Play is often described as the “work” of childhood, where children can make friendships, learn social skills, come to understand expected group behavior, consequences, turn taking, and cooperation, not to mention have some fun! Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can reap these same benefits by playing games with other kids, though many do not naturally gain the aforementioned skills simply by being exposed to games or other play objects, as might their non-disabled peers. As with many concepts, games and their component skills may need to be explicitly taught, supported, and adaptations made in order for a child with autism to experience success with the activity.
Sensory struggles in a child with autism can hinder his or her ability to grasp a writing implement and to use it correctly. But some marvelous strategies exist that can help children learn to write: countering “floppy” muscle tone, varying implement thickness, trying different implement tips to reduce noise issues, and repetition with different implements are all strategies that can help children with autism and/or sensory integration issues.
Yoga, an ancient practice that originated in India, is today a term familiar across most of the world. Those who’ve experienced the practice may be familiar with its benefits of relaxation and overall improved physical health. Did you know, however, that exploring yoga with a child with autism can help him or her improve mobility, spatial awareness, coping skills, and even contribute to self-confidence?
Safety and preparation for emergency situations is a concern for any child, but especially for children with autism, who may be unable to communicate or respond correctly in emergency situations.
Children come into this world with little knowledge of the world around them. As they grow they explore their environment, acquire knowledge about social norms, facts, and what is expected and accepted. For children with autism the expectations are the same. Learning how to interact with peers, teachers, and parents is a process that each developing child navigates.
Special Olympics and Unified Sports for Children with Autism
Sports are a unifying, fun way for individuals and communities to connect. For individuals with autism, participation in athletic events may be difficult due to the loud, chaotic environments or exclusion from participating. The Special Olympics and Unified Sports are programs specifically created to be inclusive of athletes of all ages and abilities in participating in team sports.
Going to the dentist can be a cause for anxiety for most of us, but it’s a very different feeling for those with autism. Patients with autism often have difficulty staying still and allowing the dentist to do what’s needed, which is why a loved one should always be present. Everyone needs a hand to hold sometimes, especially those who fear the dentist, and it’s no different with patients with autism.
Transitions from one activity to the next can be difficult for any child, especially if they are being asked to leave a preferred activity to instead do something they need to do. While some behaviors in response to transitions may look similar between neurotypical children and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the reasons behind the behaviors can differ. When a child is navigating life with ASD, the world can be an unpredictable place, and a set routine can help them feel more in control, greatly easing anxiety and frustration. If that routine needs to change for any reason, it can feel like someone pulled a rug out from underneath them, and they may feel emotionally overwhelmed in response.
Despite being riddled with its own challenges and stressors, childhood can often be idealized as a time of magic and freedom. What often makes childhood so uniquely sacred is the acceptance and endorsement of play. While play can often seem like a time of rest and rejuvenation unburdened by demands, it can also be carried out in a therapeutic manner to help your child with autism practice important life skills. Furthermore, enhancing play therapy through engaging principles of Positive Psychology, the scientific study of well-being, can make your child’s play even more beneficial by inviting in more positivity, happiness, and joy during playtime.
Summer camp can be a positive and enriching experience for children on the autism spectrum, providing an alternative to the rigorous school year routine and opportunities for peer interactions. However, finding the right fit for your child can be intimidating and does require research and planning - here are some steps to help get you started.
Travel can be a beautiful way to explore a new environment, bond as a family, and learn together. For children on the autism spectrum, travel can also mean venturing through unfamiliar routines and adjusting to stressful, chaotic situations. However, with thoughtful preparation, traveling can be an opportunity to show your child that a break from the usual routines can be a wonderful adventure. Use these 10 tips to help create a travel experience that is rewarding for everyone in your family.
With the holiday season comes family gatherings, cozy meals, vacation plans, and yes — a dash of festive chaos. Traveling to visit family can be stressful even when everything goes as expected. However, a bit of planning and preparation can help keep your holiday season the most wonderful time of the year.
With difficulty making sense of their surroundings and feelings of anxiety, children with autism often develop routines and rituals to have some form of order and structure to their lives. Everyday routines such as washing and teeth brushing are generally consistent. There are times, however, when routines change during events such as fire drills, field trips, and special occasions. During times of transition or change, children may be more likely to have tantrums, aggressive behavior, and show resistance. It is important to prepare children for the possibility of change and help them understand the procedures they need to follow during novel situations.
A family's bond is one of the strongest, purest forms of love. Each component is essential - parents, siblings, and extended family. When we consider a family consisting of a child with autism, the familial ties become increasingly vital. Parents and caregivers definitely become surrounded by more demands than anticipated and have limited time for other tasks and relationships. There is also a heavy reliance on extended family and friends for physical and emotional support. A sibling can become heavily involved in the development of their brother or sister with autism by helping foster social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development. However, throughout the process, siblings may be overwhelmed by the mature role they play in their sibling's lives, feel overshadowed by their sibling with autism's required parental attention, or struggle to understand the ramifications of having a sibling with autism. So how can we support the siblings of children with autism? Here are strategies that can help:
5 guidelines for the class or the home
Friendships can have a major impact on wellbeing and personal growth, yet building new relationships can be anxiety provoking for adults and children alike. So, imagine how hard it can be for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), who may struggle to perceive social cues and respond in conventionally acceptable ways. As a result, they may have few friends and shy away from conversations or other interactions. Children with ASD need opportunities to build meaningful relationships and have many wonderful qualities to offer others. Using various strategies to help children with ASD build supportive friendships can help them live happier lives and realize their potential. Below are some approaches to consider and build upon:
Wandering or “elopement,” a common behavioral occurrence among children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), refers to the tendency to leave a safe, supervised space or caregiver and subsequently expose oneself to potential danger. Wandering is both tragic and terrifying for parents, given that drowning and wandering-related behaviors are the top causes of death in the ASD community (Rice et al., 2016). Although most of the reports of wandering have been anecdotal, the first major study on wandering by the American Academy of Pediatrics provides hard data on wandering and elopement among individuals with ASD.
This article was originally published on the Speech@NYU blog. Speech@NYU is the online master’s program in speech-language pathology from NYU Steinhardt.
1 in 68 children have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which is roughly 1 percent to 2 percent of students in the United States, according to a recent CDC report. Schools, in increasing numbers, are recruiting professionals to serve the academic, social, and emotional needs of students with autism.
Linda Hodgdon has been a long-time friend of Stages Learning and is author of the best-selling book, "Visual Strategies for Improving Communication." We have invited her to impart some of her wisdom and experience in a guest blog and she discusses an important topic that comes up often in the autism space.
If you have a student with autism, you probably have a list of situations where you deal with problem behaviors and meltdowns. Children with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are frequently identified because of their difficulties with communication and behavior. Visual strategies provide a solution.
It’s likely that we all know someone who experiences anxiety, and there’s no doubt that anxiety can be exhausting and can interfere with daily life. For children with autism, anxiety can occur more frequently and can be very intense. Seemingly simple daily activities such as leaving the house, interacting with peers, riding in the car, or taking public transportation can become increasingly difficult and anxiety provoking. In order to help children who may be experiencing anxiety, it is important for parents and teachers to understand anxiety and how it may be affecting children with autism.
The practice of quieting the mind, otherwise known as mindfulness, is increasingly being practiced across the board – from Google executives to classrooms as a replacement to detention (Bloom, 2016). Mindfulness specifically refers to the practice of paying attention to the present moment non-judgmentally. Observation of our thoughts and feelings allows us to better understand our emotions and react rationally to negative situations.
I can still remember when I was a child watching my mother cook. Her face always beamed with a smile so big that everyone could tell how much joy she had in preparing a great meal for my family. It seemed cooking was not only a hobby that she enjoyed, but also one of her passions. She told me she had watched my grandmother cook as a child and started learning at a young age. I know the experience is still one of her fondest childhood memories. No wonder why she is a great cook!
5 Tips for Helping Your Child Succeed in Sports
It is no secret that sports are a big part of most people’s lives. More than 100 million people in the United States alone tune in to watch the Super Bowl every year. However, being a sports fan and playing a sport are two completely different things–especially in the eyes of a parent. You probably know enrolling your child in a sport has tremendous benefits such as endurance, strength, and general fitness. But as you might have guessed, for many children with autism, finding the appropriate sport can be challenging.
Leveraging Special Interests to Help Children with Autism: An Autistic Person* Shares Her Experiences
Having a special interest in something is a major part of the repetitive behavior that comes with autism. In fact, researcher Tony Attwood (2003) found that special interests seem “to be a dominant characteristic, occurring in over 90% of children and adults with Asperger’s syndrome.” Your child, client, or student with autism may have an intense interest in one particular subject. While hearing someone you love go on and on about his or her favorite subject may get tiring, special interests are important. A 2007 study done by Winter-Messiers (2007) reflected that special interests should be treated seriously because they may be beneficial in building up skills that would be hard to obtain otherwise.
This article was originally written in English and has been translated into Chinese.
This article was originally written in English and has been translated into Chinese.
Navigating the holidays with autism
The time has come for families and friends to get together and celebrate. This particular time of the year means many things: inviting extended family over, wrapping presents, pie, singing, joy, worshipping, and making cookies! However, holidays also mean a messed up routine, sensory chaos, and unwritten social rules.
What is bullying?
Stopbullying.gov defines bullying as:
“Unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children. It involves a real or perceived power imbalance and the behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.”
There are three types of bullying: verbal, social, and physical. All three types of bullying can have serious, long-lasting effects on children. Therefore, it is important to teach children the appropriate strategies to deal with a bullying situation should they ever encounter one.
As an autistic person, I am very familiar with AAC. I use it, and I am around others who use it too. Because it is AAC awareness month, I thought this was a good opportunity to write about it.
*Print out out Free Card to give to a stranger when your child is having a difficult time in public.
The “Five W’s”: Choosing when to be an ambassador for autism and when to walk away
Children with autism and their families often find themselves in uncomfortable situations during encounters with strangers. Despite much more widespread awareness about autism, strangers can be outright rude, insensitive, or simply ill informed. Any parent wants to step in and defend their own child, but for parents of children with autism, there often is an even stronger desire to defend and protect their child. These psychologically demanding public encounters with strangers are confusing, hurtful, and stressful for parents and children (Ryan, 2010).
Tips for getting back into gear for the school year
Summer is an important time to take a break from school routines, spend time with the family, and explore extracurricular interests. However, the transition from the more laid-back schedule of the summer to that of the school year can be stressful for students and parents alike. This article offers tips to help you and your child with your back-to-school transition.
Preparing Your Child with Autism for the New Year
Activities that are comforting, thrilling, or intolerable to people with autism can vary considerably from what a neuro-typical child or adult may experience in the same situation. For example, haircuts or birthday parties can be extremely unpleasant. Carly Fleischmann, a woman with autism, wrote a book about her experiences and a team of talented disability rights allies helped her produce this video, demonstrating her experience within a coffee shop.
Knowing What to Look for with Autism
Have you ever worried that your child is exhibiting symptoms of autism, but had no one to go to and no understanding of how to acquire a diagnosis and ensure that your child will receive the help they need?
Sequencing is the ability to logically order events, images, thoughts, and actions. Why is sequencing important for children?
Tips and Strategies for Transitioning to College with Autism
Of the roughly 50,000 young Americans with autism who graduate from high school each year, less than 7,000 end up with a college degree (Wei et al 2015). This discouraging statistic has given rise to countless transition programs that we hope will allow more students to enroll in appropriate postsecondary programs, benefit from their time on campus, and enter rewarding careers. A series of steps from transition meetings to college admissions, outlined below, function as a roadmap for teens and parents who have set their sights on higher education.
Approaching the discussion with your child
Many parents are unsure about how to speak to their child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) about the diagnosis. Parents may fear a number of reactions: that their child will not understand, become angry or depressed, or use ASD as an excuse for why he or she cannot do some things. While some children can find the news upsetting, the information can also come as a relief, as found by a group of researchers that interviewed 9 individuals with high-functioning ASD, aged 16 to 21. Most children reported feeling a sense of shock and disbelief when first informed of the diagnosis, but seemed able to incorporate the idea of “having ASD” into their identity by the time of the interview. Some expressed that learning that they were on the autism spectrum helped them understand why they had experienced various difficulties and had been treated differently. It also provided a reason for their behavior that they thought others might understand (Huws & Jones, 2008).
As a grandparent it can be a struggle to find presents for a granddaughter or grandson who has autism. Sometimes traditional gifts can backfire for the child with autism.
Holidays can be a time of great joy and excitement, but they can also be stressful and disruptive. For families who have children with autism, extra planning is essential to keep everyone on an even keel. Managing expectations about what a holiday “should” be like, and minimizing the changes that will occur in your family routine will help reduce stress and avoid meltdowns.
Research[i] confirms what many parents of children with autism already know: children with autism have a higher incidence of sleep challenges, and the more severe the autism symptoms the more severe the sleep challenges. Research,[ii] as well as common sense, also tells us that impaired sleep has a negative impact on physical, emotional, academic, and social functioning.
As a parent our needs are often the first to be postponed or set aside. Sometimes there is no choice: we have to attend to the immediate needs of our children. But in the long run we could be doing significant damage to our physical and emotional health by not attending to our own needs. And if our health and emotional well-being is compromised this is likely to have an impact on how well we are able to care for our children.
Planning for a young adult with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) or other special needs to transition from special education to adult services can be overwhelming for children and their parents alike! Many parents are so intimidated by the transition process that they refuse to think about it until their child turns 14 and a statement about that student’s transition services is required by law to be in their individual education program (IEP), or age 16 when those services must start to be implemented. Other parents may think that they don't need to consider transition until their child is older since the actual transition from special education doesn't happen until students turn 21 (or the age at which special education services end in their state). However, as with any change, the sooner parents and their children start preparing for transition, the smoother the actual shift from special education will likely be. Despite what some may think, there are skills that can be taught to children at a young age that will make any transition easier as they get older. Three of these skills and the importance of implementing them at home are discussed below:
These days nearly everyone knows a friend or family member who is touched by autism. Perhaps it’s your own child or your sister’s child. Perhaps it’s the child of your neighbor, your dentist, your mail carrier, or hair dresser.
With the holidays fast approaching, you may be asking yourself: are there any gifts for people on the autism spectrum that are both meaningful and appropriate?
When you have a child with autism or other special needs, chores are often overlooked or parents don’t consider it a possibility for their child. Just as modifications are needed in the classroom, small modification or supports can be developed to not only make chores a possibility, but part of the daily routine. Find out more about increasing your child's independence with chores at home!
Parents and educators often struggle to help children with autism communicate their feelings. When children with autism have trouble recognizing and communicating how they feel, it may contribute to inappropriate behaviors such as tantruming and aggression, or even increased social withdrawal. If our kids could tell us how they feel, they would be less frustrated, and we would be better able to help solve their dissatisfaction.
Our first experiences with food have a large effect on our eating habits for the rest of our lives, so the best time to teach good dietary habits is during the early years. Think about some of your best and worst food habits... don't you wish you had started better habits at age 3, rather than trying to change those habits at age (fill in the blank!)?
New routine, new teachers, new classrooms…. New, new, new! This can be stressful for all children, but even more so for children with autism and other special needs. What can you do to minimize stress and maximize success in the new school year? Here are some ABC’s to ensure back to school success.