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Is Playtime More Important Than School?

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playtimeThe summer months allowed for an abundance of free play but that doesn’t have to end just because school is in session. Recreation is a very important part of every child’s life and needs to be maintained. Don’t let the new demands of a school schedule rob your child of playtime.

It is possible to maintain opportunities for free or structured play within a school schedule. Learning to juggle school, play and sleep for your school-age child can be done and I will tell you how in a minute.

First, let’s talk about why leisure time is a so important to your child’s wellbeing and why it needs to continue despite the structure of a school day.

The importance of active play for children, by themselves or with others, should always be taken seriously. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) “free and unstructured play is healthy and – in fact – essential for helping children reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones as well as helping them manage stress and become resilient.”

If your goal is to help your child maximize his potential, then you need to encourage and provide him with numerous exploratory play opportunities. If your child had a job description, playing would be it.

Typically, play is not something you have to teach young children. It comes naturally to most but some can always use a little bit of guidance from parents. Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often need more help learning how to play depending on where they are on the spectrum. The brain of a child with ASD is often wired differently in the social skills/communication skills department. Many children with autism shy away from social interaction, not because they don’t want to play but because they don’t know how to.

Learning to interact socially is a skill that can be acquired but it needs to be taught and can never be practiced too much. Guided and instructional play, whether with parents, therapists or teachers, is important for acquiring social skills that work. And practicing these skills over and over again through free and exploratory play is crucial.

Yes, children do have recess time when at school. Unfortunately, it is often less than adequate. And for a child with autism who thrives on structure, the commotion of unorganized play in a big crowd can make any playground an anxiety-provoking place. With the sensory issues your child may have, the noise and unpredictable activity can easily send her into sensory overload or cause him to shutdown.

So, how does a parent balance the amount of playtime with the demands of a school day?

Here are some ideas that will help you maintain a schedule for your child that allows for ongoing free and exploratory play once school begins:

– Get your child outside after school. Being outside, as opposed to being indoors, places your child in different surroundings that offer unique possibilities for creativity and investigation. Both atmospheres are good for recreation but the outdoors has the added advantage of fresh air – it’s good for the brain. Outdoor exercise and activity is great for the body and combats obesity. The natural wonders of nature are soothing to the soul. The great outdoors will also reduce stress and induce sleep. The benefits are many!

– Set up a home environment that invites play. If possible, transform small areas of your house into easy and safe play stations. Create an area with developmentally appropriate exercise and sports equipment. Consider adding a source of music to encourage creative movement. Arrange an arts and crafts center that is user friendly and easily accessible to your child. You can even try converting a section of the kitchen into a science laboratory.

– Do homework in small chunks. If homework is being assigned to your child, breakdown the time spent on it into very small and doable steps. Two math problems at a time, followed by a period of fun will prevent overload to your child’s brain. It will also address sensory issues and make returning to the task easier with neurons ready to make new connections. A young child’s brain learns best when refreshed and relaxed as this previous post explains Relaxed Kids are Smarter Kids: 5 Tips to Enhance Learning

– Communicate clearly. Always make sure the homework/play schedule is clearly communicated to your child, verbally or visually, before you begin. When your child does not understand what is going to happen it decreases the potential for cooperation. Also, if your child struggles with transition, you may want to use a timer to clearly define and prepare for transition times.

– Mark playtime on your calendar. Always make an effort to ensure that various types of play are included in your child’s daily schedule. Highly structured adult directed playtime needs to be balanced with free and unstructured playtime. Whether your child’s play style is aloof, passive or active, finding opportunities to encourage play with you or typical peers will help foster spontaneous and reciprocal play.

– Don’t forget solitary play. Many children with autism find it easy to be absorbed in a play activity all by them selves. But some don’t and it’s important that your child learn to engage in a variety of self-play endeavors. Choose activities you know your child is interested and have them available for solo playtime. If verbal, ask your child for ideas of what he would like to do when playing by himself. If your child has a passion, focus on it! Discover various ways to explore all the possible aspects her special interest could take shape.

– Limit time spent in front of screen machines. An excess of television, video games and computer, for recreational purposes only, can steal precious opportunities for expanding your child’s cognitive ability through play and exploration. Dependency on screen technologies as a source of recreation needs to be carefully monitored. This does not include the use of assistive or adaptive technologies that have been recommended by speech therapists or teachers. Technology can be very helpful to your child but it’s use needs to be managed well.

– Take an active part. At what point in your life did play fall off your radar screen? Allowing your self to play and have fun with or without your child is great self-care. It’s a quick way to relax, melt away stress and put a smile on your face. It also sends the message to your child that one is never too old to play. Making it part of your daily routine will benefit you and your family in more ways than one.

Play is great medicine for all ages! We all have this medicine available to us whenever we choose. When you engage in fun and laughter with your children and other loved ones, you amplify the effects of this medicine. In return your child may have something fun to share, and the joy and laughter will continue to spiral in our lives and out into the world.

They say ‘all work and no play’, makes us dull. And we all know that, ‘all play and no work’, is not realistic. Staying well-balanced is key, for us and our children. Play is a legitimate need that can make it more pleasurable when it’s time to settle down and focus on the work at hand.

Now go play and have some fun!

To make school a more positive experience for your child click here to learn more about my book,  AUTISM PARENTING: Practical Strategies for a Positive School Experience – Over 300 tips for parents to enhance their child’s school success.

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Why Did You Do It?

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“Why did you do it?” is a popular question from people who have a curious mind. As long as the question doesn’t border on invading my privacy, I really don’t mind answering it.

– Why did you go back to school at the age of 30?
– Why did you become a social worker?
– Why do you practice yoga?

I like the occasional question, “Why did/do you . . . “ for two reasons:

  1. It forces me to take time to reflect, which is always a good thing.
  2. It tells me that someone is taking an interest in me, which is always gratifying.

So when I was asked, “Why did you write this book?” I was happy to answer.
bookI wrote Autism Parenting: Practical Strategies for a Positive School Experience to help parents and caretakers like you acknowledge the true power you have to positively impact your child’s educational experience. My book affirms your role as leading educator for your child. All parents possess the tools to be great teachers but these skills are often buried deep within a sea of confusion and doubt that has accumulated over time. This book guides you to unearth and refine your teaching ability to benefit your unique child and deliver her to school ready, willing and available for learning.

Throughout my consulting career I have shared the information in this book with hundreds of parents. Autism Parenting: Practical Strategies for a Positive School Experience is my attempt to expand my reach to all parents to “make school better” for their child. The strategies presented, over 300 of them, address ways to:

  • help your child overcome school and social anxiety,
  • create positive transitions in and out of school, as well as early morning routines,
  • understand and survive the special education system
  • and more!

When I was a new parent I was overwhelmed and often felt lost and lonely. I became a mom early in life and I struggled with a very premature infant that had special needs. Gratefully, I crossed paths with a woman I called my SOS, a Supportive Objective Someone, who guided me to grow and thrive as a parent and become an effective teacher for my child. This connection had such a positive impact on me, and my child, that I decided I wanted to give back some day. Ever since then my mission has been to help parents do the same. This book is one more way to provide support and guidance to you on your parenting journey, especially when it comes to your child’s education.

My vision from the very beginning was to create a book that was very user-friendly. I wanted it to be a resource that doesn’t waste your precious time when you are searching for helpful information. So I created this book with distinct Parts, Chapters, and bold bullet points that make it easy to find what you’re looking for.

I also wanted to encourage you to go beyond just reading another book. I wanted to make it easy for you to put what you read into action. That’s why I added interactive checklists at the end of most chapters. These checklists are designed to help you implement the strategies you read to generate the changes you, and your child, desire. You can download these printable documents to use as visual reminders for maximum results. Displaying them in a place you frequent will keep you focused and provide you with a feeling of accomplishment as you check each item off.

In short, I wrote this book to be able to reach all parents with quick, easy to refer to, practical strategies that have a positive impact on their child’s school experience. The Special Education system tends to use a cookie cutter approach for most children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. It is a system that places most of the emphasis on fixing what a child isn’t able to do compared to his or her peers, rather than on enhancing and celebrating what the child is capable of doing. I wanted to help you change that for your child.

Most of all, I want you to experience the joy that comes from seeing your child feel good about school. And, I want that to be your answer when others ask you –
“Why did you do it? Why did you buy ‘that’ book?”


Click here to learn more about the book AUTISM PARENTING: Practical Strategies for a Positive School Experience – Over 300 tips for parents to enhance their child’s school success.

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labelYour child is unique and the way she learns is also unique. All children have skills they are good at and skills they find challenging. Therefore, why do we say, “He has this label, so we’ll place him here and give him these therapies?” Or, “She has this diagnosis so we will teach her this way.”When it comes to a child’s educational experience, ALL children need to have lessons tailored to the way they learn best. Whether the instructor is the teacher at school, or the parent at home, lessons need to be customized.

If your child has been given a label, it’s important to think beyond it and:

  • zero in on your child’s distinctive abilities, and areas of difficulty,
  • gather information about the way your child relates to and experiences the world,
  • detect if your child is a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner,
  • take into consideration your child’s sensory issues, and
  • determine what triggers your child’s anxiety, and causes your child stress.

Look at the world through your child’s particular lens and how he experiences the world around him. Use that exclusive perspective—autistic or not—to customize your parenting and teaching to it. This is extremely important to help your child blossom!

– Your child may have a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), yet she can learn how to master a new skill if her sensory issues are considered when trying to teach her.

– Your child may be diagnosed as autistic, but he can overcome social challenges with a customized approach to help him learn how to make friends and keep them.

– Your child may be identified with ADHD, but she can acquire strategies to help her stay focused with some tailored assistance.

– Your child may be labeled with an anxiety disorder, but he can learn to manage his anxiety with the time and patience required to master specific coping skills that will work for him.

Any child can experience successful learning regardless of the label assigned.

Yes, labels give you information about what is going on. A diagnosis should also get your insurance to kick in and pay for therapies. Coverage depends on the state or country you live in. Unfortunately, benefits will vary from state to state. The best way to help a child maximize her potential and become the person she is meant to be, is to focus on her skill set and build on it. Always take into consideration her challenges, yet find ways for her to conquer or compensate for them as well.

Parenting is less about ‘what to do’ and more about ‘how to be’ with your child as you parent.

Concentrate more on ‘how to be’ with your child – how to relate, how to really connect – then on the label your child has been given. That will set the stage for security which leads to life long learning and success. Your child may turn out to be very different but if you have customized your teaching and your connection, your child will feel safe and secure in who he is and confident enough to effectively pursue any path he desires, regardless of abilities. What could matter more than that?

Never allow the labels others place upon your child to determine who she is. It will never sufficiently encapsulate the intricacies of her amazing and magnificent human potential – the possibilities are limitless.


Cover_jpgThis article is an excerpt from my new book Autism Parenting: Practical Strategies for a Positive School Experience – Over 300 tips for parents to enhance their child’s school success. To read more about helping your child blossom in his or her educational setting, simply click here to access my book.

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Book review: The Special Needs School Survival Guide: Handbook for Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, Learning Disabilities, & More! by Cara Koscinski

guideGuidebooks are great! They keep you focused and prevent you from losing your way. That’s exactly what The Special Needs School Survival Guise: Handbook for Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, Learning Disabilities, & More! by Cara Koscinski does. This book is written from the professional perspective of an Occupational Therapist and the personal perspective of a mom with children on the autism spectrum. It is a wonderful compilation of tactics and techniques for teachers and parents to employ. The book focuses on the ‘in’s and out’s’ of Individual Education Programs (IEPs), working with school personnel and how the various special education diagnoses (identification categories) are interpreted and handled.

The author’s expertise as an Occupational Therapist provides the reader with 185 pages of activities that will help a child be more successful in the school environment. Teacher’s that follow this guidebook will easily meet the needs of their students so they can experience success. It is something teachers will reach for many times throughout their school career. The book is written in Q & A format, which makes it easy to navigate and find what you are looking for. The content presented by the author will also assist any parent in their capacity to be an informed and highly effective advocate.

The vast array of resources listed throughout the book – websites, products, agencies and associations – are all very helpful tools that will provide extra guidance to professionals and parents. This book will empower the reader to truly maximize a student’s potential. Despite the fact that most of the content is addressed to teachers and occupational therapists, this guidebook will enhance understanding for anyone caring for a child on the autism spectrum.

To get your copy of The Special Needs School Survival Guide at a discounted rate, simply click here to get to the Future Horizons website. Then use my code PARENTCOACH in the coupon code box upon check out to receive your 15% discount and enjoy!

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transitionIn a few weeks, schools across the country, and elsewhere, will begin closing their doors for summer break. As you know a transition like this can be difficult for a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Thoughts of transitioning to a summer schedule can also trigger mixed emotions in you as well, depending on your situation.

You may be relieved to get a break from the morning rush to get everyone out of the house and to school on time in the mornings or the struggles of getting your child to do his homework. On the other hand, you may be worried about the lack of structure and keeping your child appropriately occupied. You also may be fretting about finding quality childcare if you are a working parent.

Would you like to know a way to make summertime enjoyable for both you and your child?

What if I told you it required some work on your part but the results would be well worth it?

I know you are busy – there is no other way to be when you have a child with autism. But it is possible to use the time you have differently in order to get a better outcome.

Here are your choices:

1 – You can do nothing and spend x amount of hours per day this summer dealing with boredom, whining, meltdowns or other challenging behaviors


2 – You can minimize all that by spending a few quality hours right now to create a plan that will eliminate most of that negative energy.

You do the math – hours every week OR two to three hours total. What do you choose?

If you are saying, “I don’t have the time to do this.” then you definitely won’t find the time. Instead, believe that it IS possible and make an appointment to sit down with your spouse/partner soon to discuss, brainstorm and schedule what you want your summer to be like. Then communicate the plan to your children and implement it.

Remember, ALL children thrive on predictability. Children with autism and sensory issues thrive better and experience less anxiety when they have a clear picture of what is expected. If they know what is going to happen and when, life will be calmer for everyone.

Here are some guidelines to consider when preparing for the upcoming transition into the summer school vacation months.

– Have the conversation. Discuss ideas with all other adults in the household before summer break begins. Talk about what a good summer routine would look like. What fun activities or excursions might be possible? What chores are to be completed? What will each family member be responsible for? What will the daily routine be like?

Staying positive is important but take some time to also voice the possible obstacles that might get in the way, then problem solve if necessary. One of the biggest challenges may be how to find the best balance between structure and routine with fun and flexibility. Preparing in advance is one way to increase the chances that summer will unfold, as you would like it to.

– Present your ideas. Go over summer plans and expectations with your children. Hold a special family meeting to go over what the summer months will look like. Depending on your circumstances or if your plan is not yet final you may want to allow your children to have some input. Whether you are brainstorming or presenting the final version, take the time to write everything down. Visuals are important for children on the spectrum and will prevent any possibility for confusion later on!

– Maintain a sense of routine. Some parent schedule ‘free time’ into the calendar, which does not sound like a structured routine. It is possible to have some structure to ‘free time’. To address spans of time when nothing in particular is planned guide your child with choices such as daily time for reading, individual hobbies/special interests, and play time with others. Don’t forget quiet time for self. Thinking of ways to self-entertain is a skill all children need to learn. You can even create a ‘free time’ jar with all your ideas. Although you don’t need to create a routine for every minute of the day, creating a summer routine that replaces the school-time routine will help your child feel more stable and less anxious and stressed.

– Create a family calendar. Having a large calendar hung in an area where everyone can see it is a great visual for everyone to focus on and stay informed. This helps to keep track of the activities that are going on, whether it is a family vacation, summer camp, organized summer sports, or “do nothing” days. This way, when something new comes up you can refer to the calendar and know whether it will interfere with something else that is already planned. Such a calendar will not only inform your children about what to anticipate but it will help them prepare for transitions.

– Continue therapeutic and educational activities. Maintaining your child’s therapeutic program is usually a given but older children should maintain an academic component as well. Continuing to challenge your child’s brain during the lazy more flexible days of summer can avoid the summer brain drain and save you time consuming work come fall. When a child’s mind is not educationally challenged for one to two months or is allowed to run on idle for more than usual, it is easy to slide back academically.

– Engage your children. If you are planning any family trips or outings make it a learning experience for all. If appropriate, have your children map out routes, make lists of what to bring, and help shop for the items needed. Inviting their participation in a way that acknowledges their usefulness will help instill ownership into the activity and defray any resistance that may be harboring within. It will also provide your child with autism more time to adjust to the future plans and transition better when it’s time to leave.

– Always have a plan B. Know that life happens and schedules will be upset. Learn to roll with the punches and role model appropriate ways to deal with disruption. If you have to make adjustments to unanticipated schedule changes, see it as an opportunity to inject fun and humor into the situation. “If life gives you lemons – make lemonade. Whether you are a working parent or stay-at-home mom or dad, your goal to reduce summer time stress is achievable if you are mindful of the things that trigger anxiety for your child.

Remembering to plan ahead, anticipate challenges and pay attention to what works best in meeting the needs of all family individuals will increase the possibility for a pleasant summertime experience. Enjoy!

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friendsFriends Are…? by  Ymkje Wideman-van der Laan is not just a good story to read to a child, but also a fantastic educational tool. The author touches on fourteen very important social skills in the form of friendship rules that are easily reinforced and recalled through rhyme. Because they are all set to verse, these rules can be reviewed in many forms, as a poem, song or chanting the lyrics to create a rap tune!

Written by a loving grandmother to help her grandson on the autism spectrum make friends, this book and the previous five others in this series, are a true labor of love. The content for these informative children’s books was generated by the author’s desire to help her grandson with the questions he posed or a challenge he was experiencing.

What is great about this book is that it can be read to any child, on or off the autism spectrum. These friendship rules apply to all! And the beautiful illustrations by Jennifer Lackgren really make the book enticing–how can anyone not be drawn to those most adorable and colorful characters!

Each friendship rule has it’s own title, making them stand out and easy to find. At the end of the book each rule is listed again on a checklist that encourages active participation from the parent and child to practice them. The Friendship Rules Checklist is my favorite, because this interactive aspect of the book challenges the child to master these skills in real life.

Wideman’s book has three other extras that make this book more than just a story.

–       She includes a Note to Parents at the end to remind them that these skills often do not come naturally to a child on the autism spectrum, and repetition in many forms is crucial to have them take hold. The mention of her grandson, and the history of how the book evolved, give the book an authenticity that other parents can relate to.

–       For children who may not understand some of the words used in the book, she added a word list/glossary at the back. These bigger words are listed in alphabetical order just like in a dictionary. Looking up words at the end of a book that the reader may not grasp is a great pre-teaching tool for using an actual dictionary or researching words online.

–      I’m happy to see the continuation of the “Where’s Waldo” theme that was included in the previous five books in this series. It invites the reader to become a detective and engages them in looking for items hidden within the illustrations. The other precious tidbit that I am privy to is that the hidden red sports shoe you find throughout the book was drawn by the author’s grandson himself. Now how unique and endearing is that!

This book is such a great learning instrument because it speaks to various learning styles–all reinforcing the other for optimal learning. It appeals to the visual learner, the auditory one, and the inclusion of the Check List adds a kinesthetic component as well. And as previously mentioned, the musical could be addressed as well. This is what I call a fun way to learn!

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familyAs the rates of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) continue to rise it’s more and more likely that autism will become part of your extended family or move into your neighborhood sometime in the future. If that person turns out to belong to someone you care about, Autism and the Extended Family: A Guide for Those Outside the Immediate Family Who Know and Love Someone with Autism written by Raun D. Melmed, MD and Maria Bird-West Wheeler, is for you.

This book will help anyone gain a better understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorders and how the diagnosis can impact a family member, friend or neighbor. The case examples and cautions throughout the book inform the reader about ‘what to do’ and ‘what not to do’ when it comes to supporting and helping a parent of a child with autism. But as the book emphasizes throughout, the best thing a person can do is to ask how they can be supportive. Every parent’s experience is different so the answer to “What can I do?” will vary from parent to parent.

Autism and the Extended Family covers all the possible individuals that are indirectly affected when a child is diagnosed with autism: grandparents, siblings, stepfamilies, uncles and aunts, cousins, close friends and neighbors. The appendix at the back of the book presents nine activities that can empower extended family members and friends. These topics range from – managing behaviors, communication strategies, reducing stress, resolving conflicts that may surface, helping with the basic self-care skills of toileting and eating, and even guidelines for making an Autism Survival Kit.

The thirty-three case examples that are included in this book are a great addition because they show how diverse the needs of individuals on the spectrum are. They also provide a lot of insight and ideas into the many ways a person can be helpful. This wonderful guidebook could have been titled, “Everything You Need to Know About Being a Relative or a Friend of a Parent Who Has a Child with Autism”.

If you are a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, I would inform everyone in your extended family circle that this book exists. If you do not have a child with autism but there is such a child within your extended family/social circle and autism is still new or somewhat foreign to you, stop wondering what it’s like for ‘that’ parent of ‘that child’ with autism. Take action! Nurture a sincere interest in your family member’s situation and purchase this book. Read all 125 pages and then go forward with a mission to be helpful.

I know many people who claim that autism has not yet come to their family or neighborhood. That may be true but, if so, why wait? Society needs more individuals to understand what autism ‘looks like’, ‘sounds like’, and ‘feels like’. This world needs people who have the knowledge of best strategies to employ when autism appears in their extended family circle and this is ‘the’ guidebook for that.

To get your copy of the book, Autism and the Extended Family, at a discounted rate, simply click here  to get to the Future Horizons website. Then use my code PARENTCOACH in the coupon code box when you check out to receive your 15% discount and enjoy!

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Academics and good grades are very important, but learning how to be self-sufficient in the real world is just as—if not more—important. There are two things that help to make this possible – adaptive skills and good executive functioning.

executive functioningAdaptive behavior is the capacity a person has to care for self personally and be socially self-sufficiency in actual everyday existence. Adaptive skills, learning how to care for one’s self, often referred to as independent daily living skills, is something that most schools assume are taught and learned at home. But children with special needs often need extra help with this.

Some schools are better at addressing these issues than others. If your child is under the special education umbrella, then this is an area that can’t be ignored. Your child’s IEP is where any type of adaptive skill training deemed necessary should be included.

Even though your child may do well academically, and is considered to be high-functioning, there may be a discrepancy between IQ and adaptive skills. This is often the case with high-functioning autism, Asperger’s, and PDD-NOS. So make sure adaptive skills are addressed and included in your child’s IEP.

Begin with a request for an adaptive skills evaluation and assessment. The results will generate goals to be included in a treatment plan that is developmentally appropriate for your child.

At a minimum, a comprehensive adaptive skills program should focus on the assessment, development, and expansion of the following:

  • Socialization – interpersonal relationships, play and leisure skills.
  • Communication – non-verbal cues, initiating conversation, making requests.
  • Personal care and responsibility – hygiene, toileting, meal prep, chores and other household tasks.
  • Emotional intelligence – self-awareness, empathy, anger management, self-regulation, and coping skills.
  • Safety – personal body awareness and appropriate boundaries. Finding your way in a community, crossing the street, and what to do when lost.
  • Work related skills – interviewing, resume/letter writing, and personal presentation skills.

These areas of focus can be addressed and reinforced at school and at home. Using the same approach for teaching these skills in both environments will help your child master them quickly.

Executive functioning skills are also extremely important and are essential for any person to succeed in life. These skills consist of organizational capabilities, knowing when and how to set reminders, managing time well, making plans, analyzing ideas, applying what is known to solve problems, etc. All are extremely important to help individuals complete daily chores and responsibilities, as well as succeed in their jobs.

It’s crucial that systems addressing executive functioning be put into place at home and at school for children on the autism spectrum. Your goal as a parent is to launch your child into adulthood to be as independent as possible. Focusing on improving these skills at home, and advocating that they also be addressed in school, will help make your child’s transition into adulthood easier.

Here are a few things you can do at home to help your child develop or enhance his executive functioning skills:

– Teach organization. Create a system for organizing assignments, keeping track of notes and papers, and maintaining a productive homework environment for your child. Invest time in teaching your child about the why and the how of being organized —it will pay off big dividends in the long run.

– Practice the process. To make it easier for your child to experience success, break the process of completing a task into doable stages. First, analyze the situation and how to get the task done. Second, create a strategy for how it might be handled. Third, separate the plan into progressive steps on a ladder. Fourth, assign time estimates to each section. Fifth, complete the task in the timeframe specified. Sixth, evaluate and make adjustments as needed.

– Customize it to your child. Be forever mindful of choosing a system that speaks to the way your child takes in and assimilates new information best. Is her learning style visual, auditory, or hands on? How does she communicate most effectively? What other unique things do you need to pay attention to that helps your child learn best?

– Teach your child to ask for help. This is a simple skill that is often assumed everyone has, but does your child really know how to do this? If not, teach your child to ask for help and how? Walk him through it if necessary, and practice as much as you can.

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Children with autism can be their own worst enemy at times. If left to their own devices they can become very passive, helpless and much too dependent to live a full and satisfying life. Dr. Temple Grandin, best-selling author, autism advocate and animal science professor has teamed up with Dr. Debra Moore to produce a wonderful new resource that addresses this issue. The Loving Push is certain to help parents answer the question, “Am I encouraging my child enough or enabling my child too much?” – and move beyond the answer to make important shifts.

This dynamic duo – Dr. Grandin speaking from personal experience and Dr. Moore from a professional perspective of treating individuals with autism spectrum disorders – combine their wealth of knowledge to help parents determine just how much to push their child so they can blossom into adults that thrive. Finding just the right balance between pushing your child to do for self and helping your child too much, is always a challenge but exploring the two hundred ten pages of this book will guide parents to find what works best for their unique child.

Getting stuck in a pattern of indulgence is easy to fall into but difficult to get out of. These wise words from the authors will help parents and professionals lovingly push to prevent, or undo, old patterns and transform them into healthy habits. For those parents who struggle to balance their roles of protector, teacher, coach and cheerleader with that of taskmaster, it’s important to always presume competence in any child and push the envelope just a bit.

Extra inspiration comes from eight individuals on the autism spectrum that share their life experiences. All eight offer valuable learning lessons for pushing and preparing children, teens and young adults for their transition to adult life with realistic preparation for the workforce. You will find a common thread running through these narratives such as the importance of support – especially that of a mentor, identifying and working with a child’s interests, stretching a child’s mindset to see the big picture, and staying positive, to name a few.

I like the fact that the stories presented in this book are revisited throughout and used as examples to illustrate and explain pushing strategies and approaches in every chapter. This makes the concepts come alive and easier to replicate but parents must always be mindful that their child is one-of-a-kind and should customize their approach accordingly.

The highlight for me is found in Chapter 6 – Danger Ahead: Compulsive Gaming and Media Recluses. I have talked to too many parents who ask for advice on how to get their child off the computer and away from video games. Unfortunately, the ASD population – especially males, are extremely vulnerable to being sucked into and addicted to the entertainment aspects of screen machines. Dr. Grandin and Dr. Moore do an excellent job presenting the pros and cons of gaming. The pushing strategies they offer will not only help prevent overuse of screen machines but will also guide any parent of a compulsive gamer to slowly unplug their child and maintain healthy use.

Finding the best way to motivate your children without unknowingly discouraging them can be tricky. Every parent wants their child to reach their greatest potential and finding the best pushing technique for each child, one that is, as Goldilocks might say, “not too easy, not too tough, but just right”, is what this book will help you discover.


To get your copy of The Loving Push at a discounted rate, simply click here to get to the Future Horizons website. Then use my code PARENTCOACH in the coupon code box upon check out to receive your 15% discount and enjoy!

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Parents Creating New Beginnings

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GOALSAccording to statistics, 40 to 45% of parents living in the US make one or more New Year’s resolutions at the beginning of a new year. As for the number of parents that actually keep them, 75% get past the first week but only 46% still adhere to them at the half-year mark.

Despite the fact that many parents break them, I give them credit for making an effort to intentionally set a goal. They may not stick with their new resolution but the very fact they made one raises the potential for making some progress in attaining it.

The reasons many do not follow through to the bitter end are varied. The expectation that you have to attain a goal for 365 days can be a bit overwhelming for many parents. One way to put less pressure on yourself is to delete the word ‘resolution’ from your vocabulary and simply replace it with something to focus on for the coming year – something as simple as smiling more will suffice. Don’t think of it as something you HAVE to do, but something you want to do and refrain from measuring it. Focus on and celebrate the times you did smile more and let go of the rest.

You don’t have to beat yourself up if you get angry or upset – it’s unrealistic to think those feelings will never surface. If you want to prevent negative feelings from taking over, think out-of-the-box for ideas to help you stay focused on your mission. If smiling more is your focus for 2016, make it easier for your brain to remember by placing reminders around the house – Post-it-notes with smiley faces drawn on them will almost certainly trigger positive results. Then go about your daily business and notice what happens.

If you are a parent, especially a parent of a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), making a New Year’s resolution may be the last thing on your mind.  If nothing else, focus your mind on something that is important to you and allow it to guide your thoughts and actions.

Beginning a ‘New Year’ does not have to include a big commitment, like losing twenty-five pounds or getting out of debt.  Here are some ideas for small and meaningful shifts that parents can do to make a big difference:

1 – Schedule more time with your children.

It can be very difficult to get quality time with your children when you are going to and fro for appointments, therapies, sports, . . . and the list goes on. Don’t wait for an opening in your day; create opportunities to make it happen. Because parents are pressed for time, start with simple, small steps.  Schedule five to ten minutes on the family calendar or in your appointment book to read a book, play a game, or just snuggle/talk with each child.  When possible, consider a fun family night, where all members of your family can take some quality time to bond, or better yet, schedule regular family meeting time.

2 – Give more attention to your relationship.

Most parents claim that romantic relationships slide down the scale of importance once children are involved.  Having a child with autism adds an additional layer of stress that parents of neuro-typical children do not have to deal with. Yes, your children should come first in every aspect of your life, but don’t let your personal relationship fail.  Try hard to schedule simple weekly/monthly get-togethers. Escaping to your bedroom with a glass of wine or cup of tea once the kids are in bed is a quick and easy way to maintain your connection and keep the spark alive.

3 – Take better care of yourself.

This may contradict the suggestion above for spending more time with your kids, but most parents are extra busy, multi-tasking individuals. If forced to pay attention, many people are surprised to learn how much a mother or father of a child with special needs gets accomplished in a day. So, be sure to multi-task your self-care into your daily schedule for a minimum of 10-15 minutes per day, 5 minutes at a time if necessary. A walk to the store through the park with your child can satisfy your self-care need for exercise and fresh air and benefit your child as well. Again, think small so you can experience success – read just one chapter of your new book, do yoga stretches on the floor with your child, listen to your favorite music and dance with your child.

4 – Ask for more help.

As previously stated, many moms and dads are super-parents because they try to do it ALL, and then some. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or delegate tasks to others when you need chores completed. Your spouse or children may not complete the chore to your liking but at least it will get done on some level. To avoid big disappointments, communicate your expectations of the task clearly and ask the person to repeat it back to you to confirm understanding.

5 – Spend more time with other adults

Find creative ways to seek and maintain relationships outside the home. In terms of spending time with friends, make it a priority – with or without the kids. You and your high school/college friends may have drifted apart since graduation and your social circle might have shifted dramatically since your child was diagnosed with autism but that doesn’t mean you have to go without a social life. Reach out and plan ways to develop new friendships with new acquaintances that share similar interests. Start by joining online support groups for parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), or find one in your local community.

6 – Learn to ‘Let it Go’

As a parent, it’s understandable that you want to make sure everything in your life is perfect. You want your kids to be happy and healthy and you want to make sure their medical, physical, social and emotional needs are met. Having a clean house and making enough money may be part of the big picture as well. Yes, all of these are important when raising a family, but learning to let the small things go will help you find a better balance between work, life and parenting a child with autism. Too tired to do the dishes? Don’t let a sink full of dishes bother you for just one night, do them in the morning or better yet, delegate the task.

All in all, if you think of every day as a new beginning, you will have 365 opportunities to fulfill your new intention and feel successful. Isn’t that better than telling yourself you failed at yet another New Year’s resolution?

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