The Autism category compiles any blog related to Autism on the North Shore Pediatric Therapy website.  The blogs in this category are meant to help educate, inform and encourage parents of children with Autism. Readers will learn about Applied Behavior Analysis, Autism-friendly activities, school, appropriate toys, red flags, special needs lawyers, financial planning, multidisciplinary treatment options and more. If you are looking for any information related to Autism, this category will help you get started. If you need additional assistance, please give us a call at (877) 486-4140.

What Exactly is a Social Group for Children with Autism?

We interviewed Latha V. Soorya, PhD from the Rush University Medical Center to learn about the study of social skills groups for children with autism.

Many children with autism are working toward learning, building and strengthening their social skills. The Autism Assessment, Research, Treatment and Services Center (AARTS Center) at Rush University Medical Center has dedicated their mission to on-going research in hopes to find new interventions to help those with autism. Latha V. Soorya, PhD explains and answers some questions regarding their newest study on social skills and the use of Oxytocin. early autism

Oxytocin is a hormone that plays an important role in social bonding and connections. Social skills groups for children with autism are widely used and well-liked. The Autism Assessment, Research, Treatment, and Services Center at Rush is studying both of these treatments to better understand how to improve social connections in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We are looking for 8-11 year old children with ASD to participate in a unique study called ION: Integrated Oxytocin and NETT (Nonverbal synchrony, Emotion recognition, and Theory of mind Training).

What is the benefit for parents? Families will receive support from therapists and other parents during parent groups that run at the same time as the social skills groups. Qualifying families will receive evaluations and treatment from licensed psychologists, child-psychiatrists, and therapists at no-cost as part of their participation in the social skills research study. The AARTS Center has run the social thinking group in the past, and a parent shared their positive feedback with us, saying, “We liked connecting with other parents during parent group and still use the materials from group to help our son focus on other people’s thoughts and feelings.”

How can parents & clinicians use the results? Before the study is published, families will receive results from their child’s evaluations as well as information about their progress. After publication, the AARTS center will share results with participating families, community partners, and the academic/medical community. Our hope is that the ION study will target social skills development in a new way, and that parents and clinicians will see lasting changes in the way that children with ASD apply these skills across settings.

Has similar research been done in the field? This is a unique study that combines promising research from two fields. Intranasal oxytocin may increase attention to social cues (e.g. where someone is looking) and social skills groups are well-liked and may help improve some aspects of social behavior. However, research also shows that changes from social skills groups, as well as intranasal oxytocin, do not last very long. This study is the first to examine what happens when the two treatments are combined.

What are you most excited about exploring in this study? We are most excited about this study’s potential to develop a more powerful, longer-lasting treatment for critical social thinking skills—skills we know are critical to navigating many life experiences and building social relationships.

Latha V. Soorya, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, board-certified behavior analyst and assistant professor of psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center. Soorya serves as the research director at the AARTS Center at Rush and brings expertise in diagnosis and intervention development to the research program.

For more information on the study, please contact Zachary Arnold at Zachary_Arnold@rush.edu.

Occupational Therapy’s Role in Improving Self-Care Performance in Children

The role of the occupational therapist, when working with clients of any age, is to support participation and daily functioning. For a child, one of the primary occupations is self-care. Self-care Blog-Self-Care-Skills-Main-Landscapeskills, which include feeding, toileting, dressing, bathing and grooming, are classified as Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s), because they are a critical part of a child’s overall health and participation each and every day. In order to participate in self-care, a child must have component skills within a variety of performance areas, and delays in any of these areas can make seemingly simple tasks feel nearly impossible.

During an initial evaluation, an occupational therapist will help you determine which performance deficits or barriers within the child’s environment are causing your child to struggle with self-care. The OT will first obtain information by asking you questions about your home setup, your family’s routines, what kind of assistance your child currently needs to perform age-appropriate self-care skills, and what your goals are in terms of self-care independence.

These questions will help the therapist obtain a snapshot of your child’s current self-care performance and provide more information about the home environment in which your child is performing. The therapist will also complete a comprehensive evaluation of your child’s underlying skills through clinical observation and standardized testing to determine potential causes of delayed self-care skills.

Below are a variety of performance areas an occupational therapist will assess that could contribute to self-care performance:

  • Motor performance: A child’s physical ability to perform the motor tasks required for a self-care skill is dependent on his or her strength and endurance, range of motion, body awareness, grasp, manual dexterity, and bilateral coordination. In addition, a child may have decreased motor planning, or difficulty generating an idea for and executing a specific movement pattern.
    • Example: A child may be unable to tie his shoes because he cannot maintain a pincer grasp on the shoelaces.
  • Executive Functioning and Attention: A child may have difficulty sustaining attention to a self-care task, sequencing the steps of a task in an efficient order, or remembering when and how to do the task at all.
    • Example: A child may not be able to remember or mix up the order of steps to tying shoes.
  • Sensory Modulation: A child may have decreased sensory modulation, or ability to filter out irrelevant sensory stimuli. Children with poor sensory modulation may be hypersensitive to input, which can often make children very uncomfortable in their own skin, easily distractible, or easily upset and overwhelmed. Other children may be hyposensitive and not notice certain important sensory input. You can read more about how sensory processing impacts self-care and hygiene in one of our other blogs, “Horrible Haircuts and Terrible Toothpaste” https://www.nspt4kids.com/occupational-therapy/horrible-haircuts-and-terrible-toothpaste-helping-your-child-with-sensory-processing-disorder-tolerate-hygiene/
    • Example: A hypersensitive child may be bothered by the feeling of their socks and refuse to wear tie shoes; a hyposensitive child may not notice that his shoes feel or look funny when on the wrong feet.

Once the evaluation is complete, the occupational therapist will be able to determine if the child would benefit from ongoing occupational therapy. Future treatment would focus not only practicing specific self-care skills, but also engaging in activities that facilitate the overall development of underlying motor, sensory integration, and executive functioning abilities. In addition, the therapist will work with you to adapt your child’s environment through the use of home modifications, visual supports, and adaptive equipment to support performance. Through all of these modalities, the occupational therapist will be able to increase your child’s participation in self-care activities, thereby increasing his or her independence and overall development.

Check out one of our previous blogs on self-care written by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst: Self-Care Skills for Children with Autism

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140.

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How Do I Find a Special Needs Planning Lawyer?

This guest post is from Benjamin Rubin.

Let me begin by asking you a question. If you needed heart surgery, would you go to a general practitioner or an internist? Of course you would not entrust your heart surgery to anyone but an Blog-Special-Needs-Lawyer-Main-Landscapeexperienced heart surgeon. Likewise, when you need special needs planning, you shouldn’t be considering a general practitioner, or even a general estate planning attorney.

So, what is special needs planning?

The attorney should be experienced not only in drafting the two kinds of Special Needs Trusts, but also be experienced dealing with the Social Security Administration and the state when they review the trusts upon application for SSI and Medicaid, or upon redeterminations. The attorney should also be familiar with guardianship and the alternatives to guardianship, as well as how to navigate successfully the state’s children and adult services system for individuals with special needs including intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, mental illness, or those with significant physical disabilities. We often refer to it as the Illinois “maze” for services.

In addition, you want an attorney who will know, and advise you promptly, when new laws, rules, or procedures occur that impact your planning. You want to find an attorney or firm that can assist you, with compassion and understanding. Many special needs planning attorneys are themselves parents or siblings of individuals with special needs and “get it.”

I suggest that the first place to visit is www.specialneedsalliance.org, The Special Needs Alliance (SNA) is a national, not-for-profit, association of experienced special needs planning attorneys, a majority of whom are fellow parents or siblings. Membership is by invitation. I was honored last year to be invited as one of the youngest members to ever be invited to join the SNA and my father is honored to serve as President-Elect of that national organization. In fact, three of the four attorneys in our office are invited SNA Member Attorneys, and the fourth is an Affiliate SNA Member attorney.

Another source is www.specialneedsplanners.com. The Academy of Special Needs Planners (ASNP), a national group, is owned by three attorneys and is open to all attorneys, regardless of experience. My father was a charter member of that group and I remain a member of this group. There are many excellent special needs planning attorneys that are members of ASNP.

However, if you are considering an attorney who is not a member of Special Needs Alliance, I suggest you ask some questions such as:

  1. How many “third party special needs trusts” have you prepared in the past month? Six months?
  2. How many “first party special needs trusts” have you prepared in the past month? Six months?
  3. If the Social Security Administration or the State of Illinois has questions about the trust(s) you drafted, will you “handle” those questions without any additional cost/fees?
  4. How many adult guardianships have you handled and powers of attorney have you drafted for individuals with special needs in the past year?
  5. What other areas of practice does that attorney handle (check his or her web site)? That is, are they also doing business law, traffic, divorce, bankruptcy, personal injury, etc.? If they are practicing in other areas of law, then they will not be able to adequately stay current with the constant changes that take place in the area of special needs planning.

Finally, you are not just looking for someone to draft a document, but you are looking for a relationship with a firm that will be going down that road to peace of mind with you for many years.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

New Call-to-Action
bnrbarmjrBenjamin Rubin limits his law practice, as does the firm of Rubin Law, to Special Needs Legal and Future Planning for his fellow families of individuals with special needs. Benji serves as Vice-Chair of the American Bar Association’s Special Needs Planning Committee, is a member of both the Academy of Special Needs Planners and, by invitation, the Special Needs Alliance, the national not-for-profit association of special needs planning attorneys, is President of SIBS (Supporting Illinois Brothers and Sisters), the Illinois chapter of the national Sibling Leadership Network, which is an organization of adult siblings of individuals with intellectual disabilities, developmental Disabilities, mental illness, among other special needs, is a member of the Board of Directors of The Arc of Illinois, is a member of the Clearbrook Associate Board (Clearbrook is an agency serving over 7,000 children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, one of whom is Benji’s brother Mitchell), is a member of the SEDOL (Special Education District of Lake County) Foundation Board of Directors, and serves on the Advisory Council of Encompass a joint venture that in partnership with Jewish Child & Family Services, Jewish United Fund, JVS Chicago, JCC Chicago, Keshet, and The Center for Enriched Living and Center for Independent Futures, seeks to provide adults with I/DD a full array of financially sustainable, community-based services and supports.Having Mitchell as a brother profoundly shaped who Benji is today, and thus the type of law he chose to practice. His personal experiences as a sibling offer a unique perspective into the responsibilities that come with caring for a sibling with special needs. Now, as an adult, those sometimes present and future responsibilities he will share with his older sister regarding his brother’s care, are a concern that he shares with all brothers and sisters of individuals with special needs.

How to Make Financial and Legal Decisions for My Child with Special Needs

This guest post is from Benjamin Rubin.

Estate planning for parents of a child with special needs is, regretfully, a very complex process. In order to provide for a “special needs” child’s financial security to assure that he or she remains blog-legal-and-financial-main-landscapequalified or able to qualify in the future for government benefits such as S.S.I. and Medicaid, and to protect any inheritance or gift from claims of the government for reimbursement for benefits provided to him or her prior to our death or receipt of the gift, parents must properly plan now. More importantly, we must plan differently than other parents who do not have a child with special needs.

The facts are that in Illinois, as is the case in most states, without proper wills and trusts, a child with special needs may inherit property or receive gifts only to be then disqualified from receiving government benefits. Additionally, without proper planning and drafting of estate plan documents, the government may claim reimbursement from the child’s inheritance or gift for benefits provided to the child prior to the parent’s death or receipt of such a gift. This result is true even with “traditional” family trusts with “spendthrift” provisions that many attorneys use for all parents. One of the primary objectives in estate planning for parents of a child with special needs is to assure that the child remains qualified and eligible for government entitlement programs, while protecting the family’s assets, and the child’s inheritance, from seizure by the government as “reimbursement.”

My parents, like nearly all parents of a child with special needs, do not want my brother to rely solely upon the government to provide the level of care that they, my sister and I desire for him. The good news is that there are viable alternatives. A special form of a trust has become the appropriate and preferred estate planning document for families such as mine. Illinois law provides that such a trust established for the benefit of an individual with special needs shall not be liable to pay or reimburse the State (and by current regulations, the Social Security Administration), or any public agency for benefits received. Illinois law also provides that property, goods and services purchased or owned by such a trust for and or used by or consumed by the beneficiary, are not to be considered assets of the beneficiary.

The second type of trust “option” is commonly referred to as an OBRA or “pay-back” trust. This second form of a special needs trust is needed to preserve government benefits and still receive personal injury or medical malpractice settlements, inheritances left directly to a child with special needs, or assets already in his or her own name.

As family members we must become familiar with the laws concerning “guardianship of an adult disabled person.” Parents must also attempt to educate their “chosen” people who will act as Custodial Guardians and Trustees about the relevant laws, regulations, programs and entitlements affecting or benefiting their child with special needs, as well as about their “plans” and desires, including the estate plans.  Parents must consider the school district, “residential alternatives,” special recreation association, religious programs available to individuals with disabilities and vocational or workshop opportunities available in the vicinity of their chosen custodial guardians.

Parents must also convince grandparents and other relatives that they are not doing their “special needs” grandchild or relative any favor by treating them the same as other beneficiaries in their own wills and trusts, but that they should leave the “inheritance” to the special needs trust that parents have created for such purpose.

There are many, many other topics that a family of a child with special needs may need to consider which we plan to cover in future blog topics, including:

  • When using the newly permitted ABLE Accounts might make sense and what states currently make them available to Illinois residents.
  • If the parents are divorced and child support is being paid to an adult child with special needs, how must the child support be paid to ensure benefits are protected and what other considerations such as life insurance and health insurance even after age 26 might need to be brought up in the marital settlement agreement?
  • If one or both of the parents has a public pension such as TRS, SURS, the Judges Retirement System Pension, police pension, fire department pension, and the US Military retirement pension, among others, many are permitted to be left as a continuing annuity to a special needs trust for the benefit of an adult child with special needs for their entire lifetime so long as there are certain, sometimes very specific, provisions in the trust.
  • What if the parents need skilled nursing care and are worried they will spend all of their assets and have nothing left to leave to their child’s special needs trust? How can the special needs trust be drafted to allow the parents to use their child’s trust to qualify themselves for Medicaid to pay for their own skilled nursing care?
  • What should be in a “letter of intent” document to educate the “future team?”

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

New Call-to-Action
bnrbarmjrBenjamin Rubin limits his law practice, as does the firm of Rubin Law, to Special Needs Legal and Future Planning for his fellow families of individuals with special needs. Benji serves as Vice-Chair of the American Bar Association’s Special Needs Planning Committee, is a member of both the Academy of Special Needs Planners and, by invitation, the Special Needs Alliance, the national not-for-profit association of special needs planning attorneys, is President of SIBS (Supporting Illinois Brothers and Sisters), the Illinois chapter of the national Sibling Leadership Network, which is an organization of adult siblings of individuals with intellectual disabilities, developmental Disabilities, mental illness, among other special needs, is a member of the Board of Directors of The Arc of Illinois, is a member of the Clearbrook Associate Board (Clearbrook is an agency serving over 7,000 children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, one of whom is Benji’s brother Mitchell), is a member of the SEDOL (Special Education District of Lake County) Foundation Board of Directors, and serves on the Advisory Council of Encompass a joint venture that in partnership with Jewish Child & Family Services, Jewish United Fund, JVS Chicago, JCC Chicago, Keshet, and The Center for Enriched Living and Center for Independent Futures, seeks to provide adults with I/DD a full array of financially sustainable, community-based services and supports.

Having Mitchell as a brother profoundly shaped who Benji is today, and thus the type of law he chose to practice. His personal experiences as a sibling offer a unique perspective into the responsibilities that come with caring for a sibling with special needs. Now, as an adult, those sometimes present and future responsibilities he will share with his older sister regarding his brother’s care, are a concern that he shares with all brothers and sisters of individuals with special needs.

 

Handling Breaks from School

Join one of our BCBAs, Jennifer Bartell, to learn about handling breaks from school. She discusses using multiple kinds of visual schedules.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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An Open Letter to My Fellow Families of Children and Adults with Special Needs

This guest post is from Benjamin Rubin.

While all parents need to make legal and financial plans for the future, parents of children with special needs must plan for a much longer time period and must take into consideration many moreblog-special-needs-letter-main-portrait details, laws and government regulations. My brother, Mitch, now 35, has Autism, and resides in a Clearbrook Group Home or CILA (Community Integrated Living Arrangement).

My father, my law partner and founder of Rubin Law, has always talked about what he calls the “parent’s prayer” and I want to begin by quoting this prayer:

“We all wish, no pray, that our child with special needs will have a long, happy and enjoyable life, BUT we wish, we pray that we live at least one day longer than our child does, and that we will not have to place the “obligation” or “responsibility” upon others. We hope, we pray, that we will always “be there” for our child. However, as difficult as it is to think about our dying before our child with special needs, we must! We have that obligation to our child with special needs, to our other children, to our chosen guardians, and to ourselves.”

As a sibling, and president of the Illinois Chapter of the national Sibling Leadership Network, I share a common sense of future responsibility with my fellow siblings and while we may not talk about it, it is in the back of all of our minds. We ask ourselves, what will happen when my parents aren’t here anymore? Who will care for my sibling? The importance of our parents planning for our brother or sister with special needs is even more essential to us and our future reality than to our parents.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

New Call-to-Action
bnrbarmjrBenjamin Rubin limits his law practice, as does the firm of Rubin Law, to Special Needs Legal and Future Planning for his fellow families of individuals with special needs. Benji serves as Vice-Chair of the American Bar Association’s Special Needs Planning Committee, is a member of both the Academy of Special Needs Planners and, by invitation, the Special Needs Alliance, the national not-for-profit association of special needs planning attorneys, is President of SIBS (Supporting Illinois Brothers and Sisters), the Illinois chapter of the national Sibling Leadership Network, which is an organization of adult siblings of individuals with intellectual disabilities, developmental Disabilities, mental illness, among other special needs, is a member of the Board of Directors of The Arc of Illinois, is a member of the Clearbrook Associate Board (Clearbrook is an agency serving over 7,000 children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, one of whom is Benji’s brother Mitchell), is a member of the SEDOL (Special Education District of Lake County) Foundation Board of Directors, and serves on the Advisory Council of Encompass a joint venture that in partnership with Jewish Child & Family Services, Jewish United Fund, JVS Chicago, JCC Chicago, Keshet, and The Center for Enriched Living and Center for Independent Futures, seeks to provide adults with I/DD a full array of financially sustainable, community-based services and supports.

Having Mitchell as a brother profoundly shaped who Benji is today, and thus the type of law he chose to practice. His personal experiences as a sibling offer a unique perspective into the responsibilities that come with caring for a sibling with special needs. Now, as an adult, those sometimes present and future responsibilities he will share with his older sister regarding his brother’s care, are a concern that he shares with all brothers and sisters of individuals with special needs.

Age Appropriate Toys for Children with Autism

It’s the holiday season and everyone is out shopping for family! If you’re looking for age appropriate toys for children with Autism, then check out this age-by-age list:blog-autism-toys-main-landscape

0-18 months

Goals of Play:

  • Manipulate and explore a variety of toys
  • Show variation in play
  • Demonstrate generalization by playing with toys in a variety of environments
  • Engage in movement play (gross motor play)
  • Cause-and-effect play

Toy Ideas:

  • Blocks (Duplo blocks or Large Lego)
  • Cause and Effect Toys
    • Car Ramps
    • Pop-up Toys
    • Push-and-Pull Toys
  • Simple puzzles (individual/non-adjoining pieces)

18-30 months

Goals of Play:

  • Toys with multiple parts (learning to look for pieces and assemble)
  • Using toys for their actual functions (i.e building blocks rather than just dumping them out of a container)
  • Play with everyday items in creative ways (i.e. pretends a marker is a magic wand)
  • Gross motor play on play structures/playground equipment

Toy Ideas:

  • Doll houses/dolls (i.e. Little People sets)
  • Tea party set
  • Pretend Food
  • Smaller blocks/Lego/K’nex blocks
  • Potato Head
  • Train set
  • More complicated puzzles (such as those with adjoining pieces)

30-48 months

Goals of Play:

  • Spontaneous engagement in pretend or imaginary play
  • Arts and Crafts activities
  • Drawing and writing in pre-academic activity books
  • Social play becomes a focus

Toy Ideas:

  • Dress up clothes
  • Play Kitchen
  • Board games or other games that encourage turn-taking
  • Arts and Crafts materials- paint, markers, glitter, glue, dot markers
  • Pre-academic workbooks (can be found online or in a variety of bookstores)

Resources:

Sundberg, M. L. (2008) Verbal behavior milestones assessment and placement program: The VB-MAPP. Concord, CA: AVB Press.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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Executive Functioning Skills: How Can I Help My Child?

Executive Functions are a set of higher order mental processes that allow an individual, or in this case, children; the ability to control their thoughts, actions, and attention in their ever-changingblog-executive-functioning-main-landscape environment. Often, children can present with executive functioning issues as a result of many different factors such as Autism and ADHD.

Below are some executive functioning skills and how they present in both individuals with normal and poor executive functioning, and some tools/strategies for parents:

Skill Example Tools
Organization Your child has trouble being organized or often loses, or misplaces items. Create a “home space” for your child’s items. This can include simply labeling areas of the home where items should be stored, so your child knows where to place items and lowers the risk of loss. Make checklists or use planners to help your child create a schedule.
Working Memory Your child easily forgets what they just heard, or what they were asked to do. Make connections in every lesson. Have you ever heard of ROY G. BIV? – this is how most people remember the colors of the rainbow. When teaching new content such as tying a shoe use cute, age appropriate analogies such as the bunny rabbit in the hole. Also, helping your child visualize information by writing it down, drawing pictures, and even becoming the teacher are great tools as well.
Self-monitoring Your child may not seem aware of themselves such as when they are doing well. Behavior charts are a great tool to help your child self-manage their own behavior. Choose an important behavior for your child to manage and how often you would like for your child to “check in” on this behavior.
Task Initiation/Planning and Prioritizing Your child takes forever to get started on a particular task or has trouble planning activities. Break whole tasks down into smaller achievable steps. If the desired result is for your child to complete an entire homework sheet, maybe setting a goal to do the first 2 problems together can be a happy medium. Also allowing your child to take breaks or receive rewards between tasks are a good strategy as well.
Flexibility Your child often has trouble with new ideas, transitions and spontaneity. Visual schedules and first/then language are your biggest friend. For a child who has trouble being flexible, try to alert your child to changes in routine as far in advance as you can. To help combat rigidity such as not wanting to try a new food, try to approach slow and steady first. This can include tasting a small amount of a new food instead of a large portion.
Impulse/Emotional Control Your child often has trouble controlling their emotions and impulses when they are sad, happy, or angry. Speak and repeat. When providing directions to a child, if applicable, state the directions remembering to adhere to your child’s learner and listener styles, and then have your child repeat back to you. Use social stories and modeling: For example, if your child often gets upset when they lose a game, a social story can help teach tools on how to act in this situation.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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Creating SMART Goals for Kids with Autism

When it comes to creating goals for kids with autism, it can be overwhelming where to start. What goal do you pick? When should they meet their goal? How can everyone work on it together? blog-smart-goals-main-landscapeRest assured, creating effective goals is as simple as making sure it is a SMART goal: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Following these simple guidelines will help your child achieve the goals you set in place.

Specific

It is easy to have a general goal in mind for kids with autism, such as increasing their language or self-help skills. However, general goals are hard to work on since they do not have specific behaviors that you are looking to increase. Being as specific as possible with your goal is the most effective way to ensure your child will meet their goal.

Measurable

When we create a goal, we have to make sure we can measure a child’s success. If our goal isn’t measurable, we cannot accurately determine if the goal was met. The two most common ways to make goals measurable are frequency (e.g. 3 times per day, etc.) and accuracy (e.g. with 80% success, in 4 out of 5 opportunities, etc.).

Attainable

Before we start working on a goal, we have to make sure it is something the child can attain (i.e. a goal they can achieve). We need to look at prerequisite skills (i.e. skills the child needs in order to achieve the current goal). We also need to look at how realistic our goal is. We cannot expect a child to get dressed by themselves each morning if their underwear drawer is too high for them to reach.

Relevant

Relevant goals are goals that will make a difference in the child’s life. If the goal isn’t relevant to the child, the child will not be motivated to achieve it. If a goal is determined to not be relevant to the child or the one helping teach the goal, it will need to be adjusted to become relevant.

Time-bound

If all goals had an eternity to be achieved, there would not be a desire to teach and attain the goal in the near future. Making goals time-bound ensure that the goal is mastered in a realistic time-frame. Determining the time-frame of your goal should be dependent on the goal. The more challenging the goal, the longer the time-frame should be.

Example of a SMART Goal

Your goal is to work on your child asking you for help when you are in another room. At this time, your child does not ask you for help when you are in the same room consistently. Let’s go through each criterion to make our SMART goal.

Specific: Child will say “help me” while handing the object they need help with to the adult

Measurable: 4 out of 5 opportunities

Attainable: We will first work on when an adult is in the same room

Relevant: Your child frequently needs help when playing with new toys or opening and sealing food

Time-bound: 2 weeks

Now that you know how to write SMART goals, start making some and see your child blossom!

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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5 Possible Autism Red Flags for Preschoolers

Autism spectrum disorder is a diagnosis that affects each child differently. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and common ones include:blog-autism-red-flags-main-landscape

· Problems with social interactions

· Difficulties with communication

· Repetitive/stereotypical behavior

Our Family Child Advocates developed a list of five possible autism red flags for preschoolers. While this is not an all-inclusive list, and symptoms vary between children, these can be early indicators.

1. Not Just Shy

Don’t mistake shyness for autism — or vice versa. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a chart for parents that highlights the difference. For example, a child with a shy temperament might be “quiet and withdrawn in new settings.” However, a child on the autism spectrum suffers from a “lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests or achievements with others.”

During preschool years (ages 3 to 5), children are exploring their environment and interacting with their peers, family members and teachers. These interactions help children develop an understanding of the world and form important relationships with others.

Around this age, children should start showing an interest in what their peers are doing and begin to interact with them both during organized (e.g., planned activities) and unstructured activities (e.g., free play). If they only want to play alone (even if there are peers around them), this could be a red flag. In addition, if a child demonstrates limited eye contact with adults and peers — this could also be a sign of autism — especially if the child doesn’t make any eye contact when their name is called or during times of play/activities with others.

2. Something Doesn’t Sound “Right”

It’s true that speech and language milestones are reached at different times for each child. However, at the preschool age, most children should be able to:

· Speak four or more words in a sentence.

· Follow three-step directions like “find your chair,” “raise your hand” or “shut the door.”

· Answer “WH” questions: Who, what, where and why.

· Recognize some letters and numbers.

Children on the autism spectrum disorder may not be able to speak about or do these things. Also, when autism spectrum children do speak, people may struggle to understand what they are saying.

A child on the autism spectrum might repeat the same words (e.g., “clap, clap, clap!”) or phrases, (e.g., “How are you? How are you?”) over and over again. The repeated words or phrases might be said right away or at a later time. While most children go through a repetitive speech stage, this type of speaking pattern typically ends around age three.

3. Demonstrating Major Fury with Minor Changes

It’s common for children to struggle with changes to their everyday routine. However, children with autism can become extremely upset when changes occur, especially unexpectedly. This may be seen during transition times between activities, clean up time or when they are asked to do something. Some behaviors that may occur include: exhibiting withdrawal, repetitive behaviors, tantrums or aggression.

4. Stimming and/or Obsessive Interests

Stimming is self-stimulatory behavior which appears as repetitive body movements and/or repetitive movement of objects. Stimming can involve one or all senses, and some examples are: hand flapping, body rocking, spinning in circles or spinning objects.

It’s natural for children to be curious of the world around them. But obsessive interests are routines or hobbies that the child develops that may seem unusual or unnecessary. Some example of common obsessive interests might include only wanting to talk about and play with computers, trains, historical dates/events, science or a particular TV show.

5. Showcasing Signs of Sensory Sensitivity

Children with autism may have a dysfunctional sensory system. This means that one or more of their senses are either over or under reactive to sensory stimulation. This sensitivity could be the cause of stimming behaviors. Some preschoolers might react unusually to the way things sound, smell, taste, look or feel. For example, during sensory play (e.g., playing with sand, Play-Doh or shaving cream) a child who does not like to get their hands dirty and prefers to continually wipe/wash their hands — or avoid sensory projects all together — could be demonstrating signs of sensory sensitivity.


NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help. Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates.