Sunday, August 29, 2010


Rosie would be proud of me...
...cus I've joined the work force!

As a recent grad, and in preparation for grad school,
I felt this year was a good time
to start working and building my resumé.
I'd like to get my masters in Marriage Family Therapy,
then get my PPS certificate to be a counselor to little children.
...and in preparation for that...
I just finished my first week of work at
Foothill Elementary as an
Autism Aide!

I am technically an employee of Wasatch Mental Health.
They have a set-up with Alpine School District
which allows them to use their facilities.
it's like we're a part of the school,
but we also do our own thing.
There are 3 classrooms at Foothill Elementary
with each class having 12 kids,
1 teacher,
and 5 aides.

The Autism program is called Giant Steps.
It was started in 1997
and has been a huge success with more
than 100 kids on the waiting list.
The children are ages 3-5 and are divided
based on skill level instead of age.

I have been assigned to the lowest functioning level,
so I get all the sweet little ones just beginning the program
or returning for a second year.

Our day consists of activities like:
work sessions
bathroom (potty training haha)
play time
The classroom is such a happy atmosphere. Colorful posters, cubbies of toys and paint, charts of activities for that day, miniature chairs, and then add 11 small bodies, backpacks and pairs of shoes and it's a party!
Every day, there are 4-5 very organized sessions
where we work with the kids to teach them
general things like letters, numbers, and colors.
Then we practice more specialized things like
sitting still with feet on the ground and hands in lap, quiet voices,
learning how to point their finger, use sign-language, imitate simple actions,
and follow basic instructions like "stand up", "color the picture", or "push the toy car."
For example:
One "work session" may consist of first beginning with teaching the child to sit with feet on the ground for three seconds. They are then immediately rewarded by an option of two reinforcers,
like cereal or a toy. They have to point their finger and sign "please" to receive the reinforcer. This step alone may take quite a few weeks to really 'get down'. Gradually we work up to adding having hands in lap, being quiet, and eye contact.
The eye contact has been the most interesting step for me to watch a child learn. The simple act of responding to their name being called and being able to look you in the eye for 3 seconds with feet on the floor and hands in lap and not making noise is huge!

Being my first week, I experienced a lot of 'firsts' and already it's such a blur.
You have to chart the simplest activities that show improvement, I can tell it is going to be a slower process, but so rewarding. I hope I never forget the first moment of success I had in one of my work sessions where a little boy had feet down, hands in lap, quiet voice and looked me straight in the eye for three seconds. It was such a thrill I just know I'm in the right place.

After living alone for two weeks I am absolutely soaking up every ounce of love these children give me. They hug with open love and when they laugh...the sound is pure happiness.
One little boy got the HUGEST kick out of a toy phone as one of his reinforcers.
He would push the button and Buzz Lightyear's voice would sound
and he just laughed and laughed. I picked up that he likes anything that makes noise,
so the other day on the play ground I ran my nails along the metal fence and said,
"Listen. Noise." That's all it took. He got a huge smile, imitated my action and, laughing, said,
"Noise! Noise!" over and over. Simple pleasures.
I am SO blessed and excited to work this year with these children.

The soul is healed by being with children.
English Proverb


  1. Oh man! Those kids are SO lucky to have you. It's going to be a great year!

  2. I agree with Anjanette! It will be fun to hear all about it...

  3. YAY!! For getting a job!! Those kids will be lucky to have you, and you are lucky to have them. What a great experience you are going to have. Also, i Loved your last post of Why? Classic photos! We still need to get together and do that make over...mac is calling bout you?

  4. what!?? how exciting. you are in UTAH!!

  5. What a great job! You will never be sorry you did this. Mark my words.