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A learner’s journey to the barber shop – Little Star Center-Bloomington

One of our learners at Little Star Center-Bloomington has been working on hair cutting desensitization with his therapist. Getting to the stage where he is comfortable sitting for a haircut has been a gradual process which included allowing the therapist to touch his hair, sitting in the waiting area and touching the styling chair. The learner has been able to sit back in the styling chair at our center for two minutes without any unwanted behaviors!

Recently, he and his therapist visited a local barber shop to sit in a styling chair. He successfully sat in the chair and allowed his therapist to trim his hair!

ABAI conference provides latest autism information for Little Star Center – Indiana ABA therapy facility

By Tim Courtney, senior clinical director

In keeping with its mission to provide the most effective interventions for learners, Little Star Center, an Indiana ABA therapy facility, is reviewing strategies learned recently at the annual Association for Behavior Analysis International autism conference in Las Vegas. Little Star sent three members of its staff to the conference, which focused specifically on the most current science-based approaches in assessment and treatment of autism.

More than 700 attended the January event, featuring prominent experts in autism:

Dr. Linda LeBlanc focused on procedures to teach individuals with autism to attend to both visual and auditory information when making discriminations. Individuals with autism often rely too heavily on one or the other. Dr. Leblanc provided several suggestions for strategies that we are reviewing as part of a teaching procedure review committee.

Dr. Gregory Hanley presented on an intervention to strongly consider when conducting assessments to determine why someone is engaging in problem behavior. He recommended that behavior analysts should not rely too heavily on just interview and similar assessment tools. Little Star will review the assessment procedure Dr. Hanley recommended and will make relevant modifications to our current behavioral assessment procedures.

Dr. Wayne Fisher discussed the new CPT codes. Dr. Fisher was an ad-hoc consultant for the committee that developed CPT codes. As a result of this discussion, a group of providers met after the first day of the workshop to discuss current challenges with implementing the codes. During the meeting it was decided to continue meeting as a small group to solicit information from other behavior analysts and develop tools to assist practitioners in implementing the codes. The group is currently working on a Wiki and procedures for surveying practitioners currently implementing the codes.

 

Family thankful for Indiana ABA therapy services at Little Star Center

By Clayton Sheese, Little Star Center dad to Jacob, 8

How long has your child attended Little Star Center?

Since March 2011

What has been the biggest challenge in finding services for your child? 

Our biggest challenge has been finding insurance coverage for ABA therapy. We were lucky to get a child-only policy from our insurance carrier when Little Star-Lafayette opened — and before the insurer stopped offering such plans. Then, over the years, the premiums increased and we were paying double the original cost.

As Jacob became school-aged, our insurance carrier pushed for him to attend his area school and cut his hours at Little Star in half. We went through all the appeals. The first was handled by Little Star, but was denied. Second appeal also was denied. Shortly after learning a second appeals board overturned the previous decisions, we learned that decision only covered the first appeal, forcing us to begin the process all over again!!! Now, we have to go through the application process every six months.

Jacob is now in school half days. He has settled in pretty well! We feel he needs more time at Little Star in this stage of his life.

How has Little Star Center provided support to your family? 

Little Star was there with us through the appeals process, and we are appreciative of that. During the appeals process, Jacob was able to stay at Little Star 40 hours a week! We are very grateful that Little Star found a way for Jacob during our challenges with insurance! We feel ABA is the best thing for Jacob! He has made leaps and bounds!

 You could have chosen other ABA facilities for your child. What makes Little Star Center stand out from other ABA facilities? 

Little Star was our first choice. We went to Carmel and toured the facility. When the Lafayette center opened, everyone was so helpful and kind!

For what are you most grateful at Little Star Center?

We are grateful for everything Little Star has done for Jacob. He has come so far since he has been at the facility! It has been a long road! We have some challenges ahead, but we know Little Star will be there for Jacob and our family!

“Little Star is the only facility we know of where they put the child first…”

By Joanne Kehoe, Little Star Center mom to Anthony

What has been the biggest challenge in finding services for your child?  In the beginning, our biggest challenge was finding out what was possible for Anthony.  He was in First Steps, but he aged out when he was 3 years old. Then, he started at a developmental preschool at our local public school.  We found that, at the public school, there seemed to be very little knowledge about kids with autism, and we were extremely disheartened.  A family friend, a psychiatrist at Riley, mentioned Little Star to me.  We went to Little Star and liked it, and began the process of finding out how we could get insurance to cover it. Since my husband works for the federal government and their insurance plan is self-funded, they do not have to provide coverage for ABA therapy.  A mom at Little Star gave me contact information for her insurance (representative) and we were able to get Anthony his own policy so that he could get his ABA therapy covered.

How did you overcome that challenge?  We were lucky that so many people were willing to share information from their lives to help us move through ours.  If we left it up to the public schools or the state – people who are supposed to help us – we would still be struggling!

How has Little Star Center provided support to your family?  When Anthony started at Little Star, I remember very clearly when his program manager came to our house and asked us what we wanted for Anthony.  We wanted him to be able to attend church and communicate with us so we could help him.  I will never forget sitting at my kitchen table with the program manager and being amazed that these things were possible.

Anthony is the oldest of four children, and his younger sisters Maria and Veronica, ages 6 and 5, have been welcomed at Little Star for sibling play and they love it. It has gone a long way for them to see that Anthony is not the only person they know with autism.

During the last year, when we have been fighting with our insurance company, doctor and, seemingly, everyone about coverage for ABA therapy for Anthony, only the people at Little Star have been there to support us. They have offered financial support so that Anthony could still go to Little Star and not have his schedule disrupted.  The people at Little Star have gone above and beyond what I would expect anyone to do for Anthony and we can’t say how much we appreciate it.

You could have chosen other ABA facilities for your child. What makes Little Star Center stand out from other ABA facilities?  Little Star is the only facility we know of where they put the child first, give him what he needs, and not focus solely on making money and billing.

For what are you most grateful at Little Star Center? We are grateful to have people working with Anthony who not only know what they are doing, but who truly love and care about him.  We know that the (concern) they have for Anthony is at the basis of all of the care they give us and we are forever indebted to them.

 

 

 

Autism and the holidays – Tips for a merry season

 

By Mary Rosswurm

The holidays are an exciting time of year for all, but, in many ways, can be challenging for those with autism and their families. The colorful lights, large family gatherings, festive music, unusual foods and crowds can cause individuals with autism to feel anxious and overwhelmed.

As a parent of a child with autism, I’ve learned over the years not to put too much pressure on my son, Brad, over the holidays. I know what he can tolerate and what he can’t and I want him to enjoy the season, too.

As you plan your holiday activities with your children, here are a few ideas to keep in mind:

  • If you are attending a holiday party, contact the host in advance about your child’s needs. Ask for a quiet room in case your son or daughter needs time away from the festivities. Also, inform the host that you may bring specific toys that your child may not want to share with others. Ask the host to assist in helping other children in attendance respect your child’s choice not to share his or her favorite items.
  • Create a gift list to share with friends and family. This eliminates the guesswork from those who aren’t sure what item your child will enjoy. Many children, teens and young adults with ASD have specific preferences, so helping others with a detailed gift list will be much appreciated.
  • Be realistic. Don’t put too many demands on yourself or your child. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all the activities, shopping and get-togethers of the season. But, remember, this holiday is supposed to be a fun and relaxing time for you and your family as well. Don’t stress out about things that really don’t matter – it’s OK if you don’t get your house covered in lights! Keep in mind what your family can handle. Decide early on which events to attend, and plan accordingly. Fun family time trumps all!
  • A final reminder – Now is not the time to begin to teach new skills. While it may be a goal to eventually get your child with ASD to participate in family holiday events, they are not the time to teach the new skills. Let your child’s service provider know that you are interested in having these skills worked on during the year so when next year comes around, your child and his team will be ready!

Mary Rosswurm is executive director at Little Star Center, Indiana’s first ABA center.

Kids with autism can enjoy Halloween

 

It’s that time again when little ghosts and goblins roam our neighborhoods and homes are decorated with spider webs, skeletons and all things scary. It’s Halloween, which could be an overwhelming time for our children with autism.

Here are tips from Autism Speaks to make Halloween fun for your child with autism:

Before Halloween:

  • Create a visual story about what Halloween may be like for your child using pictures or drawings. This will help your child prepare for the day’s activities.
  • Try on costumes before Halloween. If the costume is uncomfortable or doesn’t fit right, it may cause unnecessary distress and ruin their fun.
  • If your child does not like their costume, don’t make them wear it.
  • Instead, talk about the situation and try to uncover the reason why they don’t like it. After you talk with your child, they may gradually 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.
  • Practice going to a neighbor’s door, ringing the bell or knocking on the door to receive candy.

Halloween Day:

  • 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 for long periods, start by going to three houses.
  • 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. Partner with family and friends that your child likes.
  • If you are giving out candy at your home, give your child the option to also give a piece of candy. During the day, practice greeting people and giving out candy. If your child is afraid of going out at night, plan indoor or daytime Halloween activities.
  • Remember, Halloween is supposed to be fun. Don’t let it stress out your child or you!

If you have additional questions about preparing your child for Halloween, please contact your child’s Little Star Center program manager. Families not enrolled at Little Star should contact Vince LaMarca, BCBA, Little Star Center clinical director.

The gift of communicating with my son

By Brett Eastwick

I have been asked many times if it is harder being a parent to a child who has autism. It is not an easy question to answer. Having the perspective of raising children who are more typically developing and functioning, you would think it would be easy to determine how difficult or easy it is. It just isn’t.

There are areas that, of course, are easier. Communication stands out as a major area that is easier as a parent (until they become teenagers, that is. After that, good luck). Being able to communicate directly and effectively makes life easier for your child and you. Simple things like hearing “I’m hungry,” “I’m thirsty,” or “I’m happy” allow those around a child to take care of his needs and wants. Now, imagine not having that ability. Imagine that part of your brain being shut off, or only able to speak French around people who do not, or, perhaps even worse, being mute. And your hands won’t move. That is what it can be like for a person with autism.

Teaching a child how to communicate is, to say the least, a challenge. I have learners find echoics, whether just words or phrases, difficult to repeat or even aversive. Prolonged eye contact may also be a challenge for them. So much time and effort may result in being just as frustrating for both parties. I have asked myself, “Why can’t I teach my son to speak?” He can make sounds, imitate them, show you a person or item if you ask him to do so. Why can’t he speak?? The answer is easy. He has autism. He is unable to communicate the same way I do, the same way his mother and siblings do. The solution then, is clear. We have to learn how to communicate in a way in which HE is able to learn.

My son, Wyatt, uses ASL(American Sign Language)to make and maintain contact with the verbal world. It is what allows those around him to access his world. ASL is as real a language as English, Spanish or any spoken language. This is what he was able to learn to communicate with us. Why wouldn’t we use it to communicate with him? Some people ask me if I wish Wyatt could speak, if I wish he could just say, “I love you, Dad.” He does that every day. His hands are graceful and fluent. His communication is direct. Wyatt means what he says. Sign language allows his means of communication to be all that much more effective.

Brett is a therapist at Little Star Center.

LSC therapists unite to raise money for our centers

 

Pizza anyone? How about taking the family out to dinner to support a great cause? Our Little Star Center therapists have been busy this month hosting a variety of events in the Indianapolis and Lafayette areas to raise money for our non-profit organization.  Several businesses, including Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Sky Zone and Hot Box Pizza, have hosted special events to raise funds for Little Star!

There’s still time to show your support for Little Star. Here’s the remaining list of fundraising events:

  • Carmel – All Little Star directors have volunteered to take a pie to the face – to benefit Little Star! Raffle tickets are available for $1 at Little Star-Carmel. Our directors will take the pies to the face at our Independence Day Celebration on July 3.
  • Lafayette – Buffalo Wild Wings, 2715 S. Creasy Lane, Friday, June 27. Present your Little Star Coupon and 15 percent of your ticket will go to LSC.
  • Lafayette – Knickerbocker, 113 N 5th St., Saturday, June 28, is hosting a benefit concert, starting at 9 a.m. This event features two bands, a silent auction and raffle. All proceeds go to Little Star.
  • Sentsy online fundraiser ends Saturday, June 28. To participate, click here
  • Westfield – Big Hoffa’s BBQ, 800 E. Main St., Monday, June 30, dine and donate to Little Star.

Conversation with a Big Star for Little Star

 

In recognition of Autism Awareness Month, we will feature comments from our Little Star Center Board of Directors. This week’s Q&A is with Michele Trivedi, who has served on Little Star Center’s Board of Directors since 2006. Trivedi serves on the Health Benefits Mandate Task Force For Indiana and is active in the autism community.  

What makes you most proud about serving on Little Star Center’s Board of Directors?

What makes me most proud of serving on the Little Star Board of Directors is that, even when it has been difficult, the Board has always made decisions that put the interests of the children and the quality of the therapy we provide to the children first. Even when that meant financial sacrifices, asking a Board member or a staff person to resign, or declining to expand into an area that was already served by multiple providers, we have always done what is in the long term best interests of the autism community in Indiana, the children we serve and their families.  I love that about our Board!

During your time as board member, what do you think has been one of Little Star Center’s biggest success stories?

I think our biggest success is the dozens of little victories and successes our staff sees every day – they add up!

What is one thing you want people to know about individuals with autism?

People with autism want to be accepted for who they are, and want to have their talents and contributions valued.  They do not want to be categorized and constantly paid attention to for what they CANNOT do.  People with autism are successful at many things, and if we, the “typical” people would learn to look beyond what we THINK is wrong with other people, we would find many talented, amazing people to fill jobs – places in higher education, places in our community, where we need people to think differently.  We get too stuck on labeling and limiting others instead of finding possibility and promise.

What do you see for the future of autism services in Indiana? Which  areas of service are in need of growth?

Indiana needs services that focus on peoples’ abilities and not just their “dis”abilities in order to facilitate better education, treatment, and job opportunities for people with autism and other disabilities.  Families in Indiana need an objective way to assess ABA providers, their training and experience and quality.  Health and human services need to break down the walls and silos and work with the communities they serve to provide more effective and more efficient services.

How has being a part of LSC impacted you personally?

First, the treatment my child receives from LSC has changed her life and our life as a family for the better.  The functional skills she has gained, and our ability to manage challenges has been key to improving our quality of life.  We can envision our child having a job, doing things other people take as “given”.  When she was first diagnosed, all we were told were the “nevers”, and she has already gained many more skills than we ever thought she would.  And we have truly met an extended family at Little Star.  We have no family in the state, and this means a lot to us.  It has been so encouraging and rewarding to be on the Board with a group of people who care so much about Little Star and all of the families and staff at Little Star.

“An inability to express one’s self in accordance with society’s standards does not make you less, it just makes you different.”

Written by a Little Star Center employee

I grew up with my older brother.  Mom, dad, me and my brother.  We were as close as two brothers could be growing up.  My mom stayed home with us until we went to school.  Everything was very typical, I didn’t know any different.  We would play blocks, trucks, roughhousing and make believe.  It wasn’t until my brother left for kindergarten.  I remember walking with mom to the bus stop and watching my brother get on the bus for school.

I was sad at first. This was the first time I would be away from my brother ever, at all.  I learned later in life that when my brother went to school, a different side of him was shown.  My brother, who played with me like a typical kid, didn’t play with anyone in kindergarten.  In fact, my brother didn’t do much of anything.  He sat in a corner, away from all of his peers.  My brother displayed his first signs of Asperger Syndrome, extreme social anxiety in a new setting.

I didn’t know when he got home that he had such a rough time at school.  He was my brother like I always knew him, back in the safety and security of our home.  My parents were made aware of his difficulties, and he repeated kindergarten.  My brother, being the brilliant human being that he is, surely saw that he didn’t meet their social expectations year one, so made sure of it come year two.  My brother progressed into elementary school as if nothing was wrong.  He did well academically and even made a handful of friends, some of which he still has to this day.

It wasn’t until late elementary school that a teacher noticed some of my brother’s difficulties and suggested that he be tested for high-functioning autism.  In the mid 90’s my brother was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome.  This was difficult for me to hear, as you could imagine, being a 10 year-old boy and hearing your brother has a**burgers?  I was quickly told the correct spelling and was told that it was a high functioning form of autism.

We went to a parent meeting one evening at our elementary school so my parents could receive some literature on my brother’s newly discovered syndrome.  My brother and I played in the gym with some of the others kids and siblings.  We quickly noticed how out of place we were.  My brother was not like these children, we could both see that.  After that night, little was said about my brother’s Asperger’s or about the fact that he had autism.  But my curiosity had been peaked.  My brother was always just a little quirky and odd to me.  It never was anything deficient about him.  In fact, I always admired his ability to block out social distractions and focus on his studies and academic pursuits.

I was curious and, as it turned out, I would spend the rest of my time in school taking every psychology class I could get my hands on. I studied psychology in college as well as counseling and philosophy.  I wanted to help others and change the world.

After college, life sent me to residential care for children with autism.  I finally felt as though I had answered my calling.  I was working with a population I had been around my whole life.  Little did I realize that my brother was very similar to the kids in that gymnasium all those years ago.  Just a little quirky and different when it came to communicating with others.  But just as brilliant and loving as my brother.  I love my brother and this lesson that he taught me so early in life:  An inability to express one’s self in accordance with society’s standards does not make you less, it just makes you different.  It has been my pleasure working with children with autism and helping the world see their brilliance and love, even if it’s not what they’re expecting to see.  And I have my brother to thank for that.

This post was written by an employee at Little Star Center who has requested to remain anonymous.