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The Westview School Blog

7 Ways to Use Therapeutic Strategies to Work with Your Child at Home

December 09, 2021
By Jelisa Scott, BCBA, LBA

If you have a child on the autism spectrum, it is more than likely that therapy sessions play a part in your monthly calendar. The types of therapy that specifically benefit your child may differ. However, it has been proven that therapy for children with autism spectrum disorder is beneficial to improve behaviors that interfere with your child's ability to learn and support the development of skills needed for children to care for themselves independently. As a parent, you can use therapeutic strategies learned from professionals to help you work with your child at home.  

This is not a post about what therapy will work best for your child but one that offers therapeutic strategies you can use to work with your child at home. However, it is essential to make sure the therapy of choice for your child is effective. The best quality therapies have documented evidence of replicated positive effects and don't rely heavily on personal testimonials. Most importantly, you should be receiving parent support from your child's therapist to learn about ways to improve or sustain your child's progress.

The best ways to apply skills that your child has learned in the home are to: 

1. Create functional learning opportunities. For example, if your child is working on requesting things they need, set up situations that will help them functionally apply the skills they are learning. Give them a bowl with no spoon or an empty cup with no juice. This will create the opportunity to apply their newly learned skills.

2. Turn mistakes into learning opportunities. Help foster independence and application of problem-solving skills by helping your child find solutions to the mistakes that they have made.

3. Establish and follow through with boundaries and consequences. Be clear with your expectations and do exactly what you say you are going to do. If you say, "First we need to clean up, then we will go to the park," then you should only take them to the park IF they cleaned up first. When you don't follow through with the boundaries you set, you unintentionally teach your child that they don't need to follow your instructions.

4. Reinforce attempts at independence. Reinforcement is the only way to increase the likelihood of them engaging in that independent behavior in the future. Since we want our children to be as independent as they can, we must reinforce their attempts at being independent.

5. Include language used in therapy in the home (and vice versa). Using the language or phrases that your child commonly hears will help promote generalization across settings, like the home and their therapy clinic.

6. Adapt accommodations for home use and portability. Make sure that you can bring any accommodations (ex: visuals, communication devices, sensory tools, etc.) that help make your child successful into the home and community.

7. Evaluate and care for your personal well-being. You will not be able to apply all the previously described strategies without taking care of your own mental, physical, and emotional needs.

Putting these therapeutic strategies into practice at home is a great way to reinforce your child's work in the therapy setting. 

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Jelisa Scott is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and a Licensed Behavior Analyst (LBA) in the state of Texas. She received her bachelor's in Psychology from Louisiana State University in 2010, her master’s degree in Behavior Analysis from the University of Houston Clear Lake in 2014 and is currently in school to earn her doctorate degree in School Psychology from the University of Houston. Jelisa has been working with children with and without special needs since 2008 and has gained experience providing in-home ABA services, parent training, classroom consultations, navigating ARD meetings, decreasing severe problem behavior, improving verbal behavior, social skills training, and early childhood intervention.

This blog post was adapted from the presentation given during WestviewEDU on Thursday, October 7, 2021. WestviewEDU is an education series presented by The Westview School for parents and caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder. For a full list of WestviewEDU sessions for 2021/2022 academic calendar year, visit The Westview School online

What Every Parent Should Know About Pediatric COVID-19 Vaccines

November 09, 2021
By The Westview School COVID-19 Medical Advisory Board

They’re here; they’re here! Whether you’ve been waiting for the children’s COVID-19 vaccines like your kid waits for their birthday or you’re interested but have questions, this is a great milestone in our battle against COVID-19. As fellow Westview parents, we know how important it is to be well-informed, so let’s go over some important points:

How are these vaccines different from the adult ones?

In short, it’s the same formula, just less of it. Children aged 5-11 years old are eligible for the 10 microgram dose, while people 12 years old and up (including adults) are eligible for the 30 microgram dose. We’re expecting that the youngest group of children will be eligible for an even smaller dose (and hopefully soon!). For children, these amounts were chosen at a point that maximizes immune response while minimizing side effects.

Speaking of side effects...

Children tend to have mild to moderate side effects to the vaccines, and like adults, tend to have more side effects with the second vaccine compared to their first one. Side effects include fatigue, fever, headache, pain, chills, and vomiting. It’s tempting, but do not give your child an over-the-counter pain reliever before the vaccine; instead, wait until after the vaccination if needed.

If your child doesn’t have any side effects, don’t worry! The clinical trials did find that children aged 5-11 years had fewer side effects than older children and adults did.

What about heart effects? And fertility effects?

The risk of myocarditis and pericarditis after the COVID-19 vaccine is quite low, and COVID-19 infection is more likely to trigger an inflammation of the heart. In fact, most heart effects, if they occur, are mild and resolve within a few days. If they do occur, it’s important to be seen by your physician.

There is no evidence showing that the COVID-19 vaccine has any effects on fertility. However, there is some concern that COVID-19 INFECTION may negatively affect fertility for males and females.

I got the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine; should I wait for that version for my kids?

No, we recommend you don’t wait because the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine trials for children are still underway or in the planning stages. The timeline for the release of those specific vaccines is unclear, so it would be safer to prevent COVID-19 infection with the Pfizer vaccine right now.

My child had COVID-19 recently. Do they still need to be vaccinated?

Yes, they still need to be vaccinated because we don’t know how long immunity after COVID-19 infection lasts, but there have been many cases of people being infected with COVID-19 several times. After COVID-19 infection, kids can be vaccinated as soon as they have recovered and have finished their isolation period.

Sounds good, but WHY should I vaccinate my child?

In a word, TEAMWORK! We have maintained throughout the pandemic that we’re in this together, and it’s especially true now. We vaccinate our children to protect them from getting infected and from developing severe COVID-19 if they get infected. But we also vaccinate our kids to protect our immunocompromised neighbor who makes those amazing brownies, our baby nephew, who is SO CUTE but too young to be vaccinated yet, and everyone else in our circles who is especially vulnerable.

When we vaccinate, we are limiting the number of bodies that COVID-19 can spread to, which is how we can be done with this pandemic. Sure, everyone has a cute collection of masks by now, but we really miss seeing faces!

With the holidays just around the corner, it’s a great time to get those vaccines scheduled so the kids can be fully vaccinated before Santa even makes his list.

Speaking of holidays, travel during winter break may be a possibility if your children complete their COVID-19 vaccines 2 weeks before the trip and are not symptomatic when they get back.

Keep Westview’s COVID-19 protocol chart handy for easy reference and refer to the detailed protocols for additional information.

Where can I go to get my child vaccinated?

Glad you asked! So many places, including your pharmacy, your grocery store, your pediatrician, and most/all of the local hospital systems.

Anything else?

While you’re getting the kids vaccinated against COVID-19 anyway (way to go!!), ask about getting them a flu shot too! We’re expecting a much worse flu season this year, so it would be great to prevent it too. Conveniently, you can get the flu vaccine at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine. No one wants to be home with COVID-19 or the flu when there’s holiday fun to be had!

One last thing- sometimes, things aren’t so easy and maybe even a bit overwhelming. We’ve all been there. There are many resources to support you and your family at any time.

Wishing everyone an enjoyable holiday season.

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The Westview School COVID-19 Medical Advisory Board is comprised of Westview parents and former parents with experience on the front line during this pandemic.  These highly-trained professionals work in many different fields of medicine, such as epidemiology, pulmonology, and critical care. This group of medical professionals continues to be an invaluable resource to The Westview School leadership team.

Four Things that Matter Most: Insights on Autism from a Westview Father

November 03, 2021
By Adam Weiss

My initial feeling when asked to write about my experience as a Westview dad was, I was flattered. I am thankful to write and share our experience about what the school has done for our son. I wish a school like Westview had been an option for me when I was a young student. I would have fit right in. You see, like my son, I, too, am on the autism spectrum.

Being an autism dad who is also himself on the spectrum has given me some unique insights to share with all Westview parents, particularly with the dads and those with a more recent diagnosis.

My first bit of advice: don’t fear for your autistic child’s future.  You will hear many negative-sounding symptoms: “flat affect,” “mind blind,” and the like.  You will hear about people on the spectrum having difficulty building lifelong friendships and finding employment.  But autism has many wonderful traits:  Honesty. The ability to hyper-focus.  An ability to retain knowledge on a variety of subjects.  The ability to cut to the chase on essential things.  I am a principal in an architecture firm, and these traits specific to an autism diagnosis have been indispensable to my professional success. Your child, too, can excel professionally. 

Secondly, you might hear that people on the autism spectrum lack emotional intelligence and can’t be empathic.  Don’t believe it.  Your child on the autism spectrum loves you more than you can know.  They may show it a little differently.  Recent research says that people on the autism spectrum might feel emotions more intensely than others and that the lack of emotional awareness results from these more intense emotions.  It is widely known that kids on the autism spectrum, and adults, can get overwhelmed and need to learn how to self-regulate.  The Westview School does a tremendous job helping its students with this. Shout out to our Support Specialists, Mimi Le and Michael McKee!

Third, embrace your child’s “special interests.”  This is not always easy in the world we live in today, with a significant focus on standardized tests and developmental benchmarks.  Kids on the autism spectrum are often advanced in one area and behind in others.  There’s always a temptation to focus on the weaknesses to bring them up to standard.  “Special interests” are the key to happy and productive lives for kids on the autism spectrum.  Architecture has always been my “special interest,” and it has become a lucrative career for me.  At Westview, we have budding computer programmers, illustrators, TV producers, like my son. These are all potential careers and can start to be recognized in students at a young age.

Finally, finding a place where your child can grow and learn is an essential first step in helping your child be the best version of him or herself. Westview was that important first step for our family. The Westview School is amazing.  Our son is in his sixth year at Westview and has shown so much growth since he started here in the Early Childhood Development program. He, and I, have learned a ton in these years.  I am confident that you and your child will, too.  Always stay positive and follow your child’s lead. You won’t be disappointed.

My only regret is that there wasn’t a place like Westview for me when I was a child!

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Adam J Weiss, AIA, has been a Westview Parent since 2016.  He is a registered architect and principal in a mid-sized firm in Houston.

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Put on Your Oxygen Mask First: 5 Self-Care Strategies for Autism Parents

October 20, 2021
By Jelisa Scott, BCBA, LBA

When it comes to parenting a special needs child, there are many things to consider: therapies, schools, medications, the list goes on. However, arguably one of the most essential therapeutic strategies to help your child is evaluating and caring for yourself. To have the physical and emotional energy to fulfill all the duties of a parent (especially an autism parent), you must make sure you are mentally healthy. How many times have we been on an airplane and heard the flight attendant advise, "in case of an emergency, secure YOUR OWN oxygen before helping others next to you." In the case of raising a child with autism, it is essential to "secure your own oxygen" before you can be expected to help your child. Parents who are stressed, feeling anxious about the future, or having depressed feelings about their child's current stage of development, are more likely to have trouble helping and supporting their child in the ways they need. If you really want to help your child, challenge yourself to make these parent coping strategies a habit:

1. Prioritize your self-care.

There's an old adage that says, "empty cups can't pour." Think about the things that fill your cup, and make time to prioritize them. Taking care of yourself is a selfless act because it sets you up to be in the best position possible to continue to advocate and care for your child's needs. 

2. Engage with other Autism parents in the community.

You are not alone. Other parents and caregivers of children on the autism spectrum are going through similar situations as you. Expand your social circle to include support from other parents who understand what you experience. Shared experiences help build connections and can decrease feelings of depression, anxiety, and isolation. 

3. Minimize anxiety by staying present.

The past is already done, and the future is not promised. Remind yourself to focus on today. When you worry about the future, you miss an opportunity to be grateful for what you have in the now. Be intentional about identifying what you are thankful for right now to help minimize your anxieties about the future.

4. Focus on your child's strengths.

Try not to focus on the negative. It is much more beneficial to focus on your child's strengths. There is no advantage mentally or emotionally to only see your child for the things they can't do. Knowing where your child's strengths lie and keeping them at the forefront can help you use that knowledge to supplement the areas where they need more support. 

5. Plan time for fun.  

All work and no play does not equal success. Sometimes your child (and you) need a break from it all. Taking time out from the hard work to laugh and play can improve your overall quality of life. 

Remember, you are the most important person to your child, and they need you to be physically, emotionally, and mentally strong. Your child needs you to be strong enough to continuously advocate for their acceptance, accommodations, and inclusion within their community. Being strong doesn't mean that you won't have bad days. Improving your well-being doesn't mean that there won't be challenging times, but hopefully, these strategies will help you build healthy self-care habits and, in turn, will help you work better with your child at home.

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Jelisa Scott is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and a Licensed Behavior Analyst (LBA) in the state of Texas. She received her bachelor's in Psychology from Louisiana State University in 2010, her master’s degree in Behavior Analysis from the University of Houston Clear Lake in 2014 and is currently in school to earn her doctorate degree in School Psychology from the University of Houston. Jelisa has been working with children with and without special needs since 2008 and has gained experience providing in-home ABA services, parent training, classroom consultations, navigating ARD meetings, decreasing severe problem behavior, improving verbal behavior, social skills training, and early childhood intervention.

This blog post was adapted from the presentation given during WestviewEDU on Thursday, October 7, 2021. WestviewEDU is an education series presented by The Westview School for parents and caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder. For a full list of WestviewEDU sessions for 2021/2022 academic calendar year, visit The Westview School online

Memories of Our Mother: A History of The Westview School

October 05, 2021
By Joey, Alan, and Steven Stewart

To commemorate the fortieth anniversary of The Westview School, the sons of founder, Jane Stewart shared a personal reflection of their early memories of The Westview School and what the legacy of 40 years of Westview means to their family. 

A little over forty years ago our mother, Jane Stewart, brought us (Joey, Alan and Steven) all together in the family room and told us she was starting a school for children with disabilities. She had been volunteering at The Briarwood School for a few years and a group of parents came to her and asked if she would consider teaching their children privately. These parents recognized our mother's compassion and love for all children.  

Overjoyed that Jane could now offer personal attention and schooling to a population in need of facilities, she turned our “game room” into a school during the day.  We have many wonderful memories of coming home from school and watching our mother teaching and caring for her students. Often, we would join our mother rather than playing video games. That time was always very special to us. The parents were ecstatic, and the children made remarkable progress during the time they were with our mother in our home. In fact, one of our mother's first students, whose doctor told her parents she couldn't be helped, years later not only graduated from high school but was also prom queen. Our mother knew that amazing things were in all of us.

After a long discussion, our mother and father, Joel Stewart, decided to purchase a small house on Westview Drive in the Spring Branch area of Houston to expand the school, its facilities, and number of students.  The Westview School was born as was the beginning of one of the most successful and ground-breaking schools for children on the autism spectrum in the country.  This was a defining moment for our mother, one which filled our family with pride and love.  The growth of the school meant so much to her. 

As The Westview School evolved, so did our involvement as a family.  Alongside our mother was our father, who not only gave his generous support to the school but also brought with him his financial and regulatory acumen.  Additionally, throughout high school, we volunteered our summers working various jobs doing maintenance, painting, and building on the school grounds.  The most rewarding was when we volunteered as teachers' aids, running with the children on the playground, helping with art projects, singing Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes, and even happily laughing and getting soaked with the students on the slip and slide.  These are the types of experiences that are so memorable and special to us.

The expansion of the school to its current location on Kersten Drive was one of the most incredible experiences of our lives.  We were honored to have the late Barbara Bush preside over the opening ceremony.  She graciously spent time with the students and recognized the importance of the school.  This was an experience we will never forget. Most importantly, there would be a much larger school that could accommodate the growing population and could offer even more benefits to the students including a robust multidisciplinary team.  Our mother made sure there was a small student-teacher ratio so that the current students received the same personal attention as her first students received in our game room.

The school expanded once again and added another building offering even more opportunities to students. Throughout the forty years, there have been many talented and brilliant individuals who have worked at the school and served on the Board to turn the school into what it is today.   We are grateful that the school and staff have committed to the mission of our mom in providing a nurturing and positive environment. The teachers and the entire staff are dedicated and caring individuals. We continue to be impressed by the incredible work and enjoy watching the school and the students thrive.

Throughout our lives, we always felt that our mother was a miracle worker, and it really showed when she worked with children. Her caring, gentle and intelligent approach, based in love for each and every student, showed through at all times.

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Joey Stewart is a feature film producer and restaurateur that lives in Dallas with his wife Laura, an interior designer.

Alan Stewart is happy to coordinate marketing and VIP programs for music, wine and NFL clients including Duran Duran, Matt & Kim, Westport Rivers Winery, and the Indianapolis Colts. He lives on a farm on the coast of Maine with his wife Lisa who is in the legal field.

Steve Stewart is a physician and Chief Medical Officer of a hospital in New Mexico and lives in Albuquerque with his wife Amy, a lawyer, and their two sons, Wells and Flynn.

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Recent Posts

12/9/21 - By Jelisa Scott, BCBA, LBA
11/9/21 - By The Westview School COVID-19 Medical Advisory Board
11/3/21 - By Adam Weiss
10/20/21 - By Jelisa Scott, BCBA, LBA
10/5/21 - By Joey, Alan, and Steven Stewart

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