Monday, November 2, 2009

Relating to Autism

Over the past year, I've had the incredible opportunity to work with an amazing group of parents and professionals in creating something that we believe is going to truly transform how families of children with Autism and other developmental challenges work with and relate to their children.

After more than nine months of intense and wonderfully enjoyable work, I am pleased to announce the availability of our new website, http://www.relatetoautism.com. relate to autism provides a combination of web-based and professional services specifically designed to empower families of children with Autism and other developmental challenges who are conducting home-based treatment programs.

Based on my decision a couple of weeks ago to pause and celebrate accomplishments (even when there are still millions of things I want to do), I decided that I would stop and celebrate with you!

relate to autism
The relate to autism website has both public and member sections. The public website provides information on Autism and Autism Treatment including a blog that daily provides new information on what's going on in the world of Autism, insights and stories from parents, and helpful ideas that parents can begin using right away.

The member section of the site is sort of a Facebook on steroids for families and their teams of volunteers, staff and professionals. Parents can use the tools on the membership site to: establish a profile for each of their special children; schedule, manage and communicate with their child's support team of volunteers and professionals; track their child's activities and progress; and generally, make their home-based developmental programs as effective as they can be.

From Logistics to Nutrition to Attitude
Members also have access to a host of support services including: consultations and video reviews with Autism Professionals trained in relationship based approaches to Autism; consultations with Attitudinal Coaches who can help them and their team work through attitudinal and emotional challenges that might be limiting their effectiveness when working with their children; and, support sessions with Parent Guides, other parents who themselves have worked through many of the logistical and emotional challenges of conducting a home-based developmental program.

As the guy who's providing business and technology support, I am thrilled and humbled to be working with this sensational group of inspired, talented and loving people.

The Tools
As the technology team (guy), I'm really excited about the website itself. For me writing all the code for this has been a labor of love and I'm really psyched that people can begin using the tools!

Each parent and each of their team members gets a relate to autism home page that is in many ways similar to a Facebook page, except that it is secured and available only to members of your team.

The left column of the My Home page provides quick access to the My Home pages of all your team mates. The center column provides a messaging system that allows team members to easily communicate with one another and share information. It provides places to upload photos, videos and even to share files.

The right column provides direct access to your team's schedule. Team members can easily see who is scheduled to be in the playroom and can even schedule changes themselves.

A Place for Children
Parents can create a home page for each of their special children. The page provides a communications hub for all aspects of a child's developmental program.

After parents complete a profile for their child, information is available at a glance to the child's team members including volunteers, paid staff, autism professionals, nutritionists, even doctors.

Each child's page also features messaging, photo uploads, video collections, file sharing and so on.

In the right hand column of each child's page, parents and team members have access to all sorts of tools including scheduling and activity tracking.

Making Scheduling Easy
The Scheduling Wizard let's parents easily and quickly create a full week's schedule of play sessions for their child. For each day of the week, mom or dad selects whether they want to conduct a morning program, an afternoon program, an evening program or some combination thereof.

Clicking a button automatically creates a schedule laid out in a calendar format with each session represented as a colored square on the calendar. To assign a team member to a specific play session, parents simply click on the session they want to schedule and select the name of that team member.

Once all the team members have been assigned, mom or dad clicks a Publish Schedule button and the scheduled sessions show up in each team member's calendar as well as on the child's home page.

Tracking Activity and Progress
When we're deeply involved in a long term project where we make progress step by step, it's sometimes difficult to appreciate all that we've accomplished. When our project involves many people, it can be difficult to keep everyone up-to-date on what's happening from day to day.

So, one of the things that we added to the site was the ability to track activity and progress. The site's Activity Tracker lets parents and support team members record everything from what foods your child ate today to what words he or she said to the amount of time spent in various activities to the attitudinal and emotional state of each team member.

Before beginning a play session with your child, a team member can log into the site to quickly see what had happened in the playroom that day. They can see what new words your child might be using, what activities are holding his or her interest, who's having a good day and who's having a bad day. Pretty much anything that you want to record.

Thank You!
Anyway, that's as they say, "just the tip of the iceberg!"

There are many things about the site and the services that I didn't talk about in this blog and even more that we're planning on in the coming months.

The site is now open for membership! Hoorah!

To help us work through the last bits and pieces of making the site rock-solid and to help families get started, we're offering free membership services to parents through December 31, 2009.

I feel so privileged to be part of this amazing effort. Thank you for sharing it with me.

If you have a child with Autism or other developmental challenges (or know someone who does), I'd love for you (or them) to check out our site and try out the membership services.

I'd also love to hear your feedback about the site or any challenges you find there. You can send me email at mark@relatetoautism.com.

Wow, it's really nice to stop and celebrate a bit.

Have a great week!

Teflon

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