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.

Adjusting to a New School Year With a Child With Autism

The new school year is just around the corner, and with the new school year comes changes for both children and parents. These changes can include new routines, new teachers, new classmates, and possibly a new school. Children with autism thrive on routine, so these changes may be more difficult for them. Below are some strategies to make this adjustment to the new school year go smoothly.

Strategies to Help Your Child with Autism Adjust to the New School Year:

  • Begin the new routine a few weeks or even a month early – This will allow your child to adjust to theHelp Your Child with Autism Adjust to School new bedtime and wake-up routine before the school year begins. Also include any dressing and eating routines that normally occur during the school year.
  • Create a visual schedule for your child to follow – This can help with daily routines such as dressing, eating, and bedtime routines.
  • If your child is going to a new school take a tour of the school and visit all the areas your child will go (classroom, lunch room, gym, bathroom, etc.).
  • Meet the teacher and classroom staff – This will allow your child to get acquainted with all of the people he will be working with during the school year. It also allow the staff to become familiar with the child and for you to ask any questions you may have about the upcoming school year.
  • Share important information with the teacher – Provide notes for the teacher which include any triggers that cause behaviors to occur, along with successful strategies on how to handle these behaviors. Also give a list of items/activities that can be used as reinforcers.
  • Keep open lines of communication between you and the teacher – Let your child’s teacher know from the beginning that you would like to have open communication and that you want to be informed of both issues/concerns as well as successes.
  • Allow for an adjustment period – Everyone takes time to adjust to new things. Allow time for both you and your child to adjust to the new school year, and remember to be patient with your child during his adjustment.

What to Expect When You Suspect Autism Download our free, 17-Page eBook

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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 today!

promoting independence in a child with autism

How to Promote Independence in a Child With Autism

A common goal for parents is to raise their children so they become independent functioning adults. This goal should be the same even for children with autism. Yes, they may take longer to learn certain skills, but most skills can be systematically taught. Independent living skills, also known as adaptive skills, are necessary for children with autism to learn in order to reduce the amount of assistance they will need as they develop into adults.

Tips to Develop Independence in Children with Autism:

  • Have high, yet realistic expectations – Only challenge your child to do things you know theyPromoting Independence in a Child with Autism can currently do. If your child has fine motor delays it would be unreasonable to expect them to tie their shoes without any prior training. However, they could start by putting both shoes on by themselves.
  • Set attainable goals – The goals can be either short-term (Removing socks independently) or long-term goals (Completing dressing routine independently)
  • Start small – If your child cannot use buttons, start working on strengthening their fine motor skills and hand strength. Then eventually you can work up to using buttons.
  • Don’t do everything for your child – When you are in a rush it is usually easiest just to do everything for your child, but this is not helping them learn necessary skills. If your child is able to do a skill, make sure they have multiple opportunities to practice. They may involve rearranging your schedule slightly to allow for extra time for them to get dressed, take a bath, etc.
  • Start as soon as possible – Don’t wait until your child is reaching the teenage years to start teaching adaptive skills. Look at typical developmental milestones to see at what age children learn to do certain skills. Even children as young as 2 can start helping with their dressing routine, cleaning up, and other independent living skills.
  • Do not give in to behaviors which may be exhibited due to difficult tasks – If a particular task is challenging for your child, expect them to exhibit some negative behaviors in an attempt to get out of completing the task. In these types of situations, you will need to ignore all negative behaviors and make sure they complete the task instead of avoiding it.
  • Reinforce independent skills – When you see your child engaging independent behaviors, reward them so these behaviors continue in the future.

What to Expect When You Suspect Autism Download our free, 17-Page eBook

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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 today!

Potty Training a Child with Autism: The Toughest Case

Potty training can be a very challenging process, and even when you have a plan in place there will more than likely be issues that arise. Potty training children with autism can add additional challenges, but potty training is still possible. It is important to remember that potty training is a process that takes time, so be patient and eventually your child will be potty trained.

Keys for successfully potty training a child with autism:

  • Always start with urine training – It is much easier to control fluid intake, and urinationPotty Training a Child with Autism: The Toughest Case occurs more frequently. After your child is successfully urine trained, you can then work on bowel movements.
  • Create a reward system to reinforce positive toileting behaviors – Start with basic toileting skills (i.e., sitting on the toilet) then begin rewarding additional behaviors such as going in the toilet, requesting to go, etc.).
  • Do not use punishment for accidents – Always keep in mind that your child is learning and accidents are a part of that learning process. If you punish accidents your child could begin to associate normal bodily functions as something bad. The preferred method of handling accidents is to provide natural consequences such as making them assist in the clean-up, making them change their own clothes, etc.
  • Create a toileting schedule – This will keep both you and your child on track. In the beginning you can start taking your child to the bathroom every 15 minutes. After following this schedule for a week or two you can adjust the time either up or down depending on how well they are doing.

Potential challenges of potty training a child with autism and how to handle them:

  • Child will not sit on the toilet – If this happens you will need to pair the toilet as something reinforcing. The best way to do this is to withhold their favorite toy such as an iPad and only let them play with the item when they are on the toilet. You can set a timer so they know how long they need to sit. Start with a shorter time, and then slowly increase the amount of time they need to sit.
  • Child will only urinate or have a bowel movement in their diaper – The quickest solution for this is to completely eliminate diapers. If there are no diapers in your home, your child can’t rely on using them anymore.
  • Child will sit on the toilet, but will have an accident as soon as they get off the toilet – In this situation you will need to sit your child on the toilet, and continue to give plenty of fluids and have them sit there until the go. Once they eventually go, reward them.
  • Child will never ask to use the bathroom – This can be common in children with autism since often times they have communication challenges. The best way to address this is to teach them how to communicate when they need to go to the bathroom from the start. Use whichever mode of communication they are currently using (i.e., vocal, sign language, PECS). Prior to taking them to the bathroom, prompt then to request to go.


Potty Training 101: The Easy How-To Guide For Parents Download our free, 15-Page eBook

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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 today!

The Earliest Signs of Autism

The Earliest Signs of Autism

With rates of autism steadily rising with each passing year, it is important to become familiar with theThe Earliest Signs of Autism early signs of autism. If you suspect your child may have autism, it is important to seek out the proper medical professionals to evaluate your child. It is better to get help as soon as possible rather than taking the “wait and see” approach.  The earlier autism is diagnosed, the earlier treatment can begin. There is extensive research supporting early autism treatment with better outcomes in later life. Listed below are some of the earliest signs of autism for children 2-6 months of age.

The Earliest Signs of Autism:

  • Lack of eye contact or fleeting eye contact
  • Does not follow objects visually
  • Does not respond to loud sounds or is overly sensitive to loud sounds
  • Does not use gestures to communicate (i.e., pointing to desired items, waving)
  • Does not smile at people
  • Does not make sounds or coo
  • Lack of joint attention – no back-and-forth interactions with care givers
  • Body seems unusually stiff or unusually floppy
  • Is interested in parts of objects (i.e., wheels of a car, lid of a container, 1 specific page in a book) instead of being interested in the object as a whole
  • Prefers to be alone and does not seek physical interaction with caregivers
  • Does not orient to the sound of voices
  • Does not imitate expressions – Does not smile back or make other joyful expressions by 6 months
  • Lack of any babbling by 6 months


What to Expect When You Suspect Autism Download our free, 17-Page eBook

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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 today!

Resource: http://www.autismsciencefoundation.org/autism-early-signs

siblings of a child with autism

Supporting Siblings of a Child With Autism

Having a child with autism requires a lot of time, patience, and planning which can take a lot of effort. Sometimes a child with autism takes so much effort that any siblings they have may at times be overlooked. Siblings of children with autism may deal a variety of different feelings, which if not addressed may turn into larger, more serious issues.

Common feelings siblings of a child with autism experience may include:

  • Anger – Feelings of anger may emerge when your neuro-typical child misses out on plannedSupporting Siblings of a Child with Autism events that get changed at the last minute. They may also feel anger because they may be witnessing problem behaviors on a daily basis which can create a stressful home environment.
  • Guilt – You child may feel guilty that their sibling has autism and they do not. They may also feel guilty that their sibling has difficulty doing simple tasks that come easy to others.
  • Confusion – Young children especially may not fully understand why their sibling is acting the way they are, or why they don’t want to play with them.
  • Worry – Common worries may include, who will take care of my sibling when my parents are gone? Will my sibling ever be able to take care of themselves?
  • Embarrassment – It is natural for kids to feel embarrassed by their sibling that is different than other kids and who engages in behaviors that others, especially their peers do not understand.
  • Jealousy – Children with special needs require a lot of attention, which may cause any typically developing siblings to feel left out or neglected, which in turn can cause jealousy.

How to help:

  • Acknowledge your child’s feelings and listen to how they are feeling without placing judgment.
  • Be open and honest with your child. Do not hide the diagnosis and make sure that when they are old enough, to let them know exactly what autism and the associated characteristics.
  • For younger children, find books relating to the topic that you can read to them and then talk through it with them in a developmentally appropriate way.
  • Be sure you designate time to spend with your children who do not have autism so they do not feel left out or neglected.
  • Look for local sibling groups or support groups for your child to give them the opportunity to meet other children who are in the same situation.

Even if your child seems like they are doing well, it is important to take some time each day to sit and talk and let them know that you are always available to listen and support them in any way.


What to Expect When You Suspect Autism Download our free, 17-Page eBook

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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 today!

Resources:

 

Road Trip Do’s and Don’ts for Children with Autism

Going on a road trip requires a lot of preparation for everything to go smoothly. If you have a child with autism, going on a road trip will require a little extra preparation, but it should not deter you from taking a trip. A little bit of extra preparation will go a long way to ensure a stress-free enjoyable ride.

Road Trip Do’s and Don’ts for a Child with Autism:

Road Trip Do’s:

  • Prepare. Have an itinerary for the time in the car. Plan scheduled stops along the way for Road Trip Do's and Don'ts for a Child with Autismrestroom breaks, meals, etc.
  • Know your route. This will help with any unexpected stops that may occur. Know where the rest stops are located and where you are planning on stopping to eat meals.
  • Bring your child’s favorite snack and toys. Be well stocked with a variety of snacks, beverages, and activities. Also buy some new activities that can be used if they lose interest in the other activities.
  • Find a social story about car trips. Even better write your own using pictures of various landmarks that your child will see on their journey. Read this story each day in the weeks and days leading up to the trip.
  • Prior to the start of your trip, take small shorter trips (in increasing length if necessary) to get your child used to being in the car for long periods of time.
  • Reinforce and praise appropriate car riding behaviors (e.g., give a preferred snack or access to a preferred toy). Or after a successful outing, stop at your child’s favorite restaurant for a reward.
  • If your child has difficulty using public restrooms, practice going to different restrooms before your trip.
  • Leave for your trip very early in the morning, or even drive overnight if possible so there will be less traffic and your child will be more likely to sleep for the first portion of the trip.
  • Prepare for the worst. Think of everything that could possibly go wrong and then come up with solutions for those situations. Of course you can’t plan for every possible scenario, but having a general idea of what to do when things go wrong will be helpful.

Road Trip Don’ts:

  • Don’t “wing it”. Preparation is key in having a successful road trip. When you are unprepared for the trip there is a bigger chance of something going wrong.
  • Don’t assume that just because your child does well in the car for an hour that they will do well with long trips. Prepare for the worst and have a plan in place if your child begins to get restless during the trip.
  • Don’t wait for problem behaviors to arise. If your child is doing a great job of riding in the car, let them know by either providing specific praise (i.e., “I love how you are sitting and playing so nicely.”), or give them a few bites of their favorite snack in addition to the praise.
  • Don’t show your frustration. Even in a very stressful situation, it is best to remain clam. If you child sees that you are upset, it is just going to make them more upset.

Whatever may happen, good or bad it is important to focus on the special moments that were shared with your family and all of the good memories that are created during the trip that you can reflect back on for years to come.

Click here for more travel tips for children with autism.

What to Expect When You Suspect Autism Download our free, 17-Page eBook


NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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 today!

the history of autism

The History of Autism

Over the last 10 years the word autism has become a very well-known term. With the rates of autism steadily on the rise, most people are now at least somewhat familiar with it. But many people probably don’t know when autism officially become a recognized disorder, and how it evolved into what we know today? Below is a time-line of the history of autism.

  • Early 1900’s – The term “autism” was first used by Swiss psychiatric Eugen Bleuler to describe athe history of autism certain a sub-set of patients with schizophrenia who were severely withdrawn.
  • 1940’s – Researchers in the United States began using the term autism to describe children with emotional and/or social issues.
    • Leo Kanner – A psychiatrist from Johns Hopkin’s University studied 11 children with normal to above average IQ’s who had challenges with social skills, adapting to changes in routine, sound sensitivities, echolalia, and had difficulties engaging in spontaneous activity.
    • Hans Asperger – Also studied a group of children who were similar to the children Kanner studied except the children did not present with any language problems.
  • 1950’s – Bruno Bettelheim, a child psychologist coined the term “refrigerator mothers.” These mothers were described as mothers who were cold and unloving to their children. He claimed children of cold and unloving mothers were more likely to develop autism. This has since been disproven as a cause of autism due the total lack of evidence supporting such a claim.
  • 1960’s1970’s – Researchers began to separate autism from schizophrenia and began focusing their attention more on understanding autism in children. Autism also started to be considered a biological disorder of brain development. During this time, treatments for autism included various medications, electric shock, and behavioral modifications, most of which focused on punishment procedures to reduce unwanted behaviors.
  • 1980’s 1990’s – Early in the 80’s the DSM-III distinguishes autism as a disorder separating it from schizophrenia. During this time, behavioral modification became more popular as a treatment for autism. The way behavior modification was delivered began to rely more on reinforcement instead of punishment to increase desired behaviors. In 1994 the DSM-IV expands the definition of autism to include Asperger Syndrome.
  • 2000’s – present day – Rates of autism begin to rise and various campaigns have been launched to increase the awareness of autism. The prevalence of autism has increased from 1 in 150 in the year 2000, to 1 in 68 in 2014. Children are now able to be reliably diagnosed as young as 2 years of age. Due to years of research, the effectiveness of different intervention used to treat autism is better understood. Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is currently considered to be the “gold standard” treatment for individuals with autism.


What to Expect When You Suspect Autism Download our free, 17-Page eBook

Autism Services Near You

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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 today!

Sources:

 

recreational therapies for ASD

Recreational Therapies: A Guide to Keeping Your Kids with ASD Active

Today’s guest blog by Vanessa Vogel-Farley of ACEing Autism explains the importance of recreational therapies for children with ASD.

Keeping children physically active and involved in activities outside of traditional therapies as theyrecreational therapies for ASD develop has proven to be very beneficial in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  We know that all developmental domains are intrinsically connected and impact each other, motor development is key for social communication skills, so enhancing motor skills can help in all areas of development, especially early in life. The availability of programs that specialize in the flexibility needed for children on the spectrum has increased tremendously over the past couple years.  Horseback riding, tennis, and soccer are all options. Picking the program that is right for you and your children can be tricky and expensive.

In addition, increased BMI in children with developmental disorders has become a huge issue that further complicates the life of the child as well as their families.  Physical activity is a solution to this growing problem, but keeping kids with ASD active is easier said than done.  As a person who has been running an Autism specific tennis program for 8 years, even getting some children on the court is nothing short of a miracle.  Below are some tips I have found to be beneficial over the years.

Tips to Keep Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Active:

  1. Continuity from program to home- Choose a sport or activity that you can enjoy as a family outside of the organized activity. Parental enthusiasm and joy in the activity has profound effects on how a child reacts to a new activity.
  1. Equipment- For some kids, the thrill of getting new equipment can be a useful tool in getting and keeping them engaged. There are programs that provide equipment while participating; asking if you are able to use that equipment between sessions can help to develop your child’s interest in that activity, while saving you the money of having to buy your own set.
  1. Down-time- There is a lot of waiting in most childhood activities and the patience that turn taking requires is even tougher in children with ASD. Attention to task and stimming behaviors become inhibitory. We have found that physical activity or routine during the time that waiting is required is helpful to keep kids engaged an attentive to the next task.  Use sit-ups, push ups, running in place, jumping jacks, toe raises, neck rolls, or anything that your child enjoys and helps to keep their heart rate up goes.
  1. Competition- Friendly competitions in safe environments can be easy ways to get kids active. Saying things like, “Beat you to the park,” “Race you to your room,” or “How many push-ups can we do in 30 seconds?” can increase physical activity on a daily basis as well as engaging you as a parent in a bit of a different light.  The aim is to have both of your giggling by the end.  Any child’s push up form is hilarious, not that mine, as an adult, is any better.
  1. Communication- If you choose an organized physical activity program, communication with the organizers and any one-on-one coach is essential.  Goals for each child can differ so much and your satisfaction with the program and the progress within that program is so important. If you do not feel like the program, which you are paying for, is working, communicating with the organizers can turn a bad experience into a successful one.

Finding a recreational program that works for you and your child may not be financially possible or if adding another thing to your family schedule makes you want to scream, increasing physical activity at home can be easy and fun.  Adding a walk after dinner or kicking a ball around for 15 minutes during the day can help to get everyone in the family more active.

Check out ACEing Autism to get your family and child with Autism moving with tennis lessons. Click here for one free class for North Shore Pediatric Therapy Affiliates!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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 today!

The Importance of Choosing Evidence-Based Treatments for Children with Autism

Your child just received an autism diagnosis and you want to get them started in some type of therapy, but how do you chose from the vast number treatments that claim to help children with autism?  In addition to the seemingly endless list of treatments you can find on the internet, there is also many fad intervention that occasionally pop up, which claim to “cure” autism.  These fads do not have evidence supporting their claims, and can be potentially dangerous. So how exactly do you sort out the good treatments from the bad? The answer is to remember these three words: Evidence-Based Practice.

Evidence-Based Treatments for Autismevidence based treatments for autism

What is evidence-based practice? Evidenced-based practice means that the intervention is based on scientifically valid and reliable research. The best example of an evidence-based intervention for individuals with autism is applied behavior analysis (ABA). ABA has over 40 years of research supporting the use behavior analytic interventions to improve the lives of individuals with autism.

 Non-Research-Based Treatments for Autism

There are currently many popular treatments for autism which have little to no scientific evidence supporting their effectiveness, but are still widely used. These treatments include the following:

  • Special diets (Gluten-free and casein-free)
  • Biomedical interventions
  • Vitamin supplements
  • Therapeutic horseback riding
  • Music therapy
  • Facilitated communication

Dangers of Using Non-Evidence-Based Interventions for the Treatment of Autism

  • Wasting valuable time – I have heard many families say they are just going to “try” out a specific intervention to see if it works. While this may seem harmless, it can in fact waste very valuable time for the child. Any time spent on an ineffective treatment is taking away time where the child could be developing functional skills.
  • Wasting money: Most autism treatments are expensive, even those which are evidenced-based. Insurance companies are now beginning to cover more evidenced-based interventions such as applied behavior analysis. They do not however, cover those interventions which are not scientifically valid. Families have been known to shell out thousands of dollars for treatments which will have no lasting effect on their child.
  • Causing harm to the individual with autism: There many are current treatments that claim to “cure” autism by doing a number of potentially dangerous acts. A few of these interventions include: Chelation therapy, Bleach enemas, Chemical castration, and Miracle mineral solution (MMS). These treatments can all cause serious, life-long health issues, or worse yet death.

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or are having trouble sorting out non-evidenced-based treatments, contact an autism professional to help you with this important decision. Always be weary of treatments which claim to “cure” autism, and remember if a treatment seems too good to be true, it probably is.

New Call-to-action

NSPT offers ABA Therapy services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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 today!

More information about autism treatment can be found at:

http://www.asatonline.org/for-parents/learn-more-about-specific-treatments/

References:

what to say to a parent of a child with autism

10 Things A Parent Of A Child With Autism Wants To Hear

Any parent of a child with autism can tell you that they hear a seemingly endless amount of advice, opinions, and suggestions from friends, family, and even strangers who think they know what is best. Instead of trying to offer advice or what you think is best for their child, you should instead offer encouragement and support. Below are 10 different things parents of children with autism want to hear.

10 things a parent of a child with autism wants to hear:

    • Your son/daughter is adorable – So often people only focus on the diagnosis and what characteristics go
      along with it. Instead, the focus should be on the child as a person, and not just the diagnosis.
    • How are you doing? Parents of children with autism are very focused on their child and the progress they are, or are not making. Instead of always asking about the child, instead ask the parents how they are doing.
    • I’ve noticed your son/daughter has really improved with ___________: Let parents know any progress you notice. As an outside observer, if you notice a child is making progress, let the parents know the improvements you have seen in their child.
    • I’m here to listen: It is so important for families to have support systems. So many times parents are getting told what they should be doing or about the latest “cure” somebody read about. What is important is to actually listen without being judgmental, because unless you have a child on the spectrum, you should not be judging their current circumstances.
    • You are doing a great job! Parenting a child on the spectrum is very different than parenting a typically developing child. Telling a parent who has a child with autism they are doing a good job is always a welcome compliment.

What to Expect When You Suspect Autism Download our free, 17-Page eBook

  • Let me know if you need a babysitter: Finding a qualified babysitter to babysit a child with autism can be quite a challenge. Offering to babysit allows parents to go out and enjoy themselves without the worry about whether or not their child is safe.
  • When can we schedule a playdate? Children with autism generally have social challenges, so finding a playdate can be nearly impossible. If you know someone who has a child on the spectrum, setting up a playdate with your child would be beneficial for both children.
  • Can I help with anything? Help could come in the form of grocery shopping, picking up other children from school or an activity, cooking, helping with chores, etc.
  • What else is going on in your life right now? Parents who have a child or children with autism are often completely engrossed in their child, so at times it is nice to get their minds off all of the stressors and talk about other topics.
  • I know we haven’t seen each other in a while, but that is okay: It can be encouraging for parents to know that when their lives get busy they do not need to worry about whether or not their friends will still remain in their lives.

NSPT offers ABA services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. 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 today!