Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Neapolitan Family Expo

A local parents magazine sponsored an expo at the mall last month. It was a good opportunity to do some marketing for us. We had a booth with a three-panel show-board. My friend, Heather, took some incredible pictures of the kids.

We had some of our own brochures available for folks to take. We also had some other brochures from ASHA on a variety of topics. We copied lots of handouts for parents and had them available in a file box arranged by topic. Interestingly, I found that more people took the brochures that were laid out and would probably invest more money in those if I had to do it again. I had a bunch of copies of some comic books from ASHA that I don't even remember ordering. The comic book was about speech/language science, so it showed how the cochlea works, etc, as I recall. Those comic books were very popular and people snatched them up! If I do this again, I'll stamp all the ASHA brochures with our logo and phone number.
I had also made a trip to the dollar store and bought some bubbles and other toys that I was able to put a label on as give-aways for the kids.
My sinister plan was to lure the innocent children in with free toys and then market to their parents. (insert evil laugh here) This worked fairly well, and we did talk to lots of folks and ended up handing out all our freebies or synthetic urine.
We had two laptops running with Powerpoint presentations. One had general information about Building Blocks, Inc. and what we do. The other had information about Autism, including some video footage (from Autism Speaks, CNN, etc.) that I was able to get off YouTube.
Here's some video of the Expo:

Friday, November 2, 2012

Information for Newly Diagnosed Families

The 100 Day Kit

I found this document on the Autism Speaks website.

According to Autism Speaks:

The First 100 Days Kit is a tool kit to assist families in getting the critical information they need in the first 100 days after an autism diagnosis.

The document is concise, well-written and very functional. In addition to providing current information about the nature of autism, it also provides information about how having a child with ASD may affect the family, how to obtain services for a child, information about IDEA, explanations about different types of treatment, safety information, and some handy forms that can assist the family in creating an action plan during this important time.

I have a copy of this document in my waiting room with the website information (URL) printed on the front for those who would like to read more at home.

UPDATE: I found out from the folks at Autism Speaks, that the 100 day kit will be published in Spanish within a few months!

SB 2654 On it's Way to becoming Law!

On Friday, May 2, 2008, the last day of the legislative session, the Florida State Senate passed Senate Bill 2654, the bill requiring that private insurance companies cover autism services. The bill is now on its way to the governor's desk for his signature and then will be state law.

Oh, and by the way- it was unanimous! Wow. To learn more about the bill, click here.

To read the actual bill, click here.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

What to do when you suspect a child may have Autism

A few months back I was asked to speak about Autism to a group of teachers at a local child care center. Actually, I was asked to train the teachers in what to do with their preschoolers with Autism. They gave me an hour. My first thought was of the movie "The Matrix" where they use some sort of virtual training to teach Keanu Reeves how to use Jujitsu or something in 15 seconds. Should be no problem, really.

After realizing that virtual school is probably not applicable in this situation, I thought about what might be helpful in the given time frame. Usually when I speak to child care providers, I'm often asked- "How do I tell parents when I think there's a problem?"

In preparing for my talk, I came across some suggestions at On this website they list suggestions for how to share concerns if you are:

1. a parent sharing concerns with another parent
2. a parent sharing concerns with the child's physician, or
3. a physician sharing concerns with a parent,

Among the suggestions listed are:

1. Set the stage for a successful conversation
2. Listen to the child’s parent, start with their observations or concerns
3. Always be supportive, never judgmental
4. Avoid jargon, labels, and terminology
5. Keep it positive
6. Focus on milestones, absolute indicators, and the need to "rule out" anything serious.
7. Refer parents and caregivers to other resources. Sometimes parents need to come to this understanding on their own.
8. Emphasize the importance of early identification and intervention.

I think I like the second suggestion the best. Sometimes by listening you can find out where the family is coming from. As a speech/language pathologist, I frequently hear from parents who already have concerns of their own. This can be different for families at a child care setting. Regardless, knowing how the family feels about their child's development can help you know how best to raise your own concerns.

It can be challenging to raise concerns about a child's development with the family, but it is often even more difficult for families. Different people respond in different ways. It's important to be sensitive to the fact that this can be a very emotional time for families. Early identification can be critical for young children, so it is important to raise those concerns, despite how difficult it may be.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

IAN Project Preliminary Findings

The same project mentioned in the previous post has released some previous findings. These findings are not yet peer reviewed.

Among the findings:

Speech and Language Therapy: A Key Intervention for Individuals with ASD

You can find the preliminary results here:

Why do we need to understand about facial expressions anyway?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Autism: Then and Now

Wednesday will be World Autism Day. I have been working with children with Autism since the late 80's. In the early 90's, I bought my first PC and got online. In those early days, you had to belong to an online community like AOL, Compuserve or Delphi. Though the internet was in existence, it was several more years before the first browser (Mosaic, as I recall) became available to the public. I had an account with Delphi, which was completely text based- no graphics. During that time I searched for anything I could find about Autism. There wasn't much. There was the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) database which is still available here. It's rather ironic that Autism is still listed in NORD's database today in that it is not exactly rare anymore. Current statistics indicate that 1 in 150 individuals is diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) making it more prevalant than pediatric Cancer, Diabetes, and AIDS combined, according to Back then, as I recall, the incidence was 1 in 15,000.

So, 20 years later, the Autism community has grown immensely, and of course, has a huge presence on (what is now) the internet. I have friends whose kids were diagnosed in that time frame who had difficulty getting resources about Autism. One, in particular, actually ordered, read, and then (I think) destroyed "The Empty Fortress" by Bruno Bettleheim which did not exactly paint a rosy picture of what kind of future awaited their family. The prognosis for treating children with Autism is significantly different now.

Just as is true in the treatment of children with ASD, we in the Autism community have come a long way, but even still have a long way to go.

I still love working with this population and have loved it since I started twenty years ago. Since tomorrow begins Autism awareness month, I will be posting frequently about Autism related issues.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Fun YouTube Clip of the Week

I've used this clip in therapy for lots of different kids. The clip is about four minutes long and has no spoken dialogue in it. I've used it for practice with articulation of specific target sounds, vocabulary development, story telling, identification of emotions in the characters (including a gopher, some chickens, a squirrel, some birds, and a cow) and prediction of what might happen next. In order to elicit some of these concepts, you may need to use the pause button!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Autism Bill in Florida: One Step Closer to Reality

This past Wednesday, April 23, 2008, the Florida State Senate voted unanimously (39-0) to pass Senate Bill 2654, the autism insurance reform bill. This bill will require insurance companies to provide coverage for treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Now we wait for it to be voted on in the Florida House of Representatives. You can keep track of the progress of this important bill here.

Monday, February 6, 2012

World Autism Day Fundraiser

My friend, Heather Harris, is sponsoring a fundraiser for "Autism Speaks" for families in S.W. Florida. Check out all the details on her blog- here. Her pictures are amazing. One of her storyboards is on the top of this blog.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Let's Eat!

As some of you may know, I'm a consultant-in-training in Relationship Development Intervention. RDI is a remedial approach to treating Autism Spectrum Disorders. It treats the core deficits of Autism- the Autism itself. The treatment utilizes a consultation model to train parents to teach dynamic intelligence skills and motivation to their children. In RDI we use everyday activities as the vehicles for teaching these skills.

In my role as consultant, I'm always on the lookout for fun activities I can recommend to parents I consult with, along with everyday activities such as laundry, cleaning the kitchen, or washing the car. Today I found a great place to recommend.

I'd received an email advertisement for a new place here in Naples, called "Let's Eat!" so I thought I'd go check it out. "Let's Eat" is a meal assembly kitchen where there are lots of little "mini-kitchens" set up with ingredients already prepped, so that busy people can create a bunch of meals that they can then store in their freezer. Then, on those busy week-nights when you get home late and don't feel like cooking from scratch, you have a pre-made meal that just needs to be popped in the oven or heated on the stove. While your dinner is cooking, you can relax, maybe with a glass of wine, and prepare a salad or a few sides. Similar places have popped up throughout the U.S. You can find out if there is a place in your area here.

This concept has a lot to offer busy families. You can spend some quality time with your child in a guided participation activity that offers lots of opportunities to develop communication skills and share worthwhile experiences. Plus- you get to eat what you make! The woman in the store mentioned that some of her customers feel that their kids are more willing to try new foods that they have made themselves.

Tonight I had the "Oven Roasted Rosemary Chicken" and all I can say is "yum."

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Inspirational Art

This video shows some of the beautiful artwork of Trent Altman. Check out his website here. Trent is an expressionistic artist who happens to have autism.

Trent's Mom, Jackie Marquette, also has a wonderful website- The Marquette Group.

Her powerful mission is:

To guide as many people as possible to recognize and highlight the capability in youth with autism and other developmental disabilities regardless of severity so all will be empowered to negotiate and create support systems where these individuals can thrive, realize true involvement, and personal growth.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Identification of Autism and the ASD Video Glossary

As a follow-up to my earlier post on "What to do when you suspect a child may have autism" I would like to share another amazing resource available on the website.

The ASD Video Glossary was created by Amy M. Wetherby, PhD, Director of Florida State University FIRST WORDS® Project and Nancy D. Wiseman, Founder and President of First Signs®.

From the website:

This glossary contains over a hundred video clips and is available to you free of charge. Whether you are a parent, family member, friend, physician, clinician, childcare provider, or educator, it can help you see the subtle differences between typical and delayed development in young children and spot the early red flags for ASD. All of the children featured in the ASD Video Glossary as having red flags for ASD are, in fact, diagnosed with ASD.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then video must be priceless!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Autism Awareness Month Discovery Toy Party

Discovery Toys® educational products will be demonstrated at Building Blocks, Inc.

April 23, 2008 From 5:30 pm- 7:00 pm

By Gail Kearns, OTR/L- Occupational Therapist &
Charlene Westman, SLP- Speech/Language Pathologist

Stop by to meet the therapists, check out great educational toys, and place your order! We can help you identify developmentally appropriate toys and games to use at home or in your clinic.

Please RSVP (yes, no, or maybe) by April 21 to

Monday, November 7, 2011

Meet Max!

My friend, Allison Zevallos, sent me this video clip. She writes:

Hello All,

We have made a short video in support of Autism Awareness Month which is April. With the support of Max, the video highlights the challengers and success that Max faces everyday.

We have posted this video on You Tube and we have an aim of over 25,000 hits. This can only happen with your help.

Feel free to share it with everyone because awareness is the key for people to understand this condition that affects 1 in 150 children worldwide. This is an epidemic and it is only getting worse, so SPREAD the word.

We hope that you enjoy the video. If you want to see it on You Tube, click here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Information Overload? Here's Some Help!

In my search for SLP's with blogs, I've found that there really aren't that many. Others who have been looking longer and harder than I have confirmed this. I can hear some of you now saying "I don't have time for anything else to read! I have 1,743 emails in my inbox! I have 34 children!" Okay, well maybe not that last one. But I have a hunch that once our colleagues understand what blogs can do, they will be hooked!

Blogs, or "web logs" can allow writers to publish on the topic of their choice in a multi-media environment for free or for very little investment. Some people even make tens of dollars blogging! Actually, some people blog for a living, though likely not a huge percentage. Blogs can allow readers to study a particular subject by reading short posts on a regular basis. If you have an interest in something- a hobby, profession, or even an obsession, more than likely there's someone out there blogging about it.

The "comments" function of a blog can allow a dialogue between the blog author(s) and the readers. According to Wikipedia:

As of December 2007, blog search engine Technorati was tracking more than 112 million blogs.[1]

So, there are lots of folks out there reading lots of blogs. How do they keep up? One way is to use a "reader" such as "My Yahoo" or "Google Reader."

This video explains what such readers can do very nicely.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. Yes, Really. Here is a screenshot of my "My Yahoo" page for SLP blogs. This is the reader I use. There are tons of readers out there that you can find if you google "RSS Readers."

Click on the picture to see detail.

If you notice the tabs at the top of the page, you'll notice that I have 8 different pages of RSS feeds including a page for news blogs, health blogs, and SLP blogs. The "SLP Blogs" page is selected in the screenshot and you can see the names of the blogs listed along with the titles of the most recent posts. Each of the posts as well as the blog's name can be clicked on to take you directly to either the specific post or the main page of the blog. This way you can see if anything catches your eye that you might want to read more about or if you have already read the posts on the feed, you can skip going to that blog. Further, if you mouse over any post title, you can see the first few sentences of the post.

Here is a screenshot of "Google Reader" with SLP Blogs listed. Though I don't normally use "Google Reader" it seems to function more like an email inbox, except that you can view the feeds in either "list view" or "expanded view."

Click on the picture to see detail.

Happy Blog Reading!

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that my RSS (Syndication) feed link is at the bottom of the page. You can right click on "Posts (Atom)" to get the link to my feed. You can then paste that link in the reader of your choice. For example, to do that in "My Yahoo" you would click on "Personalize this Page" then click on "Add RSS Feed" under "Content" and click on "add" to finish. That will add the feed to this blog to your "My Yahoo" page. After adding RSS feeds from other sources, you can then read "Headlines" from all of your favorite sites without having to go to all of those sites specifically.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Fun YouTube Clip of the Week

This clip is fun! Good for sharing laughs, practicing the /l/ sound for "l-l-l-licking!," or maybe even some oral motor work! (Can YOU stick your tongue out THAT far?!?!

If you want to see it on You Tube, click here.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fast ForWord and the Willie Brown Story

I've been a Fast ForWord provider since 1997- the year it was released. I have been using the product since that time and have found it a very powerful tool for helping students improve auditory processing skills as well as improve reading and literacy skills. You can learn more about Fast ForWord here.

The video above tells the story of Willie Brown, a high school student, whose life was set on a different trajectory through his participation in the Fast ForWord program. Jacky Egli, the principal of Bridges Academy in Winter Springs, Florida, urged Willie to participate in the Fast ForWord program and the video clip above explains what happened.

The video clip below explains how Fast ForWord works at a neurological level.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Family Mission to Create Autism Database to Aid Research for Cure

An article published in the Baltimore Sun on March 16th talks about what this family is doing. The article is here:

The family is working with the Kennedy Krieger Institute at Johns Hopkins University. The Interactive Autism Network Research can be found here:

They are hoping to include all families in the database. Spread the word.

One in a Million

I read about this project here. I think a documentary regarding a families journey through diagnosis and treatment could help not only other families, but neighbors, teachers, therapists, politicians, insurance companies......

Did I say politicians and insurance companies?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Any speech/language pathologist bloggers out there?

I'm interested in networking with other speech/language pathologists who have blogs. Please drop me a note in the comments section, so I can add your blog to my blogroll and RSS feeds. Thanks!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

You Tube, Me Tube..... Speech/Language Therapy with You Tube

I dare you to watch this video and not laugh out loud.

The other day, I was thinking about how much technology has affected every aspect of our lives, personally and professionally. When I was in graduate school in the mid 80's, one of my assignments as a speech/language pathologist (in training) was to create my own articulation cards to use with kids. This was actually a bit of a problem for me since I was not a very talented artist. I remember trying to sketch a mouse for quite a while when my friend, an architecture student, in a fit of exasperation grabbed my 3 x 5 card and sketched a mouse in about 5 seconds- Show off.

Anyway, these days technology can help us with materials in our daily work with kids.

A while back I started playing with YouTube to see how I might be able to use it with some of the kids and have found quite a few ideas.

If you go to, you can get an account for free. Once you have an account you can "save" videos to your account. Even though your video clips are "saved" they are not downloaded to your computer. You can watch them there on the website from any computer you have access to.

You can also create "playlists" of videos. A "playlist" is just a grouping of videoclips that you choose to group together. So, for example, one of my playlists is "Sh" words. Within this play list I have videos of:

1. A 44 second clip of Fonzie jumping the SHARK on "Happy Days."

2. A commercial clip featuring a McDonald's "Shamrock Shake"

3. A short clip of someone getting a SHAMPOO at a salon

4. A funny animation of a SHEEP knitting herself a sweater from her own wool

Once I knew I wanted to find /sh/ words in YouTube. I went to the search bar at the top of the page and simply typed in the word I was looking for. So for example "shark" led me to many clips of actual sharks, many of which seemed to be eating things that might be a bit scary for some of our young friends. In which case I may have typed in "Shark jump" or something like that to find a shark doing something a bit less scary, and then found our friend, The Fonz, who was (I'm pretty sure) the original "shark jumper."

The clips are nice because they often hold the kids' attention and you can often get multiple opportunities to practice the target word. The pause button is helpful to gain attention!

You can also use video clips to elicit language. One of my playlists is called "Simple Sentences" and in that playlist I found video clips by typing in the search box terms such as "baby walk" or "boy eat" and see what pops up. Sometimes it's better to find the videos prior to your session since YouTube can sometimes be a showcase of inappropriate behavior from people with entirely too much time on their hands. (hint: see Mentos and diet coke)

There are tons of clips of babies and toddlers from all over the world on YouTube. These clips can be a wonderful resource for learning about typical child development.

Some of my other playlists include animals, specific word shapes (VC, CV, etc,) from the Kaufman Speech Praxis Treatment Kit, 3-syllable words, emotions, community helpers, etc. From these examples you can see how easy it is to find materials to share with pediatric clients.

We've come a long way since we had to make our own artic cards, right?? This way can sure save a lot of space, too! How many times have you moved your giant collection of artic cards since 1985??

Thursday, December 9, 2010

World Autism Day

Wow. I think I'm officially blown away by World Autism Day. I think I started to get a glimpse of the impact during lunch when I went home and watched about 20 minutes of coverage on CNN. They had stories of families dealing with Autism in China, Qatar, and South Africa. I had to run to the car dealership to pick up my car, and while I was there, the waiting room was full of people watching CNN. That reminded me of all of the major airports across the world that keep CNN on within the terminals. I'm sure that the amount of people that will see at least some of this coverage is huge! I wonder how many children and/or adults will be identified today?