CD’s that the teachers play in class and uploaded the tunes to our ipods at the house.  I was able to play “Hooray it’s time for School” every morning when we started back to school so that our son would know where we were going, and be a little more prepared for the routines.  I thought this was really helpful to give him a chance to learn the songs in a variety of settings.

Collaboration with his Teacher Worked!

Chart for BehaviorLast year was an unusually stressful school year for my little guy!! There were several things that occurred that added to his usual school stress. Health issues ,which called for many doctors appointments which meant missed school. The passing of a Grandfather. As if life isn’t already stressful enough for a little guy with ASD, all these added transitions. To say that this created a struggle is an understatement! By the time mid year rolled around we were in a tail spin! Nose dive skidding across the tarmac is a great description! My little guy began making negative comments which led to mild self injurious behaviors. We as parents became increasingly concerned. Our little man while still in primary grades, we felt was getting older. As parents we had moved away from visual schedules and token systems. We thought that this wasn’t necessary any longer. What we didn’t realize was that with all these hurdles/transitions our little guy was struggling to know which way was up. After school he became nearly impossible. Simple tasks led to tantrums. After exhausting him and ourselves, we consulted with his teachers and worked toward a solution. He had a chart in place in the classroom that had simple faces that showed different emotions: happy, angry, sad that were being used throughout his day.

The goal, to help him become more aware of his moods and actions. It also served as a daily report card so that I could have an idea of how his day had gone. His teachers suggested that we do a similar chart at home with three tasks on it. “Do your homework” , “Lay out clothes for next day” “Practice piano” with emotional icons at the end of each task. Each day he would bring the chart home from school. I would ask him to complete each task and record the appropriate icon. The next day he would return his chart to the teacher. If he got all smileys his reward was either playing with lego’s or free computer time. It made all the difference in the world! We went from tantrums to “Mom I have to get my things done before bed.” The chart helped him to manage behaviors, emotions and encouraged independence and accountability. The key was giving him structure while rewarding him for independently maintaining appropriate behaviors and emotions. Within a week we saw a significant change in his demeanor. Within two weeks we saw a positive change both at home and school. Sometimes we underestimate the power of a simple chart and the structure that it brings. Three cheers for great teachers and visual charts!