Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Back in the Game

So I got jumpstarted back into researching schools.  How that happened is kind of a funny story really, but it’s a good thing.  My next steps are filing FAFSA and taking the GRE.  I hadn’t even thought about needing to take the GRE, but I do, and it makes sense that I do.  This is just all new to me (I wonder how many times I’ll be writing that line in the course of this journey!)

I stepped into a bit of a mine field with one school.  I made the mistake of clicking on a Facebook ad that said something like “Want to get your master’s degree online?”  Next thing I know I have all these sort of fishy “universities” calling me and hounding me to “enroll now, Enroll Now, ENROLL NOW!”  Luckily, I talked to Jay last night and he helped me get my head back on straight (God love him for how many times he has helped me do that over and over again!).  No 100% legit school has to recruit so aggressively and schools whose coursework is useful for becoming a BCBA will advertise themselves that way.  The person who holds the valuable thing doesn’t have to find people…people find them.

Anyway, all of this did make me realize I need to get back in the game.  And I have other good news on that front.  Today is my first day volunteering with Early Childhood Services here in Grants Pass.  I’m so excited!  My 18 month old son and I will be joining a class of 2 and 3 year olds some of whom receive services and some of whom are “typically developing.”  I’m learning this new language slowly but surely.  There is no such thing as “normal,” and I agree with that.  One of my good friends who has twin six year olds with autism helped me out with another potential faux pas the other day.  She introduced me to the rule of putting the child before the disability.  That is to say, you don’t refer to a student as an “autistic child” but rather a “child with autism.”  That makes sense.

I’m sure to some people, all of these semantics would seem silly, but as an author and a lover of language, I respect it all.  Words are our way of reaching out to each other.  Words shape us and I’m sure every word shapes every child who hears it and it does all make a difference.  I (along with every adult who seeks to help children with disabilities and children in general for that matter) am still learning what works best.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Looking for Schools

So I just spent about the last hour floundering around online trying to figure out which universities offer 100% online master’s programs that will fulfill the requirements for the BCBA certification.

The coursework requirements listed at http://www.bacb.com/index.php?page=158 are:

Coursework: The applicant must complete 225 classroom hours of graduate level instruction (see Acceptable Coursework below) in the following content areas and forthe number of hours specified:
  1. Ethical considerations 15 hours
  2. Definition & characteristics and Principles, processes & concepts - 45 hours
  3. Behavioral assessment and Selecting intervention outcomes & strategies - 35 hours
  4. Experimental evaluation of interventions - 20 hours
  5. Measurement of behavior and Displaying & interpreting behavioral data - 20 hours
  6. Behavioral change procedures and Systems support 45 hours
Discretionary 45 hours

That’s a little jargon-y for me at this stage in all of it.  The BCBA site also has a list of schools that offer distance learning as well as those that offer on-campus (not an option for me).  Once I found that, I started e-mailing like crazy to the distance learning institutions.  We’ll see what I get back.

Posts may be a little sparse this month.  I got laid off from my full-time job last month and so now, I’m basically staying home with my son (can only work when he’s sleeping or when I have enough $ to pay someone to watch him).

On a brighter note, but no less exhausting, November is National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo as we “WirMo’s” like to call it.  I haven’t written world 1 yet this year due to all of the above, but I have organized a “write-in” at a local bookstore for tomorrow and that should get me off to a good start.

More optimistic than I’ve felt in a long time, but somehow busier as well.  Thanks for listening, everyone and if you have good tips on the graduate degree thing, please add them to the comments section.

Cheerio for now!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gaining Momentum

It feels like the pace of my journey is finally beginning to pick up.  I know it's only been a little less than two weeks, but still, up until now, I've had all questions, few contacts and a huge road ahead.  Now, I finally feel I've made some tangible steps.

I just had a phone conversation with Jerusia Chasse the founder of Program Builders in Connecticut and she had some very valuable answers for me as to the educational path I need to take to get where I want to go as well as insight into the world that is autism therapy and what I'm likely to run into along the way.  It's too much to share in the short space of time I have to blog this, but suffice to say, I was ravenous for her answers and can't wait to find a way to repay her for her time.

Also, this coming Tuesday, October 5, 2010, I have an appointment with a coordinator at the local Early Childhood Services Center in my little town in Oregon.  This is the center where my friend enrolled her autistic twin boys when they were first diagnosed.  I'll be looking for more answers and the opportunity to volunteer.  

Hands on experience, here I come!

The Narrow Gate

So, it’s been less than two weeks that I’ve been peeking into this world, and already I’ve met some wonderful and fascinating people.  Already, I’ve learned that a large contingency of higher-functioning autistics do not appreciate the way that Autism Speaks, the brand name charity for autism, delegates the funds it raises, how much it pays its executives and the advertising tactics it uses for fundraising.  (From my brief study, the favored resource for autism advocacy among autistics and their families is ASAN.)  Many autistic adults and teens as well as parents of autistic children are offended by advertising campaigns as well as general attitudes that autism is a disease or something that needs to be cured.  Having grown up with or raised a child with autism, these people recognize that the different way an autistic person sees and experiences the world becomes an inextricable part of that person’s personality.  To demonize autism itself feels like (and arguably is) an attack on the identities of autistic people themselves.

I have to agree after reading a number of accounts, that comparing autism to a fate worse than death or likening it to being stolen out of one’s own body is offensive.  When I read articles like this one about research that could potentially lead to “therapies” that would change the structure or function of an autistic person’s brain, I can see how they would make an older autistic person nervous, not only for him or herself, but for future generations who won’t be old enough to speak for themselves when something like this might be applied.

All that said, I’m not trying to be sensational, and neither are the people whose accounts of this kind of marginalization I’ve read.  They are the first to admit that there are autistics (children and adults) who need coping tools, who need therapy for their autism, who need to learn strategies for living in a world mostly filled with non-autistic (I refuse to say “regular,” because there’s really no such thing as a “regular person”) people.  So, from what I’ve seen so far, it’s not the autistic community being unreasonable in their thinking.  It’s the non-autistic community, and even some who claim to be advocating for autism, who are making questionable claims and inappropriate comparisons about autism.

I’m so glad that I’m starting to enter this world in the manner I’ve chosen, by reaching out to the community first.  I would hate to get swept into the wrong approach by choosing to focus only on the academic side of things.  That’s not to say that the academic world will necessarily favor the autism-as-a-disease outlook.  I have no idea what perspective dominates the academic community focusing on autism, but I’m just happy to be receiving this different kind of education first, so that if and when I do become any type of therapist for children with autism, I’ll be approaching the whole process from the perspective of arming the child with the tools to cope, providing them with the strategies they need to live the best life they can in this world, without stripping them of their childhood or their identity.  That’s the model I want to shoot for.  May God help me in walking that path.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Please Help Me Create My Reading List

Thanks to everyone who has responded and I hope to get more responses.  Read the original post below the list.  Post your feedback in the comments.  Tell me what to read, in what order I should read it, what I should take to heart and what I shouldn't and why.  Use the comments section here to guide me and I'll keep a running list of where I am in my reading.

Already Read (0)

Currently Reading (1)

  • Look Me in the Eye - John Alder Robinson

On the List to be Read (2)

  • Let Me Hear Your Voice - Catherine Maurice
  • Raising Brandon - Amalia Starr

I figured I might do well to post this request somewhere a little more permanent than Twitter.  As I'm just beginning my journey toward becoming an advocate and perhaps a therapist for children with autism (and because the earliest I'd be beginning graduate study in this area is this time next year), I wanted to start reading up now while I have the "spare" time.

Can this community help me create my reading list?  I'm looking for, primarily books, but also articles and blogs that will broaden my understanding of the autism spectrum.

So, what should I be reading, please :-)

Thanks, All

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Questions, Questions, Questions

As I mentioned in my last entry, this list of questions will probably grow and change continuously.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to put links on a lot of these as I become able to write entries that outline the answers I’ve found.  I need to find so may resources, but without further ado, here are, in no particular order, the questions I need to answer.

  1. What sort of professions are out there for someone who wants to work with and advocate for children with autism?
  2. What sort certification(s) exist for these professions?
  3. What sort of degree do you need to effectively carry out this work?
  4. What are the best, accredited online schools for the degree I need?
  5. Where can I volunteer to work with autistic children in order to get some hands-on experience?
  6. How much will it cost me to go to school?  What sort of scholarships, grants, etc. are available for my education?
  7. How far can I reach with this new platform and this new life plan.  Can I improve the lives of children and adults with autism beyond my city, beyond my state, beyond the U.S.?
  8. Am I actually good at this?  What proof can I offer?
  9. What are my ongoing goals with all this?
  10. What are the ways that I can use my blog, my website, my twitter account to help more people?
  11. Will this blog and website serve more people going through the same processes I am, or do I want to focus more on serving children and adults dealing with autism themselves?  Can I do both?

Yes, there will be more questions.  If you can think of some more I should be asking, please comment.  Thanks for reading.

How I Plan to Use this Blog

I plan to use this blog and the website I’ve created in a number of ways.

  • I will document the steps I take in this process of becoming a certified ABA therapist (or whatever I end up being.)
  • I will list the resources I find and try to make the website and this blog into a gateway for others who might seek to follow the same path I am.
  • I will ask for advice and suggestions from all who follow me in this journey.  I’m taking a wild guess that the community advocating for people with autism is very much alive and kicking online.  This will be my touch point in that community.
  • Eventually, once I get my bearings, I hope to use these sites to further the causes of autism awareness and advocacy.  I’m not positive what that will look like, but that’s the plan.

So there you have it.  That’s why I’m doing all of this.  Probably for now, many coming entries may be pretty short while I document the baby steps I take.  An entire entry might consist of “Attended volunteer training for two hours today.  Completed homework for Intro to Psychology class.”  Then again, I’ve never been known for being concise ;-)

Something else I’d like to do before I leave this entry is outline my current expectations of a time line for all this.  This is what I imagine I'll be doing over the next few years.

Oct. – Dec. 2010: Research and answer as many questions about what it takes to move in this life direction as possible.  Look into various online schools and try to find volunteer opportunities in order to get some hands-on experience

Jan. – Aug., 2011: File FAFSA in January.  Continue researching questions and checking into schools.  File for admission to and financial aid from a short list of online schools.  Continue to volunteer and try to get as much varied, hands-on experience as possible.

Sept. 2011 – May 2013: Complete a master’s degree online.  Continue to research, volunteer and connect with the autism advocacy community.  (Likely lose my mind trying to be a parent, student, employee and volunteer all at once ;-P)

201?: Gain certification as an ABA therapist (or whatever I decide to end up being.  This could change.  I imagine a LOT will change over the next few years.)

My next entry is one that will probably be revised 100 times over, and that is the questions I have that I need to research.  Please feel free to add to these.  If I like what I see in the comments, I’ll edit it into the entry itself.

Until next time…