Families, come dive into “Splash Pals” with us here at Cayer Behavioral Group!

      Summer may be coming to an end, but there is still plenty of time to have some fun in the sun! Splash Pals Adapted Aquatics allows kids with physical and developmental disabilities and their families to enjoy swimming in a safe and supportive environment!

      Splash Pals Adapted Aquatics is excited to announce their new chapter serving individuals with disabilities in Tallahassee and surrounding communities! Splash Pals was originally started in 2013 by a group of healthcare students at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL and is focused on implementing aquatic activity programs for children, teens, and adults with various physical and developmental disabilities.

      This summer, the Splash Pals chapter at Florida State University opened!  They have partnered with the Capital Regional Family Health and Fitness Center to hold events. Splash Pals aims to improve the quality of life for not only the children but also their parents and caregivers, the students, and the community. Splash Pals at FSU has gotten off to a great start by providing social interaction, swimming, exercise, and play to numerous individuals with disabilities.

Want to find out more information about the “Splash Pals” program?  

Visit www.SplashPals.com today to find helpful information!

Guest Blog By Jessica Duncan, Fun4TallyKids.com

After-School Care should be something to look forward to for every child and parent, but if your child has Autism / Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), sometimes finding the best fit can be difficult. You want the best care for your child, and it can be overwhelming to search through the many after-school care programs Tallahassee has to offer.

Before enrolling your child, there are some specific things you can ask the care program’s owner to make sure staff is qualified, experienced, and open to inclusion in their after-school care programs.  

  • What is the ratio of staff to kids? You may even go further to ask if they have availability for one-to-one staff when needed. The added attention to your child can help them to feel included in activities, and to make sure any outburst or issue that may arise is handled in a positive manner. 
  • What are the qualifications of your staff and after-school counselors? Don’t take a simple “yes, they’ve been trained” as an answer; ask about the specific training that was provided, including: Applied Behavior Analyst (ABA), Autism Spectrum Disorder Specialist (ASDS), Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), and Registered Behavior Technician (RBT).
  • Do your staff members and after-school counselors have experience with kids on the spectrum? There are some after-school care programs in Tallahassee with over 20 years of experience!  Some care programs are brand new, but their staff and counselors may have experience working at other programs or camps. Just ask.
  • Will you consider my child’s specific challenges in group situations? Many after-school care programs have forms for parents to fill out so that every need can be met when it comes to individual personalities, interests, and behaviors. 

  • Can you provide a visual schedule? Your child may have less anxiety if he/she can see pictures of what to expect at after-school care each day. If the program doesn’t regularly provide this, many of them will be more than happy to show you pictures of the activities and fun their kids have.  
  • Will my child be integrated and included?  The correct answer is “Yes.” The program’s owner should tell you that they make sure all of their campers are included in groups and activities, that they teach kids about inclusion, patience, and making friends with children on the spectrum, and staff encourages kids to help one another.  
  • Will the after-school care staff communicate with me, the parent? Your child may not be one to jump in the car after camp to tell you all about their day, so communication is very important between the staff and parents. Find out if they are willing to provide you with a written note at the end of each day letting you know how their day at camp was, or you might ask to speak to a staff member who was with your child that day when you pick them up.  
  • Will my child be safe? This is an important question and concern for a parent of any child. The bottom line is, when you know your child is safe, YOU can enjoy your day.  

In addition to finding the answers to these questions when looking for an after-school care program, be sure to choose one that you think your child will actually be interested in.  

Jessica Duncan is the owner of Fun4TallyKids.com, an online resource for families to find things to do with and for their kids. To see a comprehensive list of resources in the Tallahassee area, visit http://fun4tallykids.com/. Follow on Facebook, and subscribe to receive weekly events email at http://fun4tallykids.com/Newsletter-Signup/. She can be reached at jessica@fun4tallykids.com or (850) 877-4357.

It only takes 15 minutes for a child in a hot car to sustain a heat stroke or other complications.

kid shielding his eyes

The law dictates that leaving children under the age of six in cars that are not running is a second-degree misdemeanor. If the car is running, a child can legally be left alone for less than 15 minutes. Keep in mind, cracking open a window will do little to nothing to keep the car cooler.

The Florida “Motor Vehicle Good Samaritan Law” makes it lawful for an individual to forcibly enter a vehicle to help a person or pet in danger. They will not be held liable for damages if there was no other way to enter the car. Immediately after or before, 911 must be called.

kid playing with toy car

The heat in Florida can become very dangerous, very quickly. Here are some tips to keep in mind to keep your family safe during the hot summer months:

  • Keep your car locked at all times. It is possible for a child to climb into a car, in a hot garage or driveway, and be unable to get out.
  • Keep keys and car remotes away from children at all times.
  • If you must leave your child in the car while running errands, use drive-thru services.
  • Call 911 immediately if you see a child or a pet left alone in a hot car. If the child seems distressed, use the necessary force to remove them from the vehicle.
  • Review vehicle safety with any childcare providers
  • Do a visual sweep of your entire vehicle before leaving and locking the doors.
  • During busy times, such as holidays or get-togethers, be especially aware of your child’s whereabouts.

Don’t let temporary distraction become a tragedy. Keep your family safe and, stay smart, and stay aware.

 

In Florida, a giant alligator is generally a frightening occurrence – unless it’s a giant pool float and can be used for splashing, riding, and laughing!

kids playing in big floaties in a pool

 

As Tallahassee days reach their humid summer peak, aquatic activities are a family favorite. This summer as you venture out to keep things cool, keep in mind some important tips for pool safety.

two kids with sunglasses playing in the pool with floaties

 

  1. Take swimming lessons as a family! The Red Cross offers water orientation and swim lessons for all ages. Bond with your child as you show them the importance of safety and independence.Consider first aid and CPR/AED classes.
  2. Before heading out to the pool, have a talk with your family. Encourage awareness and caution. Discuss with children how to recognize signs of danger and that if they are at all unsure, a trusted adult or a lifeguard should be made aware immediately.
  3. Encourage the buddy system. Place an emphasis on the importance of not swimming alone.
  4. Establish clear rules such as asking for permission before approaching the water. Discourage dangerous games such as breath holding contests.
  5. Believe it or not, lifeguards aren’t only around to blow that whistle when someone is running. They keep a close watch over your loved ones and can mean the difference between a fun day and a traumatizing experience. Find an area with lifeguards who can help keep watch.
  6. Equip young children and inexperienced swimmers with life vests. Discuss with them appropriate and inappropriate swimming areas depending on depth.
  7. The large bodies of water are not the only ones to be concerned about. Keep yourself and your family hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with alcohol and caffeine.
  8. Prepare yourself for a possible emergency. If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or injury.

 

The city of Tallahassee offers some fantastic facilities for you and your family to take advantage of. With proper preparation and communication, pool time can be a wonderful addition to your summer.

Navigating insurance coverage for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

gavel pounding

 

Florida enacted autism insurance reform on May 2, 2008, under the Steven Geller Autism Coverage Act. As a result, large group health insurance plans and HMO large group health plans provide coverage for diagnostic screening, intervention and treatment of ASD. However, coverage for ASD is not required by state law for small employer (50 or less employees) group plans or self-insured plans.

HOW DO I VERIFY WHETHER I HAVE ASD COVERAGE?

To verify whether your policy covers treatment for Autism, check your policy booklet under the terms “Applied Behavior Therapy,” “ABA Therapy” or “Autism Therapy.” If access to your policy booklet is not readily available, contact your insurance plan directly using the telephone number listed on the front (or back) of your insurance card. If you verify by telephone, make sure you  keep a record of the reference number for the call, and the name of the representative you spoke with.

 

INSURANCE & CBG

Calculator, receipt, and pen on a desk for insurance

After you have completed the new client paperwork, our billing department will take care of the insurance process. CBG will contact your child’s insurance company to verify benefits for ABA therapy. The billing department will compose an explanation of benefits and parameters of payment document detailing the cost for ABA therapy services.

Benefits will vary depending on the employer group plan. HMO plans generally have a copayment per day with a designated out-of-pocket maximum amount. Most PPO plans utilize a deductible which must be satisfied; afterwards, the plan will cover 80 percent of the allowed charges while you cover the other 20 percent. As with the HMO plans, the PPO policies have a maximum out-of-pocket amount that must be satisfied. With both policy types, once the out-of-pocket maximum has been satisfied, the insurance company will cover 100 percent of the allowed charges.

 

Cayer Behavioral Group’s billing procedure is as follows:

  • services are provided by your child’s therapist(s);

  • the following week, the services are submitted to the billing department for submission to the insurance company;

  • the claims are submitted electronically through the individual insurance carriers clearinghouse (or website);

  • your insurance plan generally remits payment within 10 business days; and,

  • CBG will send you an invoice for the copayment or deductible amount due on the 10th and 25th of each month.

Contact Cayer Behavioral Group today to let us help you find your new normal!

happy family laughing in the car

What is ABA?

ABA, or Applied Behavior Analysis, is the most effective therapeutic intervention for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It is successful with both children and adults. The focus of ABA intervention is to improve a person’s quality of life by teaching skills necessary for day-to-day functioning, and to decrease behaviors that may inhibit success. Typically, ABA interventions rely on the use of strategically applied reinforcers that motivate the individual to learn a skill, or refrain from engaging in an unwanted behavior.

ABA is a form of therapy based on B. F. Skinner’s theory of behaviorism, which focuses on observable behaviors. ABA therapy is applied in a variety of ways, but each therapeutic intervention is customized to be meaningful to the individual.

ASD kid looking at a globe - ABA blog

Why is ABA so popular?

ABA is proven to be effective! Studies show that 30-50% of children with ASD who begin receiving quality, intensive ABA therapy from a young age go on to succeed in regular education classrooms. Moreover, their success continues to improve well into the future. ABA interventions also help improve family relationships by increasing positive behavior within the home, and enhance social skills, such as appropriate eye contact, reciprocal conversation, making and accepting bids, as well as many others.

Specific, child centered  interventions are designed to teach functional skills that are important to the child. Examples may include: washing hands, tying a shoe, or a job-specific skill. The specific needs of the individual drive the design of his or her interventions. As a result, ABA-based interventions open up endless possibilities for learning and success, and encourage positive change in the lives of individuals and their families.

Kids playing in the classroom ABA approach

The Growing Field of ABA

As ABA grows in popularity, the number of services provided grows. Every day, more and more ABA-based services are provided in schools and in the community. A growing number of teachers and staff are embracing ABA and welcoming it into schools and classrooms. There has also been an increasing number of opportunities for older individuals with ASD. This makes it easier for adults with ASD to contribute their unique skills throughout the community.

For a parent of a child with Autism, fun and playtime can be stressful to consider; it may be difficult to think of activities to keep a child with Autism engaged in a fun and safe way.

Crafts, songs and games will help with fine motor movements and can help the child stay focused, associate words with objects to improve language and numerical skills, and improve social interaction with others (from taking turns to playing imaginative games).

 

Crafts provide sensory experiences that can stimulate attention and foster calm, and crafts involving the alphabet, matching and sensory bottles/areas are especially effective. Alphabet letters and blocks help develop word recognition and expand sight word knowledge by physically building sight words. You can get creative with materials too – try using blocks, magnets and puzzle pieces as well as paper.

 

Matching activities could include matching colors on two objects that are different in size or appearance or creating your own sorter. Take a sippy cup and poke holes into the top. Color around the holes with different colors and give your child color-coordinated pipe cleaners to match to each hole. Another way to facilitate matching is cutting a symmetrical picture in half so your child can practice matching halves.

 

A fun activity for a child with Autism is creating “calm down bottles” filled with water, glitter and glue (and sealed with glue at the top to prevent leaking). Another engaging sensory activity is adding texture to everyday toys. Whether it’s a plastic egg, a plastic ball or even a piece of paper, adding texture with fuzzy sticks, buttons, pompoms and more will greatly aid stimulation. Plus, all you need is glue and the items!

 

Songs help engage a child because of the singsong nature and repetition. You can find on the internet for days of the week, months of the year, planets in order and so on, but you can also make up a song for daily tasks like going to the bathroom or getting dressed. These songs can include physical movement like jumping or skipping, which creates harder activities for the child to promote independence.

baby-song-sleep

Games like I Spy or guessing games help expand descriptions but also develop focus to note these expanded descriptions. I Spy allows an object to be described as much as possible and allows the child to process all of the given clues before coming to a solution. I Spy strengthens the use of the sense of sight because the more descriptive the clue is, the easier it is to conclude. Guessing games aid sensory stimulation because the child can close his or her eyes and touch or hold an item to figure out what it is. For nonverbal children, you can provide pictures of objects and allow them to select which object they had. This teaches children they need to use more than just sight to get the correct answer – they can use touch, smell and maybe even taste or hearing!

The most important thing with these activities is to keep the child physically engaged with hands-on activities; inappropriate behaviors usually begin with disengagement. The options are endless; have fun!

College is a dream many have, but some feel it may be out of reach because of a variety of disadvantages.

This is the story of Oscar Diaz and his pursuit of his college dreams:

Study book with glasses

​Oscar diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of 4. He started elementary school in a normal kindergarten class but soon was relocated to a class that could “fit his needs.” Several of his family members thought this was a tragedy because it wouldn’t entitle Oscar to much, but it was the beginning of Oscar’s path to success.

 

Getting switched into the a different class opened Oscar up to ABA therapy and sooner than later things started looking up. It took Oscar six years to graduate elementary school, but it was worth it. No one, not even Oscar, thought elementary school graduation was possible, nor did anyone believe Oscar would be able to go to middle school without any ABA services. However, Oscar completed both middle school and high school without any service dependency.

Stack of books

Once his necessary education was complete, Oscar wanted more. He always dreamed of going to college but never thought it was possible because of his family’s economic status. So he took a year off after high school to devote all of his time studying for the ACT and SAT. After receiving an exemplary score, he applied to five universities in Florida and received a full merit scholarship to Florida State University. Oscar is now 24 years old and just graduated college with a Bachelor’s degree.  

This is only one of the many success stories that began with the believed constraint of Autism. But Oscar did not let the stigma hold him back, and hopefully neither will other children like him.

A child’s first steps are both the scariest and the most significant. Overcoming that first fear sets the foundation to conquering future obstacles. From there, kids learn to run, ride a bike, and play soccer. Along with a child’s first steps they also discover a crowd of support as their parents cheer them on to keep going.

photo of parent holding child

Parents of children with Autism also have a vital first step to take: seeking the diagnosis.

No, it isn’t fun. The road will be bumpy. There will be obstacles. But it will put the child on the right path to reach their full potential. Parents will find the support of those who will advocate for their child, answer all their questions, and most importantly, celebrate the milestones.

 

The following steps will help guide parents during the diagnosis process:

  1. Consult your family doctor or pediatrician. They will refer you to an Autism specialist or a team of specialists, including but not limited to: a child psychologist, a child psychiatrist, a pediatric neurologist, a speech pathologist and/or a developmental pediatrician.
  2. Follow through with the evaluation. Getting evaluated for Autism Spectrum Disorder consists of parent interviews, a medical exam, a hearing test, and direct observations. Clinicians will assess the child’s level of social behavior, social understanding, speech and language, play behavior, motor skills and adaptive behavior (ex: eating, dressing and toileting)
  3. Gather resources to begin a treatment program as soon as possible. Research has indicated that undergoing intensive behavioral therapy as a toddler can significantly improve cognitive and language skills in younger children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Autistic child being held by parent

 

With an early diagnosis, little ones with Autism can receive intensive therapy as young as 15 months old. Therapists, a part of the support team, develop unique, individualized treatment interventions to build onto the child’s strengths. From emphasizing eye contact to reinforcing every little sound as an infant, a 5-year-old with Autism will be prepared to play with peers, ask for help, or tell stories upon their first day of kindergarten. The greatest developments will come from prompt action and a readiness to learn.

“Growth is never by mere chance. It is a result of forces working together” – James Cash Penney

Written by: Tori Mason, Registered Behavior Technician

 

When Peter first became a client with Cayer Behavioral Group, he was three years old, made minimal eye contact, spoke only a few words, and could not sit in one spot for more than a couple of seconds.

Peter would engage in self-injuring behavior, in the form of pinching or grabbing his face, arms, and legs. He did this anytime he was denied access to desired items, or when he was told to do something he did not want to do.  The first day he was taught to use the bathroom on his own, he engaged in an hourlong tantrum because he did not want to take his diaper off.

Peter started preschool this fall where he attended half-days for three days per week.  He had never been in a school setting before, and he had a lot to learn, such as:

 

  • Standing and walking in line with peers
  • Sitting in a group
  • Following group demands
  • Complying with his teacher’s requests
  • Engaging in non-preferred activities
  • Learning all the school rules
  • Interacting with new children

 

Initially, his CBG therapists were with Peter the entire time he was at school to help him learn how to be independent and successful within his classroom.

Through effective and efficient ABA (applied behavior analysis) procedures and programs, his CBG therapists were able to phase out of his classroom setting entirely within four months.  Peter now attends his preschool five days a week for three hours a day, all by himself!  

Peter learned to appropriately use the bathroom on his own in three months and has not had any accidents within his school setting.  He learned to sit for an extended period of time, to follow classroom routine, and appropriately interact and share with his peers.  

As he continues to become more independent with his daily routine, his CBG therapists will continue to phase out until he no longer requires services.

Increased independence and success is always the goal at Cayer Behavioral Group, one student at a time.