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The Problem with Saying You're Anti-ABA (with FREE Autism Supports Checkist)

When it was decided that Sunshine was going to a residential treatment center earilier this year, one of the questions I was asked at each interview with case workers was if my husband and I were in favor of ABA services during treatment.

I kindly replied no, and stated that we believed in a more intrinsic approach, and wanted to focus on Sunshine's sensory needs and self-regulation, along with medication to stabilize her mood disorder.

Little did I know at the time, ABA was being used as an umbrella term for ALL autism support services, not just the traditional Applied Behavioral Analysis procedures.

The residential treatment center did not and would not provide any autism support services to Sunshine, unless she was classified as receiving ABA treatment.  This included visuals, fidgets, etc.

This is when we realized the problem with Saying You're Anti-ABA.

The Problem with Saying You're Anti-ABA

Autism Supports vs. ABA

I was shocked and absolutely devasted about this revelation.

We discovered this two weeks after Sunshine's admission.

She was spiraling out of control and regressing in ways we'd never seen before.

It was then that my husband and I began to advocate for Sunshine's autistic needs like we never have before. 

We spoke to Sunshine's therapist and an administrator who oversees ABA services at the residential treatment center.

The administrator was wonderful with us, understanding our concerns about traditional ABA.  She was very sympathetic about our worries of it causing more harm than good, especially taking into consideration Sunshine's other diagnoses.

This administrator was excellent at putting our fears to ease, and explaining that when it comes to autism support services, we could pick and choose the ones that worked best for Sunshine and the residential treatment center would support that as part of Sunshine's individualized program. 

Just because the service was called ABA, didn't mean that Sunshine would receive traditional ABA services.

A Four Month Long Nightmare

I can't begin to describe the nightmare that followed.

The administrator we spoke to was wonderful, but that didn't mean that everyone was.

We had meetings with Sunshine's case manager.

We had meetings with the residential treatment center's administrators and executive director.

We had meetings with our county case worker.

We had meetings with our insurance company.

We spoke to a lawyer.

We had meetings with the school district.

It took FOUR months to FINALLY obtain the autism supports that Sunshine needed, in a way that met her sensory needs and focused on self-regulation.

We literally had to threaten legal action several times, to make sure that EVERYTHING Sunshine needed was put into place. 

Part of this was a result of a lack of communication between administration and staff. 

Another part included inconsistencies in the care Sunshine was receiving, depending on what staff was on duty. 

The other aspect of this nightmare was that the residential treatment center only wanted to provide the minimum required supports to meet insurance needs and go no further, despite Sunshine's high needs.

Every time we thought the proper autism support services were in place, based on approval from insurance and other funding resources, we learned they weren't because of another hiccup in the process at the residential treatment center.

This was so wrong on so many levels and so dangerous for families who are trying to receive the proper help for their children.

Challenging the ABA Model

Four months of studying health insurace regulations, continued Zoom meetings, phone conferences, countless e-mails, and some pretty intense interactions with people at the residential treatment center really challenged my views of ABA.

I was asked to define what traditional ABA is and why I'm against it. 

My husband and I looked up several definitions of ABA. All were vague stating that behavioralists use a variety of strategies to help the autistic child improve behaviorally.  Some definitions did list out some strategies, but not all.

I began to interview friends and work colleagues about ABA. 

What were they against and why?

What were they for?

Ultimately this process led to the creation of the Autism Supports Checklist.

FREE Autism Supports Checklist

It was the only way that I could adequately state my views on ABA and explain exactly what I was looking for to help Sunshine. 

The Autism Supports Checklist

The Autism Supports Checklist is a resource for parents to use when faced with professionals who want to prescribe services for their autistic child, including ABA, whether they're recommending traditional ABA or using the term as an umbrella for all autism services.

If parents don't understand the terminology on the checklist, they can look it up before an appointment so they understand exactly what's being discussed and recommended.

This checklist is a permission slip parents can give professionals when they do decide to accept any form of services or treatment. It explains what is okay, and what is not okay when working with their child.

The Autism Supports Checklist can be used as an interview resource when searching for a professional that meets the needs of the family.

The checklist includes a space for the child's name, the parent's signature, and date.

Parents can give this Autism Supports Checklist to anyone working with their child and hold the professionals accountable after it has been given to them.

The Autism Supports Checklist is a Subscriber Only Freebie.  For your copy follow the directions at the bottom of this post.

I NEVER wish the experience we have gone through to obtain appropriate autism supports for Sunshine on anyone.

No child should have to suffer through treatment that is damaging to them.

No child should be denied basic autism supports, if a parent declines ABA treatment.

We used the Autism Supports Checklist with Sunshine's team in residential. 

Once we defined what we were against and what we were for, providing documentation that supported our views from those who have worked with Sunshine previously, we were able to obtain everything and anything we asked for to help Sunshine in residential.

Sunshine's BCBA is incredible and so supportive of our views regarding ABA.

She understands Sunshine, and is willing to work with our family in a way that benefits all of us. 

She is respecting our wishes in regards to ABA practices, which is quite incredible.

Even more miraculous, is that she's seen the harm that ABA does to Sunshine when a staff member slipped up and didn't follow protocol.

I can finally rest knowing that no further damage is being done to my daughter.

There is no greater satisfaction than that, when it comes to helping an autistic child.

Directions on How to Obtain Subscriber Only Freebies

1. Click on the Subscriber's link at the bottom of this post.

2. Subscribe to our free newsletter.

3. You will be sent a confirmation e-mail. Be sure to click the link to confirm your subscription.

4. Once confirmed you will receive a "Thank You" Message.

5. The link to our Subscriber Only Freebies page as well as password to access it is in the "Thank You" message.

6. Click on link and type in password.

7. Find the printable pack you are looking for listed in alphabetical order, click on it, and viola!

We hope you enjoy your free printable.

Note: If you are already a newsletter subscriber, open your most recent newsletter. At the bottom you will find a link to the Subscriber Only Freebies page, along with the password in case you forgot it.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the posts below.
How to Help Your Autistic Child Play Board Games Successfully It's time to Have a Serious Talk About Autism Must Have Fidget Toys

The Problem with Saying You're Anti-ABA

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Deal of the Week: Back-to-School Bundle

We are about to enter the most challenging school year of our life time.  It is filled with so much uncertainty and fear.  No one knows what to expect, what to plan for, or ultimately what will happen.  COVID-19 has turned our lives upside down, especially when it comes to the education, health, and safety of children, educators, and families.

My husband and I have been waiting patiently to better understand what school will look like for our audience and the best way we can help you help your children and students.  

We know that for some families the financial strain of COVID-19 is very real.  It's our desire to help as much as we can while still providing for the needs of our own family.

After much discussion, we have decided that the best way to help others is to offer one of our bundles as the Deal of the Week now through the end of 2020.  

This week we are offering our Back-to-School Bundle.

Our Deal of the Week promotions provide a 50% discount to all customers. There is no need for a discount code.  Prices have already been changed to reflect the discount.

With each bundle, you will have the choice of purchasing the entire bundle for 50% OFF, or purchase individual components of the bundle for 50% OFF each.

Deal of the Week: Montessori-inspired Back to School Bundle

The Back-to-School Bundle provides you with everything you need to start the school year in a Montessori preschool classroom or home setting.

Once you purchase our products you have our permission to use them for your students in any way necessary to meet needs during the course of learning.  This includes any needs that may arise during hybrid or distance learning situations.  

We only ask that you use them for your students only.  Other teachers must purchase their own copy for their students.

Let's take a look at what you'll receive if you purchase the entire Back-to-School Bundle!  

To obtain further information about a product, just click on the images below.
Montessori Math Bead Bar Printable Pack in Print Montessori-inspired Math Bead Bar Play Dough Mats Bundle Montessori Letters and Sounds Printable Pack in Print Montessori Letters and Sounds Play Dough Mats Montessori-inspired Intro to Biology Printable Pack Bundle Montessori-inspired Continents and Oceans Printable Pack Bundle The Ultimate Montessori Planner The ABCs of Montessori and Special Needs
There are over 800 pages of resources included!

If that's not enough, you also receive the following

Back-to-School Bundle Bonuses:

Montessori-inspired Fall Harvest Unit Syllabus Montessori-inspired Fall Harvest Unit Printable Pack Bundle Autumn Math Fact Clip Cards Bundle

At 50% OFF the Back-to-School Bundle costs $69.99.  

We understand this is a HUGE investment and may not be possible for some families and schools at this time.

For those who can not afford the entire bundle, you have the option of purchasing any of the individual products included for 50% OFF by clicking on the images above, and adding products to your cart.

Costumers from the EU please remember to use links to Teachers Pay Teachers to purchase your products.

We look forward to helping you in as many ways as possible during this next school year.  Be sure to subscribe to our FREE newsletter to receive notice about future Deals of the Week promotions!

Deal of the Week: Back-to-School Bundle
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6 Ways Your Family Can Show Black Lives Matter

We are a very white family who lives in the comfort of the privileges we have been given because of the color of our skin. 

We now live in the heart of confederate territory where my children see confederate flags fly high and people of color are very few and far between.

When it comes to teaching our children that black lives matter, reading about famous black people in history is not enough.

Reading about racism is not enough.

Studying the history of slavery and civil rights is not enough.

How do you show that black lives matter in your own home?

How do you teach your children to love and respect black people as equals in every way?

6 Ways Your Family Can Show Black Lives Matter

Disclaimer:  This post shares simple ideas of how families can show that black lives matter in their homes.  By no means am I stating our family has everything all figured out when it comes to supporting Black Lives Matters.  We, like everyone else, always have room for improvement and welcome more more ideas in the comments below.

6 Ways Your Family Can Show Black Lives Matter

Children's Books with Black Main Characters

1. Introduce literature where main characters and/or authors are black.

I'm not just talking about books with an array of skin colors.  I'm talking about books with only black or brown characters like Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee.

I'm also not just talking about books that discuss black history.  Yes, these books are extremely important to read and understand, but you can do more!

I'm talking about novels where black people are the main characters and the book has nothing to do with slavery, civil rights etc.  One of Dinomite's favorite books right now is Kane Chronicles: The Red Pyramid.

Start when your child is young.  Books with black or brown skinned characters aren't just made for black and brown families.  They should be included in the collections of all families. 

Not only are you teaching your child that color is beautiful and important, but you're also supporting black authors.

Show Black Lives Matter Through Play

2. Include black dolls and characters in play.  

White children shouldn't just have white dolls and characters to play with.  All races and ethnicities should be included.

When you play with your children using these dolls and characters, model that black lives matter. 

My girls have just as many, if not more black, brown and Asian dolls as they do white ones.  In their pretend play black and brown dolls always take the lead or are best friends with white characters.

My boys are always super excited to find a black LEGO minifigure they can use in their play as a lead superhero or good guy.

Support Black Musicians

3. Listen to music written by black people in the home.

As a musician, I must confess I LOVE listening to black classical and broadway vocalists. There's a richness in their tone that gives me goosebumps.  Oh how I wish I could sound like that!  Audra McDonald is one of my absolute favorites!

My children enjoy John Legend, Will Smith, Beyonce, and Rihanna.

Be sure to support your black musicians.  Make it a point to play their music in your home on a regular basis.  Help your children develop a love for all forms of music, including pieces performed by black musicians.

Suppor Black Artists

4. Expose your children to black artists at home and in the community.

I must confess, I am not an art person.  When it comes to art created by the black community I'm clueless and need to improve on that.

With that said, my husband, Jason absolutely loves art.  He thoroughly enjoys pieces created by Jacob Lawrence and Romar Bearden. 

As we've studied art through homeschooling, Jason has always been big on including black artists in our studies.  Their art contributions throughout history should never be skipped over.

Include the study of black heroes throughout hsitory.

5. When studying history, current events, culture, and science, include of discussion of black perspective and contributions.

This year we've been digging into American History using our free Montessori-inspired American History Writing Outline.  What I absolutely love about this resource is that there is a specific focus on black contributions.

Our kids are required to fill in those pages with each part of history we study, not just during the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement.  Sometimes it's hard and requires a lot of research.  So often black history is skipped over in our history books.

As we watch the news we discuss the different perspectives of each story.

When it comes to science we love including important black scientists and mathematicians.  One of our kids' favorite movies is Hidden Figures, which we included in our astronomy unit study last year. 

Princess also has the Women of NASA LEGO set.  She's in love with Mae Jemison.

Help your children discover black heroes throughout history.  This is such a great way to show that black lives have always mattered. We wouldn't be where we are today without their contributions.

6. Develop sincere friendships with black families.

Though there are very few black families in the rural area we live in, we've had the privilege of friendshipping two families whom we adore.  We love them.  Our kids love them.  Life wouldn't be complete without them. 

I can't help but wonder what life would be like for black people, if every time they ran into law enforcement a white friend was standing by their side.

I know for me, and my children, we will always defend and stand up for those we love.

There are so many of us wondering what we can do to show that black lives matter in our homes and with our children. 

It's our hope that these ideas will inspire and also help you help your children feel like they're contributing to the Black Lives Matter movement in ways they are able.

If you'd like to see our statement on Black Lives Matters click HERE.

6 Ways Your Family Can Show Black Lives Matter

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Black Lives Matter

After George Floyd's death and the events that have followed, I've found myself reflecting on various aspects of my own life.

How have I shown that black lives matter to me?

How have my husband and I taught our children that black lives matter to us?

What can we do better?

And then we took the question to our children.

How are they showing that black lives matter to them?

As a family we took inventory of our actions past and present.

We discussed ways in which we could improve our support for black lives in the future.

Over the past week, we have already begun moving forward with those changes.

No one can say that they have no room for improvement in their lives regarding the black lives matters movement.

However, I am pleased to say that we as a family have always felt that black lives matter.  (This is not to say we can't increase our show of support.  We can and we will.)

Every Star Is Different strives to show that black lives matter with each and every printable we create.

Each year we make further improvements and adjustments to ensure that we are showing that every child matters no matter their race, ethinicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

We are not afraid to stand with minorities that fight for the freedoms that should be given equally to all.
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5 Ways to Connect with an Autistic Child When You're Apart

Last week marked six weeks since Sunshine was placed in a residential facility.

Six weeks has never felt so long.

Everyone in the house misses Sunshine so much and wants desperately for her to return home as soon as possible.

Last week marked five weeks since COVID-19 social distancing restrictions have been in place in Virginia. It’s been five weeks since we’ve been able to see our daughter. The residential facility is on lockdown. No visitors are allowed.

Our biggest challenge has been how to show love and provide comfort to Sunshine when we can’t physically be with her?

It's taken a while to come up with things that work, but we're finally at a point where we feel good about how we're managing this challenge.

Here are 5 Ways to Connect with an Autistic Child When You're Apart that we've used!

5 Ways to Connect with an Autistic Child When You're Apart

5 Ways to Connect with an Autistic Child When You're Apart

Connecting with your Autistic Child through Engaging Video Chats when You're Apart

Engaging Video Chats

Video chats are the only way we’re able to see Sunshine.

Unfortunately, Sunshine hates video chats, which has made seeing her at all incredibly difficult.

The sensory experience of a video chat is too much for her.

She does not like sitting still and not being able to touch the tech equipment in the facility.

If your child is able to handle this form of connection with others, consider yourself lucky.

If your child can’t handle this experience, consider some of the following ideas from Dyan at And Next Comes L. We’re really hoping that Sunshine’s team in residential can try some of these with her to help make the situation more comfortable.

Fun Games to Play with Kids on Zoom Video Chat

Another idea we've come up with specific to Sunshine is using dress up props to make the video interactions all the more fun.  Sunshine LOVES to accessorize.  She shows such an interest in what everyone is wearing during the few successful video chats we've had.

We'll be sending her a care package with props to choose from and put on before family therapy sessions.  We'll also build a supply at home.  

Dressing up before the sessions will help Sunshine with the transition to video chat in general and will bring about lots of fun and laughter during family therapy.  

Routine Phone Calls with a Schedule-5 Ways to Connect with an Autistic Child When You're Apart

Routine Phone Calls with a Schedule

Thankfully we do have nightly phone calls with Sunshine. The alarm on my phone is set to 6 PM every night so we catch her at just the right time.

Sunshine does not like missing anything during the day or having her schedule disrupted, so 6 PM is the only time that works. She’s finished with her daily routines and schedules in residential and is winding down for the night.

At first Sunshine really struggled with phone conversations with us. She’s never liked talking on the phone and hadn’t had much practice before residential. Thankfully I came up with a schedule of sorts for our conversations a couple weeks ago.

Understanding the sequence of the conversation, when they begins and how when they end is incredibly helpful for autistic kiddos. Turn taking is also a great way to help with difficulties with communication.

1. We say our nightly hellos. Usually Sunshine has something she wants to tell me right away.

2. I ask Sunshine three questions.

3. Sunshine asks me three questions.

4. We blow loud kisses over the phone and say “I love you.”

5. My husband then reads Sunshine a scripture story and bedtime story over the phone.

We are extremely thankful for any and all communication we have with Sunshine right now. Not being able to see her and hold her has been one of the greatest challenges I’ve ever experienced as a mother.

The state of Virginia at this point in time is not lifting COVID-19 social distancing restrictions until June 10th, which means we still have more than 8 weeks to go without seeing our eight-year-old daughter. What an attachment nightmare!  Especially since her cognitive abilities are that of a five year old.

And so…

I’m learning to be the best mother I can be to Sunshine, despite the horrific circumstances surrounding her residential placement.

Ways to Connect with an Autistic Child When You're Apart: Sensory Friendly Essentials that are Familiar

Sensory Friendly Essentials that are Familiar

There are extreme limits to what we can and can not send to Sunshine in residential. We’ve learned that anything familiar, especially when it has a positive sensory component means the world to her.

We ordered all of the items Sunshine enjoys as part of her morning and nighttime routines and had them shipped directly to the facility.

The facility does provide necessary toiletries, but families are permitted to send their own if they’d like.

We felt the sensory experience of having her items from home may help attachment and self-regulation while we’re separated.

The smell of her shampoo and conditioner, the sight of familiar characters she loves on her toothbrush, the taste of her favorite toothpaste and mouthwash… She has loved having these special items with her.

5 Ways to Connect with an Autistic Child When You're Apart: Care Packages Combined with Letters

Care Packages Combined with Letters

Sunshine went straight from a pediatric psychiatric inpatient facility to residential. We were told to bring enough clothing for two weeks and other necessary comfort items with her.

I sent along her favorite stuffed animal, a special blanket for her bed and a family scrapbook we made together in preparation for her residential stay.

Other than that though, Sunshine had nothing.

Once we were able to receive rules and regulations from the residential facility we began to send care packages to her. She received a soft Easter basket full of safe toys for her to play with.

Just recently I sent her a set of Enchantimals to reinforce her love of Barbie like dolls and animal figures.

Sunshine loves these special gifts more than anything else.

The one thing we’ve learned though is that they must come with a letter explaining what the gift is and who it is from. Most letters we send separately because packages usually come from Amazon. Without these letters Sunshine never knows who packages are from. Letters that include images and visuals are even better!

Between residential regulations and COVID-19, Sunshine never actually receives the boxes that are sent. They’re opened and sterilized. Packaging is thrown away. They are searched through and approved by her case worker and then taken to her dorm with all forms of packaging removed.

5 Ways to Connect with an Autistic Child When You're Apart: Book Rituals

Book Rituals

As mentioned earlier, my husband Jason reads with Sunshine over the phone every night before bed. Sunshine requests which book she would like to read from her growing collection in residential, and Jason grabs a copy of the same book from our library at home.

We send new books to Sunshine regularly so we don’t end up reading the same book over and over again for weeks on end.

Sunshine loves her story time with Daddy over the phone. They turn pages together, laugh at pictures, react to phrases in the story and have a grand old time.

My husband loves the positive interaction with Sunshine, and Sunshine gets to keep one of her nighttime rituals from home during her stay in residential.

Though it is extremely hard being separated from Sunshine, and nothing can replace human contact and face to face interactions, we are eternally grateful for the ways we have been able to show love and support during the most difficult of circumstances.

We hope the ideas we've shared here inspire you to find new ways to connect with the autistic child in your life when you're apart.  If you've already found great ways to do so that are different from the ideas shared above, please don't hesitate to comment below and contribute!

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