"It’s not unusual to hear Nicholas Brahm singing a song for all the woods to hear when he’s hiking. He’s not picky with his song repertoire. It could be Jingle Bells (in July), or a car commercial jingle he’s heard on TV or a heavy metal Kiss song. Whatever pops into his eleven-year-old head. He memorizes every jingle and song he hears and feels moved to express himself when he hikes. Yet he has no other functioning speech.
Perhaps this is Nicholas’s way of expressing the joy that he feels while on the Trail, in the woods. Singing is sure-fire proof that one is a happy soul, for he has no other way to express himself verbally. Singing makes Nicholas’s father, Rick, thrilled because Nicholas is autistic, and out here, on the Trail, Nicholas shines the brightest. And so, the New Jersey Sussex County family returns to the A.T. again and again."
Play is a vehicle for growth, learning and development. For children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), play can be difficult. To help enhance and develop your child’s play experiences, here are some tips, benefits & strategies used to engage children with ASD.
Understanding the characteristics of play:
Play allows children to:
Parent tips/strategies to engage & enhance positive play experiences for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder:
Most of all HAVE FUN!!!!
-Jacqueline M. DiJoseph, Teacher, Celebrate the Children
First, I would like to announce that my wife and I are expecting our second child this coming February! With this exciting news comes familiar feelings and questions we both experienced with our first child: Can we handle this? What will the expenses be? Who will this child end up growing up to be? Parents unwillingly and sometimes uncontrollably have pre-existing expectations for their child even before holding them for the first time in the hospital. We forecast who and what they will be, almost like how a coach game plans for a sporting event even before the first play has occurred. However, in life as in sporting events, things can change in a blink of an eye that sets our voyage on a completely different course.
As I was navigating through social media a few months ago, I came upon a video by a man named Jason Hague. Jason is a pastor, writer, and blogger who has a busy life full of many of the same things we keep busy with as well. He also has a son with Autism. In his video, Jason reads a poem to his son which gives a glimpse into the inner world of their relationship. Without going into the whole video, the most important aspect to take away is something we should all share as parents with children, whether typical or on the spectrum; they are works of creation that we need to show unconditional love and acceptance. Please visit jasonhague.com and watch “A Reflection of Aching Joy” (A poem for Jack).
-Joe DeVore, Teacher, Celebrate the Children
October is National Physical Therapy Month and as a profession we are celebrating the change of seasons and establishing new habits. As we “Move Forward” we encourage everyone to create their own playlist to staying healthy. Small changes make a big difference.
Here is our short playlist:
1). Choose water as a drink- Eight, 8 ounce glasses of water is the recommended daily amount.
2). Eat more fruits and vegetables- The USDA recommends 1-2 cups a day.
3). Pick Healthy snacks- choose a granola bar instead of a candy bar, choose air popped popcorn instead of buttered, choose yogurt instead of pudding.
4). Turn off the Electronic devices- The average 8 year old is on a screen for 8 hours a day exceeding the American Pediatric Associations recommended 2 hours a day.
5). Be more physically active- 60 minutes of physical activity is recommended per day.
-Physical Therapy Department, Celebrate the Children
Congratulations CTC graduate, Alec!
The Boggs Center at Rutgers University is delighted to welcome Alec to the New Jersey Partners in Policymaking Class of 2016-2017! An overwhelming number of strong candidates applied to the program, and his application was considered outstanding. Together with the other accepted participants, he will learn from nationally-known experts, develop the knowledge and skills needed for effective advocacy, and gain valuable leadership experience. Way to go Alec!
Ten years ago I had the privilege of being the principal at Celebrate the Children. We were still at Byram and Linden and the school was just starting to really grow. After leaving for 6 years to have my children, I returned to CTC as a supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction. I will never forget the first time I came to the Denville campus and saw the brand new school. What a difference from where the school first started. The school was so much bigger with a lot more students. Monica and Lauren took me on a tour and I was amazed! All of Monica and Lauren's ideas had finally come true. Though the building changed and the students changed (some were just little 3 years old when I left) the philosophy of CTC was still very evident. Celebrate the Children believes in their students and cares about each and every one of them. I loved working here ten years ago and I feel the same today. At the end of last year, I once again became the principal of CTC and I am honored to be in this position. Celebrate the Children is an amazing place to work with an incredibly hard working staff that come in each day ready to make a difference in a child's life.
-Trinka Sullivan, Principal, Celebrate the Children
“Without language, one cannot talk to people and understand them; one cannot share their hopes and aspirations, grasp their history, appreciate their poetry, or savor their songs.” Nelson Mandela
Inherent to the purpose of language is its primary function to share things with another human being. Language is a social event. That said, it is not restricted to one-on-one speech therapy sessions, but rather it grows when modeled, used, and expected across all settings and with as many people as we wish to share our thoughts with. Our kids here at CTC have various language challenges. Encouraging them to access language, whether through speech, a voice out-put language app on an iPad, typing, or a combination of all these supports, is the mission of the speech department and the school. We invite families to touch and use devices as some of our children do. The children who are functionally non-verbal are testament to what amazing ideas exist in a human being. They have taught us, as a whole, to make the conversation fair by using the device as they would. This forces the speaking partner to slow down, this honors their way of accessing language, this levels the playing field which reduces anxiety and improves spontaneous speech production. The families who actively take part in sharing conversational moments with their children see the most gains, as the kids want most of all to share their ideas with their family. Eighty percent of predictive outcomes for all human beings becoming successful in life (with or without disability) are family support. Celebrate the Children is the child’s extended family and so we look to support them throughout the day and we wish to collaborate with families on how to extend that into the home. Problem solving natural, fun interactions with the child, which is layered with language validates their relationships with the family and empowers them to try what they have learned at school with their most important persons. Group discussions, family discussions, and one-on-one discussions with our children build the language competence so that we can share the hopes and savor the songs of our most amazing children. -Speech Therapists, Related Services Department, Celebrate the Children
As the warmer weather arises and students and staff can see the end of the current school year getting closer, it is always fun to reflect on all that has been accomplished this year. So many students in my classes just took off with their academics and exceeded all expectations. Students always rise to the challenge. The future is bright as we look to all we can accomplish during the 2016-2017 school year. The warmer weather also brings excitement to the school with all of our fun activities here at CTC. The kids' smiles are evident when they talk about the prom, special Olympics, talent show and of course, the spring concert! -Kelly Reilly, Teacher, Celebrate the Children
Life skills are the strategies, techniques and approaches all people use to survive and succeed in our everyday lives. Some of us obtain life skills without even thinking about it. Many of us learn them from our parents and loved ones, others observe other people going through their daily routines as a model, and some learn from the process of trial and error. For many students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), life skills might not come as easily. Students with ASD might simply struggle to figure them out, or never have the opportunity to practice them because everything is done for them. By teaching life skills in the classroom and modeling the appropriate techniques, we can help these children and young adults become more independent and set them on a path for success in their future.
The following are steps for teaching life skills in the classroom:
Step 1: Create a social story for the students that include images of and instructions of the activity or location they will be going. To learn more about social stories, visit Touch Autism's website.
Step 2: In a play session, model the activity that you will be doing. For example, if you are going to the barber, set up a barbershop in your dramatic play area for students to play freely with the tools. Allow time for peer modeling and role-play scenarios.
Step 3: Pull back and let students begin to learn from their mistakes (trial and error). Allow for independence.
Step 4: You are ready to put your skills to the test. This is a great time to go out into the community and practice.
At CTC, we have the opportunity to work on these skills frequently throughout the day in Community-Based Instruction (CBI), Floortime, and weekly life skills classes. I have seen some great successes with my students after following these steps, and allowing them the opportunities to become more independent. -Samantha Losurdo, Teacher, Celebrate the Children
Teaching for me is all about the fun! Think about the classes you remember - you remember them because you had fun. In my opinion, the best lessons are when students don’t even realize that they are learning because they are having such an enjoyable experience. Almost any topic can be taught in a fun way. For example, say you wanted to name all the planets; you can make them a survey in a game of Family Feud. If you want to teach probability, you can set up a class tricky tray where students are asked what the chances are of winning an item is based on how many colored tickets they put in the bag. Doing activities with friends or as part of a team makes learning more enjoyable and the different strengths of each student can be showcased. When students are having fun, their self esteem is affected. They feel better about themselves and are more likely to tackle a task and be successful. - Lisa Silva, Teacher, Celebrate the Children
Contributions to this blog are made by Celebrate the Children's highly talented, interdisciplinary team and wonderful families.