Thursday, April 28, 2011

Nick's Story - Continued

Last October we introduced you to Nick Stephen - a young man with autism who was the 2010 recipient of the Doug Flutie, Jr. Award. Nick is in his second semester at Bridgewater State University and took some time out of his busy schedule to send us an update of his progress as he navigates his way through his Freshman year as a student with ASD.

My first year at Bridgewater State University:

When I started first semester of my first year at BSU, I was a full-time student. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I had
Pre-calc Math, Human Geography, and US History. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I had Colloquium and Writing I. Things started to get pretty stressful later in the semester. Learning about the college campus and how different classes are was tough. I had never had to walk between buildings and never really bought meals to eat on my own. The campus is like a big city of students! Human Geography started to become really hard for me to understand. There was so much to learn in this one course and I was having trouble making sense out of it all. I worked hard but did not seem to be getting anywhere with it. I did like the lecture when we watched the movie Do the Right Thing. There was so much homework for each class and weekly quizzes, I felt like I was going to go crazy like Wild Bill from Stephen King’s The Green Mile. I decided, along with my academic advisor, that I should drop Human Geography so I could focus better on my other classes. I was able to do that without it affecting my grade point average. I had to run across campus to the registrar’s office before it closed on the last day you could drop courses.

By the time I was getting close to the final exams, I was starting to feel nervous. You see, I have really bad nervous issues with tests. It stresses me out, due to the time monitoring. Even though I have untimed tests and can take them in the Academic Achievement Center, I still have such a hard time. I failed my History final and I was very ticked off (I always got A’s in History and I really like the course). On my Math final I got a D, and boosted it up to a B with an oral exam between me and my math professor. I got a C in English for my working portfolio and told my English professor to keep it as an example. I got an A in my Colloquium class. Because I failed the History final, I failed the class and will have to repeat it. I had to wait on pins and needles to see if I was going to have enough credits to continue at BSU or start all over again at another school. My other three courses were what saved me.

Before returning to campus for the spring 2011 semester I decided I wanted to go part-time so I could have a chance to concentrate on fewer classes and get better at being a college student.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have Writing II, Colloquium and Fundamentals of Music. I was reluctant to take the Music class even though I have played the piano for so many years but it fit into my schedule and it will fill a core requirement. It’s a tough class even for people with music backgrounds. Things are much more comfortable for me since I became a part-time student. I am going to take an Art course at Quincy College this summer and the credits can get transferred to BSU. Taking a class in the summer will keep me going with the flow so that I can little by little work my way back to being full-time and maybe living on campus in the future.
I also have two new friends. One is my mentor, Mike, who is a Junior. He lives on campus but he also lives in my hometown. I get together with him on Thursdays between classes. He’s a really nice person. Through Mike I met another upper classman named Bryan. The three of us have lunch together on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We are even making plans to hang out a bit this summer. Who knows? Maybe we will be lifelong friends.

All in all I guess you can tell that I really like being in college. There are not as many bullies here and the professors are really helpful if I can let them know what I need to get through a course. In the fall, I am going to be taking the first course for my major, Earth Science. It is called Physical Geology and it has lab with it too. I am also taking a First Year Seminar requirement. I chose a course about American Science Fiction – one of my favorite subjects. If all goes well and I pass, I will be a sophomore for the spring semester of 2012. Not too bad for someone who no one thought would even graduate high school!

--Nicholas James Stephen
April 18, 2011

*Photo - Nick (Right) accepts his Doug Flutie, Jr. Award alongside Doug Flutie and Dougie, Jr. Photo credit - Derek Wilmot

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Deeper View

As part of the 2011 Laurie Flutie Computer Initiative, the Flutie Foundation has partnered with A Deeper View, the makers of a special kind of web-based diagnostic software to help the specific needs of children with autism. To kick off this new partnership, A Deeper View is providing 40 bundled licenses with support for the forty 2011 recipients of the Laurie Flutie Computer Initiative. For others that wish to experience the A Deeper View software, contact ADV and tell them that you heard about their product from the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism and they will donate a portion of the license fees to The Flutie Foundation.

I thought I was prepared to be a Mom. As a special education instructor for over 7 years, a 3rd generation teacher (Grandma, Mom and several cousins are all teachers) and the oldest of 5 siblings, I was a highly educated and trained professional. In fact, I would boast that I could be successful with any child. There was nothing I couldn't handle. Then came Ben.

Let me be very clear – Ben is a blessing. He is a delight in our life and my love for him knows no limits. He is also an extremely challenging child. Like many of you, we have already gone through a litany of diagnoses, several medications, one hospitalization and more therapies than I can count. I have read tons of books, spent hours on the internet, contacted “experts” and taken every ‘staff development training’ on behavior and autism offered. Until recently, everything I did was hit or miss. Improvement was sporadic at best. Life was a roller coaster and there were days I just wanted to get off! I had no way to measure success, relying only on my own, somewhat biased observation. Then I was introduced to A Deeper View.

I was introduced to ADV through my position as an RtI Coach. Michael Darden, owner of A Deeper View, did this wonderful presentation for all of the RtI coaches. He showed us how easy and portable it was to take data using his HP TouchSmart PC. I had never seen anything like it before. It was the perfect blend of function and form. I immediately saw huge possibilities for both my profession and my family. While this is an amazing tool that will greatly improve student achievement, I needed this for my child. I immediately contacted Michael to ask for help.

Michael has created a unique and versatile system. Like most solutions, it is both simple and elegant. After some brief training and a few “Go-To” meetings, I was ready. The first behavior we decide to tackle was our night time routine. I dreaded every night around 8:00, because that when “it” would start – the screaming, the yelling, the complaining, the back and forth. In my mind this seemed to last for HOURS, but when I started using ADV, I realized that even on the worst nights, it really only took about 20 minutes. I was not until I really analyzed what I was doing, how I was reinforcing (or in my case “not”) that I finally started to see improvement. In fact, we only had to spend about two weeks consistently before we saw lasting results. After another week or so, we didn't even need to take data. Our night time routines were quiet, calm and less than 15 minutes. Now whenever a new “behavior” appears, I simply put in a new target and starting getting to work. What I am amazed at his how quickly this method works. When you can clearly see the situation for what it truly is – the solution presents itself like magic.

I am a firm believer that the power to help our children lies with responding to what the data is depicting. Even though I know all about charts and such, I was in no mood to do this at home as well. ADV made collecting the data so easy, that I could spend my time doing more things that would help my son. I thought I was prepared to be a Mom. Now that I have the right tools, I am! I look forward to sharing more success stories with you.

Lisa Baker