We are excited to share new features that being added to the Healthy Relationships Curriculum for Fall 2018 that will be provided to current and pending licensees at no additional charge!
Blog Post Listing
This month, our blog is focusing on how to include strategies into a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that relate to healthy relationships with oneself and others.
April is recognized worldwide as Autism Awareness Month. There is a current movement within the autism community to not only continue to heighten autism awareness but to more importantly foster understanding and acceptance of individuals who identify as having an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Within this post, our team would like to stress the importance of including social problem-solving goals within a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP), regardless of their diagnosis.
We will reiterate language from our previous post for emphasis, as we believe so strongly in this description. The IEP is truly the cornerstone of a student’s special education program and should reflect the strengths, needs and progress of an individual as they move through their school experience. An IEP should address academics, vocational planning, community engagement, domestic function, and recreation. Within the domestic domain, the IEP should examine skills needed for daily living.
Social skills connect an individual to their environment and the greater community. An important step in a student’s development is their ability to interact with both educators and peers, and to maintain appropriate relationships with family, friends, and the members of the community outside of school hours.
Parents, teachers, other team members such as speech therapists, and the student themselves as a self-advocate as much as possible, should work together to evaluate what social problem-solving skills a student currently possesses.
The IEP team should consider their ability to:
- recognize and greet others
- initiate a request or demonstrate need
- respond to others’ questions and inference perspectives
- differentiate between strangers and friends or acquaintances
- engage in a back and forth conversation with others
- take turns or share group efforts in a school, work or community setting
- recognize personal space, voice modulation, and non-verbal communication techniques such as pointing and gesturing
- understand the difference between platonic friendships and romantic relationships
Once a student’s social strengths and areas of need are thoroughly assessed, their IEP goals can be created with a goal of increasing consistent practice of these skills that will ultimately promote success.
A helpful resource for teachers to use to instruct social skills is the Healthy Relationships Curriculum. The Healthy Relationships Curriculum uses learning modules and video modeling with role-plays to teach and remediate these skills and also offer examples of both appropriate and inappropriate interactions.
This method of instruction was recently endorsed by Dr. Tammy Hughes, Chair of the Department of Education at Duquesne University as “the best method available nationwide to teach adolescents and young adults about themselves, their sexuality, and their social relationships.” A student’s social development helps them to progress towards post-secondary education, independent living, meaningful employment and possibly long-term partnerships. It is critically important for the IEP team to include social skills as part of the IEP goals and to have a comprehensive plan for how to instruct them.
As shared previously, our blog posts are written by members of our team who have first-hand experience – often family members – with autism and/or comorbidity comprised with experience working within school systems and healthcare agencies that support individuals with ID, ASD, developmental disabilities and emotional disturbance. It is our belief that individuals who are encouraged to understand the importance of developing their social problem-solving skills and given appropriate instruction will likely be more successful in being accepted by their peers and the community in which they live.
Are you thinking of bringing the Healthy Relationships Curriculum to your classroom, group or practice? Click on the Contact Us page to request a sample packet, ask a question, or to schedule a presentation for your team.
This month, our blog will focus on how to include strategies into a student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that relate to healthy relationships with oneself and others.
Upcoming posts will address the importance of teaching sex education during critical periods of adolescence, as well as social skill needs, to enhance relationships. Our posts are written by members of the HRC team who have first-hand experience (often family members) with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and/or co-morbidity as well as professional experience working within school systems and providers that support individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ID), ASD, developmental disabilities and behavioral health challenges.
The IEP is the cornerstone of a student’s special education program and should reflect their strengths, needs, and progress as they move through school. An IEP should address academics, vocational planning, community engagement, domestic function, and recreation. Within the domestic domain, the IEP should examine skills needed for daily living. In this post, we would like to touch on self-care.
Hygiene, including proper self-care is critically important in preparing an individual to achieve independence within the community. Without consistently bathing or showering, dressing appropriately for an environment, maintaining good grooming and using the bathroom independently, it is unlikely that an individual will be successful at school, at work, or within their interpersonal relationships. Establishing proper hygiene skills as early as possible prepares a student for participation in the community and may help to prevent being bullied by others.
Teachers and parents should work together as a team with input from the student to the degree that they are able to participate and proactively assess the hygiene skills that are currently in place. Once the team has determined what skills are currently in place, the team can focus on what hygiene and self-care skills need to be added to help the student achieve optimal success. Hygiene and self-care goals in an IEP can include such tasks as:
• Using tissues after sneezing
• Teeth brushing and flossing
• Selecting appropriate clothing for school or work
• Communicating the need to use the bathroom
• Using the bathroom safely (for example, ensuring that boys using the urinal are not dropping their pants to the floor making them vulnerable to sexual harassment and bullying)
Teachers can utilize a combination of demonstration, visual aids, and social stories to educate students about hygiene. Involving caregivers at home to reinforce appropriate hygiene is also key to helping a student progress on the achievement of these IEP goals and promote generalization across environments.
The Healthy Relationships Curriculum is a valuable, comprehensive tool to help school districts and agencies educate individuals about good hygiene and assess the mastery of skills in this critical area of self-care. If you have questions about including hygiene and self-care goals into an IEP, or to learn more about our curriculum, contact a member of our team today!
This blog entry was submitted by a member of the Healthy Relationships Curriculum team who has raised a child with autism and serves as a community advocate for change:
The Parkland High School shooting has brought increasing attention to the subject of crime as it relates to individuals with ASD. As a parent of a teen with autism, I have tried to learn as much as possible about legal issues and criminal behavior as it relates to autism as well as other developmental delays and co-morbidity. I have also spent a great deal of my time as an advocate researching, developing and conducting autism training sessions in the juvenile justice system for law enforcement, probation officers, and judges.
We need to consider the following:
* Current research suggests that there is limited and conflicting evidence regarding the volume and frequency of crimes committed by individuals with autism. There are over 3.5 million people living in the U.S. with an ASD diagnosis. It is estimated that less than one percent of these individuals have ever been arrested or charged with a crime.
* Individuals with ASD charged with a crime often have other mental health issues such as ADHD, bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia that experts suggest play a greater significance in criminal behavior than autism (known as “co-morbidity”).
* Individuals with autism are much more likely to be victims of a crime than to be the offenders. In fact, the U.S. Justice Department reports that individuals with developmental delays are seven times more likely to be sexually assaulted.
* The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders reports that psychologists say a lack of appropriate sex education leaves people with autism more vulnerable to sexual victimization.
* Researchers at York University go on to suggest that explicit instruction on appropriate sexual behavior is more crucial for people with autism “due to difficulties recognizing red flags, and interpreting the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of others.”
Our curriculum provides detailed and direct instruction in the areas of self-care, sexuality, and relationship development. The curriculum was specifically designed by Dr. Larry Sutton and the staff of Wesley High School to help educate and inform adolescents and young adults about the importance of healthy relationships in their homes, at school, and in the community. Subjects such as privacy, personal space, appropriate use of social media, and how to develop safe friendships and romantic relationships are covered in the Healthy Relationships Curriculum. Covering these and other related topics will undoubtedly decrease problematic behavior, strengthen an individual’s understanding of their rights and responsibilities, and ultimately lead young adults to safer participation in the community. We invite you to continue this dialogue with us, and learn how the Healthy Relationships Curriculum can contribute to prevention within the population you serve through proactive strategies.
Welcome to February! Well, we have made it through another month of winter. Punxsutawney Phil, the infamous Pennsylvania groundhog who predicts whether or not we will bypass winter and jump straight to spring, had sadly informed us that the cold and snow is here to stay for a while. On this chilly day, we’d like to take some time to address another common question about the Healthy Relationships Curriculum as promised in our last blog. Who benefits from the Healthy Relationships Curriculum?
As we shared previously, our curriculum’s 37 lessons are easily adaptable by the instructor. They have been written in such a way that will support children, adolescents and young adults whose varying diagnosis or ability presents challenges in their capability or sometimes their desire to practice good hygiene, understand physical and/or emotional changes in their bodies, and to initiate or develop safe, meaningful and healthy relationships.
Originally designed as a curriculum that provided benefit to young children and adolescents with a form of autism or other pervasive developmental disorder, over the years our curriculum has been used to teach healthy habits to elementary school students and relationship development to young adults in post-secondary or vocational settings. Those include and are not limited to young adults who face:
- A Behavioral or a Mental Health Disorder
- Emotional Disturbance
- Global Developmental Delay
- Intellectual Disabilities
- Juvenile Deliquency
- Social Pragmatic Disorder
Whatever an individual’s age or challenge may be, data collected and outcomes measured by our team show improvement within all three general areas upon completion of the coursework. Some of those outcomes include, and are by no means limited to:
- Practicing healthy hygiene habits (daily showers, proper tooth brushing, bedroom organization)
- Understanding the difference between a friend, an acquaintance and a bully
- How to use social media safely and appropriately
- Engaging in small talk and when to use private talk
- Respecting personal space and social boundaries
- Perceiving appropriate physical affection for different relationships
An old proverb says “there is no harm in asking” – and we wholeheartedly agree! If you aren’t sure if the Healthy Relationships Curriculum is right for your classroom, group or practice, we are here to answer those questions for you. Click on the Contact Us page to request a sample packet, ask a question, or to schedule a presentation for your team. When you schedule a presentation with us before 4/30/18, your team will qualify for our “Healthy New Year” offer and can earn a curriculum binder for FREE with any purchase of the starter pack and license. The time to ask questions is now!
Who benefits from the Healthy Relationships Curriculum? When should a school or organization begin to introduce content from the curriculum to youth? These are two common questions that our team are asked frequently, and we are addressing one of them in today’s blog post to help the community better understand the “when” of implementation.
Is there a “right answer?” Is there a “concrete answer?” In our experience, there is no magic number and there is no “right time!” This curriculum – with 37 comprehensive and lessons across three units – uses adaptable visual lessons accompanied by 35 video demonstrations, opportunities for role-playing, takeaway materials to facilitate conversations and generalization in the home, and tools that measure outcomes and progress.
Suggested content by age group is as follows:
Elementary School – Hygiene, Privacy, Types of Relationships, Simple Communication Styles
Middle School – Elementary School Topics + Puberty, Social Media, Small Talk, Personal Boundaries, Consequences to Breaking Social Norms, and Building Significant Friendships
High School – Elementary and Middle School Topics + Job Readiness and Life After High School, Developing Personal Relationships and Dating, Understanding Their Bodies, Complex Communication Styles, Navigating the World Around Them
Though we believe that there is no magic number or right time, what we do believe is that there is value is introducing the curriculum at an early age to build upon skills each year as children grow. As individuals who have autism or a developmental disability reach transition age, there is a dire need for them to be armed with information to initiate and sustain healthy relationships to become strong self-advocates. Adolescents and young adults with such diagnoses thrive on repetition to learn and retain knowledge, and therefore would benefit from having the opportunity to build on their skills each year. However, given how adaptable these lessons are, we want to also stress and remind you that we believe it is never too late to introduce the curriculum. It is never, ever too late to learn, nor is it ever too late to promote autonomy and achieve ultimate success.
In the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, “One thing is sure. We have to do something. We have to do the best we know how at the moment. If it doesn’t turn out right, we can modify it as we go along.”
Ready to “do something” for the population you serve? Contact Us and request a sample packet, or schedule a presentation for your team. See if the Healthy Relationships Curriculum is right for you!
Visiting OCALICON with the Healthy Relationships Curriculum
We recently traveled to Columbus, Ohio for OCALICON, a conference for those who work with individuals with autism and disabilities. We had the opportunity to talk with hundreds of people about the Healthy Relationships Curriculum, including state and national leaders, educators, parents, service providers, self-advocates, scholars, and policy makers.
During our time on the road with the Healthy Relationships Curriculum, we have noticed some common themes from the stories we hear from professionals and parents who work with young adults with cognitive challenges. They are worried about their kids, students, and clients’ abilities to interact with others in the adult world. Will they be happy? Will they be financially independent? Will they be able to avoid major conflict with those around them? Will they be safe?
The lessons included in the Healthy Relationships Curriculum are personal in nature and are not always covered in a standard classroom setting. For young adults with autism and other cognitive challenges, spending time discussing these topics can make a huge difference in their future success.
Some of the topics that are covered in our curriculum include:
- Personal Care and Hygiene
- Safety in the restroom
- Learning about their bodies
- Different types of relationships, i.e. acquaintance, friend, bully
- Using social media safely
- Small Talk
- Personal space and social boundaries
No matter where we’re traveling to, we find that interpersonal skills are a major need for young adults with autism. We hope that by attending OCALICON, we were able to reach more schools and behavioral health organizations in Ohio that will in turn use the curriculum to help the populations they serve!
If you would like to learn more about the topics covered in the Healthy Relationships Curriculum, click here to request a sample packet.