One of the most important jobs of a parent with an Autism Spectrum child is to be positive. It is important to teach others how to interact positively with your child. If you are positive toward your Autism Spectrum child, others will naturally be also. Here are a few tips I have learned from rearing my nineteen year old with Autism Spectrum. Highlight the Child's Areas of Strength When interacting with others, go ahead and make some statements in front of the child about how good he is at something. This is not bragging but is making the child feel that you notice and appreciate his strengths. Also, make positive statements directly to the child as well. This is also true with completely non-verbal children with Autism. Stop Negative Speech It is sad to say that as a parent I had to stop the negative speech of professionals a variety of times. This does not mean that you are in denial and unwilling to hear of any areas that need improvement. It means that negative remarks about the child should never be made in front of the child. This seems obvious, but an astonishing amount of times professionals spoke about my child right in front of him as though he was not there. This is unacceptable. If there is anything negative to say, let them say it when the child is not present.
Friday, July 25, 2014
One of the most difficult parts of parenting children with Autism is how they occasionally make a scene in public. This can lead to a feeling of helplessness on the part of the parents. Also, people in public stare and make the parents feel uncomfortable when this occurs. Here are some strategies I have found useful over the years for taking my Autism Spectrum child in public. Go During Off- Hours One of my primary strategies for taking my Autism Spectrum son out in public is to go places during what is known as "off- hours." In other words, if I want to go to Carl's Jr. ( a hamburger chain) I do not go at twelve noon. If I were to go in there right at noon, a whole variety of problems that I don't want to deal with would occur. Basically, I avoid crowds, as they heighten the difficulty of operating in public places with an Autism Spectrum child. Bring a Reinforcer Bag Sometimes, the place we are going in and of itself is reinforcing to the child. As in the above example, he likes Carl's Jr. and wants to go there in the first place. This makes it easier. Sometimes we need to go to a place that is not reinforcing naturally. Examples of this would be the dentist, doctor, government offices, airports and other places where "waiting" will be necessary. In these instances, I always bring along a bag of toys or edibles to engage him. It is best if he hasn't seen the objects in the bag previously- they are new items purchased particularly to make this outing go smoothly. Choose Seating Wisely When going to places such as a fast food restaurant, always choose seating wisely. Do not sit directly next to people if possible. Some children with Autism make sounds or movements that others do not expect. To avoid having others be startled I have found it best to sit a bit apart. The other day I forgot my own rule even though I have been doing this for nineteen years. I was in a rush and hastily seated us directly next to a woman. My son turned around to look at her in a way that others wouldn't have. Alarmed, she quickly got up and moved. I briefly found this hurtful until I realized it was my fault: I had forgotten my own rule. Give others a little extra space. Consider Noise Level I find the noise level of a place I am in to be very significant. If it is a noisy place I usually don't go. If it is unavoidable and I must go, I then bring headphones for him to wear. These are some of the ways I help my Autism Spectrum child cope and be successful in public. For the vast majority of the time we are successful. I go out during off- hours. I bring a reinforcer bag. I select seating wisely and consider the noise level of where I am going. These are the basic elements of success,
It can be a very rewarding experience to take your Autism Spectrum child on a road trip. It does entail a certain amount of planning and patience to ensure that the trip is fun and an overall success. Autism Spectrum children do just fine on road trips when there has been enough forethought. Here are some of the things I have done to make road trips with my Autism Spectrum child successful. Medications Naturally, you will want to be sure that you have enough medication to take on the trip. In fact, it is wise to bring a lot more than you will need. I have had the unfortunate experience of dropping a large bottle of liquid anti- seizure medicine on the ground while I was unpacking the car at a hotel. It is best to bring a spare bottle. Car Modifications Do everything possible to have the car really comfortable for the Autism Spectrum child. This is achieved by purchasing sun shades and applying them to the windows. Leave space for him or her to look out, however. Also, get cup holders and a "t.v. tray" style of small table so the child can have things in front of him. Media It is a good idea to have CDs for the car CD player of the music that the child likes. Many Autism Spectrum children are greatly calmed and reassured by music and having familiar music in unfamiliar surroundings helps. Also, consider having headphones and portable CD players on hand. Some people also use DVD players in the car but I cannot figure out how this is done without running down the battery. If you know how to do this, having them watch DVDs in the car could be ideal. Shorten Driving Time When taking a cross-country or long car trip with Autism Spectrum children, it is optimal to shorten the driving time. Whereas you as an adult could probably drive eight hours a day straight through, the child is probably not going to be able to "take it" that long. I find that four hours of driving a day is our limit. There is no point in pushing the driving time to the point of exhaustion for all concerned. Remember: it is supposed to be fun, so keep driving time short. These are some of the guidelines I keep in mind when driving cross- country or on long trip with my Autism Spectrum child. Safeguard medications well. Make sure to have all the helpful car modifications. Bring helpful media along such as CDs, DVDs and headphones. Finally, keep the daily driving time short for all concerned.
When parents get a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder for their child, it opens them up to a new world of fear and worry for the future. Also, it is natural to wonder if the family will be healthy and if the parents can be happy in this situation. My son is nineteen and I have faced all these fears and more. Here is what I have discovered to be the real deal of having an Autism Spectrum child. Autism Spectrum Disorder is Challenging. There is no doubt that Autism Spectrum Disorder is challenging. I have compared it to a hydra, a snake with many heads. At times, it seems that as soon as one of the challenges of Autism Spectrum is defeated, another problem rears its head. Autism Spectrum Disorder is a formidable foe indeed but I feel that it can be defeated. You Will Learn What Matters. People who do not have a family member or child with Autism Spectrum Disorder are often unconsciously caught up in what others think of them. Like the way a butterfly sheds the chrysalis outwardly, you will quickly shed the restrictions of caring for others' opinions. In short, you will concentrate on what really matters (your child) and realize that what others think is largely irrelevant. This is quite freeing. No Family is Perfect. Over the years of having an Autism Spectrum child and facing those challenges, you will see something that will astonish you: other people's families are not "perfect," either! In fact, there is no such thing as a perfect family, except in that the love that a family shares is perfect. Often times you may wonder what "normal" is. The truth is though, that all families have problems- with or without Autism Spectrum Disorder. One Day the Journey Will End. One fine day you will look up and realize- it is over! I have actually reared my Autism Spectrum child to be an adult. At the end of the journey you will find that you are proud of your family, your Autism Spectrum child and yourself. It is kind of odd to realize that your child is no longer a child anymore, but again this is "normal" in the sense that all parents face this. Did you do your best? Did the challenge bring strengths out in you that you did not know you had?
The above is in my opinion the real deal of having an Autism Spectrum child. Try not to stress the journey too much and don't take yourself too seriously like I did. There will be challenges and hardships but eventually everything will be well in the end. Do your best as a parent and at the end of it remember to help those who come after.
Autism Disorder presents a variety of challenges. One of the most complex is sensory integration for children with autism. According to The Autism Encyclopedia, sensory integration is the ability to organize sensory information. Quite a bit remains to be explored about sensory integration for children with autism but the main therapy for this problem is called Sensory Integration Therapy. Following are some suggestions to improve sensory integration in children with autism: 1. Obtain vibrating massagers Many children with autism find that vibration provides them with very pleasing sensory input. Vibrating massagers are sold in many different designs and styles. Massagers can really help children with autism to calm down and relax. Children normally like the fact that they can turn a vibrating massager off and on all by themselves. It is a good idea to always have several types of these on hand to assist the child in relaxation in stressful environments, such as public places. These massagers can also be given to children as a reinforcer for behaving well. 2. Purchase balls in different textures Balls of all different textures are sold in specialty catalogs. Some of these balls are squishy. Some are balls made out of string. There are even "bead balls" and fuzzy balls. There are also balls of slime and balls that turn inside out. The balls are nontoxic and very fun and squeezable. Having fun this way relaxes children and provides positive sensory input. These balls also make great reinforcers for behaving well. 3. Explore oral motor tools and toys There are many oral motor devices such as "chewy tubes" for children to chew on. These offer a nontoxic surface for biting and chewing. The purpose of these devices is to provide input to the jaw, which many children find pressure- relieving. These should always be used with a professional speech and language pathologist and occupational therapist. There are also vibrators for oral motor stimulation and textured spoons. All of these devices are not necessary fo obtain for every child with autism. Children are all different an their likes and needs are highly variable. The above ideas however, are suggestions that could be discussed with professionals on the child's therapeutic team. Speech and language pathologists and occupational therapists are in the best position to recommend the appropriate sensory integration tools. These tactics may assist in sensory integration for children with autism. Being unable to process and differentiate among the sensory input coming at a child makes learning an uphill task. The above program offers the great benefit of helping a child make sense of the world.
One of the most troubling aspects of autism spectrum disorder is the apparent isolation of the children due to their difficulty communicating. Parents usually really want their children with autism to have friends. How can this be achieved when language is so difficult for the children? Special methods can be used to help children with autism learn how to have friends. Children are all different and what works for one may not work for others. Following are ways to facilitate and encourage children with autism to have friends: 1. Obtain Social Skills Training Children with autism usually find social interactions difficult. This is because the "rules" of being social often involve complex language skills which children with autism often do not have. Social skills must be learned therefore in order for children with autism to have a greater chance of making friends with others. In addition to the child's regular therapies, the child should be enrolled in social skills training groups. These skills work on skills such as taking turns, not invading another person's personal space, and sharing. It is important to seek out and find a social skills group in your area. If there isn't one, start one yourself with the help of a speech and language pathologist. The possible rewards are great: your child's first friends ever may come from this group.
2. Use Social Stories Children with autism often experience anxiety in relation to social situations. One way to alleviate this and help your child have friends is to use social stories. Social Stories were invented by Carol Gray and are available at The Gray Center at www.thegraycenter.org. The Social Story is a written and illustrated tale of what is going to happen in a social situation. You read it with your child and then they have some idea of what to expect in an upcoming social situation. 3. Use Alternative Ways Such as Videos to Explain Social Skills There are videos that explain social rules. Also some parents videotape their child in social situations and then review the video with the child later. Always emphasize the positive in the video of the child. In other words, praise what they did correctly. Children often enjoy watching videos of themselves. 4. Enroll the Child in Classes Related to His Special Interest Many children with an autism spectrum disorder have a special interest. These special interests are often very intense. Parents occasionally become exasperated with the special interests as they can take on a very obsessive quality. Nevertheless, special interests provide parents with an opportunity. If the child is enrolled in a special class related to his interest, he will have a chance to make friends with others who share his likes. If the special interest happens to be technology- related (photography for example,) then there will be less language necessary to interact with others. Attending a photography class gives the older language- challenged child an alternative means to communicate. He could show other people his pictures and use his interest in images to make friends. The above are four ideas to assist children with autism in having friends. Having friends can really enrich an individual's enjoyment of life. It is a worthy goal. Ozonoff, S. A Parent's Guide to Asperger Syndrome & High Functioning Autism. (2002) New York, NY: Guilford Press
One of the skills most desired by parents of children with autism is that of learning to wait patiently. Of course, it is difficult for any child to develop patience. However, in order for children with autism to learn to wait patiently it is often necessary to teach this skill with a "waiting program." Waiting is a particularly desirable skill. Without the ability to wait patiently it is difficult to go in public places such as restaurants, stores or any place where standing in line is necessary. Children with autism may learn to wait patiently by mastering a program like this one by PECS (the Picture Exchange Communication System) that follows: In order to begin the waiting program, the parent will simply state "wait" in a calm tone. The parent will then hand the child a large red oval- shaped card with the word "wait" printed on it. The child will accept the card and hold it in his hand briefly. This will be for only one second at first. Then the parent praises the child and takes the card back. This is practiced in the house at first, not in social environments for quite some time. As the waiting program is practiced each day the parent will gradually lengthen the time. This will occur systematically, as in one second the first day, two seconds the second day. Also, in addition to praise the parent may offer the child some other small prize as the waiting time becomes longer gradually. Each day the parent is able to lengthen the waiting time, the red oval-shaped "wait" card should be cut down smaller and smaller. Ultimately, it will be an inconspicuous little red dot. At this point, the parents can venture into McDonald's (not during the lunch rush obviously.) It is best to accustom the child to restaurants in off- hours when the restaurant will not exhibit so much noise and distraction that could be scary and distracting to the child. When skills like learning to wait quietly are mastered, it is a great triumph for the child and the family too. Life becomes far less restrictive. Many children with autism can and do venture into restaurants and stores and behave appropriately. In addition to going to stores and restaurants during off- hours at first, also make sure the total duration of the trip is not too long for the child. In other words, it may be fine to stop in for a quick dinner but the child may become overwhelmed if the meal has too many courses. Use discretion so the child does not become overwhelmed. A quick successful trip out to dinner is way better than a long one that ends on a bad note. The above program is highly recommended and is available at www.pecs.com. PECS program offers the great benefit of teaching children with autism to wait patiently. It is the beginning of freedom for the child, because as this skill is mastered, the child may successfully venture into more fun and social environments.