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.

The Importance of Person First Language

The language we use and the labels that we place on individuals are powerful. In today’s society we rely heavily on medical diagnoses to define a person’s values, their strengths and weakness, their education, the services that people are eligible to receive and ultimately their future. Too often an individual’s diagnosis is used to define them as an individual – the retard, the autistic boy, the stutterer. Person First Language is a way to put the person before the disability, “describing what a person has, not who a person is (Snow, 2009).

The Importance of Person First Language:

In reflecting on the importance of person-first language, think for a minute how you would feel to be defined by yourPerson First Language perceived “negative” characteristics. For instance, being referred to as the heavy boy, the acne student, or the bald lady. To be known only by what society perceives as negative characteristics or “problems” would completely disregard all of the positive characteristics that make you as an individual who you are (Snow, 2009). Individuals with disabilities are more than their diagnosis. They are people first. The boy next door who has autism is more than an autistic boy, he is a brother, a son and a friend who happens to have autism. The girl who stutters in class is more than a stutterer – she is a daughter, a sister, and a best friend who has a fluency disorder.

Contrary to society’s definition, having a disability is not a problem. When defining a person by their disability, there is a negative implication that that person is broken. Especially within the health care field, it is imperative that we as professionals, co-workers and human beings begin to focus on other’s strengths. By focusing on the strengths of individuals who have disabilities, we are setting up our clients and friends for success. Using person-first language is a great first step to this change of thinking.

Use the table below to help guide your language in following person-first language recommendations:

Rather than… Please Say…
Autistic Child who has autism spectrum disorder
Stutterer Boy/Girl who has a fluency disorder
Retard A child with a cognitive defect
Slow child A child who has a learning disability
Non-verbal child She communicates with her device
Down’s kid Child who has Down’s Syndrome

This table is by no means a definite list. However, it can help build a framework for the importance of person-first language and how to implement it into your own language. When you are unsure of how person-first language applies to a situation, remember the emphasis is on the person as a whole – putting the person before his or her disability.

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!

Snow, Kathie (2009). People First Language. Disability is Natural. Retrieved from www.disabilityisnatural.com

 

Communicative Intent in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Have you ever thought to yourself, “How did I know that my infant wanted their bottle?”, “How did I know that my toddler wanted more juice?”, or “How did I know that my school-aged child wanted some water?” The answer is that they demonstrated some form of communicative intent.

What is communicative intent?communicative intent and ASD

Your infant likely cried or fussed, and then calmed once he received the bottle. Perhaps your toddler directed his eye gaze and reached towards his juice cup. Your school-aged child most likely utilized words to say, “I want some water, please and thank you!” Communicative intent is the use of gestures, facial expressions, verbalizations, and/or written words to deliver a message. There are two types of communicative intent: intentional and non-intentional.

What’s the difference between intentional and non-intentional communicative intent?

Non-intentional communicative intent is the communication of a message that is automatic and completed without thinking (spontaneous). Intentional communicative intent is the deliberate communication of a message to a person, whether it’s via gestures, gaze, or vocalizations. The infant mentioned above exhibited non-intentional communicative intent through crying and the toddler and school-aged child demonstrated intentional communicative intent through eye gaze, gestures, and speaking.

How does this relate to autism?

Demonstrating communicative intent is often an area of difficulty for kids diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Children diagnosed with ASD may have trouble utilizing gestures, eye gaze, and/or words to communicate. Additionally, they may not understand or be aware of the messages they are sending to others. This makes knowing what your child wants and needs a challenge!

What can I do to Help My Child With Autism Communicate?

Anticipate communication opportunities: Anticipate when your child is going to need to communicate- meal times, ends of routines, transitions, etc. Prompt them to communicate what he wants in a meaningful way by modeling the desired behavior and helping your child perform the behavior. When your child wants more juice, hold his juice and model and prompt them to say ‘more’. This helps to enforce the power of the word ‘more’. If your child is not yet producing words consistently, encourage your child to reach for the juice, point to the juice, look at the juice, or sign ‘more’.

Give consistent responses: Provide consistent responses for your child’s words and gestures. Following through with your child’s requests enforces the fact that his words and gestures have power and are going to result in his needs and wants being met. Follow through with the request even if you know it is not really what your child wants. This creates an opportunity for your child to use his words (“no”) to communicate his dissatisfaction and then another opportunity to communicate his message accurately.

Utilize these tips to help teach communicative intent at home. Consult with a speech language pathologist if you are concerned with your child’s ability to communicate his wants and needs effectively.

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

NSPT offers services through our Autism Center as well as Speech Therapy services in Bucktown, EvanstonHighland 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!

Traveling with Kids with Autism

Travel Tips for Children with Autism

The holiday season is quickly approaching, and for many people the holidays involve some type of travel. When traveling with a child with autism it is very important to plan ahead and be well prepared for the trip. One of the best ways to begin preparing is to identify the triggers for your child which lead to meltdowns, and come up with strategies on how to handle or avoid these meltdowns. It is also important to think ahead and consider the various scenarios which could occur, and make sure you are prepared to handle those situations. Of course, traveling can be very unpredictable, but if you are well prepared for a variety of different situations, your trip should be a relatively smooth one.Traveling with Kids with Autism

Travel Tips for Children with Autism

  • Create of visual schedule of activities for the travel day(s). Review the schedule in the weeks leading up to the travel day and then on the day of travel – Many children with autism do well with structure and knowing what to expect. When making the schedule, avoid making it too detailed (i.e., with specific times of each activity) since travel plans can sometimes change unexpectedly at the last minute. So, keep the schedule simple (i.e., drive to airport, fly on plane, drive to Grandma’s house).
  • Create a vacation calendar – This calendar can begin as far as a month before your trip. You can cross off the days leading up to your trip. The calendar can also include the days you will be away and the day you will return home.
  • Practice sitting for long periods of time – Regardless of the mode of transportation that will be used, there is a good chance you will be sitting for an extended period of time. Take practice runs in the car and reinforce good sitting behaviors. It can also be helpful to use portable DVD players and/or IPads to help during longer trips.
  • When traveling by plane:
    • Watch videos of airplanes taking off and landing and if time allows, take a trip to the airport to watch airplanes in person.
    • Use headphones to drown out any loud noises at the airport or on the airplane.
    • If possible, book a direct flight to avoid the process of switching planes.
    • Contact the airport and airline to see if they have any special accommodations for children with special needs.
      • Some airports and airlines have programs in place that allow practice runs through the airport, and even allow you to go onto the airplane itself familiarize your child with the airport and an airplane.
    • Bring chewy candy or gum to help with the change in cabin pressure which cause your ears to pop.
    • Airports are very busy and crowded, especially during the holidays. If your child has trouble in loud and/or crowded places, begin taking them to crowded places (i.e., a mall) to help de-sensitize them to crowds and loud environments.
  • Pack a bag with all essential items – This bag should include a variety of snacks, favorite books, toys, games, sensory items (i.e., chewy tubes, weighted blankets, etc.), headphones, IPad, and any other favorite or reinforcing items from home.







neuropsychological testing at north shore pediatric therapy

Diagnosing Your Child on the Autism Spectrum: Fact or Fiction?

Many times parents fear an autism diagnosis because they do not want a stigma for their child. However, it is important to understand that an appropriate diagnosis is the first piece of the puzzle. For those brave souls who don’t stop until they have the correct answer, the payoff is worth the effort and pain. A good diagnosis and evaluation should serve as a means of identifying appropriate and practical recommendations as well as a basis for progress monitoring from the intervention. At North Shore Pediatric Therapy’s Neuropsychological Center in Illinois, we utilize clinical testing to help identify the most appropriate diagnosis.

The Autism Testing Process at NSPT-Diagnosing Your Child:

Neuropsychological testing is an empirically supported way of assessing a child’s cognitive, academic, and social-neuropsychological testing at north shore pediatric therapyemotional functioning. The evaluation occurs over three days with an intake session, the actual testing day, and the feedback session.

  • Intake: The intake session is when the parents and child attend a formal meeting to discuss concerns. It is important that child attends the session as the neuropsychologist would want to attain some basic information regarding the child’s verbal functioning, social skills, and attentional regulation. Parents understandably do not want to speak in front of their child about concerns they have. We understand that and will ensure our best that the child is in a separate room when parents are talking about specific concerns.
  • Testing: The testing session consists of ascertaining information from a variety of resources including parents, teachers, outside practitioners (any therapist working with the child or family), behavioral observations, as well as the child’s performance on a variety of assessment measures. Testing is intensive and lasts upwards of four to five hours. The focus is to provide quantified information regarding the child’s functioning across a variety of domains and also to look for consistent patterns across performance.
  • Feedback: The feedback session is the most important aspect of the evaluation. This is the meeting in which the parents are provided information regarding the diagnosis that is given as well as what the next steps are to ensure that the child is able to progress to his or her potential. Read here for more on what to expect after neuropsychological testing.
  • Follow-up: The next step is for the neurologist to re-evaluate the child in six month’s to one years time (depending on the intervention that was prescribed) in order to monitor progress the interventions and to help progress monitor if additional supports or services are needed.

Be a Smart Detective When Seeking an Autism Diagnosis for Your Child:

For those parents with the courage to dive into discovering the diagnosis behind your child’s challenges, I say kudos to you! Those parents are the real child-advocates. Kick start your child’s success with a deep dive into your child’s diagnosis by seeking a neuropsychologist. I, Dr. Greg Stasi along with my colleague Dr. Amy Wolok provide in depth Autism Spectrum testing at our Neuropsychology Center in Chicago, IL. Our Center works alongside the many other therapists at North Shore Pediatric Therapy’s Glenview, Highland Park, Bucktown, Evanston and Lincolnwood Clinics to provide a comprehensive team all working together to help your child reach his or her potential. The neuropsychological evaluation is designed to help identify what specific strengths and weaknesses a child is exhibiting which leads to the best diagnosis and most importantly the most efficacious intervention.

5 tips to get your child with autism to sleep

5 Helpful Hints to Get Your Child with Autism to Sleep

Children with developmental disabilities and autism are at greater risk of sleep problems (40-80% in comparison to 20% of children without developmental disabilities).  Problems can include all aspects of the sleep process, including trouble falling asleep when needed, waking frequently throughout the night, and waking early in the morning hours.  Given what we know about how sleep impacts our attention, emotional regulation, and socialization, it is that much more imperative that we help our children with developmental disabilities be well rested.

Why do children with developmental disabilities have more problems with sleep?

While speculative at this time, evidence thus far points to the following explanations:5 tips to get your child with autism to sleep

  1. Biological: Children with developmental disabilities show higher rates of circadian rhythm disturbance and lowered levels of melatonin.
  2. Social: children with developmental disabilities struggle with interpreting social cues, including those cues that indicate inform bedtime.
  3. Sensory: children with developmental disabilities exhibit disturbances in sensory processing. Because of this, minor bodily complaints, noise, light, and tactile input can disrupt a good night’s sleep.

If your child with autism or other developmental disabilities struggles to sleep well, the following strategies can help:

  1. Keep a sleep diary to recognize patterns in your child’s sleep. You may discover a precipitating cause or consistent trend causing the difficulties.
  2. Create a visual schedule of the bedtime routine. Knowing the routine and consistently following it can help the child prepare for bedtime.
  3. Have the child engage in calming activities one hour prior to bedtime. Screen time is prohibited due to its stimulating effects and interference with melatonin production.
  4. Provide the necessary sensory input that your child needs. They may require a weighted blanket for deep pressure, sound machine to drown out extraneous noises, or dim lights prior to bedtime to cue the child that sleep is approaching.
  5. Melatonin supplement use has been shown to be helpful in children with developmental disabilities but should always be discussed with your pediatrician and approved by them before beginning any regimen.

Read more about sleep disorders in children here.

Need help with getting your child with autism to sleep? Contact one of our sleep expert specialists.

 

Step-by-Step: Potty Training a Child with Autism

Potty training can be an overwhelming process for parents of young children. Potty training a child with autism can make the process seem even more daunting. But not to worry, with consistency and patience, children with autism can be successfully potty trained.

When to begin potty training – There is no magic age to start potty training, as it varies from child to child. Children with autism are not always developing at the same pace as their same-aged peers. However, no matter what your child’s current functioning level is, you should be able to start the potty training process around age 3.

Step-by-Step: Potty Training a Child with AutismPottyTraining

  • It is best to begin during a time when you have at least 3-4 days in a row to devote to potty training (i.e., a holiday break or a long weekend).
  • Divide potty training into two phases:
    • Phase 1 – Urination
    • Phase 2 – Bowel movements
  • Start by working on phase 1, and once your child is consistently urinating on the toilet, you can then begin working on phase 2.
    • When potty training boys, have them sit instead of stand. This will make it easier when you introduce phase 2.
  • When begin the toilet training process, begin to slowly fade out the use of diapers or Pull-Ups. If your child learns that they will go back to wearing a diaper every time they don’t go in the toilet, they will most likely wait until the diaper is on to urinate.
  • Make highly desired items (i.e., IPad, computer games, favorite treat, etc.) contingent on urinating in the toilet. Do not give your child access to these items at any other time. Restricting these items will increase their reinforcing value, making urinating in the toilet more motivating.
  • Provide natural consequences for accidents. Never yell or scream when accidents occur. Instead, have your child help with the clean-up, change themselves (to the best of their ability), and put their dirty clothes in the laundry.
  • Expect some resistance from your child when you begin toilet training. Children with autism love routines, and you are going to disrupt their normal routine as soon as you start potty training. Negative behaviors like crying and screaming are very likely in the beginning. It is important to ignore these behaviors and continue with the process. Once they learn the new potty routine, the behaviors will decrease.
  • Be consistent. Once you start potty training, stick with it! Requiring your child to use the potty one day, and then putting them back in a diaper the next can be confusing and will most likely extend the potty training process.
  • Once your child is consistently urinating in the toilet, you can move onto phase 2 and follow the same steps. It is common for phase 2 to take longer, so do not get discouraged if your child is more resistant at first.

Following these general guidelines can help with the potty training process. It is important to remember that every child is different, and what works for one child may not work for another. If you have been trying to potty train your child without any success, it is recommended that you contact a professional to assist you. Someone with knowledge and experience with potty training can write an individualized plan tailored specifically for your child.

Click here to download a printable potty chart.






Early Autism Intervention

With each passing year, children are getting diagnosed with autism earlier and earlier. Currently children are getting diagnosed as young as 2, which provides these children with an excellent opportunity to participate in early autism intervention services.

 What is Early Autism Intervention?

  • Programs for young children, ages 0-5 that have some type of delay in their development. These delays can include speech, physical, social and/or emotional, and cognitive.
  • Early intervention services can be done in the home, school, clinic, or a combination of all 3 settings.
  • Each state is federally mandated to provide early intervention services to all children ages 0-3 who qualify. Children 3 and older have other options to receive services that would be covered through insurance.
  • Early intervention providers can include, Speech Language Pathologists (SLP), Occupational Therapists (OT), Physical Therapists (PT), Developmental Therapists (DV), Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA), and Behavior Therapists (BT).

 Why is Early Autism Intervention so Important?

  • The first 5 years of child’s life are very important years for developmental growth.
  • The earlier therapy begins, the better the long-term outcome will be. This is especially true for children with autism, as learning functional skill early will help them make greater gains throughout their lifetime.
  • There are years of research showing the effectiveness of early intervention with children with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Benefits of Early Autism InterventionEarlyAutismIntervention

  • Early intervention focuses on your child’s strengths and builds on these strengths to teach new skill sets.
  • Early intervention uses a team-based, multidisciplinary approach which will allows your child to get individualized therapy across all developmental domains.
  • When negative behaviors are addressed early, they are easier to decrease due to the lack of a long learning history. Also, many negative behaviors occur because children with autism lack functional communication skills. Once a child is able to effectively request their wants and needs, many behaviors will start to decrease.
  • Early intervention will address several different important skills during therapy including:
    • Functional communication
    • Social skills
    • Expressive and receptive identification
    • Imitation skills
    • Visual perceptual skills
    • Play skills
    • Parent training
    • Daily living skills such as eating, toileting, and dressing independently
    • Sensory needs
  • Parents will learn the necessary strategies to use with their child early on, so they can carry over interventions when therapy is not taking place. This will further promote skill development and overall independence.

How to Begin Early Autism Intervention Services

  • The first step is to have your child evaluated. If your child is ages 0-3 you can contact a local early intervention provider to begin the evaluation process. Once the evaluation is complete, they will determine which therapies your child qualifies for, and services can begin.
  • Even if your child qualifies for early intervention services through the state, it is recommended for your child to also begin Applied Behavior Analysis services (ABA). ABA is an evidence-based treatment approach that is considered the most effective approach for individuals with autism. Once you contact a local ABA agency a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) will evaluate your child and then create an individualized treatment plan for your child. It is also best if your ABA provider and Early Intervention providers are in frequent contact to ensure all therapists are working toward the same goals.
  • Even if you are even slightly concerned your child may have autism or any other type of developmental delay, it is better to be safe and get an evaluation rather than wait and see if the symptoms improve. Waiting can take away valuable therapy time from your child.







medication for mental health in kids

When is it Appropriate to Seek Medication Management for Mental Health Symptom Reduction in Children?

 

 

 

For many families, the conversation about medication management to reduce mental health symptoms in children is off the table before the realities of this intervention can be explored. Medication can be a beneficial intervention, in tandem with therapy, to translate the skill development from the clinical setting into positive behavioral changes in the natural environment.

When is medication recommended to manage mental health symptoms in children?

Medication might be recommended as a therapeutic approach early on in treatment depending on the severity of the presented concerns and the impact of these symptoms on the child’s overall quality of life. For instance, if the child struggling with impulsivity and reduced focus/attention is doing poorly in school, if he has challenges reading social cues in peer relationships, and is he is internalizing negative feelings of self as the result, medication may be recommended sooner rather than later to improve client’s overall level of functioning.

The goal of social work intervention is to address the socio-emotional concerns through teaching client awareness into the triggers that precipitate the maladaptive behaviors (i.e. distracting thoughts/stimuli that reduce focus, decisions that elicit anger that snowballs into a meltdown, etc.) and the skills to modify their behavior. In some cases, the client can demonstrate and prove comprehension of the skills presented but in practice, have a hard time implementing the learned coping strategies in real-life scenarios. If the child’s quality of life and overall functioning remain to be negatively impacted despite intellectualization of how to handle their emotions or redirect their behavior, medication might serve as the glue to carry these compensatory strategies into reality.

To decide if a medication consultation is right for you, use this checklist:

  • Does my child struggle with implementing the therapeutic skills they learn in treatment?
  • Despite involvement in therapy, is my child’s quality of life negatively impacted socially, academically, personally?
  • Has there been an increase in the frequency and duration of symptoms (i.e. more meltdowns per week, more redirections to re-regulate body to remain calm, etc.)?
  • Does my (the parent) and my family’s quality of life continue to be negatively impacted with frequent impulsive reactions, mood dysregulation, or hyperactive nature of the child?

Consult with your pediatrician and therapist if you have any questions about if medication would be a right fit for your child. And remember, just because you may decide to try medication does not mean that it is a magic bullet fix or that it has to be a life sentence. Ongoing therapeutic intervention in addition to medication can be the right course of treatment for some children.


mental illness in children

The Rise of Mental Illness in Children

 

 

The Journal of Pediatrics published a recent article that childhood developmental conditions including ADHD and Autism are increasing at a rate of 16% from 2001 to 2011 (Read a review of this article on the CNN blog, The Chart, here). Although this might sound astounding and like this should be an area of concern, the researchers have posited that this actually might be a positive.

In all likelihood, these rates were probably the same. What we have now is an increased awareness of a variety of developmental disabilities as well as increased acceptance of such conditions. Having increased acceptance is extremely positive in that now we are able to provide support and services to help these children that otherwise would not be available.

Here are some tips for parents for children who might have a neurodevelopmental condition like ADHD or Autism:

  1. Seek out a good, comprehensive evaluation in order to first help identify the specific condition that the child might present with.
  2. Identify your treatment team. Your team will consist of multiple individuals including teachers, therapists, administration, and special education teachers. Make sure the team is all on the same page and aware of the specifics that the child presents with.
  3. Seek out resources and information to help support you and your family. There are multiple, empirically supported organizations that provide parents and family members with not only support but also resources to help the child out.

Although the rates of a variety of neurodevelopmental conditions are on the rise, it is likely that these conditions have always been as prevalent as they are today. The social stigma associated with the conditions is no longer as strong, and these children are now able to receive specific services and interventions that would be beneficial for them.




extra-curricular success for children with special needs

Ensure Extra-Curricular Success for Children with Special Needs

Often parents of children with special needs are worried and fearful about the ability of their child to succeed in extra-curricular activities such as sports, boy scouts, dance, art class, etc. Parents often fear the worst and are afraid of how the child will behave or act in such circumstances.  I would recommend that parents utilize several tips in order to help ensure success with each out-of-school activity, as these activities have many proven benefits for a child’s self-esteem.

Tips for Working with Coaches to Ensure Success for Children with Special Needs in Extra-Curricular Activities:

1. Be frank with the coach or director of the activity. Inform him or her about the child’s concerns. These are often individuals who volunteer to help children and more times than naught have the child’s best interest in mind.

2. Let the individual know what types of behaviors the child has exhibited in the past. What happened in school when parents were away, etc?

3. Create a list of accommodations that have proven to be beneficial for the child. Let the coach or instructor in on some of the modifications that have been helpful in the academic setting, as he may be able to apply the modification to the activity setting.

4. Be present, or within immediate reach, for the first few sessions.

5. Have the child go and see the building and room will the activity will occur. If possible, meet the instructor to form a relationship in advance.

Ultimately the main goal of after school activities is to increase socialization while teaching a skill, activity, or sport. The above tips should help provide some strategies to ensure the maximum success for children who have special needs in such situations.