Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Special People : Lionel Messi

While watching the Nigeria-Argentina match during the World Cup, my neighbor an avid football fan, burst out,
"I don’t like this Messi”

I looked up  surprised, "Why?"
I asked, "Is it because he is pressing the Nigerian defence?"

"Ah!, nooo.....right from time, his focus is too good, almost bordering on obsession, nothing, no push, no fall deters him. When he's with the ball, he does not get angry, always smiling, even when he misses an important goal, the times they lose, he is always smiling....nothing....I mean nothing shakes the guy,ahn ahn.....na magician?"

This last statement peaked my interest, I became interested in watching the match and the man called Messi because these are the attributes I am trying to encourage in myself and try to encourage in people.

I decided to watch the match so as to gain points in constructively defending this Messi but after watching him in the first half and when they were leaving the field, I noticed his his facial expressions. He had only two most of the time; expressionless when busy with the ball and a smiling face when he scores, misses a goal or suffers setback, even when pushed.

His  ball control which was commendable was bordering on a sheer one-way-focused determination, his timing and avoidance of on the ground time, rooting for free kicks and diving.

I noticed suddenly, that he only focused on the ball but did not look directly at his fellow players. These attributes made me more curious so i started going through articles online.

I read about his anti-social skills, his shying away from parties, crowds, the poor eye contact, rarely granting interviews which when he does, are usually very short and his undying loyalty to his club and country of birth made me suspect Autism or extreme shyness.

As I was pondering…I stumbled on this article that confirmed my suspicion. The more I read, the more I loved this guy who defied all odds to come out a success. I was really excited, now I can actually argue with passion and goal of converting all ye anti-Messi.

He was able to develop his splinter skill (more talk about it in another post) with the aid of his family especially his grand mom whom he dedicates his goals to. She convinced the first football academy to take him and he has been soaring since then.

After reading about him, I became more interested in the world cup matches especially the Argentine team and was so hoping they would win the world cup because it is Messi”s greatest wish.
Blatter and Maradona were of the opinion that he was not supposed to be given the Golden Ball award but I say a big “NO” to that.

Looking at it from a wider spectrum, the challenges which he had to face (playing in a wider limelight) which he is most uncomfortable in and still going ahead to win a Guinness World record against all odds.

This post goes out to Messi and others who braved out the physical, sensory and social challenges to come out champions in their various fields of endeavor.

P.S. He looks great on magazine covers....

Abi? What do you think?

Images courtesy of  sports.ndtv.com, www.telegraph.co.uk, www.news.com.au,                                                                     lionelmessi-prajilesh.blogspot.com, timelightbox.tumblr.com, s1.zetaboards.com,                                     news.oneindia.in, www.audemarspiguet.com, www.smh.com.au,                                                             timelightbox.tumblr.com, www.forwallpaper.com, ftw.usatoday.com

Friday, July 11, 2014

Autism and Beauty pageants

Really sorry for the delay in posting, I've been really busy, what with the expansion of our services to accommodate more children, it's been hectic but I'm happy to say that things are taking shape...Thank God.

I was going through some journals online [because If you want to be the best at whatever you do, you have to keep up with the rest of the world, constant reading is a very good way, also taking part in any activities that can help you improve yourself] and I came across an article which made me think of our special children here in Nigeria and all the great talents yet untapped. It made me think about how far we have come as therapists in Nigeria and how far we still have to go. The good news is, we are on the right path and we will get there....one child at a time.

What you're about to read is an article written by Robin L. Brey, M.D. Editor-In-Chief of the June/July 2014 issue of Neurology Now, which is an American Journal for the Neurology Academy.

The cover story in this issue of Neurology Now features Alexis Wineman, a remarkable young woman with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Alexis has persevered in the face of many obstacles and thrived. Crowned “Miss Montana” in 2012, she was the first Miss America contestant with ASD in the 92-year history of the competition. When she learned that each contestant in the pageant had to focus on a platform or an issue, Alexis chose awareness and acceptance of ASD. She came up with the title, “Normal Is Just a Dryer Setting: Living with Autism.” Today, she attends Huntingdon College in Montgomery, AL.

Her story chronicles the many challenges people with ASD face and the determination required to succeed. What I find most compelling is the way she stresses the need to not let “being different” define or limit a person. She even extended her mission to include everyone who feels as though they don't belong.

ASD is a syndrome, as our story points out, not a disease. The main symptom is difficulty with social interaction. Children may appear to develop normally and then withdraw from social interaction. Other symptoms include trouble communicating, inflexible or repetitive behaviors, an inability to monitor clues about how other people are feeling, and a lack of empathy. 

Some children with ASD—such as Wineman—have relatively mild symptoms, but for others, the symptoms can be disabling. It is important for children with ASD to get therapy early because this leads to the greatest chance for symptom improvement. Treatments always include educational and behavioral therapy and, in some cases, medications. For many children, the symptoms improve with treatment and age.

Many children with ASD, like Wineman, experience delays in getting a diagnosis. Sometimes they are misdiagnosed as having a different problem. These children may be given medications that don't help ASD and cause side effects. Also like Wineman, many children struggle in school and are teased or even bullied.

Unfortunately, this can happen to any child who is “different” in some way—because of a speech impediment, muscle weakness due to muscular dystrophy, trouble walking due to cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder, or cognitive difficulties due to Down syndrome. Children with any of these problems have much to deal with in addition to the normal demands of growing up. Bullying or teasing only adds to the burden.

ASD is very common, occurring in 1 out of every 68 American children. [currently about 1 in 50 in the world] When we add all of the other children with developmental problems that contribute to difficulty in doing well in school or socializing, the numbers are staggering! 

Chances are you know a child living with this daily challenge. The key is to recognize when a child is struggling, get help in identifying the cause, and find appropriate treatment as early as possible. This is a child's best shot for a successful transition into adulthood.

If you or someone you know has struggled to fit in for any reason, tell us about it by emailing ollie.thetherapist@yahoo.com 

Your story about how you worked through or around this obstacle may be the pivotal factor in helping someone else.

To read more about Alexis: http://www.mnn.com/lifestyle/arts-culture/stories/miss-america-makes-history-with-first-autistic-contestant



Images courtesy of:  mnn.com, huffingtonpost.com, today.com, people.com, wikipedia.org, peoples.ru, missoula.com, autismspeaks.org, ouniversodosconcursos.blogspot.com, www.aceshowbiz.com

Friday, July 4, 2014

The power of the pecs

No, not those pecs....

These pecs.....

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is based on the idea that children who can’t talk or write can be taught to communicate using pictures. It is commonly used as a communication and for children with Autism, Cerebral palsy, Blindness and Deafness.

It is a form of Augmentative and Alternative communication that uses pictures to help individuals initiate functional language and in some cases facilitate verbal (speech) functional language in any social context.

Currently,video modeling attached to PECS have shown to benefit individuals with special needs more. With the advent of Ipads, tablets and smartphones, its easier and more effective to communicate without having to carry a huge database of pictures around which could be bulky.

Floor Time®
The Developmental Individual – difference,Relationship-based model (DIR) also known as ‘floortime’, uses interactive play to teach ‘concepts’. Parents are trained to provide multiple daily ‘floor time” sessions in which the adult follows the child’s lead, comments on the child’s actions, providing many opportunities for reciprocal actions. It’s a communication based therapy approach used mostly for kids on the spectrum and its ‘child led’.

More Than Words
This is a child centered program developed by The Hanen Center® for training parents and teachers to facilitate language development and academic learning by providing enriched contigent and stimulating input to children with a range of disabilities.

The focus is on training the parents and teachers of pre-school children to promote communication and social skills within ordinary interactions throughout the child”s play.

Technological inputs
Experienced therapists and parents are now finding success when they incorporate mobile technology into activities for children with special needs. Smartphones and tablets offer multi-sensory modes which include sounds,visuals and touch that can help children with special needs learn, communicate and have fun.Visit the app store and make sure there is a plan and target goals or skills to be taught so as not to fuel obsession.

How do you communicate with your child?

Images courtesy of:  www.theiteachhub.com, muscleandfitness.com, valleypbs.org, lovethatmax.com, iqjournals.com, umich.edu, www.mckenziecentre.nzl.org, www.hopeforautism.org.uk, www.prweb.com

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Raising a child is the woman's job


Of course not....

...Well....the unfortunate truth is that a lot of people feel this way and this should not be so. I'm sure many of us have heard this before...If the child misbehaves, it's "your" [the mother's] child but if the child does well......ehen! that's my boy/girl!

Yes, please feel free to roll your eyes here.

Raising a child is hard enough for two parents, talk less of one [shout-out to all the single parents out there, you're super heroes]

I understand that we all have to work and provide for the family, while it might not be possible to there all the time, it is good if the father is there, SOME of the time. I have seen cases where the father disconnects after the diagnosis has been made and he has come to understand the fact that their child is not like other children. It is not an easy thing for anybody at all to digest but when this happens, it has to be dealt with. The family has to find a way to move forward, manage the situation and make the necessary adjustments.

The fact that raising a child is a job for two parents cannot be stressed enough, especially when the child in question is a special needs child. When both parents are involved, it makes the job easier, brings the family even closer together and enables the parents to draw strength from each other.  I am always happy to meet fathers who are hands-on.

One example is Toju's father. Toju is autistic.

On getting to Toju’s house 2 weeks ago, his nanny who was supposed to assist me by singing to Toju while he did his exercises, kept dozing off. When I chided her for it, she burst out,

"Is it not Toju? He kept all of us up all night. Daddy and mummy took turns carrying him."

Was he feverish?"

"No o, he is like that some days and when he is like that, mummy and daddy do not sleep."
Mummy and Daddy? That's cool.

I went on my weekly supervision to Toju’s house. The Therapist happily announced that Toju no longer gives her a hard time during writing tasks. The dad usually comes in during sessions on the days he comes home early and when he saw how Toju struggled with the writing tasks and behavior he put up, he decided to follow up by giving him writing tasks before bed time.

When I commented on the this to Toju's mum, she agreed that his dad has really been supportive, "Ollie, his support and dedication to our kids especially our son Toju, despite his strenuous work schedule has made me grow to appreciate him more every day. My family has deep respect for him."

This post is a tribute to all the dads who have been dads to that special one. May God continue to bless you and may you be a guiding light for other dads who are in that avoidance mode or having a disconnection because of his child’s challenges or leaving the responsibility to the mom.

Please, Dads, if you have a special needs child, we would love to hear your stories, how do you do it?

Images courtesy of:  madamnoire.com, healthyblackwoman.com, atlantablackstar.com, publicopiniononline.com, thestar.com.my, windupmyskirt.com, zazzle.com

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Special Kids Series Episode 2: Kay

A family relocated to Nigeria from the UK,started Therapy for their last child a 6 year old girl with autism and hyperactive disorder.

Kay is very high functioning but had a list of distracting strategies for cognitive based activities except gross motor skills(jumping,hide and seek etc) which she loved and could do all day, tirelessly.
Trying to revert back to cognitively/academic drills based activities, is usually met with ceaseless giggling, running and screaming if the others don’t work but at rare times when she calms down to learn, she is almost a genius.

We decided to combine sensory integrative exercises, play based and structured cognitive learning into her IEP.

Bola an educational Therapist was assigned to her. Bola could be too serious; I always complained that she was too firm and needed to loosen up, rarely laughs. She has a dry sense of humour but is very organized and creative in breaking down tasks.We chose her because Kay needed somebody firm and organized.

Three days later, during our review to see how therapist and child are settling in, Bola complained that it was really challenging for her,
"The naughty chair and other time out activities do not work for Kay o! In fact she even loves it, no matter how uncomfortable you make it, she sees it as an adventure, I think she purposely requests for time outs.”
"So what is the plan?"
"Not to worry, Ollie, her mum and I have devised another method, it's really working for us."

Note: When the parents are involved, therapy is easier not only for the child, but also for the therapist.

A month later, during the IEP review meeting, I noticed Bola was with a cane, before I could say something, she quickly said, "No o, I don’t use it but when she sees it, she behaves."

Kay's mom corroborated the story, "When the therapist says, sit and eat, sharp sharp, she sits down and eats obediently, no more chasing after her....if you say 'Kay, it's work timeee', she stands up arranges her materials...even academic activities she sits obediently to write, no complaining. I have seen a lot of improvement."

I had to make sure that we were all on the same page,
"Madam, we don’t approve of caning o"

she replied, "Abegiii, this is “ naija therapy” it is really working for my child, abi are my complaining? Its not as if Bola beats her, rather they have bonded well”

“Now she knows when to work, when to play, when to be quiet and she learns better both in school and at home. Everyone is happy, leave it like that for us ooo.


Good thing is, the cane was never used and we definitely don't use it as part of our program...but a show of discipline has definitely helped therapy progress well. She is still undergoing therapy and we are using other ways to make sure she behaves properly and based on our reviews, she has really improved....

Please feel free to drop your thoughts and comments on this or if you have a child with similar special needs, how do you tackle it?

Images courtesy of vishwacareclinic.blogspot.com, sfari.org, www.jaynelifetherapy.co.uk, focusededucation.com.au, nupafeedusa.com, annejuicy.blogspot.com