What Kate Says

Who she is…


Kate Andersen is the President & Founder of Autism Journeys.  After working in the field of autism for over a decade, Kate was all too aware of the growing need for services and the lack of qualified professionals able to provide individualized intervention. Kate’s hands-on experience with autism spectrum disorders had shown her that a variety of autism intervention techniques were available and effective, if chosen and implemented around each individual’s strengths and needs.


She had also seen the importance of multi-faceted treatment and provider collaboration, which ensures all areas of the individual’s development are being addressed.


In 2007 Kate founded Autism Journeys, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving individuals and families in the autism community. Autism Journeys is designed to provide individualized, multi-faceted intervention to all affected by autism. This approach to treatment has been the driving force behind the success of Autism Journeys. Through experience and her intuitive nature, Kate has mastered the art of helping families balance treatment and family life, and incorporate multiple intervention strategies. Autism Journeys seeks to instill a greater sense of hope in all affected by autism.


Over the years, Kate (and her team at Autism Journeys) have relayed many tips and tricks to families. Some they have developed over the years; some are derived from other reliable sources. Below is a list of the most frequently given suggestions they share with us and their clients:


Managing all of the information, programs and day-to-day activities of your child:


Record and Organize: Over the months and years you and your child will see multiple doctors, therapists, school personnel, etc. Start a binder NOW. Having records of past tests, observations, recommendations, etc. can save you headaches and time.


Daily/Weekly Goal: You may find you have too many things to work on with your child. This can become very overwhelming. Take it a day at a time. Pick one or twothings to target each day. It will help keep you focused and help you feel successful. It often helps to have the goal written on a calendar. Today it’s eye contact. Tomorrow it’s pronouns. The next day it’s 20 minutes of Floortime, etc.


Track Your Progress: Keeping track of your child’s progress is not only encouraging, but also necessary. Over time we tend to forget how far they’ve come, how long it took (or didn’t take) to learn a new skill, or even over or underestimate how consistently the child is performing. You can track in multiple ways. Concrete skills are the easiest to measure, but you can also track progress by taking daily samples. For instance, in a 20-minute period, how often did he respond to his name)? Videotape is another fabulous tool for documenting progress. Narrative data, such as a few sentences each day about what you worked on and how well it went, can be very helpful for your child’s providers.


Tips and tricks to increasing positive interactions with your child.


Taffy Pulling: Taffy pulling is an attempt to increase the number of circles of communication you can have with your child during a given interaction. Friendly teasing can be one of the easiest ways to prolong an interaction with your child. For instance when your child ask for a drink, rather than giving them what you know they want, ask them if they want milk or juice, when they respond, offer them the wrong item, they’ll correct you and then you give them the correct beverage. Make sure this is done in a friendly, teasing fashion. If done correctly you can turn one circle of interaction into three or four.


High Affect: Children on the autism spectrum often struggle to read faces. When you want to play with your child, your affect generally must be high to get their attention and interest.  Keep in mind, high affect does not necessarily mean loud. Some of the best play partners are very soft spoken.


Sports Casting: If you’re having a difficult time interacting with your child, sometimes simply narrating, aka sports casting, can help your child begin to recognize you as a part of their play. For instance, “oh no, the car crashed into the table, oh now it’s backing up, bye car”, etc.


Secrets to getting them to respond and respond appropriately.


Stop Anticipating: One of the most common mistakes parents make is to anticipate their child’s every need. If you provide them with all of their needs, you are decreasing opportunities for them to learn how to communicate their needs with you appropriately.


Commands vs. Questions: If something isn’t a question, don’t ask it. “Will you put your shoes away?” is very different from “Put you shoes away please.” Remember, commands don’t need to be given in a negative tone; they just need to establish an expectation.  Finally, don’t give the command if you aren’t prepared to prompt them to follow through with it. Otherwise, you’re teaching them your words have no meaning.


First, Then: When you are attempting to get your child to do something, or they want something, or even when you’re reviewing a schedule use “first ____, then____”. Using these terms consistently will help them learn to sequence events.


Name First: Get your child’s attention first. Then move ahead with your question, comment, command, i.e. “Charlie (pause until the child is attending) _______.”


Three-Feet Rule: When your child is learning to respond to his/her name, it is best to be no more than three feet away from them.


Choices: We all like control, but for individuals on the spectrum it takes on a greater meaning. Their need for control often comes from their need to ensure they understand their environment. There are many things your children can’t control, so allow them pieces of control when appropriate, i.e. “It’s time to leave. Would you like to hold the door OR walk out first?”


Consistent Phrases: Establishing consistent phrases generally helps your child process what you’d like them to do faster, and it increases the chances that he/she will respond appropriately. In time, you will vary phrases and help your child learn to generalize meaning.


Managing daily life.


Establish a Routine: When teaching your child a new skill (washing hands,  getting ready for school, etc.) it’s helpful to establish and stick to a routine as much as possible. This will help your child learn faster and will relieve a great deal of anxiety for them as well.  A visual schedule dictating the routine is often very helpful, too.


Daily Schedule: Imagine not being able to anticipate what was coming next in your day.  Most of us run down our day before we even step out of bed. Many of us do it multiple times throughout the day. Your child likely does not! This will lead to great anxiety, avoidant behaviors, etc. They may go to extreme measures to control what is happening and when. SO… Each morning (or the evening before) put together a daily schedule for your child. I recommend doing this with your child so they learn the skill. It also can give them a sense of control by allowing them to choose when and what they are doing whenever possible. Daily schedules can come in the form of visuals (pictures) or written. Many individualswho are able to read, still prefer visual schedules because they tend to be visual learners.  I prefer to do schedules with removable pictures (Velcro) or pencil so they can be adjusted throughout the day if needed.


Prepping for Transitions: Due to their impaired ability to predict and anticipate, transitions (both expected and particularly unexpected) can be especially difficult for individuals on the spectrum. Prepare them in advance for transitions. Using a timer (sand timers are a great visual), and/or a picture schedule paired with a recurring phrase that they’ve learned, will indicate a change is about to occur.


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