Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
Organization Spotlight is a new series of articles that will shed light on agencies that families with children on the Autism Spectrum can gain insights into and find out what is available in various regions of the country.
I am starting off with organizations that my family has had experience with or knowledge of before doing research into other agencies across the country. Feel free to contact me with suggestions for agencies you have dealt with that are worth sharing about to other families.
F.A.C.T. - Focus on all-child therapies first got their 501c status in June of 2001. Once known as the UCLA Family Support Community Program with weekly support groups held at UCLA. They also sponsored activities and conference for eight years through Family and Community Togetherness (FACT). They incorporated and filed to offer services as a non-public agency, which led to the name change, but keeping it as FACT.
The original five families along with F.A.C.T. director Linda Andron wrote a book that was released in May of 2001 entitled, Our Journey Through High Functioning Autism & Asperger Syndrome: A Roadmap. My ex-husband attended support group meetings and purchased the book, which he gave to me to peruse as well. Linda is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
He called the Regional Center and said he wanted to learn more about autism, so they signed him up for support group meetings. He went there to hear from other families and since he never lived with us he had nothing to share, but wanted to know more about autism and how families lived with it so he could use that in his visits with our two boys on the spectrum.
I had been waiting for the meetings to start forming closer to downtown Los Angeles or San Fernando Valley areas closer to me. They initially had meetings in Culver City, Camarillo, Long Beach, South Redondo, Woodland Hills and Sherman Oaks.
The support groups are for families, children on the spectrum and their siblings. The parents would gain peer support, learn about inclusion, behavior management techniques, advocacy and services. The siblings would gain support from other siblings, learn new ways to interact with their sibling and avoid the waiting room syndrome.
For the child or teen on the autism spectrum they would increase their social competence, increase play skills, interpersonal engagement, reciprocal comuication, gain understanding of their diagnosis and promote imaginative play.
The sessions took place for one hour and assisted the families in community inclusion. The siblings and children and/or teens on the spectrum were in rooms separate from their parents. The program philosophy at the time of our participation (2002-2003) was to focus on the facilitation of play and communication and the development of friendship. The development of a sense of community that supports families on both an immediate and on-going basis.
Each location had a staff person that facilitated the adults with the children being led by graduate students in speech and language, social work or psychology. Other staff are teachers and behavior specialists and parent professionals.
F.A.C.T. is a Regional Center vendor. Semi-annual review notes were sent to the Regional Center and family by the site director. There is a summer camp that takes place one week each summer at UCLA. Each year is a day-long whale watching trip, a Mother's Day spa trip, casino night, sports trips and other events. These events are open to any family with a child or teen on the spectrum and not just to those who attend family support group meetings.
F.A.C.T. provides behavior intervention strategies as a non-public agency for LAUSD. "We work very hard to avoid the development of prompt dependence. When working with the children we focus on their IEP goals."
The RDIŽ 4-Day Parent Training Seminar: "Unlock Your Child's Potential takes place in Los Angeles October 9-12, 2007 (9:30 am - 3:30 pm)at a location not yet announced. This is for parents only and the program has Regional Center vendoriazation under the auspices of Focus on All Child Therapies (FACT) Vendor Number PW2646. Linda Andron is a RDIŽ Certified Consultant. Check both the RDI and F.A.C.T. sites for the actual location.
The four intensive days include hands-on-exercises with Melanie Smith,MA, Director of Parent Training at Connections Center in Houston, Texas. Melanie and other RDIŽ Consultants will help parents construct an RDIŽ Program that will overcome the core cognitive, social communication and emotional deficits that limit the lives of even the highest functioning adults on the autism spectrum.
One prerequisite that will cost parents $150 is a DVD you need to view beforehand. I would suggest sharing the DVD with other parents and even checking with your Regional Center to see if they have a copy or will fund one for their library. "Going to the Heart of Autism: The RDIŽ Program" DVD. This is the NTSC version, but there is also a PAL version at their site too.
The F.A.C.T. Support Groups are expanding into Orange County. The current locations are Woodland Hills, Culver City and Sherman Oaks. There are different times for older kids and their families. Back in January 2002 is when the Glendale location was added, which is where our meetings were held. In March of that year the meeting was held the day before Nicholas turned seven and I brought along a cake and drinks. We have the photographs in our album of that day and of many of the therapists that worked with the kids. This helped Matthew know where we were going when I showed him the photos.
This location was held at a church in the children's area where there was a piano and extra large room the kids liked to congregate in. Nicholas enjoyed the group activities and snack time while Matthew needed adult prompting to engage in various projects.
An excerpt from the progress note of August 31,2003 states the following in regard to Nicholas:
Observations - Nicholas has continued to demonstrate what an asset he is to our group. He always brings a great deal of energy and enthusiasm and is a sought after play partner. He is active and often loses himself and his ablity to self-regulate when he is absorbed in an activity. With prompting he will slow himself down. In particular, Nicholas has demonstrated growth in his ability to take turns during a conversation. Other times his attention to a conversation is short and could be longer. Finally, he struggles at times with his listening skills and following directions.
Recommendations - Continued participation in our group. Nicholas will cultivate the ability to self-regulate when excited. Staff will gently prompt and redirect him as necessary. Nicholas will become more comfortable in the structure of our group, as evidenced by participating minimally in nonpreferred group activities (e.g., welcoming circle) and initiating play with peers maximally during preferred group activities (exclusive of unstructured time).
An excerpt from the progress note of August 31,2003 states the following in regard to Matthew:
Observations - Our social skills group has been actively engaging Matthew as much a possible, noting improvements in his eye contact and ability to attend to an activity. For example, he has enjoyed playing catch, crawling through a tunnel, and playing peek-a-boo with an adult play partner. As compared to a year ago, Matthe has demonstrated the ability to attend for a longer period of time and with more willingness. Matthew is reluctant to engage in art projects, however. Although Matthew watches the other children, he does not initiate engagement with them.
Recommendation - Continued participation in our group. Matthew will continue to develop his ability to tolerate sustained attention to an activity facilitated by an adult play partner. Matthew will develop nonverbal means of communicating his needs and deisres, such as the noises and gestures he currently makes, doing so with more grequency. Staff will reflect and translate his apparent intended message and reinforce his communication.
F.A.C.T. is heading up to the mountains February 8-10, 2008 at the UCLA Lake Arrowhead Conference Center for the annual snow trip. You need to RSVP by October 1, 2007 as this is first come, first serve and the snow trips sell out quickly.
"We will be presenting our quality of life presentation and looking at how to prepare our kids for the future. We will be addressing issues and looking at what has worked for our kids and where our focus for the future needs to be. This is informative for families with kids of different ages.
Each Family will get their own Condolet. Our unique "Condolets" offer a queen size bed with bath downstairs and a second queen size bed with bath upstairs.
We will have a movie night for the kids. This is a great trip for your whole family. All meals are included and the food is delicious! Adults: $158.50 per person, per night. kids 14 and over: $113.80 per child, per night, kids under 14: $63.80 per child, per night, kids under 3 are free."
Since this is not yet listed on their website you will need to RSVP to Elana Hirschman at Factfamilies@yahoo.com. By joining their email list you will be notified of events before they get posted. This does sound like something I would like to take my kids to, but I need to find out if they provide transportation for everyone together like a bus, or we have to get there on our own. Due to my fear of driving freeways I would like transportation to be provided.
F.A.C.T. Camp was profiled on ABC 7 during the 4 pm news in the healthy living segment on Wednesday, August 22, 2007. Autistic Kids can break out of shell at Special Camp
Educational Autism Tips for Families 71 page resourceful ebook for families entering the school system with a recent autism diagnosis. Find out what issues take place over the course of a school day and meet these challenges head on.