Interview Beth Aune, OTR/L: Behavior Solutions for Inclusive Schools

Interview  Beth Aune, OTR/L: Behavior Solutions for Inclusive Schools

Author Interview Series:  For the launch of our new Special Needs Book Review site, we have invited authors to participate in online interviews about their books, their work, and their lives. Many of the authors of the books we review are parents of children with special needs. Other parents with similar children will be encouraged by their journey. Educators and the general public will learn how to help make these families’ journey more pleasant. Today’s post is our interview with Beth Aune, paediatric occupational therapist, owner of Desert OT for Kids, and one of the three authors of two wonderful books on behavior solutions for inclusive schools.

Beth Aune’s work experience as a paediatric occupational therapist must surely have been an asset when the three authors, Beth Aune OTR/L, Beth Burt and Peter Gennaro, sat down to write about behavior solutions for inclusive schools. See our interview with Beth Burt here.

Lorna:  Welcome Beth Aune to our newly launched Special Needs Book Review site. Thank you so much for taking the time from your busy schedule to tell us about yourself and your successful books on behavior solutions in inclusive school settings.  Why don’t we start with a little bit about your background?

>>Beth Aune>>  I received my degree in OT from Loma Linda University, and I immediately began specializing in the area of pediatrics.  Currently, I own a clinic that employs several clinicians.  In addition to out-patient therapy, we provide intervention in the school settings, due to our contracts with local school districts.   I am also on the clinical staff at LLU, where I have taught classes that focus on Sensory Integration and autism to the OT students, and I have supervised numerous students during their clinical affiliations.  On a personal level, I have three wonderful children:  my daughter Bailey (senior in high school), son Riley (junior in high school), and daughter Emma (6th grader).  I am also a proud auntie of Avery, my nephew who has autism.

Lorna: Behavior Solutions for the Inclusive Classroom was published in 2010. Since your book has come out, what have you been doing to promote it? Do you present at workshops and conferences for parents and educators or was that already part of your life as an occupational therapist?

>>Beth Aune>>  I have always been interested and passionate about providing helpful and pertinent information about the role and importance of OT as part of helpful intervention for children with ASD to parents and educators.  In fact, Beth Burt’s son, Jarren was one of my very first clients with autism, and Beth asked me (many years ago, but it seems like yesterday!) to present at a workshop for an autism parent support group for which she was president.  That was our first collaboration and it stimulated my continued passion for public speaking in a variety of arenas such as private pre-schools, public schools, parent support groups, and conferences.  I have been honored to speak at Future Horizons (our publisher) conferences and for Autism Conferences of America, along with Temple Grandin!

Lorna: My job as a teacher changed a lot from when I started to teach to when I retired.  What do you see happening with the role occupational therapist play in the care and treatment of children with special needs?

>>Beth Aune>>  The focus of OT in the schools has made a shift from pull-out therapy to a collaborative and consultative model, which has been so very helpful and beneficial.  The focus on sensory issues that impact the arousal state, behaviors, and motor performance of children in the general education setting, as well as in the special education classes has been growing and validated.  I absolutely LOVE working with children in the natural settings at school and providing ongoing information, support, and strategies to the teachers and the paraeducators who work with these students on a daily basis.  It is such an effective model, and I find that these school professionals are hungry for the information that occupational therapists can provide.

Lorna: What would you answer to the question, “Beth what good things do you think your book can bring about?

>>Beth Aune>>  First, I would have to say that the impetus for us to write our books arose from our direct interaction with teachers.  As an OT working in the school setting, it was my natural instinct to hear teachers’ concerns and to provide immediate and effective strategies to help them help their students.  The challenge was that this occurs on a case-by-case basis.  The books can reach a broad audience, and the format of it is the same as when I work directly with one teacher:  the child has a behavior that is getting in the way of his learning…there is an explanation for that behavior…and there are practical solutions that can be easily and immediately implemented.

Lorna:  Behavior Solutions for the Inclusive Classroom is a must-have guide to find how to most effectively help special needs children be happy and productive in inclusive settings. What problems would an occupational therapist be asked to help out with, so a child with special needs can function in an inclusive setting?

>>Beth Aune>>  Occupational therapists are especially gifted in the area of skilled observation and task analysis.  When a teacher reports problems with a child who is motor restless, fidgety, inattentive, or even oppositional, we look at the environmental and task demands and problem-solve to come up with creative ideas to help the student.  It is critical to look at sensory processing and how the student’s deficits in that area (that are related to the disability) might impact his/her arousal state, social/emotional participation, and motor performance. 

Lorna: What is the feedback you are receiving about Behavior Solutions for the Inclusive Classroom? Can you share comments that have made all the work involved in writing of this book all worthwhile?

>>Beth Aune>>  After the first book came out, teachers gave feedback such as:  “I love the easy-to-use format,” and “Thank you for giving good ideas, rather than more theory.”  The impetus for writing the second book came directly from educators who wanted information and ideas for other settings at school beyond the classroom, such as the playground and cafeteria.

Lorna: What is going on with you this Fall? Any upcoming events concerning your book?

>>Beth Aune>>  The director of a pre-school in Palm Desert, CA recently approached me to provide a comprehensive workshop for her facility.  She is working on a grant through an early intervention funding source.  Not only will I be able to provide a 4-hour power point presentation to the entire staff, but the proposal includes follow-up direct training and support in all seven individual classrooms.  We are also able to purchase equipment for the classrooms and playgrounds to help implement the sensory strategies that will be suggested.  This director is also purchasing both our books for all her teachers.  It is a hefty project, and one that I am honored and excited to undertake!   In December, I am presenting at a Future Horizons conference in Hawaii.

Lorna: Congratulations! What wonderful news both for your clinic, Desert OT for Kids, and  for your books! In closing, what are your two best tips for parents raising children with special needs?

>>Beth Aune>>  Celebrate your child and recognize his/her unique talents and gifts, rather than hyper-focusing on “fixing” him/her.  Focus on the strength areas and how they can be an asset to help the weak areas.  Be assertive, rather than hostile, with your interactions with school personnel to help them see your child as the wonderfully gifted and special child he know he/she is!

Never underestimate the power of play.  This is a child’s main occupation, and one that can easily be overlooked in the daily grind.  Take time to get on the floor, jump on the bed, blow bubbles, giggle, tickle, act silly.  Don’t lose touch with your own inner, playful child…it’s there!

Lorna: What different ways can we track you down and see what’s going on with you?

>>Beth Aune>>  I’m working on a website for my business, Desert OT for Kids, and hope to get something on Facebook also.  For now, my email address is autismwhisperer80@yahoo.com

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This post was written by Lorna
Lorna d’Entremont: Vice-President of KidCompanions, mother of three, grandma of 5 and wife. Retired teacher and special needs advocate. Throughout she has taught all levels from grade 2 to grade 9. Lorna loved teaching and enjoyed seeing the students progress in the school system. During her 30 year career she took a few years off to raise her three children.