Getting Started

You are probably feeling overwhelmed, we've all been there!

You need to find partners (therapists, teachers, doctors, support, and more) and information. Most of us start without a game plan. Instead, we just jump in and chip away at the challenges with whatever resources and tools we can find. Even if you do have a game plan/roadmap, please stay open to other interventions and ideas as you go!

Most states have an Early Start program that is free and offers some therapy and respite hours. To access the Early Start programs in California, contact your local regional centerhttp://www.dds.cahwnet.gov/RC/RCInfo.cfm . A Regional Center Social Worker will come out to your home, ask questions and generally determine if your child is eligible. Then you will meet a developmental pediatrician at the Regional Center office and then the Social Work, The Dev Ped and you, the parent, will formulate a plan as to what services the RC will offer you (free). Keep in mind that the RC’s funds are limited so they will not be likely to offer you an optimal plan. To get more services from the RC, you will need evaluation reports from other professionals that outline the need for specific services and the number of hours per week. Then you can negotiate.

It is ideal to go to RC first and then at 3 years of age have the RC refer you to the SD for an IEP. Because these are scheduled some time in advance the SD is fairly prompt about setting up the meetings. If you instead are calling in direct to the SD to request an IEP, you must have a professional report showing the need, or you must be very persistent.

If you believe that your child needs certain services (ie Speech Therapy or ABA or Biomed  DAN physician – which MOST kids benefit from) then call NOW to get on the waiting lists. There are many LONG waiting lists for services.

See this very helpful checklists http://www.tacanow.com/new-parents/quickstart.htm

Next step, your child's biochemistry needs help! Here are a few of the tests that a DAN! practitioner would probably recommend.. all three of these are super helpful for getting started, though you can definitely skip the tests and go straight to the diet, environment, and therapies...

http://www.foodallergy.com/services/test.html igg test (food sensitivities test) http://www.metametrix.com/TestServ/default.asp?PageID=1 metametrix ion 
www.doctorsdata.com hair and stool tests

The next key is healthy food ...organic, fruits, veggies, etc. I would avoid soy, casein, gluten where possible - at least until you get the igg food sensitivity results back. The very yummy and very healthy burger patty recipe is here http://www.helpingdelayedkids.com/gfcf_tips.htm#Main_–_quick_and_healthy_burgers_and_fries  and also the applegate hotdogs from whole foods are really good ( near the butcher/meat ). I feed the hot dogs and burgers above to my son nearly everyday. I just rotate the meat types and in the burgers I rotate the veggie types. I make the burgers 1 - 2 batches at a time, then i freeze and take one out and heat up on a grill (ie a Foreman grill or a cast iron grill press)...only takes a few minutes. Not all kids are the same, but I can tell you that I have not found a kid yet who won't eat the grilled patties or hot dogs above. On playdates I serve one of these (plain, cut up with catsup) along with cut up apples and water to drink. I also put these in his lunch box...along with the healthy muffins http://www.helpingdelayedkids.com/gfcf_tips.htm#Muffin

If you like information overload - like me - you may enjoy listening to a few of the many free audio programs via the web. I download some of the prgrams to my mp3 player and listen while doing dishes, driving, etc. 
http://autismone.org/radio/ 
www.floortime.org 

Or watching videos
http://www.childrenscornerschool.com/recoveries.htm

www.danwebcast.com

Please consider changing your child's diet and adding supplements (biomed approach)! This has made a world of difference to our son! You can read more on my biomed page and myGFCF page and at www.gfcfdiet.com and learn about the SCD diet at www.pecanbread.com . 
 

The rest of this page focuses on getting started with Floortime and sensory play...

Consider filling out an FEAS survey (Excel), there is a book describing the FEAS from www.icdl.com  Also, you can contact icdl via the "find a therapist" linkhttp://www.floortime.org/therapist.htm  to ask for a therapist recommendation near you, see . The therapist can meet with you and give you individualized recommendations. 
Even though we live close to several coaches, I use the video tape, long distance method of floortime coaching and I can highly recommend this approach. So potentially you can work with a coach that lives anywhere...if they are open to this method.

During the actual time that you call “floortime” set as a key goal that your child is nearly always having fun, laughing, smiling, happy. Whatever he says or gestures, respect! Where respect means that you listen and respond, but does not mean that you have to do 100% what he said. Be playful. For example if he saids “no, go to the kitchen ” or “go away” you can just respond by moving a little bit away and saying “is this enough? Can I be here?” Or you can go the the kitchen, but come back in 1 minute. Also, when you are doing something he requested, sometimes pretend to get stuck and ask him to help pull you out, or to go get someone to help.  Remember slowing down the actions so that the child can be the leader. Give him enough time to tell you when and how he wants the play to continue. Use lots of expectant pauses so that he has to communicate with you about the "next step" in the play. Anything that he starts to play with a lot, you can put into a container (assuming he has motor planning issues) and then help him learn to open it.  See the books, “child with special needs” (greenspan/weider) and “playful parenting” (kohen?)  for more ideas.

Getting started with floortime....ideas that worked for us at 2 and 3 years.

To work on closing circles: 
Around the house place “sensory toys” (see list below). Make sure that when you face any wall try to arrange it so that there are only about 6 or so  toys that you “notice,” the rest can be put into boxes, or closets. The boxes can be wrapped with white paper (ie the back side of wrapping paper). This helps cut down on visual clutter. Your child will know many of the toys are there if he wants them, but won’t be accidentally distracted by them. You can also put a bunch of books into a basket of box. I like to take out 3 or so and stand them up, leaving the rest in the nearby box. I rotate the ones that are out.

Now, follow your child, and join him in whatever play he selects.  See my earlier (yahoo groups Floortime) post on conversation ideas. During the actual time that you call “floortime” set as a key goal that he is nearly always having fun, laughing, smiling, happy. Whatever he says of gestures, respect! Now respect means that you listen and respond, but does not mean that you have to do 100% what he said. Be playful. For example if he saids “no, go to the kitchen ” or “go away” you can just respond by moving a little bit away and saying “is this enough? Can I be here?” Or you can go the the kitchen, but come back in 1 minute. Also, when you are doing something he requested, sometimes pretend to get stuck and ask him to help pull you out, or to go get someone to help.  Remember slowing down the actions so that the child can be the leader. Give him enough time to tell you when and how he wants the play to continue. Use lots of expectant pauses so that he has to communicate with you about the "next step" in the play. Anything that he starts to play with a lot, you can put into a container (assuming he has motor planning issues) and then help him learn to open it.  See the books, “child with special needs” (greenspan/weider) and “playful parenting” (kohen?)  for more ideas.

Sensory toys:

exercise balls 
trampoline with handle, junior trampoline http://www.sensationalbeginnings.com/ find on trampoline
play tent with tunnel and balls (at least 150 balls) play hut with connected tunnel and balls http://www.zanybrainy.com/global/store/dept_summary.cfm?TID=03333639153420360225076873&Site=Toys&TreeID=1161&rs_section=Sports 
pillows
cloth hand puppets (www.orientaltrading.com)
porcupine balls, groan tube, paper yoyos, ice cream cone shooters, paddleball, magna-wheels, (www.orientaltrading.com)
”Teletubbies go exercise” video (do it with him, pause the video until he joins has worked for me)
Include just a few props (3 to 10 inches each so easy to handle) so that you and the child can reenact routines from his real-life experiences (eating, cooking, bathing, going to bed, and other social routines that he enjoys).  Ie a “Groovy Doll” and play food and real spoon and real plastic plates and cups. Empty containers from his favorite foods.  Zanybrainy has a pretend chocolate chip cookie that is a big hit at our house. 
pon-pon hippity hop ball www.theraproducts.com  
Most anything from www.theraproducts.com 
echo microphone (costs less than $5, just seems to echo your voice, no electronics)
snap beads
horns www.theraproducts.com they have some really easy one, good for beginners
more- go to http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/subst/community/community-home.html/ and type in margaret motamed in the search people box. (includes 10 piece music set, hats, gold, balls, books, etc)
foam pipe insulation pieces from the hardware store, cut into 3 ft lengths, make great swords
pool tubes (foam) make great swords

And if you can find a young teenager or other friendly person to help you....here are some ideas for coaching them:

We have a 12 year old sitter that I just coached lightly. She is naturally high affect and really fun with kids. I just mostly asked her to play with him constantly, no TV or computer, and keep it fun. She plays with him for 2 hour blocks only. She has been a natural.

Coaching wise I tried to only tell her 1-2 things at a time, like, don't ask him "closed questions" with one answer...at the beginning it was all...ask open ended or give him 2 choices...

Follow his lead...anything he wants to play is fine...

don't let him play alone 

but keep it happy, don't make/let him cry

The goal: to keep him engaged and playing WITH you

I did not talk with her about closing circles (official term used in the book - Child with special needs), nor did I give her anything to read...I felt that her job was really just to be a fun, high affect playmate....to entice him love being with her... for 1.5-2 hours straight... Later i learned with another 12 or 13 year old sitter (another young woman, this time talented in drama) that it also helps tremendously for her to watch the www.floortime.org video or dvd that shows Grayson in floortime, it's about 45 minutes and the teens can learn a lot (get great ideas) just by watching the play!!!!

I also set the stage with fun toys, books etc, music cd's (wiggles), sensory toys etc. 

Stomp rockets are fun
Water guns/squirt guns/small pool
pouring water between containers, with finger paint as the water dye
We also had fun pouring water with organic soap in it (in liquid laundry bottles) onto ants in the backyard. We called this ant potion. 
sidewalk chalk
obstacle courses - can be as simple as a path marked with flour, a tunnel to crawl thru
building a fort with sheets and clothes pins and chairs, and decorating with stickers, taking flashlights inside
making (pouring the batter into cupcake holders) and decorating cupcakes or gingerbread (mostly decorating and tasting and getting tactile)
foam swords or pool noodles as "swords"
toys r us new 30" saucer "balloon" toy
kids boxing gloves (if both kids are fairly gentle)
timetimer so you can say - ok he can choose an activity we'll do for the next 5 or 10 minutes then it's your turn
 

And here are some ideas that keep me, the parent, inspired...

Inspiration to keep me going: Set a time timer to 20 minutes when we floortime so that I am sure that the session is at least 20 minutes long. Tape record some of the sessions and listen to them in the car, ie 1x a week. Video record some of the sessions ie 1/month. Save FT ideas you like into a folder or a notebook. Review/skim the ideas 1x a month. parent energy www.timetimer.com  
Also, talk with other parents on the various yahoo discussion groups (but limit the amount of time, don't go overboard :-)

 

 For more information about the DIR/Floortime approach, read "The Child with Special Needs" by Drs. Stanley Greenspan and Serena Wieder.

 

 

Click here to order a copy of The Child With Special Needs

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