Get Ready for Summer Camp!

autism resources, social skills autism

Like it or not summer is right around the corner… and the age old question is lurking in the back of your mind: “What are we going to do this summer?” Kids are off school, therapy schedules may have relaxed… allowing you some extra time to plan something special for your child. What about summer camp?

At the thought of summer camp, my heart rate picks up a tick and my blood pressure rises… How could my child possibly exist with our my expert parental care? Breathe… Once logical thought resumes… I realize this might a wonderful opportunity for my child, who is now 9 years to try out summer camp. I, personally, have fond memories of camp as a child…but what about kids with special needs – are there camps (near me & don’t cost a millions $$$) that successfully manage children with behavior and emotional challenges such as autism or Aspergers?

The American Camp Association (www.acacamps.org/) suggests you consider many things when choosing a summer camp for your child, including:

  1. Location
  2. Cost
  3. Accreditation – such as by ACA “American Camp Association”
  4. Activities
  5. Length of Time – Day Camp, Overnight
  6. Size
  7. Extra Accommodations – training of staff, etc.

Talking to other parents, and the internet are great places to start when looking for a camp for your child. Once you narrow down your options, plan a visit and talk to other experienced campers and their families. This will give some more good data to make and informed decision.

I found a camp that allowed first time campers do different versions of a week long typical camp. They offered a Mini Camp, for a shorter period of time, or a You and Me Camp, where parents could spend the weekend with their camper and then phase out their departure.

As to funding, Autism Speaks offers many autism resource where you can find grants to support your child’s time at camp: https://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/grants.

Once you have weighed all your options and finally make decision. You will then begin the process of preparing your child for camp. Along with a visit to camp this is opportunity to talk about what he/she will need to pack, what activities they will be doing, and how to best interact with counselor and other campers

Camp is a wonderful time to work on social skills because the campers are together for such concentrated time together. Hopefully with the right preparation and supports from camp staff you child will get some good practice and success to build their social confidence!

Watching some videos/movies about camp can help too:

Berestain Bears – Go To Camp

Camp Fred the Movie (silly take on camp for older kids)

Howcast (this one has some good info and other you might want to fast forward over)

http://www.howcast.com/videos/190581-How-to-Survive-Summer-Camp

Getting Organized! Social Skill Videos Always Accessible

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“Organization isn’t about perfection; it’s about efficiency, reducing stress and clutter, saving time and money and improving your overall quality of life.” –Christina Scalise

It seems every January I focus on getting organized. Whether it is cleaning out closets or managing my workspace I am always trying to simplify; which usually results in several trash bags being hauled out to the curb.

One area that I would like to organize is my videos. I use video modeling in my practice to target social skills but am hopeless about my video organization methods. I will download video in a million different places and I am always wasting time searching. This year I resolve to create one central video library. But where?

There are several choices

Folder on your computer: This is the most accessible way to reach your videos, but it can take up a lot of space. Also, when you computer dies (which it will) you are then stuck making sure that you preserve that video file… Especially difficult if your computer is on the fritz!

External Hard Drive: I used to think this was the best solution, that was until my hard drive crashed to the floor and started making a really weird noise. All the data was unrecoverable (or recoverable at a cost that I wasn’t willing to pay). Anything physical can break… and probably will! 🙁

Zip Drive: Same concept of as external hard drive. Great until they go through the washing machine been there – done that… no longer working!

External Internet Server:There are several places, iCloud, youtube.com, Vimeo, Dropbox, etc where you can store data and video files on an internet based server. Some of these have file size limitations, unless you pay some sort of fee. Which can get expensive. Of the ones I have tried, I like Vimeo the most, because although it has a daily limitation to how much you can upload…you can host a lot of videos on their site at no charge. You can also download your video from their site the quality can sometimes be compromised…but it allows you to access it whenever from wherever you like. Thy also have an app, where I can get my videos on my iPad. The downside is that these site could some day go away…for example FlipShare with Flip Cameras went out of business and they took their storage server with them… not a good day!? 🙁

server

One the best things about the Social Skill Builder software and apps is that all the videos live in the software. You don’t have worry about saving it or accessing it. It is incorporated within the program…so it is very easy to use.

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I recently bought a new computer without an internal CD drive. Although I have since purchased one (can’t live without it), I could easily of taken my Social Skill Builder CD and put it on a zip drive or another method stated above to use on my computer directly. It really is very versatile.

So even though I know I won’t master all my organizational goals, I know at least with my Social Skill Builder software I am covered!

Summer Play Date Success!

Summer.. oh where does the time go? All year we look forward to all the time we are going to have off and before you know it – summer is ½ or ¾ over! Well it is not over yet.. so you still have time to work on your child’s social skills. Yes… that means planning a play date. Depending on your kid’s age this might now mean, “hanging out with a friend.”

Most kids on the Autism Spectrum are not begging their parents to have friends over like some of their nuero typical peers. Not because they don’t want to have friends, it is just that it is sometimes SO HARD! All that non-structured playtime can be really challenging for our kids. So this summer.. help your kids out.. by providing a little structure. Give clear options (pre determined by you and your child on acceptable choices) on what to do during the play date.

 

Depending on the age of your child and friend you can work on specific social scenarios by using the Social Skill Builder My Community or Preschool Playtime software. Have them go through all the questions on the “Going to the Movies” section of My Community – then actually take that friend to the movie. It will allow you child to not only prepare and practice skills before he goes into a certain environment, but also the take those skills learned into the natural environment with a peer who has had the same training.

For preschoolers, you may want them to view and answer questions about the park scenarios in the Preschool Playtime software. You can then go to the actual park and try out these skills in real life. It is a wonderful way to carry over and generalize skills learned!

 

Make it fun! Laugh at the silly situations that might happen during their preparation time. You can even act those out and discuss what went wrong. By doing this you are preparing your child to become more of an expert for each situation he may encounter!

Good Luck!!

Commercials in Video Modeling

Whenever I speak at a conference, I always try to make it to other professional presentations when I am there.  I adore this indulgence to my social skills training interests.  There are so many wonderful therapists and educators who have found great ideas and are willing to share with others!

At the ASHA conference in November, I was thrilled to go to a session that promoted many things about video modeling and social skills (which of course I love), but also talked about using television commercials.  The speaker specifically addressed Super Bowl commercials, which really sparked my interest.  As a less than enthusiastic football fan, I (for years) have LOVED watching the inventive, comical and sometimes outlandish commercials that cost millions to air on Super Bowl Night.  I am the one is shushing everyone when the commercials are coming next!

SO this wonderful speaker’s suggestions of their use in therapy spoke to me.  One example she gave was the Doritos Flying Baby commercial:

Besides the obvious social interaction of bullying, the non-verbal language cues in this commercial are outstanding to dissect with my students who have difficulty deciphering those cues.  The body language and facial expressions truly show the emotions of the characters who wear them.  We also can use this short clip to predict what would happen next, which really has the student using their critical thinking skills.

It also reminds me of the teasing videos in Social Skill Builder’s CD My School Day.  The same bullying theme persists, but this interaction also highlights the bystanders and their role in supporting the bully by laughing and pointing. Click on this link and select My School Day from the products list to watch this interaction:

http://192.254.147.100/~conveyan/school_day_demo/index.html

In the program, the students are asked to not only identify what is going on, but also to figure out how to stop this.  By taking the viewpoint of the victim, the student can problem solve (without the emotional stress of being there) what is the best solution in this circumstance.

Other great videos that this speaker recommended were commercials from Sonic.  Here is an example of one that highlights “play on words:”

The misunderstanding between the two characters is comical, but also illustrates the necessity of understanding common idioms or sayings.  This is a great introduction to looking at those different kinds of words and what they mean in our language today.

Wherever we can find videos that highlight critical social interaction – whether it is in the award winning Social Skill Builder software or in commercials – we have the opportunity to illustrate key social concepts to our students.  With their gained familiarity and understanding to these, often common, situations we can offer assistance in preparing them for future social interactions.

Jennifer Jacobs