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Beyond the Diagnosis

“Autism is part of my child. It’s not everything he is. My child is so much more than a diagnosis.” -S.L Coelho

Do you have a child who was just diagnosed with autism? If so, you know exactly how easy it is to get stuck on the diagnosis…ASD! At Cayer Behavioral Group we urge everyone to look beyond those often, overwhelming words, and change your fear to motivation! Instead, focus on the autism diagnosis as an opportunity to access new found hope and understanding for you and your child. Correct steps immediately following the diagnosis will allow your child to grow and create goals of self-sufficiency which will help 100-fold in every aspect of their future.

The most effective therapy offered to children with autism is exactly what CBG specializes in. Applied Behavior Analysis! What exactly is ABA? In a nut shell, Applied Behavior Analysis focuses on behaviors that are meaningful and significant to YOU! Further the science of ABA allows us to better understand the function, or “why,” your child engages in the behaviors you are seeing on a daily basis. Through a series of assessments and behavioral techniques and principles our therapists are able to help you realize meaningful and positive changes in your child’s behavior across every environment in their life. Engaging in ABA is a life changer!!!

At CBG we offer an array of services to create the best-specialized care for each individual child. Calling CBG is an excellent first step! To learn more about the services we offer check out our website!

Remember accessing an autism diagnosis is the first step in accessing all the tools necessary for the brightest, possible future!

If you have any questions about the services that we provide, as always, feel free to contact Cayer Behavioral Group at 850-320-6555 or email support@cayerbehavioral.com for more information.

Keep your disinfectant close, and your tissues closer, because cold and flu season is due to stick around until May 2018, #boo!

While the flu is miserable for everyone, it has proven to be worse for those on the spectrum. According to the CDC, “Children of any age with neurologic conditions are more likely than other children to become very sick if they get the flu,” because of many reasons… some complicated and others simple. In light of this scary fact please keep in mind these pointers which may assist in an earlier flu diagnosis for friends who are developmentally disabled and specifically non-verbal.  These pointers may seem obvious to our seasoned mama’s, however for those of you who are new to the land of developmental disabilities, we’re hopeful they will lead you to the doctor’s office quickly, which ultimately will provide your child and your family well deserved respite from the dreaded influenza.

  • Notable changes in your child’s behavior. If you see your little one acting out by kicking, hitting, or biting (others or themselves) more than usual, they may be communicating they are not feeling well. You above anyone else know your child and the way they typically act on a day-to-day basis. If something seems off, don’t hesitate to contact your pediatrician as soon as possible! Don’t forget, always bring your notes to the doctor. All too often care takers become overwhelmed while at the pediatrician and certain events or behavioral anecdotes are overlooked. Having notes can be extremely helpful!
  • Watch what they are eating and changes in their appetite. If you notice any unusual changes in your child’s eating habits, this may be a cue they are trying to relay they are not feeling well! It may be helpful to keep a spiral in the kitchen and document what your feeding your little one, the time of the feeding and your child’s response. If you see something strange going on, reach out to your doctor!
  • Hydration is key! Has your child’s liquid intake increased or decreased? Your child’s age gauges the amount of liquid they should (ideally) receive on a daily basis. If there is a marked change this is a sure sign something is off. Dehydration and overhydration is also apparent in your child’s output. If their urine or bowl movement production has changed please contact your pediatrician.

Last, if your pediatrician questions your concerns, don’t give up! You are your child’s greatest advocate. As a reminder, please reach out to Cayer Behavioral Group at (850) 320-6555 for any concerns you may have! We are here to help you fight the terrible cold and flu season and hope this week’s information helps you and your little ones!

Who hasn’t had concerns about the children we love and today’s technology?

Technology is a major part of our children’s socialization, education and realization of what we call life.  Whether we like it or not, technology is here to stay!

Today’s blog features a special guest, Bryan Gibson. Bryan functions as the Cayer Behavioral Groups Virtual CIO and has been working with CBG for 5 years. He is also the Owner and Principal Consultant of i2xsolutions, a local Tallahassee tech company. Bryan has an in-depth understanding of technology, which is helpful when discussing safely navigating our everyday tech-world.  Bryan recently spent a few minutes with us providing insight into different devices, avoiding app pitfalls and pairing positive parenting with screen time.

  1. As a parent, what are a few devices you feel are worthy of an investment?

Bryan recommends the use of tablets for children, especially those who are on the spectrum. As you know, we all strive to find outlets where our children are able to express themselves while learning.  Tablets can prove useful for children who are verbal or non-verbal.  The mobility found in tablets allows parents to teach their children whether they are at school, home, or with their BCBA’s. By using these devices, your child is able to use his/her senses and visualize different things happening within the device. Here are some tablets available for you and your children: the iPad, Microsoft Surface, Samsung tablet, Amazon Fire for Kids tablet, Leapfrog, and the Nabi tablet.

  1. How should parents monitor their children on the apps and the devices they use on a daily basis?      

The safety of our children on tablets and applications is something we should all view as most important. Bryan explained on all devices, tablet or PC, there are family security suites. This suite is an application that monitors what your children are doing and places that data into a “cloud” so you, the parent, can see what they are up to. From the cloud, a parent can authorize the use of various applications. Bryan highly recommends using the family suite if you are considering letting your children run solo on a device as this is one of the only ways you will be able to fully monitor their internet habits.  The suite acts as a parental monitor and can be found in general settings in any device. Using the family suite puts parents in the driver seat, seeing first-hand the who, what, when and where of their child’s virtual activity.

  1. How can you tell if the app you are downloading is “real” and will be useful for children?

Yes, there are apps out there that can prove to be phony. Parents must engage in due diligence to ensure they’re not downloading dangerous material. The primary key is educating yourself on the app before you purchase. Make sure the app has a lot of reviews (not only by the developer, the developer’s mom and a few of her book-club friends). And, check other online platforms to see if it was useful to other parents. According to Bryan, and this is unfortunate, there really is no true way to know if the app is legit until you install and open. Bryan suggests monitoring the download and opening of the application in real time. If it looks fishy, immediately delete the app. His advice to tackling this real-world problem is to do what we have always done as parents, investigate everything before making any purchases. And, do not shy away from a hard “no” when it comes to purchasing an application which doesn’t pass the smell test.

  1. Is it worth it to pay for the apps?

Bryan 100% recommends paying for any and all apps you or your children are downloading. Free version of applications tend to have off topic “pop up” ads. One click and your children could be on a completely different site, possibly a dangerous site.  If your children have a history of wandering the internet please make sure they are using apps verified and paid for you, by you.

  1. Would you recommend children have their own device?

Bryan recommends having a family device for your children to use. He suggests giving your children their own device is if it is locked down to the point where they could only access what you are wanting them to see and hear. While there are some devices made for everyone to use, they do make children specific tablets, such as the Leapfrog, Amazon Fire for Kids, and Nabi tablet. On the Nabi tablet, Bryan explained how it has different modes the parents can “lock” down and remain fairly secure. These modes include children modes but also “daddy” and “mommy” modes. Through these different modes, parents can review their child’s history and if necessary tweak their level of “locked” security.

Lastly, Bryan recommends sticking to a schedule outlining when your children can have access to these devices, as too much access is never good. In 2016,  The American Academy of Pediatrics published new guidelines that all parents should take into consideration when deciding on the amount of screen time for their children. The AAP recommends children from the ages of 2 to 5 have one hour of screen time a day while children older than 6 have limited use of screen time per day. The latter guideline is nebulous at best. Essentially, the less screen time, the better!  Further the AAP recommend parents sit with their children while they are on the devices and explain the different visuals they are seeing. If you are interested in creating a media plan for you and your family, check out the AAP Media Plan at https://www.healthychildren.org/English/media/Pages/default.aspx.

An important piece to draw from this post is, “devices do not take away the need for parent involvement, in fact, they reinforce the need for parents.” Devices are excellent catalysts for communication, learning and exploring. Not an absolute replacement for the irreplaceable parent/ child teachable moments.  Please remember to reach out to Cayer Behavioral Group  at (850) 320-6555 or your BCBA for more information on this subject! We are glad to help you and your children benefit from using these devices and becoming familiar with assistive technology! We also want to thank Bryan for taking the time to sit with us and give us some new insights about the realm of technology!!

#AutismAwarenessEveryDay #WeCayer #AutismandTechnology #AssistiveTechnology

Have you ever had concerns about your child and what they are eating?

Health and nutrition is something that every parent needs to consider when looking after their child. Challenges come with making sure your child is getting the proper nutrients they need. According to an article written by Autism Speaks, researchers at Marcus Autism Center at Emory University School of Medicine, found children with ASD are five times more likely to have mealtime challenges. Fortunately, there are some strategies to help you and your family navigate picky eaters and unusual food habits!

Here are some tips, suggested by Autism Speaks, Independent Nutrition Consultant, Melissa Roessler. Before jumping into this weeks blog, please know we understand and see on a daily basis, children on the spectrum learning and acquiring skills at different levels and different paces. Cayer Behavioral Group realizes these tips may not ring true to you or your kiddo but don’t give up! If this isn’t helpful, PLEASE reach out to your BCBA. Board Certified Behavior Analysts are trained specifically to understand your family’s needs. Never give up! Hang in there, mamas! Also, always check with your pediatrician and pre-determine any food allergies before tackling the challenges your picky eater brings to the dinner table.

  1. Be a role model for your children: Children pick up on your behavior. If they hear mommy or daddy complain about a food, they will usually follow.  Personally make healthier choices for YOU. When your child recognizes you making these decisions they just might copy. You can also utilize your BCBA to help teach and guide you, your family and your persnickety eater ways to positively reinforce food.
  2. Avoid having battles over food: While bribing children with food may seem like a good idea, it is recommended family’s avoid this approach. Bribing is a temporary fix where using positive reinforcement results in LONG term, behavioral changes. Think outside the box, take deep breaths, and do not engage in bribery battles with your child. You will lose.
  3. Listen to what your child is telling you about food: Don’t forget, if your child isn’t verbal it doesn’t mean they aren’t “telling” you about their food. Watch their behavior, take notes, and gently slip in the non-preferred food in tiny amounts. Pair those yucky bites with their faves. If your child is a traditional talker, ask them what it is they don’t like about the food. Also, take your child to the grocery store. Listen, look and learn from your precious little one. Remember tiny amounts of the yucky, larger amounts of the yummy and reinforce their acceptance of the not-so-good-stuff on their plate!
  4. Have family meals: Meal time should be a positive experience for the whole family! Family meals allow you to connect with all your children, family and friends  and practice healthy eating habits. Simple strategy for dinner: Put your child’s favorites on his/hers plate, paired with samplings of their non-preferred items. Praise your child when he/she touches, holds, smells even looks at the non-preferred items. Do your best to ignore the “junk” behavior often seen during meals. Keep in mind that dinner is not the only opportunity that you have to engage in food preferences during your child’s day. There are many, many other opportunities between waking up and bedtime to practice nibbling on food items they may typically snub. Try not to cause stressful situations for other siblings/partner/spouse during dinner. You, the parent, deserve a stress-less dinner. Pick your battles!
  5. Make the plate fun, colorful and entertaining for your child: The more color on the plate, the better for your child.  Present lunch/dinner/breakfast with a colorful variety of food. Kids are often intrigued by the colors of the rainbow, and through multiple opportunities of seeing similar foods, parents increase the likeliness of their child actually eating!  This also presents a beautiful opportunity to work on naming colors, pointing to foods, and identifying family members and the important role they play in your sweet, child’s life.

Picky eaters are at every home, during every meal. You are not alone, and you are supported! Please keep in mind the Behavior Analysts at Cayer Behavioral Group are here to help you and your picky eaters 😊

Call us at 850.320.6555 or email support@cayerbehavioral.com with any questions or concerns that you have!!

#WeCayer #CayerBehavioralGroup #HealthandNutrition

Congratulations, you made it through 2017 and into the new year!

As we kick off 2018 and clink our glasses to new beginnings, we start to consider our New Year’s resolutions—the changes we’d like to make to our routines, and things we hope to accomplish in 2018. As a parent of a child with autism, that includes planning and setting healthy and attainable goals for you and your child. We know it can be difficult to get back into the groove of things after the hectic holidays, so Cayer Behavioral Group (CBG) has gathered some tips and tricks for making this year the best one yet!

  1. Take an interest in your child’s interests. Being a parent of a child with autism and having to juggle work, school, appointments, and therapies can make it very difficult to get quality bonding time. Making the small, conscious effort to take a personal interest in your child’s interests can go a long way in bringing you closer together. I bet you’ll find that their passion is contagious, fun and inspiring. Who knows? Maybe they’ll even teach you something new!
  2. But also take time for yourself. This one is difficult for a lot of parents, because their children tend to come first in most aspects of their life. That’s why it is important to remember that we give can only give our children our best, when we ourselves are at our best. So make your needs and well-being a priority in 2018, guilt-free, knowing you have your child’s best interest in mind. Take 3 to 4 days to blow off some steam at the gym, schedule a date-night for you and your spouse, or even just a few minutes to read a new book, listen to your favorite song, or take a hot bath!
  3. Don’t beat yourself up! Everyone has bad days, and there will likely be a few along the path to accomplishing your goals. But perfection is boring and unattainable, so give yourself the credit you deserve. Take a moment to reflect on 2017’s feats, and pat yourself on the back for surviving another year despite its mishaps. You are a devoted parent who works hard to take care of your special needs child, and thanks to you, their needs are being met with love and care. That in itself is something to be celebrated!
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for support. Being open and honest about our struggles can be difficult. Maybe you don’t want others to see you as weak or inept, or are worried about being a burden, or just don’t know how to properly convey your emotions. But asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. There is an entire community out there of people who have been in your shoes, and who are not only willing, but eager to welcome you with open arms—CBG included! So don’t be afraid to reach out to your team at CBG and ask for support when you need it. You are resilient and resourceful, and asking for help will only make you more confident when facing stress next time around.

Wishing you and your family a prosperous 2018!

Two Kids Playing

Fall is finally here!

As the cool air blows and light jackets emerge out of our closets, open enrollment is just around the corner. Insurance can be tricky. While making sure you are getting the right plan for you and your family, take these ideas into consideration:

  • How often you tend to visit the doctor
  • If a member of your family has a special need
  • Whether you anticipate a change in your health care needs
  • Whether you have more dependents to cover, like a new baby
  • If you take regular prescription medications
  • How much the plan will cost you

These concepts are very important when considering new insurance plans, because you want to make sure your family is taken care of in an affordable way. To verify if your prospective or current plan covers autism treatment, review the policy booklet for the terms: Autism Therapy, Applied Behavior Therapy, or ABA Therapy. If your booklet isn’t readily available, please contact the provider and ask if they provide services.

Cayer Behavioral Group (CBG) works with a variety of insurance plans and we handle all of the processing and billing for your child’s Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) services. Cayer Behavioral Group accepts the following insurance plans:

If your insurance is not listed, please contact our office and we will be able to discuss other potential options for services. Once you fill out CBG’s new client paperwork, our billing department will contact the insurance provider to verify benefits for therapy, will submit services outlined by therapists to the insurance company, and send an invoice for the copayment or deductible amount due on the 10th and 25th of every month.

We are dedicated to serving our clients and their families to the best of our ability. If you have any questions pertaining to CBG’s behavior therapy services or billing process, please do not hesitate to contact our office. Happy insurance shopping! #autismawarenesseveryday

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.

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.