Autism--Community Ed Class for Parents and Professionals In Utah

Registrations starts today!  I will be teaching a Community Ed class for parents and professionals working with children with autism ages 0-7.  I will be going over the basics of the P.L.A.Y. Project, and how you can implement in your home or classroom.  I wanted a way to reach more parents and for it to be affordable for those who are unable to participate in one on one sessions.

This 5 week course will be held on Tuesdays from 6:30-8:00 pm beginning April 2, 2013.  It is through Canyons Community Ed.  The cost is $40 per person.

Please go to for more information.  If you would like flyers to hang up in your community or pass out to parents, please contact me, and I can send either mail you some or send you a digital copy via e-mail.  I would love it if you could help me spread the word!  I'm so excited to be able to teach this class, I think it will be a lot of fun!
Joy Mano
Utah PLAY Project Home Consultant
Early Intervention Treatment for Children With Autism

Difficult Behaviors and The Crisis Cycle

Whether you have autism or not, we all go through the crisis cycle to some degree or another.  It may look a little different for me than it does for you, but it's just kind of part of life.  In the crisis cycle, we may not go through every phase, but these are the basic phases.

I first learned about the crisis cycle when I went through a training called The MANDT System.  This system was used in the group homes, care centers, and schools that I worked in over the years.  Some people think that MANDT is doing restraints and that's all that it is, however they're wrong.  The majority of the MANDT System is learning how to build positive healthy relationships.  As I talk about the Crisis Cycle, most of my information comes from what I learned from MANDT.

So let's talk a little bit about the crisis cycle and a few things that might be of importance.

First, if someone you are working with is going through the crisis cycle, chances are that you are also going through the crisis cycle.  Be aware of where you are in the cycle when you are dealing with difficult behaviors.  If you've ever been stressed, then you've gone through the cycle before.  If you haven't ever been stressed before, please contact me, I'd like to know your secret :)

  • The individual is at their personal best.  Things are good.
  • Response: Keep doing whatever it is you're doing.  This is the best time to be building relationships of trust.
  • Something happened.  There are many things that can be triggers including being asked to do something or to stop something, being teased, transitions, receiving a consequence, not getting attention, wanting something but not being able to get it or do it, needing sensory input, etc.
  • Response: Remove them from the stimuli or stress, or remove the stimuli from them.
  • The individual starts to get more upset, you can feel the tension rising.
  • Response: Offer options, give them choices, then set limits.  This would not be the time to give them the toy that they are crying to get.  Give them other options that would be appropriate.  
  • I know it can be hard to handle the screaming and crying, but when you give in to what they want when they are displaying inappropriate behavior instead of helping them problem solve other solutions, it will just get harder in the long run.  The crisis cycle may become longer and harder when you decide to put your foot down because they know that it worked in the past, so they may just bring it up a notch until you give in.  Just a warning, take it or leave it.
PHASE 3: CRISIS (Very Hot)
  • This is the point where you just let things run it's course and keep everyone as safe as you can.  The risk of harm is the greatest at this phase.  Safety is priority.  
  • Response: Least Amount of Interaction Necessary
  • For some reason we always feel the need to talk things out even when the other person is obviously not listening.  Something that I learned early on, and has helped a ton is to STOP TALKING!  This phase is not the time to be telling the individual why what they're doing is not appropriate.  It is not the time to be making deals.  The louder they get, the quieter you should get.  During the crisis phase, language skills tend to decrease and they're not hearing you anyways, you're just extra noise and extra stimulus that they don't need at this point.
  • The individual has reached his/her peak, and you can see them start to calm down.  Be careful at this stage, they can easily go back to crisis phase if they're pushed too hard.
  • Response: Structured Cooling-Off.
  • This would be a good time to compliment them (even though it may be really hard to do, especially since you're likely just cooling off as well) and offer them some options like going to a quiet place, giving them a comfort item like a blanket or chewy toy.
  • This is NOT a time to lecture.
  • The individual seems like he/she is back with you.  They are starting to return to a state where their reasoning skills, compromising skills, and language skills are getting back to normal.
  • Response: Active Listening.  This means YOU are actively listening, once again this is not the best time to be lecturing.  You can help the individual problem solve ways that he/she can get her needs met in ways that don't hurt themselves or others.
PHASE 6: POST-CRISI (I Feel Drained)
  • It is expected that the individual will be tired and possibly lethargic at this point before getting back to their usual behavior.
  • Response: Observation and Support
Joy Mano
Utah PLAY Project Home Consultant
Early Intervention Treatment for Children With Autism

Photo Credits

The Greatest Comfort Came From A Boy With Autism

On March 24, 2006 I decided to go to Wendy's for lunch.  I decided to take Michael with me (if you don't know who Michael is, you can read my post about my journey into the world of autism) and my co-worker Michele joined us as well.

The first thing you should know is that Michael is not a touchy guy, occasionally I could get him to give me what I called a head hug where we touched foreheads, but that's about it.  While we were sitting eating our lunch Michael was sitting next to me in a booth.  He kept resting his head on my shoulder which I thought was really strange for him.  I kept asking him what was wrong, and obviously he didn't answer me since he doesn't talk.  He did this at least 2 or 3 times.

About 10 minutes later I got a call letting me know that my grandma had passed away.  Not a great day for me.

I think about this experience a lot.  I don't know how Michael knew, but I believe he did know.  I believe he was trying to comfort me before I even knew anything was wrong.  And he gave me the greatest comfort that anyone could that week.  I don't know if he knew of the significance of his gestures that day, but they were very significant.  I will forever be grateful for that experience, I may never know what was going through Michael's mind at the time, but it doesn't matter.  I don't really believe in coincidences like that.

Joy Mano
Utah PLAY Project Home Consultant
Early Intervention Treatment for Children With Autism

Show and Tell Friday - Let Everyone Clap

So I tried to find a youtube video of this song, but they were all too unbearable to watch.  So you can google it if you want, or you can listen a sample of it.  The song is Let Everyone Clap Hands Like Me. I also tried to find out who wrote it, but no luck.

Here's a few reasons why I like this song
  • It's simple and repetitive
  • Imitation Skills-There's easy actions that go along with it
  • It brings in emotions (laughing and crying.) Watching the kids pretend laugh and cry is the best.
  • If you're not singing it to the music, you can add your own words and actions to it
  • The kids love it
And here are the words to the song

Let everyone clap hands like me
Let everyone clap hands like me
Come on and join into the game
You'll find that it's always the same

Let everyone laugh like me
Let everyone laugh like me
Come on and join into the game
You'll find that it's always the same

Let everyone cry like me
Let everyone cry like me
Come on and join into the game
You'll find that it's always the same

Let everyone sneeze like me
Let everyone sneeze like me
Come on and join into the game
You'll find that it's always the same

Let everyone whistle like me
Let everyone whistle like me
Come on and join into the game
You'll find that it's always the same

Joy Mano
Utah PLAY Project Home Consultant
Early Intervention Treatment for Kids with Autism

photo credit: Angel Kittiyachavalit via photopin cc

The World of Autism and Ecuador

If you missed my post about how I was introduced into the world of autism, feel free to check it out, especially if you're confused after reading this post.

In some ways I am a dreamer, and I'm a big believer in turning dreams into reality.  One of my big dreams was to be able to go volunteer in an orphanage.  In 2007, I realized I could do something about it.  So I moved to Ecuador.

I went to Quito, Ecuador with Orphanage Support Services Organization and volunteered for 3 months.  I absolutely loved it and would recommend it to anyone who has ever thought about doing it.  Just do it!

We had about 5 different orphanages that we volunteered in.  Because of my background, I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with the kids with special needs, and I loved it.  While I was there I immediately found my "Michael" in Ecuador.  (Read my other post to learn about Michael.)  We'll call this boy Juan.  The first day I met Juan, this is what I observed.  He stood far away from the rest of the group, he liked to rock, and he liked to collect garbage.  I was told by the other volunteers that he didn't like to be touched, and they usually just let him do his thing because he seemed happy.  Of course that wasn't really going to fly with me.

I only had 3 months to make Juan my best friend, and we only got to go visit him a couple times a week.  I probably spent more time with Juan than any of the other kids at that home, but I figured the other volunteers interacted with the other kids more so it was fine.  It didn't take too long for Juan to warm up.  He still liked to be away from the group, but he didn't seem to mind having me be with him in his space.  My favorite was when he would reach out and hold my hand for a few seconds at a time kind of like he was giving me the ok to stick around.  He initially didn't like to be touched, but later it turned out that he loved having his hands rubbed with lotion.  He would even initiate it by finding the lotion in our bags when we would come.

My favorite story about Juan was when one day we came to visit and the house parents told us how Juan doesn't sleep the night before we come because he's too excited.  He just stays up all night laughing (he may have had a little emotional regulation issues.)  The house parents were not happy about it at all.  I, on the other hand, was pretty excited about it.  Why?  It meant that he was anticipating us coming, and he was forming relationships with us.  It made me happy.  When the house parents didn't get the right reaction out of us, they probably just figured we didn't understand what they were saying :)

There's just something about that moment when the relationship just clicks and you know that they understand that you love them.  And in their own way, they show their love back to you.  You often hear that people with autism don't show affection, and sometimes that's true.  But when they do, it's about 100 times more powerful.  And it's those moments that have kept me in this field, and have guided me further on my journey.

Joy Mano
Utah PLAY Project Home Consultant
Early Intervention Treatment for Children With Autism

Show And Tell Friday - Froggy Gets Dressed

For show and tell today I am sharing a book that I love.  It reminds of the Cosby Show episode when Mr. Huxtable asks Rudy if she needs to go to the bathroom before they put her in her snow clothes.  She says no, so he gets her dressed.  As soon as she's dressed and ready to go out the door she says "I need to go to the bathroom!"  And that's pretty much how it goes with snow clothes :)

This book is great for talking about different articles of clothes.  

Vocabulary includes: boots, socks, mittens, shirt, pants, coat, hat, scarf, and underwear

Activity Ideas:
  • Get a felt board to illustrate the story

  • If you have a stuffed animal frog, you could find doll clothes to dress him in.

  • Your child could pretend to be froggy, and they could act the book out while you read it.  It would be fun to do it in front of a mirror.
Joy Mano
Utah PLAY Project Home Consultant
Early Intervention Treatment for Children With Autism

Happy Valentine's Day!

May you truly understand how great you are, and feel all the love in the world, because you deserve it!

Joy Mano
Utah PLAY Project Home Consultant
Early Intervention Treatment for Children with Autism

photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via photopin cc


Joy Mano
Utah PLAY Project Home Consultant
Early Intervention Treatment for Children with Autism

train photo credit: Capt' Gorgeous via photopin cc
wires photo credit: juanpol via photopin cc 
baseball photo credit: smswigart via photopin cc
butterfly photo credit: USFWS Headquarters via photopin cc
telephone photo credit: Alex E. Proimos via photopin cc
airport photo credit: Mazzarello Media and Arts via photopin cc
dots photo credit: whitney waller via photopin cc
carabiner photo credit: Keshigomu via photopin cc
connect4 photo credit: jeff_golden via photopin cc
father photo credit: absolut xman via photopin cc

The World of Autism and Me

I think that the first time I was really introduced to autism was when I was working at Camp Kostopolus, a summer camp for people with disabilities.  I already shared how autism was explained to me in another post, but it was at a training we had when I was working at Camp K.

By this point in my life I had already been working in a group home for women with developmental disabilities, syndromes, or mental illness, but I had never worked with anyone with autism.  After working at this summer camp, I started working as a case worker at a Care Center for people with disabilities.

At that time I had a caseload of 20 residents that I worked with.  I remember sitting at a conference when I had only worked there for a couple weeks, and I started asking one of my co-workers that had worked there for years about my caseload.  We started making a list of everybody's interests.  I had a pretty good list by the end of the day, but there was just one boy on my list that she couldn't think of anything he liked.  She told me that she really didn't know what he liked, and she wasn't really sure that anyone did know.

At that moment, I made it my mission to find out what this boy liked.  It wasn't as easy I thought it would be.  By observation I learned that he liked to rock and he liked to chew on his shirt, and that was about it.  I ended up spending a lot of time with this boy, and eventually he became "my boy."  I know that when you're working you're not supposed to have your favorites, but even when the other residents would talk to me they would refer to him as "your boy."  They would always come and tattle on him and say things like "YOUR boy" did this or that.  It always made me laugh.

He was my boy.  We made a connection.  And that made all the difference in the world.

A couple of favorite moments.  So my boy is non-verbal with severe autism.  One day we were playing ball in the hallway, and every time he missed the ball I would have to tell him to get the ball.  After playing for a while I missed the ball and he chanted "gettheball-gettheball-gettheball", that was an exciting day for me.  I honestly dream of the day when I will get to sit down with him and have a real conversation, but hearing him say just a few words made me so happy.  One of my other favorite moments was when our psychologist came in one day and told me "your boy just swore at me."  That made me chuckle, and I think my only response was "That's my boy!"

When I look back at it all, the connection I made with "my boy" is what motivates me.  I want others to be able to have that connection, I especially want families to have that connection.  It's not always easy, but it can be done.  That's why I've been drawn to the PLAY Project, it's all about connections and relationships.  

I will continue my journey in another post :)  And as I started writing about "my boy", I think I will end up sharing more stories about him.  How about we give him a name.  How about we go with Michael.

Joy Mano
Utah PLAY Project Home Consultant
Early Intervention Treatment for Children With Autism

Show and Tell Friday - WORD SLAPPS

So, I've decided that Fridays are going to be Show and Tell days.  My Show and Tells are going to probably consist of books, songs, toys, apps, and probably a few random things I want to share.

Today I'm going to share one of my favorite apps that I used in my preschool class for my kiddos working on receptive language.  This is called Word SLapPs.

Here's how it works

  • There are 6 different levels, which means you can have an array of 1-6 pictures that the child will choose from.
  • You can either have the child read what they are supposed to find, or you can turn on the audio that tells them.
  • When the correct picture is chosen it has positive sounds/graphics.
  • It will tell you at the end how many were chosen correctly, and which words were missed.

And here's why I love this app.

  • You can make your own vocabulary lists.  I either use my ipad camera to take pictures, or get pictures off the web.  It's really easy
  • You can use your own audio
  • You can turn off the negative sound when the wrong picture is chosen (the negative sounds drive me crazy because usually they're more reinforcing for the kids than the positive sounds)
  • You can have it so there is only 1 picture to choose from for those kiddos that are just learning to follow directions to touch or point to...
  • It keeps data for you that you can copy at the end of each session
  • It's easy to use
  • The kids love it
Joy Mano
Utah PLAY Project Home Consultant
Early Intervention Treatment for Children With Autism

41 Fine Motor Games/Activities

This week I have been making lists of activities that you can use for an Activity Schedule.  Today I have a list of 41 Fine Motor Activities.  Why did I choose 41?  I have no idea, except for when I was looking for Matching Activities, I stopped at 41.  Guess it's the lucky number for now.  I tried not to duplicate the Matching Activities or the Sorting Activities, so if you want more ideas, check out those posts.  A lot of those activities involve fine motor as well.  Click on the picture to get the amazon info on the product.
Add tweezers/tongs to any activity, and that will give you some good fine motor :)
After you practice unwrapping the candy :) Practice putting in coins.  Or make your own bank with a small box, or an old jar.
This was always a favorite toy of all the kiddos
Draw circles on a paper that they have to mark, or draw bugs that they need to squish with the paint.  You can usually buy bingo paints at the dollar store.
For beginners, have them make one inch snips along a half sheet of paper.  As they get better, they can cut a line across the paper, then a circle.  You can probably find cutting worksheets online as well. 
Your child can be the fruit ninja, just throw this fruit at them and see if they can cut it in midair :)  I would be really impressed if they could do it.  And I would also be impressed if no one got hurt in the process.
You can buy these for only $40! Or, you can make one like I did in the picture below for $1.
Another thing you could do with pompoms is have the child use a spoon to scoop them from one cup to another (you'd need a larger opening than this picture though)
Link the alphabet together, or link simple words together
Have the child hold the magnet wand in one hand, and collect all the disks or balls in the other hand.  Then have them put the objects one at a time in a container like the tootsie roll bank or the home made container you made for $1.  The hand that is putting the objects in the container should be the same hand that is holding all the objects too.
You can work on patterning or sorting colors/shapes
If you want to work on matching, you can take pictures of Mr. Potato Head and they have to match their potato head to the picture.  This would require having more potato head accessories.
Hide little objects in the theraputty, then when the child finds the items, they can put them into a jar
Make a container (or use the tootsie roll bank if it fits) and put the popsicle sticks in the container.  You could also make a container with different colored slots, and they have to put the right color in each slot.
You can trace letters with stickers, or sort colors, or match the stickers to shapes/colors on a paper, or just give them a blank paper and let them make their own design.  Just peeling the sticker off and putting it on a paper is a lot of fine motor skills.
Trace pictures with the wikki stix
Something I like to do with tracing to save paper is I put tracing worksheets or a paper with the child's name on it inside a sheet protector, and then I have them trace with a dry erase marker.  I like to use the skinny markers though, so it's more like holding a crayon or pencil.
10 additional activities ideas (without pictures)
  • Zippers-get a zipper board (these are good for practicing latching the zipper like a coat), or little coin purses with zippers.  You can put coins in the coin purses, they can unzip it, and put the coins in a bank.
  • Buttons-get a button board or an old button up shirt.  They can put the shirt on a doll, or on themselves.  Bigger buttons are easier to start with.
  • Locks with keys.  You can color code the locks with the keys or put pictures, abcs, numbers, etc. to make it easier for them to figure out which key unlocks which lock.
  • Clothespins-these are great for everything.  You hang up doll clothes on a clothesline, you can match colors, pictures, letters, numbers, etc. by putting the clothespin on the matching card, or on a paper plate with pictures around it.
  • Play-doh - you can give them a picture of something they need to try to make out of play-doh.  You can have them make a snake and then cut it with scissors.  You can have them make the first letter of their name.
  • Coloring pages
  • Turkey Baster/Eye Dropper - Use one of these to transfer water from one bottle/cup to another.
  • Make a fruit loop necklace
  • Put toothpicks into a salt shakers
  • Make confetti with paper and a hole puncher
Joy Mano
Utah PLAY Project Home Consultant
Early Intervention Treatment for Children With Autism