August 2022 - Hidden Talents ABA

Stimming in Children with Autism

Stimming is a common behavior that children with autism spectrum disorder engage in. It refers to self stimulation or self-soothing, and it deals with repetitive movements, sounds, or words that help a child with autism center themselves in response to their environment. 

This article will explore what purpose stimming serves, examples of stimming in children, and what techniques can help manage it. 

What Is Stimming?

Professionals often refer to stimming behaviors as stereotypies or stereotyped movements. Stimming is a self stimulatory behavior and self-soothing behavior that involves repeated movements. 

Lots of people engage in stimming by tapping pencils while they think, twirling their hair, or drumming their fingers. However, stimming is most commonly seen in children and adults with autism. 

Stimming is part of the diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum.

Scientists believe that stimming is something children with autism do to steady themselves in response to anxiety, an overwhelming environment, or an under-stimulating environment. There are different types of stimming, including:

  • Tactile (touch)
  • Olfactory (smell)
  • Visual (sight)
  • Auditory (hearing)
  • Vestibular (balance)

Stimming can present itself as full-body rocking, hands flapping continuously, repetitive noises or words, hard blinking, and more. 

Children with autism may display mild stimming behaviors, or the stimming may get in the way of their life. It may interfere with schoolwork, social activities, and more. 

For children diagnosed with autism, severe stimming behaviors can result in social exclusion and learning difficulties. In some cases, the stimming can even be destructive or harmful to the child.

There are children who engage in biting behaviors, which can cause physical harm themselves and others, and there are many who perform repetitive actions that make it difficult for them to focus on playing and learning new skills. 

Let us look a bit more closely at the most common types of stimming in children with autism. 

Types of Stimming

One of the most common forms of stimming is tactile. Tactile stimming can include:

  • Hand flapping
  • Finger-flicking
  • Rubbing hands
  • Scratching hands
  • Biting hands
  • Rubbing objects
  • Picking at scabs
  • Swallowing objects
  • head banging

Auditory stimming refers to repetitive behaviors that impact a child’s sense of hearing. Some common auditory stimming actions include:

  • Humming
  • Grunting
  • Screeching
  • Repetitive speech

Visual stimming connects to the child’s sense of sight and can involve:

  • Blinking repeatedly
  • Staring at certain objects
  • Turning lights on and off
  • Lining up objects

Olfactory stimming involves the sense of smell. Some common behaviors include: 

  • Smelling objects
  • Tasting objects
  • Licking objects or hands

Vestibular stimming is related to balance. Some common examples include:

  • Rocking back and forth
  • Spinning or twirling 
  • Hanging upside down
  • Repeatedly jumping 

Now that we know the behaviors that children with autism commonly engage in, let us look at why they do so. 

Why Do Autistic People Stim?

There are a number of reasons scientists and researchers think autistic people stim. 

In many cases, the behaviors help them deal with sensory overload. If the child is in an environment that overstimulates them, focusing on one behavior helps them find a balance.

Children with autism may also stim when they feel understimulated. If they don’t feel their senses are engaged enough, they can begin stimming to provide the lacking stimulation. 

Another reason people with autism turn to stimming is that it can help them with anxiety. By focusing on one behavior at a time, they can reduce the anxiety they experience

Children with autism may also engage in stimming to provide relief from pain. Stimming may release endorphins, which can decrease pain. 

It can also be a way to express enthusiasm or excitement if the child doesn’t know how to do so in another manner. 

Stimming occurs as a self-management tool, as well. It can help children with autism spectrum disorder express frustration or anger and help them relax. 

In some instances, nonverbal children use stimming to express distress or pain if they have an underlying medical condition. If you see your child pointing to a particular part of their body repeatedly, have a doctor check for any issues. 

Some children with autism also use stimming as a form of getting attention. If they received attention in the past for this behavior, they might engage in it again to get the same results. 

These are the reasons autistic children turn to stimming, but is it possible to control it, and should you try to?

Can You Manage Stimming?

It is important to understand that most forms of stimming are not harmful. In fact, they can help your child and give them the control they need over their own emotions.

You should only worry about stimming if it affects their social interactions, if it makes it more difficult for them to play, if it interferes with learning, or if it is dangerous or harmful to them or others. 

The goal of dealing with stimming is to ensure the child has self-control. It is not helpful for a parent or any other authority figure to display anger or frustration at the behaviors, but it can be useful to show children ways to manage them. 

Let us look at the management of stimming a bit more. 

How to Manage Stimming

One of the most crucial things to understand is what is causing the stimming. By knowing this, you can help your child modify the behaviors. 

If the problem is overstimulation, it is important to evaluate their environment and see what can be causing the stimming. You may have to take the child to a quiet room or give them just one toy or one activity to focus on at a time. 

If the problem is that the environment is not stimulating enough, it can help to add music in the background. You can also offer more toys and activities, textures, or more playtime outside. 

There are some schools that have sensory rooms for children with autism who require more stimulation. Some helpful equipment can be items the child can bounce on, squish, or spin on. 

If you see that your child uses stimming to manage anxiety, you will want to see what is causing it. Ask yourself whether something has changed in the environment and whether you can find a way to change it back or help your child adjust to the change. 

One excellent way to help your child is by preparing them for new situations and giving them the skills they need to handle new environments. If you know your child has to go into a crowded room, for example, tell them about it, and encourage them to go through the experience by offering them a reward. 

It can also be a good idea to add a daily exercise routine. Different kinds of exercise offer different kinds of stimulation, so it’s important to understand your child’s unique sensory needs when choosing an activity and to steer away from sensory overload.

For example, an understimulated child may enjoy running because it provides repetitive, firm input for the joints. Swimming at a quiet pool may offer calming water pressure for an overstimulated nervous system. 

If an episode of stimming begins, it is better not to stop everything but to instead engage with your child. Encourage them to play with a favorite toy or perform a favorite activity so that they have something else to focus on. 

As long as the stimming is not dangerous or self-harming, you may want to consider joining in, especially in activities like stacking or moving objects. This will allow your child to still get interpersonal interactions. 

For many children, it can be helpful for them to know that the feelings they experience are normal and that there are other ways of managing them. Just knowing that their parents understand what they feel can help reduce anxiety. 

If the behaviors interfere with the child’s life and affect their social interactions, schoolwork, or playtime, you always have the option to turn to behavioral therapists or other specialists. 

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a particularly helpful type of therapy for children on the autism spectrum. This individualized therapy option focuses on finding your child’s strengths and weaknesses, and it works to improve social skills by using learning theory principles. 

ABA also helps with self-control and self-regulation, making it possible for your child to learn ways of dealing with stress without resorting to stimming. It makes it possible to reduce negative behaviors without adding to the stress. 

It can also help your child manage changes to their environment and apply the learned strategies to new situations. 

A provider like Hidden Talents ABA can be a good place to begin if you think behavioral therapy can have a positive impact on your child. 

Always rule out medical conditions before allowing your child to continue with stimming. Lots of nonverbal children use stimming as a communication tool, so have their doctor perform a physical exam to rule out any underlying causes. 

Understanding Your Autistic Child 

Stimming is an aspect of having a child with autism, but it doesn’t have to be a negative thing. As long as the stimming does not interfere with your child’s life excessively, it is a coping mechanism that can give your child the self-control they need when dealing with anxiety and challenging environments. 

By understanding why your child engages in these behaviors, what they mean, and how you can help them deal with them, you can offer them the support they need. 

If you are ready to work with the best Applied Behavior Analysis therapy provider in Texas or Georgia, give us a call at (404) 487-6005. Our dedicated team is ready to help and we will treat you like family.

How Grants in Texas Can Help Children with Autism

Having a child with autism will mean extra costs. Many families struggle to pay for the services they need so they can offer their children the care they deserve. 

In Texas, there are many grants that can help families who have autistic children. Learn more about what a grant is and which ones may be available to you.

The Benefits of Grants and Scholarships for Children with Autism

A grant is a way for an entity, usually the government, a company, or a foundation, to give money to an individual or another entity for a specific purpose. It is not a loan because you don’t have to pay the money back.

The grant cycle begins with the entity creating the funding, reviewing applications, deciding on who is the right recipient, and then implementing the grant. 

Grants for families with autistic children usually have specific focuses, like offering money for learning or behavioral therapy. Some of these grants have income caps, while others offer grants to anyone, regardless of economic circumstances. 

In Texas, grants for autistic children can help cover costs, including: 

  • Transportation costs
  • Vacation costs
  • Animal therapy sessions
  • Nutritional assistance
  • Special education
  • Education after high school 

Turning to a grant can mean being able to offer your child the help they need. This can include emotional support, learning assistance, and even the chance to improve social skills.

Let’s look at what to know when applying for a grant. 

What Should I Know Before Applying for a Grant or a Scholarship?

Applying for a grant can seem overwhelming at first, but there are tips that can help you manage the process. 

The first thing to remember is that you want to carefully read the application process and the requirements for the grant. You want to make sure that the grant is a match for your needs and that you qualify for it so you don’t waste time applying for something you cannot benefit from. 

If the grant is for the purchase of equipment or specialized treatments, consult with your child’s doctor before applying. They will be able to tell you whether it is really going to be helpful for your child or not.

If you do get chosen for the grant, it is always appropriate to send a thank you letter. 

It can also be helpful for the grant to receive pictures of your family or your child engaging in the activities the grant pays for. This can allow the grant to get more donations in the future to help other people. 

Remember that if you don’t get chosen the first time around, keep trying. The worst thing you can do is give up. 

If you are ready to apply for some grants in Texas, we offer a list of some of the best options. 

The Best Grants for Children with Autism in Texas

These are some of the most helpful grants in Texas, but the options on the list are by no means the only ones you have available. 

Different Needz Foundation 

This foundation provides grants for children with developmental disabilities. The grant helps pay for special equipment for physical therapy, like wheelchairs, braces, and gait trainers, as well as for many other types of therapies.

Applications for the Different Needz grant become available in January, and the foundation announces the recipients in May of each year. 

The Maggie Welby Foundation

This scholarship provides money for children from kindergarten up to 12th grade who have a disability or illness and have financial needs. The family of Maggie Welby created the scholarship to help children in need have positive experiences that can help them manage their disabilities. 

To apply, you must complete the application and submit it with an essay. 

ACT Today

Autism Care Today offers a grant that can help the families of autistic children get the monetary support they need. The value of the grant may be up to $5,000. 

They offer grants to cover services and equipment, and they have a special grant for children with autism who come from a military family. They can offer funds to provide:

  • Protective helmets
  • GPS trackers 
  • Sensory equipment 
  • Installation of protective fencing

The grants can also cover the costs of iPads to help children with autism get access to special apps created for their development. They can also cover the costs of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), which is one of the leading therapies for autism

Other programs that ACT Today can help with include Social Skills Learning and summer programs created for children with autism. There is also Autism Care Today Español for Latino families. 

Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation

This foundation offers scholarships for types of therapies as diverse as equine therapy, swimming lessons, and more. 

The scholarships make it possible for children with autism to receive iPads so they can have access to some of the best developmental apps. Autistic children who struggle with interpersonal relationships and social skills can also benefit from attending the Social Skills Camp, for which the foundation has a scholarship. 

The Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation also offers its holiday gift card program. For families who would not be able to otherwise celebrate the holidays, the foundation can help. 

Organization for Autism Research

For older children who would like to continue receiving education after high school, this grant offers the chance to get monetary assistance. The scholarship is for children across the autism spectrum. 

There are various options, including scholarships for children who want to attend two or four years of undergraduate college, as well as scholarships for vocational schools, technical schools, and more. There is an option for children of color, as well. 

Get the Assistance Your Family Needs

Know that you are not alone if you have an autistic child and you find yourself struggling. There are many scholarships and grants available in Texas to help you get the support you need for your child. 

By taking the time to learn about the options you have, you can find the right assistance to be able to offer your child the quality of life they deserve. 

If you are ready to work with the best Applied Behavior Analysis therapy provider in Texas or Georgia, give us a call at (404) 487-6005. Our dedicated team is ready to help and we will treat you like family.

Can ABA Therapy Help with Anxiety?

Anxiety disorder is a type of mental health condition that’s characterized by feelings of nervousness, rapid heartbeat, sweating, fear, and panic. 

Cognitive and behavioral techniques have been at the forefront of anxiety treatment, and one such example is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy

Read on to learn more about this form of anxiety treatment.

What Is ABA Therapy? 

ABA is the acronym for Applied Behavior Analysis. It’s a therapy centered on the science of learning and behavior. The aim is to encourage desired behaviors and restrict harmful ones. 

ABA therapy uses a couple of strategies to learn, predict, and transform behavior. Positive reinforcement and A-B-C (antecedent, behavior, and consequence) are critical techniques used in ABA. 

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement encourages a pattern of good behavior by offering a reward whenever good behavior is exhibited. The reward, in this case, has to be meaningful to the person. That could include praise, money, a toy, tickets to the cinema, and more. 

A-B-C

Another strategy used in ABA therapy is A-B-C. A-B-C represents “antecedent, behavior, and consequence.” 

An antecedent happens right before the goal behavior and what triggers the behavior. It could be a verbal request or command, a physical reward such as a toy or money, or an environmental trigger such as light or sound. 

Behavior is the individual’s response or lack of it following the antecedent. It could be an action or a spoken response. 

The consequence follows the behavior. It may include a reward or lack of a reaction because of unwanted behaviors.

What Is Anxiety? 

Anxiety is a way in which your body reacts to stress. It’s how your body notifies you about threatening situations in readiness to deal with them. But your body should not always be on the alert. Normal anxiety can turn into chronic anxiety, causing you to be in a constant state of alertness.

Chronic anxiety may manifest itself in the following ways:

Behaviorally

Behavioral symptoms of anxiety are what you do when you are anxious. They attempt to deal with the distasteful aspects of anxiety. They may include:

  • Avoiding situations that heighten your anxiety. For example, using the stairs instead of a lift.
  • Taking part in unhealthy behaviors such as overdrinking or excessive smoking.
  • Staying indoors.
  • Becoming too attached to an individual or place that you to try to avoid separation.

Physiologically

Anxiety may manifest itself psychologically. Its symptoms may include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Stomach “butterflies”
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle tension
  • Sweat
  • Migraines
  • Chest pains
  • A racing heart

While anybody can suffer anxiety, research shows that autistic children are more predisposed to anxiety attacks. Read on to learn more.

Children With Autism and Anxiety 

Autistic children often worry or get stressed about things that other children don’t usually worry about. So, they experience intense anxiety more regularly compared to other kids. 

The following are some of the common triggers for anxiety in autistic children:

  • Changes from the norm/routine: For instance, failure to go swimming because the weather is chilly.
  • Changes in surroundings: For instance, when they relocate to a new house.
  • Unusual social situations: For instance, when the child attends a birthday celebration at an unfamiliar house.
  • Times of transition: Examples include the start of puberty, starting high school, or shifting to a new school.
  • Sensory sensitivities: The autistic child may have sensitivity to bright lights, specific noises, or certain food flavors and aromas.
  • Fear of a specific action, situation, or object: The child may fear sleeping on their own, going to the washrooms, or the sight of insects.

You may encounter symptoms of more than one type of anxiety. Below, we discuss the different types of anxiety that you may experience.

The Different Types of Anxiety 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

With generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), you’re constantly in a state of anxiety and worry. Your concerns relate to different aspects of ordinary life, like health, work, family, or money problems, instead of just one major issue. The anxiety is intense, unrelenting, and interferes with your regular life. 

The symptoms include:

  • Restlessness
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Excessive worrying
  • Irritability
  • Muscle aches, headaches, or baffling pains

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder makes you feel a crushing fear and worry about others judging you in social situations. In most cases, you fear that you may be a source of embarrassment or ridicule, so you end up avoiding social settings altogether. 

Symptoms related to social anxiety disorder include:

  • Blushing
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Fear of making eye contact with other people
  • Rigid body posture
  • Being afraid of being judged negatively
  • Stomachaches

Panic Disorder

With panic disorder, you experience panic or fear attacks regularly and unexpectedly, often for no apparent reason. These panic attacks are always more intense than other forms of anxiety disorders. They can last anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes, and you might end up constantly worrying about the next panic attack. 

A panic attack comes with the following symptoms:

  • Sweating
  • Feeling of choking
  • Pounding heart
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Chest pains
  • A fear of dying
  • Hot flushes
  • A churning stomach

How Can ABA Therapy Benefit Autistic Children With Anxiety? 

ABA therapy can help autistic children with reduce anxiety in the following ways:

  • Applied Behavior Analysis therapy enhances independent life skills in autistic children with anxiety. These include self-care aspects like comfortably sleeping through the night, toileting, getting dressed, and brushing their teeth.
  • Behavioral interventions applied in ABA help teach autistic children the social skills that are important in making friends and relating with their peers. 
  • ABA therapy encourages proper parenting by allowing the active participation of parents in the treatment plan. As an autistic child’s parent, you get a deeper understanding of your kid’s habits and behaviors, mainly when they are nervous and cannot communicate.
  • Your child’s life satisfaction can rise with ABA therapy. When they can do things they couldn’t do before, they will feel satisfied because of their enhanced quality of life.

The Bottom Line

ABA therapy is all about reducing the negative symptoms associated with anxiety through positive reinforcement and A-B-C techniques. If performed right, it can help decrease problem behaviors and improve attention, focus, and memory. And within a short period, you’ll be able to see remarkable progress in your kid’s social life.

10 Careers to Work With Autistic Children

Helping autistic children for a living can be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling.

After you read this article, you will know what the best careers for working with autistic children are and how you can pick the most suitable one based on your passions and preferences.

What is autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological condition and learning disability that impacts a child’s behaviors, development, and skills.

In brief, here are some of the main characteristics that define autism:

  • Developmental Delays: Autistic children tend to develop certain skills and capabilities at a later stage in life. Examples include saying their first word and responding to their name.
  • Communication Barriers: On a social level, kids with ASD show a lack of interest in playing with others, avoid maintaining eye contact, and struggle when they communicate
  • Behavioral Challenges: An autistic boy or girl may resort to aggression instead of using their words, engage in repetitive habits, and obsessively focus on a single object or activity.
  • Sensitive Sensory Functions: Children with ASD are usually very sensitive to bright lights and/or loud noises.

If you’re passionate about helping autistic kids overcome these issues and manage their symptoms, consider embarking on one of the career paths from the following list.

The 10 best careers for working with autistic children

Applied Behavior Analyst

An applied behavior analyst (ABA) is a therapist who specializes in evaluating a patient’s behaviors and habits, identifying the environmental factors that influence them, and putting together a treatment plan accordingly.

To become an Applied Behavior Analyst, follow these steps:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in a field like psychology or education.
  2. Get a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis or a related area.
  3. Pass your exam and get licensed by your state.

Those who want to take a step further in their career should think about becoming a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA).

Board Certified Behavior Analyst

A BCBA is an independent ABA therapy provider who is also in charge of overseeing Applied Behavior Analysts and other professionals that have similar certifications.

Wondering how to become a BCBA? Here is what you need to do:

  1. Obtain your undergraduate degree.
  2. Enroll in and finish a graduate program that’s certified by the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI).
  3. Find a certified supervisor to oversee your required 1,500 to 2,000 fieldwork hours.
  4. Pass the BCBA exam and apply for your state license.

When getting a masters degree is not possible or practical, other careers for helping autistic children may be more suitable.

Autism Spectrum Disorder Specialist

You can become a certified autism specialist in just four months by enrolling in a verified training program.

Many professionals who already work with children that have learning disabilities, such as psychologists and special education teachers, seek to be certified ASD specialists in order to enhance their skills and earn a higher salary.

Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers support kids that have a variety of emotional, neurological, and learning difficulties, including autistic children.

Before you embark on this career path, you must get an undergraduate degree. To teach at a public school, you will also need a certification or license from your state’s government.

If you want to work in an educational setting, but without becoming a teacher, you have other job options, as well.

School Social Worker

School social work entails supporting students, parents, teachers, and administrators on overcoming challenges related to mental health and learning disabilities.

School social workers tend to focus on issues that students may face both at home and in the classroom.

The requirements for becoming a school social worker include getting a degree in social work and undergoing the necessary training programs.

Art Therapist

Art therapy is provided by supervised and trained masters-degree holders who treat neurological and mental health problems through painting, drawing, and creating other forms of art.

Music Therapist

In the same vein, music therapy revolves around singing and using musical instruments to address mental, sensory, and motor-skill difficulties.

These professionals are also required to be trained and supervised graduate-degree holders.

Horse Therapist

Horse therapy is an effective way for helping autistic children improve their symptoms. The approach mainly focuses on riding, feeding, and caring for horses.

Some horse therapy sessions are offered by non-certified specialists, while others can only be conducted by certified and licensed therapists with graduate degrees.

Babysitter

You may be asking yourself: What does a babysitter do for autistic children? In short, they help them (and kids, in general) with doing their homework, making meals, going to and from school, and other household tasks.

The requirements for becoming a babysitter are simple. They are as follows:

  • Be at the minimum age or older, which is either 16 or 18.
  • Get trained by the employer.
  • Obtain each of the first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certifications.

The job duties of a babysitter are relatively basic and straightforward in comparison to similar career paths. 

Caregiver

Professional caregivers assist patients who have physical or mental needs with fulfilling their day-to-day tasks. This includes adults and children who are diagnosed with ASD.

A caregiver is hired and trained by an employing agency. The requirements for this role are determined by the hiring company.

The same could be said about some of the other occupations that are on our list.

By going through them, you can easily find a suitable career for working with autistic children based on your academic background, willingness to enroll in graduate degree programs, professional preferences, and passions.

Additionally, It is important to acknowledge the vital role of social workers by commemorating Social Workers Month in supporting families of children with autism. Social workers provide invaluable assistance in accessing resources, navigating educational systems, and advocating for the needs of children with autism. Their dedication and expertise contribute significantly to the well-being and success of children and families affected by autism.

Joint Attention Issues in Autistic Children

Children with autism spectrum disorder and those with developmental delays tend to experience challenges with joint attention. 

If you’ve been wondering how you can help a child with a joint attention deficit, then don’t worry. You’ll know how by the time you’re done reading this article. 

Child with toys | Joint Attention

What Is Joint Attention? 

Joint attention (JA) involves sharing a united focus on something with another person for the purpose of interacting with each other. The object of focus could be other people, objects, events, or concepts. 

While engrossed in joint attention, you can communicate non-verbally, for example, by gazing at an object and then looking at the other individual. 

Joint attention starts in infancy and develops throughout early childhood, and the first instances usually involve a child and their parents. These moments happen when the child and the parent switch their attention and eye contact back and forth from an item to one another.

Some early joint attention abilities may include a child looking on the same book page as their parent or reaching out to an adult for a lift. Advanced joint attention skills may include the child’s ability to focus on a game or request food, toys, or other items. 

What Are Examples of Joint Attention?

Joint attention in toddlers may occur in two ways: spontaneous initiations and responses to the actions of other people. In most cases, it involves the use of eye contact, gestures like finger-pointing, and vocalizations, such as spoken words. 

The toddler can initiate social interaction. For instance, they can draw their parent’s attention to a toy by pointing at it and gazing at their parent. Both the parent and the child maintain eye contact in this case. 

Older kids may use vocalizations to attract attention. For example, “Hey, Mom, check this out.”

The child may also respond to joint attention initiated by another person. For instance, a parent uses a gesture (finger pointing) toward a toy and says, “Check out the toy!” The toddler reacts by following the parent’s finger to gaze at the toy.

An image illustrating joint attention

Establish joint attention

Joint attention typically occurs in two ways:

  1. Responding to Joint Attention (RJA): This happens when a child follows the gaze or pointing gesture of another person to look at the same object or event. For example, if a parent looks at a toy and the child follows their gaze to also look at the toy, that’s responding to joint attention.
  2. Initiating Joint Attention (IJA): This involves the child using eye contact, gestures, or other means to direct someone else’s attention to an object or event. For example, a child might point at a bird and look at their parent to ensure the parent is also looking at the bird. That’s initiating joint attention.

Both types of joint engagement are crucial for social and language development as they involve sharing a common focus with someone else and understanding that others have a perspective that can be shared.

Joint attention plays a crucial role in language development in children. Here’s why it’s important:

Why Is Joint Attention Important?

You find more joy when you share your experiences with another person. The same applies to kids as they experience the sights and sounds of their immediate environment. A child, for example, may respond to a sound by gazing at the source and then looking at you with a smile.

You can also initiate joint engagement by pointing at a particular object and looking at the toddler. The child will consequently realize that grownups wish to share attention with them. Such interactions emphasize the back-and-forth activity needed for communication skills.

Kids must repeatedly interact with you first before they can listen to what you’re saying. With time, through consistent listening and responding to your words, they connect meaning to your words and thus grasp what you’re saying.

If your child is experiencing delayed language skills, then there’s a higher chance that they lack consistent interaction. Here is an illustration to show how kids develop speech-language skills via joint attention:

  • Interaction reinforces listening.
  • Listening contributes to understanding language.
  • Language understanding leads to the use of the language itself.
  • Using language, including facial expressions, gestures, and eye contact, encourages talking.

That being said, it is crucial to assess joint attention skills in your child early enough and design early interventions in case of deficits.

kids | Why Joint Attention Important?

How Do You Test Joint Attention?

Based on the vital role that joint engagement g plays in social-language skill development, it is essential to test joint attention skills in children early. The goal is to identify any joint attention challenges and establish early intervention. 

There are structured measures that offer a measurement of joint attention. A typical example is the Early Social Communication Scales (ESCS).

ESCS assesses a child’s reaction to semi-structured prompts. The metrics for the JA behaviors include frequencies or proportions of instances in which tested behaviors are observable. 

The frequency of the experimenter’s solicitation to which the toddler responds is the metric for measuring response to joint attention. For example, you could say, “Look” or point at a toy, and in response, the child turns their head or shifts their eyesight toward your pointed finger.

The metric for initiating joint attention reflects the regularity with which a toddler uses eye contact and finger-pointing to draw attention to ongoing events or objects. A child starts to develop joint attention through eye gazing as early as 4-6 months.

There are several interventions that are available if your child shows signs of joint attention deficit. Read on for more insight.

How Do You Improve Joint Attention?

Here are some way to improve and teach joint attention to children:

Face-to-face Interaction

Frequent interaction with your child is one of the best ways to help them develop joint attention. For example, you could get on the ground with them and have face-to-face interaction with eye contact.

Encourage Response to a Solicitation

Point to your kid’s favorite toy and say, “Look,” while pointing at it. Then, gently turn their head to look at the toy. When they make eye contact with the toy, hand it to them to play with it. 

Cause and Effect Games

Get toys they like that feature a cause-and-effect relationship. Wind-up or light-up toys are a good example.

Building blocks symbolzing step by step improving joint attention

Practice Turn-taking

Play games that include taking turns. For example, passing a ball back and forth.

Bubble Blowing

Blowing bubbles is an activity that allows you to interact with your child. Take a break from blowing to let your kid look at you or request extra bubbles. 

Show Responsiveness

Follow your kid’s lead and take part in their favorite activity.

Joint Attention and Autism

Studies reveal that joint attention is often impaired in children with autism. They may struggle to follow someone else’s gaze or pointing gesture, and they may not respond when their attention is directed to a particular object or event. This difficulty can hinder their social communication skills and language development, as joint attention plays a crucial role in learning about the world and understanding the perspectives of others.

Children with autism also tend to have trouble initiating joint attention. They might not point at things to show interest or share joy, which are common ways that young children engage with others. These challenges can lead to a sense of isolation and difficulties in forming connections with peers.

Nurturing Joint Attention

Interventions targeting joint attention skills can be beneficial for children with autism. Here are some strategies that can help:

  1. Engage in Play: Use toys or activities that your child finds interesting to capture their attention. Play alongside them and try to direct their focus to the toy by pointing or gazing at it.
  2. Follow Their Lead: If your child shows interest in a certain object, use this as an opportunity to foster joint attention. Comment on the object, point to it, or look at it to encourage your child to do the same.
  3. Use Visual Cues: Visual cues like pointing can help guide your child’s attention. Over time, they may start to understand that these gestures are a way of directing focus.
  4. Practice Turn-Taking Games: Simple games such as ‘peek-a-boo’ or ‘pass the ball’ can teach children about shared attention and interaction.
  5. Seek Professional Help: Speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, and special education professionals can provide targeted interventions to improve joint attention skills.

In conclusion, while joint attention can be a challenge for individuals with autism, with consistent practice and professional support, improvements can be made. Enhancing joint attention skills can pave the way for better social interactions and communication, enriching the lives of those with autism.

A kid smiling | Nurturing Joint Attention

The Bottom Line

A kid with a joint engagement deficit may experience challenges with social interaction, language development, and general cognitive development. These difficulties may negatively affect their quality of life. 

Luckily, there are several interventions that can significantly improve or even eliminate joint attention problems in autistic children.

Autism and Smell Sensitivity

Atlanta’s vibrant autistic community thrives on inclusivity and understanding.

Many autistic individuals here experience sensory sensitivities, with smell being a common trigger.

This article dives deeper into smell sensitivity in autistic children, exploring its effects and ways to help them manage this challenge.

If you are ready to work with the best ABA therapy agency in Atlanta give us a call.

What is the olfactory system?

The olfactory system is responsible for the sense of smell. This system picks up different smells in the air through the nose and nasal cavity and then sends signals, or information, to your brain. 

Your brain then processes the smells and interprets them based on what it already knows. The brain plays a large role in the workings of the olfactory system. 

Like our other senses, scents are associated with certain memories and emotions we have. We may associate a smell with a certain time in our life or food. It is an individual experience, as these associations are specific to each person. 

Do children with autism have a heightened sense of smell? 

Many studies have been conducted to determine whether children with autism experience a heightened sense of smell or hypersensitivity.

A 2018 study found that people with autism use different areas of the brain to translate scents than neurotypical people.

Because studies have shown that children with autism may have a heightened sense of smell, it follows that they have a heightened olfactory system that regulates those smells.

For some children on the autism spectrum, a foul smell can be detected from longer distances, and the reaction will be avoidance. While others will actively seek out strong smells from people or things they enjoy.

Research is ongoing to better understand hypersensitivity in autistic individuals and how often it occurs.

What effect can a stronger sense of smell have?

Hypersensitivity to smell can impact a person and their ability to function. A child on the autism spectrum may notice scents that you cannot, coupled with impairments in their ability to communicate; hypersensitivity may be expressed through unusual behaviors.

Experiencing the world differently from those around them can prove challenging for a child with autism in their daily lives and social interactions. 

As an adult with autism, a heightened olfactory system can make it hard to function in public spaces, during a commute, or the workplace. 

Children with autism may have challenges in a variety of settings, including:

Difficulty going to restaurants

It can be difficult for children with autism and a heightened sense of smell to go to a restaurant because there are so many different scents in that space. 

From the unfamiliar smells of strangers to the variety of foods and beverages being served, it can be overstimulating for a child with hypersensitivity to smells. 

The type of restaurant, how busy it is, and the environment should all be considered when going to a new restaurant. These factors can impact how the child will react to being in the restaurant.

Overt stimming reactions

Stimming is short for self-stimulating behaviors. Stimming is repetitive or unusual movements or noises, including flapping hands, headbanging, or rocking.

Not exclusive to those on the autism spectrum, stimming is associated with autism. A stim in a neurotypical person may be nail-biting, hair twirling, or shaking your foot. These actions help autistic individuals manage emotions and find comfort when experiencing sensory overload. 

Needing to smell comforting smells to calm down or help attach to a caregiver

Children with autism may need the comforting smells of caregivers or a toy to maintain calm. This can cause limitations in the ways children interact with others, as they crave only specific smells. 

May be distracted by smells unnoticeable to the neurotypical person

Children with autism may be bothered by smells that may not be noticeable to the neurotypical brain. 

Strong unfamiliar odors, perfumes, or cleaning products may cause the hypersensitive child to act out due to sensory overload and lack of communication skills. In a classroom setting, the child with autism may have trouble focusing while their brain is processing smells no one else notices.

For the sensory-seeking child, certain smells may distract them as they seek to get closer to the scent.

May act out or refuse to enter an area with uncomfortable scents

Entering a new space with unfamiliar smells, such as a friend’s home, doctor’s office, shop, or restaurant, may bring an intense reaction in the child with autism. 

He or she may be extremely bothered by the strong-to-them scents and react by stimming (repetitive behavior such as flapping arms), lashing out, or running away. 

How to help a child with a hypersensitive sense of smell?

Hypersensitivity to smell in a child on the autism spectrum makes ordinary, everyday scents into strong, intense ones. Common smells, such as spicy foods, scented shampoos, or gasoline, can overwhelm a child. They may refuse to eat certain foods, avoid certain places, or display unusual behaviors.

Some of the simplest ways to aid the hypersensitive child are using only fragrance-free cleaning products, avoiding scented candles, perfumes, and deodorants, keeping rooms well ventilated and offering a tissue or other face-covering covering the nose. 

For the sensory-seeking child, carry a piece of fabric with a favorite scent and cook flavorful meals.

When you work with your child to help identify the source of their reactions, you can create solutions to help them feel safe and comfortable.

There are some tools and therapies you may want to try with your child:

ABA Therapy

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a strategy designed to help hypersensitive children increase their communication skills. 

Working with a trained ABA therapist, your child can learn language and communication skills. They may benefit from improved attention, focus, and social skills. ABA therapy helps with memory and academics and can decrease problem behaviors.

ABA therapy is flexible and individualized, with positive reinforcement as one of its core tenets.

Studies on long-term ABA therapy show many positive gains in intellectual functioning, language development, daily living, and social skills.

Sensory Support Tools

Sensory support tools are toys and other items designed to stimulate one or more senses. They appeal to some children on the autism spectrum as they can help the child feel calm and supply the sensory experience they are seeking, which can regulate their sensory needs.

Some support tools to consider are weighted vests or blankets, wiggle cushions, and balance boards. Sensory support toys include fidget spinners, pop-its, and slime or putty.

Be mindful when choosing a sensory toy or tool that doesn’t contain a strong odor from the packaging. 

Social Stories

A social story is a narrative created to help children on the autism spectrum understand how to communicate appropriately in social scenarios. 

Social stories can significantly improve the way children with autism relate to both peers and adults. They can demonstrate and teach what to do (and what not to do) in social situations and when problems arise.

Using social stories, you provide information and structure to help the child with autism navigate social situations.

An example of a social story may be in a comic book format or a series of simple sentences illustrating what the child can expect to happen and why.

Recognizing hypersensitivity in a child with autism is the first step to supporting them in life’s everyday scenarios. 

Conclusion

If you suspect your Atlanta child has a heightened sense of smell, you’re not alone.

Many autistic children experience this challenge.

At Hidden Talents, we can help your child navigate the world of scents and develop strategies for managing their sensitivity.

Contact Hidden Talents today and let’s help your Atlanta star shine!”

Teaching Autistic Children Proper Hygiene

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can negatively impact your child’s ability to focus on their personal hygiene.

By the time you’re done with this article, you will know exactly what you need to do to help your autistic son or daughter reach the desired cleanliness and personal hygiene goals.

Boy practicing proper hygiene by washing his hands.

How does autism affect personal hygiene?

Due to the psychological and sensory challenges that they face, keeping healthy and hygienic is sometimes difficult for autistic individuals.

Why does sensory processing disorder make hygiene difficult for children with autism?

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) can make hygiene difficult for children with autism because it affects how they perceive and respond to sensory stimuli. Here are some reasons why:

  1. Over-Sensitivity to Sensory Experiences: Many children with autism are hypersensitive to touch, smell, sound, and sight. This means common hygiene practices like brushing teeth, taking a shower, or even wearing certain clothes can be overwhelming and uncomfortable for them.
  2. Difficulty With Fine Motor Skills: Hygiene tasks often require fine motor skills, something that can be challenging for children with SPD. For example, holding a toothbrush, applying the right amount of pressure while brushing, or using a nail clipper can be difficult.
  3. Resistance to Change: Children with autism often prefer routines and struggle with changes. Introducing new hygiene habits can be seen as a change in their routine, causing distress and resistance.
  4. Tactile Defensiveness: This is a term used to describe the reaction that occurs when someone is very sensitive to touch. For a child with this condition, the textures of a toothbrush, towel, or soap could cause discomfort or anxiety.
  5. Difficulties with Interpreting Sensory Information: Children with SPD may have trouble processing multiple sensory inputs at once. This can make tasks that involve several senses, such as bathing, overwhelming.
  6. Smell Sensitivity: Some children with autism have a heightened sense of smell. The scent of certain hygiene products could be overpowering to them.

It’s important to note that every child with autism is unique and may experience these challenges to varying degrees. Parents and caregivers can work with occupational therapists and other professionals to develop strategies tailored to each child’s needs to help them cope with these difficulties.

For a start, several types of mental illnesses, such as depression, can cause your child to neglect self care and cleanliness. This is a common sign of mental health problems among both autistic and neurotypical kids.

However, because of their delicate sensory functions, those with an ASD diagnosis may experience this problem more severely.

Here is how these sensitivities could impact their personal hygiene:

  • Your child may not be able to tolerate a strong-smelling soap or shampoo. If this is the case, replace their soap and/or shampoo with a scentless product or one that’s designed for sensitive skin.
  • The feeling of running water touching the kid’s skin can feel unpleasant. To address this, consider giving your child a bath instead of a shower.
  • The laundry soap or detergent that you’re using could irritate your son or daughter’s skin when they put on their clothes. Buying alternative products may resolve this problem.
  • In the same vein, the fabric or textile that their clothing is made out of might be uncomfortable. When this happens, you should try to find clothes with materials that your child can tolerate wearing.

Even though every autistic kid has unique mental and sensory functions, establishing daily routines is one of the best ways for teaching children with ASD how to take care of their personal hygiene.  

Tooth brush

What kind of hygienic activities do autistic children need to learn?

Autistic kids tend to respond well to structures and routines. With that in mind, you may want to establish a consistent daily schedule that includes cleaning and self care.

This is a very effective method for teaching an autistic boy or girl about the hygienic activities and habits that they need to maintain. Splitting these tasks into morning and evening ones can make this strategy more successful.

Hygienic Morning Routine

Here are some of the hygienic activities that should be part of your child’s morning routine:

  1. Wake up and make the bed
  2. Go to the bathroom for a shower or bath
  3. Use the towel for drying the hair and body
  4. Put on a bathrobe or pajamas, and then the slippers
  5. Brush their teeth
  6. Comb their hair
  7. Go to the dining room for breakfast
  8. Put away the dishes after eating
  9. Get dressed, starting with the shirt, then the pants, and, finally, the socks
  10. Put on the shoes before leaving the house

When you put this routine together, you want to ensure that these tasks are done in a specific order. A consistent daily ritual makes it easier for your autistic son or daughter to remember these activities and when they need to do them.

Hygienic Evening Routine

Similarly, here is a potential hygienic evening routine that your child could follow:

  1. Wash the hands before dinner
  2. Have dinner and then put the dishes away
  3. Go to the bathroom to wash the hands and mouth
  4. Wash the face
  5. Brush and floss
  6. Comb the hair
  7. Go to the bedroom to change
  8. Get undressed, starting with the shirt, then the pants, and, afterwards, the socks
  9. Place the dirty clothing in the laundry basket
  10. Put on pajamas, beginning with either the shirt or pants

Regardless of which activities are done first, the most important thing is to follow the same order on a consistent basis.

Moreover, there are certain teaching methods that you could use to help your son or daughter with their morning and evening routines.

Duck toy face floating on water | Hygienic Evening Routine

Teaching Your Autistic Child Proper Hygiene

Modeling

Simply put, modeling entails mimicking your child’s hygienic activities as they complete them.

For example, while your kid is washing their hands or brushing their teeth, stand next to them and copy their motions as if you’re doing the same thing.

Use Rewards

Rewards will give your autistic child the incentive to take care of their cleanliness.

For example, when they brush their teeth in the morning on their own and without being asked to do so, you could promise to give them their favorite snack or candy after dinner.

Over time, brushing their teeth in the morning will become a subconscious habit, and your son or daughter eventually begins to do it without expecting a reward.

Use Social Stories or Videos

Narrating a story about a character’s hygienic habits offers your child a practical example that they can copy. Using videos for this purpose is an even better tactic. 

Use Visual Checklists

Write down your son or daughter’s morning and evening tasks on a whiteboard or piece of paper that you could hang up on their bedroom or bathroom wall. This will help them remember these activities.

Add a check mark next to each task or cross them out whenever your boy or girl completes them. When they finish all the activities that are on the list, give them a reward.

On that note, you may want to consider getting the advice of a professional therapist on how and when you should reward your autistic child.

Bathroom | Use Visual Checklists

How ABA Therapy Can Help

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy is arguably the most proven and effective approach for managing ASD symptoms.

Father teaching her daughter how to wash hands | How ABA Therapy Can Help

At Hidden Talents ABA, a team of licensed and highly-trained experts will work with your kid and give a custom treatment plan based on their specific sensitivities, sensory issues, and needs.

By identifying and eliminating the smells, textures, lights, and other environmental factors that make your son or daughter uncomfortable, our ABA therapists will guide them towards attaining their personal hygiene goals and beyond.

Click here to contact us and get started!

Is Autism Genetic?

Autism is a complex and often misunderstood disorder. In this post, you’ll learn what autism is, as well as the causes and risk factors and how it affects family members. We’ll also cover the signs to look for in your child, and why early intervention is important.

kids | Is Autism Genetic?

What is autism?

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects how a person learns, communicates, and interacts with others. 

Autism is a spectrum disorder, and those on the spectrum will each have their own unique strengths and challenges. The way autism affects a person’s ability to learn, perceive the world, and interact with others, can range from above average to severely low functioning.

Some people with ASD will need support in all areas of their daily lives, while others can live independently. Other challenges may include sensory sensitivities, sleep disorders, mental health challenges, and gastrointestinal disorders.

Reported by the Centers for Disease Control in 2021, approximately 1 in 44 children in the United States is diagnosed with autism.

Autism affects almost 4 times as many boys as girls. Almost half of all people with ASD are nonverbal (40%), while 31% of autistic children are intellectually disabled.

Previously considered different autism diagnoses, these four – autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger syndrome – are now all considered part of autism spectrum disorder. 

ASD is considered to be wide-spectrum, meaning that no two individuals with autism will demonstrate the same symptoms. Further, the signs and behaviors associated with autism may fluctuate. 

There is no cure for autism, and early intervention provides the most benefits to a child’s health and development.

What are some of the indicators of autism in a child?

Parents may notice signs of autism in the years before a child’s third birthday. Though these indicators often progress slowly, some autistic children experience regression around their communication and social skills even after reaching developmental milestones on time.

Many children show signs of autism within the first year, and it’s important to know what to look for. Professional evaluation is important, so be sure to visit with your child’s healthcare providers regularly.

The signs of autism will vary from child to child, but may include:

  • loss of communication skills shown earlier
  • repetitive actions such as spinning, or flapping of arms
  • avoiding affection
  • language development delays
  • lack of eye contact or facial expression
  • intense reaction to sound, smell, taste, or light
  • preference for playing alone

Remember, not all children or adults with autism will display the same symptoms. 

At regular appointments in the first three years, your child’s healthcare providers will screen for signs of autism, and ask about your family’s medical history.

While there is no one cause of autism, we know that genetics do play a role. 

Girl smelling flower | What are some of the indicators of autism in a child?

Is autism genetic?

Due to its complex nature, and the myriad of symptoms, autism spectrum disorder likely has many causes. Researchers have determined that both genetics and environment likely play a role.

Geneticists believe several different genes are involved in autism spectrum disorder. Genetic factors are estimated to contribute up to 80% to the risk of developing autism. 

The risk from gene mutations, in addition to environmental risk factors, determine the likelihood of a child developing autism spectrum disorder.

In some children, autism is diagnosed in addition to other genetic disorders, such as fragile X syndrome or Rett syndrome.

Scientists theorize some genetic mutations seem to be inherited, while others occur spontaneously.

Autism spectrum disorder remains a complicated area of research. For now, researchers believe that autism appears to develop from both genetic and environmental factors and certain risk factors have been uncovered.

Increased risks that your child will have autism

Researchers continue to study the causes and risk factors for autism, but as of now, there remains no one cause for autism. 

There are some risk factors that appear involved, however. These may include:

  • premature birth before 26 weeks
  • advanced age of either parent
  • low birth weight
  • other disorders such as fragile X syndrome or Rett syndrome
  • pregnancies spaced less than a year apart
  • heavy metal and environmental toxin exposure
  • poor nutrition and lack of folic acid during pregnancy
  • diabetes, obesity or preeclampsia during pregnancy
  • family history of autism

As discussed above, autism does tend to run in families. Parents who have a child with ASD have a 2 to 18% chance that their second child will also have ASD. Identical twins have at least a 35% chance that both will be diagnosed with autism.

Some research shows no correlation between vaccines and autism.

Research into autism and brain biology is ongoing. Research teams are working to develop treatments and understand the ways to improve quality of life for a person with autism.

The earlier autism is diagnosed, the better it is for the child. To that end, research into prenatal detection is being done.

Can autism be detected during pregnancy? 

As no single cause for autism has yet been determined, it is difficult to screen for the disorder during pregnancy during genetic testing.

Researchers are working to create a reliable way of testing for indicators of autism in a developing fetus.

In February 2022, a new study by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Soroka Medical Center has found that a prenatal ultrasound in the second trimester can identify early signs of autism spectrum disorder.

baby | Can autism be detected during pregnancy? 

Researchers from the Azrieli National Centre for Autism and Neurodevelopment Research concluded that a routine ultrasound could detect autism

In the study, 30% of infants who had anomalies in the heart, kidneys, and head developed ASD at a rate three times higher than infants without these complications. Further research studies are needed to understand how to diagnose autism during pregnancy. 

There is evidence pointing to genetic and environmental factors while in utero that can influence autism. And yet there is minimal data on abnormalities in fetuses who later grow into children with autism.

“Prenatal ultrasound is an excellent tool to study abnormal fetal development as it is frequently used to monitor fetal growth and identify fetal anomalies throughout pregnancy,” the researchers commented. 

A previous study of the Centre found early diagnosis and treatment for autism increased social skills in children by three times as much. Prenatal diagnosis could mean a course of treatment could begin at birth rather than years later.

If you believe your child may have autism, speak with your child’s healthcare provider right away. Autism can be diagnosed as early as age two, and there are many benefits to early intervention for your child. 

Nonverbal Autism

Worried that your child with autism may be nonverbal? Perhaps you’re wondering if they can ever learn how to speak.

Either way, you’re in the right place. After you read this article, you will know what nonspeaking autism is, its early signs, and how you can help your child get comfortable with talking.

What is nonverbal autism?

If your son or daughter was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and they haven’t spoken their first words by the time they turned 4 years old, they are considered to have nonverbal autism also known as nonspeaking autism.

To put it another way, children with nonspeaking autism don’t use verbs or words when they interact with others.

Some of them will make sounds or noises (instead of speaking) to communicate what they think or how they feel.

Since a few of the symptoms of nonverbal autism are similar to the signs that accompany other physical problems, you want to take your child to the doctor to make sure that they don’t have any serious or major medical conditions.

At the appointment, the doctor may conduct blood tests and physical and imaging exams before they give you a diagnosis.

Keep in mind that nonspeaking autism is somewhat common.

What percentage of autism is nonverbal?

In the past, it was believed that about 40% of autistic children were nonverbal. However, according to a 2013 study of nonverbal autism, the figure is now closer to 25%.

This is because the autism diagnosis criteria has expanded in recent years to include those with mild forms of ASD.

Additionally, new and advanced treatment methods are allowing children to get diagnosed with nonspeaking autism at an early stage. In turn, they can address their symptoms and begin to learn how to speak while they’re still very young.

Signs That Your Child Will Be Nonverbal

Your son or daughter may be nonverbal if they display the following autism spectrum disorder communication problems as a baby or toddler:

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Not knowing how to gesture, wave, or communicate in other non-verbal ways
  • Ignoring nearby sounds or their name being called
  • Not mumbling or making noises as a baby
  • Failing to use body language to express themselves

If your child shows any of these symptoms, you need to remember that the quicker you get them treated, the sooner that they will learn how to speak.

After all, a study revealed that 47% of boys and girls that had nonverbal autism language delays when they were 4 years old went on to be fluent speakers.

Moreover, 70% of them were eventually capable of using short phrases and sentences.

How to Diagnose Nonverbal Autism

Diagnosing nonspeaking autism can be a complex process because it requires careful observation of a child’s behavior and development. Here are the general steps a healthcare provider might take:

1. Developmental Screening: During regular check-ups, a doctor may ask about a child’s behaviors and skills. They may use a questionnaire or checklist to assess how the child plays, learns, speaks, behaves, and moves CDC.

2. Comprehensive Diagnostic Evaluation: If the screening indicates potential signs of autism, the next step is a comprehensive evaluation. This thorough review may include observing the child, conducting parent interviews, and using standardized tests to assess the child’s cognitive level and language abilities.

3. Behavioral Assessment: In cases of nonverbal children, it’s especially important to observe a child’s behavior over time. The child’s ability to interact with others, respond to stimuli, and engage in play can provide important clues.

4. Speech and Language Evaluation: A speech-language pathologist can conduct a detailed evaluation to determine a child’s communication abilities. Even if a child does not speak, they may communicate in other ways, such as through gestures, facial expressions, or alternative communication devices.

5. Occupational and Physical Therapy Evaluations: These assessments can identify challenges with motor skills, coordination, and sensory processing that often accompany nonspeaking autism.

6. Medical Testing: Although there’s no medical test to diagnose autism, certain tests can rule out other conditions that might cause similar symptoms, such as hearing loss or neurological disorders.

7. Psychological Evaluation: A psychologist can perform tests to evaluate a child’s social-emotional functioning and intellectual abilities.

8. Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS): This is a standardized diagnostic tool for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It uses simple activities and questions to elicit behaviors associated with ASD.

Diagnosing nonverbal autism is a team effort involving parents, doctors, psychologists, and other specialists. If you suspect your child may have nonverbal autism, it’s important to seek a professional evaluation as early as possible American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

How can a nonverbal child learn to communicate?

There are various scientifically-proven ways to help your child with nonspeaking autism speak and verbal communication.

Here are some of the most noteworthy ones:

Encourage Play and Social Interaction

When your child is encouraged to play games that they enjoy and interact with others, they will get more comfortable with communicating, even if they do so non verbally.

Over time, this makes it easier for them to start using their words and orally express themselves.

Simplify Your Language

Complex words and long sentences are difficult to imitate. Instead, say simple words and phrases when you speak to them.

Once your son or daughter starts to mimic you, you can move on to longer words and sentences.

Imitate Them

When you playfully copy the sounds and noises that your boy or girl is making, you are encouraging them to start mimicking the words and phrases that you say.

Use Assistive Technologies and Visual Supports

There are certain apps that are designed to teach children words when they press on a visual or image. For example, if your nonverbal kid touches a picture of an apple on the device’s screen, they will hear the word “apple”.

Alternatively, you may have your child use physical pictures to express what they think and how they feel.

ABA Therapy

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy is currently the most prevalent therapeutic approach for autism symptoms, in general.

When you take your nonverbal boy or girl to see an ABA therapist, this is what you can expect:

  1. The therapist evaluates your child’s condition, development, and communication skills.
  2. They identify the problematic environmental and sensory triggers that your kid is struggling with. For example, your child may have difficulty communicating when the TV volume is turned up or a family member talks loudly.
  3. The therapist eliminates these triggers and puts together a treatment plan for teaching your son or daughter how to speak.

How PECS can help children with nonspeaking autism spectrum disorder

The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is a form of alternative communication developed to support nonverbal children with autism, particularly those who struggle to use verbal language or gestures to express their needs and desires.

PECS teaches children to communicate by exchanging pictures. It was first used at the Delaware Autistic Program with the goal of teaching children with autism a fast, self-initiating, functional communication system.

The effects of PECS on children with autism have been studied and it has been found that it leads to improvements in communication. Specifically, it helps children who have difficulty approaching another person initiate communication.

Therapeutic intervention to help a child master PECS is important because it can aid in achieving their communication goals. The PECS system, in particular, helps children and youth with autism spectrum disorders and communication difficulties learn to communicate effectively.

However, it’s important to note that while PECS can be beneficial, its effectiveness may vary from child to child, and it’s crucial to tailor the approach to the individual needs of each child.

If ABA therapy seems like a suitable option for you and your child, you can rely on the experts at Hidden Talents ABA to provide you with all that you need and more.

Our trained and licensed therapists specialize in working with children with ASD on overcoming different types of difficulties and challenges.

Above all, we accept insurance plans from a wide range of carriers, and we work with Medicaid patients, too!

With Hidden Talents ABA’s expert care and guidance, not only will your nonverbal kid learn how to communicate and talk, but your child can achieve more than what you thought was possible.

Early Signs: Autism Spectrum in Babies Guide

Identifying the signs of autism spectrum disorder in children is an ongoing effort because young kids tend to rapidly grow and acquire new skills between the time that they’re born and their 3rd birthdays.

However, after you’re done reading this article, you will know how to spot and address the signs of autism in children at different stages of their early lives.

A child playing with his toys | Autism Spectrum in Babies Guide

Early Signs of Autism in Children Under a Year

Kids that are younger than one year of age could show autism spectrum disorder (ASD) symptoms by the time they turn 3 and 7 months old, respectively.

Since kids have many developmental milestones and grow quickly throughout their first year, they will experience different autism symptoms during each of those two life stages.

To clarify, here are the behaviors that may predict ASD among infants and toddlers by age:

Autism Signs By 3 Months

The following ASD symptoms typically appear between the time that a child is born and up until they turn 3 months:

  • The boy or girl doesn’t smile back at others.
  • They can’t maintain eye contact and avoid looking at people’s faces when they’re spoken to.
  • The kid fails to respond to sounds or noises.
  • When objects or toys are dangled in front of the boy or girl, they don’t follow them with their eyes, try to grab them, or show any interest in them. This is especially the case when it comes to brightly-colored toys since autistic children are sensitive to bright lights.
  • The toddler doesn’t babble or try to pronounce words. Some kids with ASD babble when they’re a few weeks old, but begin to gradually stop doing so as they get closer to being 3 months old.

From there, many autistic infants could go on to show other developmental differences and symptoms between the ages of 3 and 7 months.

Autism Signs By 7 Months

These early signs of autism may indicate that your 7-months-old son or daughter has ASD:

  • They don’t show any interest in socializing or playing games, such as Peek-A-Boo.
  • Instead of grabbing objects or being interested in playing with the mirror, they become obsessed with specific and unusual things like fans and patterns on the floor or ceiling.
  • The kid doesn’t respond to the word “no”.
  • The child continues to avoid blabbering or attempting to speak.
  • They also don’t respond when you call their name. This issue can be particularly concerning if it persists after they turn 9 months old.

Early Signs of Autism in Children Over a Year

During their second year, you may want to keep an eye on potential autism spectrum disorder symptoms and red flags that usually appear when a child reaches 12 months and 18 months of age, respectively.

Here the autism signs that your son or daughter might experience at each of these stages:

At 12 Months

  • They don’t know how to ask for or point at a toy that they want to play with or grab.
  • Instead of imitating people or noises, they become sensitive to sounds and/or uninterested in getting others’ attention.
  • The girl or boy doesn’t make simple gestures, including waving goodbye or nodding their head when they say “yes” or “no”.
  • Continues to avoid babbling or attempting to pronounce words.

At 18 Months

  • The child still hasn’t spoken their first words.
  • They avoid pointing at toys and objects that they are curious about.
  • The kid is extra sensitive around noises and loud voices.
  • If they already know how to speak, your boy or girl may start to lose their language skills when they turn 18 months old. However, this problem might not appear until their second birthday.
A child eating his toys | Early Signs of Autism in Children Over a Year

Signs of Autism in Children That are 2 Years Old

If your child has ASD, most of their early signs of autism will be identifiable by or before the time they turn 24 months.

The following are the main signs of autism are:

  • They can’t use their words or speak. Keep in mind that many 2-year-old children already know how to use sentences or say multiple words. 
  • Instead of socializing or playing “pretend”, the kid prefers to be alone and avoids trying to find common interests with other children.
  • When they imitate or mimic those around them, they do so in a repetitive and obsessive way.
  • The boy or girl continues to avoid socializing, communicating with adults, and playing with children.

Since your son or daughter’s ASD symptoms will be obvious by this point in their lives, you need to watch out for any regressions in their existing social, behavioral, and sensory skills.

In fact, even if your 2-year-old kid doesn’t display any autism signs, you may still want to keep an eye on any potential symptoms of regressive autism. This condition only develops after a child’s second birthday.

Regression

Unlike those with early-onset autism, children with regressive ASD experience almost no signs until they turn 24 months to 3 years old. After that, they start to lose some of their capabilities and skills and stop learning new ones.

Here are the most commonplace symptoms and early developmental differences of regressive autism:

  • Your boy or girl begins to struggle when they want to pronounce words that they were previously comfortable with.
  • You may notice that your son or daughter is no longer gesturing, maintaining eye contact, or using their nonverbal skills.
  • The child gradually loses interest in engaging with others, and they revert to watching TV or playing with their toys on their own.

If you suspect that your kid has regressive autism spectrum disorder, they can be diagnosed with autism in the same way as those that have early-onset ASD.

The most effective way to identify and diagnose both regressive and early-onset autism is by having the child get tested at a young age and throughout their first few years in life.

A child laying in a bed

Testing for Autism

Autism screening and testing generally falls under two categories: Developmental screening and a comprehensive behavioral evaluation.

Developmental Screening

Developmental screening entails regularly-scheduled and ongoing visits to the doctor. During each appointment, the doctor will ask you (the parent) and your son or daughter certain questions about the child’s development.

Additionally, the doctor might talk to or play with your kid to determine if they have any academic, behavioral, cognitive, and/or sensory issues.

Developmental screening starts before your child is 6 months old, and appointments are recommended when they are 9, 18, 24, and 36 months of age.

The goal of these visits is to either rule out ASD symptoms or, alternatively, undergo further testing if the doctor identifies potential signs of autism.

Comprehensive Behavioral Evaluation

First of all, the doctor who oversees the evaluation may conduct one or more of the following tests:

  • A visual and verbal assessment of the boy or girl’s developmental patterns and behaviors.
  • An interview with the parents.
  • Genetic testing.
  • Hearing and vision screenings.
  • Neurological testing.
  • Other medical exams and evaluations.

Next, if they spot any concerns, the doctor will refer you and your child to a specialist who can perform more tests.

For example, they may want you to see a neurologist, children’s psychologist/psychiatrist, and/or developmental pediatrician who is formally trained to work with kids that have special needs.

Identifying the Signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children

As mentioned earlier, screening your child for ASD is an ongoing effort, especially throughout the initial 3 years of their lives.

Taking your child to the doctor for assessments at the appropriate time frames is a great way to get diagnosed with autism early, and manage autism at an early stage.

Equally as important, consider using the information that we covered in this article as a preliminary guide on how to spot ASD signs at home and know when it’s time to take your son or daughter to the doctor for a checkup.