Blog Topics

The Carousel Connections blog offers information and details about the daily rhythms of our program.  It is written in the form of a day-to-day diary of the six week duration of our summer season.  If you are just joining and begin reading, you may find it most helpful to start from the first entry and read on . . .

Happy reading!

Wednesday
Jul162014

Preview and Review

Each day, we encounter new experiences and adventures.  Even if the experience is "routine," there are always slight variations.  This is what makes life fun and interesting! In order to prepare for these experiences and continue to enhance our executive function skills, we use intentional preview and review practices.  Participants will often hear me express, "I love a plan!" What does this look like in our daily routines?

  • Carousel residents join for daily chores and errands within the community.  A small group is always off to the food store, the post office, shopping for toiletries, etc.  When driving to the local Acme or Trader's Joes, I will ask questions such as, "When we get to the store, who plans on pushing the food cart?" or "Who can you ask for help if you are looking for an item on your shopping list and can't find it?" or "Do you remember what is different about the bagging system at Trader Joe's?" After our shopping trip, we discuss what went well, things that we want to remember for our next trip, and "tid bits" of information.  
  • Prior to traveling into the city by train, we hold a group planning meeting to discuss the train schedule, our trip plans, and answer questions.  We role play situations (where to stand on the platform, how to safely gather money from a wallet and put change back in a tidy manner, etc.) and walk through the day in a step-by-step process.  This helps to relieve any potential anxiety related to traveling and provides the scaffolding for a successful and fun trip for all! Following our last trip, the dinner conversation starter related to the trip happenings as we shared with friends about the events. 
  • Each evening, two to three residents "host" dinner served family style.  Before beginning the cooking process, I place all necessary food items on the tray and we have a small planning meeting. The chefs for the evening review the steps for the meal and write them on the board.  We then discuss who will be responsible for each step and are off to cook!  As the chefs prepare the meal, they use the planning checklist to think about what needs to happen "next" and divide the tasks.  As hosts, they then review the recipe with the group prior to eating the delicious main and side dishes.  

Looking forward to what is happening tomorrow? Ask a Carousel resident what the plans are . . . they are ready to share!

Thursday
Jul102014

Opportunities

Carousel residents joined our garden efforts on campus.  We began with a several pumpkin plants that were planted by students this fall . . . and LOTS of weeds.  After weeding and weeding and weeding, our gardeners were ready to plant!  Small groups researched and planned what type of plants would work best in the garden and then traveled to Orner's Nursery to bring them home.  We previewed and asked questions at Orner's to find the perfect "matches" to place in our garden. Herbs (basil, spearmint, chives, parsley), vegetables (tomatoes, peppers), and perennials (roses, black-eyed Susan's, lamb's ear, butterfly bushes) were chosen for a perfect collected of edible beauty!

Yesterday, a small group from our Food Prep work crew traveled to The Longview Center for Agriculture in Collegeville.  This is a gorgeous farm established by Greener Partners with a mission to create healthier communities through food, farms, and education. On our tour, we walked through the farm fields and learned about crop rotation, the importance of organic farming, and the very encouraging "farm to table" movement. This was a perfect experience for our garden adventures and how we will use our herbs and vegetables when cooking meals for the apartment.  

We also met with a farm apprentice, John, who shared about his experience. John has traveled through varied experiences (from teaching to being a chef in New York City) and now has the opportunity to apprentice at Longview. For our group, this was a unique opportunity to ask questions about the apprenticeship model and how he experiences the farm "from day to night."  John shared that he is able to practice skills living in the farm house with other farmers that he will use going forward (residents in the farm house cook for each other on a weekly basis).  He discussed the farm practice with us (the role of organic farming and the nitrate debate, how animals on the farm mean that you have a healthy ecosystem, etc.) and answered questions we previewed in this week's class discussions. Our Carousel Connections ambassadors shared about their experience living in an apartment together and how they experience working on the campus of Haverford College.  Within this discussion, the group discovered  many commonalities between the apprentice experience and Carousel Connections training for independence. 

John shared, "If your goal is self-reliance, gardening is the way to go."  Given our experience with gardening on our apartment plot, this statement rings true! Planning, previewing, designing, collaborating, working with our hands, researching and learning, and creating beauty is all part of the garden process. The experience provides great opportunities filled with vibrant colors!

 

 

Monday
Jul072014

Partnership

At Carousel Connections, we intend to create meaningful partnerships both in and out of the apartment experience.  We create partnerships with the Haverford College community while working in the departments, using the Fitness Center, exploring campus, selling flowers, planning movie nights, etc.  We create partnerships with the Ardmore community by shopping in the same stores with frequency, cheering from the bleachers for the local basketball teams, and traveling.  We create partnerships between families who are seeking housing and eager to share resources. 

Each day, we have two specific time periods (prior to leaving for work and each afternoon) when our Carousel residents work as "partners" with their roommate and a staff mentor.  The partners review a specific "agenda" for checking in together.  This includes checking in on how tidy the room is.  Each resident has a photograph of their tidy room.  Partners use their "detective" skills to see if the current room tidiness looks like the photo.  If so, great. If not, a partner may circle the area that needs to be tidied to provide a visual support. Other daily agenda items include: laundry status (planning ahead for when laundry needs to take place), hygiene check (partners have a daily topic to engage in together -- brushing teeth, combing hair, washing hands "well," etc.), completing any items on the "To Do" list (a wipe-off board that lists specific goals or "to do" tasks for individuals), as well as other "as needed" tasks.  Of course, there is always time to chat and share about the day too!

This week, our partners will also practice how to communicate home in a positive manner.  How often should we text or call family?  When are good times to do so?  What are the "three good things" that we can share about our day? What questions can we ask our family members to show our interest in their day? What is the best method of communication for us (text, Facetime, email, phone call, letters)?  We are looking forward to sharing about our experiences!

 

Saturday
Jun282014

Is there anything else you need?

Each morning, our Carousel residents join for breakfast and prepare their meals and bag lunches for work independently.  We discuss the importance of doing things "all by yourself" and how to ask for appropriate levels of help.  We continue to encourage the balance of asking for help. Our house rule is that you have to try and do something on your own first, you ask a friend second.  If this does not work, you then can ask Amy or a partner (staff).  

Initially, early risers would gather their breakfast items and sit down at the table to then discover that they forgot a fork or knife.  An immediate response is, "I need a fork." My response, "Hmmmm, where can you find a fork." If further prompting was needed, I point in the direction of the silverware. We now ask breakfast eaters (and participants at other times of day) what else they may need before they begin the task.  "Surveying the scene" and organizing materials before beginning a process is key!  We say, "Once the stage is set, you are ready to perform."

In the second week into our session, if a participant responds with "I need a fork," my response is "Hmmm." I wait (this is key -- no words are used in the exchange) and independence grows!

Saturday
Jun282014

"On the ball!"

Think about the many phrases that you use that have non-literal meanings. In working with individuals on the spectrum, this can be quite confusing! Conversation is filled with figurative language and idioms that "just don't make sense."  At Carousel Connections, we discuss the meaning of many idioms during both informal and formal instruction.  

During conversations and meetings, we intentionally use idioms for modeling purposes and practice.  For example, while gathering laundry today, I suggested that a participant show her friend "the ropes" by helping her with the process.  She responded, "We're not going climbing."  This provided an opportunity for me to clarify the phrase.  When complimenting a participant, I say, "You are on the ball!  Keep up the good work!"  I may also use an idiom during a "think aloud" process in a meeting.  Each morning, participants are greeted with an idiom of the day.  A resident writes the definition and draws a picture of the idiom on display.  

Even though idioms are a "dime a dozen," Carousel Connections participants will have lots of practice responding to them!

 

Building Independence in the Home, on the Job, and on the Go!
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