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By choosing activities that will have a greater likelihood of success for your child, by adapting exercise programs for your child’s needs, and by drawing on ways to instill a sense of community, exercise can be fun for your child or teen and not frustrating!
The coronavirus (COVID-19) is currently causing concern around the world. The CDC has declared a Public Health Emergency for the U.S. The situation and number of cases are changing daily. Many have noted the lack of hand soaps, sanitizers, and disinfecting cleansers in stores as people are stocking up. For families of children with Autism, staying germ-free can especially be a concern for children who have not developed proper handwashing skills or hygiene skills, in addition to everyday germs that children encounter at schools, care centers, and other activities.
For children with autism, making healthy eating choices can be difficult. Children with ASD are five times more likely to have challenges with meals than their peers. It is common for them to have repetitive, ritualistic habits, which can affect eating. Children with ASD may have especially strong likes and dislikes to certain foods, relating to taste, smell, color, and texture of the item. Some children do not eat enough, due to extreme food selectivity or difficulty focusing during eating. For some children, because of their limited food choices, they experience frequent constipation or stomach pain. Medication can also affect a child’s eating habits. For example, some common stimulant medications may reduce appetite.
Acupuncture treatment may help your child’s autism symptoms. Acupuncture is a treatment where needles are inserted into the skin to target certain nerve or pressure points. Research has shown acupuncture to be an effective treatment for children with ASD in areas of verbal communication, social skills, behavioral concerns, food sensitivity, and noise sensitivity.
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.
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.
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.
How can you help your students discover stillness? joy? authenticity? Positive psychology is the science of well-being, which applied, can bring more positivity and happiness into your classroom. Try investing in these easy “rituals,” or habits, to transform your classroom into an oasis where your students can learn to flourish, no matter their challenges.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.