Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Peak Performance

Konner had a visitor at school last week. A lady by the name of Kim Ritter spent the day at the school and provided some information that will hopefully help Konner obtain an education with less distraction and aggravation. Ritter is a member of the Project Peak team.

So you may be asking yourself, what is project peak?

According to the Autism Center of Tulsa website: “In 2008, the Oklahoma Legislature passed updates to the law affecting school district professional development programs, requiring all districts beginning in the 2009-10 school year to offer at least one time per year, training in the area of autism from early childhood programs through grade three. The training must include a minimum awareness of the characteristics of autism, resources available, and an introduction to positive behavior supports to challenging behavior.”   Project peak provides that training and was recently at the Kiamichi Technology Center in Poteau to help local educators and advocates by providing them with the knowledge to help area students.

That’s a good generic answer, but what they have done with Konner is give us reassurance that we are doing what we need to in order to provide Konner with the best education possible.

So here is a breakdown of what they did last week. Ritter came to the school and spent half the day observing Konner, his teachers, and his peers. She also looked over the current IEP we have in place, along with data collected by his paraprofessional Mindy Hale. Mindy had been keeping track of his behavior for several weeks. All of the information provided, along with the observations, helped her to provide input to help us modify the classroom and actions we can take to help minimize his outbursts.

Ritter met with the IEP team for the second half of the day to go over the information and answer any questions they had. While I was not available for the meeting Jen was and said that it was an enlightening meeting.

I’m going to give some examples of what was observed and the suggestions provided. These all come from the Consultation Summary provided to the team.

Areas of Concern: Konner often disrupts class by yelling out when he gets mad and needs redirection. He often will use physical aggression and throw objects at others, usually to get someone to “re-do” a routine or ritual, allow him to do what he wants, etc.

She then provides a plan of action which includes who needs to do something to help, what to do, and when it needs to be implemented. The follow are examples of suggestions that we should employ in the classroom.

·         Action Plan: Make a visual schedule for him in the classroom.

·         Use self-timing procedures with duration boxes either on paper or dry erase board to extend his stay at lunch up to five or 10 minutes.

·         Flexibility training with going through the doors with “positive practice” using reinforcement.

·         Use choices at each activity of what he is going to work for. Remind him during work to “work quietly for your ­(give a final result or reward).” Avoid reminding him of what he’s not supposed to do. [Keep this in mind. I’ll have more on this next week.]

·         Provide stars on his reinforcer board more frequently. Use a “1st/then board to remind him of what he’s working for.

·         Use peers as much as possible to provide prompting and try to reduce adult direction and instructions.

·         Try not to disrupt natural peer social interactions.

·         May need to teach specific social skills with one peer – pulled by reverse inclusion and slowly work towards social skills lessons in a regular class with all his peers.

·         When you see Konner getting agitated ask if he could help you to run an errand with you to provide a physical break without using the word “break”.

·         Analyze new data to use for new IEP.

I provide all of this as an example of what she did to try and help. I also have included this because I hope it may sound like something that your child may be doing and can give you some insight into how you may ease the results.

With this information she left several pages of more suggestions that coincide with these. An example is: “Coach and reinforce his peers in how to respond to, help, or prompt him to reduce need for (Para).”

There were also several suggestions on new goals for the IEP and how to improve the current IEP.

I would like to give kudos to a major player in this process, Mindy Hale. She is his para and has been the one gathering most of the information. Ritter even gave props for taking good data.

If you would like some more information on Project Peak you can contact them at (405) 271-6824. This is a division of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center’s Child Study Center.

Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column.

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