Thursday, December 25, 2014

What therapies does Max get at school?

Each week Will goes into volunteer at Giant Steps.  This is part of being a family in the Giant Steps program.  They didn't have us volunteer in the classroom until Max was settled and in school for a month.  I think this is so smart. 

Max has a strict routine he follows at school. 
His school color is yellow.  Everything he does, every line he walks in, every bin he uses has yellow. 
When he comes to school in the morning he puts his name marker in the yellow pocket. 
He loves the color yellow now, for obvious reasons.  It is HIS color. 

He has speech group work, ABA therapy, social group, and then "work" centers. Max also does Kindermusic at school twice a week.  Each time he finishes these activities he gets to play with toys and other classmates.  It is very preschool oriented.

What is ABA therapy? 
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is the use of these techniques and principles to bring about meaningful and positive change in behavior.
Behavior analysis focuses on the principles that explain how learning takes place. Positive reinforcement is one such principle. When a behavior is followed by some sort of reward, the behavior is more likely to be repeated.

For Max his reward is playing with special trains and cars that Will and I bought for him.  They keep these special cars and trains in a yellow bin just for Max.  He only gets to play with them after ABA therapy sessions, so for him they are very special.  We have already put in new toys and try to mix things up for him once a month or so.  Each child is different, but usually food isn't used as a reward. These children are only 3 and 4 years old, so toys usually fit the bill as a reward.  

Max is working specifically on "hands down feet down" when sitting, and then "hands down feet down eyes up" when spoken too.  They play games with him and do activities that help him learn how to do this.  It is repeated over and over.  And it works.  He is doing much better at looking at people, he responds, and he is learning.  He is also learning about social situations like saying "hi" and "goodbye" and "thank you" and "you're welcome."  Which is funny because Max will put all of those together, just to make sure he gets them all in.  My favorite is when he says "thank you mom, you're welcome."  I don't even need to respond, he did it for me!

We get daily and then weekly reports on how he is doing.  There are a lot of stats that are recorded and as a teacher myself I am AMAZED at all the data that they have on Max.  

Playing after Speech
ABA therapy session with Evan.  He is fantastic with the kids. 
Max is learning how to take pictures and smile for pictures in one of his ABA sessions. 
They have a place for everything and a picture to go with every toy. 
I need to do this in my own house!  The organization is amazing. 
There are a lot of different experiences with ABA therapy in the Autism world.  There are mixed feelings.  A lot of parents feel that it doesn't work, that it is to formulated, and that the students don't get enough play.  There are more strict ABA therapists, and then there are more relaxed "play" rewarded ABA therapies like at Giant Steps.  Max is 3.  I want him to still enjoy school.  I am really happy with how ABA therapy and how all the "work" groups are run at Giant Steps. 

I am also glad that Will gets to see how the school runs the different therapy sessions so we can be involved with Max and how he learns.  We are all learning together. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Christmas Program

Max's school Giant Steps put on an adorable Christmas Program.  There are four different Giant Steps schools in Utah County, which has a total of 45-50 Autistic Students.  So imagine all of these 3-4 year old students on stage in Santa hats.  It was cuteness overload.  They sang a medley of Christmas/Holiday songs which lasted about 25 minutes.  It was the perfect little program. 

Max came out on stage and you saw the fear in his eyes.  He doesn't do well in crowds, with loud noise, or when all the attention is on him.  So as soon as he figured out what was going on he got really sad.  His bottom lip started to tremble and you saw the tears coming.  His amazing aid, Brooke, put him right on her lap and did her best to try and make him smile.  Once the program was over, and Max saw Will all was well with the world. 

We took pictures of the program but had to sign a release that said we wouldn't share other children's pictures, which I completely understand and respect.  I cropped a few pictures so Max was just viable. 

This program was another testiment of how wonderful Max's school is.  We are so lucky to have such wonderful teachers taking care of Max during the school day.

Merry Christmas!

With Brooke before the program started.  She loves Max and the feeling is mutual.

Family Picture after the program.  Max was so proud of himself and very happy to be off the stage and with his Dad.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Progress is Progress

This time last year Will and I started to research Autism.  We started to wonder if our son was on the Autistic Spectrum.  In December  of last year Max had his 30 month well-check from his amazing pediatrician and it was determined that Max was on the spectrum and we needed to get him officially evaluated.  Dr. Adams said something to me that day that has stuck with me and I say it to myself daily: 

"Progress is progress no matter how big or how small."

He gave me a lot of guidance last year.  He sat with me alone and talked with me one on one.  He told me that mothering Max would be different, but it would be magical.  And he has been right. 

Max has made tons of progress this past year.  Some of the progress he has made seems small, and for the average child it might not even be noticed. 

Here are some of the small but MIGHTY progressions Max has made in the past year:

1.  He is occasionally speaking in complete sentences.  "Oh no, what happened?" and "What you doing?" are his current favorites.  He mostly says one or two words, but he tries new words all the time. 

2.  He is a great mimic.  He can memorize shows, movies, and songs like no one I have ever seen.

3.  He has made friends with his cousins and his little brother.  He makes eye contact with all of them.

4.  He says "Hi and Bye" on a daily basis. 

5.  He is sleeping with the help of melatonin, but he is sleeping. 
6.  He doesn't run into the street anymore, he stops at the end of the sidewalk.

7.  He is pretend playing.  This just started a few months ago, and progress has been slow, but he is doing it more and more. 

8.  He doesn't have daily 45 minute - 60 minute tantrums. 

9.  He can build a train track all by himself.  He interlocks the pieces and puts a whole track together.  This is a huge progression in small motor skills. 

10.  He can be separated from Will for long periods of time.  He understands that he will see Daddy again. 
11.  He says Mom now, which to me is the BEST progression of the whole year. 
12.  He has been learning how to drink out of a cup (without a top), we have had a lot of spills, but he is learning. 

Why all the progress?
Will and I entered his world.  We have been open to telling people about Max instead of being embarrassed about him. 
His teachers at school have helped us so much, without the therapists and amazing Autism specialists at Giant Steps we wouldn't be as far as we are now. 
Constant love and support from friends and family. 

Max is a very special boy who does make our life magical.  And we are so lucky!