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George Braddock Chat Transcript

November 21, 2011 2 comments

On Monday, November 21 George Braddock hosted a live chat about how to advance community living for adults on autism spectrum.

George Braddock is President of Creative Housing Solutions LLC. He pioneered the implementation of person-centered planning principles to homes for people with disabilities. George provides environmental engineering services for persons with intellectual and physical disabilities, families, providers and governmental agencies.

1:55
Hi Everyone! We are about to get started!
1:56
Comment From Sip

hooray :)

1:56
Comment From Guest

Great!

2:02
This is George Braddock and I am welcoming everyone to this chat. My background is construction and I started doing housing for people with developmental disabilities in 1984. In 1985 my daughter was born and she has developmental disabilities. Since 1984 my company has done over 1,500 projects for people with developmental disabilities. We are very committed to serving individuals in our communities and keeping families together. We believe that the roll of the physical environment in supporting that outcome has been underestimated.
2:02
Comment From Elizabeth Wilson

I am having a hard time potty training my son who has autism. He won’t go on his own, I have to take him on a routine bases. is there any suggestions on how I can help him at night, because he doesn’t sta dry at night

2:05
Hi Elizabeth – One of the barriers that we often find for people in toilet training has to do with the condition of the bathroom itself. Often times we find that people with ASD can be very tactfully defensive so the space itself needs to be as neutral as possible. It needs to be enough room around the toilet so people don’t feel too confined. It is really helpful if the space is warm and you address other types of sensations around the toileting experience. Is it cold, is there a fan running, is the light too bright, or not bright enough? You can sometimes help encourage people to use the toilet a friendly place to be.
2:06
Comment From Raissa from Georgia

What are some of the standard remodeling things you do for families with younger children with autism? Also, as my children get older, what home modifications start becoming more of a necessity as they enter adulthood?

2:12
Hi Raissa – although we recognize that every individual with autism is unique, our experience has taught us that there are actually quite a lot of common housing modifications that generally support most folks with ASD. We call them unique commonalities. We have identified six of those commonalities. We can start off with the most common modifications – the Autism Friend Home – the goal is to reduce risk and anticipate activity. Every home there are things that can hurt people. We want to focus on health and safety where the individual is the priority. Sometimes in addressing a home we have to assess the risks and dangers depending on the individuals circumstances from the start. These include things like seizures, the importance of protecting the person’s body from injury. We also find that it is good to anticipate unconventional use and eventually housing is not designed for simply people with ASD. We anticipate water play. Water is almost always a source of interest. It is often a coping skill for folks with ASD and we need to manage it to keep the water from damaging the home, but also support the person who is using water to satisfy them. We find that doors are often a problem. The way the slam, the way they communicate frustration and anxiety. We use pocket doors quite frequently and fiberglass doors because they are light weight and strong and not as likely to hurt you. It is important to select furnishings that take into account the individual involved. Often times vesicular activity such as swimming, rocking, jumping, bouncing, making sure the furniture will put up with those things. Those are the basics of an autism friendly house!
2:13
Comment From Karen

My son who is 17 and has more “classic autism” is very adversely effected by certain sounds. Even though his bedroom is downstairs in the basement, he hears the television through the floor upstairs, and even the slightest TV sound bothers him. We could all use headphones as a solution, but I was wondering if you had ideas on sound insulation techniques for our home. We already have carpets but the sound still travels between the two floors. So if he is up at night rambling outloud to himself, we can hear him through the floor, and it keeps us up, and he can hear our TV, even on low, and that keeps him up.

2:18
Hi Karen – The key to sound deadening is separation so that sound waves cannot move continuously through. There are a number of materials that will help in this regard and there are also construction techniques that will provide a space between materials to control transmission of sound. There are products, mass laden vinyl, which is a very dense, rubberlike material that is quite an effective sound deadening material. It could be placed on the carpet or on the ceiling between floors. There is type of channel where there is a resilient channel that can be installed and has a little rubber isolating block on either end of the bracket. That can be screwed to the ceiling and then the dry wall ceiling plied to it will deaden the sound between the floors. We have also had some luck with a cork material applied over a material that is like a fiberglass that can be up to half an inch thick. Then the cork panel can be attached.
2:19
Comment From Guest

What can extended family members do to make their homes more “ASD-friendly”?

2:23
Hi Guest – If you are going to have guests in your home with ASD it would be wise to understand some of the issues before they come to visit. It is likely that they will arrive anxious and experiencing some stress. It can be helpful to not too much pressure on them when they first arrive. If they are disorganized, they tend to live more rigorously in their environment, you might want to take things away that are easily broken. Typically we find from about 3 feet about the floor to about 5 feet above the floors, is the area where most handling, grabbing, and exploring takes place. From leaving fragile things out of this zone can help. Trying to manage the amount of stimulation, from televisions to radios and other things that are making noise, flashing lights. Just being aware that an overly stimulating environment results in more anxiety in the visit. If you can create a place where they can participate in usual activity and have some control over their social interactions, it can make for a better visit.
2:25
Comment From Cynthia Bartlett

Do you find that adults with autism/intellectual impairments respond differently to various colours and lighting types?

2:30
Hi Cynthia – We definitely have found that color can make a great deal of difference for some people with ASD. We spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out colors that work and are preferred. We can do this by observing a person’s choices when various colors are offered. Some of the standard thinking around the impact of color attaches reds, yellows, and oranges to more high energy activity. Whereas blues and greens and browns tend to be more calming. In the area of lighting there is good evidence that flickering lights often associated with florescent can be a problem for some people. If possible divide lighting sources with dimmers which gives a person more control. Good quality natural and artificial light are key to a good environment.
2:30
Hi everyone there was a typo in my first answer to Elizabeth! I meant to say, Tactilely-this means relating to the sense of touch, rather than tactfully!
2:31
Comment From Jody Schinnerer

Our 19 year old son finds our walls a good target when he gets frustrated. He has punched and kicked holes in the wall. He hasn’t hurt himself yet. We patched the holes and repainted but are there materials that would prevent injury to our son if he continues to hit the walls??

2:37
Hi Jody – Damage to walls is not an unusual behavior. There are a number of strategies that will make walls that are strong enough to withstand this kind of testing. There are various layers depending on how serious the person is about making holes in the wall. Sometimes if the person is just hitting the wall or kicking it occasionally, as opposed to all the time, you can add a protection material called wainscoting. This can be fiber glass reinforced plastic called FRP or solid wood panel. In some cases even carpeting glued to the wall will work. For people who are more determined to make a hole in the wall, strong building enforcement will be necessary. This can include adding the additional layer of Sheetrock or removing the existing wall finishing material and reinforcing the wall assembly with plywood. Then any number of finishes can be applied to the ply wood to make a normal looking wall. In cases where people may injure themselves from hitting the wall we have applied a half inch of foam to the wall and then protected the foam with a material such as FRP or kourguard.
2:38
Comment From Dina

Hello. I have a 19 yr. old son, who is in the mild/ mod category of Austism. He is developmentally 8 yrs. old. He has a terrible fear of separating from us. Ian suffers from the extreme anxiety that is typical if the disorder. My husband and I can’t bear to think of placing him in his own living environment. Do you have an opinion about how to best address this situation?

2:41
Hi Dina – We have had good success on a number of family homes by creating a living space for a young person with ASD within the family home. Sometimes this is an addition onto the home that accommodates the small living space usually a bedroom, bathroom, and sitting area over which the person has control. This area is designed to support their interests and lifestyle preference. We have found that as people mature, they naturally want to have some separation from their family. Even if they remain in the same home. We call it expanding the family. We have had a number of these projects prove successful in the last 15 years.
2:43
Comment From Sip

I’m very sensitive for sounds too, at night even the slightest whisper can wake me, and I can recognize people by feetsteps…and smell,that’s also trouble sometimes for me, too much different impulses at the same time is annoying

2:47
Hi Sip – Sound proofing at this level is very difficult. A room can be quieted using acoustical panels. These can be loosely attached to the wall and ceiling. There is also a sound deadening glass that can be installed in windows. This is very expensive. For some individuals white noise or preferred sound background can mask the sounds that are troubling. Solid core doors with weatherstripping or smoke seals can also help quiet the space and keep unpleasant odors out of the room. Drapes or curtains also deflect sound. Good quiet ventilating fans int eh room can also address most of these issues.
2:48
Comment From Andra

My son is 18 yrs old and has high functioning Autism. He is developmentally about 9 years old. He wants to eventually live on his own but I am concerned about what kind of environment to put him in that will be supported. Are their community types that I should look at? Are there commmunities out there that can provide for my son?

2:53
I think this issue is one of the most troublesome for families. What kind of living opportunities are going to be available for their children when they choose to leave home.Developing inclusive communities is what we all need to be involved in. People need more than an affordable house, they need a place in the community. Often times, only conventional housing is available. Housing modifications tend to focus on physical disabilities. People with intellectual disabilities need environmental modifications as well and their effect can be as profound. Much work needs to be done to educate builders and developers to make this a reality. Living in a community means not just creating more set asides, but creating real neighborhoods where people with disabilities are welcomed and valued. This means encouraging individuals involved with all kinds of disabilities to work together to support the creation of these kinds of inclusive neighborhoods. Not neighborhoods that congregate people with disabilities, but are welcoming of that diversity because involvement within this community is part of what defines community.
2:53
Comment From sherry wine

i have a 12 yr old son with autism he dont wanna go to bed at night time he wants to stay up and play games and gets on the computer and he wats to talk back any suggestiond

2:56
Hi Sherry – this is a situation where we have had some success with technology in the past. Being able to exercise some control over access to games and other activities is sometimes necessary while people build the capacity to manage those situations themselves. A computer providing information for controlling a device is different than mom and dad turning it off. I think of it a little like the difference between getting a ticket in the mail when you run a traffic light. You are angry, but your anger is not directed at another person. Supporting an individual to make the right choices requires balance and good judgement between freedom and appropriate, healthy, behavior.
2:57
I appreciate this opportunity to be involved in this chat and hope people found the information useful. Included with this chat is contact information to my website and links to the Autism Speaks network. Thank you for your attention!
2:58
George’s guide: Making HoMes tHat Work a resource guide for Families Living with
autism spectrum Disorder + Co-occurring Behaviorshttp://www.afaa-us.org/atf/cf/%7B3A65C524-1EB0-4098-97F5-88AB429252C6%7D/Making%20Homes%20That%20Work.pdf
2:59
For more information on George: http://gbcchs.com/
2:59
Check back to the Autism Speaks website,www.autismspeaks.org for updated information on housing!

In Their Own Words: Treasure What You Have

November 21, 2011 3 comments

This is a blog post by Lena Rivkin, M.F.A., is an artist and graphologist living in Los Angeles.

Saturday was the Pumpkin Festival.  As my brother and I wandered around looking at the colorful, wildly shaped pumpkins and gourds, I realized that Halloween is the harbinger for the upcoming holiday season.  While other families carve pumpkins and scheme over costume ideas and how to keep the sugar intake to a minimum- my brother will be needlepointing his heart out.  While other families excavate Halloween and holiday decorations from boxes in the attic, Phillip will be obsessively crossing days off of his large collection of calendars.  While we all ramp up our already hectic schedules to include gift ideas, holiday outfits and double-book numerous get-togethers, it is slightly different for those of us who have special-needs family members.

My brother, Phillip, is a severely autistic adult and lives in a group home in North Hills, California, administered by New Horizons, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping adults with developmental disabilities.  Phillip also attends a day school called Tierra Del Sol Foundation. The 9th Annual Fall Festival was a fun way to raise funds for Phillip’s day school.  Among the great line-up of entertainment was Murphy’s Flaw Band- a terrific bluegrass group and gorgeous Aztec dancers that dazzled the eyes and ears.

Phillip really loved looking at the ceramic crafts hand-made by him and his classmates.  It takes a subtle eye to recognize what Phillip really enjoys since he doesn’t speak and willingly goes along with pretty much everything I suggest.  Sometimes I feel like the narrator of his life. “Isn’t this a beautiful mask, Phillip?” or “Phillip, are you ready for lunch?”  He’ll nod a sort of yes to everything I ask him, especially if it relates to food!  Or I can tell by another look in his eye that he appreciates what I am seeing or is ready to see something else.  When I am with Phillip, if I still my inner voice and erase any personal agenda, I can hear him with my eyes and appreciate exactly who he is, not wish him to be who he simply will never be.

The holidays matter to us as well, just a little differently than everyone else.  When you have a sibling who cannot speak, make direct eye contact or give a hug, a Gap Gift Certificate doesn’t quite manage to bridge the gap.  Phillip would be far happier watching me draw a pattern for him to needlepoint or baking cupcakes with him or simply being with him.  For those who are uncomfortable with developmentally delayed people, when it comes to birthdays or holidays, doing nothing appears easier than wondering whether a gift or card would even resonate.

But focusing on what simple acts delight our autistic family members is the kind of holiday gift that money cannot buy.  I have dear friends who make a point of including Phillip in their life because they recognize he is an important part of my life. They mail him postcards regularly from anywhere in the world, even from home, because they know he is thrilled to receive them.   As Edmund Burke said, “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.”  The greatest gestures can also be the smallest.

Holidays nowadays are more likely to resemble high stakes poker games or full impact sporting events or high spending reality shows than simple exchanges of love and friendship. Holidays can be hallmarks of tiny gestures.  In our fast paced and recession-tired current times, holidays prove to be challenging for all families.

Almost every American has grown up with Norman Rockwell’s cheerfully chaotic portraits of large joyful families crowded around a Thanksgiving table.  For many of us, Rockwell’s iconic paintings hold up a beautiful ideal of family life.  As a child, I truly admired Rockwell’s incredibly warm-hearted realistic paintings. As I studied art at UCLA and became an Expressionist painter, I grew to reject Rockwell’s idyllic utopia as sugarcoated and corny.  I’ve come full circle with Rockwell, and now can truly appreciate his extraordinary talent as an illustrator, especially as I now know more about Rockwell’s life.  He grew up in a silent, working class family in New York City, married three times, and struggled with depression.  A telling quote of his was that he painted his happiness but did not live it.  Not that I am trying to celebrate the woes of those who famously appear happy, I merely appreciate knowing that not even Norman Rockwell had the Norman Rockwell fantasy holiday season.

We are all fraught with unfair expectations that every holiday season must be the perfect embodiment of familial bliss. As soon as Halloween is over we brace ourselves for the marketing onslaught in stores and on inundating us with endlessly perfect present suggestions and spectacularly decorated homes, trees and stunning meals. It seems every year the goal gets higher, more expensive and sadly more elusive.  But perhaps we can all jump off the holiday hamster wheel if we simply re-adjust and redefine our values.  Find the gift that isn’t the mall. Look deeper at the act of giving.

For Phillip, the best presents are silent, handmade gestures from the heart.  The best gift I can give my beloved brother is myself; I design the needlepoints he stitches.  Our gift to each other is how we communicate via our creative collaborations.  His endless gift to me is to treasure the present moment. Perhaps determining how best to give of ourselves can be the most rewarding New Year’s Resolution we can make.

In Their Own Words – Seeking a Connection

August 17, 2011 28 comments

This is a guest blog post by Ali Dyer, the Social Media Coordinator at Autism Speaks. Her older brother Jeff has autism. 

As I read  a diary of a mom’sa pink sock sorry,’ I immediately fell back to my younger self trying to connect with my older brother Jeff. I understood what it was like expending endless amounts of energy just to have my brother see me. It seemed back then he just never did. Like my friend Katie, I just wanted to love my sibling.

For years, we worked to have Jeff let us in and for years he wasn’t ready. He used to watch the television with his face practically touching the screen. From the moment I could stand, I would try and wedge myself between him and his object of interest, always to be knocked over. My oldest brother Tom and I never stopped loving him – we actually became more fierce and protective.

My mother is a very talented photographer and so much of our life is captured on film. The photos over the years show us clinging to Jeff. He is either staring off into the distance or running away. I think they are beautiful. They are honest. That is how it was.

Eventually, he came around. Now he can’t get enough of us! But there are times when we go back to the old days, and I have to respect his need for space. He knows that I love him and I’ll be waiting when he is ready.

The photos look more like this now.

Jeff is twenty-six, which comes with a whole new set of challenges. We made it over the hump of him transitioning into a group home. It is more than a year later and we are still making adjustments. To be honest, I don’t know that we ever will fully adjust. Despite that, we will try and keep moving ahead giving Jeff the most productive and full life possible.

I know as time wears on Jeff will need me, but in truth, I will need him so much more.

“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to editors@autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.

Communicating Through Cupcakes

July 7, 2011 23 comments

This is by Lena Rivkin, M.F.A., is an artist and graphologist living in Los Angeles.

Can you count the stars? Impossible! It’s just so comforting to look up and see that they are there, that you can count on them coming out every time. That pretty much describes the way I feel when I’m hanging out with Phillip at his house…when we’re baking cupcakes together. I look up at his face flushed with joy and watch as he adds the final touches – sprinkles, maybe – to the icing of his latest creation. In a fast-paced world, baking with Phillip is a quiet moment in time.

​For those of you who read my previous article about him, you’ll remember that my older brother Phillip, who is severely autistic and nonverbal, loves to stitch needlepoint. I create the designs and Phillip is the craftsman. Our collaboration provides a special connection between our worlds – without words. He has been living for 29 years in a group home administered by New Horizons (a non-profit organization dedicated to helping adults with developmental disabilities) in North Hills, California, and attends a day program at Tierra del Sol in Sunland.

​Since Phillip always exhibits a marked interest in repetitive behavior, for years we have engaged in needlepoint projects together at my house. And lately, we have been hanging out at the place where he lives to bake together.  We particularly enjoy baking cupcakes.  Historically, a recipe for a small cake first occurred in the U.S. in a cookbook appropriately titled American Cookery. It was written by Amelia Simms in 1796. However, the actual word cupcake (because it’s the size of a teacup) was first used in 1828 by Eliza Leslie inSeventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats. When Phillip and I bake cupcakes in 2011, we are entering into an innovative space where we can create an edible form of art.

​First we line each section of the muffin pan with crinkly, colorful paper cups, a simple, repetitive process that Phillip enjoys. Then we make a host of cupcakes, ranging from…oh, red velvet cupcakes with vanilla cream cheese frosting or pineapple-carrot, or dark chocolate with raspberry frosting. (Did you know that the height of the frosting should be about one-third the height of the cupcake? Sometimes, when we are feeling really daring, we make the frosting one half of the whole. It’s fun.) And we make strawberry and chocolate-almond, lemon-fudge, or orange-spice cupcakes too.

​The ingredients for cupcakes are all pretty much the same: butter, sugar, egg, and flour just like a standard layer cake. Yet what we end up with is a creation. For my birthday, we felt really expansive and made a full-size chocolate cake. We design our cupcakes differently every week, even though we start with a very ordinary cake mix. Sometimes we dip dried or fresh fruit into chocolate. The visual effects are very important, just as they are when Phillip is keeping busy translating my designs into his meticulously crafted needlepoint. In fact, while the cupcakes are baking, he works on his needlepoint.

​As with the needlepoint, there is a therapeutic process at work when we are baking. It involves eye and hand coordination as well as the joy of creation – and a sense of place. Although I still take Phillip to my house and other places (museums, parks, stores, and visits to friends), when we make cupcakes, we are enjoying being together in a consistent way in the place where he lives – his house. I feel that I am truly participating in his daily life with these home visits and learning about his activities, as well as the chores that are required of him. I particularly enjoy getting to know the outstanding staff – Samir Qureshi (the House Manager, who is also an excellent cook) and another member of the staff, Jamie Page, who are both an essential part of our weekly baking activity with their supportive and positive help with the baking.  I am also becoming closer to Phillip’s friends.  Everybody loves eating the cupcakes, so there is plenty of joy to pass around! Because the cupcakes bake quickly, while a tantalizing aroma fills the house, we don’t have to wait long to enjoy them.

​Cupcakes have attracted wide interest today. In fact, cupcake-making has become a competitive “sport.” There are actually “cupcake wars” sponsored by food companies where people vie on television to win big prizes for the “best” cupcake recipe. But Phillip and I, his friends and the supportive staff don’t want to enter our cupcake recipes into showcase competition. We simply love the warmth of making them and sharing them in friendship together.

“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to editors@autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.

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