Today's thought

Build your own dreams, or someone else will pay you to build theirs!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Autism Awareness

I am asked constantly what I do for work, so in order to inform and help educate Autism Awareness I would like to share a little bit about what I do.

After graduating from USU in 04 with a B.S. in the Social Science field I moved to Idaho and became certified as an Intensive Behavioral intervention Therapist. This is a very specific program sponsored by the state of Idaho which is available to children.
IBI therapists work with children to develop positive behaviors and the skills they need to function in typical home and community environments. IBI is a one-to-one, time-limited service that is individualized for each child. IBI uses theories of Applied Behavior Analysis and Positive Behavioral Supports. One of the primary teaching techniques used is Discrete Trial Teaching. Skills are also generalized into play situations and naturalistic situations.

I worked as an IBI therapist with primarily autistic children and as an HR representative for "The Children's Center' in Idaho for 4 years. During this time I decided to pursue a Master's degree in Human resource Training and Development from ISU. I worked full time during the day and went to school at nights, spending most of 2008 working on my Thesis, which I successfully completed & defended at 9 months pregnant. I worked right up until the day I had Jackson, literally the day of July 30th 2008 was my last day as an IBI therapist and Jackson's birthday.

Two months later we moved to Portland for Lee's schooling and I left my job. Leaving such a great job was a difficult transition for me. I love being home with my son, but I truly believe that I am a better Mom when I am able to work outside of the home. My time with Jackson and Lee is much more effective and quality based when I am able to work. I also feel that I have an obligation to work considering I have 6years of post high school education which I can use to benefit my family. Finding a job in Oregon that met my qualifications and schedule was not easy. Prior to taking my job this summer as an Autism Therapist I had been offered numerous positions. Many were in the H.R. field requiring I work outside the home from 9-5; this was not an option for our family, while other job offers did not meet my pay requirements. I do not believe that working outside of the home works for every mother, but for me the perfect job came along for my qualifications and our families' schedule.

I work for ABC (Autism Behavior consulting) services out of Vancouver WA. I work part time averaging 15-20 hours per week. I set my own schedule and try to work around Lee's school schedule so that Jack is typically with him when I'm working. I am blessed to have a wonderful friend who helps watch Jackson, I trust her with him completely. This job is truly an amazing blessing for our family; I am so grateful I get to work in the autism field and help support my family while Lee completes his education.

   I am very passionate about what I do, and helping the children and families I work with. Autism is the most common of the Pervasive Developmental Disorders, affecting an estimated 1 in 150 births (Centers for Disease Control Prevention, 2007). Roughly translated, this means as many as 1.5 million Americans today are believed to have some form of autism. And this number is on the rise. Based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Education and other governmental agencies, autism is growing at a rate of 10-17 percent per year. At this rate, the ASA estimates that the prevalence of autism could reach 4 million Americans in the next decade.

Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Both children and adults with autism typically show difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities. One should keep in mind however, that autism is a spectrum disorder and it affects each individual differently and at varying degrees -this is why early diagnosis is so crucial. By learning the signs, a child can begin benefiting from one of the many specialized intervention programs.

What I do
   I follow a very structured program designed and directed by a psychologist and BCBA Director, employing Discrete Trial Training and Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy where core skills are broken down into manageable parts, and taught systematically using prompting strategies and a positive reinforcement system. These sub-skills are taught until mastered, and then those skills are used to build new skills. Challenging behaviors are analyzed, and a program is developed to reduce those behaviors while replacing them with socially-acceptable replacement behaviors.

Though this is a lengthy blog, it is really just a brief synopsis of what I do. Awareness and education are key, as well as early Intervention therapy for children who are diagnosed with Autism. If you would like to learn more about Autism please visit the Autism Society of America's webpage at :

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