Monthly Archives: June 2020

Help Your Child Navigate Their Feelings

Often times children who have been diagnosed with autism struggle to understand other people’s feelings and manage their own emotions. This lack of intuition can have a negative impact on their friendships, adult interactions, and their behavior throughout the day.

Some ways that will help you teach your child on the spectrum about facial expressions and emotions are through the use of flashcards, role play, the use of a mirror, and fun creative games that will grab their attention so that they can learn the differences between happy, sad, mad, etc.

The first step to helping your child on the spectrum understand how facial expressions portray actual emotions is to educate them on what facial expressions correlate with which emotions. You can do this by creating or purchasing flashcards, pointing out expressions in books, on TV or in the community.

Flashcards– these will help teach your child what facial expressions look like and what emotions go with each picture.

Images in books and on TV– this is a great way to practice what your child has already learned in the flashcards.

People in the community – by pointing out facial expressions on actual people you are able to discuss what they might be feeing and how it is affecting them. You can point out more than what their facial expression looks like, you can talk about their posture, their eye contact etc.; and how their overall body language is effected by how they are feeling.

Facial Expressions – Once your child, who has been diagnosed with autism, learns facial expressions and the body language that goes along with each emotion, you can start role playing situations. Role playing can lead to specific emotions and how people will react in specific situations. It is a fun way to practice identifying feelings, and can be group activity or a one on one game.

Creating Games -You can also make a game of identifying feelings by having your child on the spectrum practice facial expressions in a mirror. Name an emotion and have your child look in a mirror and create the expression that goes along with that emotion. Point out how their eyes, eyebrows, nose, and mouth change shapes as they practice different facial expressions. Take turns so that they can see how you would express different emotions. They will learn by watching what you do.

Art Projects – Art is a fun way to learn about facial expressions. Have your child, who has been diagnosed with autism, draw or paint a picture showing people with different feelings, or work with them to create a collage of emotions. Cut out sets of eyes, eyebrows, mouths, and noses. Have your child on the spectrum put faces together showing emotions.

Learning to read facial expressions is important for social interactions. When your child on the spectrum can identify how a friend, classmate, sibling, parent, or person in the community feels, they can respond appropriately.

 

The Importance of Good Manners

Manners are something children are always working on. As parents it is our responsibility to be good role models, set appropriate expectations, be consistent and encourage our children to behave properly and always show good manners both inside and outside of the house.

Here are some ways you can help your child on the spectrum learn good manners:

1. Be a Good Role Model – Your child on the spectrum looks up to you and follows your lead. They learn best by watching what you do, how you act, and what you say. Do your best to always show your child with autism your good manners and lead by example. Teach your child to respect all people by treating everyone with kindness and understanding. Explain your actions so your child can learn from you.

2. Manage Your Child’s Expectations– Always do your best to prepare your child of what they should expect at any given situation. Talk to your child on the spectrum and let them know about the things they can expect to experience so that they are more likely to respond appropriately in their given environments. It is also important to discuss manners before situations arise and to teach your child with autism the appropriate responses for different situations. This can be done by role playing these situations ahead of time.

3. ABC (Always Be Consistent) – Not only is it important for your child to know what to expect from the outside world, they should also know what to expect from their parents. Consistency is key in these situations. It is important not to send your child on the spectrum mixed messages as this can confuse them and cause the to react in ways that are not proper. Remind your child with autism to use polite words consistently and to treat all people with respect.

4. Visuals Are Important – Many children who have been diagnosed with autism are better visual learners then they are verbal learners. By putting up posters or taking pictures that show sharing, turn taking, or helping others, you set constant reminders for them to treat others with respect.

5. Praise Your Child for a Job Well Done – When your child with autism exhibits good manners and treats other with respect, the deserve to be praised so that they know that continuing with this behavior makes their parents and others around them happy. Be clear about what they did and why it was good and let them know how much you appreciate their good behavior.

Manners can be demonstrated in virtually any setting and with every person. They encompass appropriate words and behaviors for treating other people with respect and will make your child on the spectrum a kind, caring, and helpful member of society.

Is There A Difference Between Tantrums and Autistic Meltdowns?

Many of us have been in a situation where our child or a child around us has broken down in a sea of emotions. For the outsider looking in, it seems like a child having a tantrum, but there are key differences between a regular tantrum and a child with autism experiencing a completely uncontrollable meltdown.

A tantrum is a behavior that a child enters into willfully and therefore it can be calmed by rewarding that child when they start displaying a desired behavior. Tantrums tend to happen more frequently when a child is young and slowly go away as the child grows and matures.

An autistic meltdown can occur across a lifespan and isn’t impacted by a reward system. Most autistic meltdowns occur when your child on the spectrum is overwhelmed or is experiencing sensory overload.

Beautiful Minds Center for Autism, a Los Angeles based autism service provider and experts in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA Therapy) have put together a few ways to make it easier for parents of child with autism to tell the difference between the two behaviors. We would like to offer ways to help a child who is experiencing an autistic meltdown vs a child experiencing a tantrum.

What are the Differences between a Tantrum and an Autistic Meltdown?

  1. One is goal oriented (meaning your child wants something and isn’t getting it so they throw a tantrum hoping you will get sick of the tears and give in) and one is overload (meaning your child with autism has reached their boiling point. They are so overwhelmed that they can’t control their emotions any longer. They have reached a sensory, emotional or informational overload and it is just too much for them so they break down). With a meltdown you can expect similar behavior to a tantrum (yelling, crying, lashing out) or your child could just completely shut down.
  2. A tantrum needs an audience. This behavior occurs purposely and when the parents or caregivers are around to witness it in order for the child to get what they want. When your child is experiencing a tantrum it is best to ignore the behavior until they are able to calm themselves down and (if in public) it it’s best to remove them from the public place, since a change of scenery can also help calm this behavior.
  3. Meltdowns will happen with or without an audience.  They are what happens when the child gets overloaded and explodes (or implodes with emotions).

Simply put, tantrums are angry outbursts of emotions while meltdowns are a reaction to being overwhelmed. A child with autism has no control of their meltdowns and will not benefit from distractions, or forms of discipline.

What Can You Do To Help A Child Experiencing an Autistic Meltdown?

The first thing you should do is establish a safe space for your child. A place you can direct them where they can hit pillows, yell and scream without hurting themselves or others.  Since there is no stopping a meltdown, it is important for this to be a space your child can be safe in until their have exerted all of their energy.

It is also important to establish a calming routine and practice it with your child on the spectrum when they are not in meltdown mode so that they can turn to their calming technique when they need it most. This can include a variety of visuals, music, and books to help them stay calm.

Lastly, it is important for the parent to map their child’s patterns of behavior so they can see when and how the escalation of a meltdown occurred. If you know what is triggering your child’s meltdown you can start a calming routine at the first sign of frustration and with time, you may be able to stop a meltdown even before it happens.

More important than anything else is to do whatever you can to stay calm during a meltdown. Learning to cope calmly and having the proper strategies in place will be the best way you can help your child on the spectrum.

That’s where Beautiful Mind Center for Autism comes in. Our extremely talented teams of behavioral therapists evaluate each child’s behavior and work with our clinical directors to create individualized treatment plans that help both the child and their parents address the specific behavioral issues. Then the proper behavioral therapy gets put in place to help redirect inappropriate behaviors and emotional meltdowns.