Monthly Archives: March 2020

Remaining Focused During Unexpected Schedule Changes

 

With school, parks, playgrounds and extra curricular activities all closed down, we have all been managing our children’s emotional and mental health right now.

These temporary schedule changes can make it difficult for your child with autism to stay focused on school work, especially since there is no separation between school and home these days. In moments such as this, parents will need to remind their children of the rules that go along with times of transition.

Here are some tips on how you can create some normalcy during these unprecedented times. 

Try to stay consistent – Your child with autism depends on a consistent schedule. If you are able to mimic their regular classroom schedule at home you will be able to minimize both their stress and anxiety. We recommend creating a visual schedule, which will help your child transition to this new way life and of learning while schools and other programs are closed. 

Fund pictures of activities, assignments, and chores that your child will need to complete or make a checklist and put it up where they can reach it so that they can mark off each item they accomplish. If/then schedules also work well as a positive reinforcement so that you and your child can alternate between one activity they need to do and one activity they want to do. 

Here are a couple of examples of visual schedules:

Develop Strategies for Using Energy –Schedule changes and being stuck at home can make a child antsy and itching to get out. Providing opportunities to exhaust physical energy with stress balls, trampolines, or walks will help your child with autism stay focused when its time to learn. Don’t forget to add these physical activities to your child’s visual schedule every hour or as needed.

Some other recommend physical activities  include:

  1. Yoga
  2. Freeze Dance
  3. Wall Push-Ups 
  4. Bouncing on a yoga ball

But, if there are other physical activities that your child loves to do, feel free to incorporate those. The more they enjoy an activity the more excited they will be to participate in it. 

No new routine comes without there own challenges so it’s important to make sure you are constantly reinforcing your child in a positive way. These changes are not easy for any of us, but can be especially difficult for a child on the spectrum. 

Educate through events– Even though no one is going on trips right now, a time will come when life will go back to normal, so now is a good time to work with your child on the spectrum on proper behavior and expectations by using imaginary vacations and events as examples. Plus, it’s always nice to plan a make-believe trip when you are stuck at home for days in end.

By discussing an event or a trip through drawings, visuals, stories, role playing etc, you are able to create scenarios  your child and your family with experience when you all step away from your normal routines. This will allow your child to envision some examples of what they may see, smell or hear.

One fun activity to try:

Plan a trip to France 

  1. Print and cut our pictures of French beret and glue them on popsicle sticks and pretend to wear them as hats as you take a walk around your neighborhood. 
  2. Teach your child to make French Toast, or French fries, or if you are feeling adventurous crepes. 
  3. Have a dance party to French music

If France is not a destination of choice for you, find a destination that you and your family would love to explore and find ways to bring the experience to life for your child on the spectrum. 

Play in The Time of Social Distancing

With everything happening around the world right now we all find ourselves struggling to keep our heads above water. So many of us have been being self-quarantined and social distancing, so we wanted to share some great indoor activities with you to keep your kids entertained while stuck indoors. 

Whether your child is on the autism spectrum or has developmental delays these activities are great ways to develop skills during play time.

  1.  Sensory toys such as slime and kinetic sand are great ways to keep them entertained while also working on fine motor skills. Teach your kids to use the slime to pick up small toys and objects. Help them build and shape things with kinetic sand. If your child is either a sensory seeker or a sensory resister, this activity is great for everyone.
  2. Creating an obstacle course out of everyday items you have at home is a perfect way to incorporate gross motor skills into a fun at home activity. By lining up a few chairs in two rows and throwing a blanket over them you can build a tunnel, use pillows to build hills or a fort that they need to get to. Lay towels on the floor and tell them they are traps they need to jump over, the possibilities are endless. For more advanced fun, try hiding toys around the house and turning the obstacle course into a scavenger hunt.
  3. Create a craft corner filled with construction paper, glitter, glue, Popsicle sticks, scissors, tape, feathers, buttons and more. Working with your child on arts and crafts will help your incorporate skills like following instructions, turn taking, and sharing into the activity. How about making your own sensory toys, like your very own bean bag tossing game. Once you’ve made your bean bags, it’s time to get creative. For indoor fun, set up toys or plastic cups and make your kids stand a distance away and toss the bean bags to see if how many they can knock down.

Don’t let social distancing bring you down, enjoy indoor fun time with your family and keep your special needs kids entertained while also working on vital skills to help them advance.

Increasing Language and Communication Skills In Children With Autism

The ability to communicate is one of the most important skills to have, and one of the skills that most of us take for granted. With the proper communication and language skills we are able to connect with others, build relationships, share ideas and let others know what you want and how you feel.

For children diagnosed with autism, communication skills are formed differently than for most others. Many seem distracted and first words tend to be delayed. Depending on the verbal ability of the child, there are a variety of ways to help increase communication and language skills. Here are several ways to help your child with autism increase language and communication skills:

Find the time to communicate with your child – Don’t allow electronics, games and television to occupy a majority of your child’s time. Spend time with them, ask them about their day, listen to them when they talk to you and ask questions, read books to them and (if they are able to read), let them read to you. All of these opportunities to communicate will help increase your child’s language and communication skills.

Be supportive of your child Always make your child feel comfortable and confident. Encourage them to use their words and try not to be too critical of their mistakes. Use situations where they make mistakes as a learning experience. Help them understand what they are doing wrong in a very calm and helpful way. Try your best not to be judgmental or condescending as this will have a tendency to hurt your child’s feelings and push them to regress instead of advance their skills.

Be a Role Model to your child – Your child learns from examples. Make sure that when your child is around you, you speak to them and others in complete sentences, correct grammar, and articulate your words clearly. When children constantly hear the proper use of words and sentences they learn how they should sound when they speak.

Use Reinforcers – Find and create situations that promote language in the home. Use favorite items, toys, games, even food, to motivate your child to use their words properly. Make sure these items are only available when working with your child on language and communication building skills.

Provide your child with choices Use choices as a way to get your child to communicate with you. By giving them a choice of what they want to do, or what items they want to have, you open up the lines of communication and give them the opportunity to speak to you. By allowing them to choose between two things they like, you are also able to start a conversation about why they selected one item over the other.

Read stories to your child This is an excellent way to incorporate language into a fun activity. Take this time to ask your child about the pictures in the book you are reading. Ask them about their favorite character and what they like best about the story. It is also a great idea to review the story once you have completed reading it. Having your child tell you about what you just read is a great way to finish a language and communication activity.

Non-Verbal Children – For parents of children who are non-verbal, try not to pay attention to your child when he/she points and grunts, or tantrums and be sure to explain that you don’t understand what they want even when you do, so that they are more motivated to try using their words. Also remember to model an appropriate way to say words they have trouble with, and to model the appropriate way to make requests for what they want. Little tricks like these will help most non-verbal children start communicating.

Most of all, remember to be patient with your child and do your best to set a good example for them by communicating clearly and effectively. When your child sees that he/she can communicate their wants/needs effectively, it will give them added confidence that will help them continue to strive to improve their language development.