Minnesota students spend Spring Break at USU

March 12, 2012 by cpehrson

While USU students head out this week on their Spring Break, students from Minnesota go back to school after spending their Spring Break on the USU campus last week.   
Three college students at a table eating lunch







On March 4th, eleven students from the Colleges of St. Benedict and St. Johns in Minnesota arrived in Utah as part of their schools’ “Alternative Break Experiences (ABE).  ABE is a program offered by the Colleges to provide their students with exposure to other cultures, places and ways of life that will complement their academic experiences and, hopefully, inspire their lives.

CPD Volunteer Coordinator, Jeff Sheen, worked out an active schedule for each day the students were here that would give them many opportunities to help out with programs that serve people with disabilities, and connected them with host families to give them a more personal experience in the community.

College student greeting young child with a high five


Monday morning started early with a tour of the CPD and spending a little time with the children in the Up to 3 Early Intervention Program before sharing a potluck lunch with CPD staff.





The afternoon was spent out in the community helping with the Neighborhood Non-profit Housing that builds affordable housing for individuals with disabilities and low-income families. The first day ended at the bowling alley helping children with disabilities who participate in the TOPS Sports program.

A group of young adults in the snow with skis and snowshoes.

A good time was had by all!



The next two days, the students had a great time with the Common Ground Outdoor Adventures group helping community members with disabilities snowshoe and cross country ski at Logan Canyon’s Beaver Mountain Resort. This was their first time experiencing Utah’s fantastic snow and beautiful mountains!





Thursday found them down in Salt Lake City at the CReATE warehouse, a part of the Utah Assistive Technology Program, where they refurbish mobility equipment and offer them to people who need them at a discount cost.  The students, along with five employees from CReATE/AT Lab and one from DSPD, recycled 54 devices weighing 7,960 pounds, giving CReATE some recycling income. In the four hours they were there, the work accomplished would have taken CReATE staff nearly two weeks to do.  You can read more about their day on the UATP blog.

Their last day was spent helping young adult students in the PEER program practice their social skills while they played games and interacted with the volunteers.  The afternoon found them having lunch at the Developmental Skills Laboratory with older adults with disabilities and doing some fun activities with them. 

Two young adults flexing their muscles.








All in all, it was a week full of service, fun, and new friends!

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Up to 3 Gives Hope to Families of Children with Autism

April 21, 2010 by cpehrson

The Up to 3 Early Intervention Program is tackling autism head on through a three-pronged approach.

Three years ago, the ABC classroom was created at the CPD to work with young toddlers who exhibit symptoms associated with autism or Autism Spectrum Diusorders (ASD), or who have been diagnosed with ASD.  Lead teacher, Janel Preston, teaches four classes in Logan and two other classes in Box Elder County.  Each class has 5-6 young children from the ages of 12-18 months up to three years old enrolled in it.  The teacher/student ratio is generally one-on-one, due to the support of the trained staff at Up to 3 who work in each of the classrooms.

The ABC class follows the Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters (P.L.A.Y.) Project developed by Richard Solomon, M.D. and based on the Developmental, Individualized, Relationship-based, Floortime approach developed by Dr. Stanley Greenspan.

The P.L.A.Y. Project follows the National Academy of Sciences recommendations for the education of young children with ASD.  Parents and professionals should:

  • Begin interventions early (18 months to 5 years);
  • Use intensive intervention 25 hours per week;
  • Have a teacher/play partner to child ratio of 1:1 or 1:2;
  • Use interventions that are engaging;
  • Have a strategic direction (e.g., social skills, language, etc.)

Because the goal of the P.L.A.Y. project is to help parents become their child’s best play partner, parents attend all ABC classes so they can learn how to interact with their child in more effective ways.  The teachers coach the parents from the sidelines or model for them when needed on which strategies to use to engage their child as they are playing with them.

The focus of the play intervention is to follow the child’s lead and expand on what the child’s interests are at the moment. Then the parents and  teachers move them to more functional levels of behavior and more purposeful communication.

The second prong of the Up to 3 intervention brings the P.L.A.Y. approach into the child’s home where Janel meets with the parents and the child’s siblings to coach them on how to engage him in his natural environment.  The parents are asked to spend at least one hour a day in focused play with their child, using the strategies that they have learned.

The last prong of intervention brings the parents and children in the ABC classrooms together in a community-based environment once a month.  During these outings, families have a chance to participate in fun community activities that they might not feel comfortable taking their child to alone.  These activities have included going bowling & ice skating, flying kites, feeding ducks at the park, playing basketball, going to the grocery store,  and playing at the local Fun Park.  Up to 3 staff attend these outings with the families to provide support and modeling for the parents.

Parents also have a opportunity to meet other parents who are dealing with the same challenges in an informal atmosphere.  This creates a natural and very valuable support network for them that can last many years.

The ABC classrooms play an important role  in helping very young children with ASD and their families learn how to deal with the challenges of autism.  Paired with the home and community interventions,  parents who have children with autism have a great deal of support and hope as they see their children moving out of their small worlds and into the bigger world around  them.

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