Category Archives: Workshops

IMPROV Can Be A Great Resource for Autistic Students

Jen Olenizcak, founder of “The Engaging Educator” recently lead a program over the course of two weeks where six students on the autism spectrum and their families took a one hour class on the Neustadt Collection at Queens Museum, which is a collection of Tiffany lamps, windows, metal-work, flat and pressed-glass “jewels” and much more. What she noticed was that there were many individual successes but also the areas of empathy, eye contact, and imaginative play saw improvements through the whole group.

The students she worked with really liked her exercise in empathy. She would pair people up and while one person’s eyes are closed, their partner connects their fingertips and leads the “blind” person around using only the touch of their fingers. Children with ASD tend to have trouble with empathy, but for this activity, they carefully guided their parents around the gallery space and by week two  were guiding their peers around.

After the end of week one, the group ended with an activity called “Pass the Clap”.  It starts with the first person turning to the person next to them, makes eye contact and then they both try to clap their hands at the same time while maintaining eye contact. The next person then turns to the person next to them, continuing around in a circle to “pass the clap”. Eye contact is something that people on the spectrum in general tend to have a difficult time doing and some student had to be reminded to “see what color eyes” the person next to them had. However, they continued this for a period of time and it was a largely successful activity.

The group also engaged in imaginative activities where they had to try to embody different emotions like “happy” or “sad.” They also tried posing like the people they saw in the photos in the gallery and created their own stories about the plants and flowers design that they observed on the Tiffany lamps. For example Jen Olenizcak’s student partner told her that she was the tulip and then proceeded to act out a story about the wind, a bee getting pollen, and snowflakes falling on the tulip.

She was very excited with the level of engagement from the students and their families and though the results of this very short study was only tried this one time she is hopeful that perhaps if the program could be extended to more than two weeks, more than one class session so that perhaps we can see something really inspiring happen. “Would the empathy move beyond the class and contribute to a better understanding of emotions? Could the eye contact in “Pass the Clap” transfer to everyday life”? We don’t know the answers, but we would sure like to find out.

We will be talking about some emerging and innovative therapeutic practices as well as issues of empathy, specifically on Day 2 of our upcoming International Autism Conference. For more information and ticket registration, CLICK HERE!



Dealing with Challenging Behavior

Kim Ceccarelli is a behavioral coordinator and crisis specialist at the Northshore Education Consortium in Beverly, Massachusetts who has worked in the autism field for 25 years. “My work involved providing safe and effective behavior management—including de-escalation strategies and behavior intervention—for about 25 students who have autism and fall within the ‘severe’ category,” Ceccarelli explains. Her students range from ages 7 to 21 years old and many of them are completely nonverbal.

In her classrooms, she works with her staff to grasp that idea that their behavior is their form of communication. As caretakers, you need to become detectives and actually analyze why your child may be acting out by running around, kicking, or screaming.

Ceccarelli noticed that whenever a child would act out aggressively, they always seemed remorseful after the act, for example by rubbing the area they may have hurt someone, which made her realize that her students didn’t want to act out.  She notes that once she started acknowledging that many of her students didn’t have much control over what their bodies did during a meltdown, she was able to look at their behavior from a different perspective. She began to analyze what exactly was triggering certain behaviors and what she could do avoid this behavior or change it.

“I still remember one 20 year old student who would lose control of his body, flailing forcefully when upset, until finally he slammed his head into a wall—almost as if that was the only way to stop the episode or get relief,” she explains. “At the onset, we began prompting him to sit and put beads in a pipe cleaner with his forearms resting on the table. Having his forearms on the table was incompatible with the flailing. Other students just needed to learn one word—wait—when in a crowded hallway to replace body slamming the walls. These are small interventions, but they made a huge difference.

Whenever she taught a student a replacement behavior, they had a tendency to choose the replacement behavior over their original more challenging behavior, and they appear to be grateful for it. The hardest part is figuring out what it is that your child needs, but even the littlest adjustments can make the biggest difference.

On Day 1 of our upcoming conference, we will have a workshop lead by Dr. Brian Iwata on “Functional Analysis & Treatment of Severe Problem Behavior”. For more information and tickets to the event, click here!

To read more about Ceccarelli’s learning points for children with autism, click here!



Hear Our Voices Holds Socialization Workshop

Shema-Kolainu-Hear Our Voices hosted a play and socialization skills workshop this morning, November 21. Our 60 attendees came to the school to learn how to properly teach children with autism how to play with toys and integrate with their peers.

Play is important for all developing children because it teaches language, social interaction, motor skills and more. For children with autism, play can be difficult due to their tendencies to isolate themselves or interact with adults rather than other children.

Part of the goal of the workshop was to combat these tendencies with positive reinforcement. For instance, when playing, pick a toy that is related to the child’s interests and strengths. It’s important to note that once play becomes more natural and unprompted, the reinforcement should slowly decrease and more neutral toys should be integrated.

Parents can also pair toys as means of positive reinforcement. For example, give the child a boat while they are taking a bath or play music when they are coloring.

Keeping play fun and not rushing a child who is not ready to interact with peers was also discussed. If you force a child to share too early on, or if they don’t have the proper verbal skills for interaction, the experience of play can be soured. Parents should also keep in mind that their presence should fade as play becomes less forced and peers enter the picture.

If you’re interested in more information or attending a future workshop please visit our website at http://www.hear-our-voices.org/workshop.html. A certificate is available upon completion.



Think you can’t take your child with autism to a museum? Think again!

 Have you ever witnessed a parent with a child having a tantrum and thought, “wow, that parent doesn’t know what they’re doing?” Or even worse, have you ever been the victim of this? Parenting a child with autism can be quite difficult and tiring, and many feel they can’t take their child for outings to the store or to a museum, for fear of a tantrum or melt down. Museums across the country became sympathetic to this, and decided to take action.

According to a study released by the American Alliance of Museums, more museums are creating programs catered towards children with autism. Whether it is a specific block of time during the day just for these children, or special art projects, museum staff members are encouraging families to attend the museums. Some museums are also encouraging professionals to attend these programs, to serve as a guide for the parents.

The Please Touch Museum for children in Philadelphia is an example of this effort, with their “Play without Boundaries” program. During this hour, the lights are dimmed and the music is turned down, in order to help the children feel comfortable. In an article released this week, parents of a 3 year old with autism were always reluctant to take their son on outings for fear of a tantrum. [i] However, after such a positive and rewarding experience at the museum, they are excited to return back for future events.

Other museums aiding in this effort include: Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Contemporary Art- Jacksonville, Chicago’s Children Museum, Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine, Boston Children’s Museum, COSI Columbus Science Center, and Oklahoma WONDERtorium.

If the trend continues, more parents across the country will be able to bring their child to a museum without fear of judgment or stress.

To read more and for a full list of participating programs, visit the American Alliance of Museum’s site.


[i] “NPR” How to make museums more inviting for kids with autism. 18 Jun 2013. Web. <http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/06/18/193092510/how-to-make-museums-more-inviting-for-kids-with-autism>



Special Education Expert Presents Music Education Strategies & Strengths

Tuesday, at Shema Kolainu Hear Our Voices, Stephen Shore Ed. D. held a workshop on music education for children on the autism spectrum. Shore completed his doctoral degree in special education at Boston University and now teaches at Adelphi University in New York. Having been diagnosed on the autism spectrum and non-verbal until the age of 4, Shore brings a unique perspective to the field of special education. He attributes much of his success to the comprehensive interventions his parents guided and the music education he received from an early age. Subsequently, his approach to education is one of both specialization and inclusion. Shore’s strategies are developed particularly for the varying abilities of autistics, but are applicable for neurotypical education as well, allowing for integrated classrooms. While music is often recognized for it’s therapeutic benefits, Shore’s focus is not therapy, but structured, sustained education. Today’s workshop demonstrated the potential of music education to increase communicative abilities, strengthen neurological development in youth, foster social inclusion, and provide potential career paths for those with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Shore charismatically relayed stories of his students’ astonishing talents. One anecdote told of a non-verbal young man who, when guided hand-over-hand while playing piano, sang clear as day. Shore suggests that the structure, support, and focus the student experienced while guided to play the piano enabled him to sing, though he could not speak typically. Drawing from examples of students demonstrating expert knowledge in areas, who are unable to express understanding through certain mediums, Shore makes the case for specialized assessments in education in general, not just for students with developmental disabilities.

Check out Dr. Stephen Shore’s work and many publications at his website: http://www.autismasperger.net/. The workshop, ‘Music for Children on the Autism Spectrum,’ will be streaming soon—stay tuned to see Dr. Stephen Shore speak



Autism Education Expert, Stephen Shore, Presents Workshop ‘Music For Children On The Autism Spectrum’ At Shema Kolainu

Tomorrow, Shema Kolainu Hear Our Voices will be holding a workshop on ‘Music for Children on the Autism Spectrum.’ Presenting the workshop will be expert Stephen Shore Ed. D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Special Education at Adelphi University. Shore is an inspiring individual who is on the Autism Spectrum himself. Having been nonverbal until the age of four and having completed a doctoral dissertation on the needs of those on the autism spectrum at Boston University, Shore is a testament to education and therapeutic strategies. He will be making a case for inclusion of autistic children in typically music courses as well as individualized music training and therapy as a means of communication development. Shore asserts that the “structural regularity” of music aids autistic children with communication in varying ways, contingent on their place among the spectrum. For non-verbal children, music may serve as the form of communication itself. Shore’s musical methods go further than skill development, drawing ideology from the proven physiological benefits of music as well. On Shore’s website testimonial for music therapy, he references a study performed by a neurologist/musician at Beth Israel Hospital, which showed an area of nerve fibers that transmits signals between the two brain hemispheres to be 12% thicker among keyboard players who began training before 7 years of age. To register for Stephen Shore’s workshop ‘Music for Children on the Autism Spectrum’ at Shema Kolainu Hear Our Voices click here! The workshop is April 16th, 2013 at 10 AM. Learn more about Stephen Shore’s work at his personal website or his Adelphi University page.



Gallery Exhibits Autistic Student’s Photography

Last night, the You & I gallery in Kennewick, WA displayed the work of 20-year-old Austin Saget, who is an austic. Saget is in his final year of high school and the exhibition featured his senior project. His interest in photography began 5 years ago when his neighbors gave him a film camera. This same neighbor acted as a mentor for Saget , fostering his interest and supporting his outlet. Saget photographs primarily landscape and architectural patterns. Brooke Yunt, co-owner of You & I gallery, describes Saget’s work passionately saying, “This kid has natural talent oozing from his work.”

Saget’s is yet another beautiful success story of coping with ASD. With the encouragement of his community, Saget has found a form of expression that is satisfying and tapped into his talents. At Shema Kolainu we encourage arts education and believe in fostering the individual talents of our children.

 

 

For more details about Austin Saget’s exhibition:

http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2013/03/07/2302276/kennewick-artwalk-to-feature-autistic.html



Promoting Social Inclusion of People with Autism and other Disabilities in Education

Dr Shore meets with Shema Kolainu staff:

Promoting Social Inclusion of People with Autism and other Disabilities in Education

 A free workshop series for parents, teachers, therapists, and others working with children on the autism spectrum was presented by Dr. Stephen Shore, an Assistant Professor to the Department of Special Education, at Adelphi University.

As an introduction Dr. Joshua Weinstein Founder and CEO of ICare4Autism presented Shema Kolainu’s sister school Tishma in Jerusalem Israel. He presented a video of the school and its various activities.

He also spoke about Icare4autism and its vision of creating the Global Autism Center on Mt. Scopus in Israel, dedicated to catalyzing breakthrough innovation in autism research and treatment.

Dr. Shore presented the development and use of educational accommodations as extensions of good teaching practices. Attendees were able to learn ways to implement and find practical solutions for including children with autism and other special needs into the regular education experience.

During the workshop Dr. Shore also shared a touching description of his own personal struggles and how he was successful in his life even with autism.

This workshop was held at our Brooklyn location and attendees were given a certificate of completion upon request.

 



Autism Workshop Teaches Adaptive Daily Living Skills

Shema Kolainu's Educational Coordinator Chani Katz, MA, BCBA, fields a question.

Parents and professionals were welcomed into Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices today for a free autism workshop.  As part of our workshop series, our Educational Coordinator Chani Katz, MA, BCBA, presented a workshop written by our Education Director Gili Rechany, MA, SBL, BCBA, on Adaptive Daily Living Skills and helping those with autism to be independent.

We at Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices, School and Center for Children with Autism regularly open our doors and share our findings about how children on the autism spectrum learn to communicate, socialize and succeed while engaging in daily routine activities and interacting with others.

Autism Workshop toilet training exercise

Attendees participate in an exercise on toilet training

Chani started by going through toilet training, including what to do before you start, baseline and training procedures as well as possible problems that may be encountered. She then spoke about self care skills, explaining how to use social stories and task analysis to assist in training skills such as brushing teeth, dressing and eating.  Chani finished up by covering pre-vocational skills such as following task analysis or activity schedules to do tasks like making the bed or completing homework.

Throughout the workshop Chani stressed that every child is different and that specific attainable goals should be set for each child.

Shema Kolainu's Educational Coordinator Chani Katz, MA, BCBA

Shema Kolainu's Educational Coordinator Chani Katz, MA, BCBA

Our educationand training program is designed to inform and enhance the knowledge of participants about autism, related services and behavior analytic techniques used to effectively teach personal, social, and academic skills.

This workshop series was designed in response to parents, teachers, therapists and others who requested to learn how to improve the lives of children with autism spectrum disorders.



Workshop on Employment for those with Autism keeps all Engaged

Autism Workshop

Dr. Stephen Shore presents "Employment Opportunities for People with Autism: Observations on Promoting Success"

Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices was pleased to host a workshop presented by Dr. Stephen Shore this morning. Dr. Shore is an Assistant Professor at Adelphi University and has published several books and chapters on autism including his personal experiences. Continue reading