Tag Archives: therapy

The cool thing- Part 1

12 Jul

There are so many cool things about my job besides, of course, the whole I-get-to-make-a-difference-in-people’s-lives thing. When I’m not enjoying the satisfaction of teaching a kid how to communicate or how to do basic life skills independently, I’m enjoying the little aspects of the job. One cool thing about my job is: it gives me exposure to all sorts of diversity.

diversity

I work with all different ages, races, religions, family structures, and socio-economic statuses. I once worked with a kid at a Jewish temple. I ate my fair share of challah bread every Friday and knew the Ha-Motzi word for word. Then I spent several years shadowing kids at a Catholic elementary school.  I went to Mass every week with my kiddos, and could recite the Hail Mary in my sleep. I’ve worked in Christian households, and Buddhist homes. I’ve worked with families who live in bona fide mansions with home theaters and high-tech security cameras installed everywhere. And I’ve also worked in mobile homes and single bedroom apartments. One of my former families owned half the homes in a well-to-do housing neighborhood while another squeezed 3 people into 1 bed because all they had was a rented room in someone else’s house. Some of the families I’ve worked with have stay- at-home moms (or dads!), while others have both parents working and live in nannies. Some even have both parents at home, or extended family that lives with them. I’ve worked with families struggling so much financially that they kept several rooms without any working light bulbs. And others who were so wealthy they offered to pay me to travel to other continents with them. I’ve worked with married parents, divorced parents, single parents, adoptive parents. I’ve worked in a home where the divorced parents still lived together. I’ve worked with families who are Caucasian, Mexican, Ethiopian, Kenyan, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Greek, and so many more. I’ve worked with parents who share with me their own medical and mental health issues. I’ve worked with families dealing with divorce, unemployment, adoption issues, incarceration… I’ve worked in a home where I had to make multiple child abuse reports. I’ve worked with people from all walks of life, with all different backgrounds.

It’s so crazy the disparity between families that I come across. And, the longer I work with a family, the more I get to learn about them. I learn about their traditions, and holidays, and beliefs, and family dynamics. I learn about their values and their struggles; their faith and their lifestyles. I feel so educated, while at the same time, knowing there is still so much to know and learn. It’s really fascinating, the wide array of people and circumstances my job introduces me to. And, I know many people regularly interact with different cultures, religions, and socio-economic statuses. That’s nothing unique. But, the nature of my profession is to be in people’s private sanctuaries (their homes), working hands-on with what they hold most dear (their children). I’m there with such consistency over such long periods of time, that I believe my job offers me a deeper insight into the diversity so many of us may only see on the surface. So that’s one cool thing about my job… I get the opportunity to learn about others in a profoundly personal way I wouldn’t otherwise get to.

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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.

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