In January of 2014 we posted episode 15 of Special Parents Confidential, in which we learned about Applied Behavior Analysis ABA. Our guest was Conny Raaymakers, who is a board certified behavior analyst. Her interview has become our most downloaded and listened to episode, with nearly double the listens of any other episode we’ve done. It’s even been cited in a text book on applied behavior analysis.
What Is ABA?
Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA is a term parents of special needs children hear a lot in schools, doctors offices, therapy centers, and just about anywhere our kids interact with people. Studies have shown that ABA can be used to help children as early as 18 months learn to cope with everything from social settings to the educational environment. ABA has been proven to be successful especially for children with autism and can be used to help kids with other disabilities and disorders.
New Contact Information.
However, since that interview took place, Conny has had some changes in her career. She is now the Director of ABA services at Developmental Enhancement Behavioral Health. Conny is a Behavior Analyst and Limited Licensed Behavioral Psychologist. She talks about the history of Behavior Modification, the decades of research that has been done to study the effectiveness of the treatments, and clears up the misconceptions people have about Applied Behavior Analysis. Conny also discusses the drawbacks and problems with using alternative or ‘fad’ treatments, how to watch out for misleading claims and how to spot phony success stories.
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A few days ago I came across the above video on Facebook called Amazing Things Happen, It does an incredible job of explaining Autism in a way that kids could understand.
Amazing Things Happen, since it was posted online, has had over 5 million views. It’s been translated into 28 subtitled languages, and 10 fully dubbed versions. I wanted to know more about the person who created the video, Alex Amelines, and how he was able to create such a well-done piece.
“I worked in Editorial design for 5 years. Back in Colombia. Then I moved to the United Kingdom to do an animation course after which I ended up settling up in. Both in the animation field and in the UK.
“I now work as an independent animator and director, my animations have gone in all directions: television, exhibitions, installations, games, films, planes, etc. In 2012 I established Studio Tinto in an attempt to become rich and famous.
“I’ve achieved neither.”
This wasn’t quite all the information I was looking for, so I sent Alex a message. He replied that his preference was to not do a podcast interview because he was worried that his accent was a little to hard to understand. But he would be happy to explain the process of how he came up with the animation.
By the way – Alex mentions the term SENCO, which in the U.K. stands for Special Education Needs Coordinator.
The Amazing Things Happen Background Story.
“I must warn you that my story is not an exciting one and that I’d prefer the focus were on the animation rather than me or my family but I’ll try to tell you what drove me anyway:
“A few years ago, my son’s school organised an assembly to help explain autism to the children, which struck me as a wonderful idea. The talk was very interesting and the local expert who led it obviously knew her stuff but it was limited by a lack of clear, visual materials. The children got most excited at a slide of Lego toys and enjoyed a scene from the animated series Arthur, where Arthur meets a boy who doesn’t make eye contact and only wants to talk about trains.
“My immediate thought was, this could all be an animation – and might even retain the children’s interest better that way. I’ve always loved working on creative side projects to distract me from client work and thought this would be both fun and potentially useful for the school. Perhaps even a few more schools, locally. I had no big plans beyond that.
“I met with the school’s SENCO and told her my idea, which she as was excited as I was. I had to do a lot of research, a lot of books, a lot of TED talks, blogs, articles, etc. I met with the SENCO several times to discuss my progress. The hardest part was to condense the script into 5 minutes, as English is my second language, I’m not a trained writer and most importantly, because there is so much to say about autism! The spectrum is so unforgivingly vast it seemed impossible keep it all in, everything seemed so relevant. But I knew from experience that this could only work if it was short enough to be feasible to finish on my own and also to retain the attention of small children.
“My prerogatives were: keep it short, only positive words, keep the language simple.
“It took me the best part of a year to get to a point that I thought I can start animating. But before doing so I ran it past the SENCO and reached out to Prof. Tony Attwood, a leading expert on autism who was really generous with his time and knowledge. He checked the script and storyboards and made some adjustments to the language. So I felt I had a proper seal of approval, which cheered me on.
“As I moved on from writing to animation things got easier. I was in my element. I developed the characters, created the artwork, did some research for the look of the animation. The backgrounds and colours were inspired by old 1940s UPA animations, which I’ve always loved.
“For the music I asked London based musician Chris Harrington, he has always supported my animated projects with beautiful original compositions. The narrator is a Scottish actor called David Gant (Braveheart, Sherlock, Final Fantasy VII), who I’d met while working on the visual effects of feature film, The Fitzroy. He has a beautiful booming voice that is both authoritative and warm. The kind of voice that inspires trust. So I reached out and David kindly agreed to do it pro bono. Mike Avgeros also generously offered to let us use his recording studio for an hour on a weekend.
“We released Amazing Things Happen in time for autism awareness month, then something amazing really did happen. By the second day the film had been seen thousands of times. I was over the moon with that, but after two weeks it was 5 million. It was all very surreal and very moving, as I got many beautiful messages of thanks from parents, teachers and – most importantly to me – from people who themselves have autism. So it has been very rewarding, more than I had ever imagined.
“Right nowAmazing Things Happen has subtitles in 28 languages, it has been dubbed into 10 languages, apart from the French and German narrations, everything has been from contributions from people who’ve liked the project. And there are more foreign narrations coming, the former director for the Icelandic Autism Society has offered to do an Icelandic version, the Executive Director of OC Autism wants to do Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Tagalog and Hindu, there are offers to do Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Arabic, Hebrew, Estonian, Japanese and Malay. And an animation studio in Bangladesh, who are connected with the Prime Minister’s daughter are recreating the animation with Asian themes.
“From the reaction it’s clear that there is an urgent need for this kind of material. I would also love to do more, so I am considering a crowd-funding campaign to develop a series in which children could tell their own story, describing their autism to us. Raising funds this way would mean I could work on this full time, rather than finding a spare hour here and there around my usual client work. There’s so much more to be said on the subject. And I figure that the only way to paint a portrait of something that has a million faces, is to paint as many pictures as possible!”
Additionally, Alex wrote the following to me in a separate email:
“In relation to how I visualised it, I think the fact that so many autistic people have felt it is an accurate depiction is sort of a fluke, I mean I did lots of research but I knew it wasn’t going to be accurate for everyone as the spectrum is so vast, so it felt like taking a gamble, I tried to be generic (too much detail in some parts, too little detail in others, too bright, too loud), while showing things that Neuro-Typical children can relate to, so they can put themselves in their shoes. Professor Tony Attwood came up with the idea of removing people’s faces to convey the fact that they can’t read people’s expressions, which I think is a great touch, even if it’s not obvious to people who see it, it is there.
“It helped me a lot that I am a visual person, for instance I can’t remember a phone number but I can remember the pattern my finger draws as it types. Even my mental associations are visual, when I was reading “The Reason I Jump” as part of my research at some point it evoked a scene from The Man of Steel, were Superman as a child starts discovered his powers (well I say discovered but it looked more like they ran him over, the scene is terrifying), suddenly he can hear everyone at the same time, see everything too clear, too bright, too much, that’s how I imagine sensory overload. Unfortunately autistic people don’t have superman’s ability to control this, there’s no filter or off button.”
My thanks toAlex Amelines for offering this explanation of his work.
Amazing Things Happen is something everyone should watch. I highly recommend you share this video with everyone you know!
Find out how the Michigan Alliance For Families, and other similar organizations around the United States can help you negotiate special education services for free.
What Is The Michigan Alliance For Families?
Trying to get help with the special education process can be very difficult, and potentially expensive. There are dozens of advocacy service businesses and legal firms that specialize in handling IEPS for families. There are hundreds of books you can buy. Seminars you can attend. Personal counseling services. The list goes on.
But did you know that some of the best help for negotiating special education services is available for free from your own State government? Every State in America has what’s known as Parent Information and Training Centers that offer help in everything from early intervention, to writing an IEP, to legal support, transitioning issues, and beyond.
Free Is A Nice Price.
Here in Michigan, the Parent Center is called the Michigan Alliance For Families. They offer parent-mentors… these are parents of special needs children… who have been trained to coach other parents to work with schools and get the help that their children need.
Our guest for this episode is Kelly Orginski, who is the executive director of the Michigan Alliance For Families. She explains how the Michigan Alliance came together, how the parent-mentors are trained and work with families, and how they can help. She also talks about what parents can do to help themselves with the negotiations, and where to find help from similar organizations in other States.
Revisiting Special Parents Confidential Episode 10 Special Education.
It’s IEP Season, and we’re revisiting some of our older episodes that have information that will help you with the process. In this episode, we find out what Special Education is all about.
In this episode we take a look at the world of Special Education. What exactly is Special Education? How do teachers become Special Education teachers? How and why has the concept of Special Education changed over the years from isolation and institutionalization to mainstreaming and inclusion, and has it worked? How do researchers determine what works and what doesn’t work? And are the current budget problems that so many state governments face affecting Special Education in our schools?
Our guest for this episode has answers to all of those questions and many other questions. Paula Lancaster is a Professor of Special Education and the Chair of the Special Education, Foundations, and Technology Department at Grand Valley State University in West Michigan. We talked about a wide range of issues including the questions above, as well as discussing some of the major misconceptions about Special Education; the differences in how Special Education is handled by public schools, charter schools, and private schools; how Special Education changes from elementary school to middle school, to high school, and college; to the importance of special needs children learning to advocate for themselves; how to make sure that the information you’re finding is proven to work versus a marketing scam; and a lot more. This is one of the longest episodes of Special Parents Confidential that we’ve recorded, but Paula shares some very important information that you and everyone who is interested in Special Education need to know.
Links Mentioned In The Podcast:
What Works Clearinghouse– The Institute of Education Sciences. Providing educators (parents can use it too) with the information they need to make evidence based decisions.
LD Online– Learning Disabilities Online. The world’s leading website on learning disabilities and ADHD.
Note: Paula’s advice on researching information: Whenever you encounter a site that you’re not certain whether the info is credible, scroll down to the bottom (or check ‘about us’ info), and find out who is responsible for the website content.
The Self-Advocacy Strategy– Paula and Sean Lancaster’s software package that teaches children the strategies of negotiation and self-advocacy. Great for all kids, not just special needs children.
ADHD Nation, Children, Doctors, Big Pharma, and the making of an American Epidemic, is a new book by New York Times correspondent Alan Schwarz, that is putting a lot of focus on ADHD and the way it’s diagnosed and treated in the United States. Alan Schwarz is the Pulitzer Prize nominated investigative reporter who wrote more than 100 articles that helped expose the serious problems of concussions in football players of all ages. His work lead to movies and documentaries about the seriousness of concussions and to the NFL finally admitting the problem and making changes in how they deal with the problems.
Since then Mr. Schwarz has begun investigating ADHD diagnosis and medications, writing a new series of articles on the subject that lead to the publication of ADHD Nation.
Mr. Schwarz has done an intense amount of research in the hard statistical evidence that shows an often higher number of children and adults are being diagnosed with ADHD than what the established rate of diagnosis is supposed to be. In fact, it’s nearly three times the established number, which means millions of people more than expected are being diagnosed, or often misdiagnosed. He also profiles a number of the major names involved in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD all the way back nearly 200 years when the symptoms we now associate with ADHD were first recorded. Along the way we meet Dr. Keith Conners, who has been called “the father of ADHD”, and we learn his concerns about how his work has been misused.
A Fair Balance.
ADHD Nation is a very well balanced book, in that it doesn’t attempt to deny that ADHD is a valid medical condition. In fact the book opens with the statement, “AHDH is real.” Mr. Schwarz proves that in the correct circumstances ADHD medications work and are highly effective. But, as you’ll hear in this interview, far too many people, especially children, are being put on the medications when they clearly do not have ADHD and don’t need medications. This is an important book and you’ll learn how Mr. Schwarz researched the numbers and compiled the evidence that he presents in the book.
What is the Nurtured Heart Approach and how can it help? For many kids with special needs the ability to concentrate, even to sit still in class, is challenging. We’ve given lots of names to these issues: Attention Deficit Disorder. Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Difficult Kid, Problem Child. The list goes on… and if you think about it, it’s a very negative outlook on these children.
A Paradigm Shift.
Now there is a relatively new process of working with kids who have these issues that tries to do away with all that negativity. It’s called the Nurtured Heart Approach. It consists of a set of strategies that assists children in developing their self-regulation, and transforming the way children perceive themselves and the world around them. And it has created a huge amount of success by concentrating on positive behaviors instead of all the negative behavior.
For this episode we’re joined by Dr. William Rowell, a retired licensed Psychologist with Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services of Grand Rapids Michigan who has spent the last years training parents, educators, foster parents, social workers, and law enforcement personnel in the Nurtured Heart Approach. He explains how the Nurtured Heart Approach works, why it’s more successful than other strategies, and how making a paradigm shift in your thinking will make all the difference for your special needs child.
Dr. Rowell’s Email: william . rowell @ pine rest . org. – be sure to remove the spaces.
Support Special Parents Confidential.
If you find this episode helpful, and if you have found other episodes on this site to be helpful as well, please consider investing in supporting Special Parents Confidential. We have our very own Pay Pal account linked on our home page on the right side below our logo. Or you can click on the “Support SPC” link on our page directory at the top of the site. Any amount you can contribute to help us continue these podcasts is greatly appreciated!
Virtually everyone has heard of sensory overload, and sensory issues. People who have problems with loud noises, large crowded areas, tastes, textures, strong smells, bright lights, the list goes on.
Not A Symptom of Something Else.
For decades sensory issues were simply considered a side-effect of whatever the more prevalent disorder was inhibiting the child, whether Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, Dyslexia, Multiple Sclerosis, and other disorders. However medical research has proven that this is a separate disorder, called Sensory Processing Disorder. And there is now a push to have it recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – known as DSM – which is the official medical reference for physicians.
SPD Parent Zone.
My guest for this episode has first hand knowledge of Sensory Processing Disorder. Kelly Jurecko is the President and Co-Founder of SPD Parent Zone, a non-profit organization that offers a website that is full of reliable and credible information on Sensory Processing Disorder. She also hosts a blog and a podcast on the site where she posts articles and interviews experts on SPD and keeps people updated on the latest information.
If your child is having any kind of sensory issues, SPD Parent Zone is a website you need to bookmark and search.
If you find this episode helpful, and if you have found other episodes on this site to be helpful as well, please consider investing in supporting Special Parents Confidential. We have a Pay Pal account linked on our home page on the right side below our logo. Or you can click on the “Support SPC” link on our page directory at the top of the site. Any amount you can contribute to help us continue these podcasts is greatly appreciated!