Halloween is fun and exciting holiday for many children. It gives the opportunity to dress up in their favorite costumes and get a lot of candy. While these traditions seem easy and effortless for most children, for a child with autism it may not be so easy. With the proper preparation Halloween can be a very fun holiday for any child with autism and below are a few steps on how to make Halloween an enjoyable experience.
Help Your Child With Autism Have a Happy Halloween With These Tips:
Let you child pick out his costume so you know it is something he will want to wear.
Make sure your child is able to wear the costume around the house prior to going trick-or-treating. This will allow him to get used to how the costume feels and allow you to make any necessary adjustments to the costume to make it more comfortable for your child.
If you are planning on trick-or-treating, take walks around your neighborhood or wherever you plan on going in the weeks leading up to Halloween. Also, you may want to practice walking up to the doors of people you know and ringing the doorbell.
Read your child social stories about Halloween traditions and trick-or-treating.
Make a schedule of the events that will take place the night of Halloween. Show this schedule to your child frequently so they know what is coming next. You could even make a map of each house you will be going to and they can cross off each house they go to.
If your child has limited verbal skills, make a picture they can hold up that says trick-or-treat, or if possible have a sibling do all of the talking.
https://www.nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/pumpkins.png186183Shannon Taurozzihttps://nspt4kids.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngShannon Taurozzi2019-10-08 12:40:102020-09-29 09:41:43MORE Tips To Help Your Child with Autism Enjoy Halloween
It’s that time of year again: the leaves are changing, the weather is getting cooler, and children and parents alike are beginning to feverously plan Halloween activities and costumes. While this may be an exciting experience for most families, it can be a difficult and anxiety-provoking experience for families with children with autism. Children with autism may interpret and react differently to Halloween festivities and costumes, which can be an overwhelming experience. However, this doesn’t mean that children need to sit on the sidelines and avoid Halloween activities altogether. With the following tips, parents and their children with autism can have a stress-free and enjoyable Halloween.
Costumes are a quintessential part of Halloween. It is important to remember that costumes are possible for your child with autism, but should be safe and comfortable for him or her to wear. This is especially important if your child has sensory difficulties. Take into consideration how the fabric and the fit of the costume will affect your child: Is it a fabric the child is used to wearing? Is the fit too tight or too loose? A great way to decide if a costume works is by practicing wearing the costume around the house. This allows your child to become acclimated to the costume, and lets you know whether or not the child will be able to tolerate wearing the costume for extended periods of time. With practice and knowledge that a costume works, you can avoid meltdowns and last-minute costume changes on Halloween.
It is not everyday that we ask our children to walk up to a stranger’s house and socially engage with the stranger for candy. This is a break in typical social rules that children normally follow. This break in rules may be difficult for a child with a rigid understanding of rules and expectations of the world. One way to help your child overcome this change in rules is through setting a schedule and script that your child can follow for trick-or-treating. For example, the script and schedule may look like the following:
When an adult opens the door, say “Trick or Treat”
Allow the adult to put candy in your candy bag
Say “Thank you” and walk away from the house
This script and schedule allows your child to understand the expectations and rules of Halloween while also creating an easy timeline that they can follow and refer back to with parents. Similarly, you may want to practice this script with your child prior to Halloween at your own household. The child can put on his or her costume, and practice ringing the doorbell and asking for candy to simulate trick-or-treating on Halloween.
Know your Child
Even with extensive preparation, Halloween can be an overwhelming and tiring experience. Know and recognize when your child has had enough and is ready to call it quits for the evening. The point of Halloween is for your child to have an enjoyable time, whether that lasts 30 minutes or 2 hours. Halloween is all about maximizing your child’s fun while spending time together as a family.
With the right knowledge and planning, families with children with autism can have a successful and happy Halloween!
https://www.nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/girl-and-pumkin-feature.png186183Racheal Smetanahttps://nspt4kids.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngRacheal Smetana2019-10-06 10:21:492019-10-11 11:20:22Simple Tips To Prepare Your Child with Autism for Halloween
Play skills are one of the most important areas that children, especially those with Autism, need to learn. These skills provide opportunities for the child to entertain themselves in meaningful ways, interact with others, and learn important cognitive skills. A successful way to teach play skills to children with autism is to initially teach the specific play skill in a very structured manner.
Break the play skill into small, discrete steps and teach one step at a time. As the child demonstrates success in learning one step, add the next step. (After the child can add eyes to Mr. Potato Head, then add ears, then arms, etc.)
Use modeling to teach the skill (e.g. the adult builds a tower of Legos as the child watches, then the child builds his own tower).
Always provide reinforcement (behavior specific praise “Nice job putting the piece in the puzzle”, immediately following the child’s demonstration of the skill.). As the child exhibits improved accuracy of the skill, reinforce successive approximations.
The child should have plenty of opportunities to rehearse the skill in a structured setting. Practice, practice, practice!
In the structured setting, have the learning opportunities be short and sweet, so the task does not become aversive to the child.
Fade the adult prompting and presence out gradually, so the child can gain more independence. Systematically fade the reinforcement so that it is provided after longer durations.
Remember to keep the activity fun and exciting. You want your child to WANT to play with the toys and games.
Once the child masters the skill in the structured environment by independently completing the play tasks for extended periods of time, he or she can then begin to practice and develop the skill in more natural settings. Bring the toys and games into other rooms of the house, to school, and eventually have peers present, so the child can use the skills learned in a social setting.
https://www.nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Blog-Play-Skills-FeaturedImage.png186183North Shore Pediatric Therapyhttps://nspt4kids.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngNorth Shore Pediatric Therapy2017-09-25 05:30:422020-03-09 15:15:33How to Teach Play Skills to a Child With Autism
Many people correlate hand flapping with only Autism, however this is not the case. All children could exhibit a hand flapping behavior when they are in a heightened emotional state including when anxious, excited, and/or upset. Many believe that children with Autism will engage in hand flapping as a self-stimulatory activity, which can be accompanied by other stimming behaviors like rocking and/or spinning.
Children with autism are often extremely sensitive to specific sensations and sounds that may not effect someone who is not on the spectrum. Environments in which there are multiple sounds, loud noises, and crowds can cause distress for some individuals with and even without autism. Hand flapping is seen as a way to escape the over stimulating sensory input present in the environment.
Other times when hand flapping can be observed in children (both verbal and non-verbal) is when they are trying to express or communicate to others around them. It is viewed as them trying to express that they are: happy, excited, anxious, or angry. In cases like these, families and professionals often feel that hand flapping should not be a concern, stopped, or corrected.
Hand flapping would be something to worry about when and if it impacts a child’s functional daily living ability, for example if it impacts their ability to navigate their environment safely.
NSPT offers services in the Chicagoland Area! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!
https://www.nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Blog-Hand-Flapping-FeaturedImage.png186183North Shore Pediatric Therapyhttps://nspt4kids.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngNorth Shore Pediatric Therapy2017-08-21 05:30:192019-12-19 10:22:00Hand Flapping: When to Worry
Potty training is a big milestone for any child. It definitely is an important milestone for parents as well! No more diapers!! However, there are some things to keep in mind prior to considering potty training as well as during potty training.
When should you consider potty training?
On average you would consider potty training when the child is around 2.5 years of age and above, can hold urine for 60-90 minutes, recognize the sensation of a full bladder, and show some form of awareness that they need to go to the bathroom.
Do at a time when you can spend large amounts of time at home! Some parents find it best to do in the summer (less clothing!).
What schedule should you use when potty training?
You want to take your child to the bathroom every 90 minutes, if your child urinates then you wait for the next 90 minute interval, if not you reduce the time by 30 minutes.
Consistency is extremely important to ensure success.
While on the toilet what should we do?
Praise your child for sitting appropriately on the toilet.
You can do activities with them as long as they are not too engaging or involved.
If they do urinate you want to CELEBRATE!
You need to wait up to 15 minutes if there is still no urination, then you let them get off and bring them back after 60 minutes (this keeps decreasing by 30 minutes each time there is not urination).
What should you do when there is an accident?
It happens! Make sure you have your child help you clean it up, this is not meant to be punishing but more a natural consequence of having an accident. Keep a neutral tone and assist your child if needed to clean up the mess.
If your child is having too many accidents you may need to shorten the intervals of going to the toilet, or it may be that your child is not ready to be potty trained yet. Always rule out any medical reasons as well!
Things to remember!
When starting potty training you want to make sure you child can sit on the toilet for up to 15 minutes with minimal challenging behaviors.
The goal is INDEPENDECE, you want to work towards your child walking to the bathroom on their own and removing and putting on their underwear and pants independently as well as washing their hands.
Make sure you child is in underwear throughout potty training! NO DIAPERS/PULL UPS!
Diapers and pull-ups are okay during nap time and bed time.
Number one thing to remember is PATIENCE, try to be consistently upbeat and encouraging to your child and deal with accidents as calmly as possible!
It is important to ensure that potty training is as positive an experience as possible for your child! Maintain your positive energy and constantly praise appropriate behavior seen throughout the potty training process! This will encourage your child to become more independent as well as want to go to the bathroom more often on their own!
https://www.nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Blog-Potty-Training-FeaturedImage.png186183Parineetha Viswanathanhttps://nspt4kids.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngParineetha Viswanathan2017-05-02 05:30:332019-09-19 13:45:065 Things to Keep in Mind When Potty Training a Child with Autism
This guest blog was written by Sandra Strassman-Alperstein.
As a special education attorney, I am often asked by parents of children with autism about their children’s legal rights at school. Fundamentally, children with autism are entitled to the same educational rights as other children with disabilities, namely FAPE (free appropriate public education). What constitutes “appropriate” education is at the crux of many special education disputes regarding students with autism as well as other students with disabilities.
Let’s take Michael, a boy with autism severe on the spectrum. Michael is 10 years old. He is not yet toilet trained. Michael demonstrates unsafe behaviors at school, such as self-injury, violence toward peers and staff, and elopement (running). Michael is rapidly becoming a danger to himself and others at school.
At Michael’s IEP meeting, the district recommends Michael’s current self-contained life skills classroom with a student/teacher ratio of 6:1. While many of the goals appear to be appropriate, Michael has made no progress this year. But we know Michael can learn in a 1:1 setting because he has made good progress with a private tutor at home. Also, the proposed IEP contains no goal for toileting skills, which are critical life skills, and no behavior intervention plan (BIP) to keep Michael and others safe when he displays unsafe behaviors.
What types of questions should Michael’s parents be asking at the IEP meeting? I’d suggest questions designed to elicit how the team proposes to educate Michael safely and appropriately, and how the proposed IEP is designed to accomplish this.
Let’s start with Michael’s present levels of performance in the IEP. Are they based on current data, and are they accurate reflections of Michael’s current abilities? How about his goals: do they address all areas of deficit? (For instance, the proposed IEP does not address Michael’s lack of toileting skills and unsafe behaviors – goals will need to be added to cover these areas.) Are the proposed goals reasonable given Michael’s present levels of performance? Are they SMART goals? (SMART goals, according to Pete Wright, are goals which are specific, measurable, use action words, are realistic and relevant, and are time-limited. (See http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/iep.goals.plan.htm#sthash.HUUaBQ3V.dpuf.) What about the proposed services – are they sufficient to allow Michael to achieve his IEP goals?
Now let’s examine Michael’s proposed placement (the 6:1 life skills classroom). Is this classroom appropriate for Michael, or does he need a smaller class setting with more adult supervision and structure? Michael clearly needs a BIP – can an appropriate plan be implemented in the proposed placement, or should the team be recommending a therapeutic day setting or even a residential placement for Michael?
Now take the case of Michelle, a 10 year old girl with what used to be called Asperger’s Syndrome (AS), a form of high-functioning autism (AS was eliminated as a separate diagnosis in the DSM-V that was recently released; however, it remains a useful descriptive term). Michelle can read and write, her grades are good, and she does not display unsafe behaviors in school. However, Michelle demonstrates social skills deficits that impact her in school: she sits alone at lunch, does not seek out friends or engage in reciprocal conversations, and often misreads social cues, causing conflicts with both peers and staff. Other students are starting to tease her and call her “weird.” This causes Michelle to withdraw socially, and sometimes to shut down and refuse to do her work in class. Michelle is beginning to develop a negative self-image, as she has been observed to say “I am dumb” or “I am weird” at least several times a day in school.
Because Michelle – like Michael – has autism, the team proposes the same self-contained life skills 6:1 classroom. However, it should be clear that while both children have autism, their needs are nothing alike.
Both Michael and Michelle have the right to be educated in the LRE (least restrictive environment). However, what that will look like is very different for each of these children. For Michael, it is very possible (even likely) that the self-contained public school classroom will not be restrictive enough; for Michelle, it is likely to be too restrictive. (The LRE is the setting in which the student has maximum access to typical peers, but in which the child can be appropriately educated. Thus, what constitutes the LRE will vary from child to child.)
So in Michelle’s case, the parents should be asking similar questions regarding present levels (are they accurate?), goals (do they cover all areas of deficit – such as social/emotional needs – and are they SMART goals?), services (are they sufficient to enable Michelle to meet her goals?), and placement (is the self-contained classroom the LRE for Michelle when she is able to progress in the general education setting?).
What these examples demonstrate is that different children have different needs, regardless of an autism diagnosis/label. The fact is, as the saying goes, if you’ve met one kid with autism, you’ve met one kid with autism.
For each child, parents should critically examine the key elements of the proposed IEP, namely:
Present levels of performance (are they based on data and do they accurately reflect the child’s current performance?);
Goals (are they SMART goals that address all areas of deficit?);
Services (are they sufficient and tailored to meet the child’s unique needs to enable the child to progress toward the goals?)
Placement (is it the LRE?)
Parents are their children’s best advocates. They are the experts on their child and have much to contribute to the IEP team. Hopefully this information will help parents fulfill their critical roles in their children’s education.
Sandra Strassman-Alperstein holds a B.A. in English from the University of Florida and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School (cum laude 1990). More importantly, Sandy is the mom of four wonderful kids, three of whom have received special education services in the public school setting via IEPs and 504s. Sandy has been practicing special education law & advocacy for the past 15 years and is an active volunteer on the national, state, and local levels. Sandy’s website is http://www.spedlaw4kids.com.
The word “travel” can bring a sense of excitement and joy, because you are going on a vacation or to visit relatives or to explore something new. However, the word “travel” can also bring feelings of anxiety or stress.
Traveling with a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can seem overwhelming, especially when it comes to flying.
Here are some tips that can help a family prepare for flying with a child on the autism spectrum:
Call the airport prior to your travel date and see if you can schedule a “trial run” to acclimate your child to the surroundings. During one of my therapy sessions I took a child to O’Hare with his parents to prepare for the many transitions involved in navigating an airport. We were able to start from the beginning of pulling up to the parking lot, riding the train and walking up to the security desk. We took pictures of each step so the child had a schedule and felt comfortable the day of the flight. Many large airports have guides to assist families with special needs children through the airport experience. Call to find out how to set up a guide for your family on your travel day.
Provide your child with a schedule of “what’s going to happen, once you are on the airplane.” Make your child aware of what boarding the airplane will look like, what your seat number will be, what waiting for the plane to take off is like, the pre-flight security guidelines, take off and what to do during the plane ride.
Have your child help plan activities during the plane ride. Bring favorite toys and games to help keep your child occupied.
Have your child watch videos and listen to sounds of the airplanes. This is especially important for those kiddos who are sensory avoiding. Prepare your child for all the sensations he or she may experience on the airplane including the noise, ears popping, the vibration of the plane, what the seats will look like, what standing and going to the bathroom may feel like, etc.
Finally, prepare your child for what happens when the plane lands and collecting your luggage.
Talk to your therapists and ask them to participate in the planning process. Talking about the process a few sessions before the travel date can instill confidence and help eliminate fear. Call the airports that you are flying in and out of for any resources and help available for your family.
Lastly, enjoy the vacation!
Check out these valuable resources for popular vacation spots and how they accommodate families:
https://www.nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Blog-Traveling-with-Autism-FeaturedImage.png186183Abby Rohlfinghttps://nspt4kids.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngAbby Rohlfing2017-03-15 16:44:232019-09-03 20:49:14Traveling With a Child Who Has 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.
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.
https://www.nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/early-autism.jpg388441North Shore Pediatric Therapyhttps://nspt4kids.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngNorth Shore Pediatric Therapy2017-03-15 15:57:372019-09-03 20:50:10What Exactly is a Social Group for Children with Autism?
As babies grow and develop certain milestones are often celebrated, such as rolling, sitting, crawling, and walking. As a pediatric occupational therapist, one of the milestones I always celebrate might not be visible to the untrained eye. Crossing midline, defined as the ability to reach across the body’s invisible midline with your arms or legs to perform tasks on the opposite side of the body, is a required skill for many higher level coordination activities.
This skill typically develops around 18 months of age. Oftentimes when children are referred for occupational therapy due to poor fine motor skills, handwriting, or coordination, they are not crossing midline efficiently.
Some ways to observe whether or not your child is crossing midline efficiently include:
Watching to see if your child switches hands during drawing tasks. Do they switch from left hand to right hand to avoid their arm crossing over when drawing lines across paper?
Evaluating hand dominance: by age 6, children should have developed a hand dominance. Children with poor midline integration may not yet have developed a hand dominance.
Tracking an object across midline: this can be observed during reading, as decreased midline integration can lead to poor ocular motor skill development required for scanning.
Observing ball skills: children who are not yet crossing midline may have a difficult time crossing their dominant leg over their non-dominant leg to kick a ball forward.
Assessing self-care skills: putting on socks, shoes, and belts may be extremely difficult as these are activities that require one hand to cross over to assist the other in the process.
Children who have difficulty crossing midline may not be able to keep up with their peers, which may cause increased frustration during participation at school and in social situations. In addition, crossing midline is a required skill needed in order to complete more challenging bilateral coordination activities, such as cutting with scissors, using a fork and knife to cut food, tying shoe laces, writing out the alphabet, and engaging in sports.
https://www.nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Blog-Crossing-Midline-FeaturedImage.png186183Mary Kate Mulryhttps://nspt4kids.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngMary Kate Mulry2017-01-27 12:02:512019-09-05 18:46:52Why Crossing Midline is Important for Development
https://www.nspt4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Blog-Autism-Toys-FeaturedImage.png186183Rachel Gossanhttps://nspt4kids.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngRachel Gossan2016-12-13 05:30:252019-09-03 20:55:11Age Appropriate Toys for Children with Autism