Milestones Autism Conference

Milestones 2017 Honoree Dr. Katie Krammer, PhD – Parent Tribute

As a mother of two children on the autism spectrum, Dr. Katie Krammer is passionate about bringing people together and creating a support network for parents and families like hers. It’s why the Milestones 2017 honoree of the Parent Tribute Award helped found a grassroots community group here in Northeast Ohio. Founded just three years ago with a handful of members, the group has grown to over 200 families and caregivers.

In addition to her work with the community, Dr. Krammer is active in the field of education. As Associate Professor of Special Education and the Coordinator of the Special Education Licensure Program at Lake Erie College, her research interests include Universal Design for Learning, Differentiation, Cognitive Learning Strategies and supporting families who have children with autism.

Dr. Krammer holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, a Master of Science in Education with an emphasis in Deaf Education, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Special Education with an emphasis in Teacher Education and a minor in Statistics from the University of Kansas. Prior to entering higher education, Dr. Krammer worked as a sign language interpreter as well as an intervention specialist for deaf and hard of hearing students for many years in public schools.

How have your efforts have impacted the autism and special needs community?

Three years ago I helped start the Lake/Geauga Autism Support Group in conjunction with the State Support Team Region 4. Since its inception the group has grown to over 50 families who attend, as well as over 200 families and caregivers who get support from the Autism of Lake County, OH Facebook support group page. This group has brought so many people together not just for those meetings, but it has truly created a network of support for the parents/caregivers and also for our kids. We have become a family who all looks out and supports one another and it is amazing!

How has helping others shaped your life?

With every step of the way through the diagnosis of both of our sons, I have constantly thought, “If it is this hard for me – someone with a PhD in special education – what must other families be going through?” Consequently, it only renews my dedication towards helping to support families. Additionally, as a professor of special education, I was always devoted to preparing great special education teachers; but now that they could be my son’s teachers someday, it has only elevated my passion.

What is your message to inspire others to serve the autism and special needs community? 

My message is to make connections with others. Given the prevalence being what it is, there is no reason to have to feel like you are going through this alone. It can be a challenging road sometimes, but when we walk it together we can make a bigger difference in our children’s futures.

Milestones 2017 Honoree Grace Blatt – Trailblazer

Grace Blatt, Milestones 2017 honoree of the Trailblazer Award, knows from personal experience that music can be both therapeutic and stimulating for persons on the autism spectrum. Her mission is to touch the lives of others who experience challenges due to anxiety or misunderstanding, and through music therapy help them find expression for their thoughts and feelings.

Grace is currently a student at Lakeland Community College with the goal of earning a degree in Music Therapy from Cleveland State University. For the past year Grace has been employed by the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities as a Good Life Ambassador. In this position she enjoys paving the way – advocating for persons with autism and other special needs.

How do you feel your efforts have impacted the autism and special needs community?

One of the most exciting ways I believe my efforts have impacted the autism and special needs community is through my work as a Good Life Ambassador for the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities. In this role I get to advocate for all of us in this special community by making presentations to county boards, local community collaboratives, schools, legislators, families, provider agencies, etc. I educate them about the tremendous value persons with all types of special needs bring to the greater community environments, and I provide ideas for them to embrace us with inclusion.

How has helping others shaped your life?

As a person on the autism spectrum I have experienced many challenges in trying to fit into “typical” society. By helping others, I have been able to use my experiences, both happy and difficult, to encourage and educate others. Helping others who are on this same journey is giving me a growing passion for advocating for those who cannot advocate for themselves.

What is your message to inspire others to serve the autism and special needs community?

The statement that we are more alike than different is not just a trite saying. When you meet a person with autism or other special needs, be intentional about not noticing their differences. Instead, look closely for the person inside who is simply packaged more uniquely than most others. Once you see and value that person within, you will become excited to learn more about them and how you might be able to serve such special people!

Ask the Expert: Sex Ed During Early Childhood and the Teenage Years

 

Q: As a parent, I want to help my child to have a healthy understanding of his sexuality. What is the best way to approach the subject during early childhood and later during the teenage years?

A: Most parents are concerned about teaching sex education to their child, but find resources are lacking to help them do it. First, it is never too young to start addressing sexuality. Schools don’t start teaching sex education until 5th grade, but it is recommended to start age appropriate education earlier, especially for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). First, educate your child about gender differences early on (e.g., toddler and school age) through use of pictures, Social Stories™ and game playing. Remember to use different types of body sizes, hair style and clothing for both males and females. Use life-size posters, anatomically correct dolls and other hands-on visuals while teaching. Teach the similarities and differences between genders, while still encouraging non-gender stereotyped play and activities.

Next, teach about body parts using anatomically correct words such as penis, vagina, breasts, pubic hair and so forth as it is developmentally appropriate. They also need education on body fluids such as tears, mucus, saliva, sweat, blood, urine, semen and menstrual blood – explaining what body parts excrete what fluids. Again, use of pictures, Social Stories™ and other hands-on learning tools that are age appropriate will be the most helpful.

When teaching about puberty, it is extremely important to use pictures of males and females that represent body change and growth (e.g., muscle, hair, vagina, penis, etc.) throughout the lifespan (e.g., at ages 8, 12, 15 and 18). Have the child recognize what age they are in the pictures during those discussions. Many individuals report still feeling socially like an eight-year-old, even though they are in the body of a 12 or 15-year-old. Recognize that those feelings are normal for individuals with ASD.

Once the basics are taught, then you can start to teach about sexual intimacy. Sexual intimacy is very different for an individual with ASD as they typically experience a gap between “knowledge” and “experience” given their difficulties with social interactions. As they continue to grow, I’d recommend using sex education and sexual intimacy books to help with your discussions. One of my favorite resources is Davida Hartman’s book, Sexuality and Relationship Education for Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders which was created for professionals but can be extremely useful to parents who are proactive in teaching.

It is also important to address challenging topics (e.g., masturbation, stalking behaviors, sexting, child pornography, indecent exposure, etc.) throughout their preteen and teenage years.  Many times, these topics are being addressed after the problem has already occurred, which is why we are seeing an increase in inappropriate sexual behaviors in our schools and in the juvenile detention centers. Many of these problems can be prevented by teaching your preteen or teenager about these topics with pictures, Social Stories™ and books before the behavior occurs.

-Cara Daily, PhD, BCBA

Dr. Cara Marker Daily is a licensed pediatric psychologist and board certified behavior analyst with over 20 years of clinical, research and teaching experience with autism in the home, school, hospital and community settings. Dr. Daily is the President and Training Director of Daily Behavioral Health and the Founder and Executive Director of the Building Behaviors Autism Center.

[Opening photo: http://bit.ly/2pPJrN0]

Monthly Milestones | May 2017

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Monthly Milestones | April 2017

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