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sensesColor my Senses: The Sensory Detective Coloring Book by Paula Aquilla BSc, OT, DOMP is a wonderful educational tool for any child to explore all eight of their senses! Factual descriptions are provided with the practical example of waiting for a school bus to help the reader understand how their entire sensory system works. It begins with an explanation of how our sensory system depends on our nervous system and how information is carried throughout the body – to and from the brain.

The book will appeal to children young and old, as it presents options for both. Younger children can activate their senses through the process of coloring while a parent reads the text to them. Older children can easily read the book to themselves, with or without a little help, because the descriptive visuals help boost comprehension. The author has done a wonderful job of illustrating the bigger words that name the various parts of the sensory system. Even the term sensory modulation is described in such a way that will make sense to most children.

Of course, one is never too old to color as the popularity of adult coloring books testify too. The act of coloring itself has the capacity to calm the nervous system and soothe the senses. It’s also a fun and appealing way to learn!

The author, Paula Aquilla, has been an occupational therapist for more than thirty years and her understanding of children with sensory issues is evident.

Color my Senses: The Sensory Detective Coloring Book is published and available in paperback from Future Horizons, as well as Amazon and Goodreads.

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gift

My wish to you this holiday season is for a pleasant, peaceful and joyous time full of wonderful connections for every member of your precious family. And, my gift to you will help make that happen.

My holiday gift, Have a Happy Holiday with your Child on the Spectrum, is an ebook designed to provide you and your entire family with much holiday cheer. Click here to access the seven holiday tips and strategies I created based on the letters in the word H-O-L-I-D-A-Y and ENJOY!

  • “H” is for “Humor”gift
  • “O” is for “Obligations”, “Observances” and “Obsessions”
  • “L” is for “Love,” “Laughter,” and “Limits”
  • “I” is for “Inclusion”
  • “D” is for “Dress” and “Decorations
  • “A” is for “Appetite”!
  • “Y” is for “Yuletide” memories!

Discover great ideas to create a more relaxed atmosphere over the holiday season. Start by imagining a season without stress. A holiday with more humor; less obligations; an abundance of love; inclusion for all; comfortable dress; a healthy appetite; and loads of wonderful yuletide memories.  Then I’ll show you how to turn that image into reality.

Does that sound too good to be true? I tell you it isn’t. It is all possible!

Begin creating the holiday you dream of by taking little steps towards your goal. You can always add more next year. Whatever adjustments you make, it will be progress in the right direction.

I look forward to seeing you in the New Year with a smile on your face and a positive attitude for the 365 days of 2017. I’m always here to help you make the best of them!

Peace!

 

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depressionWe often fear what we can’t control or don’t understand. Fortunately, education is a powerful antidote and the information Dr. Wilkinson presents in his book, Overcoming Anxiety and Depression on the Autism Spectrum: A Self-Help Guide Using CBT, definitely delivers. Not only does it equip the reader with a better understanding of the processes involved with anxiety and depression but it offers therapeutic strategies that will increase a person’s feeling of control as well. What more could one ask for?

This self-help guide is for individuals in early to mid adulthood that may possess autistic traits, whether officially diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder or not. It is an effective tool for individuals challenged by anxiety and depression who want to improve their psychological wellbeing. The book itself is extremely helpful on it’s own but can always be combined with personal therapy sessions to make larger strides at a faster pace.

Dr. Wilkinson starts by slowly encouraging the reader to begin a journey into a better understanding of who they are, how they (their brain) functions and what they can do to manage their feelings. Each chapter takes them one step forward to acquiring new ways of thinking and doing.

The focus of this book is strength based and in no way does it attempt to eliminate, cure or change a person’s autistic traits. Instead it concentrates on empowering the individual with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) skills. CBT addresses cognitive dysfunction by challenging irrational beliefs and thoughts and replacing them with positive thoughts, feelings and beliefs for better emotional health. The result being that one can live life with the confidence and knowledge that they can manage these destructive thoughts and feelings whenever they appear.

Other highlights worthy of mention:

– I always like a book that explains how it is set up. The author clarifies what to expect in each chapter beyond the one to five words in the Chapter Title. Dr. Wilkinson wrote the book to build upon itself. The foundation he sets in the earlier chapters help facilitates a better understanding of the information in latter chapters.

– The book also provides many user-friendly, evidence-based tools – the Adult Autism Quotient, Empathy Quotient, and Systemizing Quotient – that will enhance self-awareness and self-acceptance. These are located in the back of the book and many of these forms are also available in downloadable format that can be printed.

– Best of all, the author introduces us to new terminology with the term/acronym ASC, Autism Spectrum Condition, as opposed to ASD, Autism Spectrum Disorder. Other experts have previously introduced this particular language in an attempt to emphasize a condition that includes strengths as well as challenges. Describing autism as a condition has a more positive connotation and normalizes it to a set of attributes shared by ALL individuals in the general population.

All in all, this book provides hope – a beacon of light at the end of the tunnel that will gently guide the reader to the other side. It functions as a road map, affirming there is a way out that will lead to better decision making skills and management of thoughts and emotions.

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Do you have travel plans for the upcoming holiday season?

Thanks to new technological advances such as computers and Skype, staying in touch with loved ones is so much easier than it use to be. Despite the magic of screens that bring families together from distant parts of the globe, there’s nothing better than being there in person to get a real hug from those you love.

The holiday season is that time of year when everyone makes an extra effort to be with family and close friends. When extended family is scattered here and there around the world, holiday traveling is a requirement if you want to give and receive those special hugs. That could mean a journey either by plane or car to get to grandma’s house for the weekend, that special dinner at Uncle Jane’s, or the traditional family get-together that relatives take turn hosting.

Traveling by air is stressful. It often requires intensive security checks, long waits and the possibility of flight cancellations. Traveling by car is another option but traffic jams, bad weather and tired kids can make the journey just as stressful. Getting to the family Hanukkah festivities, the Christmas Day celebrations or other holiday functions can test everyone’s stamina.

There are many ways to minimize the stress involved when traveling with your special crew. Being prepared is the best way to face the challenges and ease the tension. Smart travel planning is essential. Here are some traveling tips to consider before your holiday journey whether by air or ground.

travelingTraveling by air:

  • As soon as you have determined your destination and the airline carrier you will use, call them! Sharing that your child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) will open doors to services that can make air travel less stressful for all. Airports and airlines have become much more accommodating to individuals on the autism spectrum. Some are offering mock flights to help familiarize autistic children and their families with air travel before the real event.
  • If you are flying you will need to be prepared for security rules. Time can be wasted if you have not prepared your children ahead of time for what you can and cannot do, or take onboard the flight. It’s important to check the rules and share them with your child before you leave the house.
  • Contact the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). TSA Cares, is a toll-free helpline that provides information and assistance to passengers with disabilities and medical conditions and their families before they fly. Travelers may call TSA Cares toll free at 1-855-787-2227 prior to traveling with questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint. The hours of operation for the TSA Cares helpline are Monday through Friday 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. EST, excluding federal holidays. After hours, travelers can find information about traveling with disabilities and medical needs on TSA’s website at: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/passenger-support. TSA recommends that passengers call approximately 72 hours ahead of travel so that TSA Cares has the opportunity to coordinate checkpoint support with a TSA Customer Service Manager located at the airport when necessary.
  • Knowing what to expect during a security check with your child can make it more predictable and less likely to overwhelm her. Take the time to practice the airport security check with a dress rehearsal before you leave for your trip. Taking a few hours to play, “Let’s go to the Airport” not only prepares your child for what is to come but can be a fun activity for the entire family.
  • Paying attention to the sensory sensitivities your child has and thinking ahead to what might trigger resistance or a meltdown is important. If your child does not like walking in stocking feet then you need to prepare him for what is to come or find another solution. Stating it as a fact and writing a social story about it may be all that is needed.
  • Holiday traveling with gifts requires some special precautions as well when it comes to the security gates. Do not spend the time or money wrapping your gifts in brightly colored wrap because you may have to unwrap them in front of the security guards. Any young child, regardless of ability, may not understand why the security guard is making mommy or daddy unwrap the gift they so carefully wrapped for their grandma. This alone may be enough to make them become unglued.
  • If your child with autism has dietary restrictions you obviously need to pack snack items that they can eat. It is difficult to find gluten free, casein-free food in the airport eateries. Bring see through plastic containers or baggies filled with your child’s favorite treats and meals such as fruits, veggie sticks, toddler finger foods, cheerios and such that will appeal to their young taste buds and keep them happily munching. Remember to bring along wipes to clean sticky fingers.
  • Unlike a car ride, where you can pull off at rest stops, a flight is a long endless ride for any youngster. To help pass the time, pack your child’s favorite activities and simple toys in their carryon baggage to amuse them. Pack crayons and coloring books, stuffed animals, dolls and action figures. You can also bring along music CDs with headphones, which is a great way to reduce or control the noise level for a child with noise sensitivity.
  • Give yourself plenty of extra time so that you arrive at the gate before you need to. This way if there are extra security checks you won’t be late for your flight. Checking in always takes longer than you expect, especially when you have children. A good rule of thumb is to be at the airport an hour before domestic flight times and two hours before international flight departure time. You may want to consider doubling that if you have a child that thrives on routine and predictability, something that most airports do not provide. Having to rush with a child on the autism spectrum in a busy airport can easily send them into overload.
  • Google your airport’s website for a map. A good map comes in handy when you want to know where the nearest place to eat is and how close it is to your departure gate. Sometimes if you have a lengthy delay you might even find that your airport has a quiet place for families with children to have some quiet down time.
  • If all else fails, you may want to consider creating a card or some sort of written communication that will alert airport staff to the special needs of your child. This will keep you from having to verbally explain your situation to a security guard in front of way too many people.

travelingTraveling by car:

Did you know that car travel is the most popular way to travel during the holidays? 83% of traveling during the holiday season is done by car. Short automotive journeys can be challenging enough but long car rides take extra stamina. Being on the road at anytime of year can be stressful. Add a couple of excited youngsters in the back seat and the possibility of bad weather and you may need some extra patience. Any traveling with children in tow is a test to the effectiveness of your organizational skills.

Here are a few tips for making your holiday car travels run smooth.

  • Involve the little ones in the planning stage so that they will look forward to seeing something they helped plan. This will also give them a heads up of what the journey will entail.
  • Include some kid-friendly stops along the way so that everyone will have a chance to stretch their legs and have fun at the same time.
  • Allow for extra travel time just in case there are traffic jams, or weather related road conditions that slow you down.
  • Limit your road time to just 6 to 8 hours of driving time per day and have two drivers in the vehicle so that you can switch every two hours. Switching will make long drives easier and safer.
  • Do not disturb! Never make a rest stop when children are sleeping. If your bladders are all in sync, keep going. Driving during sleep times allows for you to make the most headway because it minimizes extra stops.
  • Pack a cooler with snacks and wipes for cleaning up before and after eating. Place the cooler between kids in the back seat so that they feel like they have their own space. The top of the cooler makes a cool place to play with cars and trucks too.
  • Traveling with children requires that you become an expert storyteller, comedian, actor, or magician in order to keep peace and make the time pass quicker. Think about and plan the type of entertainment you can offer when needed. Having a trick you can pull out of your sleeve at just the right moment can make all the difference.
  • It’s important to pack an assortment of play items for each child. Hand puppets, board books, favorite toys (that won’t irritate you), and even music CD’s with headphones, as well as books on tape that everyone can listen to. Audio books can be not only entertaining but learning experience as well especially if you are traveling far and can find an audio book about your destination.
  • Older kids can use travel-size board games or hand-held electronic games. Always pay attention to the amount of time your child is glued to a screen. Try to balance it with games that engage your child’s brain in 3-D reality. Car games like finding certain state license plates, counting red cars, or store signs are always fun. Trigger your child’s imagination by playing games like “I-Spy” – spotting something along the landscape that is a certain color or shape.

Overall it is most important that you don’t forget to pack your sense of humor. Looking on the light side of every challenge will help everyone move forward in a positive manner. Being in an enclosed space for long periods doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Reframe it into a positive – think of it as a unique time to bring your family closer together. Sharing jokes, telling stories, and talking about what is happening in your lives will make all of you feel more connected.

And of course, remember to keep those cameras at the ready in order to document those wonderful smiles that will create lasting memories for years to come.

Happy traveling!

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I saw this article on the National Institute of Environmental Health Science website that thought I would share it.

Do you worry about the long-term impact of all the chemicals and environmental toxins that have been invented in the last century? Do you wonder if they contributed to your child’s diagnosis of ASD or not?

To be fair, we do have government agencies that try to protect us from harm. They test new products, medications, food etc in an attempt to keep us safe.

Unfortunately, as careful as they are we sometimes hear the following, “Environmental health officials say . . . and other chemicals that were once thought to be safe in small amounts may have a profound effect on . . . .”

I have decided not to wait for the scientists to make definitive conclusions. Instead, I choose to ask myself, “What can I do to protect my children, my self, and other loved ones from the possible ill effects of exposure to toxic substances?”

That was about ten years ago and I have been making my own non-toxic cleaning products ever since. You can begin doing the same, with a few basic (and relatively cheap) ingredients: baking soda, vinegar, borax, castile soap, glycerin and essential oils.

If you need convincing that a more organic lifestyle makes sense for you environmentor if you want some great ideas on how to clean your house in an eco-friendly, non-toxic manner, let me point you to this amazing resource – Tabletop TUTORSTM. These are very affordable educational tools, developed by a colleague of mine. These info-graphics can be posted on your refrigerator door, or inside of a bathroom cabinet, for handy reference.  Click here to access these two cleaning related posters:

clean environmentWhy to Green Clean Your Home!

How to Make Your Own Green Cleaning Aids

… but there are lots more Tabletop TUTORSTM to choose from. Click here to access all 90+ posters.

Why not use them on your dining room table and get the whole family talking about eco-intelligent eating, cookware, personal care, laundry and lifestyle too!

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Product review: In-Sync Activity Cards: 50 Simple, New Activities to Help Children Develop, Learn, and Grow! by Joye Newman and Carol Kranowitz.

 

in-sync-activity-cardsWhat a great idea! Remember flash cards that facilitated a quick execution of aptitude? Now we have In-Sync Activity Cards: 50 Simple, New Activities to Help Children Develop, Learn, and Grow! by Joye Newman and Carol Kranowitz.

It’s not a book, although there is a book version available. It’s a deck of fifty easy to implement 5×7-laminated cards that enhance a child’s ability to master developmental skills. Created by Joye Newman and Carol Kranowitz, authors of the highly regarded book, Growing an In-Sync Child: Simple, Fun Activities to Help Every Child Develop, Learn, and Grow! These user-friendly, portable, and easy to share activity cards are based on their book. I see it as a vital addition to the resources that will help any child achieve his or her greatest developmental potential. Each card is a perfect mini lesson plan that parents, teachers and anyone who works with children can use.

All cards are double-sided. One side contains a description of the activity, including the necessary materials. The other side of the card contains information about how the activity addresses a child’s development via sensory, motor and visual skills; how to adapt the activity to your child’s ability; and, how to assess your child’s performance.

The deck is color coded and arranged by levels – beginner, intermediate and advanced activities – that are flexible and adaptable. Starting at the beginner level will help a child experience success and motivate him or her to proceed to the next level.

In addition to being a great guide for the adult, each card includes an illustration that makes a good visual for the child to follow and create understanding from.

These quick activities will get any child moving. Even those who don’t normally engage in gross motor movement, such as typical outdoor amusement and the physical games children tend to play.

What a quick and fun way to help enhance a child’s perceptual, visual and sensory systems without her even knowing it’s therapeutic. In addition, one can customize the activities according to the unique needs of the child to create a meaningful sensory diet that can be delivered in short spurts or longer blocks of time throughout the day.

Aside from their therapeutic usefulness, parents can use these cards on the go. Whether traveling on long trips or short excursions, they make the perfect “let’s take a break” when long waits or boredom are threatening to create havoc.

Kranowitz and Newman were very clever in creating these cards to go along with their book, Growing an In-Sync Child: Simple, Fun Activities to Help Every Child Develop, Learn, and Grow? The activity cards are a great companion that makes it simple for parents and professionals to implement the content within the 240 pages of their book. All of which will have a positive and powerful impact on a child’s development.

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Go to Sensory World  and click here to purchase your own set of these In-Sync Activity Cards. AND, you can get a discount when you use the code PARENTCOACH at checkout!

 

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school-timeWhat is your child’s school-time experience like so far this year?

Is he feeling good about school?

Is she happy with her new teacher?

Is he feeling comfortable and safe socially?

Is she doing her homework willingly?

If not, and your child is struggling to make a positive transition to the new school year, it’s not too late to turn things around. Sometimes all it takes is a little detective work and extra support to create a more positive school-time experience.

Transitions are very difficult for most children on the autism spectrum and going back to school may be the most challenging one there is. You need to believe that your child can transition her school-time experience into a positive and peaceful back to school routine. Never settle for “good enough”; circumstances can always get better, and better, and … etc.

I know you want things to go smoothly for your child and when they don’t it’s all too easy to place blame on yourself, or the school. Before jumping to such a conclusion let’s review other possibilities with a short assessment. This is a great way to detect anything that might be negatively affecting your child’s school-time experience.

Let’s begin by looking carefully at each item presented below. As you do, examine each through the eyes of your child and the way he or she experiences the world. Doing so will help you identify some adjustments that need to be made in order to create a smoother school-time transition.

– Consider family meetings about school. In addition to talking about school to your child individually, it’s great to hold a family meeting. This way everyone gets a chance to share their thoughts and feelings as well as discuss and plan for the week ahead. Meeting as a group sends the message that you are all in this together and that you care about each individual’s experience. It gives every family member a chance to have their voice heard if they want. It also ensures that everyone is on the same page.

If you have never held a family meeting before, this is good time to start. They are a simple and quick way to improve communication. Such meetings will also promote bonding within your family and reduce anxiety for everyone.  These gatherings can be formal or informal and require as little as fifteen minutes per week. It will also establish a ritual that will be remembered for years to come.

– Have a private meeting with the teacher. If your child is exceptionally anxious about the new school-time routine and the changes that are involved, making a fifteen to twenty minute appointment to talk to his new teacher before or after school. The opportunity to have a private audience with the teacher to go over schedules and expectations as well as the chance to ask questions without other students around can give any child a gigantic jumpstart and sense of relief.

Most schools do have an open house scheduled in the fall but this is not the best time and place to get the teacher’s full attention as there will be many other parents around. This is usually a time for getting a good overview of what your child’s school day is like but if you have specific questions regarding your child and how she is doing – make an appointment to meet with the teacher now.

– Pay attention to your child’s sleep patterns and bedtime routine. If you weren’t able to address changes in daily routines, such as bedtime well enough in advance, this could be the cause of any stress related school-time behaviors that might be occurring. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of sleep and its impact on academics, brain development, mood and attention span which many studies support.

In addition to helping your child be more successful at school, making sure she receives the required amount of sleep will also improve her behavior at home. Developing a calm atmosphere throughout the house as soon as possible after dinner will encourage a state of relaxation in everyone. Minimizing noise and encouraging quiet activities in the evening before bed will help your child transition into a sleepy state.

– Use a school calendar. Consider creating a special school-time calendar. Depending on your child’s interest in arts and crafts, this can be a fun process that the two of you can do together. You may want to use words or pictures to indicate what will happen on each day of the week, if you need more room and can’t find a calendar big enough, such as a wall calendar, make a book that has a page or two for every day of the week.

Reading the book or looking at the calendar on a daily basis will provide predictability about what to expect at school that day and relieve anxiety about the unknown. Staying in touch with your child’s teacher will help you confirm the things that will stay the same. All of this will help your child transition better from day to day.

– Address screen machine use. If you have allowed TV viewing, video games and computer use privileges to increase over the summer and haven’t had a chance to cut back yet, do so now. Technology is important and useful but must be balanced with other activities that create an atmosphere where the brain is encouraged and allowed to think for itself. Quiet time for reading, homework and social interaction is vitally important for helping your child be successful in school.  Once you adjust TV, video and computer use rules it is important to communicate them clearly and stick to them.

– Encourage social interactions. A child on the autism spectrum often struggles with making and keeping friends. This is an important component in creating a positive school-time experience. If possible, invite old or new classmates that may have moved into the school system and invite them over so your child can get to know them better and practice her social graces. It can help your child immensely if you rehearse conversation starters and group social skills with them to use with classmates, teachers and other adults.

Children on the autism spectrum are often more vulnerable to being picked on. They are more resistant to acquiring and honing essential social skills. Some children with autism enjoy being on their own and need to be drawn out to be social. Many long to be socially accepted yet do not have the social skills necessary to develop friendships. As teachers, parents and professionals we need to teach children to acquire the social skills necessary for making friends but we also need to be sensitive to their needs and challenges.

The back to school transition is a challenge for most kids and it takes time to find a rhythm that works. There is usually a newness that is exciting about the beginning of a school year but often it does not sustain. Once it wears off and the reality of the situation sets in, new challenges may develop. Going back to see where these glitches might be occurring is a helpful process.

On the other hand, if your child is genuinely doing well in school don’t forget to pay attention to why it is working so you can help ensure it stays that way – and then take time to be grateful and celebrate!

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To continue a more thorough assessment and access strategies that will make your child’s school-time hours the best they can be, 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. Kindle version available at $2.99.

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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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– Label vs. Content

labelHas your child been given the label ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder’?

There are more labels given to individuals than there are cereal brands. Have you been down the cereal isle of your local grocery store lately? New brands and flavors seem to pop up overnight. And at what seems to be the same rate, society continues to assign labels that can put individuals into boxes.

Labels do play a role in informing us. The name on a cereal box will typically give us some indication of what we will find inside. Cocoa Puffs yells chocolate, and Corn Flakes is self-descriptive. Yet some are more mysterious, such as, Captain Crunch, Trix, and Crazy Cow, until you read the ingredients.

Is that what is missing when it comes to people? A list of ingredients?

Someone may be referred to as a ‘nerd’, ‘loser’, ‘bi-polar’, ‘special needs’, ‘difficult’, ‘crazy’, ‘blind’, ‘transgender’, ‘Republican/Democrat’, or ‘autistic’ but that does not tell us what is inside. Until we stop and take the time to discover what characteristics and gifts make up the whole person, they may be thought of as just another ‘sugary’, ‘processed’, or ‘healthy’ cereal box on a shelf.

Children and the instructions on how to parent them do not come in cereal boxes. So instead of shopping for the new flavor of the month in your attempt to care for, teach, and seek treatment for your child, consider the following:

– Dig for the jewels. Always be curious enough to dig what is deep within. Once you do, you will unearth the prize that the box of cereal holds. Like the detailed ingredients on the cereal box, your child contains many parts that make up his entire being. It is very likely that your child has the ingredients for a gourmet recipe. If you dig deep enough you will uncover the buried treasure.

– Labels aren’t always all bad. Labels usually carry a negative stigma that can lead to stereotyping or discrimination. But in an educational setting a label can be a valuable piece of information. A label, or diagnosis, will help teachers and school staff prepare accordingly for a new student, especially when the label is for a rare disorder, like Williams Syndrome or Tay-Sachs disease. In this case, having a label enables school staff to look up and access important knowledge that will help meet the needs of the student as quickly as possible.

– To tell, or not to tell. There may be a time when your child wants to know what her label/diagnosis is. So begin now to lay the groundwork for the day she requests to learn, or you decide to tell her, what descriptor the medical community has given her. If you desire a blueprint for laying this foundation, you can access this article, Autism Diagnosis – Telling Your Child, to help prepare you to handle this in the best way possible.

Remember, just because your daughter has been given a label, it does not signify she is entitled to less. It’s important to think of it as a means to:

  • truly understand your child, as well as a way for your child to understand himself,
  • advocate for and receive the services your child is entitled to.

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To learn how to make your child’s diagnosis work to her benefit in the school setting click here to access my new 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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bookI know you’ve been asked this question before. Why did you do it?

My mother posed this question to me many times throughout my teenage years. It may have been asked in reference to a poor choice I had made or something good I decided to do like learning how to knit.

Of course, parents are forever curious about how their children feel or what they choose to do. But curiosity is not just for parents.

“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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