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KidsAhead

by Leslie Feldman
KidsAhead: Ahead of the Game

KidsAhead ... improving the lives of children with developmental disorders.

For children with autism and other developmental disorders, life at home and school can be filled with many challenges. Not only is the child affected, but the family as well. Thanks to KidsAhead Consulting & Center for Development, and RDI (Relationship Development Inter­vention), these children are able to develop in areas that will take them far in life.

“At KidsAhead, parents find supportive and empowering family-based programs. It’s all about quality of life,” says Libby Majewski, RDI program certified consultant and owner/director of KidsAhead.

Respecting the developmental process
KidsAhead, located in Medford, offers families the support and guidance needed to help improve the overall quality of life for their child and their family. Their team approach focuses on what has been called “the missing piece” in autism: social relationships. Often, parents come to them and they say their child has made progress in many areas, but something is missing.

“Once we begin to break it down for them, there is often that moment where the light bulb goes on,” explains Majewski. “The developmental process that we all go through as infants and young children is essential. It allows us all to be socially competent as we grow. This process has been overlooked in many of the existing programs. Children with autism often lack these foundational relationships and they struggle to make authentic friendships and build relationships with others.”

During the initial consultation, Majewski and her staff discuss what are called the “core” deficits of autism-related disorders: social reciprocity, flexible thinking, relative thinking, emotional regulation and balanced communication.

Parents who want more for their child
The KidsAhead treatment program is based on a parent model. Parents learn about autism and their child’s specific neurology. “Our clients are the most dedicated parents you will ever see. They are the ‘experts’ on their child,” says Majewski. “But they also know they need support and guidance in this journey. They want more for their child in terms of quality of life. They learn firsthand from us what developmental processes like ‘social referencing’ or ‘dynamic eye gaze’ means. They guide their child through developmental milestones they missed or didn’t have a chance to solidify. They soon understand the need to build what we call ‘dynamic intelligence.’”

Donna, a client from Hainesport, says, “When we came to KidsAhead, our child was struggling just to get through the day due to his social communication and challenges of self-regulation, and his school experience and social life were so negative for him. The traditional approaches did not work and our child was not making progress in areas such as relationships and participation in social activities. RDI offered us something unique, customized and developmental versus treating his challenges as purely behavioral. Our child was respected; they listened to what our needs were and what our hopes and dreams were for our child. Since working with the RDI folks, our child has reached the social milestones that he needs to participate fully in school and peer activities. Our quality of life as a family has greatly improved.”

Working alongside the schools
KidsAhead often works in conjunction with school districts in South Jersey to help children that have not responded to traditional methods. Parents often request that services become part of their child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP). This is a newer approach to autism-related disorders and school teams are often eager to learn new information.

A place to belong
Majewski and her team of professionals have created a center in Medford where children can come to participate in summer camps, social groups and even half sleepovers. “We start where every child needs to start,” adds Majewski. “Every child is not ready to be in a group, but a ‘dyad’ with two children may be a perfect fit and we can provide that.”

It all comes down to making a true impact on the child.

“With relationships come real life success,” concludes Majewski. “We know the parents we work with want more for their child than just academic success. Friends, interests, hobbies, meaningful work, relationships—these are things every parent wants for their children as they grow. We know we need to change gears and look at dealing with the core deficits of the autism spectrum differently.”

KidsAhead is made up of a team of highly trained certified consultants, teachers, home staff and school shadows. Located at 6 N. Main St., Medford, parents should call (609) 654-KIDS to schedule a free consultation. For more information, visit KidsAhead.net.

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 6 (August, 2012).
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