Monthly Archives: February 2016

Teaching Children Greetings and Good-byes

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Conversational skills are the foundation for making friends and interacting with adults.  Greetings and good-byes are very important aspects of a conversation since greetings set the tone for the conversation and good-byes leave a final impression.

Here are some tricks to understanding the components of greetings and good-byes:

  1. Many different words and phrases are used in introductions and greetings.  The variations can be confusing for children on the spectrum, who have a hard time generalizing skills.  Teach your child with autism the many forms of the word “Hello” and the meaning behind phrases like “How are you?”
  2. Children who have been diagnosed with autism may need to have their parents explain to them the context behind greetings and good-byes   Good morning.” and “Hey there!” are both greetings, but they are appropriate for different people.  The same can be said for “Have a nice day.” and “See you later!”  Children on the spectrum should also understand context with regards to settings. When your child speaks to a teacher or an order person it is proper to be more formal than when they talk to a peer.
  3. Body language plays an important part in teaching your child the proper ways to greet someone. When they say “hello” or “good-bye” to a familiar person, it is more customary to hug, high-five etc. When they are meeting with an adult, someone with authority, or an important member of society, it is more proper to shake their hand.

It is important to prepare your child with autism for an upcoming greeting by telling them or preparing them for what will occur and reminding them how to respond.  Role Play new situations when you know they will be coming up and teach your child new phrases, body language cues, and appropriate responses in a comfortable environment.

We may take it for granted but greetings and good-byes can be complex interactions for children who have been diagnosed with autism. Help your child understand a variety of phrases, and recognizing body language so that are able to comprehend the importance of building social and communication skills.

Using Videos to Motivate and Teach

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Videos are a good way to motivate your child on the spectrum to learn and follow instructions. Almost everyone has a smart phone, camera, or video recorder; many use the same devise for all three functions. These can be valuable learning tools. Here are a few ways you can use videos to motivate and teach your child with autism.

1.  Use videos as a Reward – Videos are a great alternative to rewarding child on the spectrum with food or toys.  Videos aren’t high in calories like food. Videos last a specific amount of time so you don’t have to remove a reward, and videos can be readily available on an adult’s phone or other device. Just like adults, children have individual interests and motivators. Find videos that peek your child’s interests or have fun creating videos of your own. If a child is learning a new skill they may be very motivated by someone filming them counting to ten correctly, folding their own clothes, or saying hello to a neighbor.

2. Use Videos to Prepare for New Situations – When your child on the spectrum is about to go to a new school or enter a new classroom; go to camp, or go to places in the community can make them nervous videos can be useful tools. Use videos of new places and new people to prepare your child for changes or new activities. Review these videos regularly.

3.  Use Videos to Learn New Functional Skills – Videos can be used to teach your child on the spectrum how to complete new skills. Create videos at home with parents, siblings, friends, and your child’s peers that shows them completing the required skill. When creating a video, break a skill into small steps (e.g. brushing teeth requires opening the toothpaste, getting the tooth brush, putting tooth paste on the toothbrush, etc.) and show each step performed correctly. Your child can watch these video before they practice the activity.

4. Demonstrating Social Skills – In the same way other new skills can be taught, social skills can be demonstrated with videos. Breaking skills into steps and teaching specific responses is one way to teach greetings, good-byes, and other interactions. Videos also can be used to discuss and role play responses to different situations.

Have fun with the use of videos, watch them with your child, help your child create videos of their own and enjoy the learning and discovering process with them.

Advise for Parents of Picky Eaters


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First and foremost, it’s important to rule out any medical drivers or food allergies that could be causing a dislike of particular flavors or food groups.  Your child on the spectrum may avoid particular foods because they upset their stomachs. However, they may not be able to describe or identify this connection. Consult your pediatrician to investigate possible allergies or complicating medical conditions before starting any new food regime.

Once you confirm that medical issues aren’t behind your child’s picky eating, you should keep one basic rule in mind: Avoid making food a source of conflict within your family.
It is very common for picky eating to lead to dinner table arguments and battles of will between children and parents. Arguing or trying to force a child to eat usually makes the situation worse. Instead, take a moment to think creatively and try to explore the possible causes behind your child’s dislike of new or particular foods.

Many children with autism dislike trying new things.  If your child with autism seems afraid or wary of new foods, think of ways to manage this anxiety.

Instead of asking your child to taste the new food outright, try to look at the new food together. From there, you could suggest that the two of you smell it and/or touch it. These are great opportunities for playing games and having fun with food.
Sometimes it helps to have your child mix the new food with a familiar and preferred food for this first taste. We’ve seen this gradual approach decrease anxiety about new foods by increasing familiarity.
It’s also important to give your child as many choices as possible so they can feel in control of their meals. You can present a wide array of food options at mealtime, and then invite your child to choose three foods to put on his plate. This approach will help your child with autism know that it’s okay to have preferences around food and that variety is important.
Encouraging choice and control within a defined window can help avoid arguments, tears and meltdowns at the dinner table. At the same time, it encourages a more varied and well-formed diet. Some kids on the autism spectrum have sensory difficulties with food that go beyond flavor. For example, a child may dislike the way a cherry tomato turns from solid to squishy in her mouth, though she likes the flavor. It can be difficult for children to separate out that good taste from the disturbing texture.

One pitfall we’ve see many parents succumbing to is the reward system. Yes, the age-old “if you eat your broccoli, you can have ice cream.” Though this trick may work as a quick fix, it won’t produce the desired results in the long run. Your child with autism may choke down the broccoli to get the reward, but this plan is not likely to increase his preference for eating broccoli. Instead, we want your kids to enjoy new foods and form more flexible, healthy eating habits. So it’s important to help him find solutions. Most importantly, the more fun, the better!

Bowl with watermelons. Make faces on pizzas with vegetables or pepperoni. Paint with pasta sauce. Experiment with how ingredients change color or consistency when mixed together. Each of these activities will help a child become more comfortable around new and different foods, create opportunities for trying new tastes and keep food discussions positive.

Make mealtime an opportunity for flexibility, education, choices and – most of all – fun. This is one time that it’s okay to play with your food!