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September 23, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Autism Resources in Houston

Having a child who is on the autism spectrum can put a strain on your finances. You may not know where to turn to for help or how to get the best educational opportunities for your child. 

In Houston, there are a variety of resources for your child with autism. Keep reading to learn more about the resources that are available. 

Resource List for Children with Autism in Houston

Whether you want to find a grant, scholarship, or summer camp suitable for a child with autism, Houston has resources you can turn to. 

Family to Family Network

Family to Family Network helps families with children who have disabilities set goals and find ways of succeeding at them. They provide a variety of services, including:

  • Financial planning and security
  • Navigating the healthcare, educational, and social services systems
  • Referrals to community resources

They also offer training for family members and access to support groups. 

Justin Dart, Jr. Student Accessibility Center

This center is part of the University of Houston. It offers teenagers with disabilities the chance to study in a safe and equal environment. 

They have onsite counseling and all of the needed resources to help your child get the education they deserve in an inclusive manner. 

Texas Parent to Parent

Texas Parent to Parent offers information, resources, support, and education for families with children on the autism spectrum. They offer healthcare training information, as well as the chance for parents to offer each other support. 

There are numerous in-person and online support groups Texas Parent to Parent can put you in contact with. 

Medicaid Buy-In for Children

This program offers Medicaid services at low costs for children with certain disabilities. To be eligible, the child must come from a family that makes too much money to get Medicaid but cannot afford healthcare services. 

Some of the services they cover include:

  • Vaccinations
  • Checkups
  • Hospital services
  • Lab tests and X-rays
  • Hearing and vision care
  • Mental health care
  • Treatment of pre-existing conditions

This buy-in option also offers long-term options like nursing home care. 

Lions Clubs of Texas

This organization offers financial assistance for the purchasing of equipment and technology that helps children with disabilities or serious illnesses. 

Variety of Texas

Variety of Texas helps children by providing equipment and medical assistance based on diagnoses. They can cover critical therapies, learning equipment, and much more. 

To apply, you must meet financial criteria. A committee evaluates each application. 

Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD)

CARD is the world’s largest autism services provider with a focus on offering behavior analysis to help children learn the social skills they need. It also offers therapy sessions online. 

CARD provides a large amount of support and resources to help parents who have a child on the autism spectrum. 

Autism Care Today

Autism Care Today offers grants for families impacted by autism. The grants can be up to $5,000, and they can cover medical bills, equipment, therapy sessions, as well as personal needs like rent or electric bills. 

To apply, you will need a copy of the autism diagnosis and financial records. 

Friends of Man

Friends of Man offers financial assistance to families who need medical assistance. To qualify, you need to have someone sponsor you. 

 

This charitable organization can help with medications, dental care, therapy, and more. 

The People Project of Texas

The People Project of Texas provides funding for individuals with special needs, learning disabilities, a history of abuse, or mental health concerns. This funding can go toward finding the right therapy options. 

The Canyon Rice Hope Scholarship

This scholarship offers grants to people with autism and other developmental disorders. The grants can cover equipment, therapy, and even camp costs that insurance does not cover. 

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy in Houston

Many of these grants and scholarships focus on finding the right type of therapy for children on the autism spectrum. One of these therapies is ABA therapy

Applied Behavior Analysis is a type of therapy that uses the understanding of how children learn and how to influence behavior to teach a child with autism new social skills and manage behavioral difficulties. 

During ABA therapy, your child will work one-on-one with the provider. ABA teaches them the negative and positive consequences of their behaviors, allowing them to take that information and apply it to new situations. 

It is a type of therapy that can help children learn simple and complex skills, and it can help parents teach their children at home.

Hidden Talents offers ABA therapy in Houston to help children improve their social skills and learn self-regulation. Each child gets a customized treatment plan to ensure they get the exact help they need. 

You Are Not Alone

If you live in Houston, TX, and you have a child on the autism spectrum, you do not have to feel alone. With all of the resources available, you can get the help you need to improve your child’s life. 

 

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September 23, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Vision Issues for Children with Autism

It is very common for children with autism to have vision issues and even more common for those issues to go undetected, according to the Journal of the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. 

Below, you can learn what type of vision problems a child on the autism spectrum may have and how you can help.

Vision Problems for Children with Autism

Children who are on the autism spectrum can have a variety of vision problems that have a significant impact on their daily lives. They tend to have visual processing issues that manifest as vision problems. 

One typical concern children with autism face is coordinating central and peripheral vision, which makes it difficult for them to follow an object with their eyes. The child may also turn their head to use peripheral vision instead of central vision. 

A child with autism may also have an eye movement disorder. Eye movement disorders include crossed eyes, or strabismus, which occurs when the eyes are not aligned and point in different directions. 

There may also be issues with visual stimuli, as some autistic children are very sensitive to visual input. This can mean that they may not want to make eye contact with people or that they may constantly move their eyes. 

Other common concerns are visual-spatial processing issues. These issues can lead to repetitive actions like blinking or wanting to watch spinning objects. 

Some children with autism might want to run instead of walk because of vision midline shift syndrome. In this syndrome, visual-spatial processing does not match up with the balance centers. 

Symptoms that can indicate your autistic child may have a vision problem include:

  • Looking beyond or through objects
  • Extreme fear of heights
  • Absence of appropriate fear of heights
  • Lazy eye
  • Rolling eyes
  • Visual stimming, such as moving hands in front of eyes rapidly
  • Light sensitivity 
  • Head-turning

These symptoms can make a child feel confused and anxious, lowering their quality of life. 

Effects of Vision Problems

An autistic child with vision problems is less likely to want to make eye contact, which can affect them socially. They may not want to verbalize or engage in playing with others if they are visually overstimulated.

Visual stimming is another concern for children with autism and vision problems. 

To manage visual overload, many autistic children choose to flap their hands in front of their eyes. This can also soothe strained eyes, so the child may engage in visual stimming behavior if they feel tired or overwhelmed. 

Some children on the autistic spectrum develop posture issues due to vision problems, too, especially if there is an interruption to the organization of visual-spatial processing. Children with these issues may frequently trip and fall or develop the habit of walking on their toes

You can seek a vision evaluation to determine the specific vision concerns affecting your child.

Visual Evaluations for Children With Autism

If you think your child may have vision problems, the best thing to do is to reach out to experts. Professionals who have experience treating children on the autism spectrum will perform several evaluations to see what the problem is.

These evaluations will assess various factors, including your child’s eye tracking, which refers to the eyes’ ability to track moving objects. Eye tracking problems may result in your child tending to look at things or people sideways. 

The professional will also evaluate whether your child has binocular vision or eye teaming problems, which refers to limitations in their eyes’ ability to work together to gather visual information. If your child has headaches, double or blurry vision, or eye strain, these signs could indicate a binocular vision problem. 

The exam will also check for eye movement disorders, which can make unified eye movements difficult. In children with autism, the most common eye movement disorder is strabismus. 

Most professionals will also check the child’s visual acuity to see how well they identify shapes and details at a distance. 

After the evaluation, you will be able to begin treatment for your child’s vision issues.

Treatment 

Several options are available for the treatment of vision problems in children with autism. 

One that can be extremely helpful is vision therapy, an evidence-based treatment that helps strengthen the coordination and connection of the brain and eyes. 

Vision therapy can take place both in-office and at home. It often yields results after about four months. 

To supplement this therapy, a professional may want to add computer-based games and balance boards. 

Prism lenses are another treatment option for children with visual-spatial problems. 

These lenses move objects and images to the locations where the brain thinks they should go. Prism lenses might also tremendously reduce your child’s anxiety by helping them feel physically safe. 

Know Your Options

If you think your child has vision issues, contact professionals who will help you find the right treatments. You can give your child a higher quality of life by assisting them in interpreting visual input better. 

 

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September 23, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Autism Walks in Georgia

Autism walks have made it easier for people to understand the challenges those with autism and their families face. 

Below, you can learn more about what autism walks are and how to participate in walks in Georgia. 

What Are Walks for Autism?

A walk for autism is an event that spreads autism awareness and helps raise funds for medical research. Participants usually obtain support from sponsors who donate to the cause. 

The best walks for autism have clear goals, including:

  • Improving screening and prevention services
  • Funding breakthrough research
  • Helping autistic children transition into adulthood
  • Providing improved information and local services

Some walks are more structured, while others allow participants to go at their own pace. Some are free, while others have a small participation fee or a minimum amount of money a sponsor must provide. 

For these walks, many people choose to create T-shirts. If you decide to do this, opt for bright colors to help you identify your team and to help others know the purpose of the walk. 

People on the autism spectrum are welcomed at these events. If you want to help someone with autism participate in the walk, you should have a plan ready in case the event becomes overwhelming. 

The Main Walks in Georgia

Georgia offers excellent opportunities for people who want to participate in a walk for autism. Here are the main walks to consider. 

1. Autism Speaks Walk

The largest autism fundraising walk in the world, the Autism Speaks Walk, raises funds to help with research and advocacy and create essential services and programs. 

Because people with autism can sometimes feel overwhelmed by sensory stimuli, the walk provides quiet spaces where walkers with autism can get a bit of respite. 

You can participate as a Team Captain and recruit more people for your team or fundraise through Facebook and other social media platforms. You can support participants via the walk’s website. 

The walk allows people to meet service providers in the area and get to know other local families who face the same challenges. 

The Autism Speaks Walk does not charge a registration fee, but it does encourage you to set a fundraising goal. 

The next Atlanta walk is on October 1, 2022. It begins at 8 a.m. with registration and concludes at 11 a.m. 

The walk begins at The Battery Atlanta, located at 800 Battery Avenue SE in Atlanta, GA. For more information, call 470-924-0639 or email MidSouth@AutismSpeaks.org.

2. Georgia Race for Autism

The Georgia Race for Autism helps Spectrum Support Group fund summer camps and clubs for people in the community who are on the autism spectrum. 

Along with a 5K race, the event also features a one-mile Fun Run, a 100-yard dash, and a Tot Trot, allowing entire families to participate. 

Race day coincides with the Fall Festival, which includes the following fun activities:

  • Petting zoo
  • Pony rides
  • Inflatable slides
  • Bounce house
  • Cornhole games
  • Hayrides
  • Velcro sticky wall
  • Face painting
  • Hamster balls
  • Inflatable obstacle course

There will also be a clown, a silent auction, and food vendors that offer gluten-free options. 

You can register as a vendor, sponsor, or race participant. 

Participant fees are $30 for the full 5K run, $25 for the one-mile run, and $20 for the Tot Trot and 100-yard dash. 

The race begins at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds at 405 Sugarloaf Parkway in Lawrenceville, GA. You can learn more by contacting claire@atl-spectrum.com

Help Autism Research and More

Whether you have a family member or another loved one on the autism spectrum or want to help people in your community who do, joining these events is a great place to start. 

Contact the race or walk to register and reserve your spot.

If you are looking for the best ABA therapy in Georgia give us a call. Our friendly team is ready to answer any of your questions. 

 

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September 23, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Autism Support Groups in Georgia

Parenting a child on the autism spectrum can often make you feel isolated and without support. If you live in Georgia, however, you have access to multiple support groups that can make your and your child’s life a bit easier.

But what are support groups for autism, and how can they help? 

What Are Autism Support Groups?

Autism support groups are a group of parents, grandparents, caretakers, or anyone else who is raising a child with autism. Some support groups also welcome teachers or other professionals who want to learn how to interact with and help children with autism. 

These groups make it possible for parents to help each other, offering support through difficult moments and sharing information on educational or medical matters. Autism support groups can help those who are caring for a child with autism feel less alone with the challenges they face.

Primarily run by volunteers, these supportive communities can be of any size. But whatever their size, they are of profound importance. 

The Importance of Having an Autism Support Group

Autism support groups offer support to the entire family of a child on the autism spectrum. They provide a way to gather information on autism and learn new strategies.

They also give you a space to vent frustrations without fear of judgment. Raising a child with autism is challenging and can be overwhelming, so having an outlet that lets you express what you are going through is essential. 

Siblings of children with autism can have complicated feelings about their siblings and are often also in unique positions from which to offer care. Including them in a support group can ensure they get the information and encouragement they need. 

Support groups can also help fill a gap in local services. Some groups offer training for parents and other family members, as well, to help improve skills that can help them raise an autistic child. 

Support groups can offer training in:

  • Behavior management 
  • Self-help skills
  • Understanding the special education system
  • Working with medical professionals 
  • Learning to use adaptive technology and equipment 
  • Identifying community services

They also help teachers who have children with autism under their professional care, offering guidance and teaching strategies to handle behavioral concerns.

The 5 Best Autism Support Groups in Georgia

If you have a child on the autism spectrum and live in Georgia, these are some of the best support groups to which you can turn. 

1. Autism Speaks Georgia Support Group

This support group provides information and promotes solutions for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families. They offer advocacy and support and provide education to promote understanding and acceptance of people with autism. 

Autism Speaks also helps fund research and focuses on helping families get the proper diagnosis as early as possible. It is a group that helps families have reliable access to the information they need. 

This group serves the entire state of Georgia. You can contact them at georgia@autismspeaks.org or by phone at 770-451-0570

2. Spectrum Autism Support Group

Spectrum Autism Support Group offers monthly sessions, respite programs, and summer camps to help families of children with autism, providing information, support, and social skills improvement. They offer groups for:

  • Siblings
  • Spanish speakers
  • Parents of teens with Asperger’s syndrome
  • Grandparents
  • Parents
  • Adults on the autism spectrum

These support groups help over 1,500 Atlanta area and Gwinnett County families. You can reach them at info@atl-spectrum.com or at their mailing address: P.O. Box 3132, Suwanee, GA 30024.

3. Marcus Autism Center Support Group

Marcus Autism Center helps fund autism research and provides support groups for parents and programs for young adults and children with autism. It also offers bilingual groups and groups geared toward all members of a family of someone with autism. 

You can reach the Marcus Autism Center at 404-785-9400 or visit their main campus at 1920 Briarcliff Road, Atlanta, GA 30329-4010, Monday to Friday.

4. Georgia Parents Support Network

The Georgia Parents Support Network offers information and support for families of children with autism as well as other developmental and mental health concerns. This includes a new program that helps identify and provide outreach to teens and young adults on the autism spectrum who are facing homelessness. 

You can reach the Georgia Parents Support Network at info@gpsn.org or by calling 844-278-6945 or 404-758-4500.

5. Autism Engagement Group

The Autism Engagement Group is a support group for young adults on the autism spectrum. It offers the chance to build social skills, find community, discuss daily challenges, and much more. 

The group serves the Atlanta area and surrounding counties. You can reach them at 404-860-1894.

Get the Support You Need

You do not have to go through this on your own. By turning to support groups for autism, you can get the information and assistance you need. 

If you are looking for the best ABA therapy in Georgia give us a call. Our friendly team is ready to answer any of your questions. 

 

September 23, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Autism Resources in Georgia

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 44 children in the US gets a diagnosis that falls within the autism spectrum. Having a child with autism can be rewarding as well as challenging, which is why the state of Georgia offers a variety of resources to help. 

Learn more about the options available. 

Resource List for Children with Autism in Georgia

If your child has autism and you live in Georgia, there are financial resources, scholarship opportunities, and support groups you can turn to for help. Here are some of the best in the state.

Parent to Parent (P2P) of Georgia

This resource offers help to parents of children with disabilities or who have special healthcare needs. It allows parents to help others, and it offers various support groups parents can join in person or online. 

West Georgia Autism Foundation

The West Georgia Autism Foundation offers grants to families who need help caring for an autistic child. You can receive one grant each year. 

This foundation offers community outreach and focuses on helping families enrich the life of a child on the autism spectrum. 

Social Skills Summer Camp

The Social Skills Summer Camp is a camp that welcomes children ranging from kindergarten age to teens who are on the autism spectrum. It helps children improve social skills in a fun environment. 

There are scholarships available. The children best suited for the camp are those who have verbal skills. 

Learning on the Log

This recreational program teaches social skills to help build relationships using sensory recreational activities. Team building exercises, swimming, and hiking are some of the many activities. 

For younger children, the program also offers a day camp and preschool camp. They offer scholarships for those in need. 

Georgia Autism Center

The Georgia Autism Center helps families of children on the autism spectrum get accurate diagnoses, create the best developmental strategies, and teach the child how to gain independence. 

Specialists assess the financial circumstances of each family to provide the community and financial support needed. 

Dottie Adams Scholarship Fund

The Georgia Council of Developmental Abilities offers grants to help individuals and families with autistic children go to events and conferences related to advocacy or that have an educational purpose. 

Georgia Kids FIRST Special Needs Fund

This is a general scholarship fund focusing on offering scholarships for children K-12 with autism and other special needs that make learning difficult. The scholarships allow families to get the educational help their child needs. 

Georgia’s Special Needs Scholarship

This scholarship allows parents of children with special needs, including those who have autism, to use state money to send the child to a private school that can offer the educational help the child deserves. 

Autism Foundation of Georgia

The Autism Foundation of Georgia offers funding for the creation of programs geared toward people with autism, especially children. 

PeachCare for Kids

The Georgia Department of Community Health has PeachCare for Kids, which helps children who do not have insurance that covers the healthcare needs they have. The program offers:

  • Preventive care
  • Primary care
  • Specialist care
  • Dental care
  • Vision care

It can also cover hospitalizations, emergency room service visits, mental healthcare, and medications. To be eligible, your child cannot have current coverage or Medicaid eligibility. 

 

ABA therapy is one of the treatment options they offer. 

ABA Therapy in Georgia

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a type of therapy that focuses on the science of behavior and learning. During ABA therapy, your child works one-on-one with the practitioner. 

The goal of ABA therapy is to improve social skills. It can also help:

  • Teach the child to transfer learned behaviors to new situations
  • Teach the child how to react to new environments
  • Reduce negative behaviors
  • Implement self-control and self-regulation 

It is a particularly excellent treatment option to help children on the autism spectrum adapt to different social scenarios. 

It can teach a child that negative behavior is not accepted while also rewarding positive behavior. This teaches the child that there are consequences to how they act. 

ABA therapy also helps with the improvement of language skills. This therapy can be easily customized to fit each child and their particular needs. 

One of the centers that focus on this type of therapy is Hidden Talents. Hidden Talents is one of the premier providers of ABA therapy in Georgia. 

Hidden Talents offers ABA Therapy throughout Georgia from the comfort of your home so your child feels comfortable. The providers of this type of therapy will always work closely with the parents to create the best type of therapy plan for the child. 

Get Help in Georgia

If you live in Georgia and have a child diagnosed with autism, it is crucial that you know what kind of help you can turn to. There are excellent resources out there that can make a difference for your family. 

 

August 29, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Stimming in Children with Autism

Stimming is a common behavior that children with autism 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 actions as stereotypies or stereotyped movements. Stimming is a self-stimulating 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.

Scientists believe that stimming is something children with autism do to steady themselves in response to anxiety, an overwhelming environment, or an understimulating 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 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

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 can work as a self-management tool, as well. It can help children with autism 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 Control 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.

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. 

August 29, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

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. 

August 12, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

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 ABA therapy. 

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

What Is ABA Therapy? 

ABA is the acronym for Applied Behavioral 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 anxiety in the following ways:

  • ABA 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.

August 12, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

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.

August 10, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Joint Attention Issues in Autistic Children

Autistic children 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. 

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.

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 attention 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.

How Do You Test Joint Attention?

Based on the vital role that joint attention 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?

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.

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.

The Bottom Line

A kid with a joint attention deficit may experience challenges with social skills, 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.

August 10, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Autism and Smell Sensitivity

It is common for a person with autism to experience heightened sensitivity to lights, sounds, textures, and smells. 

This article will take a closer look at heightened olfactory sensitivity or a stronger-than-usual sense of smell. We’ll also cover the effects of olfactory sensitivity in children with autism and how you can help them manage these symptoms. 

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. 

August 9, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

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.

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.

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.  

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.

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.

How ABA Therapy Can Help

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

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!

August 8, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

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. We’ll also cover the signs to look for in your child, and why early intervention is important.

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. 

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.

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.

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. 

August 8, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

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 nonverbal 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.

To put it another way, children with nonverbal 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 nonverbal 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 nonverbal 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 can a nonverbal child learn to communicate?

There are various scientifically-proven ways to help your child with nonverbal autism speak and communicate.

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.

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.

August 8, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Signs of Autism in Babies

Identifying the signs of autism 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.

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 develop 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 develop other symptoms between the ages of 3 and 7 months.

Autism Signs By 7 Months

These signs and symptoms 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.

Signs of Autism in Children Over a Year

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

Signs of Autism in Children That are 2 Years Old

If your child has ASD, most of their symptoms will be identifiable by or before the time they turn 2 years old.

The following are the main ones:

  • 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 2 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 patterns 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, they can be diagnosed 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.

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 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 diagnose 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.

March 20, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Does Medicaid Cover ABA Therapy in Texas?

Medicaid is a government health insurance program that helps low-income individuals and families pay for medical care. Many people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) qualify for Medicaid services, including ABA therapy.

In this article, we will explore the requirements for qualifying for ABA therapy under Texas’s Medicaid program.

But first let’s get a better understanding about ABA therapy.

What is ABA therapy?

ABA therapy is a type of behavior therapy that uses positive reinforcement to encourage desired behaviors and discourage undesired behaviors.

ABA therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for ASD, providing significant improvements in social, communication, and behavioral skills.

ABA therapy is usually provided by a therapist in a one-on-one setting, and can be adapted to meet the unique needs of each individual with ASD.

Does Medicaid cover ABA therapy in Texas?

Historically ABA therapy was not covered under Texas Medicaid; however, in 2019, the Texas Legislature passed a bill that requires Medicaid to cover ABA therapy for children with ASD. Due to COVID-19, coverage for ABA therapy was delayed until its implementation in February 2022.

Now, over 50,000 children with ASD in Texas will have access to this life-changing therapy.

Now that we know that Medicaid covers ABA therapy in Texas, let’s look at the requirements to qualify for coverage.

How can my child qualify for ABA therapy under Texas Medicaid?

In order to qualify for ABA therapy under Texas Medicaid, your child must meet the following criteria:

  • Your child must have been diagnosed with ASD within the past 3 years.
  • Your child must be under 21 years old.
  • You will need to have a current prescription for ABA therapy from a licensed physician or other healthcare professional.

If you think your child may qualify for ABA therapy under Texas Medicaid, the best way to find out is to contact your local Medicaid office. A caseworker will be able to help you determine if your child qualifies and what steps you need to take next.

How can Hidden Talents help with ABA therapy?

At Hidden Talents, we are passionate about helping children with ASD reach their full potential.

Our team of highly trained and experienced therapists provide individualized ABA therapy that is tailored to meet the unique needs of each individual.

If you would like to learn more about our ABA therapy services, or if you have any other questions, please contact us today. We would be happy to answer any of your questions and help your child get started on their journey to discover their hidden talents.

Business man signing a contract
March 16, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Sample Letter of Medical Necessity for ABA Therapy

A letter of medical necessity is a document that is used to justify the need for certain treatments or services. It can be used to get insurance coverage for services like ABA therapy, or to prove to a school that a child needs special education services.

In this article, we will discuss how to write a letter of medical necessity for ABA therapy to send to an insurance provider, and what to include in it. We will also provide a sample letter of medical necessity.

How do you write a letter of medical necessity for ABA therapy?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the letter will be tailored to the specific needs of the individual. However, there are some general things that should be included in any letter of medical necessity for ABA therapy.

Some key points include:

State the nature of the illness

The letter should state that the individual has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (or another condition that warrants ABA therapy).

Outline the treatment plan

The letter should list the specific goals of ABA therapy that will be addressed, and how they will benefit the individual.

Duration of treatment

The letter should state how long the treatment plan is expected to last.

Summary of letter

The letter should provide a brief overview of the main points that have been discussed.

Some other key aspects for a letter of medical necessity include:

  • The letter should be on letterhead from a licensed health care professional such as a doctor.
  • The letter should include contact information for the doctor.
  • The letter should have a professional tone.

Sample letter of medical necessity for ABA therapy

Here is an example letter of medical necessity for ABA therapy:

To whom it may concern:

I am writing this letter on behalf of my patient, (Patient Name), to document the necessity of ABA therapy treatment. This letter offers information about their medical history, diagnosis, and an explanation for the necessity of treatment.

(Patient Name) has been diagnosed with ASD and currently exhibits symptoms that warrant ABA therapy. The most appropriate treatment here will be operant conditioning and positive reinforcement, which will help to program desired actions.

The rationale behind this treatment is that it’s totally safe. It is simply a positive reinforcement approach. It is just a method of rewarding patients for acting in a manner that is natural to them.

The patient will be left to engage in desirable behavior or else reinforcement incentives will be withheld unless there is a behavioral shift. This is about giving rewards or praise as the need arises.

The treatment plan will last for a total of 36 weeks, and will be supervised by myself or one of my associates. This will be repeated as necessary.

In summary, ABA therapy is a necessary and safe treatment for (Patient Name) that will address their specific needs. I urge you to approve this request and provide the coverage needed for ABA therapy. Please contact me if you have any questions.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

(your doctor’s name)

How Hidden Talents can help you

At Hidden Talents, we believe that ABA is the key to helping children on the autism spectrum succeed. Combined with the expert care and guidance of our trained BCBAs, your child can achieve more than you thought possible.

We currently offer ABA therapy services in Houston and Atlanta.

Reach out to us to learn more about how we can help.

March 16, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

ABA Therapy in Texas: What You Need to Know About Insurance Coverage

If you are the parent of a child with autism, then you know that ABA therapy is essential for their development. ABA therapy can help children learn important skills and improve their quality of life.

But what happens if you can’t afford to pay for this therapy yourself? In this article, we will answer some common questions about insurance coverage for ABA therapy in Texas.

Give us a call if you want to work with the best ABA therapy provider in Houston

Is ABA therapy covered by insurance in Texas?

Texas law requires most insurance companies to provide coverage for autism treatment.

However, insurance companies are not required to cover the full cost of treatment. There are loopholes which enable certain companies to opt out or reduce insurance coverage for ABA therapy as a child gets older.

It is important to speak with your company’s human resources department to find out the details of the coverage your insurance offers for ABA therapy, and check if the plan is fully funded or self-funded.

If the plan is self-funded, ask if you have ABA therapy coverage. It is important to ask about information specifically on autism coverage; you might have to be in touch with the plan administrator and ask them about benefits for ABA therapy for children with autism.

Does Medicaid cover ABA therapy in Texas?

After a hard battle, Medicaid now covers ABA therapy for children with autism in Texas.

Beneficiaries must satisfy the conditions established in the Autism Services benefit description, and the treatment must be deemed medically required. Beneficiaries may obtain further information from their Medicaid insurance plan’s benefits representative as it becomes available.

Are there any caps on insurance coverage for ABA therapy?

In Texas, a law passed in 2013 which eliminated the previous age limit on insurance coverage for autism treatment (it was previously 10 years old). Currently, there is no limit.

However, plans can restrict ABA therapy reimbursement to $36,000 per year for children over 10 years old. Furthermore, to be eligible for coverage, a child must be diagnosed before age 10.

Some insurance plans also attempt to reduce coverage for ABA therapy as children ages. Insurers have their own standards for approving benefits for ABA therapy and do not always adhere to clinical recommendations.

Even though there is no formal cap on coverage for plans until age 10, obtaining insurance authorization for intensive ABA therapy can be more difficult as children get older.

Exceptions from insurance coverage in Texas

State of Origin

Check with your insurance provider to find out where your health insurance plan is based.

Some businesses, particularly those that operate in multiple states, may provide their employees with an insurance plan from a different state. Requirements and laws on ABA therapy insurance coverage differ from state to state.

Some states have limits on the amount of coverage, age caps, and other rules that might affect your child’s insurance.

Insurance plans are governed by the state law where the plan is issued, not the beneficiary’s location. So even if you live in Texas, Texas laws may not apply to your insurance plan.

Realizing that your plan is administered out of state is easy when it’s named something like “XYZ Insurance of Illinois.” Others may not be as recognizable.

If your plan is issued outside of the state, contact your human resources department or insurance provider to learn about rules and regulations in that state regarding covered autism therapies. Make sure you inquire about any restrictions or exclusions in ABA therapy insurance coverage.

Fully funded or self-funded?

Be sure to check if your company’s insurance plan is self-funded or fully funded. The Texas law only applies to fully funded (large and small) plans, not self-funded ones.

Options for families without employer ABA coverage

Consider these alternatives for obtaining an individual ABA therapy insurance plan if your family doesn’t have insurance through your employer:

Through the Affordable Care Act marketplace

In North Texas, there are two distinct insurance coverage plans accessible through the ACA (Affordable Care Act) marketplace. Some families may be eligible for tax credits for plans bought through the ACA marketplace, depending on their income.

Marketplace options are only accessible during open enrollment, which happens once a year (usually from November 15th to December 15th) or when a particular event occurs, such as a job loss or loss of insurance coverage from an employer. You can check out what plans are available on the marketplace by visiting healthcare.gov.

Individual plans can be purchased through a broker

There are also other kinds of individual insurance plans for ABA therapy available for children with autism. These alternatives may not be the same as those available through the Affordable Care Act insurance marketplace, and they do not qualify for the same tax credits.

There are brokers in the DFW area who are very experienced in finding insurance coverage for children with autism through ABA therapy.

How do I apply for ABA therapy?

To apply for ABA therapy, you will need to contact your insurance company and request an authorization for ABA therapy benefits. The insurance company will likely require a diagnosis and letter of medical necessity from a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist in order to process the authorization.

How can Hidden Talents help with ABA therapy?

Our focus is to help children grow and thrive by improving communication, social and adaptive skills. Hidden Talents ABA specializes in services for children from birth to age 12.

Our experienced team of BCBAs develops programs to fit each child’s specific needs. The dedication of our clinicians and our comprehensive, collaborative approach will allow our clients to truly shine and succeed.

March 2, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Shopping with an Autistic Child

It can be difficult to shop with an autistic child.

They may have trouble understanding what is happening around them, they may become overwhelmed by the noise and crowds, or they may have a meltdown in the middle of the store.

Here are some tips to help make shopping with your autistic child easier and ways to create a more autism-friendly shopping experience.

Why is it Difficult to Shop with an Autistic Child?

Autistic children don’t see shopping the same as their neurotypical peers. Some difficulties they face include:

Sensory processing disorder

For many autistic children, bright lights, loud noises, and strong smells can be overwhelming. A lot is happening around them which can make shopping a difficult and even painful experience.

Crowds and long lines

Large crowds of people can be overwhelming for anyone, but for an autistic child, it can cause a lot of anxiety.

Crowds also create noise which can be difficult for an autistic child to filter out.

Change in routine

Shopping is a deviation from the normal routine which can be difficult for an autistic child to handle. They may become agitated or have a meltdown because of the change in schedule.

Meltdowns

Meltdowns are a common occurrence for autistic children. They may happen when an autistic child is overwhelmed, frustrated, or tired. Meltdowns can look different for every child but may include crying, yelling, hitting, or self-injurious behaviors.

Anxiety

Many autistic children experience high levels of anxiety. This may be due to the sensory overload they feel or from knowing that a meltdown is possible. Anxiety can make shopping an even more difficult experience.

Tips for Shopping with an Autistic Child

By understanding what is difficult for your child during a shopping trip, you can be better prepared to handle any challenges that may come up.

Here are some tips to make shopping with an autistic child easier:

Prepare your Child for the Change in Schedule

The day before the shopping trip , tell your child about your plans. Explain that they will be going shopping and tell them what time you will leave. This will help your child prepare for the change in routine.

Make a Plan with your Child

Before you leave for the store, sit down with your child and explain what will happen. Use words and pictures to help them understand the steps of the trip. This will help reduce anxiety and make the trip more predictable.

Include what will happen once you get home by creating a social story.

For example, say we will get into the car, drive to the store and park in the lot. Once we enter the store we will choose a wagon, collect all of the items on our list and head to the checkout line. Once we pay for the items we will bag them and place them in the car. Once we drive home, we will undo and put away the items and then play a game of your choice.

Applied Pressure Techniques

Applied pressure techniques can help an autistic child with sensory processing disorder. Things like weighted blankets, vests, or stuffed animals can provide deep pressure input which can help calm the nervous system.

Bring along a fidget toy

If your child becomes overwhelmed, having something they love to focus on can help calm them down.

Fidget toys can be a helpful distraction for an autistic child. They may help them focus and stay calm while shopping

Reward them for Good Behavior

If your child does well on the shopping trip, be sure to reward them. This could be a favorite food, toy, or activity.

Rewarding good behavior will help encourage your child to continue following the rules while shopping.

Keep Trips Short

Autistic children can become overwhelmed easily, so it is best to keep trips short. This will help reduce the chances of a meltdown occurring.

Start with two or three items. If you have to make a larger purchase, break it up into multiple trips.

This will help your child stay calm and avoid becoming overwhelmed.

To conclude

Shopping with an autistic child can be a difficult and frustrating experience. However, by following these tips, you can make the trip more manageable for both you and your child. Remember to be patient and understanding, and most importantly, have fun!

 

February 24, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Autism Outbursts

Among the main challenges that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families face are meltdowns and outbursts.

These problems could cause physical, verbal, and emotional damage, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t control them.

In fact, this article was written to help you understand what outbursts and meltdowns are, their common signs, how you should handle them when they occur, and what you need to do to prevent them from happening, in the first place.

What is a meltdown/outburst?

When autistic children find themselves in a stressful or overwhelming situation, they may become unable to regulate themselves and their sentiments. A meltdown or outburst is an intense response to these feelings.

To clarify, meltdowns and outbursts aren’t necessarily bad habits. Instead, they are merely ways for children with autism to express themselves when they don’t know how to do so in other ways.

What do outbursts look like?

After losing control of their emotions, your autistic son or daughter may have a verbal or physical outburst (or both).

Here are the characteristics of each:

  • Physical Outbursts: Your child might engage in biting, hitting, kicking, and other physically-aggressive actions.
  • Verbal Outbursts: Similarly, your kid could cry, scream, and/or shout.

Since meltdowns and outbursts can cause bodily, material, and emotional harms, you should keep an eye on their main signals and indicators. This allows you to prevent a meltdown before it happens.

Signs of an Outburst

Most of the time, an autistic child’s behavior will give you cues that they’re distressed and about to experience a meltdown.

The following outburst signs are common:

  • Anxiety
  • Asking repetitive questions as a way to get reassurances
  • Pacing
  • Rocking
  • Staying very still

Once you identify these symptoms, you need to intervene and prevent the meltdown from happening.

What to Do When Your Autistic Child Is Having an Outburst

There are two aspects that you should focus on when addressing your son or daughter’s potential outburst.

Firstly, after you spot the main signs, you must manage them by doing the following:

  • Ask if They’re Okay: A simple question like “are you okay?” could provide you with plenty of answers. However, keep in mind that some autistic kids might need time to give a response. 
  • Give Them Space: This entails physical and mental space. For example, you may want to take your kid to a quiet and safe area that they’re comfortable with. In the same vein, turning down the music and/or lights can psychologically calm the child down.
  • Give Them Time: Whenever your son or daughter suffers from a sensory or information-related overload, you should give them enough time to recover and recuperate.

Secondly (and equally as important) is knowing what the triggers of an outburst or meltdown are so that you can eliminate them and prevent one from happening. Here are a few prevalent triggers:

A Change in The Child’s Routine

It is very easy for autistic children to feel unsettled when they have to follow a schedule that they’re unfamiliar with.

Therefore, you may want to gradually make changes to their routine while keeping a close eye on their symptoms as you do so.

Communication Difficulties

Simply put, many kids with ASD have a hard time when they communicate with others and are likely to be misunderstood.

By working with your son or daughter on their communication skills and identifying the signs that they’re struggling to express themselves, you can cater to their needs and stop an impending meltdown in its tracks. 

Sensory Challenges

The brains of autistic kids are wired differently than their neurotypical counterparts. As a result, they may run into issues that impact their senses and the way that their body responds to sounds, lights, and other aspects in their environment.

This means that intense senses, such as loud noises and bright lights, might trigger an outburst or meltdown.

As a parent, you want to know what your child’s sensory triggers are in order to minimize their effect on their conduct.

At the end of the day, you should always remember that autism outbursts aren’t bad behaviors in of themselves. Instead, they are verbal and physical actions that your child may engage in when they don’t know how to express themselves.

By identifying and managing an outburst’s signs, alongside eliminating its triggers, you can effectively prevent future meltdowns from occurring and help your autistic son or daughter communicate in a calmer and better manner.

February 8, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Anxiety in Autistic Children

If your autistic child is struggling with anxiety then you are reading the right article. 

Anxiety can be mild or severe and it is very common in autistic children to struggle with it.

In this article, we will explain what anxiety is, list some of its common symptoms, and explore the reasons why autistic children struggle with it.

We will also discuss some treatment options to give you some actionable tips for stopping your child’s anxious episode.

What is anxiety?

So, what is anxiety? According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.

Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health issues in the world affecting over 40 million adults in the United States alone.

Autistic children often struggle with anxiety. In fact, recent studies have suggested that 40-80% of autistic children will experience an anxiety induced episode.

Signs of Anxiety

So what are the signs that your child is struggling with anxiety?

According to the Mayo Clinic, common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Restlessness: Constant moving, pacing and fidgeting.
  • Feeling on edge: A sense of feeling like something bad is going to happen and that it could happen at any time.
  • Irritability: Your child may get angry easily,
  • Muscle tension: You may notice your child clenching their hands or jaw.
  • Difficulty concentrating: Your child may have a hard time focusing on anything or completing tasks.
  • Insomnia: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • Eating problems: Your child may not eat enough or they may overeat.
  • Panic attacks: Sudden feelings of terror, shortness of breath, chest pain and dizziness.

 

  • Avoidance of everyday activities: Avoiding school, work and social situations out of worry and fear

If you notice your child struggling with these symptoms, it may be time to contact a therapist or doctor.

Why do autistic children struggle with anxiety?

There are many reasons why autistic children struggle with anxiety.

Some of the most common include:

Lack of social skills

 Autistic children may not know how to interact with others which can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. This can also cause them to feel anxious about upcoming events where they will have to socialize.

Sensory overload

Autistic children often struggle with sensory overload. This is when they are overwhelmed by too much noise, light, or touch. This can cause them to become anxious and agitated.

Unpredictability

Autistic children thrive on routine and order. When things change or are unpredictable it can cause them to feel anxious and afraid.

Bullying: Autistic children are often targeted by bullies because of their differences. This can lead to a lot of emotional distress and anxiety.

Treatment options for anxiety in autistic children

So what are the treatment options for anxiety in autistic children?

There is no one size fits all answer to this question because different things work for different people.

However, there are some common treatment options that can help your child reduce their feelings of anxiety. These include:

  • Behavioral therapy: With behavioral therapy,your therapist will teach you and your child techniques to manage stress and anxiety in everyday life.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: This type of therapy helps your child to change the negative thoughts and beliefs that contribute to their anxiety.
  • Medication: If your child’s anxiety is severe, medication may be necessary. There are a variety of medications that can help treat anxiety including antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs.
  • Talk therapy: In talk therapy, your therapist will help your child explore and understand their thoughts and feelings about anxiety.
  • Support groups: Joining a support group can be helpful for both you and your child. This is a place where they can share their experiences with others who are going through the same thing.
  • ABA therapy: ABA or Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy is a type of therapy that helps your child with communication and learning skills and can help modify anxious behaviors.
  • Relaxation techniques: Teaching your child relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, tai chi and mindfulness can help them to calm down when they feel anxious.

Tips for helping your autistic child during an anxious episode

So how can you help your child during an anxious episode?

The most important thing is to stay calm. When you notice them becoming upset, try to be reassuring and encouraging. You may want to hold their hand or give them a hug depending on their sensory needs. Try not to force anything on them that they don’t want during their anxiety attack. 

It can also be helpful to have a plan in place for when your child has an anxious episode. This may include having a safe place for them to go to, an electronic device to distract them, and other calming activities such as deep breathing exercises or listening to music.

Conclusion

Anxiety is a common problem for autistic children, but there are things you can do to help. From therapy to medication to relaxation techniques, there are many options available to help your child manage their anxiety.

Remember to stay calm and be supportive during an anxious episode, and have a plan in place so you know what to do when things get tough.

February 8, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

10 Fun Homemade Sensory Games for Autistic Children

For children with autism, engaging in sensory activities is an important way to help with their development. Sensory games can be fun for the whole family and are a great way to connect with your autistic child.

Why are sensory activities good for autistic children?

Sensory activities help autistic children to learn about their surroundings and the world around them. These activities also help with important skills such as communication, problem solving, and socialization.

Additionally, sensory toys can help children with autism relax and de-stress. For example, a fidget spinner or sensory ball can give an autistic child something to focus on when they are feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or stressed out.

Sensory activities you can do at home

Here is a list of 10 great sensory activities that you can play with your child at home.

Sensory Bin

Fill a large container with different textures and objects for your child to explore. This can include anything from rice, beans, or pasta to feathers, fabric scraps, or small toys. Let your child dig through the bin and explore the different textures.

Water Play

This is a great activity on a hot day! Fill a kiddie pool, bathtub, or even just a large bowl with water and let your child play. Add some fun items like plastic balls, small toys, or sponges to make it more interesting.

Sensory Table

A sensory table is a great way to provide a variety of different textures and objects for your child to handle. You can buy a sensory table, or create your own by using a large plastic container and filling it with different items such as sand, water, foam balls, or small toys.

Ice Exploration

Fill a bowl or container with water and add some food coloring. Freeze the mixture overnight and let your child play with the multicolored ice cubes. This is a great way for your child to experience temperature changes.

Silly Putty

Silly putty is a great sensory activity because it can be molded and stretched into different shapes. It also makes noise when you squish it, which can be fun for kids. You can buy silly putty or make your own by adding cornstarch and food coloring to Elmer’s glue.

Bubbles

Blowing bubbles is a fun sensory activity that can also be calming for kids with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). You can buy bubble solution or make your own by adding dish soap to water and food coloring if desired. Let your child blow the bubbles, or just pop them with their hands.

Window painting with shaving cream

Set up a window with shaving cream and let your child paint away! You can also add food coloring to the mixture if you want your child’s artwork to be colorful. 

This activity is great for sensory exploration but it can also help develop fine motor skills like painting or drawing because children need to use their fingers when they are creating designs on glass. Just make sure that they understand not to hit the window too hard.

Walking on Rice

Fill a large container with rice and let your child walk through it barefoot. This can be an interesting way to explore different textures, as well as fine motor skills development since they’ll have to balance themselves while walking across the rice. You could also use other materials like beans, pasta, or sand.

Texture Hunt

Hide different objects around the house that have interesting textures for your child to find. This can be anything from a soft blanket to a bumpy plastic ball. Encourage your child to touch and feel the different textures.

Sensory Bag

A sensory bag is an easy activity to set up and can be reused multiple times. Just place different objects like small toys, feathers, or fabric scraps into a Ziploc bag and seal it shut. Your child can then explore the contents by feeling and squeezing the bag.

Sensory Tunnel

A sensory tunnel is a great way for kids to explore their senses of sight , touch, and sound. You can buy a sensory tunnel or make your own by using PVC pipe and a tarp or blanket. Drape the fabric over the pipe and secure it with clothespins. Your child can crawl through the tunnel to explore.

One of the best things about sensory activities is that they don’t have to be expensive or elaborate. You can use items from around the house, and many of them are easy enough for toddlers and preschoolers to participate in.

Helpful tips for parents when playing at home sensory games with their autistic children.

Give your child time to get used to the sensory activity. This will help prevent sensory overload, which can lead to anxiety or aggression in an ASD child who has difficulty processing information from his/her surroundings all at once (this may happen when there’s too much going on).

Here are some tips to keep in mind when starting a sensory sessions with your child:

-Start out with short sessions so your child doesn’t get overwhelmed.

-Be patient and let your child take their time exploring the different activities.

-If your child becomes agitated or upset, stop the activity and try again later.

-Make sure the activities are safe and within your child’s abilities.

-adapt the games to fit your child’s interests and needs.

Final Thoughts

Sensory activities can be a great way to help develop your autistic child’s skills and provide them with some fun and excitement. With a little bit of creativity, you can come up with many different activities that will keep your child engaged and interested. So get creative and have some fun!

February 2, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Autism Diet

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) causes a host of neurological and physical symptoms. One of the most noteworthy ones pertains to food sensitivities.

This article was written for parents that want to assist their autistic children with overcoming eating difficulties, choosing an appropriate diet, and maintaining healthy bodily levels of nutrients and vitamins.

Common Medical and Nutritional Challenges for Kids with Autism

Autistic children typically experience medical issues that impact their gastrointestinal (GI) tract and nutrition.

Firstly, if you suspect that your ASD-diagnosed son or daughter has a GI problem, you want to keep an eye on these symptoms:

  • Abdominal distention (which can lead to eating too much or constipation without having an underlying sickness)
  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Discomfort in the stomach or GI tract
  • Fecal impaction (constipation patients are more likely to develop this condition)
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Leaky gut syndrome
  • Regurgitation of food (this entails spitting out or emitting it after it enters the stomach, even if the child doesn’t have an illness or health condition that may cause this)
  • Releasing gasses excessively

Additionally, your autistic kid could run into the following nutritional shortcomings:

  • Allergies
  • Intolerance towards certain foods
  • Problems with eating or being fed

As a parent, you can minimize the effect of these health issues by feeding your child meals with specific ingredients while avoiding others.

Autism Diet

Since each autistic kid is different, it is difficult to define a particular diet that suits every person that has ASD.

Nonetheless, you will probably provide your son or daughter with relief by making dietary changes that omit the following ingredients and food items:

  • Casein proteins (you should consider a casein-free diet for your child, which leaves out milk, whey, and additional nutrients that are high in casein)
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Gluten (a gluten-free diet excludes several types of grains)
  • Individual proteins, namely casein, gluten, and others
  • Peanuts
  • Seafood
  • Soy

Why does removing these foods work?

Some of the proteins and ingredients that we listed above could create inflammation in the gut and stomach. In turn, this might lead to further problems in the GI tract and organs.

You may prevent this from happening when you identify the nutrients that are causing these difficulties and take them out of your child’s diet.

How to Test the Foods and See if Symptoms Change

Before you make any meal plan changes, you want to initially pinpoint the foods that are affecting your son or daughter’s GI tract.

To so, follow these steps:

  1. Pick an ingredient or item to remove, such as eggs, gluten, and/or seafood.
  2. Gradually and slowly reintroduce these ingredients to your kid’s diet.
  3. If your child’s symptoms reappear or get worse, you will know that the food product is what’s causing the problem. Consequently, you must permanently eliminate it from their meals.
  4. If nothing changes and no symptoms emerge, you can go back to step 1 and test how other ingredients or items could impact your autistic boy or girl’s GI organs.

Keep in mind that kids with certain medical conditions have unique dietary requirements.

Dietary Restrictions for Those Who Have Autism and Seizures

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for autistic children to also suffer from seizures. In those cases, you may want to consider one or both of these diets:

  • Ketogenic (Keto) Diet: Simply put, a keto regimen entails meals that are high in fats and low in carbohydrates.
  • Sugar or Yeast-Free Diet: While this might greatly help, you should remember to avoid foods that can cause GI issues even if they don’t contain any sugar or yeast (fish and seafood, for instance).

Downsides to the Keto Diet

Before you switch your autistic child to a keto diet, you must first talk to their doctor and/or a registered dietitian so that they supervise the transition.

This is important since a keto diet, when implemented the wrong way, can negatively impact your son or daughter’s growth, weight, and cholesterol levels. A lot of parents attain good results from a keto meal plan by combining it with other ingredients and foods.

What if my child is a picky eater?

Some kids are very selective when it comes to food. This is even more likely to be the case among those who were diagnosed with ASD.

If this applies to your child, here is how you can effectively cater to their dietary needs:

  • Avoid textures that your son or daughter doesn’t like.
  • Give them their own plate, particularly when they feel uncomfortable with sharing one.
  • Introduce new foods and meals in a gradual and slow manner.
  • Make meal time more enjoyable and fun for your kid.
  • Pick ingredients with colors that your child likes.
  • Prepare their food in the shape(s) that they prefer.
  • Talk to their doctor about supplements and vitamins when your kid’s picky eating habits are preventing them from obtaining the nutrients that their body requires.

In short, your ultimate goal is to eliminate or minimize any GI challenges that your autistic son or daughter is facing and, at the same time, ensure that they’re consuming a healthy amount of vitamins and nutrients.

You could do this by identifying the specific meals or ingredients that they’re insensitive towards and, from there, making the necessary dietary adjustments.

By being creative, parents can create a food plan that pleases even the pickiest and most selective autistic eaters.

January 26, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Cutting Nails For An Autistic Child

If you’ve ever tried to help an autistic child groom their nails you probably already know that it can be challenging, for you and the child! Some of the ways autism presents can make cutting nails more difficult than for other children, which also means it’s more difficult for the person trying to help them.

Not understanding why autistic children struggle with having their nails cut only makes the problem worse.

So, we’re going to talk about why it’s hard for autistic children to have their nails cut, and offer some solutions that might make it easier for you and the child.

Let’s get started.

Why Is Cutting An Autistic Child’s Nails So Difficult

It’s important to remember when you’re dealing with an autistic child, and that even most neuro-typical children don’t like having their nails trimmed. That’s important because it means that an autistic child’s discomfort isn’t that unusual, they just may have a more severe reaction to having their nails trimmed.

Autistic children are also likely to think that nail trimming is unnecessary, so they don’t understand why they need to go through a difficult and uncomfortable process. Sometimes you can explain why nail trimming matters, but autistic children might not care, and may not be able to listen at the moment.

Many autistic children also dislike being touched, especially for a prolonged period. That means that holding their hand to cut their nails might be uncomfortable for an autistic child, and they might not want to let you hold their hand long enough to get the job done.

The last common reason autistic children don’t like having their nails trimmed is they don’t like the sound. Especially since the sound of nail trimming can be unpredictable, it may be overwhelming and uncomfortable for autistic children.

Those are only some of the most common reasons. Every child is different, so every autistic child is likely to have different reasons behind their behavior when their nails are trimmed.

Tips For Cutting Your Autistic Child’s Nails

Each of these tips can help make it easier to cut an autistic child’s nails, but it’s also important to combine different tips and to pay attention to how each child reacts. What works for one autistic child won’t necessarily work for another, and what worked once might not work a second time.

Always try to adjust your nail trimming process to meet the needs of the child, whatever those might be at the time.

First, Try Starting Slowly:

You might not trim every nail every time, but if you can trim even one or two you might be able to start building the child’s tolerance to having their nails trimmed.

Over time you’ll be able to increase how many nails you trim, or how closely you trim each nail. But, you may reach plateaus where there isn’t progress. Don’t let that discourage you.

Don’t Go Wild When They Do Cooperate With Nail Trimming:

Pushing too hard on a good day, especially if it’s uncomfortable or ultimately makes the autistic child unhappy, will likely make it harder the next time.

Make Sure You’re Both Comfortable:

You don’t have as much tolerance when you’re uncomfortable, and neither do autistic children. Making sure you’re both as comfortable as you can be will help make the process less stressful for you both.

Talk Them Through The Process:

Some autistic children benefit from being talked through what you’re doing as you’re doing it. Telling them you’re going to clip one nail, and before each clip, and then when you move on to the next finger will help them process what’s going on and stay calmer.

Explain Why This Needs To Be Done:

Autistic children usually don’t understand why their nails need to be trimmed, and it might take them longer to understand than other children. Explaining why you’re trimming their nails, with examples, each time will help them understand and stay calmer.

Explaining also sets the expectation that they get to know why something is happening and have some say in it.

Try A Hand Massage Before Nail Trimming:

Giving an autistic child a small hand massage before you get started can make the whole process a lot easier. That’s because it helps them associate their hand being held with a pleasant sensation, instead of just an uncomfortable one.

This can also be a good option to help after nail trimming, especially if the massage is comforting or feels good to the child.

However, a hand massage may not be useful for autistic children that are touch averse. If possible, you can always ask if they want a hand massage before you get started.

Try Using The Right Equipment:

Using a typical nail clipper might not be a good option for autistic children. They need to move too much, and it can be uncomfortable.

Switching to a 360-degree nail clipper is one option since the child can hold still while you adjust the clipper to the right angles.

If that doesn’t work, an electric trimmer might be a better option. It will feel and sound a little different, which might be more tolerable for some autistic children.

Try Filing First:

For some autistic children, filing, which is more consistent than clipping, might be a good starting place. You still need to start slow if you choose this option and work your way up to filing more than one nail, and then a whole hand.

But, once your child accepts filing you may be able to try nail clipping again, especially if you explain that it’s faster.

Consider Using Toys and Videos as Distractions:

In some cases, your best option might be helping your autistic child tolerate nail clipping by giving them something else to help them distract.

Stimming toys are a common option for this kind of distraction, but almost any toy or video your child finds engaging can work. You can even try playing their favorite song or letting them hug a favorite blanket.

Remember, the easier you can make nail trimming for your autistic child, the easier it will be for you, and the better they’re likely to behave. Fighting an autistic child to trim their nails is more likely to make it harder over time, especially if the child doesn’t understand what you’re doing or why.

Work with their autism, not against it, and you’ll have better results.

January 17, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder

The research to better understand conditions like autism and sensory processing disorder (SPD) is getting better by the day, but there’s still a lot to learn. For example, many people still aren’t aware of the correlation between these two conditions and what they entail. In this guide, we’ll cover all the basics so that you have a better understanding of these conditions and their therapeutic options.

 

What is Autism?

 

Autism is a development disorder that takes on several forms. It is what is known as a “spectrum” disorder because it can appear in different people with different symptoms, levels of severity, developmental concerns, and so forth. Autism can cause children to learn, react, and attend to details differently than children without this condition, or those who are neurotypical.

Autism causes a wide range of social and communication challenges for those afflicted. With proper interventions (and especially early intervention), such as ABA therapy,  a lot of the issues can be overcome or made less severe. There have been several methods and therapies studied for assisting those with this condition, and because there is still so much to learn, a lot of research is ongoing.

One thing we do know is that autism is typically linked to sensory processing disorder, which we’ll discuss next.

 

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

 

Sensory processing refers to the way that a person’s brain perceives sensory information, as well as how the person responds to that information. Someone who struggles with sensory processing or who is diagnosed with SPD will typically have an impairment in the way that their brain processes these elements.

When the brain cannot properly process the senses and the world around it, regulating behavior and motor functions like coordination and balance can become difficult. There are several components of sensory processing and even one of them being off can lead to a lot of developmental delays and the need for therapeutic intervention. There are eight total components of sensory processing to be aware of, as you’ll see in the list below.

 

8 Components of Sensory Processing

 

The components of sensory processing that you need to be aware of include:

  •         Taste
  •         Touch
  •         Smell
  •         Sight
  •         Sound
  •         Vestibular Function- how the inner ear and brain work to control balance, eye movement, and body awareness
  •         Proprioception- the sense of awareness of one’s body movements or positioning
  •         Enteroception- the awareness of what’s happening within one’s own body

Some of these come with a preoccupation or aversion to certain things (loud noises, certain tastes or textures, etc.) The way that the brain processes these things has somehow been interrupted, and it results in several different potential issues.

When it comes to the types of sensory issues that exist, two main conditions typically occur, both at either end of the extreme. Let’s look at those two sensory issues now.

 

Two Types of Sensory Issues

 

Although several different issues and challenges may present themselves with sensory processing disorder and autism, they can typically be divided into two main groups.

Hypersensitivity

This refers to children who are easily stimulated by any sensory elements or stimuli. These children may have a low tolerance for pain or the aforementioned loud noises. It could also include light sensitivity, coordination issues, and so forth. The hypersensitivity could impact appetite and ability to eat certain foods, so this could create a situation where you have a finicky eater on your hands, too. It’s not uncommon for there to be food issues with these two conditions, and again they all come in different shapes and sizes.

 

Hyposensitivity

On the other end of things, and in a potentially more dangerous light, is hyposensitivity. This condition causes children not to have enough sensory stimulation. This could mean they have a higher pain tolerance, or they bump into objects and walls because it doesn’t occur to them not to. They may also have a need to be constantly touching or mouthing items, although it’s unsure exactly how that’s related to the lack of sensitivity.

 

Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder

 

More than 80% of all children with autism also have sensory processing disorder. According to the DSM-5, SPD is a behavior specifically associated with ASD, but most of the children with SPD do not have autism. The other variable is that sensory processing disorder usually affects touch more than anything, while those who have autism will struggle more with sound processing.

It’s still being learned as to how these two are related specifically, but both conditions can cause children to learn and react to things differently, as well as to interact differently with the world around them. Depending on the type of sensitivity that they struggle with, it could compound with the addition of an ASD diagnosis, but the therapeutic approaches are typically similar in nature.

 

Therapy for ASD and SPD

 

As mentioned, there have been plenty of therapies and approaches that have been studied for autism and sensory processing disorder. Currently, ASD is best treated using ABA therapy, or Applied Behavioral Analysis. Essentially, it uses a style of programming to help kids learn by offering them a reward (often related to their stimming or sensory issues) in exchange for acquiring skills or learning various things.

Occupational therapy is used for sensory processing disorders, including things like teaching children coordination and how to handle other sensitivity issues through exposure and practice over time. An occupational therapist will focus on the specific sensitivities that a child has and attempt to work on improving the challenges that they face. Sensory integration is proving quite effective as a solution, but since the debate on this disorder is still out, there is a lot left to learn. As of now, we at least know that occupational therapy is helping children with sensory issues, and in the future, that’s only likely to get better.

To learn more about how these issues can be resolved with ABA and occupational therapy, as well as what the future holds and how you can help your child thrive, visit us at https://hiddentalentsaba.com/.

January 13, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Asperger’s Vs Autism

Up until 2013, Asperger’s syndrome and autism were considered different conditions. For years, these conditions were diagnosed separately, but they now fall under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorder.

Both conditions have relatively similar symptoms. People suffering from either of the two exhibit similar communication and behavioral patterns, which makes the distinction between the two diagnoses fuzzy. The American Psychiatric Association therefore has since made a change to the manual practitioners use to diagnose mental health conditions. In the new edition, Asperger’s syndrome is incorporated into the diagnosis of ASD.

This article explores the differences between the two conditions. We’ll also look at the criteria used for each diagnosis. But before we get to that, let’s check out each condition separately.

Autism Disorder

Autism disorder is a complex, lifelong developmental condition. It impacts how you perceive and socialize with others. This leads to social interaction, communication, self-regulation, and relationship problems.

Now that you have a basic understanding of what autism is, let’s have a look at Asperger’s.

Asperger’s Syndrome

When Asperger’s syndrome was added to the DSM-4, it was described as having the same characteristics of autism, but with one key exception: People diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome didn’t have delays in language and communication, as was seen with autistic patients.

As such, many medical professionals believed that Asperger’s was a form of “high-functioning” autism. Typically, this meant that a person’s development and language skills were considered “normal” according to neurotypical standards.

But as mentioned, the publication of DSM-5 in 2013 saw Asperger’s syndrome folded into Autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

So, what’s the difference between the two?

The Differences Between Autism and Asperger’s

Both conditions are now listed under the umbrella of ASD. However, Asperger’s has milder symptoms. Let’s see how they compare.

Speech and Language

The major difference between autism and Asperger’s is that the latter has milder symptoms and a general absence of language delays. In most cases, children that were diagnosed with Asperger’s have good language skills. However, they may find it challenging to fit in with their peers.

On the other hand, children with autism typically exhibit difficulty in speech and communication. In most cases, they have difficulty understanding what someone is saying to them. And in some cases, they might also have trouble picking up non-verbal cues like facial expressions and hand gestures.

Autistic children also frequently exhibit repetitive language. They might also have narrow topics of interest. For example, they may only be interested in cars and thus, only talk about cars.

Cognitive Functioning

Unlike in autism, children diagnosed with Asperger’s cannot have a clinically significant cognitive delay. They generally have average or above-average intelligence. Autistic children, on the other hand, may have significant cognitive delays.

Age of Onset

On average, autistic children are diagnosed at four. However, individuals classified under Asperger’s may not show any symptoms until they reach teenage or adulthood.

This is mainly because children with Asperger’s don’t have lower IQs. They also don’t exhibit any language delays. As such, you may not realize that your child has a developmental delay until they start engaging in more social interactions.

And how are these two conditions diagnosed? Read on to find out.

Criteria for Each Diagnosis

Asperger’s Syndrome

There are currently no specific tests that can diagnose Asperger’s. However, Asperger’s was commonly diagnosed in childhood. This is because the possibility of an individual fully reaching adulthood without an Asperger’s diagnosis was somewhat limited but not impossible.

Here is a summary of the diagnosis criteria for Asperger’s in children from the previous version of DSM.

  •         Severe impairment in social interactions
  •         Repetitive behaviors or movements
  •         Difficulty with verbal or nonverbal communication
  •         Lack of interest with others or taking part in activities
  •         Few to no long-term relationships with peers
  •         Immense interest in specific aspects of objects
  •         Strict adherence to ritual behaviors or routine
  •         Difficulty in maintaining jobs, relationships, or other aspects of daily life
  •         Showing little to no response to emotional or social experiences

Autism

Like with Asperger’s, there are currently no standard diagnostic criteria for autism in adults. But those are in development. In the meantime, medical professionals diagnose adults with autism through a series of in-person interactions and observations. They also consider any other symptoms that the individual is experiencing.

If you think you have ASD, you should consult your family doctor. They will perform an evaluation to ensure there isn’t any underlying medical condition affecting your behavior. They might then refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist for a more in-depth assessment.

The medical professional may want to talk to you about any issues you have regarding emotions, communication, range of interests, behavioral patterns, and more. You’ll also have to answer questions about your childhood. And in some cases, they might ask to speak to your parents or any other older family member to get a perspective about your lifelong behavior changes.

Your doctor might determine that you didn’t display symptoms of autism as a child but instead began experiencing them as a teen or adult. In this case, they might evaluate you for other possible effective or mental health disorders.

Here is a summary of the diagnosis criteria for autism.

  •         Difficulty with everyday conversations
  •         Having difficulty understanding or responding to social cues
  •         Sharing interests and emotions less often than peers
  •         Having delayed language or speech skills
  •         Speaking in atypical ways, for example, in a singsong voice
  •         Having difficulty understanding other people’s emotions or facial expressions
  •         Doing repetitive actions such as rocking and flapping
  •         Experiencing intellectual delays
  •         Becoming angry or overwhelmed with new situations
  •         Having trouble understanding or developing relationships
  •         Sensitivity to certain stimulants like bright lights or loud noises
  •         Becoming intensely interested in certain topics
  •         Having a significant need for a predictable order and structure

The Bottom Line

Since 2013, medical professionals have considered Asperger’s as part of a broader classification of ASD. That being said, a person with an Asperger’s diagnosis might not necessarily identify as having ASD.

Learning the difference between the two is helpful. But taking action is even more important. If you or your child is experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, you should seek guidance as early as possible. Early intervention, such as ABA therapy, can provide valuable opportunities to learn practical independent life skills.

January 11, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Autism Acceptance Month

This article is about Autism Acceptance Month and all that you need to know about it. More specifically, we will go over a brief history of the event, how you can participate in it, and what its organizers are trying to achieve.

When you’re done reading this article, you will become more aware of what autism is and learn about how you can educate others about this condition.

The History Behind Autism Acceptance Month

The story of Autism Acceptance Month goes back to the 1970s. Firstly, in 1970, the Autism Society initiated its campaign to promote autism awareness across the United States. Their goal was to ensure that autistic people can obtain the best quality of life that’s possible.

Secondly, in 1972, the Autism Society went on to inaugurate the National Autistic Children’s Week. They started to host this event every year, up until it turned into Autism Awareness Month.

Lastly, but certainly not least, is that ‘Autism Awareness Month’ was renamed to ‘Autism Acceptance Month’ in March 2021, right before the annual occasion took place.

When is Autism Acceptance Month?

April is Autism Acceptance Month. The 2nd day of April is Autism Awareness Day. Yet, the entire month is dedicated to promoting acceptance of autism.

How can I participate in Autism Acceptance Month?

By engaging in the following acts of kindness, you can partake in Autism Acceptance Month and help raise awareness about the challenges that autistic people face:

  • Advocate for policies and laws that have a positive impact on the autism community.
  • Dedicate yourself to taking action that makes the world a kinder place.
  • Donate to autism charities, buy merchandise from them, and engage in other acts of giving.
  • Educate yourself in classrooms and/or at fundraising events.
  • Share resources (such as the real-time support, guidance, and information that the Autism Response Team provides) and potentially-influential stories on social media.
  • Start an autism kindness campaign at your workplace or school.

When you participate in and support Autism Acceptance Month, you will be helping the event’s organizers reach their objectives.

The Goals of Autism Acceptance Month

Here are the main purposes of having an awareness and acceptance month for autism:

  • Advocating for the inclusion of autistic people in schools, workplaces, and society in general.
  • Assisting others learn more about what autism is and what the condition entails.
  • Raising money and funds for autism charities and nonprofits.
  • Increasing people’s understanding and acceptance of autism.

These goals have been consistent since 1972, when the effort was first launched. The expansion from having a week dedicated to autism to a month-long event enabled charities to further advance these objectives.

By dedicating yourself to kindness, donating funds, sharing resources, and hosting events, you can effectively participate in Autism Acceptance Month and help autistic people attain the quality of life that they desire.

January 2, 2022 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Diagnosing Autism: The Process

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, (ASD) is a neuro-divergent, categorized group of developmental disabilities that can affect a range of skills and developmental processes in a person. Autism is not contagious, nor is the direct cause of autism known.

 

Being autistic can impact a person’s life in several areas, including communication, social skills, social development, and behaviors. However, not every case of autism looks or presents itself the same, and people are often diagnosed on a spectrum.

 

Read on to understand more about what autism is, when symptoms begin to show, and what the process of diagnosing a person with autism may look like.

 

How Young Can Autism be Detected?

Autism shows itself in development, meaning that as a person develops and ages, certain neuro-divergences, and behavioral presentations begin to show. Autism can sometimes be detected in babies 18 months or younger, but that is frequently not the case.

 

Typically, an autistic person will have a diagnosis of autism by 2 years old. This is because as the child grows and develops, it is easier to see certain milestones they are surpassing or missing in comparison with their age group.

 

However, some people do not get diagnosed with autism until they are in their teens or even adulthood.

 

Having an early diagnosis of autism is very important so that the person can begin treatments that might be able to help them, such as speech therapy, educational therapy, applied behavioral therapy, or tactile occupational therapy.

 

What Are Some Early Signs of Autism?

There are many early signs of autism, but as stated before, each case of autism looks different and it can be hard to differentiate when a child is autistic or if they are struggling with certain behaviors or actions for other reasons. 

 

That said, some of the most common early signs of autism are as follows:

 

  •     Avoiding Eye Contact: Often, a child with autism will avoid looking at others directly in their eyes. They may tilt their heads away or shift their eyes away from the faces of others. This is a sign of a behavioral and communicative symptom.

 

  •     Low Socialization: Children are often incredibly social creatures, who enjoy and find interest in others as they explore the world. If a child is showing little to no interest in other children or caretakers, they might be displaying a social symptom of autism.

 

  •     Limited Use of Language: Communication is a huge part of autism. Many people with autism show signs of struggling to communicate or have a hard time mastering language skills. They may miss milestones that their peers easily reach or may use alternative methods of communication, rather than spoken language. Sign language is a common alternative for non-verbal people with autism.

 

  •     Reliance on Routine: Getting upset by minor changes in the day-to-day routines of life is another sign of autism. Folks with autism rely on routines to feel safe and so that they know what is coming and can prepare themselves for it. So if your child always takes a bath at night and one day they need to bathe in the morning, this could cause them to get upset.

 

Process of Diagnosing Autism

The process of diagnosing autism is broken down into two main parts that are both very important. They are as follow:

 

Screening

The first part is a screening where health care professionals look for a variety of communication, behavioral, and social developmental differences that line up with the diagnosis requirements of autism. Health care professionals will administer tests to make sure they can rule out any other developmental differences, like ADHD.

 

They will use several different types of assessing and testing so that they can definitively diagnose the person with autism as well as figure out the severity of the diagnosis so they can recommend treatments or therapies that may help the person to live an easier life.

 

Some of the tools that might be used in the screening process are :

 

  •     Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, Revised with Follow-Up (M-CHAT-R/F): This is a brief checklist of yes and no items for early autism detection for children 16 months to 30 months of age

 

  •     Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R): a semi-structured interview where parents and specialists work together to make a diagnosis.

 

  •     Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-Generic (ADOS-G): An interview with activities conducted by a trained specialist to make a concrete diagnosis.

 

  •     Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS): An observation of a child’s behavior and actions which is rated on a 15 point scale to see where the child’s relationships with people, body behaviors, adaptation to changes, listening skills, and communication skills are developmentally.

 

  •     ThinkAspergers: a screening tool in a mobile phone app that helps the informal detection of autism that can be used by teachers, parents, and medical professionals.

 

The Diagnosis

During the diagnosis meeting, you will hear from the medical professional whether your child has autism or not. During this meeting, the medical professional may refer you to some therapists who might be able to help you and your child create a better and easier life for your child.

 

They will also explain what they were looking at and why they came to the conclusion your child has autism.

 

What May a Doctor Look at During the Screening?

The following list is some of the things your doctor or health care professional may be looking for during the screenings and diagnosis process:

 

  •     Did your baby begin smiling around 6 months?
  •     Did your baby mimic sounds and make facial expressions by 9 months?
  •     Was your baby cooing, babbling, and making noise by 12 months?

 

They may also ask about other behaviors, such as:

  •     Does your child exhibit repetitive or unusual behaviors?
  •     Does your child have trouble making direct eye contact?
  •     Is your child interacting with other people and sharing their experiences?
  •     Does your child respond to attempts to get their attention?
  •     Does your child have a vocal tone that could be described as “flat”?
  •     Does your child understand other people’s actions and behaviors?
  •     Is your child sensitive to inputs like noise, temperature, light, or textures?
  •     Does your child have sleep or digestive issues?
  •     Is your child likely to get irritable or annoyed quickly?

 

Remember that autism is common and your child can and will live a full and vibrant life, regardless of their diagnosis status. It is important to give them the best possible chance to succeed in their lives by putting them in the proper therapies that can help them learn to live with autism and overcome the limitations autism may impose on them.

 

Patience, understanding, and education will be your best tools as you begin to navigate this new aspect of your child’s life as well as your own. 

December 30, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

How to Help an Autistic Child Sleep

It is common for young children to struggle with falling asleep and staying asleep. That being said, some children, such as autistic children, are more prone to experiencing these kinds of problems than others. In this guide, we will go through different factors which may affect an autistic child’s sleep, what you can do as a parent or guardian to help, and what products may help support their sleep routine.

Factors that Affect an Autistic Child’s Sleep

It is not uncommon for autistic children to struggle with sleep issues. There are different factors which may cause these issues, including the time at which they go to bed, what they do before they go to bed, where they sleep, and what they do during the day.

Tips for Making an Autistic Child’s Bedtime Better

There are different ways to help improve your child’s sleep cycle. In this portion of the guide, we will go through different tips to help your child get to sleep at night and feel better rested throughout the day.

Set Up a Bedtime Routine

Having a specific bedtime routine for your child to follow every night has been proven to promote positive sleep cycles. According to one peer-reviewed study, a stable bedtime routine is important not only for “healthy sleep, but also for broad development and wellbeing in early childhood.”

 

There are different ways to set up a bedtime routine for your child. For example, taking a bath, brushing teeth, and reading a fun book with your child every night before they go to sleep may help promote restful sleep. By repeating these activities consistently, your child will begin to associate them with bedtime, making the transition to sleep easier.

 

As part of a daily routine for your child before going to sleep. It is equally important to maintain consistency for the routine to work and help your child sleep. Another effective tool to add to a sleep routine is to remind your child at different intervals how close to bedtime they are, such as 30 minutes, 15 minutes, 5 minutes, and the like.

 

Keep Naps Early and Short

Long naps in the afternoon can make a regular bedtime especially difficult for your child as they may not feel fatigue until later in the night. In order to avoid this, it is important to keep naps short and early in the afternoon so that your child may comfortably go to sleep at their regular bedtime.

 

Figure Out How Much Sleep Your Child Needs

Depending on their age, your child will need different amounts of sleep. According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) official website, including naps, children between one and two years old require 11 to 14 hours of sleep, those three to five years old require 10 to 13 hours, and children six to twelve require 9 to 12 hours.

 

Avoid Screens Before Bedtime

A growing amount of research has shown that screens such as smartphones and tablets have a negative effect on sleep when used right before bedtime. According to one study published in the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America journal, the increasingly widespread use of electronic screens has led to “delayed bedtime and/or decreased total sleep time” which in turn can have negative psychological effects on the person’s psychological and physical wellbeing.

 

Set Up an Environment Where Your Child Feels Safe

It is important for your child to feel safe and secure at night so they can sleep well. If certain decorations are anxiety-inducing for them, removing them may help them feel safer. Having their favorite toys and blanket with them can help them feel more comfortable as they go to sleep.

Why do Autistic Children Have Difficulty Sleeping?

It has been shown that children with autism are more likely to suffer from sleep problems such as insomnia, frequent awakening, and daytime sleepiness, than children who do not have autism. Sleep problems in children with autism may be due to “genetic, environmental, immunological, and neurological factors.”

 

These may also be caused by problems with melatonin releasing, as well as increased anxiety due to heightened sensitivity to external stimuli during the day which may disrupt the ability for the child to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.

Other Ways to Improve an Autistic Child’s Sleep

Along with a better sleep routine, avoiding screens before bedtime, and avoiding long and late naps, there are certain products which may help promote better sleep for an autistic child. These include blankets, sound machines, and special sleepy time pillows.

Blankets for Autistic Children

Weighted blankets are therapeutic blankets which are heavier than regular blankets and may help people living with sleep deprivation, anxiety, autism, and depression. For the best weighted blankets, we recommend the:

 

 

Weighted blankets can also be custom-made to perfectly adapt the child’s weight. Weighted blankets should never be used by a child under the age of one.

Other Products to Help an Autistic Child Sleep

There are other products to consider for your child if they are autistic and suffering from sleep problems. On the Autism Products website,you can find a long list of products specifically designed and adapted to autistic children’s needs. These include:

 

 

There are many different products available on the market to help autistic children sleep. It is important to speak with a medical professional before purchasing these products to make sure that they are 100% safe and beneficial for your child.

Conclusion

There are many different factors which may negatively affect an autistic child’s sleep. As a parent or guardian, it is important to take the time to identify what may help your child sleep and what you can do to help. If you are unsure or have additional questions, make sure to contact a medical professional to get the best possible information regarding your child’s sleep cycle and difficulties.

December 28, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Autism Sleep Problems

Children with autism often have trouble sleeping. There are many possible reasons for sleep issues, from sensory overload to difficulty winding down and irregular melatonin levels. In this article, we tell you more about sleep problems related to autism and offer useful tips to help your child sleep better. 

Are Sleep Disorders Common With Autism?

Sleep problems are twice as common in children with autism than among neurotypical children and those with other developmental disabilities. It is estimated that anywhere between 50% and 80% of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder have some type of sleep difficulty, for example: 

 

  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness and poor sleep quality
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking early and not being able to fall back to sleep
  • Waking frequently during the night.

 

There are many factors that can cause autistic children to experience sleep problems. Read on to learn more.

What Causes Sleep Disorders in Children With Autism?

As with many other symptoms of autism, the causes of sleep disorders are not well understood. Some possible explanations include:

  • Children with autism, unlike their neurotypical peers, don’t have the proper social skills to pick up on social cues that indicate when it’s bedtime.
  • Autistic children produce less sleep-related hormone melatonin than neurotypical children.
  • Children with autism spectrum disorder have atypical circadian rhythms, or the internal body clock.
  • Many children with autism have sensory issues, such as sensitivity to certain sounds or white noise. These sounds may be upsetting or distracting and keep your child awake.
  • Gastrointestinal problems, common in children with autism, may disrupt sleep.
  • Increased levels of stress and anxiety, inability to relax, and ADHD can cause insomnia.
  • Epilepsy and other neurological conditions may be another reason behind sleep difficulties in children with autism.

What Kind of Effects Do Sleep Problems Have?

Research has shown children with autism who have sleep problems display more severe behavioral and learning issues during the day, such as: 

 

  • More pronounced social communication challenges
  • More compulsive rituals and obsessive behaviors
  • More instances of challenging behavior
  • Hyperactivity
  • Attention deficit disorder
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Depression
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Poor learning and cognitive performance.

 

Fortunately, there are some tools that may help your child with autism with their sleep issues. 

Tips To Help Your Autistic Child Get More Sleep

All children need enough good-quality sleep to develop and grow, and children with autism are no exception. However, your child may need extra support to develop good sleep habits. Here’s what you can do to help: 

 

  • Establish a nighttime routine. Put your child to bed at the same time every night and try to stick with the same routine also on weekends and holidays if possible.
  • Help your child relax before bed by giving them a bath and a gentle back massage, reading a story, and turning on relaxing music.
  • Create a predictable transition from waking to sleeping hours. Give your child a warning 15, 10, and 5 minutes before starting the bedtime routine. You can also use visual timers or auditory alarms.
  • Avoid giving your child stimulants such as caffeinated drinks and sugar before bed.
  • Switch off the television, video games, and phones at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Make sure your child gets enough physical activity during the day.
  • Keep your child’s bedroom cool, dark, and quiet in order to avoid sensory issues that may prevent them from sleeping well. Install thick carpeting, hang heavy curtains to block out the light, and set the room temperature to suit your child’s sensory needs.
  • Use social stories to explain the importance of sleep to your child. In addition, social stories can also be used to reassure your child that they are safe when sleeping. 
  • Use visual supports such as schedules and timetables as well as children’s books to explain to your child what they are expected to do at bedtime.
  • Consider purchasing products designed for children with sensory issues, such as weighted blankets, soothing pillows, and white noise machines.

In the next section, we list some of the products that may help your child sleep better.

Blankets for Autistic Children

Dream Weighted Sleep Blanket for Kids

The Dream Weighted Sleep Blanket will keep your child with autism warm and safe at night. The blanket weighs 4lb and offers pressure stimulation to help naturally decrease anxiety, reduce sensory overload, and promote healthy sleep patterns. It is suitable for ages 3+.

Mosaic Weighted Blankets

The pressure of these weighted blankets offers a reassuring sensation that will help your child release the feel-good happy chemical serotonin and increase melatonin levels for better sleep. Mosaic Weighted Blankets come in several different sizes and a variety of fun patterns for your child to choose from. 

SensaCalm Weighted Blankets

SensaCalm is a family company that sells custom-made weighted blankets and other sensory products designed specifically for autistic children.

Other Products To Help an Autistic Child Sleep

Rohm Portable White Noise Sound Machine

Rohm compact portable white noise machine is suitable both for everyday use and for travel. It makes a soothing, consistent sound similar to that of a fan that will mask any disturbing noises and help your child sleep better. 

Blue Starry Bed Tent for Kids (Twin)

This special twin bed tent that glows in the dark is comforting for children who are afraid of the dark. It can also be used as a play area and a place for alone time during the day. The lightweight pop-up frame is very easy to set up and take down.

ZPod Autism Bed

ZPod beds are specifically designed to create an individualized enclosed sensory sleep space for children with autism. Each bed features intelligent lighting control, a white noise generator, air filter, room temperature control, and several other functions that will help children find better sleep. 

Sleepy Time Pillow

The natural fragrance of these small soothing pillows will calm your child’s mind from the anxieties of the day and help them relax. The pillows are filled with natural lavender flowers and flax seeds come in a variety of colors and textures. 

December 20, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

ABA Therapy Payment Options in Houston

If your son or daughter was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), you probably know that professional attention and care are crucial. Yet, they are also expensive.

In light of that, we put together this article to help you understand what your options are for paying for your autistic child’s ABA therapy treatments in Houston.

Click here if you want to learn more about our ABA therapy program in Houston.

What is ABA therapy?

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy enables autistic patients to manage and improve their symptoms.

Children with autism who undergo ABA therapy sessions typically perform better in the following areas:

  • Academic performance
  • Communication capabilities
  • Reading
  • Social skills
  • Adaptive learning (for example, doing chores, employment, motor skills, and personal hygiene)

Because ABA therapy is the most prevalent treatment for autism, many people place a high value on it.

How much does ABA therapy cost on average?

The average cost of hiring a licensed and certified ABA therapist is $120 per hour. To clarify, this is equal to $4,800 if your child or loved one saw a practitioner for 40 hours per week.

On an annual basis, the expenses could add up to almost $250,000 for those who don’t have insurance.

Does Medicaid cover ABA therapy in Houston?

Three states’ Medicaid programs don’t include ABA therapy coverage, and Texas is among them.

Texas’s Law on Autism Insurance Coverage

In Texas, any health insurance plan is required, by law, to cover generally-recognized autism therapies and forms of care. However, for a health insurance plan to pay for ABA therapy, you need to obtain a recommendation from your or your loved one’s doctor.

Generally-Recognized Services

You want to keep in mind that Texas’s laws specifically use the term “generally-recognized services” when referring to prescribed ASD treatments that insurance plans must cover.

ABA therapy is among them, alongside the following “generally-recognized services”:

  • Medications
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Other treatment plans

Although this requirement used to only apply to private insurance policies, it was recently extended to encompass state-funded coverage plans.

Does private insurance in Texas cover ABA?

This depends on the policy that you have. In short, there are two types of insurance plans in the Lone Star State:

Self-Funded Plans

With a self-funded policy, your employer (who provides the insurance) will directly cover the bill for ABA therapy sessions. After that, they contact the insurance company to receive reimbursement.

Employers that offer self-funded plans have contracts with insurance firms, and they work together on administering the treatments, maintaining claims records, and making payment/reimbursement arrangements.

In the past, only self-funded plans in Texas covered ABA therapy.

Fully-Funded Plans

On January 1st, 2010, a new law kicked in and mandated that state-funded plans pay for the care of any autistic child who is under the age of 10.

The Following Plans Cover ABA Therapy in Texas

Your insurance will cover your loved one’s ABA therapy costs in Houston (and in the state of Texas, in general) if you have a private health policy with one of those companies:

  • Aetna
  • Beacon/Value Options
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield Texas
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield Magellan
  • Cigna Behavioral Health
  • ComPsych
  • Humana (LifeSynch)
  • Magellan
  • TRICARE
  • United Health Care/United Behavioral Health/UMR

Texans and Houston residents who don’t have Medicaid or one of the above plans can still get ABA therapy coverage through alternative options.

Other Ways to Pay For ABA Therapy in Texas

The following governmental programs may help you pay for your child’s ABA therapy:

Supplemental Security Income

The Social Security Administration has a supplemental security income (SSI) for children program, and kids that are considered disabled could be eligible for it.

SSI is specifically designed to assist families and individuals that have a limited amount of income or resources.

Firstly, to qualify for SSI benefits, your kid must be under the age of 18. However, those who are attending college are entitled to these benefits until they become 22 years old.

Secondly, to obtain financial support through SSI’s disability program, your son or daughter must meet Social Security’s definition of “disabled”. To do so, you need to demonstrate two things (which shouldn’t be difficult for those with an autism diagnosis):

  • The child’s disability causes “marked and severe functional limitations”.
  • Their condition “has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months”.

Apart from the federal government, kids with ASD can get help from the state in Texas.

The Health and Human Services Children’s Autism Program

The Texas Health and Human Services Autism Program extends to any child who is a Texas resident, between 3 and 15 years of age, and officially diagnosed with autism.

The state’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will cover the costs of up to 180 hours of ABA therapy sessions per year. To clarify, this is the equivalent of 3 and a half hours per week.

Having said that, many autistic kids need 40 hours of ABA therapy (or at least when they initially start seeing a provider). If you’re in this situation, you should consider additional forms of support alongside the Texas HHS program.

Other Resources That Can Help Pay For ABA Therapy in Texas

There are several Texas-based and national nonprofit organizations that assist families with the expenses of ABA therapy.

  • ACT Today: Autism Care Today/ACT Today has programs that pay for ABA therapy. Moreover, they can help you access funds through one of their many partner organizations.
  • The People Project: Formerly known as the Huckleberry Foundation, the People Project “provides financial assistance to families with children in need of therapy stemming from special needs [and] mental health issues”. They are also launching a Mental Health Aid Fund that pays for evaluations, parental training, equine/horse therapy, prescriptions, and more.
  • Autism Speaks: Autism Speaks, a nationally-renowned nonprofit, can refer you to a variety of programs and organizations based on your specific situation. Additionally, they have valuable financial planning tools and apps that are designed for parents.
  • Giving Angels Foundation: The Giving Angels Foundation particularly caters to low-income households that have kids with physical or mental disabilities. Their one-time allowance/grant could be as high as $500, and families may obtain up to $50,000 per year in aid from this organization.

To summarize, the cost of ABA therapy is certainly expensive. While Medicaid in Texas doesn’t pay for it, the state’s laws require private insurance companies to do so.

The fact that there are multiple federal, state, and nonprofit programs that financially support the families of autistic children should give you even more options for ways to cover your son or daughter’s ABA therapy bill.

December 12, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

ABA Therapy Payment Options in Atlanta

We all want the best for our children. That’s why we always go out of our way to provide for them and make their lives much easier. But what happens when you’re unable to afford to your child’s treatment?

Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy is considered one of the best treatments for autistic children. However if your insurance is not going to cover the treatments it can get pretty expensive.

Therefore, we have put together this guide so you will understand all the payment options that are available to you.

But before we get into the payment options for ABA therapy in Atlanta, let’s take a quick look at the therapy itself. 

Click here if you want to learn more about our Atlanta based ABA therapy.

What is ABA Therapy?

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is a science that focuses on improving behaviors such as communication, social skills, academics, and reading. It’s also aimed at improving adaptive learning skills, including hygiene, fine motor dexterity, and domestic capabilities.

The therapy also aims to improve patients’ skills in grooming, punctuality, and job competence. All this is achieved through operant conditioning and positive reinforcement.

On Average, How Much Does ABA Therapy Cost?

Typically, a board-certified ABA therapist will charge you about $120 an hour. This adds up to $4800 a week for a child receiving 40 hours of therapy. If you don’t have insurance, you could end up spending up to $125,000 a year on ABA therapy.

For most parents, coming up with these figures is very challenging. Some may not even afford to get their children enough hours of therapy each week. Without sufficient time with patients, an ABA therapist can’t fully analyze behavioral changes or build rapport with them.

That being said, several factors come into play when determining the overall expenses for ABA therapy. They include:

  •         The severity of the autism experienced by the child
  •         Where the therapy will take place
  •         Length of time spent with the ABA specialist
  •         The individual ABA therapist’s desired rates and experience level

Does Medicaid Cover ABA Therapy in Atlanta?

Since January 1st, 2018, Medicaid has been providing coverage for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) patients under the age of 21. The coverage is provided according to the severity and medical necessity.

How to Get Medicaid Coverage for ABA Therapy

If you want to get Medicaid to cover ABA therapy in Atlanta, there is some paperwork you need to get in order. You must have a document indicating your child’s DSM-V diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. The diagnosis must also be from a licensed medical professional, such as a physician or psychologist.

A licensed physician or healing arts practitioner must also recommend ABA therapy for your child. The services must also be recommended to prevent autism spectrum disorder from progressing and improve the patient’s physical and mental health.

What Insurances Does Hidden Talent Accept?

Hidden Talent believes that children with autism can lead happy and productive lives. It focuses on helping children grow and thrive by improving social, communication, and adaptive skills.

It also understands the financial burden that ASD therapy can put on you as a parent. As such, it has partnered with various insurance companies to enable you to get the funding you need to cater to your child’s needs.

Hidden Talent accepts the following insurance companies:

  •         Aetna
  •         Ambetter
  •         Amerigroup Community Care
  •         BCBS
  •         Beacon
  •         Caresource
  •         Cigna
  •         ComPsych
  •         Humana
  •         Medicaid
  •         OPTUM
  •         Peachstate
  •         Tricare
  •         United Commercial
  •         United Healthcare
  •         Wellcare of Georgia

If you have any of the above as your insurance provider, contact them to get a full list of your benefits.

Does Georgia Have Caps of ABA Therapy Coverage?

According to Georgia laws, individuals with autism are entitled to meaningful coverage in state-regulated plans. Ava’s law, which was originally passed in 2015, has been amended to increase the limits on the coverage of ABA therapy to individuals between 0 and 21 years.

Also, each individual’s coverage is limited to a maximum annual benefit of $35,000 per year.

By law, the following services must be covered for those with autism:

  •         Diagnosis and treatment of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder)
  •         Rehabilitative services, including applied behavior analysis (ABA)
  •         Counseling services provided by a licensed psychologist, licensed psychiatrist, clinical social worker, or professional counselor

Other Resources That Can Help Pay for ABA in Atlanta

Anchor of Hope Foundation

Steve and Debbie Harbin founded the Anchor of Hope Foundation in 2007. They were inspired by their son Jacob, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of three.

The couple spent years working with doctors and therapists, so they know the difficulties, disappointments, and discouragement that come with raising a special needs child. Despite this fact, they value the unique joy and blessings their son, Jacob, brings to their family. They also desire to help other families facing the same ordeal through the journey.

The foundation offers scholarship grants of up to $250 towards equipment, therapy, and other needs that are not covered by insurance. They hold offer tons of family events where both parents and autistic children can connect and share their experiences.

Avita Community Partners

Founded in 1999 by the Georgia State Legislature, Avita Community Partners serves individuals experiencing the disabling effects of developmental disabilities, mental illness, and addictive diseases.

They seek to promote stable, safe, and meaningful lives for citizens within a 13-county area in northeast Georgia.

United Healthcare Children’s Fund

The United Healthcare Children’s Fund Foundation offers timely financial support to families with autistic children. They help with the medical expenses that are not covered or fully covered by the families’ health insurance provider.

The Bottom Line

Caring for an autistic child can be challenging, especially when they don’t have access to the treatments they need to live happy and fulfilling lives. ABA therapy is scientifically proven to help autistic children live normal lives.

And although ABA therapy is expensive, there are tons of payment options out there that can help you finance your child’s treatment.

December 8, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

How Sleep Medication Can Help Children with Autism

Many parents or caregivers of children with autism notice that their child struggles with sleep. This can be for a variety of reasons; one of the common conclusions is that children with autism suffer from sleep disorders. This article will explore that idea, giving possible causes and solutions.

 

Are Sleep Disorders Common with Autism?

It is estimated that anywhere between 50-80% of children with disorders on the autism spectrum struggle with some form of sleep disorder. This can range from difficulty falling asleep, restlessness or waking often/early, or insomnia to general poor sleep quality. Inconsistent sleep routines can exacerbate these struggles, but since the anxiety around sleep can also cause behavioral issues, it can be hard for caregivers to stick with solid sleep routines, making the cycle even worse.

 

There are many possible causes for this range of sleep disorders, which we will now discuss.

 

What Causes Sleep Disorders in Children with Autism?

In general, children use social cues to know when it is bedtime—seeing that their family members are slowing down and beginning to ease into a time of relaxing and quiet—but children with autism don’t easily pick up on social cues, often not at all. This can make it more difficult for the body and mind of a child with autism to recognize and feel comfortable with easing into bedtime.

 

Children with autism also might have increased sensitivity to outside stimuli. Meaning that neurotypical people can have lights on, watch TV, eat a sugary dessert, or play an enthusiastic board game right before bed and go to sleep just fine, but a child who is more sensitive to these stimuli will have an incredibly hard time winding down afterward and not be able to sleep.

 

Melatonin is also an important component of the sleep cycle, not only in children with autism but in all people. To make melatonin, the body needs an amino acid called tryptophan (which is in turkey, remember how people always say turkey makes you sleepy at Thanksgiving?); research has found that melatonin levels are either much higher or much lower in children with autism.

 

As you can imagine (or have already experienced), this range of sleep disorders or problems can have frustrating effects on the life of a child with autism and their family dynamic.

 

What Kind of Effects Do Sleep Problems Have?

Children with autism already struggle with things that come naturally to neurotypical children, such as sensory regulation, language skills, learning and cognitive skills, body balance, and more. In anyone, and especially in a child with autism, not having proper sleep can make all of these struggles even more intense and frustrating.

 

Research has shown that there is a connection between lack of sleep and the following characteristics in children with autism:

 

  •         Aggression
  •         Depression
  •         Hyperactivity
  •         Increased behavioral problems
  •         Irritability
  •         Poor learning and cognitive performance

 

Sleep disorders in children with autism are a hurdle for any caregiver, but there are many solutions that can help ease this part of life with a child with autism.

 

How Can I Help My Child Sleep Better?

There are plenty of things a parent or caregiver can do to help their autistic child sleep better. First, avoid stimulating food or activities within an hour of beginning the nighttime routine, such as caffeine and sugar. bThey make the nighttime process much more difficult as autistic children are more sensitive to outside stimuli. 

Next, establish a routine each night for the evening and going to bed. Make sure to begin this at the same time every night to help their body remember that it is time for sleep. You can help your child relax before bed by moving to a relaxing part of their room, giving a gentle back massage, or turning on soft music. 

To prevent sensory distractions during the night, put heavy curtains on your child’s windows to block out the light, install thick carpeting, and make sure the door doesn’t creak. You can also make sure that the temperature of the room and choice of bedding fit your child’s sensory needs. If they are comforted by it, a sound machine could help them zone into their space and prevent distractions from the rest of the house.

 

Sleeping Medication for Children with Autism

Many doctors or medical professionals recommend trying a sleeping medication for children with autism. There are many choices, each with its own benefits and potential side effects, so make sure to talk with your child’s provider and make a plan for their individual needs.

 

Some options are:

  •         Antihistamines – usually for allergies, can help induce drowsiness
  •         Motrin – an anti-inflammatory that can help calm the body
  •         Melatonin – a form of what the body naturally produces to induce sleep
  •         Clonidine – treats hypertension and ADHD but has sedative-like side effects
  •         Benzodiazepines – mostly given to adults
  •         Z drugs – many side effects reported
  •         Antidepressants – may have sedative-like effects

 

Some children may experience a range of side effects from their doctor’s choice of medication, and others may not. Many children with autism are also on other medications, so the possibility of those drugs not working well together needs to be explored as well.

 

Final Thoughts

As with any parent who has a child struggling with something in life, you want to help your little one be comfortable, healthy, and successful. Sleep is important for all of us and especially so for children with autism. There are many things you can add to your daily and nighttime routine and many that you can remove to help your child sleep better.

November 28, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Why Do Autistic Children Like to Sleep on the Floor?

We all need sleep. When you fall asleep, your body goes through a restorative process that helps you learn and recover from the experiences of the day. Sleep is particularly important for children, as their brains are rapidly developing in youth. Getting enough sleep is an essential part of maintaining good health.

However, you may have been struggling to get your autistic child to get the sleep that they need. Maybe your child insists on sleeping on the floor, and you don’t understand why they won’t get in bed. Don’t worry, this is not an uncommon problem.

This article will help you understand some of the common sleep issues that autistic children go through and offer you some easy tools that can help your child sleep better.

 

Sleeping Statistics and Common Sleep Problems Among Autistic Children

It can be estimated that anywhere from 40 to 80% of autistic children have some trouble sleeping at night, according to a large 2019 study and a variety of other studies. Autistic children have a much harder time falling and staying asleep than other children do, and issues like gastrointestinal problems, anxiety, and ADHD can make getting sleep even harder.

What problems can poor sleep exacerbate? Poor sleep is responsible for a number of common discomforts. Insomnia can poorly affect your memory and make communication more difficult—something that can already be challenging for your autistic child.

Children who don’t get enough sleep often display more severe repetitive behaviors than children who do.

Is lack of sleep the cause of health problems? This relationship is actually a bit unclear. Often, health problems and anxiety disorders play a part in preventing a good night’s sleep. However, insomnia can worsen these same issues. The relationship between sleep and health is profound—even if it’s difficult to define exactly when poor sleep is the cause of a health problem or if the health problem is causing poor sleep. 

What is clear is that consistent, good sleep helps alleviate personality disorders and illnesses. It won’t “cure” problems like anxiety, depression, ADHD, and other issues that are common in children with autism. But a good night’s sleep has been shown to help autistic children deal with these issues, helping them communicate better while stimming repetitive behavior patterns.

Odd sleeping patterns. Your child may start falling asleep in unusual ways, even sleeping on the floor.

But why does your child want to sleep on the floor, and how can you help your child sleep better?

 

Why Do Autistic Children Like to Sleep on the Floor?

You want your child to get the sleep that they need, but night after night you face endless challenges that are preventing this. Your child won’t lay in bed, they may constantly get up, and they may end up passing out on the floor. Somehow, they seem to sleep better there than they do on their bed. Why is this?

Sensory Processing Disorder

Many autistic children have sensory sensitivities and may have a sensory processing disorder (SPD). If your child has symptoms of SPD, it may mean that they are far more sensitive to stimuli than most people are not.

These symptoms may include thinking their clothes are too itchy or scratchy, lights are too bright, sounds are always too loud, food textures make them gag, and excessive clumsiness. They may not like touching or holding things, which prevents them from participating in activities.

SPD is currently not an official medical diagnosis, as it often appears alongside other diagnoses like severe anxiety, but that doesn’t mean that your child isn’t suffering from sensory overload.

Many autistic children struggle with sensory overload. SPD is often another aspect of autism that your child is feeling. This can mean at bedtime when you’re trying to tuck your child into their soft blankets, they are actually experiencing something incredibly uncomfortable.

The Bed Conundrum

There is likely nothing physically wrong with your child’s bed in a literal sense. However, to your child, that bed may feel like an itchy prison that’s constantly triggering their sensory overload. It may be that the bed is too soft, too squishy, or not smooth enough.

All of these sensory stimuli can prevent your child from getting the sleep they need, as they can’t overcome the feelings of being overwhelmed. 

The Floor Just Feels Better

At night, your child may sleep on the floor because it offers them the comfort that their bed doesn’t. The floor is smooth, cool, and hard, which can be easier for a child with SPD to deal with than a very soft bed.

It may be that your child’s bed gets too warm at night, and so they seek out the coldness of the floor to comfort themselves. Laying on the floor can also help them feel more connected and grounded.

If you’re struggling to get your child to go to sleep, there are some products on the market that can help your child feel more comfortable in their bed.

 

4 Products to Make Bedtime Smoother

Here are some products you can use to make your bedtime rituals easier.

 

The DreamPad Products

Companies like DreamPad offer a list of products to help your child fall asleep, from weighted blankets to white noise machines.

These products are designed with children in mind and are made to help relieve anxiety and dysfunctions that are preventing your child from getting the sleep that they need.

Fidget Toys

Your child may need something to do during bedtime to help their mind relax into a restful sleep. Using a pillow, like this one that has texture and small tasks which your child’s mind can focus on, can help them more naturally fall asleep.

Weighted Blankets

Weighted blankets are shown again and again to help anxiety. If your child has severe anxiety that gets worse when it’s time for bed, a weighted blanket can relieve these feelings. A small blanket, like this one made with children like yours in mind, can help your child relax at night before bed.

Bean Bags

Bean bags may be a great solution to a traditional bed at night. There are a wide variety of bean bags available online to suit any need or size.

A bean bag will help your child become accustomed to sleeping on a cushion, while also offering them the emotional and sensory comfort they feel being on the floor.

 

In Conclusion

Your autistic child may be suffering from myriad issues that are preventing them from getting a good night’s rest. By using some of the products we’ve recommended, you can start helping your child sleep better.

November 21, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Brushing Teeth for Children With Autism

Brushing Teeth for Children With Autism

 

Good oral hygiene is not only healthy but can also boost your quality of life. Unfortunately, many children with autism find this seemingly simple experience very challenging.

 

As a parent or caregiver, you have to guide them through this process and make it as pleasant as possible. First, let’s discuss why it’s challenging for a child with autism to brush their teeth.

 

Why is Brushing Teeth a Challenge for a Child With Autism?

 

Many children diagnosed with autism find tooth brushing a very unpleasant experience due to sensitivity issues. Medical professionals categorize these issues into two categories: hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity.

 

Hypersensitivity and Hyposensitivity

 

Hypersensitivity refers to heightened sensation and awareness of anything that goes in the mouth area. Children with hypersensitivity perceive tooth brushing as an over-stimulative and unpleasant experience when not performed correctly.

 

Hyposensitivity, on the other hand, refers to numbness or limited sensation in the oral region. Autistic children with hyposensitivity often feel anxious about the steps in the tooth-brushing process.

 

Whether a child is hypersensitive or hyposensitive, below are some tips that can make brushing his or her teeth easier.

 

Tips for Brushing an Autistic Child’s Teeth

 

1.      Get the Right Toothbrush

 

A regular toothbrush may feel unfamiliar or foreign for an autistic child with oral sensitivity. So, instead of a regular toothbrush, find one with soft or silicone bristles. A gentler toothbrush can help desensitize your child’s mouth, and in time, they will gradually grow accustomed to the sensation of having their teeth brushed.

 

2.      Get the Right Toothpaste

 

As an adult, you’ve had years to get used to mint-flavored toothpaste. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for autistic children with sensitivity issues. In most cases, regular toothpaste causes a bitter or burning sensation in their mouths.

 

Fortunately, there is a wide variety of toothpaste with child-friendly flavors out there. You can choose flavors like vanilla ice cream, berry, and bubblegum. If your child likes experimenting with colors, you can also get them multicolored toothpaste.

 

 

3.      Try Fluoride-Free and Unflavored Toothpaste

 

In some cases, toothpaste’s flavor and foaming might cause sensory overload. So, instead of regular flavored toothpaste, go for unflavored and non-foaming toothpaste.

 

Since the major ingredient in foaming toothpaste is sodium laureth sulfate, your pediatric dentist might suggest a herbal or powder toothpaste as an alternative. Similarly, if your child has difficulty swallowing, it might help to start them off with a fluoride-free toothpaste before gradually transitioning them into fluoride toothpaste.

 

4.      Try Flossing

 

If your child doesn’t like using a toothbrush, flossing can also help them develop good oral hygiene. For the best results, let your child choose their favorite flavor. Apart from flavor, you should also consider the correct floss size.

 

If your child has widely-spaced teeth, then a thick floss would work best for them. Similarly, if your child’s teeth are closer together, consider getting them a thinner floss.

 

If flossing doesn’t work, try other toothbrush varieties. For example, if your child struggles to hold a toothbrush, try placing a foam grip or tennis ball on the handle to make it easy to hold. Electric toothbrushes also come in handy in providing stimulation for autistic children with hyposensitivity.

 

5.      Create Incentives/Awards

 

Verbal praises and reward systems work great in reinforcing positive behavior. Consider complimenting and rewarding your child once they’re done brushing their teeth.

 

6.      Do It in the Room Where the Child Is Most Comfortable

 

Autistic children can benefit from visual supports and schedules that help them associate toothbrushing with a daily routine. While you’re at it, consider the child’s favorite room and place all their designated toothbrushing supplies in that room.

 

The tips above will improve your child’s experience when brushing their teeth. Now, let’s look at how your child should brush their teeth.

 

The Correct Way to Brush Teeth

 

When you brush your child’s teeth, make sure to clean the outside, inside, and chewing surfaces. The following steps can guide you in properly brushing your child’s teeth.

 

  • Brush the top front teeth five times.
  • Brush the bottom front teeth five times.
  • Brush the bottom back teeth five times.
  • Brush the top back teeth five times (outside, inside, and chewing surfaces).
  • Brush the middle teeth five times (upper and lower incisors).
  • Finally, brush the outside surfaces of teeth and rinse.

 

Toothpastes to Try

 

In most cases, regular toothpaste doesn’t work well with autistic children with sensitivity. That being said, the following examples of toothpaste have shown some very promising results with autistic children.

 

  • Unflavored Toothpaste Oranurse – Oranurse is an unflavored toothpaste that’s specially formulated for autistic children who have a problem with taste. This non-foaming toothpaste has the daily recommended fluoride and does not contain any traces of sodium lauryl sulfate. This makes it especially suitable for autistic children who don’t like the taste of mint and also patients with sore mouths.

 

  • Bob Unflavored ToothpasteIf your child does not like the taste of mint, then this might be the best toothpaste for them. This flavor-free toothpaste is made from natural xylitol and does not contain any harsh chemicals. Like our previous pick, this toothpaste also comes loaded with the recommended daily fluoride levels to provide the best cavity protection, tartar control, and enamel repair. It also comes in eco-friendly packaging.

 

  • Jack N’ Jill Natural Kids ToothpasteThis toothpaste features a mild taste that makes it suitable for children who tend to swallow their toothpaste instead of spitting it out. It’s made from 100% natural ingredients like xylitol and calendula, which help actively prevent cavities and tooth decay. It also provides a soothing effect on the mouth and is gluten-free, fluoride-free, and SLP-free.

 

Best Toothbrushes for Autistic Kids

 

Finding the best toothbrush for your autistic kid can be pretty daunting. To make your shopping experience a little easier, we’ve reviewed two of the best toothbrushes for autistic kids.

 

  • bA1 Sensory – This three-sided toothbrush has a 200% greater coverage per stroke and comes with very soft bristles to prevent sensory overload. The special expansion pleats allow the bristles to expand to different tooth widths, making it perfect for kids with oral motor issues. It also comes with an ergonomic handle that makes it very easy for kids to hold.

 

  • CollisCurve™ – Special Needs ToothbrushIf you want to provide the best toothbrushing experience for your autistic kid, then you should probably get them a toothbrush that’s specially designed for sensitive gums. This toothbrush features flexible and gentle bristles that are sure to reach all your child’s teeth without causing them any discomfort. It also comes equipped with expansion pleats that allow the bristles to expand to different tooth widths for a deep clean.

 

·         Happi Teeth Auto Toothbrush – If your kid doesn’t like their regular toothbrush, why not switch it up with an automatic toothbrush? This automatic toothbrush is guaranteed to make their toothbrushing experience more fun. It comes in a hand-less design, which means they don’t have to hold it when brushing their teeth. All they have to do is place it in their mouth, and it will do the rest.

Unlike most toothbrushes in the market, this toothbrush doesn’t use bristles to clean teeth. Instead, it utilizes ultrasound technology which eliminates the sensory effects associated with regular toothbrushes. Its ultrasound technology also enables it to reach all parts of the mouth, providing a deep-clean action that actively eliminates plaque and bad breath.

 

The Bottom Line

 

Mouth sensitivity among autistic children makes it very hard for them to practice proper dental hygiene. But, with the proper technique, coupled with the right tools for the job, you can make your child’s toothbrushing experience both fun and effective.

 

November 18, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Autism Hair Brushing

For autistic children who struggle with sensory issues, having their hair brushed may be extremely challenging, leading to angry outbursts and meltdowns. Below, we list some techniques that you can use to make hair brushing a more enjoyable experience for your child with autism.

Why Is Brushing Hair a Challenge for a Child With Autism?

Many children with autism have a condition known as sensory processing disorder. This condition can make personal care tasks, including brushing and styling their hair, very difficult. 

What is sensory processing disorder?

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a type of neurological disorder that prevents the brain and nervous system from correctly integrating sensory input from the environment. There are two types of sensory processing issues: under-sensitivity and oversensitivity.  

 

Some children with SPD are under-sensitive (hyposensitive). They show little or no reaction to sensations like heat, cold, and pain and often seek more sensory stimulation. Other children are oversensitive (hypersensitive) to the information they receive through their senses, causing them to avoid these sensations. For a hypersensitive child with sensory processing disorder, loud noises, bright lights, and touch can feel overwhelming.

 

Most children with autism spectrum disorder experience a mix of the two sensory issues. They are hyposensitive to certain sensations and hypersensitive to others. 

What senses are affected?

Sensory processing disorder can affect one or more senses that may cause your child to struggle with having their hair brushed.

Tactile

Many children with sensory issues have very sensitive scalps and don’t like to have their heads touched by brushes or combs. Tactile sensitivity is the most common reason for problems with hair care in autistic children.

Vestibular

The vestibular system controls the body’s sense of balance and motion. Some children don’t like having their heads tilted backward or forward when you brush their hair. It can make them feel uncomfortable, unsteady, and scared.

Auditory

Some autistic children are extremely sensitive to the sound of clippers or water in a shower.

Olfactory

Your child may react to the smell of hair products, which makes the hair brushing experience unpleasant.

Here are some tips on how to make hair brushing less stressful and slowly integrate it into your child’s daily routine. 

Tips for Brushing an Autistic Child’s Hair

  • Determine the cause of your child’s aversion to hair brushing. Once you understand what your child’s main sensory issues are, you will be able to eliminate the causes of stress. 
  • Accept that your child’s resistance to hair brushing doesn’t mean they’re being difficult. There might be a real sensory issue that is causing them pain or discomfort.
  • Give your child more control, for example, allow them to choose hair products and let them brush and style their own hair.
  • Don’t expect your child to sit still while you brush and style their hair. Let them play with a fidget, stress ball, or watch TV as a distraction.
  • Let your child look at the mirror while you’re brushing their hair to give them a greater sense of control.
  • Choose a low-maintenance hairstyle for your child that will require less brushing.
  • Children with a sensory processing disorder depend on a reliable routine. Try to brush your child’s hair at the same time each day. It’s usually a good idea to do this after physical activity later in the day as children are often more sensitive in the morning.
  • Make a visual schedule to break down hair brushing into smaller steps. This will also help your child understand what is expected from them.
  • Use a visual timer to let your child know how long brushing their hair will take.
  • Many autistic children are sensitive to gentle touch. Make sure to place your hand firmly at the top of your child’s head and brush small sections of the hair at a time. Hold a strip of hair above any tangles so that your child doesn’t feel the tugging as you pull the tangle loose. 
  • Massage your child’s scalp before you start brushing their hair. This can help decrease sensitivity.
  • If your child doesn’t like having their hair brushed, you may try switching to a brush designed for children with sensory issues. The hairbrush should have soft bristles with rounded heads to make the experience more comfortable. Let your child choose a brush that feels good.
  • Use a good-quality hair detangling product to reduce discomfort. 

Keep on reading to find out what are the best brushes and hair detanglers for children with autism. 

Brushes for Children With Autism

Tangle Teezer Salon Elite Detangle Hairbrush

This professional detangling brush with memory flex technology can be used for all hair types. It eliminates tangles and knots on both wet and dry hair and minimizes breakage. 

Tanglefix

Tanglefix is perfect for brushing and detangling straight, wavy, and curly hair. This brush is lightweight and features soft bristles and easy-grip sides for better control. 

Knot Genie Detangling Brush

Knot Genie lets you easily brush and detangle your child’s hair. Its cloud-shaped top will fit your palm perfectly whether you’re right or left handed to make the brushing process more comfortable.

Hair Detanglers for Children With Autism

Johnson’s No More Tangles Spray Detangler

Johnson’s mild detangling spray instantly unlocks knots and tangles, making hair brushing and styling easier. The product can be used on wet or dry hair. It is hypoallergenic and contains no parabens, phthalates, sulfates, or synthetic colors.

SoCozy Detangler Leave-In Conditioner Spray For Kids Hair

SoCozy detangler will soften your child’s hair in a matter of seconds, making it easy to brush. It is suitable for all hair types and will leave your child’s hair soft and shiny. This detangler contains keratin, soy protein, and kiwi extract to moisturize and protect the hair. It has no parabens, sulfates, phthalates, dyes, or allergens. 

Mane ‘n Tail Detangler The Tangles and Knots Solution

The Mane ‘n Tail detangler is formulated with natural herbal extracts to help nourish and strengthen your child’s hair. It’s safe and gentle for all hair types.

November 17, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Autism and Bathing

Most of us think of taking a bath as a relatively relaxing experience, but for someone who is sensitive to stimuli, there’s actually a lot going on.

 

When parents bathe their autistic children, they face a variety of challenges. Below we’ll discuss why that is and what parents can do to make bath time with an autistic child a more pleasant experience for everyone.

 

What is autism?

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a developmental disability. However, the reason it’s referred to as a “spectrum” disorder is because there is a wide variety of conditions that fit into this category, and some cases are more severe than others.

 

In general, autism is often characterized by delays in social development, communication issues, repetitive behaviors, and challenges related to interacting with the outside world.

 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 54 children in the United States today.

 

Why may someone with autism have a bathing issue?

When a child is diagnosed on the autism spectrum, you may have trouble interacting with them. Characteristics of autism that can lead to challenges while bathing a child, specifically, include:

          Their likeliness to get upset by minor changes

          Their desire to follow specific routines

          Physical reactions such as hand flapping and body rocking

          Unexpected (and often unpleasant) reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste, look, or feel

          Their hyperactive and impulsive behavior

 

But the main challenge for children on the autism spectrum when it comes to bath time is their reaction to physical stimuli. An autistic child may find bath time traumatic, which in turn makes it hard for whoever is bathing them.

 

Heightened sensory issues

Children on the autism spectrum are often overstimulated during bath time. This may be because they do not enjoy the sounds and feelings associated with being in the bath or the need to sit still during their discomfort.

 

Some of the things that may affect them negatively include: 

            – Splashing or running water

            – Water temperature

            – Bathroom lights

            – The smells of soaps or shampoos

            – The feeling of soap on their skin

            – The feeling of being towel-dried or wrapped in a towel

            – The feeling or fear of getting soap in their eyes

            – The sound of water draining

 

As a result of these negative feelings, children may develop a fear of water. They may also get anxious about getting out of the tub and being exposed to the cold air or slippery surfaces.

 

A bathtub is a relatively confined space, which can lead to feelings of claustrophobia as well.

 

Tips for bathing someone with autism

The best way to make bath time more enjoyable (or at least less traumatic) for everyone is to limit a child’s exposure to potential fears as much as possible and play to their strengths.

 

Pick a time that works for them

Children on the autism spectrum generally like routine. If bath time happens at the same time and in the same way each day, there may be less room for anxiety over the unexpected.

 

It may also be wise to schedule bath time a few hours before or after other stimulating activities so the child is already calm and not overstimulated. 

 

Prepare the bath in advance

If your child is sensitive to sounds, fill the bathtub without them in the room. You may also keep in mind the height at which they prefer the water. Some children do not like to be submerged more than is necessary.

 

You can also perform a temperature check so you know the bath water will not be too hot or too cold for the child and cause them extra discomfort.

 

In addition, if you prepare a child’s bath ahead of time, you will have the chance to remove any items (such as toys or excess bottles) that might cause them anxiety.

 

Make a to-do list

Uncertainty on the part of the parent or child makes bath time more difficult. That’s why it may be helpful to make a list of everything you need to do in order to prepare your child for bath time.

 

In the event that another guardian is bathing them, having a list will help them keep bath time as consistent as possible for your child as well.

 

Minimize fragrances

Most fragrances are artificial anyway, so a fragrance-free bathroom might be in everyone’s best interests.

 

Children on the autism spectrum can react poorly to strong or new smells, so it’s a good idea to minimize fragrances by doing the following:

          Eliminate air fresheners or other scented decor from the bathroom your child uses for bath time

          Invest in soaps and shampoos that are fragrance-free

 

Decide if a shower or bath is better

In some cases, a shower may be a better option than a bath for a child on the autism spectrum. It will all depend on the individual and how they respond to the feeling of water on their skin.

 

Try both a bath and shower with your child, making sure you use a routine, pay close attention to water temperature, and eliminate as many scents as possible before deciding which they respond to best.

 

Toys for bath time

Some autistic children are easier to bathe when they are distracted by toys. Here are a few bath tub items to try:

 

Sensory sponges – This 14-piece sponge set is practical and playful. The different textures will allow your child to choose what they enjoy most. Click here for purchase information.

 

Bath crayons – These easy-wash crayons are a great distraction for children who don’t enjoy bath or shower time, but do love to get creative. They let your child focus on something more pleasant so bath time is over before they know it. Click here for purchase information.

 

PipSquigz – This silicone suction toy is designed to get your child to notice it rather than their surroundings. They can provide a soothing sensory experience for younger children. Click here to purchase.

 

Shampoo, body wash, and conditioner for autistic children

It’s important to choose cleansing items carefully for your autistic child to eliminate any unwanted smells or textures. Here are a few recommended items for bath or shower time:

 

Nature Clean Kids Shampoo & Body Wash – A two-in-one product that is hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, natural, and non-irritating.

 

Suave Sensitive Skin 3-in-1 Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Wash – This product takes care of all 3 bathing necessities in one bottle. It’s also fragrance-free.

 

Babo Botanicals Sensitive Baby Fragrance Free Shampoo & Wash – This two-in-one product is also formulated for sensitive skin and senses. 

October 12, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Early Autism Solutions

Although there’s no cure for autism, a range of therapies can help reduce the most common symptoms associated with the condition. However, early diagnosis and interventions are crucial for achieving long-term positive effects on skill development. Continue reading to find out what types of early autism solutions are available and how they can help autistic children reach their full potential.

What Type of Therapy Do Autistic Children Need?

Most therapies for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder are based on either a behavioral or developmental approach. The two approaches are often combined and used in speech, occupational, physical, and social development therapies, depending on the child’s individual needs.

Behavior therapies

Behavior therapies, generally referred to as applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapies, are used to help children with autism learn new skills, reinforce positive behaviors, and reduce unwanted ones. 

 

Techniques typically used in behavioral therapies include:

 

  • Discrete Trial Training (DTT), a technique that breaks down skills into smaller components that are easy to learn. 
  • Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBI), a comprehensive instruction method used for autistic preschoolers. 
  • Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT), a play-based treatment initiated by the child.
  • Joint Attention, Symbolic Play, Engagement, and Regulation (JASPER), the approach that identifies and treats the principal deficit areas in autistic children.

Developmental therapies

Developmental therapies help promote social interactions by teaching the necessary social, communication, and daily living skills. 

 

Examples of developmental therapies include:

  • Developmental Social-Pragmatic (DSP) treatment, a model that uses everyday interactions between autistic children and the caregiver in order to promote communication skills.
  • Developmental and Individual Differences Relationship (DIR) therapy, also called Floortime, that builds on strengths, interests, and already existing communication skills to motivate autistic children to learn new skills.
  • Relationship Development Intervention (RDI), a family-centered approach designed to build relationships through sharing various emotional and social experiences.
  • Responsive Prelinguistic Milieu Teaching (RPMT), an intervention for autistic children who are nonverbal or who have significant speech delays.

Combined therapies

Certain therapies for autism combine elements of behavioral and developmental approaches. These therapies are often shown to be the most effective ones. For example, behavioral therapy may show better results if it also includes elements of developmental therapies that focus on learning skills.

Combined therapies include:

 

  • Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), a play-based therapy that helps develop social communication in children with autism.
  • Communication, Emotional Regulation, and Transactional Support (SCERTS) that uses elements from several other approaches, including ABA, Floortime, and RDI. 

Therapy-based supports

Therapy-based supports for autistic children target specific difficulties when it comes to development or communication skills. They are often used together with, or as part of, other therapies and include: 

 

  • Speech therapy that addresses challenges with language and communication
  • Occupational therapy that helps develop fine motor and daily living skills
  • Key Word Sign strategy, the use of signs and gestures to support language development
  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) which allows communication through pictures.

 

Below, we focus on the benefits of ABA therapy for children with autism. 

What Is Aba Therapy?

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is the most popular therapy for autism offered in early childhood. It focuses on changing unwanted behaviors while reinforcing desirable ones through positive reinforcement in the form of rewards and other incentives. 

ABA therapy can help your child with autism build and strengthen social and communication skills, such as:

  • Increase attention, focus, and memory
  • Learn to follow directions and instructions
  • Improve language skills 
  • Learn to initiate conversations and respond to questions
  • Help understand social cues like facial expressions and body language
  • Reduce problematic behaviors such as aggressivity and meltdowns
  • Help acquire basic academic and pre-academic skills.

Read on to find out more about the different types of early intervention therapies. 

What Is Considered Early Intervention Therapy?

Early interventions take place at or before preschool age. An early intervention therapy can be used already at the age of 2 or 3, as soon as your child is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. At this age, your child’s brain is still forming, which increases the chances of treatments being effective in the long run.

 

There are several different types of early intervention therapies that can help your child gain the basic physical, cognitive, communication, and emotional skills that they would typically learn in the first years of life. These therapies include:

  • Occupational therapy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Hearing impairment services
  • Nutritional therapy
  • Psychological therapy
  • Family training.

 

Autistic children often benefit from a combination of these therapies. In addition, they often need different therapies or therapy combinations at various stages of their development.

 

We’ve seen that there are many effective treatments that can help reduce autism symptoms, but you may be wondering whether early treatment increases the chances that your child will outgrow autism. 

Can Early Autism Go Away?

Autism is typically considered a lifelong condition, although research shows that some children can outgrow a diagnosis. However, children who are likely to see radical improvement are those with normal or above normal IQ and mild autism symptoms that don’t include issues such as seizures, speech delays, learning disabilities, or severe anxiety. 

 

And that’s not all. Results can only be achieved with rigorous long-term therapy. For example, ABA-based early intervention requires up to 40 hours of treatment per week for several years before you can see a significant improvement.  

It is also important to keep in mind that even high functioning children who appear to outgrow autism often continue to struggle with sensory issues, communication difficulties, and other challenges.

Does Medication Help Autism?

Medication can’t cure autism, but it can effectively treat symptoms that autistic children may experience, for example:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Obsessive compulsive behavior
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Self-harming behavior
  • Seizures
  • Tics
  • Sleep disorders.

Medications that are used to treat these symptoms include:

 

  • Typical antipsychotics (haloperidol, chlorpromazine, and fluphenazine) and typical antipsychotics (risperidone and aripiprazole) for reducing autism-related irritability 
  • Stimulants (dexamphetamine and methylphenidate) for a temporary increase in mental or physical functions.

Medications for treating symptoms of autism are most effective when combined with behavioral or developmental therapies.

October 10, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Are Autism and Bipolar Disorder Related?

Autism is a developmental disability. It’s characterized by relationship, social, communication, and behavioral challenges. The disorder is a spectrum condition, meaning it affects you differently and with varying degrees. Autism appears during early childhood and does not fall in the medical conditions category. 

There is nothing significant that sets you apart from the rest if you’re autistic. The only difference is that you learn, think and solve problems differently. Let’s start by understanding bipolar disorder to know how it compares to autism.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes regular mood swings. The mood swings can be high (mania or hypomania) or low (depression). It’s known to affect your energy, sleep, thinking, behavior, and other day-to-day tasks. Here are the three common types of bipolar disorders:

Bipolar I Disorder

You know you have this variant when you start experiencing manic episodes that last for at least one week. Sometimes, the episodes become so severe that you need emergency medical care. You may also experience depressive episodes that last for two weeks. Bipolar I disorder is characterized by:

  • Heightened mood 
  • Exaggerated optimism
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Excessive irritability or aggressive behavior
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Racing speech or thoughts
  • Impulsiveness or poor judgment
  • Reckless behavior

In more severe cases, you may experience psychosis involving delusions and hallucinations.

Bipolar II Disorder

Unlike bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder is characterized by depressive episodes. However, the episodes are not as extreme as those in bipolar I. Symptoms of bipolar II include:

  • Low mood
  • Extended sadness, even crying unexpectedly at certain times
  • Major effects in appetite and sleep patterns
  • Anxiety and anger issues
  • Reduced energy 
  • Feelings of guilt and unworthiness 
  • Reduced or zero concentration 
  • Regular suicidal thoughts
  • Psychosis in extreme cases

Cyclothymic Disorder 

Manic and depressive behavior episodes characterize this bipolar variant. However, it’s less intense than the other two types mentioned above. The behaviors can last up to two years in adults and one year in children. 

Note that you can escalate bipolar episodes if you misuse drugs and alcohol. As a result, you may suffer from a condition known as “dual diagnosis.” Dual diagnosis requires a specialist to tackle both problems.

Next, let’s look at how bipolar disorder and autism relate to each other.

Are Autism and Bipolar Disorder Related?

Bipolar disorder may manifest in people with autism during early childhood development. According to a 2008 study, 27 percent of people with autism show symptoms of bipolar disorder. Scientists also suggest that 4% of the general population with bipolar disorder may be over-diagnosed. This is because it’s hard for people with autism to relate feelings properly. 

The probability of developing both conditions is not yet clear. It’s also unclear what factors or triggers lead to high chances of suffering from autism or bipolar disorders. 

But in some cases, these conditions are genetic. So if you have a close family member with autism, you have a higher chance of developing it. The same applies to bipolar disorder or depression. 

Some experts say that autism and bipolar disorder activate specific genes in astrocytes. Astrocytes are star-shaped brain cells that are important components of the central nervous system (CNS). Sometimes, it’s hard to differentiate between autism and bipolar disorder because their symptoms are similar. 

Read on to find out how their symptoms overlap each other.

Overlapping Symptoms of Autism and Bipolar Disorder

Studies show that a huge percentage of individuals with bipolar disorder are misdiagnosed with autism and vice versa. This is because the two conditions share similar symptoms. Therefore, it can be hard for doctors to tell the difference.

To establish whether you have autism, bipolar, or a combination of both conditions, the psychiatrist assesses how often the symptoms occur. They also assess how long the symptoms occur and the severity.

For instance, it’s normal for you to talk too much or lose focus easily if you have autism. But when you suddenly start experiencing high energy episodes, acting inappropriately, and going for days without sleep, you likely have bipolar I disorder. 

Research by the National Library of Medicine suggests that young adults diagnosed with both bipolar disorder and autism have higher chances of:

  • Experiencing mood symptoms earlier
  • Being easily distracted 
  • Developing racing thoughts
  • Being socially withdrawn 

Due to the overlapping symptoms in both conditions, a doctor may mistakenly diagnose you with autism instead of bipolar disorder, and vice versa. Below are some of the similarities in behavioral differences of the two conditions:

  • Being prone to accidents 
  • Difficulty in organizing thoughts 
  • Excessive talking
  • Easily distracted
  • Getting in trouble or doing risky things
  • Mood swings (either elevated or depressing)
  • Extreme irritability
  • Hostility behaviors
  • Tendency of repeating certain activities or behaviors
  • Sleeplessness 

Psychiatrists may find it hard to diagnose mental health problems in autistic individuals. This is especially true if they have significant levels of impaired communication and intellectual abilities. Currently, there is no treatment for autism. However, there are bipolar treatments that have proven to be a success in the past. 

If you’re suffering from both conditions, you should be careful when taking medications. This is because they react differently with different individuals. For example, antidepressants may worsen bipolar disorder symptoms. 

It’s highly recommended that you combine both behavioral interventions and medical treatments for optimal results. Behavioral management involves the following practices:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: It helps understand your thoughts and emotions to know how they relate to your actions.
  • Family Therapy: It focuses on your family members to help them learn how to support you.
  • Education: It helps decrease depression symptoms and ease uncertainty.
  • Applied Behavior Analysis: It aims to encourage positive behavior and reduce negative ones.

Get Help From the Right Physician

Autism and bipolar disorder share the same symptoms. It’s therefore hard to diagnose them when the two conditions co-occur. Managing them involves a series of medications and behavioral interventions. This is why you need an experienced physician to treat your condition.

September 30, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Autism Specialist

Autism specialists are trained and certified to work with autistic individuals in a variety of settings. In this article, you’ll learn more about the roles and responsibilities of autism specialists and how they can help children with autism overcome their sensory, social, and emotional challenges. 

What Is an Autism Specialist? 

An autism spectrum disorder specialist (ASDS) is a person who is trained to work with children and adults diagnosed with autism. An autism specialist can provide a range of educational and therapeutic services, in addition to designing and developing treatment plans to address the symptoms of autism. Treatments may include everything from speech therapy and sensory therapy to social skills training, physical therapy, and the use of assistive technology. 

 

Autism specialists work together with other professionals and educators to evaluate, treat, plan, and manage challenging behaviors. They also monitor the progress and review the areas that need improvement for an autistic person to reach their intended goals. Because every person with autism is different and faces unique challenges, treatments provided by autism specialists are customized to suit the patient’s individual needs.

 

Besides improving outcomes for the autistic child at home and in the classroom, an autism specialist’s roles include: 

 

  • Counseling families about any problems they are currently experiencing
  • Holding regular meetings with families to discuss the child’s current needs
  • Referring to families for further support if needed
  • Helping families of autistic children fight for their rights and making sure they are being treated with equality.

It’s important to keep in mind that autism spectrum disorder specialists are not medical doctors. This means that they don’t prescribe medication or diagnose medical conditions. However, autism specialists often work with a team of healthcare professionals when treating autistic individuals in clinical settings. 

 

Becoming a certified autism specialist takes years of training and experience. Keep on reading to learn more about the ASDS education requirements.

What Type of Training Do Autism Specialists Go Through? 

Most autism specialist positions require a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis (ABA). Before getting a master’s degree, the candidate needs to obtain a bachelor’s degree in either applied behavior analysis or a related field such as: 

  • Early childhood education
  • Special education
  • Educational psychology
  • Psychology
  • Social work
  • Counseling.

Moreover, graduate programs in applied behavioral analysis typically include gaining practical experience through an internship in a healthcare or school setting. 

Some autism specialist entry-level positions, such as assistant behavior analyst and working with autistic individuals in residential care and supported living environments, require only a bachelor’s degree or a bachelor’s degree accompanied with specialized training in treating autism spectrum disorder. 

In the course of their studies, autism specialists learn about the topics such as:

  • Child psychology
  • Theories related to the autism spectrum disorder
  • Teaching methods for special education
  • Special communication methods
  • Behavior analysis
  • Autism treatment methods
  • Crisis intervention.

Additional requirements

Some employers may require a teaching degree or certification as well as the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) certification to work as an autism spectrum disorder specialist. State license to practice behavioral therapy may also be required by some states. 

Autism certification

Educators and licensed professionals who work with autistic children and adults are eligible to attend the autism specialist certification program offered by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) and obtain the Autism Certificate. This certification is reserved for professionals who have been working in the field for at least two years and who have a minimum of a master’s degree. It must be renewed every two years. 

 

The autism specialist certification program covers the following topics:

  • Identifying typical behaviors and characteristics of a person diagnosed with autism
  • Using applied behavioral analysis techniques to help manage and change the behaviors of autistic children
  • Identifying appropriate evidence-based strategies for working with children with autism
  • Selecting the best strategies to suit the individual needs of each child
  • Understanding federal and state regulations regarding the education of children with autism
  • The history of the terms related to autism spectrum disorder.

Necessary skills

Aside from an in-depth knowledge of managing autism spectrum disorder, autism specialists must also have the following personal skills:

 

  • Passion for working with autistic children
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Excellent analytical and judgment skills
  • Ability to build a good relationship with children and their families in order to assess the type of help they need
  • Active listening skills to ensure that they fully understand the challenges the child is dealing with and to be able to offer tailored solutions
  • Complex problem-solving skills to ensure they’re providing the best possible treatment to each child
  • Creativity to use in games and activities
  • Ability to provide encouragement in all areas of therapy.

Where Do Autism Specialists Work? 

Autism specialists work with autistic children both in groups and in one-on-one settings. They can provide therapy or assistance in a classroom, private counseling, medical facilities, residential centers, or at home

An autism specialist can help reduce your child’s challenging behaviors such as frustrated outbursts, anger, and aggression, while at the same time increasing positive behaviors like focusing, following instructions, and communicating effectively with other people.

Working in an educational setting

Your child with autism spectrum disorder may be placed in a general education classroom where they get special assistance from an aide, a special education classroom, or a special class where they receive additional help several hours per day. Autism specialists can work in any of these settings either as assistants, general education teachers who offer specialized instruction for children with autism, or as special education teachers. 

In a classroom setting, autism specialists not only help autistic students improve their academic skills such as arithmetic, spelling, and handwriting, but they also facilitate their interaction with peers and help them deal with challenging social situations. Their work also includes planning lessons and games that involve both autistic and other students and monitor their interactions.

In addition to assisting autistic children, autism specialists also work with neurotypical children in the same classroom. They may teach them about the challenges that autistic students face and what they can do to improve peer interactions. For example, autism specialists can teach students how to model behaviors for autistic children and how to interact with them in a way that promotes positive behaviors.

Providing in-home therapy

In-home treatment for autism has benefits not only for children but also for their families. An autism specialist is someone who understands the child’s unique needs and behaviors and is equipped to deal with them. Having an autism specialist who works with the child at home allows parents to learn new skills and techniques for managing their child’s needs. In addition, with in-home therapy, parents and other family members are able to actively participate in the therapy themselves.

Salary of an Autism Specialist

The salary of autism specialists depends on their educational background and years of experience. The typical entry-level salary of an autism specialist is $29,000 per year. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, autism specialists who work as special education teachers earn a median salary ranging from $55,840 per year for preschool teachers to $61,420 per year for teachers at the secondary school level. The median annual salary of autism specialists who work as clinical, counseling, and school psychologists is $82,180 per year. 

Now that we know what an autism spectrum disorder specialist does, let’s see what are the benefits of having a specialist work with your autistic child.

How Can an Autism Specialist Help Your Child? 

If your child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, you will want to use as many resources as possible to help them overcome their challenges and improve their quality of life. A certified autism specialist can help with a range of sensory, social, and emotional difficulties typical for the condition. 

Sensory challenges 

Most children with autism spectrum disorder are to some degree affected by sensory overload. Crowds, excessive noise, bright lights, and strong tastes and smells may feel overwhelming and disruptive because they provide more sensory input than the child’s brain can process.

An autism specialist will show your child what to do when they start to feel overwhelmed and help them establish effective self-soothing strategies. Different strategies are effective for different children, so the specialist will work together with your child to find out the best coping method. This can be anything from practicing deep breathing, counting to ten, using sensory toys or fidgets, or taking a walk. They will start by practicing these strategies together so that your child has a concrete plan in place that they can use as soon as they experience a sensory overload.

Moreover, an autism specialist will show your child what are the appropriate responses to sensations overload, also known as sensory modulations. These responses will allow your child to learn appropriate behaviors, maintain focus, and avoid strong emotional reactions. At the same time, the specialist will work on decreasing negative behaviors, including angry outbursts and meltdowns.

Social interactions

Children with autism often show little or no interest in the world around them and have a limited understanding of other people’s feelings. As a consequence, they may experience social interactions as unpredictable and frightening. For example, they may not understand the purpose of greeting someone, waiting for their turn to speak, showing facial expressions, or maintaining eye contact. 

 

What’s more, children with autism often have inflexible behaviors and interests that make it difficult to form and maintain friendships and may lead to social isolation, for example: 

 

  • Repeating the same actions or movements over and over again, such as flapping hands, rocking, twirling, or spinning objects
  • Following strict routines
  • Unusual attachments to objects
  • Lining objects and toys up or arranging them in a certain order
  • Having very restricted areas of interest. 

An applied behavioral analyst will work with your child to change these behaviors, for example, teach them how to greet others, take turns, make eye contact, or pay attention to the person who is talking to them. Certified autism specialists will help your child develop social skills in a way that they can interact with their classmates and others around them a little easier. This type of support requires careful planning and a fully personalized approach. 

Emotional interactions

Children with autism are generally resistant to change and prefer familiar situations and activities. They may struggle to control their emotions in new and unpredictable situations and transition to another activity or setting. Any disruption in their routines could cause frustration, anger, and unusually intense emotional reactions compared to their neurotypical peers. 

Changes in routines or in the environment that result in high levels of stress and anxiety can affect the child both psychologically and physically. Anxiety disorders, including obsessive compulsive disorder, phobias, and social anxieties, are the most common comorbid conditions in children with autism. 

 

Teaching autistic children how to recognize and manage emotions can help them understand and respond better to others. Autism specialists encourage emotional development in autistic children by using methods such as sensory and speech therapy, games, and exercises. They work on emotional skills like emotional labels and shared attention, so that your child can generalize what they learn in therapy sessions to their everyday lives.

 

A certified autism specialist can also help autistic children manage their emotions in the classroom setting where having a meltdown could severely impact their learning and that of other students. Having dedicated support will help your child feel safe while they are doing their schoolwork.

We’ve seen that most autism specialists hold a degree in applied behavioral analysis (ABA). But what exactly does this type of therapy consist of and why is it so effective for treating autism? 

ABA Therapy

What is ABA therapy?

ABA stands for applied behavior analysis, a type of therapy that focuses on changing unwanted behaviors while at the same time reinforcing desirable ones. Developed by psychologist Ivar Lovaas in the 1970s, ABA therapy has been successfully used to help children with autism and related developmental disorders ever since.

 

ABA therapy can help children with autism build and strengthen social and communication skills, for example:

  • Improve their language skills 
  • Help them acquire basic academic and pre-academic skills
  • Increase their attention, focus, and memory
  • Teach them to follow directions and instructions
  • Help them understand social cues such as facial expressions and body language
  • Teach them how to initiate conversations and respond to questions in an appropriate way
  • Reduce problematic behaviors such as aggressivity, anger outbursts, and meltdowns.

The success of ABA therapy depends on two main factors: personalization and persistence.

Personalization 

An autism specialist has to identify specific areas where each child needs improvement so that they can design and develop an effective treatment plan and ensure the child’s progress. When devising a treatment plan, autism specialists must take into consideration factors such as the age of the child, their level of functioning, individual needs and preferences, and particular skills they need help with.

Persistence

Applied behavior analysis therapy is a rigorous teaching method that can be very effective, however, results don’t appear overnight. Dedicating enough time to therapy is essential for the success of ABA therapy. Most children with autism will benefit from an intensive, ongoing approach to teaching appropriate behaviors and changing the unwanted ones. They may need anywhere from 20 to 40 hours per week for two years or more to show significant improvement. 

How does ABA therapy work?

Applied behavior analysis therapists use a range of positive reinforcement techniques to reward positive behaviors. When a desirable behavior is followed by a special treat or activity, the child is more likely to repeat the action in the future. Over time, this method leads to positive behavioral changes in children diagnosed with autism. 

 

Typically, ABA therapy is based on breaking down essential skills into small, concrete steps. It then builds toward more significant changes in functioning and independence levels. Therapy sessions may include a combination of play, direct instructions, various activities, adaptive skills training, as well as parental guidance. ABA therapy offers customized treatment based on each child’s individual strengths and weaknesses.

How successful is ABA therapy? 

Over the last several years, there has been a significant increase in the use of ABA therapy as a means of developing social, sensory, emotional, and other skills in autistic children. There is no doubt that this is a challenging and time-consuming process, however, with time, effort, and patience, many children will ultimately learn to be independent and function in social settings. 

ABA therapy is currently considered the most effective form of autism treatment and has been endorsed by the U.S. Surgeon General. With early intervention, close to 50% of children on the autism spectrum reach a development level at which they are indistinguishable from their neurotypical peers, while the general improvement rate of using ABA therapy is over 90%. 

For more information about ABA therapy, feel free to call us at 404-487-6005, send us an email at info@wordpress-765752-2798792.cloudwaysapps.com, or fill out our contact form, and we’ll be in touch with you as soon as possible. 

 

September 30, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Autism Bracelets

If your son or daughter has autism, safety is constantly on your mind. You want others to know about the diagnosis, and you want to ensure that medical providers have any needed information during emergencies. You can accomplish this by having your son or daughter wear an autism bracelet.

What Is an Autism Bracelet?

An autism bracelet is essentially a medical ID for people who are on the spectrum. The bracelets quickly communicate that the wearer has autism. Plus, the bracelets can contain:

  •       Emergency contact information
  •       Medical information

These bracelets might sound simple, but they are very important.

Why Are Autism Bracelets Important?

By wearing an autism bracelet, your child will alert others that he or she is on the spectrum. This is especially beneficial when your child is out in public without you or the other parent. When others realize your child has autism, they can interact accordingly. This makes it much easier for your child to get the support needed in public.

Autism bracelets also contain vital medical information. If your child has a medical emergency, healthcare providers can use the bracelet to learn about allergies and more. Thus, your child will get the necessary care, even if he or she cannot communicate. This can mean the difference between life and death in some situations.

In addition, the bracelet makes it easy for others to contact you. If your child does have an emergency, a witness or first responder can call you so you can tend to the situation.

Due to these important benefits, you’re likely considering buying an autism bracelet for your child. First, we’ll go over some tips for making a purchase. Then, it will be much easier to get a bracelet that will protect your son or daughter.

Tips for Autism Bracelets

If you’re new to the world of autism bracelets, you probably don’t know where to begin. First, let’s look at some basic tips to consider when shopping for these bracelets, starting with purchasing one your child wants to wear.

Buy One Your Child Wants to Wear

An autism bracelet can only help if your child wears it. Thus, it’s important to choose one that your son or daughter wants to wear.

This often comes down to colors. Children are more likely to wear a bracelet in a color they like. You can also have your child help you pick out the bracelet to ensure he or she likes it. Then, your son or daughter will get excited about putting it on each day. It will be a fun accessory instead of a medical alert bracelet.

Get It Personalized

Also, get the autism bracelet personalized. Include important information, such as your child’s name and an emergency contact number. Also, you can list medical conditions, such as allergies.

Finally, you can add a fun tidbit when personalizing the autism bracelet. For example, if your child loves a certain character, add it to the bracelet. That can come in handy when others are trying to connect with your son or daughter. This can also help calm your child down in public situations.

Buy a Few in Case They Get Lost

No matter how careful you are, you could lose the autism bracelet. Because of that, it’s important to purchase several so you’ll have backups.

If your child only likes one color, you can buy several in the same color. However, if your son or daughter likes to mix things up, choose different colors to provide a selection.

Next, let’s look at the best brands of autism bracelets. Then, you can take the next step and order a bracelet for your child.

Best Brands of Autism Bracelets

The market is full of autism bracelets, so the question is, which brand is the best? There are actually three solid choices you can choose from when shopping for these brands. Let’s look at each one, starting with Alert Me Bands.

Alert Me Bands

Alert Me Bands is probably the most popular manufacturer of autism bracelets. There are tons of designs to choose from, allowing wearers to show off their personal styles. This includes bracelets with autism puzzle pieces or ribbons, which can serve as an obvious indicator of the wearer’s autism.

Once you choose the bracelet you want, you can select the color and add up to four lines of text. While the text is often used for emergency contact information, you can also add medical information, as we mentioned earlier.

Also, these bands are adjustable, so people of all wrist sizes can wear them. Plus, you don’t have to worry about your son or daughter taking it off. While you can easily take the band on and off, you also have the option to childproof it. Then, your child won’t be able to remove it without your help.

Medical ID Fashions

Artist and cancer survivor Abbe Sennett designs and creates autism bracelets and then sells them under the name Medical ID Fashions. She designs “unremovable” autism bracelets, meaning that two hands are needed to take the bracelets off. Thus, your child cannot remove the bracelet without assistance.

The bracelets are fashionable, so kids enjoy wearing them. At the same time, they contain all the relevant information on the ID tag. The ID tag has four customizable lines, so you can include emergency contact information, medical information, and more. You can even use one of the lines to add a fun fact, such as that your child loves Spiderman. 

The ID tag hangs off the bracelet and is clearly visible. Just like the bracelet itself, the ID tags are available in various options. All are oval-shaped, but you can choose from different colors so your son or daughter can find something that fits their personal style. Some children choose to wear the same style of bracelet every day but like to switch up the ID tags from time to time.

MedicAlert ID

You likely think that MedicAlert bracelets are just for elderly people. While the elderly population certainly benefits from these bracelets, they are available for people with autism as well.

As with the bracelets from the other brands, you can use this bracelet to communicate your child’s condition and medical needs. Also, you can add emergency contact information.

When you enroll your child or other loved one into the MedicAlert program, you’ll also benefit from the 24/7 Wandering Support Program. This means if your loved one wanders away and cannot be found, the MedicAlert Foundation will work with law enforcement and others to locate the individual. This can provide peace of mind if your child tends to get lost.

There are numerous options for bracelets, and you can even get dog tags if you wish. With so many choices, it’s easy for kids to find something they’re excited about wearing.

Choose an Autism Bracelet Today

Now is the ideal time to purchase an autism bracelet. Remember, select one that your child will like, get it personalized, and buy a few in case you lose any of them. Also, consider purchasing the bracelets from a top brand so you will get the customization options and features necessary to protect your child.

 

 

August 17, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Behavior Support Plan

A behavior support plan (BSP) identifies positive skills and strategies that can help reduce problem behaviors, based on the findings of a functional behavior assessment. In this article, you’ll learn more about how behavior support plans are used to manage challenging behaviors and replace them with appropriate ones.

What Is a Behavior Support Plan?

A behavior support plan (BSP) is a formal written guide intended for teachers, parents, and other individuals working with a child who displays a problem behavior. The plan outlines the strategies that can be used to teach the child new, positive ways to meet their needs in the classroom and at home. 

 

A BSP has two goals: to reduce or stop unwanted behaviors and to increase appropriate behaviors. In order for a BSP to be effective, the alternative behavior must serve the same function as the problem one, but it must be easier to do, more efficient, and socially acceptable. 

 

A behavior support plan relies on the information gathered through functional behavior assessment (FBA) to propose new skills, changes in the child’s environment, and reinforcements that need to be implemented in order to reduce the misbehavior. It can include measures such as creating an alternative schedule, allowing early entry to class or activity, or sitting near the teacher, for example. 

Parts of a behavior support plan

Behavior support plans typically consist of the following parts:

  • Definition of the challenging behavior
  • Interventions needed to replace and reduce the unwanted behavior
  • Plan for teaching and reinforcing new skills
  • Evaluation plan

Definition of the challenging behavior

The definition of the challenging behavior summarizes the findings of the functional behavior assessment. The behavior is described using clear language and the plan lists its antecedents and consequences, in other words, what typically occurs before and after the disruptive behavior.

This part of the plan also includes a hypothesis on why the child engages in the problem behavior and what is its function. Understanding the reasons behind the unwanted behavior will allow for developing adequate strategies to minimize or replace those behaviors.

Interventions needed to reduce and replace unwanted behaviors

An intervention plan indicates the skills or behaviors that should be taught to the child or the changes that can be done in the child’s environment, activities, or personal support to replace the negative behavior. The intervention plan is based on the information gathered during the functional behavior assessment stage.

Plan for teaching and reinforcing new skills

This section of a behavior support plan documents the ways an intervention and individualized support will be implemented within a child’s daily routines in school and at home. The plan needs to be appropriately tailored to the child’s individual needs and abilities. In addition, it must set reasonable and realistic measurements for success.

Evaluation plan

An evaluation plan includes: 

 

  • A short-term goal based on the child’s current performance
  • A long-term goal that focuses on increasing desired behavior
  • Specific procedures that will be used to evaluate progress
  • Data that will be collected to verify whether the plan was implemented correctly and whether it is having an impact on the child’s behavior
  • A specific date for progress review. 

 

Both short-term and long-term goals need to be written in specific, measurable terms and indicate how the team will know when the child reaches the goal. 

Prevention strategies

Prevention strategies are designed to reduce the likelihood of problem behavior occurring in the future. After implementing these strategies, the child will no longer feel the need to engage in the problem behavior to have his or her needs met. 

Replacement skills

Replacement skills are appropriate behaviors that serve the same function as the challenging behavior and can replace them. For example, a child that reacts negatively to loud noises can learn a more appropriate way to respond, such as going to a safe place or using noise-canceling headphones.

 

The purpose of replacement skills is to make the behavior of concern ineffective, so that the new behavior becomes a more efficient way to meet the child’s needs. A behavior support plan should explain in detail how the team is going to teach this replacement behavior.

Consequence strategies

Consequence strategies are guidelines on how adults working with the child are expected to respond to problem behaviors. These strategies include positive reinforcement and minimizing reinforcement for problematic behavior.

Positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a reward for the child’s use of new skills or appropriate behavior. Positive behavior should be reinforced immediately and consistently. What’s more, it needs to serve the same function as the negative behavior. 

Minimizing reinforcement for problematic behavior

In addition to positive reinforcement, the response to problem behavior includes: 

 

  • Redirecting the child to the alternative behavior, for example, immediately reminding the child what would be considered a positive behavior in the given situation.
  • Extinction of the problem behavior, that is, not allowing the behavior to “pay off” for the child. In this case, the teacher should minimize the attention and limit any verbal interactions when the child engages in challenging behavior. Extinction of the interfering behavior should always be combined with positive reinforcement of appropriate behaviors.

Long term strategies

This section of the behavior support plan indicates the long-term goals that will assist the child and family in meeting behavior targets. It also describes the ways to reach those goals.

 

A behavior support plan consists of multiple steps. Read on to find out what they are. 

Steps of a Behavior Support Plan

The behavior support process involves the following steps:

  • Define the interfering behavior that needs to be reduced or replaced
  • Outline the antecedent, consequence, and function for the problem behavior 
  • Explain possible causes of the behavior and provide reasoning to justify it
  • Develop a plan that suggests actions that will prevent the unwanted behavior
  • Identify the skills that need to be taught to replace the behavior 
  • Identify short-term and long-term goals for a new behavior or behavior modifications 
  • Create an intervention procedure to achieve these goals
  • Implement the plan consistently across different settings and environments (school, home)
  • Monitor and evaluate the progress of the plan and development of new, positive skills.

Below, we explain the importance of functional behavior assessment in creating an effective behavior support plan. 

Functional Behavior Assessment

The first step in creating a behavior support plan is a functional behavior assessment. 

 

A functional behavior assessment (FBA) is a process of identifying the behavior that interferes with a child’s ability to learn. It is typically used when habitual school interventions are not effective in controlling the behavior. The FBA is based on the belief that problematic behavior serves a specific purpose. An FBA attempts to look beyond labeling an unwanted behavior as simply being bad and determine what functions that behavior may be serving. 

 

The main reason for conducting a functional behavior assessment is to understand the relationship between the inappropriate behavior and the environment in order to determine what is causing the challenge. Understanding why a child behaves in a certain way is the starting point for developing suitable strategies for improvement.

 

An FBA results in a theory about the functions that the behavior serves and a targeted intervention plan—a behavior support plan—for an alternative behavior that will not interfere with the child’s education. The plan focuses on positive outcomes that can help build a better relationship between the child, the teacher, and the family.

 

A functional behavior assessment can be conducted by a licensed behavioral specialist, a school psychologist, or a teacher. The school counselor and other staff who work with the child may also be involved in the process. Finally, as a parent, you will have a crucial role in advocating for a fair FBA for your child and creating a behavior support plan.

 

Keep reading to learn more about building a behavior support team. 

Building a Behavior Support Team

A behavior plan is not written by only one person or an expert. To be effective, the plan needs to be developed by a team of individuals who work together to find strategies that will help replace negative behavior with a positive one. This cooperation will allow the team members to focus on the task, establish accountability for completing the plan, and ensure communication and consistent implementation of the interventions. 

 

The behavior support team can include anyone who is involved in the child’s life. In addition to the child’s parents and educators, it may also involve family members, friends, therapists, and other instructional or administrative personnel. Team members will collaborate in different ways to develop and implement a suitable behavior support plan.

A collaborative approach is one of the key features of positive behavior support for children with problem behaviors and their families. It is particularly important for children whose challenging behaviors occur in multiple settings, for example, at home, at school, during therapy visits, and so on.

Parents’ role in developing and implementing a BSP

As a parent, you should be involved in each step of developing a behavior support plan for your child. In order for the plan to be effective, it is necessary to monitor the child’s behavior not only at school but also at home. At the same time, the school should keep you updated on your child’s progress and provide you with the necessary tools to reinforce the BSP at home.

Person-Centered Planning

An essential part of ensuring an effective behavior support process is to set up a person-centered plan. As mentioned above, the plan is written by a team consisting of family, teachers, caregivers, and other community members who are brought together to discuss their goals for the child. It is crucial that the team’s planning process is focused on the child’s behavior goals.

 

Besides, the child should be involved in the planning process as much as possible. He or she may be able to offer their own views on the problem and suggest what can be done to solve it. This process not only helps the child to feel included, but it is also a good way to make sure the strategies developed are specific to their needs.

Another crucial success factor of a behavior support plan is appropriate monitoring. Here’s why. 

Monitoring Behavior Support Plans

A behavior support plan is an active document that needs to be consulted and reviewed on a regular basis in order to be effective. Monitoring a BSP is a twofold process that includes: 

  • Monitoring changes in problem behavior, and
  • Monitoring the achievement of new skills and lifestyle outcomes.

The key to successful monitoring is frequent collection of data that describes when, where, and who implements the plan but also to how the plan is being implemented and whether or not the same intervention steps are followed each time. Direct and indirect measurements, such as rating scales and check sheets, should be done in order to:

  • Document whether the plan is implemented with consistency
  • Whether the plan is effective in achieving the identified goals
  • Whether the replacement skills are maintained over time, and
  • Whether the new skills can be applied in a variety of contexts or settings. 

The behavior support team should periodically review the collected data to ensure good communication, make any adjustments if needed, as well as to review progress in the context of the long-term vision for the child’s development.

Data collection for the purpose of monitoring progress is simpler and less extensive than it was in the functional behavior assessment phase. Once the BSP is in place, the data only needs to indicate whether the behavior is staying the same or changing. The team has to track the frequency, duration, and intensity of the behavior. In addition to collecting the data regularly, it is necessary to analyze the information and verify whether there is any improvement in the child’s behavior.

In the next section, we provide useful tips for writing and implementing behavior support plans.

Tips for Behavior Support Plans

Replacing a challenging behavior

 

  • When your child displays unwanted behavior, you should always first rule out health issues such as acute illness, pain, or discomfort before proceeding with functional behavior assessment and creating a behavior support plan.
  • Keep in mind that all challenging behaviors serve a specific purpose, function, or fulfill unmet needs.
  • The meaning and purpose of behavior may sometimes be difficult to determine. In some cases, it will take lots of time and patience before the team can gain a good understanding of the behavior.
  • The purpose of a behavior support plan is not to show how the child should change his or her behavior, but to outline the steps that will be taken by the members of the team to modify the environment and teach the child new skills. 
  • It is important to address the interfering behavior immediately as it happens so that the child can successfully change the habit.

When a BSP isn’t working

  • Make sure the chosen interventions provide an alternative way to accomplish the function of the problematic behavior. 
  • If the proposed plan is not working and the behavior doesn’t improve, there may have been a misunderstanding of the reason or function behind the targeted behavior. In this case, the implemented strategies won’t be effective. 
  • Some behaviors have been present for a long time and changing them may take a lot of reinforcement and encouragement.
  • If a behavior support plan is not working, the team should document the interventions that are ineffective and look for other alternatives.

Writing an effective BSP

  • Behavior support plans should be kept as simple as possible. Simple plans are easier to implement, evaluate, and are often the most effective.
  • The interventions in the plan should include enough detail so that the team members are able to understand and implement the proposed strategies.
  • It is better to implement just a few carefully selected interventions with confidence than to list many strategies that will not be used consistently.
  • It is better to start slow and gradually build on success than to set unreasonable expectations.
  • Behavior support plans must be person-centered and specific to each child. In other words, each behavior support plan must be unique. What works for one child won’t necessarily work for another.

Reviewing the plan

  • A behavior support plan should be reviewed and updated regularly, approximately every six weeks. As your child grows, his or her behavior will change and it will be necessary to make adjustments to the plan to target new problem behaviors.
  • Decide the review date for a BSP at the time of writing the plan. It can be reviewed sooner if needed, but deadlines will increase the chances of the plan being effective.
  • If there’s new information or if the child needs a change, the plan should be adjusted as needed.
  • If the child changes environments, new information should be gathered to determine if and how the behavior was affected, and whether the team should consider new strategies.
  • Failure to update the BSP on a regular basis, especially when it comes to rewards and reinforcements for appropriate behavior, could cause the child to relapse into unwanted behavior.

August 11, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Social Skills Worksheets for Autism

Social skills are the ability to behave in an acceptable way in social situations, for example, knowing how to interpret body language, emotional cues, and facial expressions. However, even basic social interactions are often challenging for children with autism. Social skills worksheets are a useful tool that can help autistic children become more aware of themselves and the people around them. Keep on reading to find out more about the different types of social skills worksheets and how they may be helpful for your child with autism. 

Why Are Worksheets Helpful for People with Autism?

Social skills are the skills used to communicate and interact with others. They can be either verbal (language) or nonverbal (facial expressions, body language).

Social skills and autism

One of the main signs of autism is a lack or delay in social skills. For example, an autistic child might take another child’s toy without asking for permission, refuse to wait for a turn, or avoid making eye contact. Failure to display expected behavior around other children makes it hard to interact and make friends.

 

However, children with autism need to learn the same social skills as their neurotypical peers. These skills are essential for getting along with others, developing confidence, and becoming more independent. Teaching social skills should, therefore, be an essential part of your child’s daily activities both at home and at school. 

 

There is a wide range of social skills to work on with autistic children, such as: 

 

  • Making eye contact
  • Taking turns
  • Helping others
  • Respecting personal space
  • Sharing toys and materials
  • Asking for help
  • Using appropriate voice tone and volume
  • Following directions
  • Asking permission
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Disagreeing politely and respectfully
  • Respecting the opinions of others
  • Recognizing the difference between expected and unwanted behaviors
  • Cooperating with others and working together
  • Recognizing body language 
  • Understanding nonverbal cues
  • Recognizing feelings in oneself and others.

What are social skills worksheets?

Social skills worksheets are resources designed to teach children with autism and other disabilities how to relate to other people. Since many children on the autism spectrum are visual learners, social skills worksheets are an effective way to learn skills like: 

 

  • Appropriate social behaviors
  • Maintaining healthy relationships
  • Understanding social nuances
  • Adjusting to any given situation
  • Learning emotional literacy
  • Understanding their own and others’ feelings
  • Using manners
  • Listening to others
  • Using polite words
  • Understanding how their actions may impact other people. 

Social skills worksheets can be used by everyone from preschoolers to primary school children and teenagers.

Below, we take a look at the wide range of social skills worksheets available for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. 

Social Skills Worksheets for People with Autism

Different types of worksheets can help your child build a strong foundation for acquiring social skills, for example: 

 

  • Worksheets for emotional health
  • Worksheets for identifying objects
  • Worksheets for controlling anger
  • Worksheets for communication.

Worksheets for emotional health

Learning to recognize and manage feelings is an important part of social development in children. Nevertheless, children with autism often find mastering this skill very challenging. Worksheets for emotional health will help your child become more aware of their own and others’ emotions and allow them to communicate more effectively.

Emotional Cues Worksheet—Worksheetplace.com

This emotional health worksheet is specifically designed to help children with autism understand body language. Your child needs to determine what emotion various facial expressions represent and what gestures and tone of voice should accompany them. 

 

Body and Voice Language Worksheet—Worksheetplace.com

This worksheet allows autistic children to learn how to communicate their emotions through facial expressions and gestures, without using their voice.

 

Empathy Skills Builder: Predicting Emotion—Talking Tree Books

This empathy skill building package consists of three different worksheets. Your child is asked to choose among several options, such as “worried”, “angry”, confused”, and “left out”, to describe how the character in the picture is feeling. The worksheets are suitable for grades 1-4.

Worksheets for identifying objects

Worksheets for identifying objects are used to teach children to recognize common objects and increase their visual memory, in addition to helping them practice reasoning and pre-reading skills.

 

Where Does It Belong?—Education.com

To complete this worksheet, your child will need to use reasoning skills in order to determine where an object belongs. As the child matches each object with the right location, he or she is also learning to recognize the words written under the pictures.

 

Identifying Common Objects Cards—Teachers Pay Teachers

These cards prompt your child to identify common objects by choosing the correct alternative among several options. The objects were chosen for their short names that are easy to say, such as “dog”, “ball”, or “car”, so that your child can also work on their pronunciation. The set of cards with 30 objects can be purchased for $2.50.

 

Circle & Identify Object Worksheet—Auti SPARK

This series of sorting worksheets is designed to help your child improve observation skills by identifying and circling the picture of one or more objects. Registered users can download the worksheets for free.

Worksheets for controlling anger

Anger management worksheets are useful tools that can assist kids and teens in developing coping skills and teach them appropriate ways to deal with anger. With the help of worksheets for controlling anger, your child will learn how to:

  • Analyze anger issues
  • Identify anger triggers
  • Improve problem-solving skills
  • Plan coping strategies.

There are several different types of anger worksheets to choose from:

  • Anger triggers worksheets. These sheets help identify anger triggers and provide ideas on how to deal with them. 
  • Anger signs worksheets. They help recognize facial expressions that show anger.
  • Expressing anger worksheets. These worksheets allow children to identify, label, and express different feelings.
  • Problem-solving worksheets. This resource is used when anger arises from the inability to solve a problem.

 

Anger Management Skills Cards—Therapist Aid

This set of 12 cards will help your child learn how to control their anger. Each card has a picture of a healthy anger management technique. Worksheets are free to download and members can also print customizable sheets. 

 

Autism Anger Management Problem Solving Wheels—Worksheetsday.com

These worksheets are designed in the form of a wheel with anger management alternatives. The sheets will help your child choose appropriate behaviors when they are angry, for example, “walk away and let it go”, “talk it through”, “apologize”, and more. 

 

Anger Signs Worksheets—Very Special Tales

This set of worksheets will teach your child to recognize and describe common anger signs like contracting and tightening lips, getting red in the face, and speaking loudly.

Worksheets for communication

Children on the autism spectrum disorder typically face communication difficulties that can lead to social challenges. For example, they may become frustrated when they are unable to request what they need. These worksheets can help improve your child’s communication and social skills.

 

Social Communication for Autism—Teachers Pay Teachers

This set of 29 communication worksheets for autistic children covers everything from improving conversation skills to learning how to show empathy and make friends. The complete set can be downloaded for $75. 

 

Clothes and Dressing Communication Cards—Teachers Pay Teachers

This 160-page packet is an essential visual communication tool for children with autism from kindergarten to 12th grade. It includes examples of clothing-related requests and actions through more than 300 visual icon cards and 14 clothing categories. The packet can be downloaded for $4. 

 

Communication Worksheets for Children With Autism—Autism Love to Know

This resource offers a wide range of free downloadable worksheets that will help your child communicate more effectively. Your child is asked to guess what the person in the picture wants to communicate and then suggest how to use these phrases in daily life. The website also provides many other types of worksheets as well as tips for learning social skills for children who are auditory rather than visual learners. 

 

In addition to worksheets, expert intervention and therapy sessions can help your child with autism improve their social skills. Read on to find out more. 

How Can Hidden Talents ABA Help?

Hidden Talents ABA provides treatment for children with autism spectrum disorder from birth to age 12. We focus on enhancing your child’s ability to understand how their behavior affects those around them and improving their social skills.

 

Currently the most effective form of autism treatment, applied behavior analysis (ABA) is an evidence-based approach that focuses on changing unwanted behaviors in autistic children while reinforcing desirable ones. 

ABA therapy can help your child to build and strengthen social skills, for example:

  • Improve communication skills 
  • Increase attention, focus, and memory
  • Follow directions and instructions
  • Understand facial expressions and body language
  • Initiate conversations
  • Respond to questions
  • Reduce problematic behaviors such as aggressivness and meltdowns.

ABA therapy uses positive reinforcement in the form of rewards and incentives. When a desirable behavior is rewarded by a special treat or activity, the child is more likely to repeat the action. Over time, this method will encourage positive behavioral changes in children with autism spectrum disorder.

 

For more information on Hidden Talents ABA services, call us at 404-487-6005 or send us an email at info@wordpress-765752-2798792.cloudwaysapps.com

 

August 11, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Functional Behavior Assessment

Functional behavior assessment (FBA) is used to determine the cause of a child’s challenging behavior at school and develop a plan for improvement. 

 

In this article, we take a closer look at the functional behavior assessment process and methods used to identify and reduce problematic behaviors.

What Is a Functional Behavior Assessment? 

A functional behavior assessment (FBA) is a process of identifying the behavior that interferes with a child’s educational progress and impacts their ability to learn. For example, a child may refuse to work on difficult tasks, respond angrily, or act in an inappropriate way to gain attention. An FBA is used when typical school interventions are not effective in controlling the behavior

 

This type of assessment is based on the belief that problematic behavior serves a specific purpose. An FBA attempts to look beyond labeling an unwanted behavior as simply being “bad” and determine what functions that behavior may be serving. Understanding why a child behaves a certain way is the starting point for developing strategies for improvement. 

A functional behavior assessment is typically used in a classroom setting, but it can also be applied at home if this is where your child is receiving mental health services. An FBA usually takes about 30 days to complete and requires parental consent.

What is the purpose of an FBA?

The purpose of the functional behavior assessment is to: 

 

  • Designate the problematic behavior
  • Identify the factors that support the behavior
  • Determine the purpose of the behavior. 

 

An FBA results in making a hypothesis about the functions that the behavior serves and creating a targeted intervention plan for an alternative behavior that will not interfere with the child’s education. The plan focuses on positive outcomes that can help build a better relationship between the child, the teacher, and the family.

Who conducts an FBA?

A functional behavior assessment is typically conducted by a licensed behavioral specialist or school psychologist, although it can also be done by a teacher. The school counselor and other staff who work with the child may also be involved in the process. Finally, as a parent, you will have an essential role in advocating for a fair and thorough FBA for your child.

Why Would an FBA Need to Be Done?

The main reason for conducting a functional behavior assessment is to understand the relationship between the inappropriate behavior and the environment in order to determine what is causing the challenge.

 

A functional behavior assessment can: 

 

  • Identify interventions to reduce the undesirable behavior
  • Propose alternative behaviors to replace the inappropriate ones
  • Determine the appropriate placements and services.

 

The assessment can be part of the Individual Learning Plan (ILP), the Student Assistance Team (SAT) process, and serve as confirmation of a disability.

 

Most children who are in special education receive behavior programming in school—typically referred to as a positive behavior support plan or behavior intervention plan—to reduce and replace unwanted behaviors. These plans are always based on functional behavior assessments.

However, not all children with a behavior challenge will be able to get an FBA. Read on to find out who is eligible.

Who Has the Right to an FBA? 

A functional behavior assessment can be used both for students in special education and regular education students. 

 

An FBA is conducted in the following situations: 

 

  • As an essential part of a school evaluation for special education. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires schools to use functional behavior assessments when dealing with challenging behavior in children with special needs. When an FBA is conducted for a child classified as a special education student, it is a function of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) committee.
  • When there are behavior concerns in children who have an IEP or a 504 plan. Schools are required by law to do a functional behavior assessment whenever not doing so would deny children a free public education.
  • In school discipline situations. Federal law requires an FBA in some cases when a student is disciplined or removed from school.
  • Evaluate risk for students with serious behavior issues. There are no laws requiring a school to complete a functional behavior assessment of regular education students.

 

Keep reading for more details about the steps involved in a functional behavior assessment.

Steps of an FBA

A functional behavior assessment consists of four different steps:

  • Define the challenging behavior
  • Gather and analyze information
  • Find out the reason for the behavior
  • Make a plan to encourage positive behavior.

Define the challenging behavior

A functional behavior assessment starts by defining the challenging behavior. The behavior must be described in a specific and objective way. For example, it should specify that the child kicks, hits, and throws objects instead of simply stating that the child is aggressive. Furthermore, only fact-based observations such as “the child places his head on his desk” can be used and not assumptions of the child’s feelings like “the child is not interested in the lesson.” 

Gather and analyze information

The second step of an FBA is information gathering. During this stage, the professional tries to answer questions such as:

  • When does the behavior occur?
  • Where does the behavior occur? 
  • In what circumstances does the behavior not occur?
  • How often does the behavior occur?
  • Who is around when it occurs (peers, adults)?
  • What triggers the behavior?
  • What happens after the behavior occurs?
  • What more acceptable behavior can be used as an alternative?

Other useful information includes:

  • The instructions that were provided at the time behavior occurred
  • Academic and behavioral expectations for the child
  • Recent changes in the child’s circumstances in school or at home
  • Any medical and other related issues.

It is also necessary to provide a full history of the interventions that have been implemented previously and indicate whether they were successful or not.

Tools used to gather information

The professional who conducts the FBA may use a number of different methods to gather the necessary information, for example: 

 

  • Observation
  • Interviews
  • Questionnaires 
  • Reviewing the student’s records

 

An ABC chart is another tool that is frequently used in this step of the assessment. It helps collect data about the antecedent (what happens before the behavior), the behavior itself, and the consequence (what happens after the behavior). Both the teacher and the child can complete this chart. 

Other information gathering tools include frequency and duration charts which track how often the behavior occurs, how long it lasts, and where its intensity can be placed on a scale of 1-10.

Find out the reason for the behavior

Using the information collected, the team of professionals will outline the hypothesis on what may be causing the behavior, what function it serves, and what the child is trying to communicate through that particular behavior. They will create a detailed report which includes:

 

  • A description of the procedures used
  • Information and data gathered
  • Comprehensive recommendations.

Make a plan to encourage positive behavior 

Once the team has a sufficient understanding of the reason behind the child’s behavior, it will propose a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) to reduce and replace it with more appropriate behavior. An FBA is also commonly used to create applied behavior analysis (ABA) autism treatment plans.

 

A behavior intervention plan typically includes the following components: 

 

  • Changes needed to reduce or eliminate problematic behaviors, for example, modifications in the physical environment, the way the information is presented, or the consequences of the behavior
  • Strategies for replacing the challenging behaviors with appropriate ones that serve the same function for the child (replacement behaviors)
  • Skills training needed in order to introduce the appropriate behaviors
  • Supporting the child when it comes to using appropriate behaviors.

 

The plan must specify the necessary behavior modifications and new skills. Furthermore, the proposed strategy needs to have a clear focus and name a person who will be in charge of carrying out the recommended steps. As the team obtains new information, it will often adjust the plan along the way. 

The functional behavior assessment should be documented in your child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). In addition, the agreed-upon recommendations should be incorporated into the child’s goal work.

Below, read more about the types of functional behavior assessment processes. 

Direct vs Indirect FBA

There are two distinct types of FBA processes: direct and indirect functional behavior assessments. 

Direct FBA

The direct FBA is a comprehensive assessment process used to identify and replace severe, persisting, and frequent behaviors. This process is also appropriate when critical decisions are being made to verify a disability, make placement decisions, or choose intensive or intrusive intervention methods.

 

As part of the assessment, a professional directly and unobtrusively observes the child’s challenging behavior in their natural environment on several different occasions. The professional must record the circumstances surrounding the behavior, such as frequency and duration, the time of day, location, activities, and people present.

 

Certain interfering behaviors require a more thorough evaluation. In some cases, a functional analysis (FA) is done to test the possible functions of unwanted behaviors. This method clearly identifies functional relationships by verifying them in an experimental setting. 

 

A direct observational assessment is an objective means of gathering information that may help support indirect assessment findings. 

Indirect FBA

The Indirect FBA is used for behaviors that are less severe and occur infrequently, or as part of early intervention using the SAT process. Because it is less time consuming, the indirect assessment is done in urgent situations that need immediate action and where there is no time for a more detailed assessment process. 

During an indirect functional assessment, information about the challenging behavior is gathered from persons who are closest to the child, such as parents, teachers, and service providers. 

The indirect approach is more informal, uses simple language, and is less technical than the direct one. It relies on using tools such as rating scales, questionnaires, interviews, and discussions to help identify the target behavior, the circumstances that support the behavior, and the function of the behavior. 

 

Based on the collected information and other data, such as disciplinary referrals and attendance records, the team will develop a hypothesis and formulate a detailed intervention plan. The team will also determine whether there is a need for a more comprehensive direct FBA.

 

A functional behavior assessment can be used to detect or confirm a disability. Here’s why this is important. 

FBAs Can Be Helpful in Detecting And/Or Verifying a Disability

Functional behavior assessments can provide useful information to help determine and/or verify a disability and evaluate how that disability may affect behavior. The determination of a disability is a critical step for accessing appropriate financial support and education. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act forbids discrimination against individuals with disabilities and under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), federal funds are provided to guarantee access to special education and related services to children with disabilities. 

 

Autism text concept
August 2, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Signs and Symptoms of Autism

Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition with a wide range of signs, symptoms, and abilities. 

 

Every person on the spectrum is different and manifests a unique pattern of behavior. 

 

Read on to find out more about the signs and symptoms of autism, how this disorder affects everyday life, and the ways applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy can help your autistic child. 

Causes of Autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental condition that impacts how a person perceives the world and communicates with others. An estimated 1 in 54 children in the United States are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The condition is three to four times more common in boys than in girls. 

Until recently, scientists believed that autism was caused mostly by genetic factors. However, newer research indicates that the environment may also play an important role in the development of autism spectrum disorder. In other words, if someone is genetically predisposed to autism, environmental elements will increase their risk of having the condition.

Environmental factors that may contribute to autism include:

  • Taking antidepressants in the first three months of pregnancy
  • The use of medications such as valproic acid (Depakene) or thalidomide (Thalomid)
  • Viral infections during pregnancy
  • Nutritional deficiencies in early pregnancy, particularly not getting enough folic acid
  • Exposure to chemical pollutants, such as heavy metals and pesticides, while pregnant
  • Advanced age of either parent
  • Complications at birth or shortly after birth, including very low birth weight, oxygen deprivation, and neonatal anemia
  • Extreme prematurity.

A controversial 1998 research proposed a link between autism and the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. However, multiple studies have since shown that the disorder is not caused by vaccines. 

Symptoms of Autism

Autism is usually diagnosed in early childhood. Most parents start noticing autism symptoms in their children around the age of two. At the same time, some children may develop normally to then suddenly become withdrawn and lose previously acquired language and other skills. 

Autism symptoms in babies 

Autism can be diagnosed in babies as young as two months old. While this condition doesn’t affect physical appearance, it influences the way they communicate and relate to the world around them.

Lack of eye contact

By the time they are two months old, babies typically make eye contact with others. Infants who are affected by autism spectrum disorder make less or no eye contact at this stage.

Limited facial expressions

At four months old, babies should be able to copy facial expressions, such as smiling or frowning, as well as to smile spontaneously. However, autistic babies usually don’t respond to their caregiver’s facial expressions.

Not responding to their name

At six months, most babies show an awareness of their own names. Babies who later develop autism typically don’t respond to their names at this age. 

Little pointing or gesturing

From around nine months, your baby should be able to point things and copy the gestures of the people around them. Autistic babies gesture much less and show a lack of nonverbal communication in general.

Decreased joint attention

Joint attention—where a baby’s gaze follows an object you’re showing them—is an essential way of interacting with others. Babies with autism spectrum disorder are often unable to pick up on these nonverbal communication cues and will ignore you and the object you are pointing to.

Autism symptoms in children

As your child gets older, autism symptoms become more diverse. They typically include verbal and non-verbal communication difficulties, impaired social skills, and highly inflexible behaviors.

Delayed language or speech

Most children with autism have at least some level of difficulty when it comes to speech and language. They often start talking late and understand fewer words than their neurotypical peers. An estimated 40 percent of autistic children have no language at all

 

The signs of speech and language difficulties in autistic children include: 

  • Speaking in an unusual tone of voice or with an odd rhythm or pitch
  • Repeating the same words or phrases over and over again
  • Repeating questions instead of answering them
  • Making grammatical errors
  • Using wrong words
  • Not understanding simple directions
  • Taking what is said literally.

Nonverbal communication difficulties

Children with autism spectrum disorder usually have trouble picking up on subtle nonverbal cues and understanding body language, which makes social interactions difficult. 

 

Symptoms of nonverbal communication difficulties include: 

 

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Limited use of facial expressions and gestures
  • Not understanding other people’s facial expressions, tone of voice, and gestures
  • Atypical reactions to bright lights, smells, textures, and sounds
  • Unusual posture or movements, such as exclusively walking on tiptoes.

Social difficulties

Basic social interactions may be challenging for children with autism spectrum disorder. They will typically display signs of social difficulties such as:

 

  • Lack of interest in other people
  • Difficulties connecting with others and making friends
  • Trouble understanding feelings and talking about them
  • Not playing pretend games, engaging in group games, imitating others, or using toys in creative ways.

Inflexibility

Children with autism often have inflexible behaviors and interests, for example: 

 

  • Following strict routines 
  • Difficulty adapting to changes and transitions from one activity to another
  • Unusual attachments to toys or objects
  • Lining toys up or arranging them in a certain order
  • Having restricted areas of interest
  • Focusing on one specific part of an object such as the wheels of a toy car
  • Repeating the same actions or movements (flapping hands, rocking, twirling, or spinning objects). 

Autism symptoms in adults

While severe forms of autism are discernible before the child turns two, high-functioning individuals are often not diagnosed until later in their lives. 

 

The most common symptoms of autism in adults include:

  • Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings and thoughts
  • Struggle to interpret facial expressions and body language
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Being unable to keep up with conversations
  • Feeling anxiety in social situations
  • Difficulty expressing feelings
  • Limited interest in certain subjects or activities
  • Preference for being by themselves.

Areas That Autism Can Affect

Autism affects many different areas of everyday life. Here are just a few of them:

Social interactions

Social dysfunction is one of the main characteristics of autism spectrum disorder. Individuals with autism can show little interest in the world around them and have a limited understanding of other people’s feelings. They often experience social interactions as unpredictable and frightening, for example, they may not understand the purpose of saying hello and goodbye, showing facial expressions, waiting for their turn to speak, or maintaining eye contact. As a consequence, they may find it difficult to form friendships, which can lead to social isolation.

Repetitive behaviors

Many children and adults with autism display repetitive behaviors such as hand flapping, rocking, and tapping. Repeating certain gestures and actions is often seen as a soothing activity that provides a sense of control in stressful situations.

Anxiety or excess worry

Anxiety disorders, including obsessive compulsive disorder, phobias, and social anxieties, are the most common comorbid conditions in people with autism. Intense levels of stress and anxiety are often related to changes in routines or environment and can affect a person both psychologically and physically.

Delayed cognitive skills

Autism commonly affects cognitive skills. As a consequence, children on the spectrum often struggle with focus, transitions, memory, time management, as well as emotional control. These challenges may impact their learning and development.

Unusual eating and sleeping habits

Atypical eating behaviors, like limited food preferences, hypersensitivity to food textures, and holding food in the mouth without swallowing, can be seen in most children with autism

 

In addition, sleep problems are much more common among autistic than neurotypical children. Autism is often accompanied by other conditions, such as gastrointestinal problems, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and anxiety, which can make falling and staying asleep even more difficult. 

How ABA Therapy Can Help Your Kid with Autism

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a type of therapy that focuses on changing unwanted behaviors while reinforcing desirable ones. ABA therapy is currently the most effective form of autism treatment, with an improvement rate of over 90 percent.

ABA therapy can help your child to build and strengthen social and communication skills, for example:

  • Improve language skills 
  • Increase their attention, focus, and memory
  • Teach them to follow directions and instructions
  • Help them understand social cues like facial expressions and body language
  • Teach them how to initiate conversations and respond to questions
  • Reduce problematic behaviors such as aggressiveness and meltdowns
  • Help them acquire basic academic and pre-academic skills.

Applied behavioral analysis therapy uses positive reinforcement in the form of rewards and other incentives. When a desirable behavior is rewarded by a special treat or activity, the child is more likely to repeat the action. Over time, this method can encourage positive behavioral changes in children diagnosed with autism.

 

ABA therapy breaks down essential skills into small, concrete steps. It then builds toward more significant changes in functioning and independence levels. ABA therapy sessions for autistic children typically include a combination of play, direct instructions, various activities, adaptive skills training, as well as parental guidance.

July 13, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Activities for Autistic Kids

All children love activities, and autistic kids are no exception. But besides being fun and engaging, a variety of sensory, physical, and mentally stimulating activities hold an added bonus for autistic children. They can be used as an effective way to improve their attention span, self-confidence, and communication skills

 

Here, we’ve listed some of the best activities your autistic child will enjoy and benefit from.

Sensory Games for Autistic Children

Sensory bottle

Sensory bottles, sometimes also called discovery bottles or calm down bottles, are a great way to keep your autistic child focused and engaged. At the same time, they are useful tools for providing sensory regulation as they can help your child calm down after experiencing sensory overload. 

 

To make a sensory bottle, simply wash an old plastic bottle and fill it partially with water. Then add some food coloring, marbles, glitter, and beads, or customize it in any other way that will appeal to your child. Seal the lid in place using a hot glue gun. Let your child shake the bottle and enjoy the sensation of colorful parts slowly moving through the bottle. 

 

For inspiration on how to make sensory bottles for children with autism, check out the Sensory and Discovery Bottles board on Pinterest, where you can also share your own projects.

* This project is recommended for children ages 5 and up as the bottle may contain choking hazards. 

Make edible jewelry

Due to their coordination challenges and limited core strength and stability, children with autism often experience delays in the development of fine motor skills. Making edible jewelry will help your child hone those skills that require intricate hand and finger movements, while enjoying a fun activity. 

 

To make edible jewelry, start by taking a piece of string or shoestring licorice that is long enough to fit over your child’s head when tied. Encourage your child to thread some edible items on the string, such as the Fruit Loops cereal, Lifesavers Gummies and other colorful candy, marshmallows, or edible play dough. Tie the ends of the string together to make a necklace or bracelet. You can take this activity further by asking your child to recognize the colors of the items used or count the number of cereal or candy pieces on the string. 

Make tactile collage

Many children with autism spectrum disorder find the sensation of different textures overwhelming. If this is the case with your child, then making a tactile collage may be a great way to introduce them to a wide range of textures and help them deal with sensory issues. This activity is also useful for practicing cutting and improving your child’s fine motor skills.

 

To create a tactile collage, prepare cardboard or cardstock (the size can range anywhere from 7×9 inches to 14×20 for older children). Pour some glue in a small jar and let your child apply it with a brush to prevent their hands from getting sticky. They can glue a variety of materials like magazine clippings, small pieces of fabric, aluminum foil, glitter, string, felt, and puff paint. You can also ask your child to sort materials by colors and encourage them to talk about what they are doing to enhance their communication skills. 

Brain Activities for Autistic Kids

Matching games

Matching games are simple but effective educational activities where your child has to match words with pictures. These are perfect games for kids with autism who typically appreciate simplicity and order. Based on your child’s skill level and interests, you can use matching games to teach them about numbers, foods, colors, animals, or any other subject. 

 

You can download the free Matching Games for Autism app, or purchase Word to Picture Matching Cards specially designed for children with autism. 

Smell games

Children with autism are often sensitive to smells and may experience them more intensely than neurotypical children. Smell games are a fun activity that will not only let your child explore a variety of smells, but also help them improve memory and build communication skills. 

 

To make a smell game, fill small containers (such as painted jam jars) with fragrant ingredients like lavender, coffee, soap, lemon, rosemary, mint, rose petals, popcorn, and cinnamon sticks. If you are using a liquid, like vanilla essence for example, place a cotton ball in the container to soak up the fragrance. Just make sure to avoid any smells your child dislikes or is sensitive to. Fasten a piece of thin fabric on top of the container with a rubber band and ask your child to identify the different smells. 

Building Social Skill for an Autistic Child

Reading

Reading may help autistic children develop language and improve their cognitive skills. Children with autism spectrum disorder typically experience difficulties when it comes to reading comprehension and are usually better at identifying words than understanding their meaning. That’s why books with pictures and little text are the best way to get your child with autism interested in reading. 

To keep your child engaged, make sure to target their area of interest, whether it’s trains, pets, history, or any other subject. You can also encourage your child to enact the characters while reading the book to make the activity more fun. Or ask them how they would feel if they were different characters to teach them empathy skills and encourage interaction.

Sharing time

Children with autism often have little or no interest in the world around them and in sharing their experiences with others. Fortunately, there are many fun activities that can make it easier for your child to share their attention. You can play games such as “I Spy” that require you to look at the same object or ask your child to show you what they are drawing or playing with to improve their communication skills. Take time to play together with your child to encourage them to share toys, role-play, take turns, talk about their experience, and regulate emotions. 

Calming Activities for a Child with Autism

Fidget toys

Fidgets toys are designed to help children with autism focus, filter out the overwhelming sensory information, and remain calm in stressful situations. These toys can also be used to help ease transitions into new situations or activities and deal with routine changes, which is often a challenge for autistic kids. 

There is no shortage of fidget toys to choose from like tangle toys, stress-less gel balls, koosh balls, magic snakes, and more. A wide range of fidget toys and stress balls are available for purchase from National Autism Resources, Sensory Direct, and Amazon. When looking for a fidget toy, choose the one that allows for movement but isn’t too distracting so that it completely draws your child’s attention away.

Coloring

Coloring pages are a great way to help your child with autism focus, build fine motor skills, learn new words, and practice taking turns and interacting with others. What’s more, coloring according to directions will help them learn to recognize colors and numbers, follow instructions, and work on task completion. If your child has fine motor skill challenges, consider using large or triangular-shaped crayons instead of regular ones. 

 

Websites like Special Learning House and All Kids Network offer a wide range of free printable coloring pages suitable for kids with autism. Some coloring books are specifically designed for autistic children, such as The Autism Coloring Book: I See Things Differently With My Superhero Brain, available on Amazon

Constructive Play For an Autistic Kid

Puzzles

Puzzles are an excellent way to provide your autistic child with a satisfying tactile sensation, help them improve focus and fine motor skills, in addition to having a calming effect when your child is feeling restless. Completing puzzles together with others and talking about what they’re doing can help enhance your child’s vocabulary and communication skills. 

 

Always make sure to choose a puzzle with a suitable difficulty level for your child. You can find a wide range of puzzles for autistic children at Autism-Products.com, National Autism Resources, as well as Autism Community Store

Building blocks

Playing with building blocks is one of the most popular activities among autistic children. Since the blocks come in limited shapes and sizes and the building process requires repetitive movements, kids with autism perceive this activity as structured and predictable. Building blocks can be highly beneficial for your child’s physical, cognitive, and social-emotional development, in addition to improving their fine motor skills. Furthermore, it encourages children to practice verbal and nonverbal communication skills, sharing with others, taking turns, and problem solving.

 

The STEM toy company Strictly Bricks offers a variety of building blocks in different sizes, colors, and textures, suitable for children with autism. Award-winning BizyBeez Magnetic Building Blocks is another great choice of building blocks for autistic kids.

Physical Play For an Autistic Child

Dancing

Dancing is a fun and relaxing activity for children with autism. Dancing is beneficial not only when it comes to boosting your child’s body image and body awareness, but also for improving their concentration and memory, enhancing communication skills, increasing empathy, and developing the ability to adapt to different situations. 

 

Let your child start with free movement and move to the music any way they wish. Later on, try introducing movement prompt exercises where you ask them to dance fast or slow, freeze when the music stops, move only one part of the body, make large or small movements, and so on. Dancing to children’s songs with actions, like “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” “Hokey Pokey,” or “Baby Shark” is a good way to practice following instructions and motor planning.

Exercise

Children with autism spectrum disorder often have limited gross motor function, strength, and coordination. Exercising on a regular basis will allow your child not only to improve these skills and their physical health, but also to enjoy a variety of activities with friends and family. Physical activity can also enhance a general feeling of well-being and counterbalance depression and anxiety, in addition to improving your child’s learning and social behavior. Regular physical activity has even been shown to decrease repetitive behaviors like body rocking, spinning, and head-nodding in children with autism. 

You can make exercises enjoyable by playing games that encourage your child to move in different ways, for example, run, jump, hop, and skip, and play with a variety of equipment such as balls, bats, and racquets. A simple way to add some physical activity into your child’s daily routine is to walk to school and make regular trips to the playground. You can gradually expand the amount of time your child spends doing physical activities until they reach the recommended one hour of exercise per day. 

Obstacle course

Children with autism enjoy moving around and most will be happy to navigate indoor and outdoor obstacle courses. This activity can be designed to target a variety of motor and cognitive skills and include a wide range of activities from simple to more challenging. Obstacle courses are some of the best ways for your child to work on their balance, strength, gross motor skills, and coordination, while having fun. For children who have difficulties with motor planning and sequencing, this activity will provide them with an opportunity to practice completing tasks.

To make an obstacle course, you can use anything from mats and foam shapes to chairs, ladders, and hula hoops, or any other objects you may find in your home or garden. Incorporate activities such as bean bag tossing, throwing and catching a ball, and jumping ropes. You can ask your child to walk on uneven surfaces, stand or hop on one foot to practice balance, push or pull heavy items, do push ups or sit ups to increase strength, and do jumping jacks and run around cones to work on coordination. Whatever activities you choose, make sure to explain the course to your child in advance and give it a practice run. 

 

July 13, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Autism and IQ

People with autism spectrum disorder were traditionally viewed as having low intelligence based on their verbal communication skills

However, autism is today considered to be a condition separate from intellectual disability. We know that autistic people can have a wide range of learning and thinking skills that can make them both severely challenged and gifted. 

In this article, we’ll help you get a better understanding of the complex link between autism and intelligence.

In What Areas Can Autism Affect a Person’s Day to Day Life?

For people with autism spectrum disorder and their families, day to day life is filled with numerous challenges. The condition is characterized by various degrees of learning difficulties. Although many people may be able to live independently, others need lifelong support and care. 

Some of the most common areas in which autism affects day-to-day life are communication, social interactions, and living skills. 

Verbal communication

Depending on where on the spectrum they fall, people with autism have various levels of communication abilities. Some have very limited speaking capacities or are not able to use language at all. They may have significant difficulties understanding what other people are saying. Non-verbal communication including hand gestures, eye contact, and facial expressions may also be challenging for individuals with autism who are unable to fully grasp body language.

Typical patterns of language use and behaviors in children and adults with autism include: 

  • Repetitive or rigid language, like saying things that have no meaning or repeating the same words, a condition known as echolalia 
  • Machine-like and monotonic speech
  • Speaking in a high-pitched or “sing-song” voice
  • Uneven language development, for instance, having an extensive vocabulary only within a specific area of interest
  • Limited nonverbal conversation skills, such as the inability to use gestures and facial expressions.

However, many autistic people have a rich vocabulary and can talk about specific subjects in great detail, even though they may still experience problems with verbal intonation and the rhythm of words and sentences.

Social interactions

One of the main defining characteristics of autism spectrum disorder is social dysfunction. People with autism often show little interest in the world around them and have a limited understanding of other people’s feelings and ideas. 

Autistic individuals frequently experience social interactions as unpredictable and frightening. For example, they may not understand the purpose of saying hello and goodbye, showing facial expressions, waiting for their turn to speak, or maintaining eye contact during conversation. As a consequence, they may find it difficult to maintain friendships, which can lead to further social isolation. 

Living skills

Everyday tasks such as self-care, home organization, cleaning, cooking, shopping, and transportation can be a challenge for autistic people. At the same time, daily living skills are indispensable for being able to live independently, rely less on others, as well as for improving self-esteem and quality of life in general. Research suggests that impairments in daily living skills in individuals with autism are directly related to their cognitive abilities and can often improve throughout childhood and adolescence.

Other challenges

Several other issues can make the normal day-to-day functioning of autistic individuals difficult:

Sensory overload

Most people with autism spectrum disorder are affected by sensory overload. Crowds, excessive noise, bright lights, and strong tastes and smells may feel overwhelming and disruptive because they provide more sensory input than the autistic brain can process.

Emotional sensitivity

Autistic people frequently struggle to control their emotions in new and unpredictable situations and transition to another activity or setting. These stressful situations may trigger unusually intense emotional reactions compared to their neurotypical peers.

Resistance to change

Individuals with autism are generally resistant to change and prefer familiar situations and activities. Any disruption in their routines could cause frustration and anger.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder and the issues mentioned above are consequences of the way different parts of the brain form and connect to one another.

What Parts of the Brain are Affected by Autism?

Research shows that some parts of the brain are structurally different in autistic than non-autistic people. For example, children and adolescents with autism have an enlarged hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory. Furthermore, the size of the amygdala—the region of the brain that deals with emotions—also differs in people with autism and neurotypical individuals. The cortex, the brain’s outer layer, seems to have a different pattern of thickness in people with and without autism.

One of the key brain regions affected by autism is the cerebellum, the brain structure that plays a crucial role in cognition and social interactions. Autistic individuals are known to have decreased amounts of gray matter in parts of the cerebellum. This region of the brain is also indispensable for movement and learning motor skills, which may explain challenges with coordination and fine and gross motor skills typical for autism spectrum disorder.

However, the way that these differences in brain structure affect autism and yield autistic savants or people with below-average intelligence is still not fully understood.

Does family background contribute towards autism?

Studies show that children in families with a history of brain conditions are at increased risk of autism. The more closely related the family members with these conditions, the greater the chances of having autism. Moreover, the odds increase if there are other children with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or intellectual disability in the family, or if a parent has schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety, or depression. 

Nevertheless, it is only possible to identify a specific genetic cause of autism in around 15% of cases. Brain development is influenced by a complex combination of genetic and environmental factors. In other words, if a person is genetically predisposed to autism, environmental elements will increase their risk of having the condition.

Autism prevalence in the United States

An estimated 222 per 10,000 children in the United States were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in 2020. This is one of the highest autism prevalence rates in the world, after Hong Kong and South Korea. 

An earlier study suggested that some ethnic groups seemed to be more predisposed to autism than others. The study found an increased risk of being diagnosed with autism in children of American-born Hispanic and African American mothers as well as African American, Central or South American, Filipino, and Vietnamese foreign-born mothers. 

However, newer research has demonstrated that the prevalence of autism is in fact very similar among racial groups. The earlier disparity might have been due to the fact that diagnostic practices and services are not equally available to different ethnic groups, in addition to certain environmental factors.

Types of IQ

The intelligence quotient (IQ) is a measure of human intelligence, which is commonly evaluated with the help of Wechsler scales in studies on autism. Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) and Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children (WISC) are used to measure a combination of performance and verbal intelligence in autistic children and adults. The results can help determine the areas in which individual support plans and treatment programs should be developed for these individuals.

Performance IQ (PIQ)

Nonverbal intelligence is the ability to analyze information and solve problems using visual, practical reasoning. The performance or nonverbal IQ is a measure of intelligence that doesn’t require the use of words or language. It measures a person’s nonverbal reasoning, spatial processing skills, attention to detail, and hand-eye coordination skills.

Verbal IQ (VIQ)

Verbal IQ is the ability to analyze information and solve problems using language-based reasoning. This reasoning involves reading or listening to words, writing, and engaging in a conversation. Verbal intelligence measures verbal reasoning, comprehension of verbal information, and the ability to express knowledge through spoken language

Intellectual disability measured by IQ scores may vary depending on the type of test used. Non-verbal children, for example, can obtain low scores on verbal IQ tests but may score at an age-appropriate level on tests of spatial intelligence. In general, autistic individuals perform better on performance IQ than verbal IQ tests, consistent with the cognitive and social deficits of autism. 

Autistic individuals with high IQ typically underperform on cognitive tests compared to neurotypical adults or children in the same IQ range. At the same time, people with autism spectrum disorder who have low IQ perform similarly to their neurotypical counterparts. Research suggests that cognitive deficits in high-IQ autistic people may have underlying causes that are not rooted in the condition itself.

Is IQ related to the range of function of an autistic person?

The intelligence and range of function in individuals with autism are highly but not perfectly correlated. IQ scores generally relate to communication skills and adapting to daily life, however, they are not exact indicators of cognitive functioning and the ability of a person with autism to navigate the day to day life. Studies show that many people with autism have lower life skills than what would be expected given their cognitive abilities. 

This is why taking the intelligence quotient to categorize autistic individuals can be misleading. An individual’s level of functioning can be more impacted by underlying mental health issues, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), substance abuse, gastrointestinal issues, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, and anxiety, than by IQ. 

June 23, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

What is it like to have autism?

When you love someone with Autism, it’s perfectly normal and natural to ask yourself, “What’s it like to have autism?”. 

It’s important to know that as hard as you try, you could never fully understand if you do not deal with it yourself. 

While entirely relating is impossible, there are a few things to know that will help you appropriately communicate and connect to individuals with Autism.

 

The Struggles that Autistic Children Face

Autistic children can be a challenge for families and teachers. The adults and peers of autistic children must consider their unique struggles and exercise patience with them.

 

So what struggles do autistic children face in their day-to-day lives? One is anxiety. Autistic children often struggle to communicate with others and interpret social cues in the ways that others can. The inability to communicate both fuels anxiety effectively and prevents autistic children from expressing their anxiety to others to seek their help.

 

Here are a few examples of how anxiety may manifest itself in an autistic child:

  •       Social-centered phobias
  •       Excessive worry about or rumination on a topic
  •       Obsessive and compulsive behaviors
  •       Hyper-vigilance or shell shock
  •       Development of phobias
  •       Behaviors of avoidance
  •       Rigidity in routines or resistance to change
  •       Self-harm
  •       Controlling behaviors
  •       Defiance
  •       Meltdowns
  •       Shutdowns and refusal to speak or act

 

Autistic children often struggle with change as well. Familiarity is more comfortable, supposedly due to processing differences and anxieties.

 

Aside from the struggles stemming from their condition, autistic children must deal with other children who don’t understand them. This may lead to bullying, which people with developmental differences or disabilities tend to be especially susceptible to. 

 

What it’s Like to Have Autism

 

You cannot truly understand and relate to a person with Autism unless you live with it yourself! However, attempting to do so can be beneficial for your development and allow you to better support the autistic individuals in your life.

 

1)     Have you ever felt shy or uncomfortable around people? Know that an autistic child can feel that way all of the time. This is not due to a lack of effort; it is simply a result of the communication differences associated with Autism.

2)     Do you prefer that things be a certain way? Or even feel anxious when they are not. For example, is a spice not in the rack, or is a book left on top of a bookshelf when there is an intended space for it? This is a discomfort that autistic individuals often grapple with in every aspect of their lives. The way they process is often not forgiving to change or disorder, and this may cause them to feel emotional and act out in a way they may not be able to control.

3)     When you become angry or upset, do you sometimes find it hard to calm down and look at things logically? Imagine your brain working against you, inhibiting your ability to do so. This is a common struggle for autistic children and even adults.

 

Connecting to an Autistic Child

 

You may be wondering, how can you deal with an autistic child? Ask yourself what you can do to support them and make them comfortable. Here are some tips to help.

 

  •       Take Time to Learn Triggers – Children on the autism spectrum may be hypersensitive to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light, or colors. Make sure to note when they seem uncomfortable. If the child is verbal, you can also ask them if things make them feel bad. You may also look into getting them clothing and shoes that are tailored to autistic children. 
  •       Say What You Mean – Impaired communication skills are a common occurrence among individuals with Autism. It is essential to communicate in a way that is as clear and simple as possible, also calling out any specific emotional context to be considered with the statement. Be sure to allow extra time for the child to process if they need it.
  •       Monitor Your ReactionsSocial skills can be a challenge when you are on the autism spectrum. When an autistic child says or does something hurtful or inappropriate, don’t take it personally. Instead, gently approach them to explain why their behavior was unacceptable and how they should react.

 

How ABA Therapy Can Help with Your Autistic Child

What is ABA therapy

Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) is a type of therapy that can improve social, communication, and learning skills through positive reinforcement. This is often considered a top treatment option for autistic children.

 

ABA therapy is highly personalized, with a care plan built around assessing an autistic child’s current abilities and opportunities for growth. This therapy does not focus on making the child more “normal” but instead emphasizes developing new, different skills and behaviors to improve the child’s quality of life.

 

ABA therapy uses the environment to stimulate growth. This may involve rewards or the withholding of those rewards. These positive and negative reinforcements tend to be very successful with the differences in how an autistic child’s processing works, whereas “typical” social training such as scolding a child may not be.

 

ABA therapy is an excellent option if your child tends to be receptive to rewards as a motivation for positive behavior. Sessions with a qualified therapist can teach a child to replace behaviors like screaming with sitting quietly or using words to make requests. They can also conduct valuable life skills like brushing your teeth or shaking hands upon meeting a new person.

 

Conclusion

 A typical person can never really know what it is like to have autism. However, you can try to empathise with your autistic child in order to understand them better.  

Raising an autistic child is definitely hard work. However, the light and joy they will bring to your life is immeasurable.  

 

June 9, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Geniuses With Autism

When you think about autism, you likely consider the challenges that people face. You might not realize that many people with autism are also geniuses. They excel in certain areas, from mathematics and technology to music.

Find out what an autistic savant is. Then, get the details on 15 geniuses with autism. Finally, find out how ABA therapy can help autistic geniuses reach their full potential.

What Is an Autistic Savant?

People with autism have some challenges that others don’t face. These challenges might include:

  •   Social phobias
  •   Excessive worrying
  •   Avoidance behaviors
  •   Obsessive-compulsive disorder

It’s also not unusual for people with autism to be rigid in their routines.

Even with these challenges, numerous autistic children and adults demonstrate nearly super-human abilities in specific areas. These people are identified as autistic savants.

If you’ve ever watched the movie “Rain Man” with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, you’ve seen an autistic savant in action. Dustin Hoffman’s character, Raymond, is autistic. He portrays characteristics such as strict adherence to routines and isn’t emotionally expressive.

However, he has a photographic memory. He can quickly rattle off phone book listings or baseball statistics as if he’s reading from a book.

His character was based on a real person named Kim Peek. Just like the character in the movie, Peek has an unbelievable memory.

15 Famous Geniuses With Autism

Now, let’s look at 15 geniuses with autism. These geniuses have either been diagnosed with or are thought to have autism.

1.     Elon Musk

If you watch Saturday Night Live, you might have seen Elon Musk announce he has Asperger’s during his monologue on May 8, 2021. As the co-founder of The Boring Company, Neuralink, SpaceX, and Tesla, Musk is a tech genius, with many more exciting things to come.

2.     Albert Einstein

While not formally diagnosed, many believe that Albert Einstein had Asperger’s. He showed many signs, including some difficulties with small talk.

Those challenges didn’t prevent him from winning the Nobel Prize for Physics. The world as a whole is still benefiting from his many discoveries.

3.     Isaac Newton

Experts also believe that Isaac Newton had autism. He immersed himself in his work, rarely speaking. He was so passionate about his work that he’d even forget to eat.

His passion paid off, as he is credited for leading the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century and is responsible for discovering the laws of gravity.

4.     Charles Darwin

“On the Origin of Species” is one of the most important works ever published and cemented Charles Darwin’s place as a groundbreaking biologist. He was passionate about his work but withdrawn socially. Many believe that’s because Charles Darwin had autism.

5.     Nikola Tesla

Many experts also believe that Nikola Tesla had autism. He had the ability to hyper-focus on projects and ideas, and that led to the development of the groundbreaking alternating-current electrical system.

His true power came from his ability to visualize concepts. This allowed him to turn concepts into reality.

While he was a successful inventor, he struggled with sensitivity to sounds and lights and had various phobias.

6.     Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson will always be remembered as the author of the Declaration of Independence. A prolific writer and gifted inventor, his legacy lives on today.

Many people believe that Jefferson likely had autism. This is largely because of his adherence to routines. He couldn’t stand it if his established routines were interrupted for any reason.

He was also known as being emotionally distant, with poor communication skills. That didn’t hold him back from achieving success.  

7.     Michelangelo

Michelangelo was an artistic genius with numerous world-renowned works of art, including the sculpture of David and the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling.  Experts state that he exhibited many traits of autism, including adherence to a routine and emotional distance.

These traits might have helped him with his work. He was able to lock into a project and see it through to completion with little interruption.

8.     Steve Jobs

As the co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs transformed personal computing and mobile devices. If you use an iPhone or a Mac, you can thank Jobs.

There’s also speculation that he had autism. He was known for perfectionism and managed to think outside of the box. Being on the spectrum might have helped him turn Apple into the tech giant it is today.

9.     Alfred Kinsey

A famous biologist and sexologist, Alfred Kinsey, redefined the way people think of sex and sexuality. Like many others on this list, he threw himself into his work with little time for social interaction. He didn’t have many relationships, leading many to believe that he was autistic.

10.  Bobby Fischer

A chess prodigy from a young age, Bobby Fischer went on to become an American grandmaster. His genius-level IQ helped him defeat opponents and turned him into a household name.

He was obsessed with chess and had issues with personal relationships. Experts have attempted to diagnose him, with many believing he was autistic. It’s possible that he had autism and another disorder, such as schizophrenia.

11.  Tim Burton

Tim Burton is a creative genius. He manages to manifest ideas that others couldn’t even begin to think of, which is why he’s had so much success.

He hasn’t been formally diagnosed with autism but identifies with the condition. After watching a documentary on the subject, he mentioned that he felt the same way as a child.

12.  Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol changed the art world for the better. He was a creative force during the Pop Art movements in the 1960s. He also likely had autism.

People point to the repetitive nature of his work as a sign of autism. He was also known for providing monosyllabic responses to interview questions, which might have been due to autism.

13.  Stephen Wiltshire

Stephen Wiltshire is a British architectural artist who became a household name due to his photographic memory. He can tap into his memory to draw complete city skylines. He now has a gallery and has contributed numerous pieces to the art world.

He received his autism diagnosis when he was only three years old. Language was difficult for him early on, but that didn’t slow him down. He created his first commissioned piece when he was eight and had been going strong ever since.

14.  Ludwig Wittgenstein

Ludwig Wittgenstein is often considered the greatest philosopher of the 1900s. His genius was clear in the early days, when he made a sewing machine at the age of 10, using his own design for the project. While his mind was agile, he had trouble making friends and was often teased.

His contributions to ethics, logic, and metaphysics are still important to this day. Along with his work, experts have been discussing the possibility that he was autistic.

15.  Amadeus Mozart

A child prodigy, Mozart started composing music at the age of 5. His musical memory was like nothing people had seen before. It was clear early on that he was a musical genius.

While autism wasn’t even a concept during his lifetime, experts now believe that he was on the spectrum.

Mozart was bothered by loud sounds and had trouble controlling his impulses. You can also find lots of repetition in his musical pieces. Instead of hindering him, the characteristics of autism likely helped him achieve greatness.

How ABA Therapy Can Help Autistic Geniuses

Autistic geniuses can feel like they are trapped in their own worlds. While this can help some achieve greatness, the characteristics of autism can hold others back. In other words, for every Mozart, there’s a musical genius who cannot move beyond the rigidity of routines to compose something great.

Many autistic geniuses find that applied behavior analysis (ABA) can help. Autistic geniuses can use this therapy to improve their communication and language skills. The therapy also boosts focus and memory while decreasing problematic behaviors. It can even help autistic geniuses become more social.

The therapist begins by determining the cause of behaviors. This includes the circumstances under which a patient engages in a behavior. Then, the therapist helps the patient replace problem behaviors with new, healthier options.

After successful treatment, people with autism will have new skills to use in various situations. They will also have finetuned existing skills and should notice a decrease in problem behaviors.

As an autistic genius, this can be quite valuable. It helps people maximize their potential by reducing roadblocks that get in the way of achievements.

Unlock Your Potential

If you’re an autistic genius, consider ABA therapy. It could be the key to unlocking your full potential. 

 

June 9, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Activities for Autistic Teenagers

Engaging autistic teenagers in various activities is essential for helping them learn and nurture necessary skills that may otherwise be hard for them to master. Activities ranging from arts and crafts to music, animal care, and even playing video games can increase your teen’s confidence, sense of self-worth, and general well-being. 

 

Below, we discuss the best activities for teens with autism spectrum disorder that are both educational and fun. 

15 Activities for Autistic Teenagers

  • Board games

Board games are highly beneficial for children with special needs, including autism. Playing board games can help your autistic teen develop skills that are often hard to master, such as concentrating, following the rules, and taking turns.

 

When choosing a board game to play with your teen, make sure that the game difficulty level suits your child’s ability. 

 

You may want to start with a simple game that requires only throwing the dice and moving the pawn, such as Ludo, Snakes and Ladders, or dominoes. If your teen has a good visual-spatial memory, they may enjoy playing chess and other more advanced strategy games. Some board games, such as Social Skills Bingo for Teens, focus specifically on teaching social skills, asking questions, and understanding body language. 

  • Painting 

For teenagers with autism spectrum disorder, painting can be a great means of expression. Studies show that engaging in artistic activities encourages children with autism to communicate their feelings and emotions. Activities such as painting and drawing can enhance your autistic teen’s fine and gross motor skill development, in addition to building and strengthening their visual-spatial skills. They can also positively impact communication, social interaction, and self-esteem.

 

Some autistic teenagers avoid painting due to tactile defensiveness. If your child likes technology, you can suggest using the Draw Something app. This social drawing tool will allow your teen to interact with friends and send them pictures they draw. The Scribblify painting app with its extensive selection of brushes, drawing modes, color effects, and backgrounds can be another fun way for your teen with tactile sensitivity to create artwork.

  • Exercising

Teens with autism often have limited motor function, strength, and coordination, all of which can affect their daily life skills and self-esteem. Exercising on a regular basis will allow your teenager not only to improve their physical health, but also to enjoy a variety of activities with friends and family.

Physical activity can also enhance a general feeling of well-being and counterbalance depression and anxiety, in addition to improving your child’s learning and social behavior. Regular physical activity has even been shown to decrease repetitive behaviors like body rocking, spinning, and head-nodding in children and teens with autism. 

The Autism Fitness website offers exercise suggestions suitable for autistic teens and provides many other fitness-related resources for teenagers with autism. 

  • Cooking

Cooking is a soothing and predictable activity ideal for autistic teenagers. Meal preparation is an essential daily living skill that will help your teen become more independent as an adult. What’s more, cooking and sharing meals is also an excellent way to develop social skills. 

 

Before starting to teach your teen with autism how to cook, make sure to take into consideration any sensory issues, fine and gross motor limitations, and food aversions. The eduAUTISM website offers plenty of recipes for autistic children and teenagers that accommodate different food-related challenges. Here you’ll also find gluten-free, dairy-free, casein-free, and sugar-free recipes for children who are on a restriction diet.

  • Reading

Reading should be a part of every autistic teen’s daily routine as it helps develop language and improves learning and comprehension skills. Encourage your child to read a variety of fiction, educational, and scientific books that are easy to understand, but also books that are specifically targeted towards autistic teens. 

 

AAPC Publishing offers a range of inspirational and informative books for autistic tweens and teens with communication and social skills challenges, such as The Secret Rules of Social Networking by B. Klipper and R. Shapiro-Rieser and Diary of a Social Detective by J. Jessum. 

 

Brightly has excellent book suggestions for teens with autism, for example The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a 13-Year-Old Boy with Autism by N. Higashida or Anything But Typical by Raleigh Baskin that deals with the topic of fitting in for autistic teens. 

  • Watching TV

Carefully curated TV watching can help your teenager with autism build knowledge and skills that can be useful both in a school setting and everyday life. Through game shows and documentaries, for example, your child will be able to acquire the necessary language skills to discuss a variety of topics with their peers. In addition, selected TV programs can show them how to behave in various situations and help them develop social skills.

  • Video games

Children and teens with autism are often attracted to video games because of their visual nature, structure, and immediate feedback. The good news is, playing video games can be beneficial for your teenager as it encourages the development of problem-solving skills, use of logic, as well as imagination and creativity. Multiplayer and MMO games are excellent tools for improving your teen’s social skills. Video games your teen may enjoy playing include Minecraft, Portal 2, and New Super Mario Bros.

  • Puzzles

Puzzles are an ideal activity for autistic teens as they provide a tactile sensation, while at the same time helping your child improve focus and fine motor skills. Puzzles can also enhance creative and cognitive abilities and can have a calming effect when your teen is feeling restless. Furthermore, completing puzzles together with others can help enhance your teen’s language and communication. Always make sure to choose a puzzle with a suitable difficulty level for your teen and encourage them to talk about what they’re doing while working on the puzzle. 

  • LEGO 

Building with LEGO blocks is a popular pastime among autistic teens. The activity is perceived as structured and predictable because the blocks come in limited shapes and sizes and the building process requires repetitive movements. 

 

Building with LEGOs can also be beneficial for teens who experience anxiety in social situations, for example, if they are interacting with someone they don’t know well. Studies have shown that autistic children often become more interested in interacting with each other if they are playing with LEGOs. This mode of playing encourages children to use verbal and nonverbal communication skills, share with others, take turns, and use their problem-solving skills.

  • Household chores

One of the best ways for autistic teens to develop a practical understanding of concepts such as responsibility and sharing is by doing household chores. They can start with simple tasks like putting things in their place, watering plants, or collecting letters from the mailbox. As they get comfortable with chores, you can teach them more advanced tasks, for example, how to make the bed, set the table, clean the house, or cook a simple meal.

  • Listening to music

Many teenagers with autism are emotionally responsive to music, and melodic sounds often capture their attention much better than spoken language. Listening to music is also a powerful multi-sensory experience that can help your autistic teenager reduce anxiety levels, develop their verbal and social skills, and improve memory. In addition, music offers security, comfort and increases self-confidence. 

  • Learning an instrument

Playing musical instruments stimulates the brain to make new connections and strengthens existing ones, resulting in improved mental health and cognitive ability. Besides, it may help your teenager improve fine and gross motor skills as well as posture, concentration, coordination, and creativity. Playing in a musical ensemble can further build social and communication skills. Some of the musical instruments your teen with autism may enjoy learning and playing are the ukulele, guitar, violin, keyboard, recorder, trumpet, and bongos. 

  • Dancing 

Dancing is a fun activity that can have a great impact on your autistic teen’s development. Joining a dance class can be hugely beneficial in improving your child’s concentration and memory, enhancing communication skills, increasing empathy, and developing the ability to adapt to different situations. Dancing and also boost your teen’s body image and body awareness.

  • Meditation

For many teenagers on the autism spectrum, having control over the relationship between their minds and body is a major challenge. Meditation is an activity that can address some critical areas teens with autism struggle with, such as motor skills, sensory issues, and socializing with others. It can show your adolescent how to tune into the present moment instead of getting overwhelmed by emotions. Guided meditation apps like Headspace, Calm, or My.Life—that is created specifically for teens—are excellent options for learning how to meditate. 

  • Animal care

Research shows that interacting with animals significantly improves social behavior in children with autism. Animals can provide companionship to your autistic teen and help alleviate their stress and anxiety. Owning a pet will also foster a sense of responsibility in your child. The most suitable pets for autistic children and teens are older puppies or young dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, pet rats, and fish that your child may find relaxing to look at.

 

Of course, you don’t need to own a pet for your child to engage in animal care. Your teen can participate in a range of activities involving animals from horseback riding to volunteering at nature centers, fostering kittens or puppies, or working with animals at a local farm. 

How ABA Therapy Can Help Autistic Teens with Their Activities 

ABA is a form of behavioral therapy that focuses on changing unwanted behaviors and reinforcing desirable ones. It is the most widely researched and successful therapy for autism. 

 

Although ABA is for the most part used for younger children with autism spectrum disorder, adolescents across the spectrum can also benefit from ABA-based interventions

 

ABA therapy is used to build and improve social and communication skills, as well as daily living skills in children and teens with autism. These skills include everything from understanding social cues such as facial expressions and body language to initiating conversations, responding to questions, following directions, and acquiring basic academic skills. The therapy provides targeted treatment based on your child’s individual strengths and weaknesses.

ABA therapy typically uses positive reinforcement in the form of rewards and other incentives. When a desirable behavior is followed by a motivator, like a special treat or activity, children are more likely to repeat the action. Over time, this method leads to positive behavioral changes.

ABA therapy can help your child experience multiple sensory stimuli in a safe, welcoming environment and ultimately become more focused and better in their activities. ABA therapy has been shown to lead to improvements in skills such as eye contact, language, socialization, on-task behaviors, and concentration, all of which are required for successful participation in various activities your teen with autism engages in.

 

May 26, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Social Skills for Autism

The sooner someone with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) starts to work on their social skills, the better. It’s important that ASD gets diagnosed as early as possible so ABA therapists can help build strong, practical social skills with their autistic patients.

Read on to learn more about:

 

  • What social skills are and why autistic children struggle with them 
  • Important social skills for autistic children 
  • How ABA therapy helps autistic children develop social skills
  • Other common strategies used for teaching and developing social skills

 

What are social skills?

 

Social skills are essential tools. Everyone needs to have them and use them in their everyday lives. They are what make it possible to have successful communication. Without them, there would be misinterpretations during each social interaction with another person.

Social skills can be characterized one of the following:

 

Verbal social skills: Let the other person know about certain information through talking and voice how you’re feeling to the people around you. 

Written social skills: Exchanging information, feelings, thoughts, and opinions through writing. Newsletters, lists, emails, and notes are all used for written social skills.

Non-verbal social skills: Using appropriate gestures to communicate during social interactions and knowing how to use facial expressions and body language in practical ways.

Empathetic social skills: Empathy as a social skill consists of three key components. how to recognize the emotions of others. Understanding what they are feeling and thinking—knowing and feeling the same way that they do to give a sincere response. 

 

Some of the common characteristics of social skills include:

 

  • They are often goal-oriented.
  • The social skills used depend on the situation, who it involves, and where it occurs. For example, a scenario taking place at home may produce a very different reaction than the same scenario taking place at work. Personal and professional social skills tend to be quite different from person to person. 
  • Social skills are certain types of behavior that get judged by other people. These behaviors get evaluated to determine our level of social skill. 
  • They can be taught, practiced, and learned by almost anyone.
  • However, suppose they only get taught what the definition of those social skills is. In that case, they still get considered underdeveloped. 
  • To learn and develop social skills of their own, they need to have a complete understanding of what they are. They also need to know how to recognize them in day-to-day life. They need to have complete cognitive control over them without being told when and how to do so. 

 

Why do autistic children struggle with social skills?

 

Autistic individuals who are older or have a late diagnosis may struggle to relearn healthy social skills. It could also take them longer to develop those skills as well. Learning a new skill set can take quite a bit of time. 

More time is often needed because they also have to forget their old habits. Letting go of negative behaviors that hold them back is one step closer to having good social skills. 

Having good social skills can help autistic children:

 

  • Determine how to act appropriately in any social situation. 
  • Make new friends, and be able to keep them as well.
  • Discover personal interests and develop new hobbies.
  • Learn from their peers. 

 

Another reason why children with autism struggle with social skills because it is much harder for them to pick up on social cues. They may not recognize how another person feels right away, which can sometimes lead to them seeming like they don’t care.

 

A robust set of social skills is essential for autistic children. It will have a significant positive impact on their mental health. Communicating their needs and expressing emotions to others will give a massive boost to their self-esteem. 

Building solid social skills is good for the mental and emotional wellbeing of people with ASD. It can increase their overall quality of life.

 

The most important social skills to teach an autistic child?

 

The most essential and needed social skills that can be taught to children with autism belong to these four groups:

Play skills: Sharing toys and taking turns to be fair with one another.

Conversation skills: Choosing appropriate conversation topics or what body language to use.

Emotional skills: Recognizing, understanding, expressing, and managing their emotions, also doing the same for the feelings of other people.

Problem-solving skills: Making proper decisions in social situations, dealing with and resolving conflict. 

 

Here are seven social skills that every child should have and why they’re so necessary to have:

Sharing

  • It helps make and keep friendships.
  • Feeling good makes you share, and in return, sharing makes you feel good.
  • It raises self-esteem.

 

Cooperating

  • It Teaches teamwork.
  • It Helps set goals.
  • It Shows respectfulness.
  • Positive contribution to society.
  • Can teach leadership roles.

 

Listening

  • Teaches good communication.
  • Improves ability to learn and absorb information.
  • Shows respect to the other person speaking.
  • It teaches patience.

 

Following directions

  • It helps avoid having to correct mistakes.
  • It shows independence.
  • Following directions shows that they understand when they get asked to do something.
  • Good work skill to have.

 

Respecting personal space

  • It teaches respect.
  • It helps set boundaries for themselves and other people.
  • Allows privacy.
  • Shows ability to follow the rules and directions.

 

Making eye contact

  • Needed for proper communication.
  • Good eye contact shows that they are listening. 
  • Engagement. 
  • It shows respectfulness. 
  • It shows politeness.

 

Using manners

  • Shows respect.
  • Good communication.
  • It teaches politeness.
  • It can help keep some behaviors more under control.
  • It makes them more approachable.

 

ABA therapy for autistic children to improve their social skills?

 

Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) is an effective type of therapy. It is a common form of therapy for children with developmental conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

ABA therapy involves reinforcing new and healthy behaviors. It pinpoints what specific strengths and weaknesses need attention.

It is also one of the most popular therapies. It’s primarily known for helping autistic children build positive skills such as:

 

  • Interactive play
  • How to follow directions
  • Social communication
  • How to initiate conversations 
  • How to take turns with others
  • How to follow set rules
  • Coping skills
  • Appropriate eye contact
  • Identifying and understanding social cues
  • Reducing problem behaviors

 

ABA therapy’s effective design was created for meeting the needs of everyone in a different way. Each treatment plan is unique. 

The main goal of ABA therapy is first to understand how certain behaviors develop. Once the behaviors that have adverse effects get identified, intervention and a treatment plan get put into place. 

 

ABA therapy can help your autistic child build healthy social skills. It can also improve learning abilities and modify behaviors into more positive ones. Check out Hidden Talents ABA to learn more about how you can easily access quality and effective treatments. 

 

Additional Strategies for teaching and developing social skills

 

Role-playing

To role-play as a social skill-building strategy, set the role-play:

  1.  Make its theme in context for a specific social skill you want the autistic child to learn. 
  2. Let the child choose their role and act out the scenario. 
  3. When role-playing, you want to show the best possible behaviors for specific situations. When they do happen in real life, they will have prepared to deal with it accordingly. 

 

Video-Modelling

One of the most effective intervention strategies for teaching social skills to autistic children is video modeling.

 It is a visual teaching technique and involves watching a video of the desired behavior. After the video is over you, then work with the child to try to mimic the same behaviors as seen in the video. 

 

Play games 

Use games as your tools when teaching autistic children new social skills. Games are hands-on and fun. They are good at making it easy for any child to take part in skill-building activities. 

Playing different types of games is a great interactive way to develop meaningful social skills. Behaviors that get learned through playing games also often will stick. 

 

Visual supports 

Visual supports enhance the communication process by adding another interpretable level to it. 

Photographs, artwork and various objects can all get used as visual supports. Using written words as visual supports, such as checklists and schedules, can also be used.

 An excellent example of a visual support is a stop sign.

 

Giving proper praise

Giving out proper praise when deserved is essential. It’s a necessary part of effectively teaching autistic children social skills. 

Children are more likely to remember how to use good social skills when rewarded. You can give them praise for displaying certain positive, ideal behaviors. 

Giving credit when needed also shows them that they are on the right track. It reassures them that they are offering the appropriate social behaviors. 

 

Social skills training 

Social skills training (SST) is a type of behavioral therapy. It helps people with developmental disorders, like ASD, to quickly learn and build a solid set of social skills. 

It shows how to use positive behaviors in complex social situations. SST also teaches valuable social problem-solving skills needed in everyday life. 

 

Read social stories 

Social stories are personalized short stories. They are a way for autistic children to easily exchange information.

Doing so can make it easier to develop positive social skills. They typically get written in an active first-person point-of-view. They can answer questions based on: Who, what, when, where, why, and how. 

You can find several examples of social stories for different specific issues here

 

May 12, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Autism and Empathy 

Many believe that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) makes you unable to feel empathy. The reality is that many people with ASD have trouble identifying what they are feeling. When unable to express their emotions, it seems like they don’t have any.

The purpose of this article is to inform people about the effects that autism has on empathy. By the end, you will have learned:

 

  • The elements needed to show empathy to others
  • If autism causes a lack of empathy or not
  • How you can explain autism to other children
  • How ABA therapy may help teach empathy to autistic children

 

Understanding Empathy and Sympathy 

 

Empathy means being able to feel the emotions of another person. You experience certain feelings together. 

Sympathy means understanding why that person feels those emotions. Yet, they remain distanced enough not to inherit their feelings. 

Psychologists Daniel Goleman and Paul Ekman discovered three forms of empathy. Cognitive, emotional, and compassionate. 

 

Cognitive Empathy 

Cognitive empathy is awareness of how and why a person might feel a certain way. It is the ability to look at things from all perspectives. Doing so helps you understand their emotions and thought processes. 

Emotional Empathy 

Emotional empathy is when you feel the same emotions as another person. You can achieve it by putting yourself in the same emotional place as someone. You then can feel and understand what they are going through. 

Compassionate Empathy 

Compassionate empathy is a balance between cognitive and emotional empathy. You are aware of the other persons thinking and emotions and can feel them as well. Those two elements put together motivates you to take action to help them.

 

Does autism cause a lack of empathy?

 

Someone with ASD may have trouble expressing sympathy and empathy. Or they may fail to express them at all. Being unable to express those emotions makes it appear as if they lack those emotions. 

It’s common for someone with autism to fail to express those emotions. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have them, though. Most of the time, they have underdeveloped skills. Those skills can be in one or more of the many elements needed to show empathy to other people. 

 

Here are the empathetic elements that you need to connect with someone:

 

  • Be able to recognize the other person’s thoughts and feelings
  • Understand what the other person is hoping for and what their expectations could be
  • The personal relation to the other person’s emotions through shared emotional experiences
  • Know how to express feelings of empathy both verbally and physically 
  • Culturally understand that displaying empathy is an expectation or a desire

 

Empathy is an emotion with two dimensions. It has a cognitive level and an affective/emotional level. 

The cognitive level is where you recognize and understand someone’s emotional state. 

The emotional/affective level is where you feel someone’s emotions.

 

Emotions are displayed on the face using the mouth and the eyes. People with ASD tend not to pay attention to those places and look at the sides of a face instead. As a result, they cannot use cognitive empathy. They are unable to recognize emotions by looking at the expressions on people’s faces. 

Affective empathy gets felt more powerfully. It even can be overwhelming for some people with ASD. The emotions of other people may even be more intense for some autistic people.

 

Another factor that makes it seem like autism causes a lack of empathy is the missed social cues. Children with autism tend to have different responses to things than typical children. They end up having different reactions because of those missing cues.  

Here are some reasons why someone with ASD may miss these cues:

 

  • It’s complicated for those with autism to interpret non-verbal forms of communication. They can’t pick up visual cues like facial expressions and body language. 
  • Children use repetition and mimicry to learn and develop social skills. Children with autism tend not to imitate others instinctively. Expressing empathy as others do may be more challenging to them because of this. 

 

Can empathy be taught to autistic children?

 

The Journal of Applied Behavioural Analysis published research involving autistic children learning empathy. The study indicated that autistic children could indeed get taught cognitive empathy. 

Many techniques for teaching empathy include reinforcing responses to other people’s emotions. Modeling and prompting are two popular ones. They teach how to use the correct facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, and phrases. 

However, those techniques only teach behavioral empathy, not empathy at an emotional level. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other therapies have proved to improve emotional empathy. 

 

Explaining to children that autistic children may lack empathy

 

Reports show that 1 in every 54 children in the U.S. gets diagnosed with some form of ASD. Over half of autistic students ages, 6 to 21 are in a regular classroom for 80 percent or more of their day at school. 

Proper and clear explanations of autism to other children are essential. Doing so helps make classrooms more comfortable for autistic students. It creates a safer environment for them when the people around them are aware of their needs.

 

When explaining autism to another child, keep these tips and ideas in mind:

 

There are no wrong questions

Honesty should never be considered rude, especially when it comes to the curiosity of a child. You can take it as an opportunity to explain to them that everyone’s different and that that’s okay. 

Different ways to communicate

Show them the different ways that they can communicate with non-verbal autistic children. Let them know that even though they can’t talk, it doesn’t mean they don’t understand anything. 

Be open and honest

If you hold back on not talking about certain things, it shows them that it’s too bad to talk about it. A negative mindset can develop if a child feels like they shouldn’t discuss a specific topic. 

Use storybooks

Books and stories can have a powerful impact on the way a child views things. Try reading them books about ASD with autistic characters in them. Those types of books can put certain things into an easier-to-understand perspective. 

Remind them to be polite

You may hear them say, “that kid is weird” or that they “act crazy.” Please take this opportunity to correct them. Explain that some people have more significant reactions to things than others do. Also, let them know that it’s never okay to call someone weird or crazy because they’re different. It can be hurtful to the other person’s feelings. 

 

ABA therapy and teaching empathy

 

Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) therapy helps autistic children build social skills. It also teaches them appropriate behaviors. Each therapy plan is different and gets catered to the autistic child’s unique needs. 

 

Here’s what a trained therapist may do to teach a child with ASD empathy:

 

  1. First, they will begin to teach the child what emotions need an empathetic response. They then get taught how to recognize them. The therapist may do this with pictures or silent videos of facial expressions.
  2. Next, they teach the child how to identify those emotions during everyday interactions. 
  3. Learning how to understand what the other person is feeling is the lesson that follows. The therapist, by then, will have shown them when a particular situation needs empathy. 
  4. Finally, the autistic child will get taught appropriate responses. They will learn what response they need for different emotions. Teaching proper responses usually gets done through role-playing. 

 

The main goal of ABA therapy is to teach a child with ASD how to understand their emotions. They also will develop an emotional understanding of the feelings of others. The therapist will work with the child to improve the child’s behaviors and responses. 

 

April 28, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

How Do You Get an Autistic Child to Keep Their Shoes On?

One of the many challenges children with autism face is wearing shoes. Due to sensory issues and other factors, they may find it difficult to put on shoes and keep them on their feet. 

 

Here are some tips on how to make wearing shoes easier for your autistic child. 

Why Autistic Children Have a Hard Time with Their Shoes

Children with autism spectrum disorder are often reluctant when it comes to wearing shoes.  Several factors may contribute to this particular challenge: 

Sensory issues

One of the main reasons for foot discomfort in autistic children is sensory processing disorder, a condition often associated with the diagnosis. Children with autism regularly experience hypersensitivity to various elements in their environment, including clothing and shoes. 

Foot pain

Foot pain may be another cause of your child’s hesitance to wear shoes. It can result from injury, physical conditions like the size and shape of feet, some medical conditions, or the use of an ankle-foot orthosis. You should consult your child’s occupational therapist or health professional if you suspect your child might have foot pain.

Dealing with stress

Many children with autism have difficulties learning to tie their shoelaces due to fine motor skill delays. As a result, putting their shoes on can become a stressful experience that triggers meltdowns and further increases their reluctance to wear shoes. 

How Do You Get an Autistic Child to Keep Their Shoes On? 

Persuading your autistic child to keep their shoes on can be a daunting task. Here are a few tips that can help you turn wearing shoes into a positive experience for your child. 

Get the right pair of socks

Autistic children with sensory issues are often sensitive to the seams on their socks, which may be a part of the reason your child dislikes wearing shoes. Seamless socks are more comfortable and will provide relief for your child’s sensitive feet. Brands like EZ Sox and SmartKnit Kids carry sensory-friendly socks with seamless toes, non-skid bottoms, and pull-up loops to help your child put them on. Soft fabrics including cotton, bamboo, or silk also work well for children with sensory issues.

Find alternatives to laces 

Buckle and lace-up shoes can feel tight and restrictive and may be a reason your child won’t keep their shoes on. A hook-and-loop fastening is a better choice as it will allow your child to wear shoes as tight or loose as they wish. To avoid the stress of tying the shoes, you may want to replace your child’s regular laces with quick-release or no-tie elastic laces such as Xpand, Greeper Laces, or Lock Laces, for example.

Know the right measurements

It is essential that your child’s footwear is the right size. Tight and ill-fitting shoes are not only painful but can also damage your child’s feet as they grow. Some children like high-top sneakers because they make them feel secure, while others find them too constricting. If this is the case, you may want to consider wider shoe models or loose-fitting sandals for your child. 

Buy adaptive shoes 

Adaptive shoes are designed for children who have special needs when it comes to footwear. Your child with autism can greatly benefit from wearing adaptive shoes, as they provide increased comfort and are easy to put on and take off. These shoes are usually extra wide and include features such as adjustable straps, removable insoles, and pull tabs. 

Check whether your child needs orthotics

In case of musculoskeletal issues or walking difficulties, your child can be referred to a podiatrist who will assess their feet and gait and determine whether there is a need for additional support aids. The podiatrist may prescribe orthotics or foot orthoses, special shoe inserts that provide foot support. There are many shoes that work well with ankle-foot orthoses if your child needs to wear them. 

Going to a Shoe Store with Your Autistic Child 

A trip to a shoe store with an autistic child who doesn’t like to be touched, finds busy places overwhelming, and has trouble understanding how to wait for a turn can be extremely challenging. It may trigger anxiety and quickly lead to aggressive behavior. Here’s what you can do to create optimal conditions and ensure a less frustrating shopping experience for your child. 

Prepare in advance

Children with autism spectrum disorder need predictability. Knowing what to expect allows them to better cope with potentially stressful situations and makes the transition to a new space easier. That’s why you should ideally start preparing your child for going to a shoe store the day before. Talk to your child about the upcoming trip, show them the photos of the store, and let them know what to expect. 

Use social stories

Creating a social story that depicts the situation you will encounter will help your child understand how the visit to the shoe store will unfold, what they will be asked to do, and when the trip will end. 

Measure your child’s feet

If you know that going to the shoe store will be a difficult experience, measure your child’s feet in advance using at-home devices such as RITZ Stick or Brannock

Visit during the store’s quiet time

If your child has sensory issues, it may be a good idea to contact the store in advance to find out if they have any quiet hours. This way, you’ll avoid crowds and prevent your child from getting overwhelmed. 

Buy more than one pair of shoes

To make sure you chose the perfect fit, buy several different pairs of shoes and let your child try them on at home. You can then simply return the ones that your child finds uncomfortable, but don’t forget to check the retailer’s return policy first.

Identify your child’s triggers

Identify the triggers that could provoke your child’s anxiety in the shoe store. If your child is sensitive to loud sounds, you can bring headphones and if overhead lighting poses a problem, your child can wear sunglasses or a baseball cap for protection. 

Bring a soothing item

Make sure to bring your child’s favorite toy or blanket, earmuffs, a fidget toy, or any other object or activity that will soothe your child in case they get overwhelmed. 

Plan a fun activity

Schedule a fun activity after the shopping trip that will serve as a motivator for your child. This can be as simple as setting aside some time to play with a favorite toy or game together.

Reward good behavior

Reward your child with a small treat for completing the shopping trip. Provide lots of praise and attention if your child is doing a good job.

The Best Adaptive Shoes for Autistic Children

Many brands make adaptive shoes designed for children with sensory issues, including those with autism. Listed below are some of the most popular ones:

Stride Rite

Stride Rite carries a range of wide and extra wide children’s shoes with soft memory foam footbeds, flexible soles, and hook-and-loop fasteners that are both comfortable and easy to put on. If you donate an old pair of shoes to charity, you’ll receive 20% off your purchase.

Pediped 

Pediped shoes support children’s natural movement and promote healthy foot development. They are made from soft, pliable leather, and feature convenient hook-and-loop closure. All models comply with the strictest safety standards.

Tsukihoshi

Tsukihoshi footwear is a popular choice for children with autism due to their comfort and flexibility. Most styles have no-tie stretchy laces, ideal for children with fine motor skill delays. The shoes are washable, latex-free, and work well with ankle-foot orthoses.

BILLY Footwear 

BILLY Footwear offers functional shoes with zippers that go all the way along the side and around the toes, allowing them to open and fold over completely. The shoes are both comfortable and quick and easy to put on and take off. 

Hatchbacks Footwear

Hatchbacks Footwear developed and patented a hinged shoe that opens from the back to make it easy to put on and easily fit over ankle-foot orthoses. 

Plae 

Plae shoes are a good pick if your child uses ankle-foot orthoses or supra-malleolar orthosis which supports the foot just above the ankle bone. They are flexible, wide, have extended Velcro straps, and are machine washable. 

Skechers

Many Skechers models feature Velcro straps or a pull-top loop so that they can slip on and off your child’s feet easily. The shoes have gel-infused memory foam for increased comfort and are lightweight and durable. 

Nike FlyEase 

The Nike FlyEase sneaker line consists of lace-free adaptive shoes that are quick and easy to put on. The responsive foam adapts to your child’s movement, making them soft and very comfortable to wear.

Vans

Vans autism acceptance collection is a line of sneakers designed for children with sensory processing issues. The collection features shoes that slip on with pull-tabs or close with hook-and-loop fasteners. The footwear comes only in muted colors that will appeal to children who find bright colors overstimulating. 

April 28, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Autism

Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to treat children with autism spectrum disorder who suffer from additional mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and ADHD. 

 

This type of therapy has been proven effective in teaching autistic children how to avoid negative emotions and change unwanted behaviors. 

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy designed to treat mental health disorders by identifying and changing unhealthy and harmful behaviors. It is based on the idea that behaviors are learned and that, as a result, they can be changed.  

As its name suggests, cognitive behavioral therapy relates to both cognition or thinking and behavior. One of the core principles of CBT is that thoughts and feelings are not determined by the situation but rather by the interpretation of the situation. Therefore, negative behaviors are often caused by unrealistic thoughts that set off false feelings and emotions. Through cognitive behavioral therapy, patients can learn different strategies to help them change the way they interpret and respond to a situation. 

CBT has been proven effective in treating a broad range of psychological disorders such as anxiety, panic disorders, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress, obsessive-compulsive disorder, psychosis, and bipolar disorder. More recently, it has also been used to treat other conditions including autism spectrum disorder.

Techniques used in CBT

Cognitive behavioral therapy encourages patients to challenge their thoughts and beliefs using a variety of techniques. As they gain new coping skills, they are exposed to increasingly difficult situations in a process called graded exposure.

Some of the most frequently used techniques in cognitive behavioral therapy include: 

Cognitive restructuring

This method involves identifying and reframing negative thought patterns. Once patients are aware of their thoughts, they can learn to reframe them into something more positive and productive.

Guided discovery

Patients are asked questions that challenge their beliefs and assumptions. In the process, they will start seeing things from other perspectives and eventually choose a more helpful way to deal with challenging situations.

Exposure therapy

Patients are gradually exposed to whatever provokes their fear or anxiety, while the therapist provides guidance on how to cope with the situation. Eventually, patients will start feeling less vulnerable and more confident as they confront the feared object, activity, or situation.

Relaxation techniques

Progressive relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, visualization, muscle relaxation, and guided imagery, are helpful techniques used for dealing with phobias and social anxieties.

Journaling

Patients are asked to write down both negative and positive thoughts and record any new behaviors that occur between two therapy sessions. This practice helps recognize distorted thought patterns and move away from negative thoughts.

Behavioral experiments

This technique is used for patients with anxiety disorders that involve catastrophic thinking. Before they face a situation that makes them anxious, patients are asked what they think is the worst thing that can happen. After the experiment, they can test the validity of their belief by estimating to what extent their prediction was correct.

Activity scheduling 

Patients are required to write down all the activities that they need to complete and schedule them in an orderly manner in order to lower the level of stress and anxiety.

Role play

Role playing can help patients understand other perspectives, through visualizing and practicing different ways of handling challenging situations. This technique is successfully used in dealing with social phobias, improving communication and problem-solving skills, and increasing confidence levels.

Successive approximation

This CBT exercise helps patients tackle difficult situations by taking tasks that are perceived as overwhelming and breaking them into smaller, more achievable steps. 

Using CBT for Autistic Children

Children with autism spectrum disorder typically suffer from additional conditions, such as anxiety and depression. Studies have shown that psychological issues are common in autistic children, with anxiety disorders affecting around 40% of children with autism, often accompanied by anger, depression, ADHD, or oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). 

 

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective tool in treating the common conditions associated with an autism diagnosis. Researchers have found that using CBT can help ease anxiety and redirect avoidant behavior in children with autism. A study has also shown that after only sixteen CBT sessions over three months, 78% of autistic children have seen improvement in their condition

Benefits of CBT for children with autism

Cognitive behavioral therapy can equip children with autism and their families with coping skills that will help them understand and manage emotional distress, and any accompanying physical symptoms, negative thoughts, and problematic behaviors.

Cognitive behavioral therapy has multiple benefits for children with autism:

  • It can help them cope with and manage anxiety and other emotional issues.
  • It helps them deal with stress and fear, making it easier to face dreaded situations. 
  • It allows them to change irrational and negative thoughts.
  • It may help older children improve their relationships with others. A study on children with high-functioning autism has shown that CBT enables gradual improvement in communication and other social skills.

What does a CBT session for autism look like?

During cognitive behavioral therapy sessions, your child will work with a specially trained therapist who will help them identify and analyze unwanted behaviors and their harmful aspects. A clear understanding of the behavior will make it easier to recognize it later on and react appropriately. The therapist will also teach your child how thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are related, how they influence each other, and provide strategies to approach difficult situations in a more constructive way.

To help your child learn necessary skills, a CBT therapist will use a variety of techniques, such as:

    • Asking the child about their thought processes in a difficult situation in order to identify any negative patterns. These patterns will then be reframed into positive and productive thoughts.
    • Explaining how to cope with fear and anxiety while at the same time slowly exposing your child to the same situation that triggers negative emotions. 
    • Helping a child who avoids or puts off activities due to fear or anxiety to establish a structure and a routine, which will make it easier to follow through with the task.
    • Visualizing all the steps and potential risks before getting engaged in an activity. This exercise will help reduce stress and anxiety.
    • Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, mindfulness, and guided imagery. These techniques are particularly useful when dealing with anxieties and phobias.
    • Practicing positive behavior in difficult situations with the help of role play. 

CBT therapy for autistic children can be done either individually or in a group. Your therapist may also offer family therapy as well as parent coaching.

Challenges CBT therapists face when treating autistic children

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective and empirically supported treatment, however, therapists who work with autistic children may still encounter a number of challenges. 

To begin with, children with autism spectrum disorder need to have the necessary skills to ensure the success of the therapy. Although autistic children can usually distinguish thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and even attempt to alter their thoughts, recognizing emotions is an area that can pose significant difficulties during therapy.

In addition, cognitive behavioral therapy tends to require strong linguistic and abstract thinking abilities, which can represent a challenge for children on the autism spectrum. That is why therapists often need to introduce modifications to make CBT techniques more pertinent for autistic children. They may resort to more concrete, repetitive, and visual tactics, and focus on your child’s special interests to keep them engaged and motivated. Besides, therapists may have to incorporate frequent movement breaks or sensory activities for children who have problems with attention or sensory under- or over-reactivity.

How Often Should CBT Sessions Be Administered For Autistic Children?

Each child with autism is different and there is no one-size-fits-all CBT treatment schedule that will guarantee positive results. However, most children will need one session per week for a total of 12-16 sessions, with each treatment lasting between 30 and 60 minutes. 

What Is the Difference between CBT and ABA? 

Both cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and applied behavioral therapy (ABA) are considered to be evidence-based best practice treatments by the American Psychological Association. Depending on your child’s specific needs, either one or both of these therapies might be good options. 

However, you should keep in mind that while ABA is often the starting point in treating autistic children with more severe symptoms, CBT is recommended for children with milder symptoms of autism and those with high-functioning autism. Most children are between 2 and 6 years old when they begin ABA treatment. CBT is more appropriate for children above the age of 7 as well as teens and adults with autism spectrum disorder. 

ABA focuses on managing specific and immediate behavioral issues of autism spectrum disorder. At the same time, CBT takes a broader approach to address mental health problems that accompany autism, such as mood disturbances and anxiety. 

Finally, ABA therapists will often recommend as many as 40 hours a week of therapy, often in full-time, classroom-based programs. Your child will need anywhere between 25 to 45 hours a week of applied behavioral therapy for 1 to 3 years before you start seeing positive results. CBT, on the other hand, is time-restricted and it usually takes a few weeks to a few months to notice results.

The Best CBT Providers in the Atlanta Area

If you live in the Atlanta area, you may want to consider one of the following top-rated CBT providers for your child with autism:

 

Atlanta CBT

Atlanta CBT offers cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and positive discipline, in addition to providing parent training where you can learn the necessary skills to guide your child.

 

Anxiety Specialists of Atlanta

A team of CBT specialists provides a variety of treatment techniques, with a focus on exposure therapy and exposure and response prevention for anxiety disorders, OCD, and related conditions.

 

Thriveworks Atlanta

Thriveworks Atlanta CBT counselors and therapists are trained in child therapy and have extensive experience in dealing with various issues your child with autism may be facing.

 

Cognitive Atlanta

Founded in 1985, Cognitive Atlanta was the first treatment and training institute of its type in the Southeast. Their psychologists specialize in cognitive behavioral therapy for children, adolescents, and adults.

 

Atlanta’s Children Center for Developmental and Behavioral Health

This service offers family and individual therapy using cognitive behavioral strategies to help children with behavioral difficulties, anxiety, mood problems, and social skills. They specialize in treating autism, among several other conditions.

Atlanta Specialized Care

The Atlanta Specialized Care therapists have years of experience using cognitive behavioral therapy and other techniques to treat autistic children and adolescents who are dealing with depression, anxiety, and ADHD.

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LifeStance Health 

This service allows you to find your nearest provider of CBT therapy in Atlanta and several other Georgia cities. 

 

March 31, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Treating Autism

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy consists of breathing an increased level of oxygen in a pressurized air chamber. This type of therapy may be effective in alleviating some of the symptoms of autism and can potentially improve communication, cognitive abilities, and behavior issues in autistic children. 

 

Read on to find out more about hyperbaric oxygen therapy and how it can benefit your child with autism spectrum disorder.  

What Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a non-invasive medical treatment that uses increased amounts of oxygen to enhance the body’s natural healing process. 

Patients are placed in pressurized hyperbaric oxygen chambers where they inhale 24%-100% times the normal level of oxygen. The ambient pressure of HBOT chambers is up to three times higher than the air we breathe.

This type of environment helps raise oxygen solubility in the blood and accelerates oxygen-dependent body functions, from heartbeat to thinking and moving. HBOT allows oxygen molecules to reach 400% deeper into tissues and organs in comparison with the typical blood supply. 

What conditions are treated with HBOT?

Hyperbaric chambers with pressurized oxygen were initially used to treat deep-sea divers who suffered from decompression. Since 2004, HBOT has been used to alleviate symptoms in patients diagnosed with autism, in addition to treating a wide variety of medical conditions, such as:

 

  • Arterial gas embolism
  • Severe carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Smoke inhalation
  • Wound healing
  • Treatment of gangrene
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Neuropathy
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Traumatic inadequate blood flow
  • Bone infections
  • Delayed radiation injury
  • Athletic injuries
  • Alzheimer’s and other mental conditions
  • Strokes.

How does an HBOT therapy session work?

During HBOT sessions, your child will sit or lie in a hyperbaric chamber and breathe oxygen while the pressure inside the chamber is slowly increased. 

Each clinic has a slightly different way to deliver HBOT therapy, and you should talk to several providers before you make a selection. Ask about any details, such as whether you can enter the chamber with your child, whether your child can watch a movie, or play games on an iPad during treatment, and whether the clinic has experience in working with autistic children. 

Types of hyperbaric oxygen chambers

Monoplace hyperbaric chambers are long, plastic tubes built for one person. Multiplace chambers are larger and can fit two or more people at the same time. The treatment is largely the same, the only difference being that in a multiplace chamber, patients breathe pure oxygen through a mask or a hood.

 

HBOT clinics use hard medical-grade hyperbaric oxygen chambers with 100% oxygen, while mild (mHBOT) chambers that can be used at home have ambient air with 21% oxygen and lower pressure. Your treating physician will make recommendations as to which version is best for your child. A prescription is required for any type of HBOT treatment. 

How can HBOT help in the treatment of ASD?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may play an important role in the treatment of children with autism spectrum disorder. It can have the following benefits: 

Reduce neuroinflammation

Neuroinflammation, an inflammatory response within the brain or spinal cord, is one of the major underlying causes of autism spectrum disorder. 

 

One of the direct consequences of neuroinflammation is cerebral hypoperfusion, the inadequate blood flow to the brain, which can result in limited cognitive abilities, problems with focus and attention, communication, and social interactions in children with autism. 

 

Several studies have confirmed that increasing oxygen content in the blood through HBOT may significantly reduce cerebral inflammation.

Improve behavior

Research indicates that oxygen therapy may lead to improved cognition and movement in children with autism, including better skill acquisition, reduced problem behavior, and enhanced spontaneous communication. 

 

Improve mitochondrial dysfunction

Many children with autism spectrum disorder suffer from mitochondrial weakness, which results in low energy that slows down thinking and other body functions. Studies have found that oxygen therapy can enhance mitochondrial function, hence improving symptoms of autism such as fine motor skills and balance.

Reduce oxidative stress

Oxidative stress, an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the human body, may lead to inflammation that damages brain tissue and drastically reduces metabolism, causing many clinical symptoms of autism. Research suggests that HBOT may improve the production of antioxidant enzymes that protect the cells from oxidative stress, leading to better social interactions, in addition to memory and mood improvements.

Other benefits of HBOT

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy provides a host of benefits in many conditions that occur simultaneously with autism spectrum disorder. HBOT treatments can: 

  • Reduce gut inflammation and bloating
  • Heal intestinal lining to improve leaky gut
  • Impair anaerobic gut microbe colonies in the body
  • Enhance the production of glutathione
  • Increase detoxification rate of heavy metals
  • Decrease seizure activity
  • Strengthen the immune system.

Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Work for Autism?

Many clinical trials have attempted to establish the usefulness of HBOT in treating individuals with autism spectrum disorder. However, the results of these studies have been mixed and medical specialists are still considering the effectiveness of HBOT treatment for autism. 

 

On the one hand, several studies have shown promising results of using HBOT for reducing inflammations in the brain and gastrointestinal system that are often associated with autism. Both parents and doctors of autistic children have reported benefits of HBOT including:

  • Improved sleep
  • Enhanced focus and attention
  • Fewer sensory issues
  • Improved bowel function
  • Improved cognition
  • Better communication skills
  • Children becoming more affectionate and calmer
  • Stronger connection to family.

On the other hand, many researchers still believe that there is little empirical evidence of the effectiveness of HBOT therapy on autism. They point to several limitations when it comes to establishing a clear relationship between the use of HBOT and improvement in autistic symptoms:

 

  • There is a lack of rigorous experimental control and good scientific practice.
  • Studies are often not being duplicated across the autistic population and therefore not considered to be accurate.
  • Some studies examining this type of treatment have described improvements that could have been partly due to a placebo effect.
  • In some cases, participants’ conditions might have improved over time due to concurrent treatments rather than the effects of HBOT.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved HBOT for the treatment of several conditions. However, the therapy has not been cleared as safe and approved for treating autism because its effectiveness has not been clinically proven. 

Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Safe for Autistic Children? 

Hyperbaric treatment for autistic children is generally regarded as safe and well-tolerated at pressures up to 1.5 atm and 100% oxygen for two hours per day. However, like any other treatment, HBOT has been shown to have several undesirable side effects.

Sinus damage

Sinus damage can occur during oxygen therapy in patients with upper respiratory infections. Significant changes in pressure may result in compression in the sinus cavities, inflammation of sinuses’ mucosal tissues, congestion, and edema. Your child may also feel facial pain that decreases as the air volume in the chamber expands. The use of decongestant nasal spray before the therapy significantly reduces this undesirable side effect.

Fluid buildup in the middle ear

One of the common side effects of oxygen therapy is feeling the pressure, ear pain, or discomfort during the treatment. In some cases, the pressure can cause swelling in the middle ear and rupture of the inner membrane leading to hearing loss. Children with autism who have recently undergone ear surgery should not receive HBOT unless instructed otherwise by their doctor.

Lung damage

During and after the HBOT therapy, patients suffering from emphysema and asthma may sustain lung tissue damage due to pressure change. This may result in air leaking from the lungs into the chest and a collapsed lung. Anyone with lung disease should not undergo this type of therapy.

Oxygen poisoning 

In rare cases, elevated oxygen concentrations during sessions of hyperbaric oxygen therapy can lead to chest pain, breathing difficulties, and potentially, the risk of respiratory failure. To prevent tissues in the body from taking in too much oxygen, which may lead to oxygen poisoning, your child may have to take short breaks during the therapy and breathe normal air.

Reversible myopia

The use of HBOT can briefly change the state of the lens in the eye which worsens myopia. However, this and other vision issues are reversible within six months after the cessation of therapy. Your child may also briefly experience symptoms such as eyelid twitching, blurry vision, and visual-field disturbances. 

Claustrophobia

Claustrophobia is a common concern when it comes to HBOT due to the enclosed nature of the hyperbaric chamber. In some cases, a larger multiplace chamber may be a better option. If claustrophobic symptoms become severe, your child’s doctor can prescribe pre-treatment sedation.

 

The best way to avoid the side effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy is to make sure treatment is done by certified and trained medical staff. In the US, there are not many healthcare providers who are board-certified in the field. That’s why you should always confirm that the healthcare provider offering your therapy has special training from the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society (UHMS). 

How Long Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Sessions Last?

An HBOT session for autistic children typically lasts for 90 minutes. In some cases, the treatment may take up to 2 hours. 

How Many HBOT Sessions Are Needed for Autistic Children?

There are no standard therapeutic guidelines as to the number of sessions needed for the HBOT treatment to work. The number and frequency of sessions required will vary from child to child. You may want to start with a series of 10 sessions, after which your doctor can evaluate the progress and advise on whether your child should continue with the treatment. In most cases, the therapy will require between 20 and 40 treatments.

Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Covered by Insurance?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is an expensive treatment. One therapy session can cost up to $250, which amounts to $10,000 for 40 sessions. 

HBOT can be covered by Medicare and commercial insurances, although most insurances will require prior authorization to cover this type of treatment. Several commercial insurance companies, including BlueCross BlueShield, United Healthcare, Cigna, and Humana, will approve HBOT for off-label conditions such as autism if the treatment is medically necessary. However, companies reserve the right to deny HBOT coverage regardless of the medical condition. The amount you need to pay out-of-pocket will depend on your insurance plan. 

HBOT is usually not covered by private health insurance or Medicaid as it is considered being an experimental treatment. HBOT using soft/mild chambers are not reimbursed by insurance companies. 

Other Therapy Options for Autistic Children

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is an adjunctive treatment for autism and is usually combined with another type of therapy. As part of multidisciplinary treatment for your child, you may also want to consider speech therapy, occupational therapy, restrictive diet, applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy, and verbal behavior analysis (VBA) therapy. 

March 24, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Physical Therapy for Autism

Children with autism often experience delays in motor skill development. When combined with their communication and behavioral issues, physical difficulties can make it very challenging for autistic children to thrive

 

Physical therapy is a successful means of improving motor functions in autistic children and teaching them to be confident and comfortable in their bodies. 

 

Here’s a closer look at how physical therapy can help children with autism learn, grow, and enjoy their life to the fullest. 

What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder characterized by a range of social, communication, and behavior challenges. Autism affects an estimated 1 in 54 children in the United States. This condition is three to four times more common in boys than in girls, and boys often exhibit more obvious signs of autism than girls. 

The effects of autism and the severity of symptoms vary from child to child. While some children with autism spectrum disorder require significant support in their daily activities, others may go on to live independent, productive, and fulfilling lives.

When is autism diagnosed?

Autism spectrum disorder is usually diagnosed in early childhood. The signs of autism often appear already around the age of two, when between 80% to 90% of parents start noticing symptoms that disrupt their child’s daily functioning. However, some children develop normally until toddlerhood, when they start losing previously gained skills and stop acquiring new ones. This condition is known as regressive autism.

What are the symptoms of autism?

The core signs of autism spectrum disorder are repetitive behaviors and challenges in communication and social interactions.

Other symptoms include:

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Preference for playing alone
  • Little or no interest in peers
  • Not engaging in creative play
  • Rejection of physical contact
  • Trouble understanding other people’s feelings and body language
  • Delayed speech and language skills
  • Repeating the same words or phrases
  • Becoming upset by minor changes
  • A need to keep routines
  • Obsessive interests in objects or parts of objects
  • Short attention span, except for favorite activities or topics
  • Repeating movements, for example, hand flapping, spinning, and rocking
  • Aggression, self-injury, and temper tantrums
  • Unusual reactions to sound, smell, taste, sight, or touch.

The Physical Difficulties That Children With Autism Face

In addition to challenges related to communication and social interactions, children with autism spectrum disorder often experience delays in physical development. In most cases, both gross and fine motor skills are affected by autism. 

Gross motor skills are large movements done using the arms, legs, and feet such as jumping and running. Children usually master these skills by watching and imitating others. 

Due to their lack of interest in other people, decreased attention span, tactile sensitivities, and aversions, many children with autism are delayed in their gross motor skills development. 

They are on average 6 months behind their neurotypical peers with regard to their gross motor skills. 

Fine motor skills, on the other hand, consist of intricate hand and finger movements that are required for everyday tasks like scribbling, grasping toys, tying knots, and self-feeding. Coordination difficulties as well as lack of core strength and stability can make fine motor skills challenging for children with autism spectrum disorder. Even after having mastered these skills, autistic children may have difficulty executing them smoothly. 

 

Physical issues that frequently accompany autism include: 

  • Delays in walking, jumping, skipping, and running
  • Trouble copying movements of other people
  • Slow or unpredictable movements
  • Limited coordination
  • Poor balance 
  • Problems with planning and repeating movements
  • Difficulty performing movements in a specific order
  • Delays in fine motor activities such as writing and drawing
  • Poor eye-hand coordination
  • Low muscle tone that may cause clumsiness and falls
  • Difficulty controlling posture
  • Unstable walking or running
  • Toe walking
  • Difficulty going up or down steps 
  • Issues using sensory information for movement.

The more severe the disorder, the slower your child’s progress will be in these areas. Early identification and treatment of motor skill issues in autistic children are essential in helping them catch up with their neurotypical peers.

How Can a Physical Therapist Help an Autistic Child?

A physical therapist is a trained medical professional who diagnoses and treats patients with conditions that affect their movement and prevent them from performing everyday activities.

 

Working closely with multidisciplinary teams of speech therapists, occupational therapists, and psychologists, physical therapists help develop, maintain, and restore optimal physical functioning in children and adults with autism.

 

The therapist will start by evaluating your child’s motor functional performance and delays. Based on this assessment, the therapist will develop goals that will allow your child to participate as fully as possible in daily routines at home and in school. There is no standard treatment for children with autism spectrum disorder and your physical therapists will personalize a program to meet the strengths and needs of your child. 

In addition to teaching new motor skills and improving the existing ones, a physical therapist will work with your child on acquiring the movement patterns necessary for taking part in activities with peers. Treatment strategies will be gradually adjusted as your child learns new skills and starts functioning more independently.

Physical therapists always take the autism diagnosis into consideration when designing treatment sessions. Although all physical therapists are educated to treat children and adults with autism spectrum disorder, you may want to look specifically for a pediatric physical therapist with experience in treating autistic children. 

Physical therapists may also offer other types of therapies suitable for children with autism spectrum disorder, such as hippotherapy, dance and movement therapy, music therapy, recreational therapy, and even play therapy.

What does a physical therapy session look like? 

Sessions with a physical therapist are designed to be safe, friendly, and encouraging for children of all ages. Although physiotherapy sessions are structured, they may still look a lot like play. 

 

Typically, a pediatric physical therapy gym will have balls, swings, and slides. Exercise-based physiotherapy treatments include a variety of activities such as jumping, clapping hands, skipping, throwing, kicking, or catching a ball, to help your child improve balance, posture, and strength. 

For younger children, physical therapy sessions usually last between 20 and 30 minutes. As your child gets older, sessions can be extended up to an hour. Besides weekly training, your child’s therapist will often provide you with a home exercise program and activities to help your child progress.

Physical therapy in the early years: birth to age 3

Physical therapists work with the youngest children on their basic motor skills such as rolling, sitting, standing, and running. A therapist will devise fun and engaging activities to help your child learn age-appropriate physical skills and use both free and structured play to improve strength and coordination. 

Physical therapy in the school years: ages 3 to 18

For school-age children, physical therapists focus on more advanced skills such as skipping, kicking, throwing, and catching a ball. These skills are necessary not only for physical development, but also for social interaction and participation in activities with peers. Your child will also learn to move as independently as possible throughout the home, school, and other settings. 

 

A physical therapist may work with your child either one-on-one in the classroom or in groups that include neurotypical and autistic children to work on the social aspects of physical skills. During physical therapy sessions, your child will learn how to:

  • Copy the movements of other children
  • Understand concepts of direction, body, and spatial awareness
  • Develop better coordination and more stable posture
  • Take part in physical education and other activities
  • Enhance play skills, and
  • Increase fitness and stamina.

What’s more, your child’s physical therapist will help promote skills such as self-control, listening, and taking turns, and teach you how to use physical therapy activities to encourage your child to participate in home and school routines. 

Physical therapy during adulthood: age 18+

Physical therapists can help adults with autism spectrum disorder increase their independence when it comes to the activities of daily living. Besides, they develop personalized exercise routines that promote physical fitness, body coordination, and recreation skills. These skills allow adults with autism to have a healthy lifestyle and enjoy a variety of activities with friends and family.

Where Does The Physical Therapy Treatment Occur? 

Physical therapy for children on the autism spectrum may occur in a variety of places including the home, school, or outpatient clinic setting. 

 

Children under the age of three who are eligible for physical therapy through the Early Intervention programs will receive therapy in their natural environment, that is, their home, daycare, or another place where they spend most of their days. If your child’s physical therapy is provided as an educational service, it will take place at school. 

How Often Should a Physical Therapy Treatment Occur for a Child with ASD? 

If your child receives services through the education system, the frequency of therapy sessions will be determined by the Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Program (IEP) team based on your child’s needs. The same team will also establish the length of sessions and the goals of treatment. As a parent, you will have a say in any decisions regarding different aspects of your child’s physical therapy.

In a clinic setting, the treatment details are determined by the referring physician, parent or caretaker, and therapist. The number of hours of therapy provided by your child’s health insurance can also affect the frequency of sessions.

The Best Physical Therapists for Autistic Children in the Atlanta Area

If you live in the Atlanta area, you can choose among many top-rated physical therapy services for your child. Here are only a few: 

 

Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers 

Hopebridge centers use innovative therapy approaches to help children with autism improve their motor skills. They have several locations in the Atlanta area. 

 

Atlanta Children’s Therapy Associates

A team of pediatric physical therapists focuses on improving gross motor skills in children with developmental delays.

 

All About Kids

This service specializes in home-based physical therapy for children of all ages.

 

Atlanta Pediatric Therapy

Experienced physical therapists provide evaluation, intervention, and consultation in everything from muscle tone and posture control to increasing strength and endurance.

 

Building Blocks Pediatrics

The Building Blocks Pediatrics therapists develop treatment plans to enhance motor functions in addition to devising extensive home programs for families. 

 

Premier Children’s Therapy Center

A team of physical therapists with experience in working with autism spectrum disorder will help your child restore essential motor functions and achieve independence through play and exercise.

 

Kid’s Creek Therapy

This service provides physical therapy for children with autism and other disabilities. They also offer free online Growth Ability Patterns (GAP) assessments and free first consultations. 

 

Therapyland

Through a collaborative relationship between parents and therapists, Therapyland is dedicated to providing physical therapy to help children with autism and other conditions reach their highest potential.

 

March 17, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Hippotherapy for Autistic Children

Hippotherapy is a treatment in which horses are used to help individuals with developmental and cognitive disabilities improve their communication, social, and motor skills. 

 

Autistic children can highly benefit from this type of therapy due to the emotional and sensory experiences that come with riding and taking care of horses. 

 

Keep reading to find out more about hippotherapy and the ways it can support your child with autism in achieving developmental goals. 

What Is Hippotherapy?

Hippotherapy is a horse-aided therapy. Horse movements provide motor and sensory inputs that are used in the treatment of conditions ranging from autism spectrum disorder and cerebral palsy to attention deficit disorder and developmental delays. 

 

The term hippotherapy comes from the Greek word “hippos” meaning horse. In ancient Greece, therapeutic horse riding was used for treating neurological conditions as well as improving joint movement, posture, and balance. 

 

Equine therapy was introduced in Scandinavia after an outbreak of polio in 1946, and it was formally developed in the United States and Canada two decades later.

How does hippotherapy work?

Hippotherapy is a multimodal form of intervention. In other words, it includes many different types of activities based around horses: 

 

  • Changing positions on a moving horse
  • Sitting sideways or backward on a horse
  • Holding balance when the horse suddenly stops
  • Playing games while sitting on a horse
  • Engaging in situational role plays
  • Listening to the therapist and following the instructions
  • Communicating while on the horse or off the horse
  • Taking on and removing the helmet 
  • Grooming and feeding the horse
  • Helping tidy the barn. 

 

During a typical hippotherapy session, the child sits on a horse while the therapist guides the horse’s movement. Those movements stimulate the development of neural connections in the child’s brain that help with motor and language development. Adjusting to the horse’s movements helps facilitate a range of abilities from muscular coordination to respiratory control and attentional skills. What’s more, during this form of therapy, children with autism often create an emotional bond with the horse that encourages them to perform various skill-building tasks.

By combining different types of activities, the therapist will provide the optimal sensory and neurological input for your child. The therapist will then analyze the child’s responses and adjust the treatment along the way. 

What types of horses are used for hippotherapy?

Therapy horses are carefully selected for their temperament and the type of movement they produce. Among the most frequently used horses for hippotherapy are calm, gentle, and even-tempered American quarter horses. They must have good walking gaits and symmetrical motion to exercise the child’s muscles evenly during sessions. Hippotherapy horses are specially trained for therapy sessions with autistic children.

Hippotherapy vs. therapeutic riding

Hippotherapy is a form of equine-assisted therapy. Equine-assisted therapies encompass a range of treatments involving horses and other equine animals and can be classified as: 

 

  • Therapeutic horseback riding
  • Equine-assisted learning
  • Equine-assisted psychotherapy
  • Interactive vaulting where children perform movements on and around a horse
  • Therapeutic carriage driving for anyone who is not able or willing to ride
  • Equine-assisted activities like horse grooming and stable management. 

 

Hippotherapy is not to be confused with therapeutic riding which consists of recreational horseback riding lessons adapted to individuals with disabilities. Hippotherapy, on the contrary, focuses on the rhythmic and repetitive walk of the horse which serves as a foundation for improving the sensory processing and skills of a child with autism

What professionals provide hippotherapy?

Hippotherapy is a medically prescribed treatment provided by occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech-language pathology professionals.

It is important to keep in mind that hippotherapy is not a separate program. It is combined with other standard therapy tools and strategies devised in your child’s intervention plan. Hippotherapy is often used in cases where traditional treatments have not been successful. Adding horse-assisted therapy to an existent treatment routine has been proven to significantly increase the well-being of autistic children. 

Is Hippotherapy Effective for Children With Autism?

Research suggests that hippotherapy has a positive impact on communication and social skills among children with autism spectrum disorder. A study on the effect of equine-assisted therapy on social functioning found that autistic children who rode horses as part of therapy showed improvements in social skills after only twelve weeks. The results of another study on the impact of hippotherapy on children with autism confirm that the equine interaction is highly effective when it comes to enhancing social and communication skills.

In addition to improvements in social and communication competencies, hippotherapy is beneficial in many other areas. It has been shown to significantly improve balance, sensory responsiveness, motor skills, and adaptive behaviors of autistic children in the home and school settings. 

Creating emotional bond

Children with autism often have difficulties creating an emotional bond with others. They may find it hard to make eye contact, communicate their feelings, and connect to those they care about. 

Autistic children who participate in hippotherapy benefit from the special connection they develop with the horse. Communication with a horse is physical rather than verbal—the child can brush, hug and pat it. This unique emotional bond encourages the child to form an attachment to others, something that they may otherwise find challenging. When caring for their horse, children associate the care they provide with feelings, a connection that they can apply to their interaction with family and friends.

Sensory benefits

Many children on the autism spectrum are unable to integrate their senses and understand how their bodies relate to the external world. Hippotherapy is a great way to help them gain a sense of body-awareness while improving sensory integration.

 

Because being on a horse or in the horse environment is a sensation-rich experience, autistic children can largely benefit from the integration of their motor, visual, auditory, olfactory, and tactile senses. Riding provides strong sensory stimulation to muscles and joints, hugging and patting the horse offers a tactile experience, while hearing the horse’s neigh and smelling the barn impact other senses.

Cognitive and language skills development

Autistic children may find it challenging to follow directions. During hippotherapy, however, they are often motivated to communicate both with the therapist and the horse. They learn to follow directions through fun activities that make instructions easier to grasp and remember. At the same time, giving the horse direction provides another opportunity to communicate. 

Other benefits of hippotherapy

Hippotherapy may help children with autism learn a variety of skills that they can apply in their daily life, and encourage them to start participating in activities they used to avoid.

 

Some of the numerous physical and psychological benefits hippotherapy has for autistic children include:

 

  • Develop balance and coordination
  • Improve posture and flexibility 
  • Gain new sensory skills 
  • Improve memory, concentration, and attention to tasks
  • Improve motor planning
  • Relax tight muscles 
  • Build muscle strength
  • Increase respiratory control
  • Improve fine motor coordination 
  • Refine hand-eye coordination 
  • Gain self-control and self-confidence
  • Get a better sense of body-awareness
  • Improve socialization skills
  • Build resilience to change
  • Improve listening skills
  • Learn more appropriate ways to interact with peers.

Encouraging Your Autistic Child Through Hippotherapy 

There are several ways in which you can encourage your autistic child through a hippotherapy program:

 

  • Be prepared. Let your child know exactly what to expect from the new therapy. You may want to use social stories—individualized short stories that depict a social situation that your child may encounter, in this case, hippotherapy—and other visual aids to facilitate the transition to a new activity. 
  • Be consistent. Children with autism spectrum disorder tend to do best when they have a highly-structured schedule or routine. Try to keep any disruptions to the new routine to a minimum. If there is an unavoidable schedule change, prepare your child well in advance.
  • Be positive. Hippotherapy should be a pleasant experience and something your child looks forward to every time.
  • Be mindful of your child’s needs. Take into account any sensory issues your child might have, such as sensitivities to light, sound, touch, taste, and smell, for example. Try to avoid any sensory inputs that may trigger your child’s disruptive behaviors until the new routine is well established. 

Hippotherapy Programs for Autistic Children in Atlanta 

There is no shortage of top-rated hippotherapy programs to choose from in the Atlanta area. Here are just a few:

 

 

Other useful resources: 

 

 

March 9, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Music Therapy for Autistic Children

Children with autism are often interested in and emotionally responsive to music. Music provides powerful multi-sensory experiences that can help them develop verbal and social skills, in addition to creating ample opportunities to relate to others. 

 

Let’s take a closer look at how music therapy is used to treat children with autism spectrum disorder. 

What Is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is a clinical, evidence-based technique for using musical interactions to help improve functioning skills in children and adults with cognitive and emotional difficulties. 

Music therapy was first used for the clinical treatment of children with special needs in the early to mid-1900s. It was originally developed as a way to help children improve social interaction and communication. Today, music therapy addresses both the communication, social, physical, cognitive, and emotional needs of children on the autism spectrum. 

Music therapy is not to be confused with musical instruction. It is not a performance-based but rather a process-oriented intervention, where children actively participate in activities such as singing, moving along with, listening to and creating music.

This type of therapy is offered by Board Certified Music Therapists (MT-BC) who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher from an American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) approved college or university program. In addition, to obtain the credentials required for professional practice, candidates have to pass a national examination administered by the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT).

Is Music Therapy Effective for Children With Autism? 

Research shows that various aspects of music such as melody, pitch, and rhythm are all processed by different areas in the brain. Since music stimulates both hemispheres of the brain, it can be effective in improving cognitive functioning in a child with autism. Several studies have also shown that music therapy works to rewire the brains of children with autism, helping them to reduce undesirable behaviors and improve social interactions with family and friends. 

The benefits of music therapy for autistic children

There are several ways in which music therapy is proven to be beneficial to children with autism spectrum disorder.

Facilitate communication

Most autistic children experience challenges with at least some aspects of verbal and non-verbal communication. For children who have very limited verbal skills or who find it difficult to express themselves using words, music therapy can provide a valuable alternative means of communication. 

Motivate social interactions

Research shows that children with autism become more socially engaged when they are exposed to music therapy. During their therapy sessions, autistic children display a wider range of emotional expressions and social engagement behaviors than in classroom settings and other environments where there is no music involved. 

 

What’s more, many group therapy sessions include playing games, sharing instruments, and creating together. This type of intervention is a great practice for children with autism as it promotes social skills like making eye contact, sharing attention, and taking turns.

Increase attention to tasks

Weekly music therapy sessions for autism can improve the ability to focus and help reduce restlessness and aggressive behaviors. Interestingly, autistic children often find it easier to focus on sung information than the one that is spoken.

Teach new skills

Music may be used as a natural reinforcer for obtaining desired responses in autistic children. A therapist can teach new skills through musical activities, for example, pairing those skills with musical cues. The cues are gradually phased out until the child has fully acquired the skill and does not need any further reinforcements.

Improve confidence levels

Music therapy fosters a sense of achievement and, consequently, the development of self-confidence and self-determination in autistic children.

Other benefits 

Listening to and creating music as part of therapy can also help autistic children to: 

 

  • Increase vocalization and verbalization 
  • Enhance auditory processing
  • Facilitate vocabulary comprehension
  • Help develop sensory-motor and perceptual-motor skills
  • Positively influence the development of gross and fine motor skills
  • Enhance body awareness and coordination
  • Reduce sensory aversions
  • Decrease anxiety and stress
  • Help identify and appropriately express emotions
  • Establish stronger family bonds.

What Will a Music Therapy Session Look Like? 

Music therapy sessions are delivered by certified music therapists who work with individuals or small groups in a safe environment, using a variety of music genres and techniques. Therapists will usually consult and collaborate with your child’s pediatrician or other therapists. In addition, they will develop strategies that you can successfully implement at home. 

 

Music therapy typically involves the following stages:

  • Assessment. The therapist assesses your child to determine his or her specific needs. 
  • Goal-setting. Based on the initial assessment, the therapist develops an individualized music therapy program for your child.
  • Activities. Music therapy sessions may include activities such as songwriting, movement, singing, playing instruments, listening to music, working in groups, and improvisation. The therapist will either choose a couple of tasks as part of the treatment plan or implement various approaches across different therapy sessions. 
  • Evaluation. The music therapy program is regularly evaluated to make sure it is working as intended and that your child is making progress.

The duration of the therapy will depend on your child’s individual needs. You can expect to have one weekly session of music therapy that lasts for anywhere from 20 to 50 minutes. 

Music therapy for autistic children is often incorporated into other forms of treatment such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, and applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy

Encouraging Your Autistic Child Through Music Therapy 

There are many different ways in which you can motivate your autistic child with the help of music therapy programs and activities. Here are just a few:

Build social skills

You can ask your child to share or pass you a musical instrument as a way to increase interaction with others. Another way to encourage interaction is to sing or play instruments together.

Encourage communication

One of the simplest ways to help your child with autism improve communication skills is through music. You can, for instance, engage your child in a musical conversation where you sing a question and your child responds by singing. 

Enhance memory and focus

A fun way to improve your child’s memory and focus is clapping to the beat of the music and asking your child to imitate your gestures. You may want to start with a simple pattern and then gradually increase its complexity.

Develop vocabulary

An effective way to help your child learn new words and develop vocabulary is to select a simple song that focuses on one topic, such as animals, for example. While singing the song, make sure to emphasize the particular words you want your child to learn. 

Music Therapy Program for Autistic Children in Atlanta 

When looking for music therapy for your child, it is essential to find a professional who will take into consideration your child’s unique needs and interests, focus on providing a positive learning experience, and effectively communicate with you throughout the process. 

 

If you live in the Atlanta area, you may want to consider one of the following top-rated music therapy programs for autistic children: 

Other useful resources:

 

 

Word AUTISM with kids shoes on wooden background
February 24, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

59 Inspirational Quotes About Autism

At Hidden Talents ABA, we understand how difficult it is to raise a child with autism. While our ABA therapists will be able to help your child manage their autism, you still need a pick me up from time to time. 

 

We have put together these quotes about autism to help inspire you and to help remind yourself how special your child is.  

 

  • “Autism… offers us a chance for us to glimpse an awe-filled vision of the world that might otherwise pass us by.” – Dr. Colin Zimbleman

 

  • “Don’t think that there’s a different, better child ‘hiding’ behind the autism. This is your child. Love the child in front of you. Encourage his strengths, celebrate his quirks, and improve his weaknesses, the way you would with any child. You may have to work harder on some of this, but that’s the goal.” – Claire Scovell LaZebnik

 

  • “Do not fear people with autism; embrace them. Do not spite people with autism; unite them. Do not deny people with autism; accept them, for then their abilities will shine.” – Paul Issacs

 

  • “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism” – Dr. Stephen Shore

 

  • “Children with autism are colorful – They are often very beautiful and, like the rainbow, they stand out.” – Adele Devine

 

  • “Autists are the square pegs, and the problem with pounding a square peg into a round hole is not that the hammering is hard work. It’s that you’re destroying the peg.” – Paul Collins

 

  • “I am different, not less.” – Dr. Temple Grandin

 

  • “If they can’t learn the way we teach, we teach the way they learn.” – O. Ivar Lovaas

 

  • “Kids need to be encouraged to stretch their shine!” – Amanda Friedman

 

  •  “It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a child with autism to raise the awareness of that village.” – Elaine Hall

 

  • “Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible” – Frank Zappa

 

  • “It seems that for success in science and art, a dash of autism is essential” – Hans Asperger

 

  • “Even for parents of children who are not on the spectrum, there is no such thing as a normal child.” – Violet Stevens

 

  • “Autism is part of my child. It’s not everything he is. My child is so much more than a diagnosis.” – S.L. Coelho

 

  • “Autism can’t define me. I define autism.” – Kerry Magro

 

  • “There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child can do instead of on what he cannot do.” – Dr. Temple Grandin

 

  •  “To measure the success of our societies, we should examine how well those with different abilities, including persons with autism, are integrated as full and valued members.” – Ban Ki-Moon

 

  • “The most interesting people you’ll find are ones that don’t fit into your average cardboard box. They’ll make what they need, they’ll make their own boxes.” – Dr. Temple Grandin

 

  • “Autism is like a rainbow. It has a bright side and a darker side. But every shade is important and beautiful.” – Rosie Tennant Doran

 

  • “I am autistic and I am proud” – Sez Francis, Autism Advocate

 

  • “Autism is really more of a difference that needs to be worked with rather than a monolithic enemy that needs to be slain or destroyed.” – Dr. Stephen Shore

 

  • “Autism doesn’t have to define a person. Artists with autism are like everyone else: They define themselves through hard work and individuality.” – Adrienne Bailon

 

  • “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” – Dr. Seuss

 

  • “Autism makes you listen louder. It makes you pay attention to an emotional level as well as an intellectual level.” – Jace King

 

  • “Children with autism develop all kinds of enthusiasms… perhaps focusing on one topic gives the child a sense of control, of predictability and security in a world that can be unpredictable and feel scary.” – Barry M. Prizant

 

  • “I’ve learned that every human being, with or without disabilities, needs to strive to do their best, and by striving for happiness you will arrive at happiness. For us, you see, having autism is normal — so we can’t know for sure what your ‘normal’ is even like. But so long as we can learn to love ourselves, I’m not sure how much it matters, whether we’re normal or autistic.” – Naoki Higashida

 

  • “When enough people care about autism or diabetes or global warming, it helps everyone, even if only a tiny fraction actively participate.” – Seth Godin

 

  • “When a family focuses on ability instead of the disability, all things are possible… Love and acceptance is key. We need to interact with those with autism by taking an interest in their interests.” – Amanda Rae Ross

 

  • “We cry, we scream, we hit out and break things. But still, we don’t want you to give up on us. Please, keep battling alongside us.” – Naoki Higashida

 

  • “Why should I cry for not being an apple, when I was born an orange? I’d be crying for an illusion, I may as well cry out for not being a horse.” – Donna Williams

 

  • “Autism: where the “randomness of life” collides and clashes with an individual’s need for sameness.” – Eileen Miller

 

  • “What would happen if the autism gene was eliminated from the gene pool? You would have a bunch of people standing around in a cave, chatting and socializing and not getting anything done.” – Temple Grandin

 

  • “The difference between high-functioning and low-functioning is that high-functioning means your deficits are ignored, and low-functioning means your assets are ignored.” – Laura Tisoncik

 

  • “Autism is as much a part of humanity as is the capacity to dream.” – Kathleen Seidel

 

  • “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein

 

  • “What I like to tell parents is that raising a child with autism is running a marathon. It’s not a sprint.” – Dr. Brian Bowman

 

  • “Get to know someone on the spectrum and your life will truly be blessed.” – Stephanie L. Parker

 

  • “Disability is a matter of perception. If you can do just one thing well, you’re needed by someone.” – Martina Navratilova

 

  • “If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” – Maya Angelou

 

  • “Our duty in autism is not to cure but to relieve suffering and to maximize each person’s potential.” – John Elder Robison

 

  • “Disability doesn’t make you exceptional, but questioning what you think you know about it does.” – Stella Young

 

  • “Those without obsessive focus have to take classes to cultivate it.” – Rudy Simone

 

  • “I might hit developmental and social milestones in a different order than my peers, but I am able to accomplish these small victories on my own time.” – Haley Moss

 

  • “Kids have to be exposed to different things in order to develop. A kid’s not going to find out he likes to play a musical instrument if you never exposed him to it.” – Temple Grandin

 

  • “Our experiences are all unique. Regardless, I do believe that it is important to find the beautiful. Recognize that there is bad, there is ugly, there is disrespect, there is ignorance, and there are meltdowns. Those things are inevitable. But there is also good.” – Erin McKinney

 

  • “At the end of the day, we don’t dream our lives… we LIVE them!” – Anthony Ianni

 

  • “Everyone has a mountain to climb, and autism has not been my mountain, it has been my opportunity for victory.” – Rachel Barcellona

 

  • “This is a FOREVER journey with this creative, funny, highly intelligent, aggressive, impulsive, nonsocial, behavioral, oftentimes loving individual. The nurse said to me after 6 hours with him, “He is a gift”. INDEED he is.” – Janet Frenchette Held, parent

 

  • “Behavior is communication. Change the environment and behaviors will change.” – Lana David

 

  • “The way we look at our children and their limitations is precisely the way they will feel about themselves. We set the examples, and they learn by taking our cue from us.” – Amalia Starr

 

  • “My autism is the reason I’m in college and successful. It’s the reason I’m good in math and science. It’s the reason I care.” – Jacob Barnett, 16-year-old math and physics prodigy

 

  • “I know of nobody who is purely autistic or purely neurotypical. Even God had some autistic moments, which is why the planets all spin.” – Jerry Newport

 

  • “I believe everyone on the planet has their thing and, especially in my experience, autistic people all have a tremendous gift. It’s a matter of finding that gift and nurturing it.” – Edie Brannigan, mother of Mikey Brannigan

 

  • “Mild autism doesn’t mean one experiences autism mildly… it means YOU experience their autism mildly. You may not know how hard they’ve had to work to get to the level they are.” – Adam Walton

 

  • “Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of who do the things no one can imagine.” – Alan Turing

 

  • Within every living child exists the most precious bud of self-identity. To search this out and foster it with loving care, that is the essence of educating an autistic child.” – Dr. Kiyo Kitahara

 

  • “Stop thinking about normal… you don’t have a big enough imagination for what your child can become.” – Johnny Seitz

 

  • “What makes a child gifted may not always be good grades in school, but a different way of looking at the world and learning.” – Chuck Grassley

 

  • “Let’s give people with autism more opportunities to demonstrate what they feel, what they imagine, what comes naturally to them through humor and the language of sensory experience. As we learn more about autism, let’s not forget to learn from those with autism. There are poets walking among you and they have much to teach.” – Chris Martin

 

 

 

 

Mother playing with her child and encouraging him
February 24, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Positive Reinforcement and Autism

Positive reinforcement is a process of recognizing, rewarding, and encouraging desired behaviors. 

 

As one of the most important principles of ABA therapy, this technique is crucial for achieving meaningful behavioral changes in children with autism. Here’s a closer look at positive reinforcement and the way ABA therapists use it to help autistic children learn and maintain new skills.

What Is Positive Reinforcement?

Applied behavior analysis (ABA), is a therapy that focuses on increasing desired behaviors and reducing undesired ones, is a standard treatment for children with autism spectrum disorder. 

 

Positive reinforcement is the main behavioral management technique used by ABA therapists, where a child who complies with a request for behavior change is given an incentive. The aim is to have the child respond to reinforcement with positive behavior. 

 

A reinforcer can be any object or activity that is effective in strengthening and maintaining the desired behavior. Primary reinforcers are natural and include sleep and food, for example. Secondary reinforcers, ranging from praise to stickers and tokens, vary from child to child and are developed over time. 

 

The least intrusive type of reinforcers is praise and the most intrusive one is food, with many different reinforcer types in between, such as preferred activities, tangible items like toys, privileges, and tokens. 

 

Reinforcers that work for one child may not work for another—some children are happy to get stickers for a reward chart while others respond better to words of encouragement. Whatever the preferences, the goal of the positive reinforcement technique is that praise eventually becomes the only necessary reward.

What Is the Importance of Positive Reinforcement in Autism?

For children with autism spectrum disorder and their families, positive reinforcement—and ABA therapy in general—can be life changing. This method helps autistic children acquire new skills that can be extremely challenging to teach and maintain. Some of these skills include: 

 

  • Verbal communication
  • Non-verbal communication
  • Social interactions
  • Academic performance 
  • Functional life skills
  • Adaptive learning skills.

When a desirable behavior is followed by a reinforcer, such as a special toy or activity, children are more likely to repeat the action. Over time, positive reinforcement can encourage behavioral changes. In addition, the technique can help children with autism learn alternatives to repetitive behaviors and prevent undesirable behaviors such as aggression.

One of the major advantages of positive reinforcement for children with autism spectrum disorder is the fact that this is a continuous and predictable learning method they can depend on. What’s more, autistic children often have a fixation on a single activity and find it difficult to transition to a new one. 

Positive reinforcement allows them to know what to expect if they perform a task properly. It helps them realize that switching activities can be a positive experience, rather than a frustrating one.

How ABA Therapists Use Positive Reinforcement

ABA therapists use positive reinforcement to turn their observations of what triggers a child’s behaviors into patterns of improvement. The technique is based on the ABC model of behavior modification, which is one of the central concepts in applied behavior analysis. The model consists of the following steps:

  • Antecedent—a situation or an item that triggers the behavior in question. 
  • Behavior—the action performed as a result of the antecedent. It can be both positive and negative.
  • Consequence—the outcome of those actions. It can be used to encourage or stop the behavior, depending on whether the behavior is positive or negative.

Identify needs

The ABA therapist will start by determining your child’s existing skill levels and identifying the main areas of improvement to work on. Subsequently, the therapist will develop an individualized program to teach new skills and behaviors, tailored to your child’s needs, abilities, and interests. Because every autistic child, family, and situation is different, the ABA therapy plan is always devised to suit individual needs.

 

The therapist will help your child acquire and build new skills by systematically applying positive reinforcement techniques. This method is a key tool in increasing the likelihood that new, positive behaviors will be repeated and retained long-term.

Choose reinforcers

After having determined what is most meaningful or motivating to your child and what your child has responded well to previously, the ABA therapist will choose the appropriate reinforcers. This may be a specific toy, a favorite game, or an activity. Therapists usually have a variety of reinforcers available and customize reinforcement methods for each child. 

 

ABA therapists often start with reinforcers that are the least intrusive before moving to the most intrusive ones. Also, they will often pair a primary reinforcer with another item to create a secondary reinforcer, like saying “good job” while at the same time giving your child a small edible reinforcer such as a candy or a raisin. 

 

The motivator, especially when it is a food item, is always paired with encouragement, praise, and attention. The reinforcement is done by repeating positive responses to the reinforcer until your child starts associating the action with the reward. 

Measure success

The therapist will gradually increase requirements for gaining access to the reinforcement. As your child starts acquiring the new behavior with less guidance, the use of the reinforcer is reduced. 

 

Verbal encouragement will eventually become enough as the only motivator for positive behaviors. When your child starts displaying the desired behavior without the need for modeling, prompting, or positive reinforcement, he or she has mastered the skill.

Working together 

In addition to fostering the developmental needs of a child with autism, ABA therapy programs also engage parents and caretakers in the process. 

 

The best therapy results are achieved through a collaborative effort where everyone agrees on what behaviors to target. In general, any new behavior that you are introducing or any positive behavior that you would like to see increased should be reinforced. 

 

In addition to increasing positive behaviors and encouraging learning, your ABA therapist will work with you to ensure your child’s inappropriate behaviors such as tantrums, whining, and aggressions are not being reinforced. 

The Ethicality of Positive Reinforcement

Even though the theory of behavioral psychology outlines several different types of reinforcements, current ABA therapy programs for children with autism focus mainly on positive reinforcement. Not only is this the most effective behavior management strategy in children with autism spectrum disorder, but it is often seen as the epitome of ethical practice in ABA therapy. 

Negative reinforcement and punishment

Negative reinforcement is another method ABA therapists use to strengthen behaviors. Contrary to positive reinforcement, something is taken away as a consequence of a behavior, resulting in a favorable outcome. 

When an autistic child demonstrates an aversion to a particular item, activity, or sensory experience, negative reinforcement (removing the stimulus) can be used to teach an adaptive way to react. For example, a child who says “I don’t want to do that” and is allowed to avoid the task, has achieved negative reinforcement for using functional communication instead of having an angry outburst. 

Negative reinforcement should not be confused with punishments like time-outs or loss of privileges. With both positive and negative reinforcement, the goal is to increase the desired behavior. 

Punishment, on the other hand, is meant to decrease or weaken undesirable behavior. Contrary to reinforcements, it does not teach a new behavior, but only focuses on decreasing the unwanted one. 

Punishment as a method is not acceptable in ABA therapy. The BACB’s Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts requires that, whenever possible, reinforcement strategies are implemented before considering punishment procedures.

Aversive reinforcement

The early criticisms against therapists practicing ABA were due to the fact that ABA therapy was not necessarily based only on the principles of positive reinforcement. 

 

In some circumstances, the early ABA therapists used aversive reinforcement or punishment involving physical or psychological discomfort to obtain positive outcomes. At that time, autism was still thought of as a behavioral disorder and not a complex genetic, environmental, and developmental condition as it is today. 

 

Therapists believed that using punishment would prevent children from displaying disassociation, aggression, and other challenging behaviors associated with autism.

 

Today, ABA therapy is a flexible approach based on breaking down a skill and reinforcing desired behaviors through rewards. The use of aversive reinforcement is considered an unethical method when working with autistic children. 

The Best ABA Therapy Program in the Atlanta Area

The Hidden Talents ABA team of highly experienced ABA therapists and Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) provides loving and ethical care for your child. Our professionals deliver a wide range of personalized and comprehensive treatment options to create lasting positive behavioral changes. They work closely with families to encourage optimal learning opportunities for each child. 

Contact Hidden Talents ABA to learn more about the benefits of positive reinforcement and other applied behavior analysis techniques used by our therapists. You can call us at 404-487-6005 or send us an email at info@wordpress-765752-2798792.cloudwaysapps.com to schedule a consultation. If you reside outside the Atlanta area, we encourage you to browse through our helpful resources on autism.

 

February 24, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Regressive Autism

Regressive autism is a condition where an otherwise typically developing child experiences a sudden and rapid loss of communication and social skills and starts exhibiting behaviors associated with autism. 

 

Continue reading to find out more about regressive autism, its signs and symptoms, and available treatments. 

What Is Regressive Autism?

Regressive autism occurs when a child who seems to develop typically all of a sudden starts losing communication abilities, social skills, or both. After that, the child continues to follow the standard pattern of autistic neurological development. The condition is also known as autism with regression, autistic regression, setback-type autism, and acquired autistic syndrome.

How common is regressive autism?

Regressive autism was for many years considered being a rare occurrence and classified as a subtype of autism. However, recent studies confirm that anywhere from 13 to 48 percent of autism diagnoses are of the regressive type, depending on how regression is defined. Today, this condition is no longer considered an exception, and most researchers believe that there is no clear divide between early onset and regression when it comes to autism.

 

Many children with regressive autism show some less apparent symptoms of the condition even before they start losing language and social skills. In fact, autism is thought to have a range of different onset patterns, including:

 

  • Early onset with early developmental delays but no subsequent loss of skills
  • Ordinary regression with no apparent delays before a skill loss
  • Regression where early delays are followed by loss of skills, and
  • Plateau where there is a failure to learn new skills, but no apparent early delays or later skill losses. 

What Is the Age When Regressive Autism Starts?

Regressive autism typically starts between the ages of 15 and 30 months. The average age at which a decline in skills is observed in children diagnosed with regressive autism is 19 months. 

What are the Signs of Regressive Autism in a Child?

The loss of verbal and nonverbal communication and social skills in an otherwise typically developing child can be slow or rapid. It is usually followed by a lengthy period of stagnation in skill development. 

The most common early signs of regressive autism in children include:

  • Not responding when their name is called 
  • Echolalia or the tendency to repeat words and phrases uttered by others 
  • Giving unrelated answers when asked questions 
  • Reversing the use of pronouns and using “you” instead of “I”
  • Inability to point at objects or things of interest
  • Low to zero social skills
  • Avoiding eye contact and physical contact
  • Failure to understand their own and other people’s feelings.

In addition, children with regressive autism may exhibit other signs and symptoms typical of autism spectrum disorder, such as:

  • Flapping hands, spinning in circles, and rocking the body
  • Strong emotional reactions to changes in daily activities and routines
  • Over-sensitivity or under-sensitivity to sounds, smell, taste, and touch 
  • Extreme anxiety and phobias
  • Impulsivity or acting without thinking
  • Extremely active or hyperactive behavior
  • Unusual eating and sleeping habits including sleep regression
  • Always playing with toys in the same way
  • A tendency to line up toys and other objects
  • Interest in specific parts of objects, such as the wheels of toy cars
  • Obsessive and unusual interests and behaviors.

How to Diagnose a Child With Regressive Autism?

Specialists and health professionals will rely on a variety of tools to test whether your child has autism spectrum disorder. 

Multidisciplinary assessment teams typically consist of a psychologist, a speech pathologist, as well as a pediatrician or child psychiatrist. After observing how your child plays and interacts with others, reviewing your child’s developmental history, and conducting interviews with the family, they will make a diagnosis. 

Once your child is diagnosed with regressive autism, specialists will help you identify the most suitable treatment plan.

Can Regressive Autism Be Reversed?

Although full recovery from autism may not be possible, appropriate therapy can provide autistic children with the tools to function independently and significantly improve their condition. 

 

It is crucial that a child with regressive autism receives the proper diagnosis early on. The earlier treatment begins, the better outcomes can be achieved, reducing and even eliminating some of the symptoms. Because every child with autism spectrum disorder is different, progress will vary from one child to another. 

Therapies for Children with Regressive Autism

Experts recommend the use of various behavioral and educational therapies as effective treatments for autistic children, including those diagnosed with regressive autism. Because no two individuals with autism are alike, these therapies usually provide targeted treatments based on your child’s individual needs. 

Applied behavioral analysis (ABA)

Applied behavior analysis is a form of behavioral therapy that focuses on changing unwanted behaviors while reinforcing desirable ones. It is one of the most successful interventions for helping children with autism learn desired behaviors. With an over 90 percent improvement rate, ABA therapy is currently the most effective form of autism treatment.

 

This type of therapy is used to build and strengthen social and communication skills in children with autism spectrum disorder such as:

  • Following directions
  • Understanding social cues like facial expressions and body language
  • Improving social skills, including initiating conversations and responding to questions
  • Reducing problematic behaviors like tantrums, and
  • Acquiring basic academic and pre-academic skills.

ABA therapy breaks down each of the essential skills into small, concrete steps. It then builds toward more significant changes in functioning and independence levels. An ABA therapy session typically consists of a combination of play, direct instructions, various activities, adaptive skills training, and parent guidance.

Applied behavioral analysis therapy uses positive reinforcement in the form of rewards and other incentives. When a desirable behavior is followed by a motivator, like a special toy or activity, children are more likely to repeat the action. Over time, this method can encourage positive behavioral changes in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

Sensory integration

Most children with autism spectrum disorder have at least some degree of sensory processing dysfunction like over-sensitivity or under-sensitivity to light, sound, smell, taste, or touch. In fact, sensory issues are among the principal symptoms of autism. They are also believed to be the underlying reason for common autistic behaviors such as rocking, spinning, and hand-flapping.

 

Sensory integration therapy focuses on normalizing three senses: vestibular (the sense of motion and balance), tactile (the sense of touch), and proprioception (the sense of movement). Sensory integration sessions include activities that stimulate sensory responses, and in particular those related to balance and physical movement such as swinging, bouncing, or climbing. This method helps autistic children learn how to use all their senses together and how to interpret and use sensory information more effectively. 

Sensory integration therapy is designed to be part of more comprehensive programs for children with autism, including speech therapy, behavioral therapy, and educational therapy. It is typically provided by an occupational therapist. 

Speech therapy

Children on the autism spectrum usually have a number of communication and speech-related challenges. While some autistic children are not able to speak at all, others have difficulties maintaining a conversation or understanding body language and facial expressions when talking with others. Speech therapy helps improve verbal, nonverbal, and social communication and at the same time teaches children with autism how to communicate in more functional ways.

Speech therapy is done by a speech-language pathologist (SLP). A speech therapy program starts with an evaluation of your child’s strengths and weaknesses related to communication. Based on this assessment, the speech-language pathologist will set a goal for the therapy. Some skills that your child may work on include:

  • Strengthening the mouth, jaw, and neck muscles
  • Learning how to make clearer speech sounds
  • Matching emotions with the correct facial expression
  • Leaning nonverbal skills and body language
  • Modulating the tone of voice
  • Responding to questions
  • Matching a picture with its meaning.

Autistic children with severe language problems may find it easier to use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems. In this case, speech therapy will particularly focus on teaching communication through either picture exchange communication systems (PECS), sign language, or speech output devices such as DynaVox.

Vision training

Visual problems are common in children with autism and include issues such as: 

 

  • Lack of eye contact
  • Staring at spinning objects or light
  • Fleeting peripheral glances
  • Side viewing
  • Eye movement disorders
  • Crossed eyes
  • Hypersensitive vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Visual stimming, for example, flapping fingers in front of eyes
  • Visual defensiveness or avoiding contact with specific visual input like bright lights.

 

The goal of vision treatment is to help autistic children organize their visual space, improve eye coordination and enhance visual information processing. Achieving these goals can help the child feel less overwhelmed by visual stimuli and interact more easily with its environment.

Vision training is typically done by a vision therapist. It involves eye exercises and the use of ambient prism lenses that are worn in standard eyeglass frames, but feature wedge prism lenses instead of regular refractive ones. This type of therapy may lessen or totally eliminate many of the issues related to vision. Besides, the treatment is also proven to be beneficial for improving posture, head-tilt, spatial awareness, and coordination in children with autism. 

Auditory integration training (AIT)

Atypical sensory experience is one of the common symptoms of autism spectrum disorder. Compared to their neurotypical peers, children with autism are more likely to have unusual sensory responses, such as adverse reactions or indifference to sensations, that may cause discomfort or confusion.

 

Auditory integration training aims to reduce sensitivity to sounds and other issues with processing sounds in autistic children. It has been proven to reduce distortions in hearing, extremely sensitive hearing, and irregularities in how sounds are processed. Some practitioners believe that auditory integration training also helps improve speech and language difficulties in children with autism.

The Berard method of auditory integration training is an intervention designed to correct or improve disruptions in the brain and body system that interfere with a child’s ability to process information correctly. The therapy starts by presenting familiar sounds. Over time, more challenging sounds, usually those with a high or low frequency, are introduced. This allows children to slowly get used to the sounds until they no longer represent a problem.

Several other types of sound therapy have documented benefits for children with autism: 

The Tomatis approach 

This therapy is designed to improve listening, speech, and communication skills in autistic children, in addition to strengthening balance and coordination skills. Your child will be using headphones to listen to electronically modified music and other sounds in order to exercise the muscles in the ear and stimulate connections between the ear and the brain.

The Samonas Sound Therapy (SST)

During the Samonas sound therapy, therapeutic music provides direct stimulation to the central nervous system. It trains the auditory system to process the full range of sounds without distortion, hypersensitivity, or frequency loss.

The Listening Program (TLP)

This auditory intervention program is a music-based therapy that uses psychoacoustically modified classical music to provide auditory stimulation and improve brain functioning. It is an effective stand-alone intervention, but it can also be successfully integrated with other treatments such as ABA, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and neurodevelopmental programs.

 

At the core of all types of auditory training is strengthening the foundation of a child’s neurological functioning, including auditory processing and attention. Although it is possible to find some approved Berard AIT practitioners, no formal qualification is necessary for providing auditory integration training. In practice, the therapy is mostly offered by speech and language pathologists or occupational therapists.

Tools for Parents to Cope With Regressive Autism

While it is a rewarding experience, caring for a child with autism can be extremely challenging, both physically and emotionally. Here are some resources that will help you and your family cope after your child is diagnosed with regressive autism:

  • Autism parent support groups are some of the best sources of support and information about caring for children with autism.
  • MyAutismTeam is a social network for parents of children with autism spectrum disorder. Here you can connect with other parents, receive emotional support, and get practical advice and insights on managing autism.
  • National Autism Association (NAA) is a parent-run non-profit organization with 1.6 million online members. It offers information on issues related to regressive autism, severe autism, autism safety, autism abuse, and crisis prevention. The organization also provides lots of valuable resources and safety tips, as well as downloadable guides and toolkits for parents of autistic children.
  • Autism Speaks is the largest autism organization in the country that works to promote awareness about the condition. It provides comprehensive information on all aspects of autism, from signs and symptoms to diagnoses and treatments.
  • Autism Speaks Sibling’s Guide to Autism and Sibling Support Page from Organization for Autism Research (OAR) are useful sources of information for children whose siblings are diagnosed with autism.
  • Social stories can help children with autism spectrum disorder improve their communication and social skills. Numerous social story templates are available for free download. 
  • Language Therapy for Children with Autism is one of the most popular autism apps. It uses the Mental Imagery Therapy for Autism (MITA) approach to help children with autism reach language development milestones and speak confidently. 
  • Other useful apps for parents of autistic children include Birdhouse for Autism, AutiSpark, and Proloquo2Go

 

Cute 8 years old autustic boy looking at the rain
February 10, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Atypical Autism

Children with atypical autism usually display milder symptoms than their peers on the spectrum. But because they still struggle with some of the similar challenges as other autistic children, including communication difficulties and issues with processing sensory information, they may benefit from the same therapies and support. 

 

Continue reading to find out more about atypical autism and how ABA therapy can be used to help children with the condition. 

What Is Atypical Autism?

Atypical autism is one of the official autism diagnoses that were used before the introduction of the term autism spectrum disorder. The clinical name for atypical autism is Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified or PDD-NOS. Other terms to describe atypical autism include autistic tendencies, autistic traits, and a subthreshold diagnosis.

 

The term atypical autism was first used in 1994 in the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), the textbook reference that medical professionals use to identify and diagnose mental disorders. 

 

The manual classified atypical autism as a subgroup of the autism diagnosis. The term was used to describe anyone who didn’t fit into the Pervasive Developmental Disorders categories—autistic disorder or severe autism, Asperger syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and Rett’s syndrome—due to atypical symptoms, late onset age, or both.

 

In terms of severity, atypical autism was placed between Asperger syndrome and typical childhood disintegrative disorder autism. It was considered to be a mild form of autism that didn’t necessarily require treatment or therapeutic intervention.

Atypical autism and autism spectrum disorder

With the publication of the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) in 2013, all former categories of autism were merged into a single diagnosis known as autism spectrum disorder. 

 

The pervasive developmental disorders, along with atypical autism, were removed from the official classification. Studies show that around half of the children who would be diagnosed with atypical autism in the past meet the diagnostic criteria for autistic spectrum disorder.

 

Today, autism spectrum disorder is the only diagnostic category used for autism, regardless of where on the spectrum your child is. The autism severity assessment scale (levels 1-3) is based on the extent of support needed for daily function. However, the term atypical autism is still occasionally used to describe children and adults who have only some symptoms of autism, but lack some of the other defining characteristics.

The Symptoms of Atypical Autism 

Autism affects three areas: verbal and non-verbal communication, social behavior, and flexible thinking and behavior. Children diagnosed with atypical autism share the majority of characteristics of autism, although these don’t necessarily appear across all three categories. They usually display milder developmental and social delays and less stereotypical autistic behaviors than their peers on the spectrum. 

Children with atypical autism may struggle with some, though not all, symptoms of autism, including: 

Inappropriate or unusual social behavior

Children who have atypical autism may experience difficulties socializing with other children and communicating in socially appropriate ways, like making eye contact or letting another person take a turn in a conversation.

Irregular motor development

Most autistic children, also those diagnosed with atypical autism, have at least some motor difficulties. These include both gross-motor skills problems, such as poor balance and coordination, and fine-motor issues like manipulating objects and poor handwriting. 

Delayed cognitive development

Children with atypical autism frequently struggle with focus, transitions, memory, time management, and emotional control. Like other children with ASD, they may find it hard to pay attention, communicate, and understand other people’s perspectives. These challenges may impact their learning and development.

Slow development of speech and language comprehension

For autistic children, it may be harder to learn and use language than it is for typically developing children because they are often more focused on what is going on around them than communicating with others. They might be slower to develop and understand language and have difficulties expressing themselves. 

Verbal and nonverbal communication issues

Atypical autism is characterized by a communication deficit that may manifest itself as an unusual speech pattern, poor grammatical structure, and lack of intonation and rhythm. 

Sensitivity to taste, sight, sound, smell, and tactile sensations

Research shows that close to 90 percent of people diagnosed with autism have either extreme sensory sensitivity or hardly notice sensations such as colors, sounds, or smells. Likewise, atypical autism is often accompanied by sensory experiences that are significantly different from those of children without the condition. 

Repetitive or ritualistic behaviors

Many children with atypical autism display repetitive behaviors indicative of autism such as hand flapping, rocking, and tapping. Repeating certain gestures, actions, or words is a soothing activity autistic children use as a way to feel a sense of control in stressful situations.

Other symptoms of atypical autism

Children with atypical autism may display a range of other symptoms typical of autism spectrum disorder, such as: 

  • Lack of empathy or sharing emotions with others
  • Inability to form age-appropriate peer friendships
  • Difficulty maintaining a conversation
  • Lack of meaningful language
  • Excessive interest in a specific subject area, such as trains, machines, or animals
  • Strong interest in objects, which is unrelated to their functional use
  • Unusual likes and dislikes
  • Lack of symbolic and pretend play
  • Failure to share attention, like showing objects to someone or pointing at something of interest
  • Uneven skill development, for example, normal development in some areas and delays in others, and
  • Difficulty accepting changes.

Diagnosing Atypical Autism 

If you think that your child might have symptoms of atypical autism, you should talk to their pediatrician or a primary care physician. They will refer you to a specialist—either a developmental pediatrician, child neurologist, psychiatrist, or psychologistwho will do a comprehensive evaluation of their development and behavior and make a diagnosis. 

 

Alternatively, you can request an evaluation from your state’s Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center without a doctor’s referral.

 

However, you should keep in mind that atypical autism or PDD-NOS is no longer used as an official diagnosis. Because it is not included in the DSM-5, atypical autism will probably not be diagnosed by your child’s physician. Depending on the quantity and intensity of autistic traits, your child will be classified as being on the autism spectrum and given a severity rating. After that, your child will receive an in-depth diagnosis that will be used to develop a personalized treatment plan that suits his or her particular needs. 

Children with atypical autism display great variations in their abilities, which can make diagnosing the disorder challenging. What’s more, atypical autism may be hard to detect because its symptoms are often mild and less disruptive than those of autism disorder. 

Finally, atypical autism is not to be confused with high-functioning autism, which describes children with autism spectrum disorder who have better functional communication and higher cognitive functioning than the others on the spectrum.

How ABA Therapy Can Help Children With Atypical Autism 

Even if your child is diagnosed with the equivalent of atypical autism and has relatively mild symptoms, the recommended treatments are likely to be very similar to those for autism spectrum disorder. Standard treatments that apply across the spectrum include speech or language therapy, occupational or physical therapy, and behavior and developmental therapy.

 

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a form of behavioral therapy that focuses on changing unwanted behaviors and reinforcing desirable ones. It is one of the most successful interventions for helping children with autism learn desired behaviors. Research shows that ABA therapy is the most effective form of autism treatment, with an over 90 percent improvement rate.

 

ABA therapy is used to build and improve social and communication skills in children with autism spectrum disorder such as:

  • Following directions
  • Understanding social cues such as facial expressions and body language
  • Social skills like initiating conversations and responding to questions
  • Reducing problematic behaviors including tantrums
  • Basic academic and pre-academic skills.

ABA therapy breaks down each of the essential skills into small, concrete steps. It then builds toward more significant changes in functioning and independence levels. ABA therapy sessions consist of a combination of play, direct instructions, various activities, adaptive skills training, and parent guidance.

Applied behavioral analysis therapy typically uses positive reinforcement in the form of rewards and other incentives. When a desirable behavior is followed by a motivator, like a special toy or activity, children are more likely to repeat the action. Over time, this method can encourage positive behavioral changes in children with autism.

Because no two individuals with atypical autism are alike, ABA therapy provides targeted treatment based on your child’s individual strengths and weaknesses. The Hidden Talents ABA interventions are highly individualized and based on a thorough assessment by a qualified developmental specialist. The evaluation considers factors such as your child’s behavioral history, current symptoms, communication patterns, social competence, and neuropsychological functioning.

Contact us

Feel free to contact us for more information about ABA therapy or to request an intake evaluation. You can call us at 404-487-6005, send us an email at info@wordpress-765752-2798792.cloudwaysapps.com, or fill out our contact form, and we’ll be in touch with you as soon as possible.

 

Boy with autism at the table close ears and scream
January 20, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Autism and Anger

Controlling angry feelings is a challenge for children with autism.

With some patience and understanding, however, your child can learn to successfully deal with their anger. 

Here’s everything you need to know about the typical anger issues that children with autism face and how ABA therapy can help them regulate their emotions. 

But first, let’s get a better understanding of the common traits that children with autism have.

The common challenges autistic children face

Sensory issues

Most children with autism spectrum disorder are affected by sensory overload that occurs when there is more input from the five senses than the brain can process. Noise, crowds, bright lights, strong tastes, and smells may also feel disruptive and stressful to children with autism.

Social difficulties

One of the main challenges that autistic children have to deal with is social interactions. They may have a hard time deciphering social cues and body language when interacting with others and difficulties developing deep social relationships.

Resistance to change

Children with autism are often resistant to changes and prefer familiar situations and activities. Any disruption in their routines could cause a disproportionate outburst of anger or frustration. 

Emotional sensitivity

Autistic children frequently struggle to control their emotions in unpredictable situations and when transitioning from one activity or setting to the next. Children with autism display unusually intense emotional reactions in these situations compared to their neurotypical peers.

Communication challenges

Children with autism typically have a good understanding of language and can develop an impressive vocabulary. At the same time, they often struggle with social language skills, that is, the way language is used to communicate with others. They may be unable to grasp sarcasm, idioms, and other expressions that aren’t meant to be taken literally. Some may find conversations with others boring or difficult to follow and avoid speaking with their peers.

Anxiety and depression

Mood disorders such as anxiety, depression, and irritability are common among children with autism. Studies show that 40% of young people with ASD suffer from high levels of anxiety or at least one anxiety disorder, frequently resulting from their lack of social communication skills. 

Now that we have a better understanding of the challenges that autistic children face, let’s examine how this can affects their anger levels.

Autistic Children and Their Struggle With Anger

Anger is a common occurrence in  autistic children. They often engage in repetitive thinking that, when combined with angry thoughts, can turn into anger ruminations. The frustration experienced by reliving upsetting moments and not being able to express emotions in the way others can understand can lead to outbursts or irritability and anger.

Children with autism who struggle with social and communication issues, as well as those who engage more frequently in repetitive behaviors, are also more likely to have problems with impulse control and emotional regulation. Additional factors such as illness, lack of sleep, and anxiety can also affect their ability to control their anger. 

Meltdowns and aggression are common signs of impulse control issues among high-functioning autistic children. As many as one out of every four children across the spectrum display aggressive behaviors. The immediate reaction that children with autism provoke when acting out in an aggressive manner allows them to feel at least some degree of control of the situation.

Autism and the rage cycle

Blind range is the ultimate manifestation of anger and a frequent occurrence in autistic children. The cycle of rage typically consists of three stages: rumbling, rage, and recovery. 

Rumbling stage

Autistic meltdowns are usually preceded by signs of distress called rumblings. They include:

  • Rocking or pacing
  • Placing hands over ears
  • Being very still and tense
  • Asking lots of questions
  • Threatening others.

If a child doesn’t know how to prevent the build-up of anger, he or she will quickly lose control of the situation. At this point, a meltdown is inevitable.

Rage stage

At this stage, anger either culminates into aggression toward caregivers or peers or is internalized. The child may:

  • Have a meltdown with crying and shouting.
  • Try to run away from the situation, potentially putting him/herself in danger.
  • Exhibit aggressive behaviors including hitting, kicking, scratching, and biting.
  • Become too upset to listen to calming suggestions.
  • Be unable to process instructions given to help them to calm down.
  • Overreact to the situation and be unable to calm down on their own.
  • Engage in self-harm, including head banging and hair pulling.
  • Display self-stimulatory behaviors or “stimming,” such as hand flapping and clapping.

Recovery stage

Following a meltdown, many autistic children will have contrite feelings or won’t remember what happened during the rage stage. Some children will withdraw after the episode or become so physically exhausted that they need to sleep. 

It’s important to keep in mind that the anger related to autism is for the most part impulsive. While temper tantrums in neurotypical children are often manipulative, autistic meltdowns are driven by anger without any rational thinking or reasoning behind it. A child reacts in the moment and the behavior is not thought out ahead of time. An angry outburst in an autistic child is usually a cry of distress.

Causes of anger in autistic children

Although each case of autism is different, there are several common causes of anger in autistic children: 

Being overwhelmed by multiple tasks

Anyone with autism, including autistic children, can get easily overwhelmed and frustrated when asked to perform several tasks at the same time. This is particularly the case when a new task is combined with the routine one and when tasks need prioritizing. 

Sensory overload

Children with autism have fragile sensory systems that can easily get overloaded. Responding with anger outbursts and aggressive behaviors is sometimes simply an automatic reaction to being physically uncomfortable in situations that cause sensory overload.

Feeling helpless

All the unwritten rules and unpredictability’s of daily life may be hard to navigate for autistic children, regardless of their level of functioning. They don’t always fully understand what is going on around them and act out aggressively out of frustration.

Changes in routine

Children on the autism spectrum can become distressed when their routines are changed. Unexpected events like having to take a different route to school or eat a different type of breakfast cereal can increase the child’s anxiety levels. The feelings of confusion and helplessness may cause a meltdown.

Other people’s behavior

Children struggling with autism may take great offense to insensitive comments that their neurotypical peers would judge as harmless humor. Being ignored, whether on purpose or by accident, is another possible trigger for angry outbursts.

Intolerance of imperfections in others

Anger-related behavior in autistic children can be caused indirectly by other people and their perceived imperfections, such as a high-pitched voice or fast speaking pace, for example. 

Stress and anxiety

All the elements listed above can potentially lead to built-up stress and anxiety in autistic children. Whereas some will react by becoming depressed, others will get angry. If they have no tools which can help them manage stress and anxiety, they will experience meltdowns. 

Lastly, a number of underlying issues such as medical conditions or sleep problems can trigger anger and aggressive outbursts in autistic children.

ABA Therapy for Controlling Anger

Anger treatment is a crucial part of helping your child with autism. Children who haven’t learned how to manage their anger can have a hard time processing their emotions and dealing with built-up stress. The earlier you start with the treatment, the quicker your child will learn and be able to put in use coping and anger management skills.

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is considered being one of the most successful interventions for helping children with autism learn desired behaviors through positive reinforcement. By improving communication and social skills and regulating potentially harmful behaviors, ABA therapy can help to reduce aggressive actions and help children with high-functioning autism better regulate their emotions, including anger. This type of therapy has been proven to be effective in both reducing and eliminating aggressive behaviors.

When it comes to anger management skills, ABA can help autistic children to:

  • Learn how to avoid negative responses or behaviors.
  • Reduce the frequency of unwanted behavior.
  • Learn acceptable alternative behaviors.
  • Identify and appropriately communicate emotions, including anger.
  • Learn the coping skills for emotional regulation.
  • Have appropriate social interactions and communication that don’t result in aggression. 

ABA techniques for dealing with anger

ABA therapy is a highly adaptable and flexible intervention that can be used in a variety of settings and tailored for the specific needs of your autistic child. A therapist will start by spending some time with your child to analyze the behavioral patterns and determine his/her specific strengths and challenges. This functional behavior assessment will represent the basis for the work your child will do in therapy. 

The ABA therapist will use a range of techniques to help your child with anger management. ABA therapy offers two effective ways of handling problem behaviors: proactive interventions and consequence-based reactive interventions. When used in combination, these two tactics will give you and your child all the necessary tools for preventing and managing anger issues. 

Proactive intervention

Anger triggers are prevalent in an autistic child’s surroundings. That’s why it’s extremely important to use proactive strategies that will help prevent your child from becoming overwhelmed and frustrated. Strategies to minimize anger and aggression triggers include creating an environment that is calm, predictable, and as rewarding as possible for your autistic child.

Positive feedback

Because direct feedback after an aggressive outburst can further reinforce the undesired behavior, your child’s ABA therapist will provide positive feedback for impulse control. Positive feedback to reward non-aggressive behaviors works best if it’s given during stressful moments that can potentially cause angry outbursts. The therapists will offer praise right before the outburst occurs in order to help the child display a more appropriate, non-aggressive behavior.

Neutral redirection

Neutral redirection is a technique regularly used by ABA therapists to teach children with autism how to improve their impulse control. Instead of responding to anger and aggressive behavior with punishment, they redirect the child to use socially acceptable behavior to express their needs. The goal of neutral redirection is to reward the desired non-impulsive and non-aggressive behaviors.

Positive reinforcement 

ABA therapy is based on the principle of positive reinforcement. The desired behavior is strengthened by providing a reinforcer such as a favorite toy, activity, or simply attention and praise. Encouraging your child’s appropriate behavior will motivate them to keep behaving well. 

Alternative behaviors

ABA therapists help autistic children not only to identify negative responses and unwanted behaviors, but also to learn appropriate alternatives. What’s more, by learning effective and positive ways to communicate their emotions, children will be able to express the anger they would otherwise ruminate over. This way, they can avoid the frustration resulting from an inability to describe their emotions.

Modeling techniques

Modeling techniques are frequently used as part of ABA therapy sessions to encourage children with autism to copy and adopt positive behavior. For example, your child might imitate characters in a video, replicate peer behavior in a small group, or follow the therapist’s model behavior in a one-on-one session. 

January 13, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

The Autism Cares Act

The Autism CARES Act (otherwise known as the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support Act) is the 2019 expansion and reauthorization of the 2006 Combating Autism Act. 

The act has improved government funding and support of autism research and the development of tools and resources for autistic people and their families. 

This article will review what the Autism CARES Act covers, who qualifies for the act, and why the act was needed, as well as other important information that affected individuals need to know.

What is the Autism CARES Act 2019?

The Autism CARES Act 2019 has provided a source of support and stability for the autism community. It was signed into law on September 30th, 2019 with the intention of providing and supporting the following:

 

  •       An increase in annual authorized federal budget in autism-related spending to $369.7 million through the year 2024
  •       Expansion of government focus into research on the entire lifespan of autistic individuals
  •       Requirement of a report to Congress on the health and well-being of individuals along the autism spectrum who may be a part of research efforts
  •       Reauthorization of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC)

      This organization gives advice to the Secretary of Health and Human Services as to which autism-related activities should be implemented, supports the exchange of resources and information between member organizations, and conducts activities designed to increase awareness of autism.

  •       Programs and research grants that will benefit the autistic community
  •       Development of treatment and management options for individuals along the autism spectrum

 

Since its inception, the Autism CARES Act has provided a significant amount of support to autistic individuals and their families. Some of the most notable accomplishments already achieved through the support of this act include:

 

  •       Reliable autism diagnoses for children between 18-24 months
  •       Identification of common comorbidities
  •       Establishment of genetic causes and medications for these causes
  •       Improved understanding of all causes of autism
  •       Encouragement of early career autism researchers to receive education
  •       The determination that early detection and intervention is absolutely essential

 

The Autism CARES Act helps provide the following services to the community of autistic individuals and their families:

 

  •       Creation and support of recreational and social activities for autistic individuals and their families and loved ones
  •       Nutritional support services
  •       Safety improvements and measures for autistic individuals
  •       Behavioral support in various forms
  •       Improved healthcare due to more informed physicians and providers

Why was the bill needed?

The first version of the Autism CARES Act was enacted in 2006 in response to a nationwide need for additional financial and governmental support in the “war” against autism. 

It was reenacted again in 2012, 2014, and then finally in 2019 for the final and current version. The Autism CARES Act 2019 specifically focuses on support of ASD individuals of all ages and places along the spectrum. 

It also intends to provide more funding toward low-income areas where autism organizations may have minimal support, as well as providing support to families from diverse backgrounds who may have lower income.

 

Autism legislation is essential to ensure funding and human resources for children and adults with autism.

Because ASD individuals are less likely to have access to adequate healthcare, education, and fulfilling social opportunities, it is vital that these people, their families, and caring providers have government support. 

When autistic children and adults have access to quality resources and care, they are more likely to succeed and be able to life happy lives, which improves not only the lives of everyone around them, but also the general quality of society as a whole.

 

The Autism CARES Act 2019 supports numerous autism programs and organizations across the United States. Below is a brief description of 4 well-known autism-related organizations that have benefited from the Autism CARES Act.

Autism Speaks

Autism Speaks is one of the largest and most prominent autism organizations in America. From research to support groups, the organization aims to support the autistic community in as many high-quality ways as possible. The mission at Autism Speaks includes:

 

  •       Increasing understanding and acceptance of individuals with ASD
  •       Supporting life-enhancing research programs and breakthroughs
  •       Improving and increasing the frequency of early childhood ASD screening and treatment intervention
  •       Easing the transition to adulthood for autistic individuals
  •       Securing and ensuring access to autism-related information and resources throughout life for people with ASD

 

Autism Speaks was one of the most notable supporters of the Autism CARES Act. They have location chapters across the United States, including in the states of California, Georgia, Texas, Florida, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey, Kansas, Missouri, and more.

Autism Society of America

Another major supporter and beneficiary of the Autism CARES Act, the Autism Society of America is a reputable resource and support network for individuals with ASD as well as for their families. The Autism Society is one of the only autism-related organizations in the USA that has member-elected autistic individuals serving on its board of directors, giving it a unique perspective on autism that benefits the entire community.

 

The Autism Society is dedicated to providing inclusive communities, advocacy, access to resources and information, grants for new research into autism, and raised awareness about autism. Its affiliate network is one of the largest in the country and is therefore also one of the most available resources to the autistic community.

Organization for Autism Research (OAR)

The Organization for Autism Research (OAR) is a leader in applying research to actively help individuals with ASD and their loved ones. The organization believes that groundbreaking is just that — groundbreaking — but only when it is understood fully and applied correctly. Thus, the OAR is committed to pursuing new, valuable research, as well as to translating that research into something that everyone can understand and apply to their own lives.

 

Though the OAR is a relatively new organization since it was founded in 2001, it has quickly become a prominent source of support in the ASD community. Research that is spearheaded by this organization is supported by the Autism CARES Act 2019 via funding and increased awareness toward the cause.

National Autism Association

The National Autism Association, otherwise known as the NAA, is an organization based in Rhode Island with a national reach when it comes to care and supportive resources. The NAA is focused on achieving its mission to help and support the autistic community by dividing its activities into 6 main divisions:

 

  •       Advocacy
  •       Research
  •       Education
  •       Direct tools
  •       Thoughtful awareness
  •       Hope

 

By creating these distinct divisions, the NAA has been able to develop valuable research projects that have led to improved education and more effective tools. The support groups run by this organization provide hope for families and individuals and community awareness inside and outside of the ASD community. The NAA team is also available to advocate for ASD individuals in need.

How do I qualify for the Autism CARES Act?

Any individual of any age with diagnosed ASD will qualify to receive the benefits and support provided by the Autism CARES Act. 

One of the significant changes that this iteration of the act made was to include the adult autistic community in research and support efforts, meaning that adults with autism spectrum disorder may also receive the benefits of the Autism CARES Act. 

You do not need to do anything to qualify to receive these benefits. All members of the autistic community are eligible.

Who introduced the Autism CARES Act?

Representative Christopher H. Smith was the one to sponsor and introduce the Autism CARES Act of 2019. He is a New Jersey Republican of District 4 who has served in 21 US Congresses since 1981. The Congressman became involved with supporting autism-related organizations and autistic individuals in 1997 after meeting Bobby and Billy Gallagher, New Jersey parents of two autistic children. Rep. Smith and the Gallaghers continue to work together today to improve support for autistic individuals, especially those who have aged out of the system.

 

Over 35 non-governmental organizations have supported the Autism CARES Act, including the National Council on Severe Autism, the National Down Syndrome Society, Autism Speaks, and the Autism Society of America, among others.

Is the Autism CARES Act still in effect today?

Yes. The Autism CARES Act 2019 will be in effect through 2024. It has been in effect since 2006, though it has undergone 3 reenactments since then. All the benefits of the act will remain in place until 2024, when the bill may be reenacted again.

We hope this article answered any questions you may have about the Autism CARES Act. 

 

If you are looking for aba therapy for your autistic child in the Atlanta area contact us today. 

Angry mother scolding a disobedient child
January 6, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

How to Discipline a Child With Autism

Children on the autism spectrum struggle with unique behavioral issues and knowing how to discipline them isn’t always easy. It may take a lot of time and patience, but with consistency and the right techniques, you’ll be able to successfully correct your child’s undesired behaviors. 

 

Here are our best tips on how to discipline children with autism and guide them toward appropriate behavior. 

Behavioral Issues Found in Autistic Children

Autistic children tend to display disruptive behaviors that can be difficult to manage. Understanding the reason behind these behaviors and responding in a positive manner will help you better deal with the challenges of disciplining your child.

 

Here are some of the most common behavioral issues among children on the autism spectrum:

Obsessive behaviors

Obsessive behaviors and intense interests are a frequent occurrence in children with autism. They can be focused on the object of their obsession, whether it’s a TV show, a game, or a certain type of animal, for hours on end and become upset when you attempt to interrupt them. 

 

If you have difficulties convincing your child to move on to a different activity, you may try giving plenty of warning and reminders before it