The holiday season is here and amid all the fun and excitement can be some challenges for families with children on the autism spectrum. Having some strategies in place to can go a long way toward making the holidays more merry for the whole family.
Challenge 1) Family Everywhere! : During the holidays, getting together with extended family can be a lot of fun but it can be stressful for kids to have to engage with so many unfamiliar people.
Challenge 2) Food Craziness!: A fun, but sometimes unfortunate facet of the holidays is all the foods like candy, chocolate, and cookies available. Limiting their children's access to the dizzying array of unhealthy options can be difficult for all parents, but families with kids with ASD may face some particular challenges when their kids have dietary restrictions or engage in tantrum behaviors when denied preferred foods.
- Show your child pictures of the people they are going to see and go over the names with them. You can also show them pictures of houses they are going to visit.
- Put the pictures into a book or 'facetime' over the phone with relatives before they arrive at your house or you go to theirs.
- Depending on the skill level of your child, it may be helpful to practice a greeting that is appropriate like a high five or handshake. Generally, I don't tell kids to hug or kiss someone they don't know!
Challenge 3) Travelling Fears!: Going on a plane trip or a long car ride to see family can be hard for kiddos who have a hard time sitting still or who have never been on a plane before. Here are a few strategies to try before you set foot in the airport.
- Let your child know how many of something is allowed before he starts. If he is allowed two cookies, make sure that you say it and he repeats it. Use a visual if needed. You don't need fancy pictures for this, draw it out on a piece of paper.
- After the amount you allowed is done, redirect your child to another activity. Help them find something to do. Frequently, when people are standing around eating and talking, children will snack because everyone else is!
- Make sure your child has eaten a healthy snack or meal before you take him or her to places with lots of appetizers and candy available. It's helpful to keep these as close to the usual schedule as possible.
- Write a social story about the trip or download one from the internet and edit it to be more specific to your child. Keep it simple but do include what will probably happen and what the child should do when different things happen. You can use any combination of words and pictures that is most appropriate for your child's skill level.
- Prepare a small bag of activities for your child to use during the trip. However, keep most snacks and activities with you so you can give them to the child over the course of the whole trip to avoid your child getting satiated on toys, games or snacks.
Happy holidays to all!
Do you want to increase the communication skills of your child with autism? Here are some strategies you can try today!
All of these strategies can be modified to every age & skill level!
1. Can’t get something for nothing- Try to always have the child do something to get a desired item or activity. Whether it’s a point, a vocalization, or a verbal request, the child should always have to do something to get something.
2. Use the Visual Schedule- Most classrooms have a visual schedule, but at home the child may not have a good understanding of what is coming. Have the child interact with the schedule throughout the day to tell what comes next, to make choices, and to decrease anxiety.
3. Anticipatory Games- Initiate any kind of repetitive game (pushing cars to each other, chase, peek-a-boo). Make sure the fun part of the game is correlated with a vocalization that repeats. After a few times, wait for the child to make a vocalization to continue the game & then immediately continue.
4. Play ‘Dumb’: Pretend you don’t know where a child’s lunch is or what item the child needs to complete a task. The sillier, the better! Have the child tell you (verbally or gesturally) where to find the item or what to do.
5. Model Social Interaction- Practice the skill of independently interacting with others. For example, you can play a game where you practice entering a room & having a child say 'hi' first.
6. Encourage rather than Discourage Interaction: The attempts to engage by a child with ASD may look different and may even be a little uncomfortable for other children. Help to facilitate the interaction by making it fun for both. For instance, if the child with autism grabs a toy from another child, use the opportunity to have the child request or to institute turn-taking.
7. Improve Imitation Skills: Imitation skills are the foundation for communication. Reinforce gross-motor, fine-motor, oral-motor, and vocal imitation skills.
8. Give the child the words you want him to use-If a child hears only questions, then the child may tend to wait to be spoken to rather than being spontaneous. Instead, model what the child should say in a statement-statement format.
9. A little at a Time- If a child asks for a cookie and gets the whole cookie, that is only one opportunity for communication. Giving the child small pieces of cookie or single puzzle pieces for each request increases the number of opportunities for communication.
10. Behavior is communication! Figure out what the child is trying to say & help them to say it!
For more information, please contact A Child's Potential, Inc. through the contact page on our website or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.
All children can learn.
All children's potential is unlimited
Token boards, M&Ms, potty videos, and potty parties. While toilet training your child on the autism spectrum, you may have tried them all and yet your child is still not consistent or may even have an aversion to the potty. Here are some tips and tricks to increase your child's chance of success and to decrease some of the anxiety around toilet training. If toilet training has been unsuccessful, or if your child has developed aversions or tantrum behavior around toileting, try taking a step back and introducing some of these strategies.
- Bathroom stuff stays in the bathroom: When your child is wearing diapers or pull-ups, it can be tempting (and easier) to change them wherever you are. However, by changing your child only in the bathroom, it strengthens the understanding that all urination and bowel movements belong in the bathroom. You can also have them flush the waste down and wash their hands, which are also important pieces of the toileting process.
- Routine is important: Even if your child is not having any success yet on the toilet, put sitting on the toilet into the daily routine. Familiarity with sitting on the potty at predictable times throughout the day can decrease anxiety around toileting. If you use a visual schedule, make sure sitting on the potty is in the schedule multiple times during the day.
- Modeling: This may sound silly, but I have seen it work! Have favorite characters request to use the bathroom, and then have them pretend to go (sometimes I use a dollhouse for this). This works very well with kids who have a tendency to be anxious about using the toilet. For example, last week I started modeling Thomas the Train asking to use the toilet and after a week the little boy started modeling that Thomas was using the toilet and then the boy started asking, too.
- Relax: A child who is stressed or anxious may tend to hold back. Focus on making sure your child is relaxed and calm while sitting on the potty. Find some favorite books or Ipad games and keep those just for sitting on the toilet or play some favorite music. Try to minimize stress and expectations by not talking about peeing/pooping the whole time your child is sitting there. They need to relax for anything to happen!
- Comfort: Is your child using the proper toilet? If your child is bigger, he/she may be uncomfortable on a small potty. If your child is sitting on the big toilet, he may be more comfortable spreading his legs so he doesn't feel like he's falling in or she may need a small stool to put her feet on so they are not dangling. All these factors can contribute to a child feeling more relaxed and less anxious about the toileting process.
Toilet training is not a 'one size fits all' process. Every child is different and has his or her own needs and personality. For more information or assistance on making a specific activity easier for you and your child, please contact A Child's Potential, Inc. through the contact page on our website or visit us on Facebook.
- Tone down the "Potty Party": One piece of advice frequently given to families is to show a lot of positive reinforcement when a child has had success in the potty. Unfortunately, having a big potty party for your child when she is using the toilet or immediately after can backfire by creating stress or startling the child around the toileting experience. Try keeping your positive praise low-key, behavior specific, and only after you are sure the child is done. I usually say something like, 'Hey, good for you peeing in the potty,'.
All children can learn.
All children's potential is unlimited.
When school starts, it can take kids on the spectrum a few weeks to adjust to a new schedule. Here are some strategies you can start putting in place now to make the start of school easier for the whole family.
Your child will need to adapt to a lot of changes with the beginning of a new school year, by starting the process ahead of time he or she can get off to a more successful start!
1. Schedules: Going to bed later and waking up later can be perks of Summertime for kids & adults alike, but now is the time to start moving the schedule closer to what will be expected during the school year. Start pushing bedtime a little earlier and get them up and having breakfast as close as possible to the time they will need to for school. A visual routine for the morning can be helpful for all kids whatever their skill levels and can really increase independence in the morning. Put the schedule in place now so it can be practiced before you are trying to get your kid out the door to catch that bus!Here is a link to a website that has some good, basic visual schedules:http://www.livingwellwithautism.com/how_to_use_picture_cards_and_schedules/self_care_visual_helpers
2. Screen Time: For many kids, the start of school can bring earlier bedtimes and homework, which can lead to battles over turning off the screens. Try to start putting a few more limits on screen-time now before the start of school adds more stress to the situation. Using a timer consistently can be helpful for many families as well as putting clear boundaries on when and where a device can be used. For instance, letting the Ipad be used only in the car or having the t.v. on for specific shows only.
3. Get Familiar: Whether your child is going to be in the same classroom or at a completely new school, it can be very helpful to familiarize him or her with the school as much as possible. Get some pictures of the school or go over and play in the playground. If you know any kids from his or her class, have them meet you there for a playdate. If you know who the teacher is, try emailing them for a picture so you can show your child who his teacher will be. With some preparation, you can help your child adapt to the start of school and decrease the stress levels for everyone in the family. Please contact A Child's Potential, Inc. using our contact page if you have any specific questions about this topic.
Do you dread taking your child with ASD to the dentist? Is a trip to get a hair-cut out of the question?
Try using the '3 P's': Pretend, Practice, & Pair to take the sting out of necessary outings. With a little time and preparation, kids of all ages and skill levels can learn to tolerate these and many other difficult activities.
1) Pretend: Start with acting out the challenging situation on a regular basis. Get a toy dentist or doctor kit and take turns with your child pretending to be the doctor/patient or dentist/patient. Recruit siblings, favorite stuffed animals, or family members to join in the fun. Make a visual schedule to use during the play-acting so that you can use it for the actual activity later.
2) Practice: How often does your child go into the dentist's office? Probably when he has an appointment, right? Generally these visits are few enough that the situation feels unfamiliar and possibly has negative connotations from a previous (sometimes traumatic) experience. Talk to the office about visiting a few times leading up to a regular appointment. Have the child interact with the receptionist, meet the doctor or hair-stylist, and sit in the chair or lie down on the table. Familiarity can make the experience more understandable and less scary for a child.
3) Pair: Your child may be associating a trip to the doctor with a painful shot or a hair-cut with loud clippers. During the practice phases, start pairing the visit with something more pleasurable that he only gets to have while the appointment is going on. For instance, bring a favorite book or character and let the child hold it while sitting in the dentist chair and then remove it when you have the child get out of the chair. Or let the child play a preferred Ipad game while you acclimate them to the clippers noise and then remove the game when you turn the clippers off. Your child will start to associate the dentist, doctor, or hair-cut with a much more fun activity.
The 3 P's can be modified to improve your child's experience with any challenging, infrequent activity like getting a picture with Santa, going on an airplane, or whatever!
For more information or assistance on making a specific activity easier for you and your child, please contact A Child's Potential, Inc. through the contact page on our website or visit us on Facebook.
All children can learn.
All children's potential is unlimited.
The last time I got my hair cut, I got into a conversation with the stylist about her little brother who engages in such severe tantrum behavior around getting his hair cut that his parents had resorted to trimming his hair while he was asleep.
For many families with kiddos on the autism spectrum, getting their child's hair cut can be every bit as traumatic as a trip to the doctor or the dentist. Because it's safer to put off haircuts than medical appointments, a child might not get a lot of practice at getting haircuts successfully and establishing rapport with a compassionate stylist as they do with their doctor.
Here are a few strategies that can ease the stress of haircuts for everyone.
1. What's not to like?: Different kids have different fears/anxieties about haircuts. Try to identify specifically what is most distressing to your child so you can decide whether to target that activity for desentisation or to eliminate it from the process. For example, if the sound and feeling of the electric clippers is particularly stressful for your child with sensory sensitivity, you may opt to instruct the stylist not to use them while you continue to work on desentitization in the other settings and just have the stylist use scissors for now.
2. Practice sitting in the chair: Arrange with a hair salon/barbershop to let you and your child come in and practice sitting in the chair for short periods. While the child is sitting in the chair, allow them access to a preferred activity (toy, ipad, music). When you have the child get out of the chair, remove the preferred activity. While the child is acclimating to the chair, attempt to add some snipping/spraying noises around the child and have the stylist (or you!) touch and lift the child's hair just like you would during a haircut. After exposing the child to the noises, have him leave the chair.
3. Cut a little: When your child has had some successful trials at sitting in the chair with snipping/spraying, then have the stylist attempt to cut a section of the hair. Give the child access to the preferred activity while the stylist is working and then (before any protesting has occurred!), pause the haircut, get the preferred activity back, and give the child a break. This will insure the child doesn't satiate on the item and will want to come back for more. After a short break (a few minutes) have the child sit back down and continue with the preferred activity and the haircut. Repeat 2-3 times until haircut is done.
4. Quit while you're ahead: If you start to see the signs that your child is getting ancy, encourage the stylist to quickly get to an acceptable stopping place and STOP. Attempt to end the haircut before any significant protesting has occurred so that you end on a good note and your child's last experience with that haircut is positive.
5. End with a treat: When the haircut is done (or you have decided it's done), give your child a special treat while he is still sitting in the chair. Getting a particularly preferred and rare treat while at the hair salon/barbershop will further cement positive associations with haircuts for your child.
Hopefully, these strategies will cut some of the stress out of haircuts for you, your child, and your stylist. All children are different, but with some patience and practice, most kids can have a positive experience getting a haircut. Please feel free to try these strategies or share some of your own!
Costumes? Candy? Frightening décor? Halloween seems like it should be fun for all, but this holiday can be stressful for families with kiddos on the autism spectrum. Here are some tips to make Halloween a little less scary for your family.
1) Costume Concerns: Let your child get used to the costume. You can practice having your child wear parts of the costume for short periods of time. If your child wants to wear the costume a lot in the days leading up to Halloween, go ahead and let them! The more comfortable your child is with the costume, the more likely she is to wear it on the big night.
2) Trick or Treat!: Practicing 'Trick or Treating' using your own house a few days before Halloween can help your little one to get the concept and be more relaxed about it. You can even take turns to model how to say 'Trick or Treat' and 'Thank you!'. Your child can also practice opening the door & giving out the candy!
3) Vocalizing or articulation issues? : If your child is not verbal or is difficult to understand, you can get creative about how he can participate in the Trick or Treating tradition. He could show a note-card that says 'Trick or Treat' on one side & 'Thank you' on the other or you could record the words on a small voice recorder that could be attached to her costume & she just needs to push the button.
With a little preparation and if they want to, all kiddos can participate in the Halloween tradition! Please feel free to contact me with any specific questions about how to prepare your child for Halloween and I can provide more strategies for your situation.
Happy Halloween, everyone
Getting your child with autism moving can be a challenge. For kiddos with fewer skills, it can be hard to find a program that will accommodate their needs, and for those with more skills, negotiating the social demands of group sport activities can be overwhelming. But research has shown that increased physical activity is linked to decreasing difficult behaviors and improving cognitive ability. So what sports can give your child with ASD the most fun and effective workout? Here are three activities that will give your child a workout and also teach some valuable skills:
1) Swimming: First of all, water safety and the ability to swim are extremely important for all kiddos to learn in order to be safe around water. This may be especially true for kids with ASD, as some have a tendency to be attracted to water. Swimming is also a great workout and can leave even the most active kid exhausted by bedtime. Many organizations have adaptive swim classes for children with disabilities or you can find family swim times at community pools.
2) Running: Does your child have a lot of energy? Get him or her running! Running is a strenuous but fun sport for kids of any age that doesn't involve a lot of complicated rules or social demands. You can use running to establish routines and teach your child about boundaries, which could help to prevent a child from going wandering.
3) Aikido: Aikido is a martial art that has no punching or kicking. It is always done with another person, which helps kids learn to read others' body language. Traditional Aikido is also learned by watching and doing rather than by verbal instruction. As many kids with ASD are visual learners, some may be very successful learning in this format.
Choose a sport and get your child moving today!
Is your child on the spectrum non-verbal or emergently verbal? Here are 3 strategies you can use today to increase your child's communication skills at home:
1) Don't get something for nothing! It may sound like common-sense, but if your child wants an item or activity, make sure he has to do something communicative to get it. This can be as simple as a point or eye contact, but can build up to ...vocalizations or signs.
2) Completing the line: Does your child have a favorite song? Or does she like games like Peek a boo or chase? Start a phrase or song line and have her put on the last word (or even a sound) to continue the game or song. For instance, you could say: 'Ready, set...' and when she says 'go', she gets chased! Pretty fun...
3) Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.: The more chances to request, the more practice your kiddo gets. He wants juice? Fine. Just give him a little bit. Enough for a few drinks. Then hold the juice container up & have him request again. Same with an activity like a video game or coloring. Have the child stop after 5-10 minutes & request again.
Pick one of these strategies & give it a try tonight!