Archive | January, 2014

Cruisin’ with autism

19 Jan

Almost exactly 3 years ago I embarked (literally) on an adventure with one of the families I worked with at the time. The family paid for me to go on vacation with them, so that I could work with their son. He has autism and I was one of his in-home ABA therapists, so the family thought it would be helpful to have me around for their international vacation. They paid for all of my travel expenses, and they also paid me for my time. It was a really unique experience, and I’m glad I did it.

We took an 8 day Disney cruise to various parts of Mexico, and during my time on the ship I worked almost 12 hours a day with their little guy. We had some 1:1 time in the cabin to do our regular ABA tasks, and then most of the day I would facilitate his participation in the various kids club activities, and I would also join the family at all of their meals. We worked on lots of things like:

  • Behaviors- managing his self-stimulation, aggression, and non-compliance
  • Meal time- sitting appropriately, waiting, trying new foods
  • Socialization- following what the group was doing, interacting with other kids, responding to family members
  • Language- requesting, labeling, lengthening sentences, varying his phrases
  • Academics- Counting, reading, and completing worksheets

Another important purpose for me joining the family was to work with the parents. We worked on things like:

  • How to elicit more language (withholding items until he asked for them)
  • How to reinforce appropriate behaviors (token systems, praise, access to the iPad, etc)
  • How to decrease maladaptive behaviors (extinction, follow through, etc)

While it was an exhausting experience, and it didn’t go exactly as I had expected, it was a really neat way to do my job…..on a cruise-ship! A few weeks after the trip, we had a team meeting and the boy’s mom told everyone how my presence helped decrease her anxiety and helped her enjoy her family vacation a little more. Plus she was still beaming about the progress he had made on our trip (learning to swim with me, and eating several bites of new foods for me). That right there was my validation. I got to make a difference for this family on their vacation. Plus, I not only got to travel to Mexico for free…but I got paid to do it!! It was really neat, and I’ll always treasure the experience. I think the idea of being a traveling ABA therapist is so cool and I count myself very lucky to have gone on the trip with them.

CruisePics

So… I’m sharing this story because I recently learned of an organization that does this sort of thing. Autism Adventure Travel matches up families with special needs children with specialists who would be willing to join them on vacation. The specialists (Occupational Therapists, Speech Therapists, ABA therapists,  Psychologists and more) volunteer their time, in exchange for a free vacation. Autism Adventure Travel (AAT) arranges 3-8 days cruises, including group vacations, and charges families a nominal fee to find the right specialist. AAT not only makes arrangements for the specialist, but they also put together on-board activities, book group excursions on behalf of the families, and plan the entire vacation itinerary!  They provide full service travel planning, with the added bonus of finding “degreed, background checked, and […] experienced” therapists who are willing to volunteer their time for the families. In addition, AAT fundraises in order to help the therapists get to the ship ports so that the families are only responsible for paying the actual cruise expenses. And, this organization is awesome for therapists who would like to travel the world at no cost. Sure, they have to work on the cruise (just like I did), but it’s an opportunity to utilize their skills in a unique setting.

Autism Adventure Travel provides a wonderful service to families who might otherwise not be able to vacation with their special needs child. And they provide a rare opportunity for specialists to travel for free. For more information you can check out their website here.

 

***I was not asked or otherwise encouraged to endorse AAT. The views expressed are my own.

Advertisements

Cancer and Autism

13 Jan

Last week my mom underwent a double mastectomy with reconstruction to treat her breast cancer. Her diagnosis and treatment were obviously a huge blow to our family, and I knew it’d be vital to prepare Dylan for what this meant.

In the days preceeding her operation I looked online for social stories about surgery and recovery. All I found were stories to prepare kids for their own medical procedures, but none explaining what it would be like when Mommy went in for surgery.

So, I created this story for Dylan….

On Monday, January 6th Mommy is going to the hospital.

Mommy has cancer. That means her body feels sick.

pain

The doctors will get rid of the cancer and help her feel all better.

doctors

Mommy will spend the night at the hospital so that the doctors can check on her.

sleeping

Soon Mommy will get to come home!

house2

When Mommy comes home she will be very tired. She will need to take naps.

tired

Mommy will have bandages, so she will have to be very careful when she walks.

There will be new people at home to help pick me up from school.

drop off

These new people will help make dinner and clean up.

cooking

Soon Mommy will feel all better.

I will feel so happy when Mommy feels better. Mommy and Daddy will feel happy, too.

HappyDyl

He read through the story with me and really seemed to understand it. When he got to the bandage page he looked up and asked my mom to see her bandage. We told him it wasn’t there yet, but that soon it would be.

A few days after the surgery I went over to visit and Dylan had a preoccupation with the bandage again. “Can I see my bandage?” he would ask, over and over (incorrect pronoun, and all).  Then he would ask, “Can I see the boo-boo boobie?” so she would show him a piece of the drain tubes. I mean…how could I not chuckle at that?? So that’s how Dylan understands all this. He knows mommy had cancer and that she went to the hospital to fix it. And now, she is at home with her boo-boo boobies. 🙂

%d bloggers like this: