Firemen Visit Building BLOCS

A huge thank you to the Firemen at Fire Station 25! They came by our center today and let us take a tour of their truck and even spray the firehose!

Now Enrolling ABA Therapy for Fall

Building BLOCS is enrolling for the Fall 2021 semester. We have openings for Early Intervention groups as well as Individual ABA Therapy.

Call us for more information and to schedule your assessment.

Christmas Song Choices

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.

During the holiday break, keep your kid engaged and happy by singing these songs. We use visuals like the one below to help them make song choices. 

Meet our Team: Jennifer Swinbank M.Ed., BCBA, CTRS

 

Give a little background information about yourself:

I grew up in Buda and never left the Austin area! Why would you leave this amazing city?!
I went to Texas State University for my undergraduate studies, graduating with a degree in Recreational Administration with an emphasis in therapeutic recreation in 2005. After graduating, I provided recreational therapy services for the CLASS program for about 7 years, assisting individuals with disabilities with accessing their community to participate in recreation and leisure activities. In 2011 I went back to Texas State University to obtain my masters in Special Education with a specialization in applied behavior analysis and autism.
I currently live in Austin with my husband and 3 year old daughter.

What brought you in to this field?

While working as a recreational therapist, I attended a workshop on applied behavior analysis. I found the concepts of ABA to be applicable to my job as a recreational therapist. I started to apply some of the concepts to challenging behaviors I would sometimes encounter. It was amazing to see an almost immediate response from some of my clients, so I decided to further pursue ABA.

What are some favorite parts about your job?

Each month Building BLOCS presents a theme around which stories, art, and games are focused. My favorite theme recently was our “pretend” theme. Our group spent the entire month learning about and working on pretending! We had so much fun and the kids were so creative! Watching the kids learn and apply their knowledge to the world around them, you feel a lot of pride when this happens.
I also enjoy that in this job, you never stop learning. I learn all the time from the kids, from the families, and from my co-workers.

What are a couple interesting facts about yourself?

I am a registered massage therapist, though I currently only provide services for individuals on the CLASS program. I have been providing massage therapy services to individuals on the CLASS program for about 15 years.

I love llamas and hope to someday own several llamas with which I can provide “animal-assisted” therapy services to nursing homes, schools, children’s shelters, etc.

March Featured Research

If you have been following us on social media you know that our BCBAs and a few of our ABA therapists attended the TxABA conference and are so excited to share some of the new and exciting research presentations that we were able to sit in on while there. A team favorite was Francesca degli Espinosa’s presentation on verbal behavior: Teaching verbal conditional discrimination: a framework for organizing language curricula to establish generalized question-answering in children with autism. Francesca degli Espinosa also presented her research on verbal behavior at the National Autism Conference in 2015 and more recently across the globe before making it to TxABA. If you are at all interested in expanding verbal repertoire or even learning more about verbal behavior in general, take a look at Espinosa’s presentation linked below.

verbal discrimination presentation francesca degli espinosa

Meet our team: Briana Joy Pallares M.Ed.

Briana is currently one of our ABA therapists at BLOCS and we wanted to give you all a better picture of who Briana is and why we love having her at BLOCS so much!

Give us a little background information about yourself 

“I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. I moved to Austin, Texas, after graduating high school when I got accepted into the University of Texas at Austin; my Bachelor’s degree is in Special Education, and my Master’s degree is in Autism and Developmental Disorders. My short term goal is to pass the BCBA exam and my long term goal is to operate my own clinic one day.”

What brought you in to this field?

“As a special education teacher, I constantly found myself asking questions in regards to how to better support and understand my students who displayed challenging behaviors. It was this curiosity, as well as my interest in working with individuals diagnosed with Autism, that motivated me to pursue a career in ABA.”

What are some of your favorite parts of this job?

“I enjoy watching my clients learn new skills and accomplish new goals. I love working with families and supporting them as well.”

Name two interesting facts about yourself:

“I am super obsessed with Thor (the Avengers superhero): I enjoy collecting random Thor items. I am also a percussionist. I have been playing the drums since I was 10-years-old.”

What is a support group and is it right for me?

What is a support group and is it right for me?

Recently at Building BLOCS we have begun offering a support group for parents of special needs kiddos, specifically for parents of children with ASD. A question that was frequently posed to me was, “what is the purpose of a support group and how would it benefit me?” I thought this was a great topic for our blog.

Support groups offer a group therapy environment where all the members are tackling similar issues in their lives and give the opportunity for members to share their stories and experiences in the hopes of creating a cathartic experience for themselves as well as helping others on a similar path. Support groups may meet anywhere from once to several times a month and can be specified to an ever-increasing array of topics such as depression, anxiety, and survivors of various serious illnesses.

Parents of children with special needs often find they have similar struggles and successes with their journeys despite whatever differences in diagnoses and family life may exist. It is a space where parents can feel validated and heard as well as hear feedback from their group and facilitator. Often parents will discuss and share resources, normalize the experiences of other parents, and share uplifting successes. Support groups are a beautiful opportunity to expand your world view, heal, empower others and be empowered, be a part of a community, and participate in self-care!

While all of this may sound wonderful to some parents, others may not quite be ready for the process and the overall group experience. How will you know if it is right for you? I would recommend contacting the therapist facilitating the group to discuss if group is appropriate for your needs. There can be dozens of factors contributing to why a person isn’t ready for the group experience just yet.

  • You may be an incredibly empathetic person and hearing about the struggles of others puts more weight on your shoulders and may cause you additional distress. You may find that hearing about the problems of others does not relieve your distress but adds to it. This may be a fluctuating experience. There may be some discomfort with mental health counseling as we are discussing situations that are causing issues in your life, however ultimately, we want the group experience to create empowerment, catharsis, acceptance, and healing.  
  • You may have additional presenting concerns affecting your mental health that require more individual attention. Or you may simply prefer the individual attention provided by individual counseling. If you’ve never experienced a support group, I would either research what to possibly expect, or again, reach out to the facilitator. If you’re considering our BLOCS parent support group I am more than happy to have a consultation with anyone considering the support group or individual therapy to discuss your options and which would be a better fit for your mental health needs.
  • One of the biggest reasons anyone avoids a support group of any kind is the hesitancy to accept there is an issue. Sometimes we find that parents struggle with accepting the reality of the diagnosis or it is still “too fresh” and they haven’t had time to come to terms with it yet, let alone join a group with people sharing the same issue. This is perfectly normal and to be expected! Just because you’re not quite ready for a support group does not mean you’re not necessarily ready for therapy. This is a scenario where individual or even couples counseling would be a great beginning opportunity to promote healing.

I could look for jokes, quotes, or any cute little platitude to summarize these thoughts, but as a parent of special needs kiddos, you’ve likely heard them all! So, I’ll save you an eye roll at whatever horrible joke I would have come up with by again stating the utmost importance of self-care. Regardless of if you’re even a parent or not, self-care is vital to good mental health and we want to ensure our BLOCS parents (and all other parents) are taking care of themselves in addition to their kiddos. Please feel free to contact me at maggie@blocsaustin.com with any questions regarding our counseling services.

 

Maggie Hammer, M.A., LPC-Intern, RBT

Supervised by Wanda Montemayor, LPC-S

Meet Our Team: Emma Henson

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.