1st Comes Awareness….Then Comes Acceptance!

As many of you know, the various families with Autism that I encounter are so dear to me. I truly feel that I connect with each family on a personal level and our interactions will never be the same; and for that, I am truly grateful. There have been a few changes this year! The biggest one is that I am now located in Virginia Beach and have collaborated with Community Direct Services, Inc. . That means more opportunities to help new families. This opportunity has already given me so many more ideas on how to merge services for families that start with LEAF while young and stay with us through adulthood. Community Direct Services picks up where LEAF ends. For more information on services for adolescents and adults on the Community Life Waiver and ECDC Waiver in Virginia, call (757)965-4899.

Also, LEAF has connected with a sister company in Maryland. That’s right, I have physically relocated, but my heart belongs in the #DMV area, and so do some of the services. LEAF’s sister company is CARAFAP . CARAFAP, founded by Dr. Amanda Carter, provides various services to individuals with special needs. They are located in Oxon Hill, MD, but serve various parts of Maryland and DC.

As a result of these collaborations, Dr. Amanda Carter and I thought it would be wonderful if families were able to come to one spot and get connected with various providers. Many families, especially those in the military, relocate often. Relocation is already tough, but when you add in the stress of having to find new providers, it can become a bit overwhelming. This resource that we have created is called “Verbal Pieces“. Verbal Pieces strives to provide successful matches to various resources through our mission, vision, & purpose.

Mission :
Verbal Pieces will create a safe haven that affords a nonthreatening environment, provides a high continuum of care, and minimizes [day to day adversities] for families of individuals with special needs.
Vision :
Verbal Pieces is designed to instill hope, value, & alignment in each individual to enhance & improve the quality of life. Verbal Pieces’ goal is to create omnipresence in the community at large by helping families build upon social skills, confidence, & self-esteem.
Purpose :
Verbal Pieces will provide comprehensive support & services to individuals with special needs. The purpose is to link these individuals to highly qualified community resources.

In our vision to create omnipresence in the community, Verbal Pieces will be hosting a Winter Holiday Dance on December 18, 2016. It will be held from 4pm-7pm at West Bowie Village Hall. For more information or questions, be sure to email verbalpieces@gmail.com or you can find us on Facebook. We have been spreading awareness for years and will continue to do so but, it is also time for acceptance. The dance is open to the public and we hope that we can fellowship with the community and shatter the myths & stigmas that typically come along with people that have special needs. The dance has an entry fee of $5 per person. I look forward to seeing you there.finaldanceflyer

Speechless……

Hey #teamleaf. I was having such a crappy afternoon……people weren’t responding to emails, traffic was a mess, a guy in the phone store angered me, my hand sanitizer exploded in the car…… I was far passed annoyed. Well I went to pick up one of my au-some buddies so that we could go shopping and then head to dinner at his school. As soon as I arrived, my blues went away. We went shopping and he was conversing with anyone that would listen…..of course we ran into the occasional few that thought it was too much labor to smile and wave back….I was getting upset, but he smiled and waved at them anyhow….then he kept going…..my anger immediately subsided.

I’m now at a dance for my au-some friends and I’m so filled with emotion. I’m sure these children have faced all kinds of strange looks, whispers, and have even been ignored……yet they are here…..happy….and dancing the night away.  I’m often asked why am I in the #autism field when I’m not personally affected by it. I never have an answer and I still don’t….all I can say is that this is my purpose. My purpose is and will always be to spread acceptance and #autismawareness…..encourage families that feel on the edge to keep going. For whatever reason, God gave me this gift and on tonight I can only thank Him for it. I am so in love with my passion and it is my passion that reminds me that life is beautiful and it isn’t that bad! Parents of my au-some friends…..I stand with you……I may not understand your emotions, but I will gladly listen and not judge you for them.
Remember when you see a stranger waving and smiling that it could be one of my au-some friends……it will only take a second….but wave back. Also, remember…….people all over the world are facing worse things than you and I…..it’s not that bad
#autism #autismawareness #teamleaf #autism365

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Who Says Big Kids Can’t Dress Up…..

This weekend is one of the most exciting weekends of the year for kids all over. Our Au-some kids get pretty excited about dressing up as their favorite hero or community helper too. As parents of older kids on the spectrum, you may feel that your big kid is too old to dress up and go trick or treating. Well have no fear……your worries are over! Our program, #autism365 , and McDonald’s of Bureau Drive are hosting an Au-some Costume party.

Where: McDonald’s 83 Bureau Drive, Gaithersburg, MD
When:  (This) Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Time: 5-8PM

LEAF provides academic and behavioral interventions for youth ages 3 to 21, with special learning needs.
A percentage of funds raised between 5-8P will be donated to the program. #Autism365 provides FREE and
low cost workshops to families of Montgomery county.

Come in costume or not!

For more information, contact Whitney
King

http://www.learnwithleaf.com
https://www.facebook.com/learnwithleaf
Twitter: @learnwithleaf
IG: @learnwithleaf
240-245-7672
7529 Standish Place
Suite 200
Rockville, MD
20855

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Trick or Treating Tips for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

It’s that time of year! The leaves are beautiful shades of red, orange, and yellow. The wind is crisp and it is getting dark outside earlier each day. That means the holidays are approaching!! As the holiday season gets underway, we at LEAF want to share some tips that we’ve gathered to help make it a great occasion for every member of the family. Below are some tips to make sure that Halloween is a sweet treat for everyone.

Halloween Tips for Kids with ASD

  • Create a picture story of what Halloween is like for your child. Be sure to include some pictures or drawings. This will help your child prepare for the day’s activities and it can eliminate anxiety.
  • Do not wait until the party of trick or treating to show the costume to your child. Doing so can result in anxiety and even some meltdowns. Be sure to try on costumes before Halloween. If the costume is uncomfortable, it may cause unnecessary distress and ruin their fun.
  • Don’t make your child wear the costume if they don’t like it. Instead, talk about the situation with your child and try to discover why they don’t like it. After a talk with your child, they may get used to the costume. Have them wear it for short periods of time and at increasing intervals over time.
  • Consider a Halloween costume that fits over your child’s regular clothes, such as butterfly wings or capes; you know your child best and masks may not work.
  • Practice going to a neighbor’s door, ringing the bell or knocking on the door and receiving candy.
  • Know your child’s limits and do only what he or she can handle. For example, if your child is not comfortable trick-or-treating, you can start by going to three houses. Assess how your child is doing and build up to more houses or end it.
  • Take your child to an activity in the community, such as a school festival or a neighborhood party where the child is already comfortable and knows people. This will ensure they are comfortable and still get a chance to celebrate the occasion.
  • Partner with family and friends that your child likes. This will make it fun for you and your child.
  • If you are giving out candy at your home, give your child the option to give a piece of candy. During the day, practice greeting people and giving out candy; this can help build social skills.
  • If your child is afraid of going out at night, plan indoor or daytime Halloween activities. Never force your child to participate in activities if it will cause a meltdown or anxiety.

Print this blog post and pin it on your bulletin board at home and feel free to share these tips with parents and caregivers for kids with autism spectrum disorders.

autism pumpkin girl

If you have questions about LEAF Learning Center services & Parent Workshops, we welcome you to visit www.learnwithleaf.com or call us at (240)245-7672, Monday through Friday, 8am-5pm.

Father’s Day

I was having a discussion with some friends about the emergence of women receiving praise for #Father’s Day. I won’t necessarily say that it is wrong because growing up, my siblings and I always thanked my mother for everything that she did on Father’s Day. Now as an adult, I don’t necessarily support the idea of mothers getting gifts on Father’s Day, but I understand those that choose to. My thoughts today aren’t about the debate going on around the recent #Hallmark cards, but instead about wonderful fathers around the world. I most certainly want to highlight fathers of kids with Autism.

As I work with students across Maryland, I often see them with their moms. I always see moms at the schools, in the meetings, and just trying to figure this behavior thing out. Every now and then, I see a dedicated father handling the same tasks. Now this isn’t to say that they don’t exist because many of the fathers from these families are typically working around the clock to support the family financially.

Because of personal experiences and my devotion to #Autism #Awareness, I get a little warm and fuzzy inside when I see the fathers of my students being hands on. I know that working with kids with behavioral challenges for a few hours can be quite a task, so I can only imagine having to manage them all day, everyday. I know that you guys don’t get enough credit or recognition, so I wanted to let you know that you are appreciated and your efforts are noticed by those around you.

From us here at LEAF Learning Center, thank you for allowing us to work with your wonderful children. We hope that you have a wonderful Father’s Day!

#Autism365…… Demystifying Autism….One Day At A Time!

So here we are, well into the month of May. The “Light it Up Blue” campaign for Autism Awareness in April has come and gone and you feel proud because you took some great selfies in blue shirts! While I am very happy that you participated, I want that fire to stay alive 365 days a year. Families with Autism face multiple struggles on a daily basis. Autism Awareness isn’t one of those things that I want to see trend on Facebook, Twitter, & LinkedIn for a week and then die down. Autism is a way of life for many people in the world and it isn’t talked about very much.

I and many others in America heard the #shms (Steve Harvey Morning Show) on Friday, March 27. He was acting under one of his many characters when he made a joke about an adult person with special needs. I personally like Steve Harvey and I respect him as a businessman. When I heard the joke, I was more shocked than upset. I was surprised that a man with such class would make such a joke. In the days of social media, people in certain positions must be careful of jokes they tell. Although he is a comedian, he is also a talk show and game show host. He did offer what I thought to be “kind of an apology” later that day. There is also a video floating around from a mother that responded to Steve Harvey’s joke. Many are saying that the woman is being “too sensitive” and that she should “get a sense of humor”. This brings me shatter a few myths about Autism today.

 Autism is a mental health disorder

Autism is not a mental health disorder. Autism is however, a neurological disorder. There have been a few studies of people with Autism that have revealed abnormalities in their brain structure. I was asked if I thought Autism was a disease. My answer is NO! I believe a disease is something that can easily be found in many people because the symptoms are the same. Autism is comprised of various behavioral and/or social skills that are many times difficult to manage.

Individuals with Autism are violent

This could not be more far from the truth. Because people with Autism may not understand “normal” social cues and sarcasm, they may find it hard to communicate their wants and needs. There are also many people with Autism that are challenged with verbal communication skills. Imagine if there was something that you wanted to tell someone very bad, but you couldn‘t get the words out. I can imagine that it would make you frustrated.  There are a variety of programs available across the world for people with Autism that struggle with managing behaviors. My program located in Maryland is just one of many. I also would suggest a product that I offer that can be used in the home or classroom to promote positive behaviors for kids on the Autism Spectrum.  I have partnered with “Bear on the Chair”  after having tried it myself. My students responded to it very well as they loved to make their bear friend smile. It can be viewed for purchase here  http://www.bearonthechair.com/products/bear-on-the-chair-1  Be sure to use the code word “leaf” .  

All individuals with Autism have mental disabilities

Individuals on the autism spectrum are unique, with a wide range of intellectual abilities that easily can be under or over estimated. There are some tests given that may misrepresent the intelligence of people with autism, who struggle with social skills. Individuals with autism may have difficulty with tasks considered simple, but quickly master complex tasks and concepts. Individuals on the autism spectrum have also earned college and graduate degrees and work in a variety of professions.  Asperger’s Syndrome is on the Autism Spectrum. There are many college professors with Asperger’s.

Autism can be cured

With all of the research being done, there is still currently no cure for Autism. There are many families that have a more difficult time dealing with this disorder because of the lack of social skills and communication skills their loved one has. LEAF Learning Center in Maryland is one of many programs across the country that provides assistance to youth ages 3-21 on the Autism Spectrum. LEAF provides Positive Behavior Interventions to help support youth with academics, learning functional skills, and even on community outings. To support LEAF Learning Center through a donation or for more information, please visit www.learnwithleaf.com or find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/learnwithleaf

Autism is caused by poor parenting

In the 1950s, there was an assumption that autism was caused by emotionally distant parents. The exact cause of autism has not been determined as of today. It certainly does not have anything to do with parenting. I personally think that parents of kids with Autism are some of the strongest people on the earth. Day to day, you face the unknown because your child’s mood can change or their sensory needs are in overdrive. I applaud you every day and would never think of saying parenting is the cause of Autism.                                                        

For more information about Whitney King, visit www.whitneyking.org . For more information about LEAF Learning Center, visit www.learnwithleaf.com  .

Who is Whitney King???

Hi guys! I want to take a moment and step back. There have been some new members of #teamleaf to join us on the blog quest and I want to reintroduce myself. For those that don’t know, my name is Whitney King. I am a Special Educator and the Executive Director of LEAF Learning Center in Rockville, MD. LEAF is geared towards providing academic and behavioral support for those with special learning needs and #Autism. I am a graduate of South Carolina State University  ‪#‎scstate_rys15 & Liberty University for my Masters Degree. I am the mother of two little ones that I truly adore. I love to do several things, but my love and passion for education will burn until forever. I really love when I am working with a student and they finally get the task done correctly and excitedly, with little to no help from me.

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The purpose of this blog is so that fans and followers of LEAF Learning Center can get to know me on another level and also get my insight on issues in the news. On the Facebook page (facebook.com/learnwithleaf ), we are mostly posting pictures, sharing videos, sharing content, and even discussing ideas. There really isn’t an appropriate time to discuss how I feel personally about different issues, so I decided to create my own corner of the world in order to get it done.  A majority of my topics will be related to #education, #autism facts & myths, & #autismawareness .  Once I make a blog post, there is space at the bottom where you can leave a comment. If you would love to be informed about LEAF news, please feel free to email us at theleaftutor@gmail.com or contact us on FB.

Become Aware of Autism TODAY……Steve Harvey & Fans !!!!

Another #autismawareness month is among us. Tomorrow is #lightitupblue day. This is a day that you will notice tons of people wearing blue, as well as government and other business buildings shinning blue light in support of the cause. LEAF is also taking this month to raise funds in order to help change many of the stigmas associated with #autism. Before I get into the details of the fundraiser, I want to take a moment and share some knowledge about Autism.

I and many others in America, heard the #shms (Steve Harvey Morning Show) on Friday, March 27. He was acting under one of his many characters when he made a joke about an adult person with special needs. I personally like Steve Harvey and I respect him as a businessman. When I heard the joke, I was more shocked than upset. I was surprised that a man with such class would make such a joke. In the days of social media, people in certain positions must be careful of jokes they tell. Although he is a comedian, he is also a talk show and game show host. He did offer what I thought to be “kind of an apology” later that day. There is also a video floating around from a mother that responded to Steve Harvey’s joke. Many are saying that the woman is being “too sensitive” and that she should “get a sense of humor”. This brings me to the point of this message today.

The CDC (Center for Disease Control & Prevention) states “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability  that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.” ( http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html  ) I was once asked if I thought that Autism was a disease. My answer now remains the same as it was back then. Autism is not a disease. It is a syndrome comprised of social and behavioral challenges that can possibly affect a person’s ability to learn certain information.

Children or adults with ASD might:

  • not point at objects to show interest (for example, not point at an airplane flying over)
  • not look at objects when another person points at them
  • appear to be unaware when people talk to them, but respond to other sounds
  • be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play, or relate to them
  • repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat words or phrases in place of normal language
  • have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions
  • repeat actions over and over again
  • lose skills they once had (for example, stop saying words they were using)

These are a just a few of the many struggles people with Autism face daily. I don’t think the woman that contacted Steve Harvey overreacted at all. None of us know what she struggles with on a daily basis. The thing about Autism is that it varies in each person,. No two people are the same or display the same behaviors. I thought his joke was tasteless & I hope to continue to hear him on the radio for the respectable man that he is.

Many children on the spectrum do not have opportunities to engage in the community or simple leisure activities, such as swimming or even going to the zoo, because of behavioral difficulties that they face; nevermind them going to church because of the stares they may receive or even end up being the subject of a bad joke. Many times, family members are not able to handle these unpredictable behaviors out in public. LEAF Learning Center is expanding services to be able to provide opportunities to youth on the Autism Spectrum. In order to better provide these services, LEAF will need help from all of our supporters and beyond. We are raising funds so that we can purchase a 15 passenger van in order to transport the children and staff safely in the community. We have candles and other items available at http://www.celebratinghome.com/fundraiser/teamleaf/OnlineFundraiserHome.aspx . We are also accepting donations for those that do not wish to purchase an item, but want to help make a difference at https://fundly.com/here-we-grow-teamleaf .

We are all put on this earth together to help one another. Make a difference today so that we can show Mr. Harvey & others that may agree with his humor that these children are as deserving of enjoying life and activities just like anyone else. For more information, please feel free to connect with us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/learnwithleaf or visit the website http://www.learnwithleaf.com

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Tutor 2 Tutor: A guide to Creating a Tutoring Business

Hi #teamleaf Lovers! I want to share with you a project that I have been working on. This month, I joined forces with a wonderful educator and business owner from Tennessee. She and I completed a book/workbook! This isn’t her first time writing a book, but it was for me and I couldn’t be more excited. So a brief background on the lovely lady that I have partnered with!

LaTishia L. Jordan has been a teacher and tutor for a number of years. She started Micheaux’s Learning Center in 2005 because she wanted to provide a place for students to receive quality tutorial services that would help students succeed in school and reach their greatest potential. LaTishia has worked in the field of education for a number of years starting out as a Mathematics tutor for the math department at Bennett College where she received her Bachelor’s of Science in Mathematics. LaTishia continued her education at American Intercontinental University where she received a Masters in Information Technology. She continued to work as a private tutor and eventually joined the faculty at Randolph County Community College where she taught in the Business Education department. LaTishia is currently working on a Ph.D. in Education with a specialization in Pre-K through 12 Educational Leadership. She is a 2008, 2009, and 2010 Nashville Emerging Leader (NELA) award finalist and a member of the Young Leaders Council. LaTishia also owns an additional Learning Center, Nashville Learning Center that she acquired in 2013. She loves to learn and is working on making Nashville Learning Center and Micheaux’s Learning Center the best supplemental education providers available to the residents of the Nashville Metropolitan area.

I know….I know……Isn’t she AWESOME! Now that you’ve read a little about her professional history, you can understand why I am so happy to be partnering with her. Now on to the project!

Tutor 2 Tutor is a coaching program for people that have a true interest in starting a tutoring business. The business of tutoring is growing everywhere. With the Common Core Standards finally in place, many parents are realizing they need help. A small tutoring business has a low initial investment and as long as you truly work your business, it has the potential to be very profitable. The Tutor 2 Tutor coaching program covers everything from marketing your business to getting registered with your state. Both LaTishia and myself have started and currently operate successful learning centers, and they began as tutoring businesses! There is a lot of research to be done when starting a tutoring business. Tutor 2 Tutor has taken some of that load off of your shoulders. The program includes weekly coaching calls with myself or LaTishia, a weekly class conference call with a guest speaker, a workbook, and a network of other people that want you to be successful. The program will start on March 2nd has limited space. Don’t let a small investment stop you from a lifetime of financial freedom! For more information, email myself of LaTishia at tutor2tutorinfo@gmail.com . Join us and countless others in the wonderful world of tutoring 🙂

He Doesn’t Get It……

As many of you know, I am the Director of Loose LEAF Learning Center in Rockville, MD. Loose LEAF provides academic interventions to youth ages 5-21. One of my students is the subject of this note this evening. I have been working with him for about 2 months now. His family is from Egypt and they moved to Maryland because of its reputation in education. Montgomery County, in particular, is known for the schools and resources available to youth with Autism. My student has picked up on the English language very quickly[they have only been in the states for about a year and English is his third language; Arabic is first and then French]. He of course still struggles with comprehension in many areas. It is no surprise that this affects his academics.

Many times when working, he will stop me and ask me “why does the teacher give me so much work” or “why is this so hard”? When he first asked this, I simply told him because you are in the 8th grade and as your beautiful brain grows, so does your workload. As I worked with him longer and heard these questions more often, I really began to think about what he was saying. Here we have a student that is learning the English language, has a learning disability, and has Autism, yet the school continues to give him this large load of demanding work . I have been being the “family’s voice” and sending notes to the teacher to ensure that he is being accommodated appropriately. On one occasion, we asked if we could know what information would be on a test because the study guide was 8 pages long [front and back] and well…..there is no point in me forcing him to write all of this when only 15 questions would be asked. I also asked that he have multiple choice questions or given a word bank because he has a hard time recalling facts. He does wonderfully with prompting, however. I was provided with a completed study guide [how thoughtful of the teacher :/] and told that the test could not be changed. This sent me into a rage because this student has an IEP….what do you mean it can’t be changed. It then occurred to me that this must be apart of the Common Core instruction & assessments being provided.

I could go on about my newfound opinion of the Common Core Curriculum, but I shall save that for another day. My thoughts are now entangled with discovering when do we stop trying to bring students to a level of some fancy curriculum and start meeting them where they are. Everyone learns differently…..everyone learns differently…….EVERYONE LEARNS DIFFERENTLY!!!!! What part of this does the school system not understand. We as educators go through soooo much training in order to provide a proper education to each child, but we are still held responsible for their success. I don’t have a problem with being held accountable for a child’s progress……unless I am forcing that child to learn the way I have to teach it. This family looks to me daily and asks why is everything so difficult. Why is their son having to learn ten steps in order to answer a simple division problem. Why are they giving him such hard work knowing he can’t complete it. My student asked me, “do they want me to do bad”?

Well, you tell me dear reader………do they?