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Posts Tagged "houston autism school"

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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The JOY of Being an Autism Dad

November 11, 2020
By Eric Hazeldine
autism dad

Learning about Finley's Autism diagnosis at age three was overwhelming. I cried because I was scared and didn't know what it meant for Finley or our family. His whole life flashed before my eyes. Would he be ok? Would he be happy? Could he enjoy himself and his family and friends?

Finley was our first child. As I reflect on the time of his diagnosis and the years following, our world quickly became intense and stressful. Our singular focus was to get Finley everything we thought he would need to develop. The right school, the right therapists, the right activities.

When Finley was 6 or 7, I noticed that he communicated better with me (and his mom and younger brother) than he did with others. I realized that he was comfortable making eye contact with us, but not others. It became clear that the comfort of the family bond was helping him communicate better with us.

It was a lightbulb moment. I realized how important my relationship with Finley was to his development. With me, he had a "head start" and was more expressive. He gave more within our family unit than he could give to the world around him. Our relationship blossomed, and it was reciprocal. I was finally open to receive from Finley what all parents experience - the joy of seeing the world through their child's eyes. And, as our connection grew, I could clearly see how meaningful our relationship was for him. Being present and meeting him where he was socially and emotionally was me showing up for Finley in the best possible way. It was my job to give him the opportunity to have experiences and make memories when he was most comfortable and able to be himself. And this is when Finley is at his best. This is when Finley can take it all in. As a dad, watching this happen... well, it can be thrilling.

And, while I can still get anxious when I think of Finley's future, spending time with him now is something that gives me comfort and joy. And I am not near as anxious as I used to be, because I know he is well on his way to being the best person he can be.

Finley says that the weekend is "when I don't have to go to school, and you don't have to go to work." It feels great when someone else is excited to spend time with you on the weekend. So, I'm really looking forward to this weekend and spending time with Finley. We may go golfing on Saturday with his brother and grandpa. On the golf course, Finley likes to drive the cart, and I like to be his passenger.

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Tried & True Tips for Keeping Your Family Healthy this Fall

October 15, 2020
By The Westview School COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee
Fall Health Tips

Temperatures are dipping below 90◦F and the smell of pumpkin spice is in the air. Fall has arrived in Houston! As we move into another season of 2020, we have learned to be flexible, anticipate the unexpected, and go with the flow. That said, there are several reasonable ways in which we can consistently support our families’ and communities’ health.

Tried and true methods to stay healthy:

-Wearing a mask, washing hands, and social distancing, as Covid-19 is still a concern.

-Eating a healthy and varied diet to ensure that we are getting the nutrients that we need and that our kids are getting the nutrients they need too.

-Exercising regularly and encouraging physical fitness for the whole family.

-Getting enough sleep, as well as getting good quality sleep with healthy sleep hygiene.

-Keeping up to date with doctors’ appointments (including check-ups), dentist visits, therapy sessions, and flu shots. As we move into flu season and as we are seeing another uptick in Covid-19 cases, our communities must try to keep the hospitals from getting overwhelmed again. This means we all need to keep from getting Covid-19 and the flu (there’s a flu shot for that!).

-Staying home if you aren’t feeling well, and getting tested for Covid-19 if you are showing any possible symptoms. This epidemiologist tried out the free test at Minute Maid Park- Lot C and was impressed. It was an oral swab, rather than nasal swab, and the PCR results were in my email within 46 hours. 

New and novel ways to support good health:

-Supporting your family’s mental health through mindfulness. Stress has been a constant factor, especially lately, and mindfulness methods can be helpful in providing relief.

-Maintaining relationships with your social circles, even while maintaining physical distance. As a community, we have really gotten creative in the many ways we can stay in touch. Weekly Zoom get togethers, drive-by birthday parties, sending cards in the mail, and taking classes online together are some fun ways to keep up with loved ones. Consider creating a social bubble with another family whose Covid-19 exposure level is similar to yours; commit to only spending social time with each other and maintain strict social distancing with all others.

-Creating new traditions for holidays and special times. Halloween is a great time to “boo” your friends by dropping off treat baskets on their doors. Thanksgiving could be a multi-state event with families sitting together online to eat dinner at the same time and even playing games like bingo together! Cookie exchanges can easily become online events, and you can even include long-distance friends!

-Reaching out to give and receive support. One of the silver linings of the pandemic has been watching people standing up to support one another. Whether saying a kind word, smiling eyes behind a mask, or showing gratitude for the “helpers,” we have shown the strength and resilience of the human spirit.  

As we move into the end of the year, look back and see how far we have come in 2020. Our children are thriving and doing well in so many unexpected areas, and our communities continue to stand together through thick and thin. Hang in there and enjoy the cooler temperatures- we’ll see you outside!  

Wishing you strength and good health,

The Westview School COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee    

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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.

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Social Distancing during Labor Day Weekend

August 24, 2020
By The Westview School COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee

Finally! The longest Spring-Summer Break EVER is coming to an end and it’s time to send the kids back to school! Over the last few months, we have all worked together as a community to control COVID-19 and keep our families safe. We have perfected social distancing, found the cutest masks, tried out Zoom play dates, and held drive-by celebrations. But there is one more challenge lurking ahead- Labor Day weekend!

Yes, the traditional end to summer poses a big challenge this year! While we would all love (LOVE!) to return to pre-Pandemic Life fun for Labor Day, we also need to remember that our children are returning to their classrooms the day after the holiday weekend. We are focusing on the upcoming long weekend specifically because we have seen that Memorial Day weekend and Independence Day have brought big increases in COVID-19 infections about two weeks after each holiday. We attribute those spikes in cases to less social distancing during the summer holidays, including spending time with extended family and friends.

Let’s avoid a huge COVID-19 outbreak right after Westview opens.  Having school close only a few days or weeks after it finally opens is not in our children’s best educational interest. The best way to avoid a COVID-19 school outbreak is to stick to the three precautions that have consistently demonstrated effectiveness in reducing infection transmission:  

 - Wear your mask

 - Wash your hands frequently

 - Maintain Social Distancing

“Social distancing,” or rather physical distancing, is one of the best tools we have in public health during a novel pandemic as we wait for physicians and scientists to develop effective treatments and preventions. In the case of a very infectious respiratory disease like COVID-19, wearing masks and staying away from others not in your household are the best ways to stay healthy.

Close contact with others (within 6 feet or 2 meters) is one of the primary ways that COVID-19 is spread between people. Transmission occurs when an infected person talks, sneezes, or coughs, and droplets from the infected person’s mouth and nose enter the mouth or nose of people who are nearby. Worse yet, people who aren’t showing symptoms can also unknowingly spread COVID-19 others. The safest approach is to assume everyone you meet is a COVID-19 carrier, keep your distance, wear a mask, and wash your hands often.

While we have found that some people are greater risk for severe disease effects than others, EVERYONE is at risk for COVID-19. No one is immune.

The COVID-19 task force at Westview has spent countless hours trying to examine every possible way to keep everyone on campus safe and healthy. The re-opening plan has been refined numerous times as more information about COVID-19 and other resources become available. However, the re-opening plan also depends on our entire community working together as a team.

What does this mean for our return to school? We all know that our Westview Wildcats thrive on campus. It’s a remarkable place and they need to be there on campus with their friends, teachers, and supporters. But if we want school to open and stay open, we all need to do our part.

So this Labor Day weekend, please continue social distancing. We aren’t saying to stop celebrating! Rather, find a new, Pandemic-Safe way to have fun with your household. A picnic in the backyard, Zoom drinks with friends, a movie marathon at home, camping out in the living room, and indulgent dessert takeout are some fun, social distancing-safe ways to enjoy the long weekend and look forward to a healthy return to school on Tuesday (and on Wednesday, on Thursday, … and the following weeks!). Hang in there Westview community, we’ve got this!

Wishing you good health,

The Westview School COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee       

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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.

 

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Recent Posts

10/20/21 - By Jelisa Scott, BCBA, LBA
10/5/21 - By Joey, Alan, and Steven Stewart
9/23/21 - By Traci L. Jordan, Psy.D., L.S.S.P.
9/2/21 - By The Westview School COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee
5/20/21 - By Mimi Le, MA, LMFT, LPC

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