ABC Television’s international (shown in 47 countries) hit series The Supernanny will re-air the Autism Episode – featuring Dr. Lynn Koegel of the Koegel Autism Center at UC Santa Barbara’s Gevirtz School – on Monday, June 19th (at 9 pm on KEYT TV3 in Santa Barbara). The show had one of the highest ratings of any Supernanny episode, and there has been considerable interest in this next airing. “Working with the Supernanny team was a wonderful experience,” Lynn Koegel says. “They are completely dedicated to helping families, including parents of children with special needs. Their efforts have helped bring attention to the issues of autism and ways of treating it.”
During the hour-long program, Supernanny Jo Frost teams with world-renowned autism expert Dr. Lynn Koegel to tackle the parenting issues faced by a family whose three-year-old son is in his own world. Deirdre and Trae Facente don't know how to integrate their autistic son Tristin into their daily life with their four-year-old twins, Kayla and Marlana. Tristin is caught up in his own world of spinning, jumping, swinging and, often, taking off his clothes. The only time he spends with his family is sitting at the dinner table. The twins, who demand much of their stay-at-home mom’s attention, can’t figure out how to play with their little brother. The parents are at a loss as to how to help Tristin come out of his zone and join the family.
Although Jo Frost is extremely talented at parenting, she knew she needed an expert in the field to help the Facentes so she decided to contact Dr. Koegel. Together they refine the classic Supernanny methods and teach all the Facentes Dr. Koegel’s inclusion and communication techniques to help engage Tristin. For example, when they introduce the new daily schedule to everyone, Dr. Koegel uses a picture board with Tristin to help him understand in a concrete way.
In just a week, Tristin, who had never been able to say any words with consistency or an understanding of their meaning, is able to speak hundreds of times using over 20 different words in context. He is bursting with requests to play a favorite game, be tickled or eat a snack. Step-by-step, Frost and Dr. Koegel help the parents keep Tristin from his disruptive behaviors by including him in family chores and activities. These efforts culminate in the boy helping his dad set the table, a seemingly mundane task that is so miraculous for Tristin, it brings tears to Trae’s eyes.
This episode is Dr. Koegel’s second appearance on the show. She had already appeared in an earlier episode involving the Arthur and Cathy Webb family, which includes a child with Down syndrome.
The major goals of the UC-Santa Barbara Koegel Autism Research & Training Center are increasing our understanding of autism spectrum disorders, the development and implementation of state-of-the-art pivotal response treatments, as well as the improvement of elementary and secondary education efforts for children with autism and other severe disabilities. The center’s primary interests lie in research and training (both pre-service and in-service), focusing on family support and on the education of children with autism in community environments and classrooms with their typically developing peers.Jo Frost is not only the star of the TV show but also author of a companion book to the series, Supernanny: How to Get the Best from Your Children (Hyperion Books), which spent 17 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list.
[Lynn Koegel is available for interviews; to set up an interview contact George Yatchisin at 805 893 5789.]