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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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push

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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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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Jed_Baker_-_Overcoming_Anxiety_FINALOvercoming Anxiety in Children and Teens by Dr. Jed Baker stands out from other books written about anxiety in children. It is similar in that it presents many of the same strategies for dealing with anxiety, such as gradual exposure, Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and relaxation but it differs in that the author is focused on helping the reader “win over” kids and teens. Dr. Baker provides specific wording, language and scripts that are more likely to motivate a child to engage in the process of learning to manage their own anxiety. Strategies are great but if a child does not buy into them, they will have very little impact on creating change.

Dr. Jed Baker addresses a long list of fears and phobias – reserving one chapter for each, including selective mutism, school refusal, panic disorder, perfectionism, and more. The author even has a chapter that addresses ways to adapt treatment for children on the autism spectrum that are not very verbal.

The case studies presented to discuss each fear or phobia, provide great real life examples of fear-based situations and serve as evidence indicators that overcoming any of these anxieties is possible.

This book is very parent-friendly because the information is very specific, practical and easy to implement. I work with parents on a daily basis and many are not aware of the power they have to create change in their child’s lives. In this very user-friendly book, Dr Baker empowers parents to do what they can to help their child overcome their anxiety rather then always look to an expert to intervene.

Whether or not a child sees someone professionally or not, once these approaches are repeated and reinforced enough by a parent, empowerment is easily transferred to the child so they can take charge of their own anxiety – the ultimate goal.

This book is a great addition to Dr. Baker’s six other books – Social Skills Training for Children and Adolescents with Aspergers Syndrome and Social Communication ProblemsPreparing for Life: The Complete Handbook for the Transition to Adulthood for Those with Autism and Aspergers SyndromeThe Social Skills Picture BookThe Social Skills Picture Book for High School and Beyond; No More Meltdowns: Positive Strategies for Managing and Preventing Out-of-Control Behavior (including a user-friendly app); and No More Victims: Protecting those with Autism from Cyber Bullying, Internet Predators, and Scams.

To get your copy of Dr. Jed Baker’s wonderful new book 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 checking out to receive your 15% discount and enjoy!

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Seven Simple Life Rules for Kids with ASD

Temple Did It!Every child has obstacles to overcome, some more than others, but they can be tackled. Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are no different, they can learn how to cope with, compensate for and manage their challenges as well. This inspiring story based on the life of Dr. Temple Grandin, as told by author, Jennifer Gilpin-Yacio, presents a hopeful message that can instill a positive outlook and can-do attitude in any reader.

It’s always easier to relate to someone who has walked in your shoes and understands what it’s like to be labeled with autism. Being made fun of, having no friends and being bullied is never fun for anyone. Situations such as these can lower a child’s self-confidence but the role modeling this book provides can counteract that. The reader will think, “If Temple (who has ASD) did it, so can I”. This type of story has always had the ability to instill the motivation to catalyze change and transform lives.

This is a very unique first publication for Jennifer Gilpin Yacio, president of Sensory World and editor-in-chief of Sensory Focus Magazine. For children who want to know how to be different – in a different way – this book can actually coach individuals on the autism spectrum how to do that. The seven strategies the author presents were generated with input from her collaborator, Dr. Temple Grandin, and are based on her personal life experiences as a person growing up with ASD.

This is a useful how-to guide for individuals on, or off, the autism spectrum – a guide on how to do, and be, your best. These rules help the reader identify passions and enhance talents, in addition to validating self and building confidence. The reader will learn why effort outweighs the pursuit for perfection and how it results in increased competence. All in all, these seven sage pieces of advice will encourage a love for life-long learning and an enthusiasm for life – all of which accelerate the long-term goal of independence.

The illustrations within this adorable children’s book are crafted by the talented Lynda Farrington Wilson and are fun, child-like and enticing – all sixteen of them will easily draw the attention of any child, especially the visual mind of a child with ASD.

Another wonderful component of this book is how the author makes it interactive with a simple activity that takes the reader one step closer to putting the seven strategies into practice. There is a simple two-page worksheet at the end that will guide any child through the process of working towards a goal using Dr Temple Grandin’s “life rules” as she refers to them. This hands-on exercise provides the powerful message that any ASD child has the ability to create change in his or her life, and when completed with the help of a parent or guardian, the child not only feels supported and empowered, but the activity strengthens the bond between them as well.

This book is much, much more than a story for children with autism. The ideas and strategies submitted within these twenty-three pages can apply to any other child growing up in today’s complicated world. Any book that provides entertainment, encourages reading, promotes goal-setting, inspires positive change, AND offers a guide for real life practice, is a must-have addition to everyone’s bookshelf.

To purchase copies of this wonderful children’s book by Jennifer Gilpin Yacio at a discount, simply click here to get to the Sensory World website. Then use my code PARENTCOACH in the coupon code box when checking out to receive 15% off your purchase and enjoy!

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All of Dr. Temple Grandin’s books provide such useful information for anyone who is directly or indirectly affected buy an autism spectrum disorder. She has so much insight to offer and each of her books presents it from such a unique perspective.

autismI have read most of Dr. Grandin’s books and I must say that this Revised and Expanded 3rd EDITION of The Way I See It is the best collection of her articles, interviews and discussions yet. This volume addresses the issues parents, teachers and other caretakers face in caring for a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. The unique aspect of this book is that all the content is presented from the perspective of someone who has ‘been there’ and ‘done that’. It is another evidence indicator that despite the fact that autism is a challenge, it can be dealt with and mastered. Dr Grandin shares her personal experiences as a guide to what worked for her in order to overcome the temporary roadblock that autism presented her.

This volume is such a broad compilation of practical information for individuals on the autism spectrum and their caretakers. The topics included span the developmental lifetime of a child from early diagnosis and intervention on to the adult years and the issues faced regarding this transition, such as driving a car and gaining employment.

The extensive range of subject matter between the covers of this book is cleverly sorted into categories that are easy to find via the Table of Contents and it’s twenty-nine page Index. In addition, there are many bonuses interspersed between the 433 pages of this expanded edition and they include the following:

  • updated content in the introduction of each section,
  • twelve new chapters, and
  • up-to-date brain research and therapies as they relate to individuals with autism.

Another unexpected bonus that I thoroughly enjoyed was the inclusion of personal photos of Dr. Grandin. My two favorites are the ones of her as a young child on page one hundred seventy-four where she is reading a book with (who I assume to be) her mother and the one on page two in what appears to be a school picture of her in pigtails. Priceless!

This book not only helps individuals with autism feel understood but it also opens the eyes of those not on the autism spectrum and provides them with an discerning understanding of individuals on the spectrum. This type of awareness is so important to raise among the general population that are still not touched by autism. But it is only a matter of time before most people will know of, or meet up with, an individual impacted by autism. So why not speed up the process of educating them before they are faced with teaching, working and interacting with, or hiring a person with ASD by handing them a copy of this outstanding book? This is such a wonderful crash course in Autism Spectrum Disorders for those who don’t yet understand and as Dr. Tony Attwood states in the last paragraph of his Foreward, “Temple has a phenomenal and encyclopaedic knowledge of ASDs, and, in reading The Way I See It, you will see autism the way it is.”

Thank you once again Dr. Temple Grandin for helping people ‘see’ more clearly and increasing the awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorders! Now we just have to get this insightful information into the hands of those that need it most.

To access a copy of this wonderful new edition from Dr. Temple Grandin at a discount simply click here to get to the Future Horizons website. Then use my code PARENTCOACH in the coupon code box when checking out to receive your 15% discount and enjoy!

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Is your child’s challenging behavior intentional or is it a defense mode reaction?

No child plans to misbehave and children with sensory issues or an Autism Spectrum Disorder, are no different. The meltdowns and tantrums they display may have more to do with being on overload meltdown in child with Autism sensory overloadthan anything else. When a child does not have the skills, or the understanding, to cope with what the current environment is presenting to them, the result is often difficult to deal with, or watch.

Behaviors such as these are what can often be described as ‘fight or flight’, or what some have termed as ‘defense mode’. Defense mode is what your child goes into when he is protecting himself against a threat. Whether the threat is real or perceived, the primitive fight or flight response in the limbic brain is set into motion and the brain releases large amounts of adrenaline and cortisol, as a result stress levels increase and anxiety escalates.

When your child is in the middle of an emotional meltdown and nothing seems to work to change its course it can be difficult to think positively about your child.

  • You may ask yourself, “Why can’t my child ever behave like other kids?”
  • You may assign intent where there is none. “I swear she does this on purpose.”
  • You may have thoughts that make it hard to feel competent about your parenting. “Why can’t I deal with my child’s behavior?”

All of these notions are counterproductive to resolving the behaviors you want to change. Therefore, in order to minimize meltdowns, it’s extremely important to discover how to keep your child out of defense mode and prevent the fight or flight instinct from being triggered.

 

Step 1 – Identify what is triggering the anxiety. There can be many triggers causing emotional meltdowns but the first place to look is your child’s sensory system. Sensory input can be extremely heightened in children who are on the autism spectrum. The sensations they have coming in through ears, eyes, nose, skin, etc., can be extremely overwhelming at times. They often don’t have the capacity to handle that much information and their focus turns to survival and a meltdown occurs. In situations such as this, they can become extremely unaware of their reaction and behavior in their attempt to reduce the sensory overwhelm.

One of three things can happen when this state of mind and body has been triggered –

  • ‘Fight’ occurs – the child becomes physically aggressive and lashes out at others, as a result of not being able to control or manage the sensory feeling.
  • ‘Flight’ occurs – the child goes to extreme measures to avoid the situation he finds uncomfortable rather than experience the sensory overload.
  • Or, ‘freeze’ occurs – the child goes into “her own little world” and is unreachable.

Discovering the triggers and addressing them can prevent meltdowns. Prevention is crucial. It’s your best weapon. Your child needs to feel safe. Taking the time to truly understand your child’s mind and how he experiences the world in order to identify all possible triggers will reap many benefits.

I always encourage the parents I coach to think in two different worlds – the neuro-typical world and the autism world. If you don’t already do this, I want you to start looking at things through autism glasses. The two worlds are very distinct, very different. As an adult without autism, you don’t have to learn how to function in both worlds, all you have to do is to try to understand them – but your child with autism has to try and do both. Eventually, these two worlds will meld together on some level for your child but in the meantime you need to gain your child’s unique perspective as much as you can if you want to impact his life for the better.

Your child has been living and experiencing life very uniquely since birth and it is very important to take the time to fully understand that world. If you expect your child to function in your world without making any adjustments, she will constantly feel pulled between the two. As a result of this your child will often meltdown or retreat into a protective defense mode that creates a huge roadblock to learning how to cope in the world she has been born into but doesn’t understand.

 

Step 2 – Teach functional coping skills once you have identified and minimized your child’s triggers. The goal is to help your child learn how to deal with her anxiety in order to prevent meltdowns. All children need to learn how to cope with uncomfortable situations, and children with autism who tend to have highly sensitive and inaccurate alarm systems need extra practice. But one must remember that the best and only time to teach a child how to cope better is when the child is calm.

You can’t teach coping skills when a child is in fight, flight or freeze mode. The brain learns best when relaxed and learning is hindered when other things like sensory overload, anxiety, and pain are going on. All of this is getting in the way of the brain’s ability to make new neural pathways/connections. If your child spends too much time defending against these real or perceived threats, his brain will not available for taking in information – new or old. Until better coping skills are learned – all those ‘fight’, ‘flight’ and ‘freeze’ defenses can be turned on in an instant.

A good coping skill to start with is coaching your child to use deep breathing and other relaxation techniques. Breathing is something that can always be employed as no tools are needed, just the breath.

 

Step 3 – Be more conscious of validating you child’s feelings. When your child feels heard or feels that you understand and are OK with where she is at, it helps reduce her anxiety. It tells your child, “You are OK. I know you are doing the best you can. I’m here to help and I love you.” Affirmation such as this will make anyone feel calmer, supported, appreciated and cared for – and it doesn’t cost a penny. We all crave to be validated!

Validate your child by listening to him, giving him your full attention, tuning in to what he is really saying – with or without words, not judging or expecting him to be something or someone he is not. Validating does not mean directing your child to do something else or offering advice. It means listening and acknowledging with your entire mind and body. As a result, your child will feel good about himself – anxiety will lower and behaviors will improve.

 

Step 4 – Stop enabling. Of course your child can’t do everything for herself but never do things for your child that she can do or almost do for herself. Your job as a parent is to help your child become as independent as possible – to learn what she needs to do in order to take care of herself. When you step in to help your child do something she is capable of, you rob her of an opportunity to learn and grow. Too much assistance is not helpful. Instead of constantly trying to make things easier for your child by doing it ‘for’ or ‘to’ her, work together to find a system that will help her be successful at the skill you are trying to teach. As a result, your child will feel empowered enough to attempt new tasks.

 

Step 5 – Always presume competence in your child. The most important thing to do is treat your child like a person with potential, despite any challenges. This is called presumed competence, which should apply to everyone—especially kids who have intellectual disabilities, who really can’t speak and share their feelings, or who require extensive support. Never assume your child is incapable! What you focus on grows – so try putting the focus on a can-do attitude and watch your child blossom.

Always remember:

↓ triggers + ↑ coping skills + ↑ validation + ↓ enabling + ↑ presumed competence =

↓ anxiety ↓ defense mode ↓ meltdowns → BETTER BEHAVIOR!!!

 

——————————  If better behavior is your goal you may want to check out this program, The Happy Parents, Happy Kids: Overcoming Autistic Behavioral Issues or call me for a free consultation at 207-615-5457.

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What an amazing, informative and valuable experience! I recently attended a conference by Future Horizons – World Leader in Autism & Sensory Resources, in Portland, Maine and was truly inspired. I sat there wishing that everyone, not just those affected by autism, could be in the room with me listening to this very amazing and valuable information.

autismHave you ever felt what it’s like to be in the company of someone very special? My first treat of the day was to be in the presence of Eustacia Cutler, a woman who has led a very busy and full life as a wife, mother, singer, composer, performer and author of, A Thorn in My Pocket. Her book is the story about raising her daughter, Dr. Temple Grandin, who was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of two. Eustacia Cutler is indeed a woman who truly inspires, and as a result her amazing daughter does as well.

Eustacia began by stating, “There is only us and us, not ‘us’ and ‘them’. We are a global community and no one’s neurology is perfect or the same, we are all in this together and need to learn from and grow together. Throughout her lifespan she has been a catalyst for educating the public and a great advocate for change, not just in her life, but in the lives of others as well. She was never one to settle and always pushed the envelope for more. She has consciously and constantly focused on the positive, uncovering abilities in order to change possibilities for the better.

Despite the disappointment of Sean Baron’s unexpected absence from the conference, it was replaced by the amazing generosity of Eustacia’s offer to fill in for him. She continued to share her experiences, her knowledge and insight to a hungry audience of parents and professionals. She disclosed many, many personal stories in a very authentic and honest way. Her narratives were touching and connected her immediately to the audience, especially the mothers in the room. Her examples of what life was like as a parent of a child on the autism spectrum and the lessons learned along the way were powerful.

She spoke of the importance of identity, for parent and child, and the impact it has on the connection between them. She stressed the value of self-care in helping one be the best parent possible and how important the support of friends, family, professionals and community are.

One of the many stories Eustacia shared was of her grandson in the high chair pointing to the cookie jar and saying “oreo”, which she used as an example of conceptual thinking and the importance of context to make communication relevant. She also touched upon the significance of executive function to help ‘put it all together’ in order to behave as expected, which is a challenging expectation for many children with autism. Children on the spectrum can learn these skills; it just takes more time and patience.

She shared the work of Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen and the differences in the wiring of the brain that makes it easier for some people with autism to systemize rather then empathize, as well as the role “mirror neurons” play in an ASD child’s ability to empathize.

Her talent for performance was obvious as she did impersonations of the characters in her narratives and her accents were not only enjoyable, but impeccable. It was also our privilege to hear her recite from her personal essays. As she read her poem, Limbo, much of the audience identified with her descriptive words “a place of social isolation – a condition of neighborly neglect or oblivion.” She describes this limbo as a place that is constructed out of mutual need. Unfortunately this limbo is a stagnant place where little growth occurs – therefore Eustacia made an early decision to glorify her child instead of remaining in limbo so that real growth could occur for both of them.

aspergersThe second treat of the day was a most valuable presentation from Dr Jed Baker. A confident and skilled presenter, Dr Baker began with one very powerful word that can make a big difference for anyone, especially a parent of a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder – and that word is HOPE. Having the best attitude and a positive outlook can make all the difference – without it, fear and anxiety can easily take over. Having hope and presuming competence is the first and best thing we can do to help caretakers.

Dr Baker’s clinical expertise is apparent and his willingness to help shines! He related many humorous stories as real life examples to present his teaching points. His personal narrative of shopping in the grocery store with his children highlighted the importance of controlling one’s self in the face of difficulty. “Ninety percent of teaching and parenting is tolerance”, he said. The ability to tolerate our own discomfort long enough to think about what we need to do is crucial for resolving any distressing situation.

Staying calm and not allowing our prefrontal brain to get hijacked by our limbic system will always help us think of something to do, but Dr. Baker posed the question, “What if it doesn’t work”? The decision to punish will almost always escalate the situation and a power struggle will typically fail. A better course to take, he stated, is to learn to prevent the behavior by asking why it happens – “what is the trigger”? He emphasized playing detective and discovering clues to help customize the way a new skill needs to be taught for each unique individual.

This was just the beginning and a very small portion of the solid gold nuggets of information that Dr Baker distributed. As the afternoon progressed he went into great depth about handling crises and utilizing various strategies to effectively manage behavioral and social challenges.

If you missed this wonderful opportunity and are searching for interventions that will empower you as a parent, or teacher, of a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, I urge you to watch for his next event and sign up immediately – his valuable information is worth every penny! Or, you can purchase one of his many publications:

  • Social Skills Training for Children and Adolescents with Aspergers Syndrome and Social Communication Problems
  • Preparing for Life: The Complete Handbook for the Transition to Adulthood for Those with Autism and Aspergers Syndrome
  • The Social Skills Picture Book; The Social Skills Picture Book for High School and Beyond

And his latest releases:

  • No More Victims: Protecting those with Autism from Cyber Bullying, Internet Predators, and Scams  
  • No More Meltdowns: Positive Strategies for Managing and Preventing Out-of-Control Behavior

A companion website and mobile app for, No More Meltdowns, is now available along with his latest release, Overcoming Anxiety in Children and Teens.

The messages these two amazing individuals shared came from different perspectives, yet they were similar in many respects. Both Eustacia Cutler and Dr. Jed Baker emphasized the importance of self-care for parents and caretakers, and agreed that happy people are better parents and teachers.

If you missed this amazing event, don’t despair – simply visit the Future Horizon site http://fhautism.com/about-our-conferences.html to find out where Eustacia Cutler and Dr. Jed Baker will be next, or find another inspiring event to attend. If you are reading this review, simply add the code – PARENTCOACH (all one word, upper case) – at checkout to receive a 10 percent conference discount, or 15 percent off the insightful books written by these two remarkable individuals, and others as well.

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Temple Talks about Autism and Sensory Issues: The World’s Leading Expert on Autism Shares Her Advice and Experiences by Dr. Temple Grandin – Book review

Temple GrandinAs a professional who works with parents of children on the autism spectrum I know you do not have a lot of quiet time to sit down and read a book from cover to cover. Despite living a life that tends to be overwhelming, I know you are eager for brief and reliable information to help you meet the needs of your child in the best way possible. If quick, easy and reputable information is really what you are after, then this book meets all the criteria.

This is Dr. Grandin’s newest book which joins the ranks of about fifteen others and is published by Sensory World. It is so easy to skim this book and find exactly what is relevant to your current parenting situation. There it is, right at your fingertips. Contained within these 120 pages you will find very useful and practical information about autism and sensory issues that Dr Grandin presents in a very clear and matter-of-fact style.

You may not find anything new in this book if you have already read some of Temple Grandin’s previous books but it is laid out in a way that is very reader friendly. If you have never read any of her previous works you’ll be starting off on the right foot by beginning with Temple Talks… about Autism and Sensory Issues.

As for reputable, there is no one more highly regarded in the field of autism as Dr. Grandin. She fills the pages of this book with great advice derived from her wealth of personal and professional experience. The last part of Temple Talks …  answers questions that many other parents can connect with. These questions were gathered from the “Ask Temple” section of her website, where anyone can pose a question, and her conferences, where she always makes herself very available to the parents that attend.

This new book is such a fast and straightforward read that it makes sense to have it available in the waiting rooms of pediatricians, psychologists and any other autism related providers. Parents can educate themselves while they wait and discover strategies they can implement when they get home.

This book is also a must to have on hand in the teacher’s room of every school. It’s a great way to inform many teachers, aides and staff about autism. Skimming through it during lunch will help them acquire a better understanding of how to deal with the sensory issues and challenges their students with autism have.

To get your copies of this handy guide from Dr. Temple Grandin at a discount simply click here to get to the Sensory World website. Then use my code PARENTCOACH in the coupon code box when checking out to receive your 15% discount and enjoy!

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changeChange catalyzes growth.

This unexpected journey into the world of autism continues to transform your life. You are not the same person you used to be and you have yet to become the person or parent you are meant to be. Did you ever hear the saying, “You are a human becoming”, as opposed to a human being?

“Not a perfect soul, I am perfecting. Not a human being, I am a human becoming.”              ― Normandi Ellis, Awakening Osiris

You are not done yet!

I love that concept of ‘not being done’. You are always evolving on some level. The daily choice you have is how quickly you want to progress and how close you want to get to ‘being done’ – for you and your child. This is a lifelong voyage – with change and growth occurring at the pace you allow along the way.

You need to take charge of, regulate and direct the progress you and your child make by being open to the adventure of ‘becoming’.

Where are you on this path? The answer to that question will depend on various factors.

The first, and most important factor is attitude. Ask yourself this question, “What is my attitude?”

What exactly is attitude?

The definition of attitude according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is:

at·ti·tude noun \ˈa-tə-ˌtüd, -ˌtyüd\

: the way you think and feel about someone or something

: a feeling or way of thinking that affects a person’s behavior

Many parents flounder immediately after they receive their child’s diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). That is to be expected.

The disappointment, the anger and the upheaval that accompanies a diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Disorder for your child can be extremely unpleasant and frightening. The rush of emotions can be so debilitating that you find yourself unable to take any action. It takes a while to filter through the shock, the denial, the anger and the grief about the loss of the family life you thought you would have.

The goal here is to make peace with all those emotions. It’s important to get to acceptance as quickly as possible but the path there can be tricky and filled with many obstacles. The shock of the diagnosis can linger and leave you in a fog for months. But the sooner it clears, with or without anyone’s assistance, the sooner you arrive at a place of true acceptance. Once that happens, it enables you to move forward and ‘become’ your potential.

As a result, your attitude automatically begins to take shape and evolves into exactly what your child needs to help him grow and blossom.

So, where are you on this path?

If you feel you spend the majority of your time in the land of true acceptance, and your attitude is where it needs to be for growth to occur, then feel free to stop reading. If you’re not sure where you are or you’re still struggling to get beyond your child’s diagnosis of autism and are confused about what to do next, then I encourage you to consider the following strategies before you proceed.

  • Take some time for reflection. It’s important to set aside adequate time to honestly reflect upon your situation. Find five quiet minutes before you close your eyes at night to assess where you are. Once you have a true and clear picture, you’ll be in a better position to objectively evaluate the resources that are available to you. Being open to all possibilities and reflecting upon them carefully allows you to think proactively and better prepare yourself to jump into action when necessary. This places you in the best position to connect with what will work best for your unique child.
  • Honor your emotions, without judgment. Look at and listen to your worries and fears. Once you have acknowledged them for what they are, find a way to sit with them, instead of against them, so you can be more present. Feelings are neither right, nor wrong, they just are. Expect all feelings to knock on your doorstep. And when they do, greet them at the door as any good host would. Expect to see both the positive and the negative but don’t invite the negative ones in. Politely tell them you don’t have time for a visit and ask them to leave, then close the door.
  • Get past the hurt, disappointment, anger, etc. Once you have acknowledged these feelings find a constructive way to let them go. It is important to minimize or remove them from your path so they don’t become obstacles. Too much negative energy spent on them will only drain you and make you less available to your child. Dealing with these emotions is not only OK – it’s mandatory. This will do more for your child than any treatment out there.
  • Find and join a support group. Don’t let any embarrassment or shame you might be feeling prevent you from reaching out to others. There are many other parents who have been in your shoes, seek them out for support. The assistance you get from those who have stood before you is extremely comforting and will help motivate you to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
  • Keep in mind that this is a process you have to keep working at. There will be times when you may feel as if you have resolved all of your negative feelings but there will be days when they return. Expect them, but have a plan to deal with them as they appear so you can keep putting one foot in front of the other. Talk to someone in your support system, take a walk, listen to music or whatever will help you process the emotion.
  • Search for experts. If you can’t seem to move forward by yourself, you may be experiencing an emotional block. The best way to shorten its course is to find someone experienced who can support and guide you through this phase, someone who will listen and help you process your feelings in a non-judgmental way. A good therapist or a qualified parent coach is always a good bet to help you conquer any emotional hurdle.

Always remember, when your emotions are keeping you stuck, your mindset and attitude will not be where they need to be and you, and your child will continue to struggle.

All too often, I meet parents who have been floating in limbo for years. They are confused, frightened and concerned about what the future holds for their child if things don’t change.

But guess what needs to change?

That’s right, you!

You can choose not to change, but change will come – autism makes it happen. So why fight it? Direct your own movie instead of playing the role of an extra.

It’s not easy and it doesn’t happen quickly. In the beginning, you want someone to fix your child and make things easier for her. Eventually you need to realize the power lies within you, and your spouse/partner, to create something different.

Go ahead – take the first step. You can do this by yourself or you can catalyze change faster with the guidance of someone else – such as a qualified parent coach. When you transform your way of being, your expectations and your responses, I promise that you and your child will blossom.

This is not the 100-yard dash – this is a marathon. Invest time and energy in yourself to support a change that is customized to your child’s unique needs – it will go further than any other therapy you purchase for your child.

change

 

Excerpted from my upcoming bookAutism Parenting: Strategies for a Positive School Experience” by Connie Hammer.

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