The purpose of this article is to show teachers, parents, and students with ASD how the evidence-based practice of visual supports can be used to support organization and learning for students with ASD in their virtual learning environment.
How many of you, like me, kissed 2020 goodbye and enthusiastically cheered when we rang in January 1, 2021? Let’s see a raise of hands please!! Also, like me, are you thinking the jury is still out on 2021? I, for one, am trying to stay optimistic. So, in this spirit of optimism, I’m taking this opportunity to look for ways to be refreshed, revived and renewed and embracing a wonderful beginning to 2021.
This year, I’ll be exploring ways to give my blog/articles for the newsletter a new look and feel. I will focus on sharing and highlighting specific categories/resources/providers found in the MAP website each month. I’ll discuss each category/resource/provider from my perspective; providing recommendations and the latest/greatest that I have found that has proven to help enhance our lives.
Welcome to MAP 2021! Here we go. First up:
—Education & Schools—
At our home, school for Maci is taking a turn in 2021. We ended our school year last June agreeing to leave our private autism school to transition to public school. We struggled with many mixed emotions when making this decision. Each place and scenario offered its pro’s and con’s. Ultimately, we felt that giving the public option a chance could open up new experiences and possibilities.
Since making this decision, I have been working on the transition for us. This fall, Maci started attending in person and now will be part in-person and part at-home remote learning. It will be an adjustment for all of us.
Through this process, I identified steps to creating and advocating for a transition (which can be applied to many situations).
Set up Transition/Communication Meetings with New School Team and Former Team
We all agreed in the beginning to schedule several Zoom meetings with each team to discuss best practices for making a smooth transition for Maci. We took into account the new environment, new teachers and therapists as well as kids attending the school. I shared our past experiences, personal information and success strategies I thought would support Maci’s transition.
Have an Individual Profile
An individual profile is incredibly helpful for all teachers, staff and home support to work in harmony and take into account the nuances of individual experiences. Here is an example/chart for creating an individual profile. We’ve found when we understand the environmental impacts – anticipating and managing attention – regulation and behaviors greatly improve. More information and resources available at www. profectum.org.
Spectrum News has a great article explaining why an individual profile of sensory traits is so important.
Manage IEP or 504 Plan
The Individual Education Plan (IEP) is the living document that acts as the guide for the teachers and staff working with your child/student with disabilities. It follows your child/student wherever/whenever they move between a state, city or school. Parents should be very involved with the IEP process with the school team and should understand their rights. For example, a parent can call an IEP meeting at any time in the school year to discuss or amend the IEP. Parents may also have any experts or professional advocates attend IEP meetings. One resource I have found to be very helpful is the Washington Autism Alliance & Advocacy.
I’ve found the more information the better for understanding and supporting our children through remote learning. We have been doing some virtual education at home over the last several months but will be having much, much more starting February 1. I’m looking forward to attending Rosemary White’s, our OT and behavior therapist, webinar and discussion on Remote Learning:
How to Preserve Child Caregiver Relationships during the Pandemic, Remote Learning and Stay at Home Order – “As we manage and adapt to the ongoing changes that are impacting our lives we will process ways of reframing experience to elicit a mindset of growth & learning from every interaction.” The webinar is live on January 28, 2021, but will be recorded. You can register and get more information here.
—Food & Home—
As we have all spent more time at home; working, playing, learning and working out our routines our routines have changed. We’ve had to adapt our lifestyle and home environments to supporting these changes.
Recently on the website goop.com, a couple of articles jumped out at me I thought would be worth sharing.
7 Ways to Renew Your WFH Space
I like this article from Goop because it shares interesting and thoughtful tools/devices to create enjoyable home spaces. I’m also including an article from Khan Academy on creating learning spaces at home. I’ve incorporated several of the ideas in these articles and found them very useful.
A Scientist’s Guide to Eating for Brain Health
Love, love, love this article from Goop! It is fantastic and offers wonderful perspective, advice and ways to support the brain for optimal health. Diet is truly the best and most effective way to help ourselves be successful, feel well and function at our highest level.
I also love, love, love Paleo Magazine. It provides excellent information including the foods and recipes we all need for healthy eating. The easy turkey chili recipe is one of my favorites! I love and make others regularly as well.
My Morning Routine
Our morning routine has been very helpful, allowing us to manage anxiety and create a positive start to the day. The more prepared, organized and relaxed we am at the beginning of my day, the better the entire day feels. Initially, I created a morning routine with a picture board. That has evolved into a written routine for the morning. Now, it’s become a habit; our routine we do every morning. I can’t tell you how much following this routine has created a safe, controlled and worry-free environment. Employing it every day reduces anxieties and uncontrolled behaviors. Here are some helpful resources for routines and support:
Marikay Cuthill is mother of Maci, a vibrant, curious 15-year-old on the Autism Spectrum, and the founder of Maci And Pebble, a community dedicated to helping people navigate autism by finding answers, direction and peace of mind. Learn more at www.maciandpebble.com
On March 12th school abruptly stopped. COVID took over our lives. Here we are almost 6 months later and it’s hard to believe all of these months have passed and we are still essentially locked down with no answers or solutions for going back to school. I assume you, like me, have waited patiently to find out what going back to school would look like and what, if any, options were available for our “special needs” kids.
So here we are, and at least in the Seattle area, we are relegated to remote learning for an unforeseeable future. The jury is still out on whether this really works or not. In my experience, and others that I have spoken with, this seems to be hit or miss depending on who is implementing the program and how they are executing it. I remind myself that it is all new and never been done before so we shouldn’t be judging this format, the goods and bads, so quickly.
Rationally, with the virus still threatening, I suppose this conservative approach makes sense. However, when you have a 15-year-old, special needs kid, already far behind educationally, I struggle not to be extremely frustrated, concerned and worried. Does no one care?? Do you feel it too?
In two days, it will be the first day of school. Our school sent a calendar and schedule last week. I reviewed it expecting to get more information and see a full day of classes. Instead, I saw a thin outline: 9:00-10:00 am group class, 10:00 break, 10:15-10:45 – 1:1 learning and then nothing? The entire week was just this, 1 hour and 45 minutes a day. Again, I was left thinking, does no one care?
During these past 6 unprecedented months, we have carefully provided support for Maci. At our own expense, we explored options for in home educational therapies; some online, some home-based programs. We incorporated social play dates and activities.
The burden has fallen primarily on me and I did it without complaint. I put my life on hold because this is what needed to be done. I practiced patience and understanding because the situation was what it was. All along I have listened, waited, followed all the rules, not complained (well mostly not complained), while trying to see the bright side of getting more time at home with our family.
However, I am struggling with decisions made by others that ultimately impact my daughter and her quality of life and further education. When I watch masses of people gathering with little regard for the safety of others, no consequences for their actions, and, for some, no punishment for their unlawful behaviors and total disregard for law and order in our communities, it makes me angry.
I can’t help myself thinking does no one care about the ones that are getting left behind? Before the virus, special needs kids and our families were playing the game of catch up everyday. Everything we do for our kids is to help them to one day, God willing, be independent, self suﬃcient and happy. We drive our kids to therapies, programs and activities and they work very hard to improve their skills. What happens to them when, like now, this all stops? Does no one care?
6 months has passed but it feels like 6 years. As I watch this evolve – beyond just our special needs kids — all parents are told their children can’t go back to school, we can’t go back to work, we can’t go to restaurants, we can’t support small businesses and our economy and people’s lives are ruined.
What toll is this taking on the future lives of all of our children – especially those whose parents are not able to manage remote learning; those whose parents can’t work remotely, who have to work to pay the bills, single parents? They are sure to be left behind. Does no one care?
Back to Maci’s education…
A couple of months ago, our school sent me information on an option for remote learning with an in-home aide called Telecubes. Looking at the program, I definitely liked the opportunity for in home support and the interaction with an educator while online. Granted, remote learning isn’t the best, but it also doesn’t have to be the worst. On the positive side, the environment is familiar since we are at home; the anxiety is lessened. There are little to no distractions, so attention and regulation during the learning period is better. If you have a special needs child, you know this can be diﬃcult to manage at school.
So, we gave the green light for Telecube learning – stay tuned for my report on its effectiveness.
Socialization is important too…
With all the isolation, I wanted to find a way for Maci to connect with her peers socially. Last week, Maci joined remote social all girls teen group offered through Aspiring Youth. It’s such a fantastic group. Maci was engaged, involved and excited the entire hour and half.
Here’s a video on how a successful online group looks and uses the platform eﬀectively.
And finally, you’re not alone…
There is definitely a pandemic going on, and it is not just COVID. I do care, which is why I created this website, blog, newsletter and resources. I want every person to have the best opportunity and life they possible can have regardless of their ability. While Black lives matter, I believe every life matters.
We have created a Facebook group for everyone to share our thoughts, ideas, resources and information. I hope you will join us! We can all care together!
Marikay Cuthill is mother of Maci, a vibrant, curious 14-year-old on the Autism Spectrum, and the founder of Maci And Pebble, a community dedicated to helping people navigate autism by finding answers, direction and peace of mind. Learn more at www.maciandpebble.com