On the Horizon 5/8/13

Welcome to “On the Horizon”

Issue 221:
Building Competence through Guided Participation

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 Dr. Beurkens
  • Feature Article: Building Competence through Guided Participation
  • Ask the Horizons Team
  • Upcoming Events
  • Recommended Resources

Hi Everyone!

I’m back in Michigan after a few days in California where I was attending a conference. It’s always great to take a break from the usual routine to immerse myself in new information and connect with colleagues from around the world. Seeing the ocean and soaking up some sun and warmth is never a bad thing, either!

The feature article this week by Michelle is about helping children feel competent and successful in activities and interactions with us. She provides some excellent red flags to watch for, and suggestions of how to respond if we see challenges arise. Guiding children to feel competent is one of the most important roles of parents and educators. I know you’ll have some “aha” moments from the article.

If you’re in our area and haven’t checked our summer camps information, you can get the details here. We’re looking forward to a fun summer!

Enjoy your week!

Looking to the horizon,


Building Competence through Guided Participation

By Michelle VanderHeide, BSW

Guided participationI’ll never forget my first job. I started working at a very small restaurant, about 20 tables, with only one other waitress. The first day on the job I was handed an apron, a pad of paper, and a pen; and told to get to work. I was given no guidance on how to wait tables. The restaurant became immediately busy, and I just started taking orders. Miraculously, I got the drinks out to the right tables; but by the time the food orders were up, I had no idea where to go with the orders. I started walking up to my tables and asking; “Did you order the shrimp basket?” “Please tell me that you ordered the shrimp basket!” “Somebody from this table must have ordered the shrimp basket!!!” As you can imagine, my stress increased as the restaurant got busier and I still had no idea where to bring the food! I failed at my job that day, and was feeing completely incompetent as a waitress; especially when my boss told me how disappointed he was in me!

Click here to read the rest of this article…


My young adult daughter with autism recently had some neuropsychological testing done as part of an evaluation for disability support services. The psychologist who evaluated her used a standard IQ test and told me that she is “very retarded”. While I know my daughter has cognitive impairment, the way he said it and the tools he used to evaluate her leave me with a very bad taste in my mouth. She is definitely stronger with nonverbal skills, but he did not use a nonverbal tool to see what her level of intelligence might be in those areas. I’d like to get some nonverbal ability testing done. Do you think that is a good idea?

Thanks – Sarah in Michigan


Dear Sarah,

I’m so sorry you had a negative experience with your daughter’s evaluation, and I can understand your concern. Evaluations should yield information about a person’s strengths as well as their challenges. While it can be difficult to hear testing results in the areas of difficulty, it sounds like the person working with you and your daughter was quite insensitive about communicating results. When evaluating someone with autism or other communication impairments, a nonverbal assessment tool can be very helpful. If you would like to get more information about your daughter’s abilities in those areas, having another evaluation done using tests that do not rely on verbal processing and responses would be helpful. I would also recommend looking for an evaluator who has experience testing people like your daughter and can establish a positive rapport with her. I wish you the best as you seek to better understand your daughter’s cognitive abilities.

Take Care,

Dr. Beurkens

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Upcoming Events

Summer Camps

Your child is going to LOVE the exciting adventures we have planned for this summer! We will explore a variety of engaging themes together, complete with lots of opportunities for movement, music, problem solving, collaboration, and indoor and outdoor fun.

Our camps are designed to offer a fun, safe, and therapeutic environment for children with neurodevelopmental disorders to engage with others, try new things, and build skills over the summer months. A low staff to child ratio ensures that everyone receives appropriate support.

To see a complete schedule of upcoming camps, click here.


Hear Dr. Beurkens Speak

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

Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders: Practical Strategies to Improve Processing

May 13, 2013 in Princeton, NJ

May 14, 2013 in Edison, NJ

May 15, 2013 in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ



Do Something Daily Calendar

The Calendar offers a daily dose of inspiration and ideas for spending time together—whether you have 60 seconds or 60 minutes.

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