On the Horizon: 08/29/12

Welcome to "On the Horizon"

Issue 196: Back to School: How to Strive and Thrive During the Transition

On the Horizon is an award winning weekly ezine for parents of children with developmental disabilities who want simple, effective strategies to reduce stress, support their child’s development, and improve quality of life for the whole family.

To keep receiving On the Horizon, please add the email address "nicolebeurkens@horizonsdrc.com" to your safe address list.

  • A Note from Nicole: Transition into the School Year
  • Feature Article:
    Back to School: How to Strive and Thrive During the Transition
  • Ask the Horizons Team
  • Upcoming Events
  • Recommended Resources

Hi Everyone!

I hope this finds you enjoying your week! It’s a busy time here at the center with wrapping up summer programs and getting ready for fall. We’re having a lot of meetings with families to plan the transition into the school year in order to make it as successful as possible for their children. Courtney’s article this week provides many helpful tips for those of you who are getting ready to send your kids back to school soon (and for those of you who homeschool as well).

The Q&A section below features a question we are asked frequently regarding eye contact. Courtney provides a simple sequence you can use if you would like your child to use eye contact more consistently and appropriately. I know many of you will find it helpful.

Enjoy the last few days of August!

Looking to the horizon,

Back to School: How to Strive and Thrive During the Transition

By Courtney Kowalczyk, M.Ed.

Summer is almost over, and we will soon be seeing the flashing lights of school buses during the morning and afternoon commutes. Now that the summer is quickly coming to an end, it is time for parents to begin thinking about getting ready for school. Gearing up for the new school year can be very difficult for families. Buying supplies, going to orientations, and getting the kids to bed earlier can make those last few weeks before school stressful, especially for parents. Here are several suggestions to make this time of year more enjoyable for all.

Go to bed and wake up earlier. By gradually modifying the times your children go to bed and wake up over the course of a few weeks, you can help them transition to new sleep and wake routines without having to do it during the first week of school. This allows their bodies to have time to adjust to the gradual changes as well, and makes the morning evening hours more enjoyable for all.

Click here to read the rest of this article…


My child only looks at me when I tell him to. I do not want to continue to prompt him. What do I do?

-Marilyn in Traverse City, MI


Hi Marilyn,

Thanks for asking this important question! Continuous prompting for eye contract creates major problems and doesn’t help the child learn how or why he would shift his attention to you in the first place. The use of eye contact (also known as "gaze shifting") is a fascinating developmental milestone that develops in neurotypical children early in the first year of life. When it does not develop, we as adults have a tendency to force the issue by demanding it through prompting. You will support your son’s development with this process by removing your prompting and making some small but important changes. Follow these simple steps when you would like your child to shift his gaze to you:

  1. Stop what is happening around you (i.e. stop what you are doing as well as what your child is doing).
  2. Get down at your child’s level.
  3. Take hold of your child’s hands (or put your hand on his body) and say his name.
  4. Wait–it may take a while, but your child will direct his attention/shift his gaze towards you.
  5. When you child is oriented towards you, be sure to give him a big smile to let him know you are now engaged with him.

By practicing this sequence over time, your child will learn to shift his gaze to you in appropriate ways and for meaningful reasons.

Best Wishes,

Follow Us:

Upcoming Events

Hear Nicole Speak

Upcoming dates and locations where Nicole Beurkens, PhD will be speaking:

Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders: Practical Strategies to Improve Processing

September 26, 2012 in Missoula, Montana

September 27, 2012 in Butte, Montana

September 28, 2012 in Billings, Montana

October 18, 2012 in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania

October 19, 2012 in Cherry Hill, New Jersey


Learn as we grow

This long-awaited book is written for parents and professionals who want to be more effective in their work with students who have neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism.

More Information >>