Category Archives: Autism

Here we “grow” again…..

Hey there #teamleaf! It has been some time since I’ve stopped to chat with you on this platform. Hopefully you’ve been following us on our Facebook page. So much has happened over the past few months. Soooooooo, let’s back up a minute….as you may recall, I  relocated from Maryland to Virginia Beach last fall. Two VERY different places, but I have come to enjoy not sitting in traffic jams on I-495 & I-270. I still visit often (because deep down I really love the traffic..ha!).

LEAF has joined forces with a wonderful organization in Virginia Beach, Community Direct Services (CDS), and as a result so many families have access to many more services. I serve as the Chief Operations Officer at CDS, and also recently became credentialed as a Positive Behavior Support Facilitator for the state of Virginia. We do accept clients that are Waiver recipients and those with medicaid (with prior authorization). If you are interested in learning more about Behavior Consultation, click here  or all me at (757)965-4899. At CDS, we offer many other services such as Personal Care, Respite, Companion, and Sponsor Residential Services. If you are interested in learning more about these services, click here.

As you may or may not know, LEAF started as a tutoring agency in 2011. Over the years, I have kept MY love for teaching, but have made it a priority to ensure that the professionals that provide direct care services for our “au-some” friends are highly trained and remain in compliance with the state of Virginia. At CDS, we have also continued to provide training opportunities to families so that they are able to better support their loved ones. Some of those training topics include behavior support, IEP preparation, an introduction to Autism, and person centered practices. A new service coming under the LEAF program is Doula services. That’s right! Yours truly will begin offering support to expectant mothers that have intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, mental health challenges, or are expecting to give birth to children with developmental disabilities. As a certified Doula, I will be able to not only support expectant mothers through the life changing process of childbirth, but I will also be able to utilize my years of experience in the special education field during the postpartum period to help new families understand their rights, milestones that their child may encounter, and serve as a liaison between medical professionals and the family.

These are only a few of the changes that we have happening over at #CDS headquarters. My days are spent providing support to our wonderful staff, supporting families, and seeking new ways to be of service. I would love to stay connected with you, and hope that you will check us out on Facebook . Until next time!IMG_0003581496925241302250815

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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  .

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?