Notes from kac update 1

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Notes from kac update 1

  1. 1. Notes from The Kalamazoo Autism Center: Update 1The Kalamazoo Autism Center is moving nicely from one man’s fantasy to many people’s reality, as itmorphs from the Kalamazoo Autism Center to the Kalamazoo Center for Children with Autism and OtherSpecial Needs, long but gracefully inclusive name. However, our fantasy won’t be reality until it really isreality; so we’re not out of risk city yet.Of course, few of us were so naïve as to think we’d be open by our target date of September 2, 2008; butwe were experienced enough to know that without that unrealistic target, we wouldn’t be open bySeptember 2, 2009. And our ready-fire-aim strategy seems to be working; our pilot project should be openwithin a few weeks.The Publicity. Most parents have found out about our fantasy directly or indirectly from an excellent newsrelease prepared by WMU’s Office of University Relations. This news release resulted in radio interviewsonWMUK and WKZO, articles in the Kalamazoo Gazette and the Western Herald, some national, onlinecoverage, and a mailing by the Autism Society of Kalamazoo/Battle Creek.The Need. Scott Schrum, Residential Opportunities Incorporated (ROI), suggested that not only is there agreat need for more early, intensive, behavioral intervention for preschool children with autism, my initialconcern, but also a great need for daycare, because parenting such children is an intensive 24/7 job, a jobthat can make parenting of the children’s siblings extremely difficult and can make maintaining financiallyessential outside employment impossible. As a result of the publicity, twenty-some parents have called me,desperately searching for daycare and/or supplemental, intensive behavioral intervention. But it turns outthat the need expands way beyond preschool age, to children from 6 months old to teenagers, and waybeyond autism to children with Downs Syndrome, PDD NOS, cerebral palsy, prenatal alcohol syndrome,prenatal cocaine addiction, epilepsy, aggression, elopement, etc.The Setting. It looks like most of our Center’s work will be in the Child Development Center (CDC) onCork Street, and we also hope to work with a couple of children in ROI’s after-school daycare programat Croyden Avenue School. In addition, we’re receiving requests for in-home help.The Staff. But the main key to turning this fantasy into reality is WMU’s Psychology undergrad and gradbehavior-analysis students, the ones who will do all the behavioral, one-on-one work with the special-needskids at the Center. Can we con them into traveling across town to the Cork Street CDC and spending 10hours a week working intensively, exhaustingly with some of the most difficult kids around, or in somecases, with some of the easiest kids around? Can we convince these idealistic university students that thisfantasy pilot project and these special-needs kids is where they should invest their idealism, that the clock’sticking for these kids, that if the WMU students don’t do the crucial, intensive, life-changing, behavioralinterventions, no one will, that the clock’s also ticking for these idealistic university students as well, ifthey don’t experience this crucial, intensive, life-changing practicum, they may miss the chance to discovera career worthy of their idealism, that as a result of this experience, many of them will devote the rest oftheir lives practicing the behavior analysis they’re learning at WMU helping to significantly improve thelives of special-needs kids? Can we convince these cynical university students that these special-needs kidsare cynicism-melting machines, that working with these kids is a heart melting experience, that the onlything they’ll have left to be cynical about is presidential political campaigns?And the clock’s ticking on starting our Center, as well. With all the ballyhoo were getting and with all thehigh parental hopes, it’s important that we get our pilot-project Center rolling within the next few weeks.But it all depends on the practicum students being up for it. So we put a major hustle on our grad andundergrad practicum students this week; and we’ve gotten commitments and semi-commitments for thissemester and/or next semester from about 10 undergrad and about 10 grad students, hopefully enough forus to start rolling with the three or four children who will probably be participating in the pilot project thissemester.Our Center and the Early Childhood Developmental Delays Classroom at Croyden Avenue School arewhere most of my practicum students are being trained. But those two settings are just two of severalsettings in Kalamazoo where WMU Psych’s undergrad and grad practicum students are using theirbehavior-analysis skills to make a crucial difference. In fact, these practicum students are so important tothe educational/human services of Kalamazoo that the demand is starting to greatly exceed the supply;therefore, some of us are trying to arrange for our undergrad students to begin getting their behavior-analysis training earlier in their careers, so they can gain even more behavior-analytic university andpracticum experience before they graduate and go on to grad school and/or professional service careers asapplied behavior analysts, and so that, in the process, they can contribute even more practicum semesters tothe well-being of the Kalamazoo community. In addition, we’re working with Steve Louisell, Director
  2. 2. of Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s Honors Program, to facilitate some of their top students gettingearly university and practicum training in behavior analysis at WMU so they too can contribute and becontributed to.And finally, speaking of staff, those of you who know me know that the one thing I’m even better at thanmercilessly exploiting practicum students is mercilessly exploiting grad assistants, and I’m relieved toannounce that our Center just hired our first grad assistant, Dana Pellegrino(dana.m.pellegrino@wmich.edu), bright, hard-working, idealistic, and much more reliable than I am. So, ifthings aren’t going right it’s all Dana’s fault; and if you want someone reliable to deal with, contact Dana,not me, I’m just an ivory-tower professor. And, at this point, if you have any questions, better contact eitherDana or me, than CDC or ROI.Sorry this update’s so long, and sorry it’s such over-the-top hype; but I’m stoked, and I think we’ve gotmore than a fighting chance of realizing our fantasy!Sincerely,Dick Malott(269) 372-1268September 12, 2008

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