At Building BLOCS we use a lot of Super Simple Songs with our kids. They have created a library of fun, easy songs for children to sing and dance to. Here is a link to all of their Christmas songs.
Building BLOCS is hosting monthly classes this fall. Our therapists will be presenting on a variety of topics including the ARD process, potty training, peer play, self care and insurance. All of the classes will be held in our gym at 6pm and they are free and open to families as well as others in the community!
Check out the flyer below to read more about specific topics and dates, we hope to see you there!
This week, we’re proud to introduce you to Emma Henson! Emma is one of our BCBAs, which means that she works with our behavior therapists to provide therapy to children. As a BCBA, she designs, implements, and supervises children’s individual programming, provides supervision for the early intervention groups, and also provides direct therapy. In other words, she’s kept quite busy making sure children get the best care possible!
Emma’s interest in ABA started as an undergraduate at the University of Arkansas. She found herself interested in the brain and human behavior, and after observing a BCBA leading an early-intervention classroom, she knew that she wanted to pursue a Master’s in ABA. This led her to Austin, where she attended the University of Texas, earning her Master’s in Special Education with an emphasis in Autism and Developmental Disabilities.
Since joining Building BLOCS in June 2016, Emma has enjoyed watching everyone as a team succeed in reaching a child’s goal. “The best part about this job is the moment when the whole team (the child, the therapist, the supervisor, the family)…has been working so hard on one goal (for example, potty training) and the child starts to achieve success,” remarks Emma. “[I]t’s a huge milestone!” In addition to achieving success in big goals, she also gets to witness small goals getting reached daily in her favorite activity, pretend play. Emma notes that children with ASD often need more prompting and modeling in arranging props and choosing roles, but once they catch on, their creativity is “magical.” It’s so much fun to watch their sometimes hilarious spins on traditional stories and play activities!
Generating creativity in adults, on the other hand, can be a bit more challenging. “After you’ve re-enacted the three little pigs a million times, you can’t always find a way to make it new and exciting,” Emma notes. “But just when my creativity fails me, the kids come up with some out of this world idea.” Sometimes the most challenging moments are those that prove the most rewarding, and seeing children’s creativity shine is truly wonderful.
Meet Maggie Hammer, our multi-talented ABA Therapist! Maggie, a registered behavior technician (RBT), also facilitates our Parent Support Group. She is currently completing a license as a professional counselor. We are thrilled to have had her as a part of our team since September 2016.
Maggie’s interest in ABA began in Chicago, where she attended graduate school. Initially, she worked with adults, but she wanted more experience working with children, and when she heard about ABA, she was “hooked immediately.” Although challenging, she finds the work rewarding. “I love going to work every day because I know there will be challenges but there is always reward,” says Maggie. “There are always successes to be celebrated. ABA is wonderful because it provides solutions to any challenge.”
Another interesting fact about Maggie is that she loves to work with picky eaters! She attributes this to the first child she ever worked with, who initially was so picky that he wouldn’t eat much. Over two years, Maggie turned trying new foods into a game, and he began to try everything, even if he eventually decided he didn’t like it. Plus, Maggie says, she relates to being a picky eater: “I also have very picky eater tendencies and lots of weird texture issues so I feel like I understand where they’re coming from.” A little understanding can go a long way.
All in all, the best part of the job is when she makes a breakthrough during therapy with a child. “There is a moment when you gain a deeper understanding of their thought processes and the best way to approach therapy with them,” she says. “Those are the absolute best moments.”
Old stories and folk tales have been used to educate children for thousands of years, and we are still finding fun and creative ways to incorporate them into learning. This week at Building BLOCS, some of our groups have been reading the story of the Little Red Hen. This story is integrated into various parts of the day, from storytime to pretend play.
During storytime, everyone sits in a circle and listens to the story of the Little Red Hen. This sets the groundwork for the other activities–it’s important to know the story we’re talking about! We like to make it interactive, so we pause the story to ask each child a question that corresponds with his or her learning objectives. For example, someone might be asked to “point to the bread,” while someone else might be asked, “Who is cooking?”. Sometimes, we pass around toys that relate to the story to practice sharing and other important skills as well.
Pretend play is when everyone gets a chance to let their creativity shine. The therapists lead an activity in the gym in which the children get to pick their own wheat, roll out their dough, and bake their bread–all in their imagination, of course! We all get a chance to process our grain and seeds in the kitchen at the first station by pouring rice through a small plastic play set. Next, we pretend we’re all giant rolling pins and roll the “dough”–four extra squishy bean bags on the floor. Then, with a slide down our slide, we put the bread in the oven to bake. Then, with a quick run back to our chairs, we’ve all baked bread, and it’s time to eat! Once everyone has had a chance to bake and “eat” their bread, we all head back to the other room for more activities.
For children with ASD, pretend play can often be difficult. However, by finding a unifying theme, like the story of the Little Red Hen, and creating a fun group activity, makes it easier and more enjoyable for learning all kinds of new skills.
This week, we’re proud to feature Laura Gillingham, one of our talented Speech-Language Pathologists. She started working at Building Blocs in July of 2015 and has been changing lives and brightening our days ever since.
Laura was inspired to become an SLP when a family member discovered that their baby would be born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. She shadowed a number of speech pathologists and was further impressed by their wide knowledge base of different specialties. But what was most powerful was the ability to change lives. Laura comments that “the ability to communicate and experience the world is central to the human experience, and I knew that as a speech pathologist, I would be directly involved in helping others achieve this.” For Laura, speech pathology serves as a way of helping people both to improve their communication skills and enrich their lives as a whole.
At Building Blocs, Laura’s favorite activity is story time, since it is an enjoyable way to work on multiple goals at once. Not only is it fun and engaging for the kids, but it is also a great time to work on targets like pointing, labeling, answering questions, and following directions. While stories are obviously great for speech activities, they are also an excellent way to get to know each child and what they enjoy most.
One of Laura’s favorite aspects of her job is working with families. “Family involvement is essential to each client’s success,” says Laura. She recognizes that families have to be advocates for their children and support them in speech development at home as well. Providing the guidance to help families do that is incredibly rewarding.
Finally, there are no better words to describe the challenges and rewards of her job than Laura’s own. “Working in early intervention,” she says, “I am in a unique position to hear children talk, respond to their name, and engage with others for the first time. The days and weeks leading up to these special moments can be full of ups and downs, and can be both exciting and discouraging for everyone involved. In spite of the hard work, nothing is more rewarding than seeing the joy on a child’s face during the moment when they finally realize their words mean something.”
SLPs are an integral part of our team at Building BLOCS. They work alongside our ABA Therapists with children with autism, as well as with typically developing children who just need speech therapy. Jennifer sees individual clients with expressive/receptive language disorders, fluency disorders (stuttering), voice disorders, and articulation disorders. She also leads preschool intervention groups and Talk to Me Baby, a new parent/child class.
Jennifer’s interest in language started as a child, when she lived in multiple different countries and had the opportunity to learn the local languages. Although she went to college for electrical engineering, it was a class on language and the brain that held her attention, and she decided that she would pursue speech pathology. “It was a perfect mix of math, science and language,” says Jennifer. She went on to write a Master’s thesis on the area of the brain where stuttering originates.
Jennifer loves working with the kids at Building BLOCS, saying that “they remind you to laugh and enjoy the world!”. Her favorite activities are singing and cooking, sometimes at the same time. The kids get really excited when they get to crack the eggs or mix the batter, so although it can be messy, it’s fun for everyone involved. What could be better than learning and getting to eat treats?
Being an SLP is both challenging and rewarding. Jennifer notes that she has to be paying attention and engaged at all times in order to connect with the kids, which can be a challenge in itself at times. “It can be exhausting,” she says, “but seeing the kids’ eyes light up with understanding when they grasp a concept or giggle in anticipation for a game is what it’s all about. Celebrating a child’s progress with their family is the most rewarding experience.”
We’re so excited for our brand new class for both parents and kids, Talk to Me Baby! In this class, board-certified SLP Jennifer Grantham teaches simple ways to increase your child’s speech and language skills through books, music, motor games and toy play. It’s great for kids aged 18 months to 3 years of any developmental background.
We know that you know your child best, so this class gives speech language pathologists and parents the opportunity to join forces in order to teach language skills effectively. You can show us what your child’s favorite game or song is, and we’ll show you how to utilize that play activity to target communication skills. The goal of this class is to shape what you’re already doing at home to foster language development.
Every class will target a different goal based on the needs of the families attending. For example, one class might target what sounds are developmentally appropriate, while another might target using a slower rate of conversation to be a better conversational partner for your little one. However, each class will feature music, a story, toy time, and motor time. There will also be time for questions and time to practice the day’s target strategy. It’s fun for kids and educational for parents, so both of you are sure to enjoy the activities. Plus, there’s no need to bring or prepare anything–just show up ready to learn and have fun!
Talk to Me Baby will take place from 9:30-10:30am on Fridays starting in January. For more information, call 512-827-7011 or email us at Therapy@BlocsAustin.com
Meet our newest BCBA, Cayley Miles! Cayley has been an ABA Therapist at Building BLOCS for the past year and a half, and on Wednesday she received her BCBA. This week, she’ll be kicking off our “Meet our Team” blog series, where therapists and speech pathologists tell you about their jobs, from their favorite activities with the children to what makes it most challenging.
Cayley first decided to pursue ABA therapy during college, when she volunteered with Jester’s Program. This program paired adults and children with disabilities with professional directors to write and perform their own musical production. Continue reading “Meet our Team: Cayley Miles”
Early intervention, speech, and ABA therapy can be incredibly life-changing. We believe that this therapy should be as accessible as possible for families of all socio-economic backgrounds. Unfortunately, Texas lawmakers have enacted severe budget cuts that will soon impact many families’ ability to provide therapy for their children.
In short, Texas legislators have cut Medicaid funding for therapy services, including speech, autism, and occupational therapy, for thousands of Texas children with disabilities. Although a lawsuit was filed to halt the budget cuts, the Texas Supreme Court refused to hear the case. Now, starting on December 15th, those budget cuts will be officially applied.
While this is obviously devastating news for our community, there is still a chance that the budget cuts may be reversed. House Speaker Joe Straus has shown interest in addressing the issue during the next House session, beginning in January.
Therapy services such as the ones being cut by Medicaid are vital to our children and our communities. Please join us in contacting our representatives to ensure that these children do not continue to lose healthcare services. House Speaker Joe Straus’ mailing address, email address, and phone number are listed here. As we near the upcoming House session, it is imperative that we remind him how much of a difference these therapies are to our children and our families. In addition, you can email or phone Governor Greg Abbott or Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.
At Building Blocs, we witness daily the immense change that early intervention therapies can make in children’s lives and the lives of their family. These therapies should be accessible for all children, including those on Medicaid. The funding necessary to help children with disabilities is not excess to be cut from Texas’ budget; instead, it is essential to the upbringing and well-being of Texas’ children.