All posts by Biana Lerman

Teaching Your Child Water Safety

It’s summer! The sun is out, the weather is hot and besides begging for ice cream (and possibly some social distancing play dates), your kids can’t wait to get in the pool. Now that swim season is among us, it is important to discuss water safety and how critical it is for children with autism. Many individuals on the spectrum are drawn to water, some of whom are unable to understand the dangers associated with it.

It is never too early to start teaching your child the importance of water safety. It is good to expose them to water at a young age so they can become comfortable around it. The most obvious way to help prevent tragedy around water is to teach your child to swim or provide them with either public or private swim lessons.

There are several organizations that teach children with autism how to swim. It would be worth while to research an organization like this near you.. Remember that special needs swim lessons aren’t just about swimming itself, but about how to be safe around water.

If your child has not yet been exposed to water, it’s not too late to start. Since many children with autism are visual learners, use visuals like picture cards or social stories to teach rules related to water. Staying safe around water is about more than just the ability to swim. A second component is making sure your child with autism understand the importance of water safety. Even if your child on the spectrum is a capable swimmer, they may still have an attraction to water that can lead to dangerous situations – like a river with a strong current, a shallow pool or an unsafe temperature. Make sure your child understands all of the dangers associated with water.

Take precautions to prevent wandering towards water unsupervised. If your child is drawn to water, make sure to take the appropriate safety precautions to keep your child away from pools or other bodies of water. It is also a really good idea to let your neighbors know about your child’s attraction to water so they can be on alert as well. It is also important to let any first responders in the area know of your child’s special needs. It is a great idea to call them and ask them to send you an Autism Elopment Alert Form that you should fill out and get back to them.

Now that you have the information you need to keep your child with autism safe, enjoy the rest of this incredible summer season!


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.