Monthly Archives :

July 2017

Kid on the Autism Spectrum Becomes Eagle Scout

1024 788 People's Care

It’s an honor only six percent of the one million Boy Scouts in this country will ever receive: becoming an Eagle Scout.

One South Carolina teen has earned it despite some challenges along the way. Robby Rose has is on the autism spectrum, he says it’s the challenges we face that make our victories that much more meaningful.

“I don’t think they ever really gave me a chance, I was in special ed since I started school before I moved here. But now since I am regular ed, I feel like I have beaten my disability,” Rose said.

His mother said the teen has excelled beyond her dreams for him.

“He has grown more than I could ever have imagined. More than I ever hoped for,” said Robby’s mother, Cindy Griffith. “The best I ever hoped for was that he would mainstream in school and hopefully do enough to get a diploma. Now he’s excelling at even that.”

His band director, Debbie Cooper said music is what speaks to Robby and has opened the door to reveal his many talents. With band, Rose said he doesn’t know what he would do.

“Sometimes music reaches areas that have been never been touched before and open new doors,” Cooper said. “Now he is mainstreamed in the regular classes and then even in honors classes.”

No longer in special education courses, his GPA sits at 3.6 at Boiling Springs High School on the way to a diploma.

“Because of  his speech, people mistake him as not being intelligent which is the furthest from the truth,” his mother said. “Just because he can’t say it doesn’t mean it’s not there and he can’t do it or feel it.”

Robby is proving autism won’t hold him back. If anything it’s pushed him to be the best version of himself, one deserving of an honor only six percent of Boy Scouts across this nation will ever see.

“It’s like getting a degree, you can easily get a job I sent you an eagle scout,” Rose said.

Rose became an Eagle Scout in April and will receive an official badge Sep. 3 during a ceremony.

His father has helped with Cubs Scouts and band practice, applauding Robby for his accomplishments.

“He put a lot of work in, going to all the camps doing on the merit badges,” Chris Griffith said. “They have to be able to survive in cold weather, they have to  to tie knots, first aid how to cook things like that, maintenance on vehicles home maintenance.”

Rose has juggled school, band, boy scouts, against the odds he says were once stacked against him.

“No matter your disability, we all have victories, every day, every hour,” Rose said.”

[Source: ]

Art Therapy for Children with Autism

540 360 People's Care

(Photo of Theresa Van Lith, assistant professor of art therapy in FSU’s Department of Art Education)

A researcher is working with art therapists to find better ways to treat children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Researchers were able to develop a set of guidelines for delivering art therapy to children who have ASD.

A Florida State University researcher is working with art therapists to find better ways to treat children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Theresa Van Lith, assistant professor of art therapy in FSU’s Department of Art Education, led a study that surveyed art therapists working with children with ASD to develop a clearer understanding of their techniques and approaches. The study was published this month in the journal Arts in Psychotherapy. (July 20th, 2017)

“I had noticed that is there is a high number of art therapists working with people who have autism, but I wanted to understand what their practice wisdoms were in terms of how they go about facilitating art therapy sessions,” Van Lith said. “We want to make it a transparent process for the client or the parents of a client, so they know what to expect.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 68 children is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder by age 8 each year. As that population grows, more parents and educators are seeking out art therapists to address social development and sensory issues that generally accompany ASD.

The research team compiled and analyzed the art therapists’ expert opinions on topics such as what worked with ASD clients, their objectives during a session, their most preferred theoretical approach and the considerations they had to make when working with children with ASD.

“We realized there wasn’t a consensus with the theoretical approaches they used,” Van Lith said. “They were having to use a number of theoretical approaches together, and we wanted to understand what that would be like in practice.”

While the survey results varied, the researchers were able to develop a set of guidelines for delivering art therapy to children who have ASD. The proposed guidelines will serve as a basis of successful practice for new art therapy professionals and for further studies.

“We used these practice wisdoms from art therapists around the field to understand the most effective and beneficial way to use art therapy with child with ASD,” Van Lith said.

Some of the best practices found were: use the same routine to begin each session, explain instructions in a consistent manner, spark curiosity to teach new skills and be aware of transitions between activities.

The researchers also outlined aspects of practice that were found not to be useful. They warned art therapists on a handful of factors that could have adverse effects on clients such as being overly directive or too loose with direction, using over stimulating art materials and forcing or being restrictive with communication styles.

“That’s important because sometimes there is the assumption of ‘why can’t anyone do these techniques?'” Van Lith said. “People wonder why art therapy can’t be conducted in a much less formal situation. However, they don’t realize there are nuances in the way we deliver the art therapy directive — a lot of that is about knowing the client and the way a client responds to communication.”

Based on these guidelines and consensus, Van Lith is rolling out a larger study to demonstrate the efficacy of that working model.

“The idea is that, over time, we can build up the evidence that art therapy is effective for these children, and we can demonstrate how and why that is the case,” Van Lith said.

The ultimate goal is to educate art therapists about best practices as well as inform clients, parents and teachers about possible benefits of art therapy for children with ASD.

“As a result of more transparency, the clients can appreciate or understand some of the changes that might be going on for them as they receive art therapy,” Van Lith said. “We don’t want it to be a mysterious process.”

Van Lith co-authored the study with Jessica Stallings, associate professor at Emporia State University, and FSU alumna Chelsea Harris, who practices at the Emory Autism Center.

[Source: ]

Before Every Position I Applied to, I’d Ask Myself What Difference Will I Make?

850 565 People's Care

Written by Naomie Arroyo – People’s Care Area Manager

I wanted to talk about some inspiration leaders I have had the fortune of working with here at People’s Care; Catherine Bennage and Tony Kueter.

When I started working with People’s Care in April of 2013 as an instructor for Community Day Programs, I knew I wanted to be promoted within the company because I loved the foundation and mission, what the company stands for. I see everyone as a potential leader in their own right. I knew for sure I was going to strive to prove I could also be a leader and supporter of others.

So I worked through all the ranks, to currently having a title as an Area Manager. Before every position I applied to, I’d asked myself what difference will I make? I learned through the years it’s not a question, however it’s a way of life for me. The same mission follows me now as it did 20 plus years ago. Take positive action to create positive change enriching a culture of safety for all. Every small contribution will make a big difference and we all contribute to something bigger than ourselves. I learned through trial and error in my younger years that you have to connect/build rapport to lead/support others.

People’s Care with the support of many other amazing leaders such as Catherine and Tony, gave me many opportunities to grow, to be empowered, to empower others and to make positive change never straying from our mission. I learned though my wise amazing leaders that: Leaders don’t lead to gain power but to empower others. A true leader never stops learning or seeing the wisdom in others. Also never judge others by their success, judge them based off their failures, frustrations and even personal catastrophe, knowing they have the power to continue and still empower others.

Ready to find out if this rewarding career can be a good fit for you? Visit us at

Lessons from My Son with Autism, As He Nears the End of High School

320 240 People's Care

At the end of each school year, I reflect on what we have learned over the previous nine months. My son T.J. will be a senior in high school this fall, and while this annual period of reflection is always a critical part of our planning, this year has been particularly enlightening.

When T.J. was diagnosed with autism at age 2, we went through all the emotions, and tried every therapy we could find. We privately mourned the loss of the life we thought we would have, while happily and confidently accepting our new reality. We embraced his diagnosis with optimism, and even through tough times, our strong love for our children was always the driving force.

That hasn’t changed, and it never will. What has changed this year, however, are some of our expectations.Our motto in those early years was “Throw everything at him and let’s see what sticks.” We gave him every possible learning opportunity. Flexibility was key. If one thing wasn’t working, we tried something else. Our teams of teachers and therapists were always willing to change course as needed to ensure T.J. could succeed at school.

But now, at age 17, T.J. is pretty much who he is going to be as an adult. Yes, many things are still up in the air and could change as he experiences the world, but he has largely been shaped. He is wonderful and smart and funny and caring and affectionate. He loves animals, Harry Potter, Pokémon, Power Rangers, Star Wars and Pixar. He is curious about the things that interest him. He gets stressed out easily in a variety of situations and, with some assistance, can calm himself down. He has a bad-boy streak, which manifests as a love of things deemed “inappropriate” in school (swear words, South Park, Family Guy).

When T.J. started school, we aimed for the stars. For my husband and me, that meant trying to get him to college. I grew up with that mind-set. But I’m learning now that it’s not the best path for everyone. So this past winter, as we watched friends with children T.J.’s age plan college tours and prepare for the SAT, we quietly let go of that definition of success.

Our coming to terms with this is the best thing for him, and for us. It’s not what he is meant to do. At least, not in the typical leave home and go to a four-year university way. T.J.’s academic struggles, and his capacity for dealing with stress, are evidence that his path to happiness and success will be uniquely his.

We never let T.J. see that we were struggling with that realization. We didn’t want him to feel responsible for our preconceived notions of what his life should look like.

Along the way, we have talked with T.J. about what he wants his future to look like (a hard and scary concept for a boy who has said “I want to live with you forever”). Now, with his input, we are trying to find the best way to honor his ideas, while tossing in some challenges here and there to help him keep growing. His special educator is on board with this plan and is suggesting options for his future.

We visited a great residential program over spring break, which allows kids on the spectrum to live together, with 24-hour supervision, and provides opportunities to take a college-level course here and there. We can work with T.J. to structure this program to meet his needs, so that he is challenged while not being overly stressed. It’s a delicate balance, but we’re working on it.

So while we quietly mourn our own selfish ideas of what we thought his future would be, we are actively planning his actual future, with him involved every step of the way. It doesn’t look like the college tours a typical high school junior takes, but we are happy with what it is: opportunity, challenge, hand-holding (for him and us!). Slow and steady.

We will find our way, together.

Lauren Swick Jordan 

Classroom Yoga Helps Improve Behavior Of Kids With Autism

748 561 People's Care

Researchers have found that kids with autism spectrum disorder who did yoga at their elementary school behaved better than kids with autism who weren’t doing yoga.

The researchers surveyed teachers at a school in the Bronx who said a daily yoga program reduced the kids’ aggressive behavior, social withdrawal and hyperactivity.

Kristie Patten Koenig, an assistant professor of occupational therapy at New York University who led the study, says that yoga was effective because it seems to play to the strengths of kids with autism, while also reducing stress.

“We know that anxiety fuels a lot of the negative behavior, so the yoga program gives them a strategy to cope with it,” Koenig tells Shots. “And if it’s done every morning, it becomes an integral part of the day that sets the status of the classroom and allows the kids to become calm, focused and ready to learn.”

According to the researchers, yoga is increasingly being used in classrooms across the U.S. to get kids to behave and perform better in school. Early research suggests that yoga exercises help kids concentrate and focus, and improves their strength, motor coordination and social skills.

Many researchers argue that kids with autism need behavioral therapies early on, when they do the most good. Intensive interventions like the Early Start Denver Model, which has therapists work with children in their homes four hours a day, five days a week, also appear to be effective.

Autism spectrum disorders can be mild or severe, but they interfere with a person’s ability to communicate and understand social cues. People with the most severe version are unable to speak.

According to the latest estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 88 children has been diagnosed with autism. Rates have risen steeply in the last decade, which may be due to better detection.

The yoga program is being implemented in more than 500 classrooms across the city of New York among students ages 5 through 21 with significant disabilities. The results of Koenig’s study were published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy.

[Source: ]

6 Tips for an Autism-Friendly Fourth of July

600 400 People's Care

July 4th is a wonderful holiday to celebrate, it’s also a noisy and busy one. This can present challenges for those on the spectrum.

For starters, I suggest thinking about what size of celebration is right for your family and child. It could be sparklers after a family backyard barbeque. Or maybe it’s going to town for full-out fireworks.

If you decide to attend a fireworks display – or even a big party – here are some tips to consider:

1. Prepare your child in advance.  Talk about what’s going to happen at the party or fireworks display. You can show him an Internet video of fireworks – perhaps playing it quietly first, then slowly turning up the volume. If your child responds to visual aids, you can create a story about the day with pictures or photos. Explain that there will be lots of people.

2. Focus on the fun! Tell your child why you enjoy fireworks or a holiday barbeque with friends. Let him see that you’re excited to attend. This will help him get excited too. Describe the activities you know he’ll enjoy, whether it’s seeing a friend or the ice cream cone he’ll get as a treat.

3. Bring along favorite items such as toys, games and snacks. This can provide a crucial distraction if your child gets antsy while waiting for activities to start.

4. Have a blanket, towel or chair for your son. Creating a defined space that’s “his own” can help a child with autism feel more comfortable in a crowd.

5. Consider bringing headphones to help block out excessive noise. As we all know, fireworks can pack a lot of sensory stimulation!  Also consider sitting some distance from the display – someplace you can still see the colorful explosions, but without the intense noise.

6. Make sure your child knows how to ask for a break from the crowd or noise. If your child is verbal, he may only need a reminder.  However, many children on the spectrum do best with a visual aid. For example, provide your child with a special card to hand to you when he needs a break from the stimulation.

[Source: ]