Category: Information

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

High Functioning Autism 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 help you better understand the difference between high and low functioning autism as well as 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 high functioning 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. Regardless of their level of functioning, these difficulties may significantly affect their ability to interact with others.

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. 

High functioning autistic individuals are able to adopt coping methods and acquire social skills that will help them fit in. Their issues with social interactions are  rarely noticeable in casual conversations. Nevertheless, even high functioning autistic individuals almost always struggle with some level of discomfort in social interactions.

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, including those with high-functioning autism, 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.

 

Continue reading to learn more about the difference between high and low functioning autism. 

High Functioning Autism vs Low Functioning Autism

People with autism are often described as being either high or low-functioning, even though these are not official diagnoses within autism spectrum disorder. Differences between the two levels of autism can be extreme, but most individuals fall somewhere in between—they are low functioning in some areas and high functioning in others.

High functioning autism

High functioning autism is a term used to describe individuals with autism spectrum disorder who don’t have any intellectual disabilities. They are able to learn how to overcome or control their symptoms and lead independent lives. 

Although high functioning autism is typically associated with better functional skills and positive long-term outcomes, in reality, this is not always the case. People with high functioning autism may have advanced language and cognitive skills and still experience significant challenges when it comes to communication, emotions, and social interaction. What’s more, being aware of the differences between themselves and their neurotypical peers can increase anxiety and depression. 

Low functioning autism 

Low functioning autism, on the other hand, is a term used to describe children and adults with the most severe symptoms of autism. These individuals are diagnosed with level 3 of autism spectrum disorder. 

 

According to the Center for Autism Research, the rate of autistic patients with intellectual disability—an IQ score below 70—is around 40%. At the same time, the intellectual disability rate within the general population is about 1%. People with low functioning autism generally suffer from one or more forms of intellectual disability such as Rett syndrome, Down syndrome, and Angelman syndrome, for example.

 

Individuals with low functioning autism experience some or all of the most common symptoms of autism, like repetitive behaviors, limited social abilities, and impaired communication skills. These symptoms are also more pronounced and severe than in high functioning autism. In addition, people with low functioning have difficulties learning how to cope and control their symptoms. They are not able to live independently and require extensive supervision and support. 

Intelligence tests are a fundamental component of diagnosing children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. Let’s take a closer look. 

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. For example, a person with a high IQ who is considered high functioning may be significantly impaired in daily activities.

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 19, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

High Functioning Autism and Aggression

Autism exists on such a large spectrum, it can be difficult to diagnose a child properly. It may take a while to diagnose autism, especially high-functioning autism. 

In this article, you will learn the following:

 

  • What is high-functioning autism
  • What are the signs of high-functioning autism
  • Why is high-functioning autism associated with aggressive behavior
  • How is aggressive behavior combated in children with autism
  • How ABA therapy can help  high-functioning autistic children handle issues with aggressive behavior 

 

What is high functioning autism?

 

The term “high-functioning autism” is not officially considered a correct medical term. It often gets used for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and those on the higher end of the spectrum. The ones who can do things typical people do with little to no help. 

People who have high-functioning autism (HFA) can fully speak, read, and write. They perform ordinary life tasks with very little, or without any, special assistance. They show no sign of intellectual deficiency. 

However, HFA tends to cause a lack of critical social skills. People with HFA may struggle with everyday social interactions. Recognizing how other people feel or expressing their own emotions is challenging. Communicating with other people correctly often takes more time and effort.

 

What are some signs of high-functioning autism?

 

Here are some of the most common signs of high-functioning autism someone may display:

Emotional sensitivity 

A common issue for those on the higher end of the autism spectrum is sensitivity to emotions. Emotion sensitivity is a sign that often gets overlooked. When not taken into consideration, it can make the autistic person appear overdramatic. 

However, the fact is that they experience and react to emotions differently. They get experienced more intensely than most typical people do. 

 

Fixations on particular subjects or ideas

When someone repeatedly reads a book about a specific subject again and again. Or when someone listens to the same song multiple times every day. Both of those things indicate autistic fixations.

A typical example being: frequently talking about the same topic in every conversation, even when it may not be the most appropriate time. 

These fixations can either be negative or positive. They can have a heavy influence on an autistic person’s life.

 

Difficulties with being social 

A parent or teacher is often the one to first notice autism in children and teens. They begin to see that they cannot connect or get along with others their age. 

They may have issues with working in groups and sharing things. They also often tend to have a much smaller social circle. 

 

Odd speech 

In contrast to the lower end of the spectrum, those on the higher end tend to learn and develop a vast vocabulary, usually younger than others.

They may avoid conversation with others their age. A cause of this can be due to having a hard time following what they are saying, or simply because it’s boring to them.

People can usually see a tendency to interrupt others or only focus on one specific topic.

 

Habits that are repetitive or restrictive

A repetitive habit is a repetitive action that must get done a certain way. A person with autism cannot comfortably do something they want to do without completing the practice in that particular way. 

An example of a repetitive habit: they must tie and untie their shoes three separate times. The ritual must get done before they feel safe walking in them.

A restrictive habit is a habit that restricts them from living in a socially acceptable way. These habits can sometimes even be unsafe or harmful to their health. 

An example of a restrictive habit: they cannot wear any footwear with socks, and it could be because they don’t like how they feel. 

 

Unusual movement patterns 

Unusual movement patterns are common in people with HFA. They usually tend to either walk on their toes or the balls of their feet.

Either may lead to adverse health issues ranging from blisters to broken bones. Odd walking patterns can even affect the spine and back health and lead to severe pain later in life.

 

Self-focused 

People with HFA can sometimes think much faster than those around them. They could develop a tendency to answer other people based on their judgment. They might think it’s best because it’s much quicker. That’s why they sometimes can come across as very self-focused. 

Also, someone with HFA may talk to themselves a lot. They are unable or uncomfortable to communicate with others properly. So, they communicate with themselves out loud. 

They also can answer themselves as fast as they can ask themselves questions. Doing so leads to having lots of one-on-one conversations with themselves. 

 

Why is high-functioning autism associated with aggressive behavior?

 

Aggression is a common association with high-functioning autism (HFA). 

Under the observation of a professional, when behaviors go beyond being a personality trait, they can become a symptom of HFA. 

Behaviors, such as aggression, get analyzed. They then get used as supporting causes in a diagnosis. 

Therefore, aggression is often associated with HFA because it’s a common behavioral symptom of it. 

 

Most people with HFA have personal or sensory issues. Some of their senses are extra sensitive. They can become difficult for them to deal with appropriately. 

Sensory triggers may be another reason for the association between HFA and aggression. The response to those triggers tends to be aggressive. The reactions can quickly become very aggressive as a self-defense mechanism. 

Here are some common reasons why aggressive behavior may get triggered in someone with HFA:

Disliking change

It’s prevalent for someone with HFA to have an intense dislike of change. Some may even be as extreme as eating the same thing, at the same place, prepared in the same way every day.

Suppose things aren’t how they should be or end up going in another direction than expected. In that case, it can cause feelings of extreme frustration and can even ruin their entire day. 

 

Difficulty processing physical sensations 

Sensory issues or sensitivities are common amongst people with autism. Intense feelings that get triggered can make them feel very uncomfortable and aggressive. 

It can be how something smells, the texture or taste of particular food, too much noise, or clothes that don’t feel right. These are all things that can trigger extreme irritability, aggression, or even panic and anxiety in someone with HFA. 

 

Sticking to strict routines

Someone with HFA may have a special devotion to specific daily routines set up in their lives. They could set up these routines by themselves or by another influence in their lives. 

Breaking routine due to any reason can cause panic or extreme frustration resulting in aggressive behavior. 

People with HFA are known to go to great lengths to complete their routine. Even if it may be detrimental to other aspects of theirs, or others, lives. 

 

Combating aggressive behavior in autistic children

 

To combat aggressive behavior in autistic children, you need to look at what the trigger is. What is triggering the aggressive behavior? 

Try and understand why they might feel the way they do and teach them alternative ways to react. Over time they may learn to overcome more minor triggers and get used to them as part of life. 

It’s also crucial that you remain calm. Even if things begin to escalate, if you lose your cool, so will the autistic child. Keep your words limited to reduce raising stress levels in already tense situations. 

Therapeutic strategies such as functional communication training, reinforcement strategies, or functional behavioral assessments are other options. They could help reduce how frequent and how intense aggressive behaviors in some autistic children are.

 

How ABA therapy can help high functioning autistic children with aggression issues

 

Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) is a kind of therapy that uses positive reinforcement. ABA therapy is a great starting point for figuring out what exact behaviors need to get addressed. It can also show you how to approach them effectively. 

ABA therapy has been able to aid in helping autistic children learn coping skills. It shows them how to develop new, more effective behaviors. These new behaviors then replace the old, harmful aggressive ones.

ABA also helps them improve skills involving social interaction, communication, and learning. All skills that they may lack. 

Alone, ABA has proved to reduce any aggressive behaviors. It also has a background with plenty of research and studies. Many experts highly recommend it for developmental conditions such as ASD. 

 

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@hiddentalentsaba.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@hiddentalentsaba.com, or fill out our contact form, and we’ll be in touch with you as soon as possible.

 

February 10, 2021 by Chelsey 0 Comments

Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week

Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week is observed each year during February 7–14 to promote awareness and education about congenital heart defects. It affects approximately one in 100 births every year in the United States. It is the word’s most common birth defect. Take this week to raise awareness of congenital heart defects.

Boy with autism at the table close ears and scream
January 20, 2021 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

High-Functioning Autism and Anger

Controlling angry feelings is a challenge for children with autism spectrum disorder, and high-functioning autistic children are no exception. 

 

With some patience and understanding, however, your child can learn to successfully deal with anger. 

 

Here’s everything you need to know about the typical anger issues that children with high-functioning autism face and how ABA therapy can help them regulate their emotions. 

What Is High-Functioning Autism? 

High-functioning autism (HFA) is an unofficial term used for people with autism spectrum disorder who are capable of completing daily tasks without assistance and have better functional communication, as well as higher cognitive functioning than the others on the spectrum. 

 

These individuals would have been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in the past. 

 

High-functional autism is today referred to as Level 1 ASD, which is the most functional end of the autism spectrum. 

Symptoms of high-functioning autism 

Although they may have advanced language and cognitive skills, most children with high-functioning autism still experience sensory issues and are dependent on routines to manage their feelings. The fact that they are aware of their differences and frequently struggling to connect with others can further increase their autism-related anxieties. 

 

The common traits of high-functioning autistic children include: 

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 high-functioning autism.

Social difficulties

One of the main challenges that high-functioning 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

Just like other children on the spectrum, children with high-functioning 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 high-functioning autism display unusually intense emotional reactions in these situations compared to their neurotypical peers.

Communication challenges

Children with high-functioning 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 and adolescents with high-functioning 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. 

High-Functioning Autistic Children and Their Struggle With Anger

Anger is a common occurrence in high-functioning 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 high-functioning 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.

 

High-functioning autism and the rage cycle

Blind range is the ultimate manifestation of anger and a frequent occurrence in high-functioning 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 high-functioning 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 high-functioning autistic children

Although each case of autism is different, there are several common causes of anger in high-functioning autistic children: 

Being overwhelmed by multiple tasks

Anyone with autism, including high-functioning 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 unpredictabilities 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 high-functioning 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 high-functioning 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 children across the autism spectrum.

ABA Therapy for Controlling Anger

Anger treatment is a crucial part of helping your child with high-functioning 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 high-functioning 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 high-functioning 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’s time to switch in order to ease the transition. You can also use your child’s obsession as a reward and motivation for good behavior. They could earn points toward getting a new toy or watching their favorite show, for example. 

Physical tantrums

Autistic children may throw tantrums simply because they don’t know how to respond to a sensory overload. Tell your child that throwing a tantrum is not acceptable and take him/her away from the situation. A stress-relief tool such as a fidget or another sensory item can help your child calm down.

Aggressive behavior

Studies show that around 25% of children with autism display aggressive behaviors like throwing or intentionally breaking objects, and that close to two-thirds of autistic children are aggressive toward their caregivers. If your child becomes aggressive, he/she should be removed from the situation immediately. Talk to your child about the appropriate behavior once he/she has calmed down. 

Self-injury

Besides harming others, autistic children may also direct aggressive behavior toward themselves. The most common forms of self-harming include head banging, hand biting, and excessive scratching. For children with autism, this may be a way to self-soothe and deal with stress and anxiety. If your child shows any tendencies toward self-injury, consult your pediatrician or applied behavior analysis specialist to receive adequate support. 

Social issues

Children with autism spectrum disorder have difficulties reading others’ emotions and understanding the nuances of social interactions. Miscommunication can make them seem rude or misbehaving. To teach your child about the rules of social interactions, you may consider using visual aids such as social stories, visual schedules, or electronic devices that will clearly show them what behavior is expected in different situations. 

Not sitting still

Most autistic children have sensory processing issues that make it difficult to sit still and focus on a particular task or activity. To help your children pay attention and sit still, be positive and specific in your demands. Give simple, short instructions and don’t forget to praise your child for their efforts.

Not following instructions

Autistic children often need more time than other children to process what you ask them to do. They may also feel overwhelmed, angry, and frustrated if asked to do several things at once. Your child may refuse to do something, like entering a noisy room or eating foods with particular textures, for example, due to their sensory issues.

 

Or perhaps the instructions are too complicated, and your child simply doesn’t have the right skills to accomplish the task. Make sure to start by providing simple instructions and when your child is ready, gradually ask him/her to follow more complex directions. These skills may take lots of time and practice to develop. Whenever your child completes the instruction correctly, reinforce their behavior.

Techniques to Help Discipline Your Autistic Child

All children need consistent rules, clear structure, and discipline in order to thrive, and children with autism are no exception. Although traditional discipline techniques may not work for autistic children, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t discipline them. Disciplining an autistic child has many benefits like:

  • Helping them understand what behaviors are appropriate in certain situations.
  • Developing the ability to get along with others.
  • Helping them understand, express, and deal with their feelings.

Positive reinforcement strategies

With positive reinforcement, a behavior is strengthened by providing a reinforcer such as a toy, activity, or simply your attention. Children with autism respond much better to the discipline techniques that focus on positive reinforcement than punishment. Telling your child what you like about their behavior will motivate them to keep behaving well. Positive reinforcement can be done by praising and/or rewarding appropriate behavior. 

 

It is important that your praise for your child’s positive behavior is concrete and immediate. Describe exactly what aspect of behavior you are praising, for example, “you did well to stay calm even if you didn’t win the game.” If your child has limited verbal skills, you may need to adapt your communication style to their needs. Keep your words simple—say “be gentle,” instead of “you know that you should be gentle when playing with your brother.”

However, some autistic children don’t respond well to praise. Children who withdraw from others might not be motivated to behave in a certain way to please someone else. In this case, it is more efficient to use visual schedules, token boards, or sticker charts as a form of positive reinforcement. These tools will both help convey your expectations more clearly, encourage your child to associate a desirable behavior with a positive outcome, and serve as a visual record of their progress. 

Negative reinforcement strategies

Negative reinforcement is an effective method for disciplining autistic children, including those with significant behavioral issues. Through negative reinforcement, you can use an undesirable task to shape your child’s behavior. This technique is not to be mistaken for punishment that produces a negative outcome in an attempt to change behavior. 

 

For example, your child may not like doing puzzles. You can encourage your child’s compliant behavior and following instructions by reducing the duration of the activity if the child follows directions without throwing a tantrum. Your child is allowed to do something else as soon as he/she starts behaving well.

ABA therapy

ABA (applied behavior analysis) is a form of behavioral therapy that focuses on changing unwanted behaviors in an autistic child and reinforcing desirable ones. ABA therapy provides targeted treatment based on each child’s strengths and weaknesses. It seeks to understand the reason behind the unwanted behaviors and give your child the tools needed to start choosing the appropriate ones.

Sometimes autistic children might seem like they’re misbehaving when in reality they don’t have the skills to handle unfamiliar or difficult situations. If your child doesn’t greet someone, for instance, he/she is not necessarily being rude, but simply might not know what behavior is expected in the given situation. 

ABA therapy relies on positive reinforcement to encourage behavioral changes. When a desirable behavior is followed by a reward, like a special toy or preferred activity, children are more likely to repeat the action. This form of therapy uses strategies like role plays, social stories, and video modeling to help autistic children develop social skills

Autism Discipline: What Not to Do 

Punishing an autistic child is not an effective discipline strategy. Your child may simply not be able to understand the connection between the consequence and negative behavior. What’s more, punishment as a discipline method can potentially have negative effects on your autistic child and inadvertently reinforce the very same behavior you are trying to decrease. 

Yelling, threatening, and criticizing

Yelling, threatening, and criticizing your child with autism can often backfire and do more harm than good. Your child may even become more disruptive over time. Remember that the goal of disciplining your autistic child is to provide an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and not to lower their self-esteem.

Physical discipline

You should avoid physically disciplining your autistic child. Physical punishment may make the undesirable behavior stop immediately, but it doesn’t direct your child toward the correct behavior. On the contrary, it shows that hitting is an appropriate response to a challenging situation. 

Time out

Time out is a reactive punishment method that should be avoided with autistic children. In fact, a child with autism who appreciates being alone might consider a traditional time out rewarding. Instead, after your child does something wrong, you can suggest a substitute behavior. If your child is hitting you to get your attention, work on replacing that behavior with a more appropriate one like asking for help or tapping your shoulder.

Tips for Disciplining Your Autistic Child

  • Work on one behavior at a time. Don’t try to fix all of your child’s behavioral issues at once. Instead, concentrate on one problematic behavior, preferably starting with the most disruptive one.
  • Set clear rules and expectations. Let your child know how you expect them to behave and what your family rules and limits are. Also, your child should know that the consequences reflect their inappropriate behavior and that they are not permanent.
  • Be consistent. Always make sure to follow through with your strategy. Autistic children often respond positively to structured discipline, and they do much better when the outcome of a situation is predictable. 
  • Develop an individual plan. Every autistic child experiences unique behavioral challenges. Your child’s treatment team will help you develop a behavior intervention plan that consists of combinations of suitable strategies for your child.
  • Choose natural and logical consequences. For example, if your child refuses to pick up the toys, take them away for a certain period of time. This will make it easier for your child to understand the situation and will help them replace poor behaviors with more appropriate ones. 
  • Establish whether your child is misbehaving. Before starting to discipline your autistic child, it’s important to determine if the behavior is a result of their autism or if your child is misbehaving. If your child frequently throws tantrums when you give instructions, it may be a behavioral issue that requires a different set of strategies. 
  • Manage non-negotiable behaviors. Disciplining a child with autism often involves dealing with non-negotiable behaviors like self-injury, harming others, and damaging things. Your child’s treatment team can help you develop a safety intervention plan depending on the severity of your child’s behavior. 
  • Anticipate your child’s behaviors and determine consequences in advance so that you are well prepared when the situation occurs.
  • Don’t take away your child’s soothing objects. Calming objects and sensory tools like fidget spinners may help relieve tension and prevent tantrums and should never be taken away as a form of punishment. 
  • Put the safety of your child first. Remove your child from any situation that is emotionally or physically unsafe either for them or others.

Working hard on his emotional problems
December 18, 2020 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Aggressive Autism Behavior Strategies

A child’s aggressive behavior creates immediate reactions from those around them. Children with autism who find it difficult to communicate their feelings and needs will often act out aggressively whether their behavior is motivated by frustration, hypersensitivity to environmental stimuli, or a specific need. 

Because these types of behaviors are met with immediate reactions, they are unintentionally reinforced.

In this article we will learn more about the aggressive behaviors of autistic children and give you tips on how to deal with them. 

Why do autistic children behave aggressively

Children diagnosed with ASD struggle with understanding certain types of language and often do not have the ability to communicate their needs and feelings adequately. These aspects of their disorder may make them more likely to exhibit aggressive behaviors that children who aren’t on the spectrum.

 

When your child acts out aggressively, it may be because:

  •       They feel overwhelmed by negative feelings. Children struggling with autism often experience anxiety and stress that they are unable to communicate to those around them. If a situation makes your autistic child anxious, they may act out to get you to remove them from the situation.
  •       They are feeling bombarded by negative sensations from their environment. Many children diagnosed with ASD are hypersensitive to things like noise and touch. They may experience loud noises as painful or a burst of air hurt their skin. Responding with aggressive behaviors may be an automatic reaction to being physically uncomfortable for some children on the autism spectrum.
  •       They may not understand what is going on around them. Since children on the autism spectrum have difficulty understanding idioms, figurative language, and nonverbal communication, they may struggle in situations where there are a lot of people or when things aren’t explained to them in a fashion they can understand. In this instance your child may act out aggressively out of frustration.
  •       They may use aggressive behaviors to communicate their needs if they can’t make those around them understand what they need in a given situation. A child who is struggling and can’t make those around them understand their needs may act out aggressively. Although the reaction they receive may not solve the problem, the immediate reaction that a child receives when acting out in an aggressive manner does allow the child to feel that they have some control in the situation.
  •       They may use aggressive behavior to get them out of a situation they don’t like. Children learn very quickly that one way to escape an uncomfortable situation is to act out in a way that will get them taken out of the situation. Even when a child is removed from an uncomfortable situation as a punishment, being removed from the situation is rewarding.

How can this aggressive behavior manifest

When your autistic child exhibits aggressive behavior it can come in a variety of forms. Your child may bite, scratch, kick, and/or yell at you or others. They may also scratch themselves, hit their head against an object, or punch themselves. Research indicates that children diagnosed with ASD will most often direct their aggression toward their caregivers.

Understanding aggressive behavior in autistic children

Children on the autism spectrum may have anger triggers that are associated with their disorder. Understanding the triggers that lead to your child’s aggressive behaviors will help you develop ways to deal with these unwanted behaviors. Triggers that your child may experience include:

  •       Disturbing breaks in their typical routine. Children on the autism spectrum often become distressed when their routines are altered. Unexpected events may increase your child’s anxiety levels and create heightened feelings of confusion and being out of control.
  •       Distressing sensory stimuli. If your autistic child experiences hypersensitivity to external stimuli, you may find that loud noises, jarring lights, or overpowering smells tend to set your child off.
  •       Lack of sleep. Children diagnosed with ASD often struggle with sleep. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean that your child doesn’t need as much sleep as other children do. You will frequently find that your child will be more likely to act aggressively when they are experiencing poor sleep.

Dealing with aggressive outbursts from autistic children

Thankfully, there are many things you can try to help reduce your autistic child’s aggressive behaviors. Some of these include:

  •       Identifying aspects of the environment that may be triggering your ASD child and developing strategies for dealing with external stimuli.

      If your child is hypersensitive to  noises, you may find that having your child wear noise cancelling headphones in certain environments is enough to help them control their reactions to what is going on around them. Parents are apt to understand that a child may be distrubed by loud noises like fireworks or alarms.

 

However, it is helpful to understand that it isn’t always loud noises that can create issues for your autistic child. Often when children with autism are trying to concentrate in the classroom, they can be distracted by conversations or noises that you may not even notice. The frustration created by this constant distraction is enough to make many children act out aggressively. Often professional help may be necessary to help you identify why your child is acting out aggressively.

      If your child is hypersensitive to smells, you may find that allowing them to use lotions or hand sanitizers that have a soothing smell on their hands will help them to focus on the pleasant smell that they have control of rather than the offensive smell. Likewise, if you know that your child is triggered by a pervasive external smell like the smell of cooking fish, you may find that improving ventilation and the use of air fresheners will help to lower your child’s reaction to olfactory stimulation.

      If your child is hypersensitive to glaring lights, you may find that something as simple as allowing your child to wear sunglasses in certain environments is sufficient to help reduce the likelihood that your child will experience enough discomfort that they act out aggressively.

  •       Prepare your child in advance when there will be a break in their routine when you can.
  •       If you take your child into a new environment where they are likely to find things confusing, take the time to explain what is happening and help them to avoid undue anxiety.

For example, the first time you fly with a child who struggles with autism, you may find that they are overwhelmed and confused. Taking the time to explain the process of travel step by step as you approach a new phase of the trip will help your child remain confident that they are safe. You will want to avoid giving too much information all at once to avoid overwhelming the child.

  •       Help your child develop good sleep hygiene to support them in getting a good night’s sleep. Children on the autism spectrum will generally need more support to get a good night’s sleep than other children do. Developing a supportive night time ritual and helping your child deal with the things that interrupt their sleep can help them cope better with the stresses they encounter in everyday life.

How can you modify aggressive behavior of autistic children?

There are a variety of strategies and therapies that can help you modify the aggressive behavior of your autistic child. These options include:

  •     Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is a very well researched intervention that has helped many children diagnosed with ASD reduce aggressive behaviors. ABA therapy is based on learning theories and has been shown to be highly effective in helping children on the autism spectrum reduce negative behaviors. Specific aspects of ABA therapy have been found to be highly effective in helping reduce aggressive behavior in autistic children.

      For example, Functional Communication Training (FCT) has been seen to help children on the autism spectrum to reduce aggressive behaviors when their behaviors are intended to get attention or are the result of the frustration of not being able to communicate their needs. A child may be taught to use gestures or pictures to communicate needs and obtain attention.

      Functional Behavioral Assessment. This aspect of ABA therapy is very helpful in allowing parents and professionals to understand why a child diagnosed with ASD may be acting out in an aggressive manner. Once parents understand why their child is behaving in a certain way, they can develop a plan to deal with it. Although your child doesn’t have to be in ABA therapy for you to obtain a functional behavioral assessment, this assessment is a fundamental aspect of ABA therapy.

      Reinforcement Strategies. There are several reinforcement strategies used in ABA therapy that have been found to help in the reduction of aggressive behaviors in children diagnosed with ASD.

 

  •       Medications are a helpful alternative that many parents turn to to help their autistic child control aggressive behaviors. Research has found that a variety of medications have been found to help children on the autism spectrum deal with symptoms associated with their disorder. Some psychiatrists have prescribed antipsychotic medications or mood stabilizers to help control an autistic child’s aggressive behaviors.

 

Although there are many studies on using these medications to help children on the autism spectrum control aspects of their disorder, this option is often used as a last resort or when a child’s behaviors are very severe. Many medications are not appropriate for children under a certain age, and all of these medications have potential side effects that give many parents pause.

Little boy sitting near dark wall in empty room. Autism concept
December 9, 2020 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Is Recovery from Autism Spectrum Disorder Possible?

All parents experience stress related to the usual worries and tasks associated with raising a child. Unfortunately, along with the usual struggles with childhood illnesses, the rigors of school work, and the drama of childhood friendships, parents with children on the autism spectrum experience extra levels of stress and concern. 

Parents with children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience all of the stresses associated with having a child who struggles with special challenges. 

However, research indicates that parents with a child diagnosed with ASD experience a special level of stress that is more than the stress experienced by parents of children diagnosed with Downs Syndrome.

 

The added stress experienced by parents of children on the autism spectrum comes from:

  •       The stigma of having a child with a visually invisible disorder. No parent of a child diagnosed with ASD has avoided the wilting glances and rude responses made by people who are unable to understand that their child’s behavior is not the result of poor parenting skills.
  •       The self-injurious behaviors that many children on the autism spectrum exhibit. Repetitive behaviors like headbanging are not only dangerous to a child but are heartbreaking for a parent to witness. 
  •       The issues associated with poor sleeping patterns and picky eating habits many children diagnosed with ASD struggle with. A child’s sleepless nights generally impact the whole family but at best they impact the primary caregiver. Likewise, picky eating often requires more effort and time to accommodate than feeding a child who can happily eat a wide variety of foods.
  •       The financial problems associated with the challenges of raising a child diagnosed with ASD. Frequently one or both parents of a child with ASD will find that they need to take time from work to provide support to their child. Parents often must take time away from work to participate in appointments with specialists that support their child. 

 

As with any diagnosis that results in increased stress levels, financial challenges, and endless commitments to meetings and appointments, parents of children diagnosed with ASD often hope for a cure. 

A cure implies that the continuous work of complying with treatments and interventions can be ended once and for all. Although this may seem like a good goal for any issue that limits a child, it is seen as offensive to many people who work with, live with, and love those who are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

What is autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a disorder associated with deficits in social skills, communication abilities, and relationship skills. Individuals diagnosed with this disorder will also exhibit, or have previously exhibited, repetitive patterns of interests, behaviors, or activities from an early age. People diagnosed with ASD can vary in their abilities, thus the disorder is considered to exist on a continuum. Some people diagnosed with ASD will need considerable support in everyday life, while others will be identified as gifted in some areas.

 

ASD is often diagnosed early in a child’s life. Parents are generally the first to identify issues that their children are struggling with the disorder. They may notice any of a variety of signs that their child is struggling with ASD. These signs may include:

 

  •       Their child doesn’t make eye contact when talking to them. Most people will make eye contact when communicating with one another. We generally see young babies making prolonged eye contact when people talk to them. If your child doesn’t make eye contact it may be an early sign that something isn’t quite right.
  •       Their child doesn’t point to things of interest to them. Most children will point to attract your attention to an object if they have a question. However, children on the autism spectrum are unlikely to point to the object they are asking a question about or talking to you about. You may first discover this simply due to the fact that you are often uncertain of what object your child is talking about.
  •       Their child doesn’t look at an object when someone else points to it. If you notice that your child doesn’t turn to look at objects that are pointed out to them, you may want to explore the reason why.
  •       Their child doesn’t seem to understand other people’s feelings. Children diagnosed with ASD are often viewed as rude due to their inability to understand the way that their words or behaviors impact others. If you notice that your child behaves in ways that seem careless of the feelings of others, you may want to explore further.
  •       Their child doesn’t talk about their feelings. If your child doesn’t talk about their feelings, particularly when you see behaviors that look like they are the result of strong emotions like anger, you may wish to look into this further.
  •       Their child doesn’t respond when people talk to them but will respond to other noises. Children on the autism spectrum often experience a hypersensitivity to noise. If you notice that your child has no difficulty hearing but does not seem to take in, or respond to, voices, you may wish to look into this further. 
  •       Their child doesn’t like to be cuddled or hugged. Children on the autism spectrum often dislike cuddling. If your child seems to avoid cuddling, or only wishes to cuddle at specific times, this could be a clue that they are struggling with symptoms of ASD.
  •       Their child repeats the same behaviors or phrases and words over and over. For example a child with ASD may mimic a phrase or repeat what others say like an echo. If rather than communicating in an appropriate way, you notice that your child is repeating your words or using a standard set of words frequently, you may wish to explore further.
  •       Their child doesn’t engage in pretend play. Children on the autism spectrum may spend a great deal of time setting toys in a specific order, but they may not engage in play that requires imagination. For example, a child with ASD may set their dolls up in an ordered line but will not play at feeding or caring for them.
  •       Their child may show a great dislike for changes in their daily routine. Most children enjoy a break in their day to day routine. If, however, you notice that slight changes in daily routines upsets your child, you may wish to consider whether this could be a sign of something more.
  •       Their child may react more acutely to sounds, tastes, and the feeling of things like clothing than other children appear to. If your child displays difficulty tolerating things like new shoes, the seams in socks or clothing, tags in their clothes, or specific types of food, it could be an indication of hypersensitivity associated with ASD.

Can autism go away?

According to recent research, children can somewhat outgrow their diagnosis of ASD. However, research by Shulman, D’Agostino, & Lee indicates that many of these children will continue to need some type of therapeutic or educational support. 

 

While full recovery from a diagnosis of ASD may not be possible, there are many ways that parents can help their child to live with the effects of their diagnosis. Parents can help their child diagnosed with ASD to thrive by:

 

  •       Developing structure and safety in their child’s life. Safety is often an issue for children on the autism spectrum. Establishing a safe space for your child to go when feeling overwhelmed supports their feelings of safety and security while limiting the possibility to the child harming themselves.
  • Signing your child up for ABA therapy. ABA therapy give your child the skills so that they can live more independent lives and participate in their communities
  •       Connecting in non-verbal ways. Learning functional communication skills allows you to engage your child in a way that is beneficial to you both. Learning to use alternatives to verbal communication, be that sign language, bodily gestures, or pictures  will help you to engage with your child on a level that you may not have previously been able to. Finding a way to communicate with your child will support your relationship and improve both your child’s sense of belonging and your confidence as a parent.
  •       Finding help and support. There are many professionals, organizations, and groups that can help you find information, treatment options, services, and a sense of community. The more support you and your child have, the better you will be able to limit your feelings of stress and find your way to enjoying the special relationship you have with your child. 

Does autism worsen with age?

Longitudinal studies have found that about 10% of children diagnosed with ASD show a dramatic improvement by the time they reach their mid-teens. The proportion of children who show marked improvement tend to improve their verbal skills early on and have a high initial verbal intelligence quotient. These research findings may have significant implications for identifying what skills to help your child focus on improving today.

 

Indeed, research indicates that children whose parents are engaged in their treatment early on show better verbal and daily living skills in their teen years. However, the improvement that many people see in their teen years tends to stop as they transition out of the school environment.

 

This may be explained by two specific events that occur at this time in a child’s life. First, the teen is leaving the structure of the educational environment which many individuals find highly beneficial. Second, many individuals on the autism spectrum lose access to support when they reach adulthood. You may find support in community agencies and higher education supports to help fill this space as your child transitions out of the child support system.

 

Although many individuals will see a reduction in their ASD symptoms in their teen and early adult years, research indicates that in old age individuals who have been diagnosed with ASD may see a reduction in their ability to function. In old age, these individuals may show decreased interest or understanding of how their behavior impacts others and their ability to function well may decrease back to childhood levels.

Is mild autism reversible?

As stated previously, there is currently no known cure for ASD. However, research indicates that symptoms of the disorder can be reduced through the use of behavioral therapy and other treatments. For individuals who exhibit mild symptoms, it is possible to control the symptoms that create difficulty for them.

 

Interventions for issues associated with speech and behavior like speech therapy, occupational therapy, and behavioral therapy can help individuals with mild symptoms of ASD develop skills that allow them to improve their functioning to the point where they may no longer meet clinical criteria for the diagnosis of ASD. Older children may be able to control some of their symptoms through the use of medication.

 

Likewise, medical treatment for many of the symptoms associated with ASD can be medically treated in adolescents. Adolescents who exhibit symptoms similar to those of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and oppositional defiance disorder (ODD) may be prescribed medication that can help them control these symptoms.

Does autism run in families?

Autism is known to run in families. However, heredity does not completely explain who will develop ASD. According to the Autism Society, individuals who have a genetic vulnerability are more apt to develop ASD than those without such genetic issues. Exposure to harmful substances during the mother’s pregnancy and certain medical conditions are also more likely to result in a diagnosis of ASD.

The latest research to help autism

It can be very difficult to get a clear picture of the best ways to support individuals diagnosed with ASD by searching the research. Recent research studies look at a wide variety of elements. Much research focuses on single cases or low sample sizes making it difficult to determine the overall importance of specific strategies. There is also difficulty comparing studies as many studies focus on the improvement of a specific skill.

 

However, there is always research being performed on aspects of ASD as it impacts so many members of our society. Some of the recent research findings include the use of brain imaging and larger sample sizes. Some of the best recent research findings are provided below.

 

The National Institute for Health funded a 2019 study that found a connection between the cerebellum of rodents and their ability to process rewards and social behaviors. It is believed that this finding will help to deepen the scientific understanding of how the brain works in those diagnosed with a variety of conditions including ASD, as abnormalities in the cerebellum have been previously linked to ASD. Scientists are interested in seeing if in[uts to the cerebellar neurons could impact social behaviors.

 

In a 2018 study on neurofeedback, it was shown that children diagnosed with ASD who received neurofeedback while playing a picture puzzled game exhibited spontaneous activation of their social brain circuitry. These findings were seen in the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of the participants. The findings were further supported by the parental reports of improved social behaviors among the children in the study. These findings imply that covert neurofeedback may have potential as an intervention for those diagnosed with ASD.

 

In other research studies it was found that an individual’s guts may play a role in the development of ASD. Though the reported study had a very limited sample size (18), researchers indicated that there was a 45% reduction in ASD symptoms in the study’s participants. A 2020 study of children 3-6 found that children treated with bumetanide showed improvement on the Childhood Autism Rating Scale when compared to the control group.

 

A 2017 study found that functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging (fcMRI) may help predict the risk of children as young as 6 months in developing ASD by the age of 2. This finding is consistent with the belief that changes occur in the brain of a child before behavioral changes are seen. Such early detection could support early diagnosis and interventions thereby improving the outcomes for children at risk of developing ASD.

Cute Boy looking through the window
December 9, 2020 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Low-Functioning Autism Guide

As the parent of a low-functioning autistic child, you and your family face specific challenges that other families don’t have to contend with. 

Overcoming these challenges means finding helpful, high-quality resources to work with your autistic child. 

This article specifically addresses the needs of families who are dealing with a low-functioning autistic child to provide resource options of which parents might not otherwise be aware. 

Use this article as a guide to understand low-functioning autism and how it can be treated using ABA therapy and other treatment options that were developed to help autistic children overcome the limitations of their disorder.

What is Low-Functioning Autism?

Low-Functioning Autism, also referred to LFA, is a form of autism that is characterized by severe behavioral issues and cognitive troubles. 

Children and adults with LFA demonstrate significant difficulties in all three primary areas of psychopathology, which are reciprocal social interaction, communication, and restrictive, stereotypic, repetitive behavior. 

This means that individuals with LFA behave very differently from other children and they are likely to have trouble learning in a traditional classroom setting. Children with LFA may also have difficulties forming and maintaining traditional family and friend-type relationships.

 

Though no one knows for certain what causes LFA, it’s a common belief that multiple factors play a role in the development of this disorder. Genetic factors may be at play, as well as environmental factors. Many children with autism have been shown to have different kinds of brain abnormalities that contribute to their behaviors, and these abnormalities tend to be more pronounced in children and adults with LFA.

What is the difference between High-Functioning and Low-Functioning Autism?

High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Low-Functioning Autism (LFA) are different degrees of a spectrum of the same developmental disorder. While children with HFA and LFA may occasionally have similar behavioral characteristics, these characteristics are much more pronounced in children with LFA. 

Many times, children with HFA are able to live relatively normal lives, though they may need specialized tutoring, therapy, or other treatments to improve their quality of life. However, children with LFA will need to attend special schools and will have very different lives from average children.

 

It’s important to understand the differences between these two types of autism. Parents of autistic children must know that HFA and LFA does not determine a child’s:

 

  •       Intelligence
  •       Talents
  •       Sensory challenges
  •       Aggressive behaviors
  •       Anxiety levels
  •       Perseveration levels (the degree to which repetition occurs)

 

Most of these traits and behaviors vary among all children and individuals. Some HFA children are very aggressive, while some LFA children are quite docile. 

Some LFA children are very talented, and some HFA children may perform well in other areas of life, but struggle with certain repetitive behaviors. The primary difference between these types of autism is the severity of a child’s struggle to learn (in a traditional way) and their ability to relate to other people, form relationships, and communicate with others. 

The signs and symptoms of LFA are listed below to help you understand this disorder more clearly:

Signs of Low-Functioning Autism

Low-Functioning Autism tends to be somewhat easier to spot in children than High-Functioning Autism. Here are the most common and pronounced signs of LFA:

 

  •       Inappropriate social responses (such as laughing during a sad event, etc.)
  •       Delayed speech development
  •       Development of obsessive-compulsive behaviors (repetitive hand washing, ordering and arranging things, tapping/touching, etc.)
  •       Higher than normal anxiety levels
  •       Lack of interest in other children or in adults
  •       Trouble sleeping
  •       Trouble communicating needs like hunger, tiredness, thirst, etc.
  •       Dislike and avoidance of loud noises, bright lights, and other intense sensory experiences
  •       Regular “meltdowns” (sometimes called emotional outbursts)
  •       Difficulty with change and insistence on routines and “sameness”
  •       Avoidance of socialization
  •       Apparent lack of empathy
  •       Monotonous speech (speaking without intonation) or use of intonation in incorrect ways
  •       Misuse of facial expressions (or complete lack of facial expressions)

 

There are many different manifestations of LFA, and it’s essential for parents to acknowledge that every autistic child is different and therefore each child may display different signs and symptoms of autism as a disease. 

If you believe that your child may have autism, visiting a doctor or psychologist for testing is the first step toward treatment and the ability to overcome whatever limitations your child may face due to their disorder.

Does autism worsen with age?

There has not been a lot of scientific studies done yet to show whether or not autism improves, stays the same, or worsens with age, but those that have been done have had interesting results. One of the largest studies that followed 300 children ages 2 to 21 demonstrated that only about 10% of these children showed significant improvements with their symptoms over time. Approximately 80% of the children showed little to no change at all by their teen years.

 

Of the studies that have been conducted, the children that showed the most improvement in their symptoms were tested and shown to have a high IQ from the beginning, and they also received intensive speech and communication therapy early-on to improve their communication skills. A strong ability to plan and complete complex tasks at a young age was also aligned with a later ability to understand other people’s thoughts and emotions more clearly with increasing age.

 

Thus, it’s uncommon for autism symptoms to worsen as a child grows older. But it is possible, with the right treatment and increased parental engagement, for a child’s symptoms to lessen as with increasing age as they reach adolescence and adulthood.

When should you have your child screened for autism?

Children can be screened for autism at any age, but the earlier they can be screened, the better.  Doctors and psychologists may in some cases be able to detect autism in children as young as 18 months, although most children receive testing around age 2 and the final diagnosis is not proclaimed until the child is older. Most of the time, an autism diagnosis is reliable for children who are age 2 or older.

 

Below are some clear and early signs that your child may have autism:

 

  •       No smiling or happy expressions by 6 months of age
  •       No back-and-forth communication with parents or other children through sounds, movement, expressions, or other behaviors at 9 months
  •       No response to their name, babbling, or back-and-forth gestures like pointing, rocking, or showing at 12 months
  •       No spoken words at 16 months
  •       No original meaningful phrases (phrases that are 2 words or more and that were not repeated after someone else) by 24 months

 

If your child exhibits any of the above signs, it is best to take them to a developmental specialist for autism screening. The earlier a child receives a diagnosis and subsequent therapy, the more likely it is that their symptoms will improve. 

Older children will exhibit more complex behaviors such as impaired speech and/or understanding, avoidance and misunderstanding of social situations, inappropriate behaviors, repetitive actions, difficulty communicating about wants and needs, and other symptoms. No matter your child’s age, if you suspect that they may have autism or other developmental disorder, a visit to a specialist is the first step.

 

When your child visits the doctor for a regular well-child visit, it is suggested that he or she receives a developmental screening at the same time. Ideally, have your child screened for autism at ages 9 months, 18 months, and 30 months. Children at 18 and 24 months should all receive a specific evaluation for ASD as well.

 

Further developmental evaluation done by a specialist may require the parents and other family members to undergo evaluations and questionnaires as well in order to produce a complete understanding of the child’s environment and behaviors. After the evaluation, the specialist will advise you about whether or not your child needs specialized therapy or treatment, and if so, which therapies and treatments will be most effective.

What are the most common comorbid conditions for a Low-Functioning Autistic child?

 

There are a number of conditions that Low-Functioning Autistic  children may develop either as part of the presentation of their disorder or as a result of common autistic behaviors. These comorbid conditions are listed below:

 

Common Comorbid Psychological Disorders

 

 

Anxiety is common in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The severity of this condition is often related to age, level of cognitive function, and the degree to which the child is socially impaired.

 

 

Major Depression is one of the most common comorbid ASD disorders that children experience. It is most common in ASD individuals who are going through adolescence.

 

 

Bipolar Disorder, also known as Manic Depression involves extreme oscillating moods causing those with this disorder to experience episodes of mania followed by profound depression.

 

 

Gender Dysphoria is the experience of discomfort related to gender identity. It occurs in transgender individuals. Autistic children are more likely to develop this disorder.

 

  •       Non-Verbal Learning Disorder

 

Non-Verbal Learning Disorder often overlaps with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorders.  It is a learning disorder characterized by difficulties with motor, visuo-spatial, and social difficulties.

 

 

Obsessive Computer Disorder (also known as OCD) is characterized by the presence of recurrent (obsessive) thoughts and the compulsion to perform certain actions. Approximately 30% of ASD individuals receive a comorbid OCD diagnosis.

 

 

Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) is different from an OCD diagnosis (described above). This personality disorder involves an excessive concern with perfectionism, attention to detail, the need for mental control, and control over one’s relationships and environment. About 40% of individuals who are diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome are also diagnosed with comorbid OCPD.

 

 

Childhood-onset schizophrenia is often preceded by a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

 

 

This personality disorder is characterized by a lack of interest in typical social relationships and a tendency toward a solitary and sheltered lifestyle. Individuals with Schizoid Personality Disorder are often secretive and emotionally cold with a detached or apathetic attitude toward relationships.

 

 

Children who are diagnosed with ASD may manifest unusual responses to sensory stimulation. Comorbidity rates for sensory disorders are somewhere between 42-88% with ASD.

 

 

Sleep Disorders are common in individuals with ASD perhaps due to abnormalities in circadian rhythms and melatonin production in the brain.

 

 

Tourette Syndrome is characterized by motor and vocal tics that typically develop during childhood. Some experts believe that genetic abnormalities lead to dopamine, glutamate, and serotonin production problems that cause this disorder.

 

  •       Intellectual Disability

 

         Approximately 25-70% of autistic children meet the criteria for intellectual disability.

 

 

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD is a disorder that involves hyperactivity and difficulty with sustained attention. ADHD and ASD commonly co-occur.

 

Common Physical Comorbid Conditions

 

 

At least 25% of children with ASD also experience gastrointestinal problems including abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, and bloating. These issues may lead to an increase in negative behaviors including self-inflicted injury.

 

  •       Developmental Coordination Disorder

 

Developmental Coordination Disorder is characterized by a delay in acquiring normal motor skills in terms of dexterity, balance, and general physical coordination that are normally present at a particular age.

 

 

Epilepsy is a disorder that involves seizures due to abnormal brain electrical activity that may start in early childhood or adolescence.

 

 

Fragile X Syndrome is a genetically-based intellectual disability caused by a defective piece of the X chromosome. It is diagnosed in 2 to 5 % of individuals with ASD.

 

 

Research has demonstrated that individuals with ASD may have abnormalities in the way they metabolize folate, a B-vitamin. Research has shown that a number of ASD children who take folinic acid experience marked improvements in their behavior and clinical status.

 

 

Imbalances in the way glutathione is oxidized and metabolized in the body has been correlated with folate metabolism pathways that tend to be abnormal in children with ASD. By alleviating oxidative stress in the brain for children with ASD clinical trials have demonstrated substantial improvement in symptoms.

 

 

Mitochondrial diseases can affect multiple organ systems in the body in children with ASD with varying levels of severity. Symptoms vary but can include seizures, cognitive regression, diabetes, visual or hearing loss, neuropathy, stroke, encephalopathy, or organ failure.

 

 

Neurofibromatosis Type I is a multi-system disorder caused by a genetic mutation of chromosome 17. Children with ASD are more likely to have this genetic abnormality than children without the disorder.

 

 

Research has shown that the role of neuroinflammation in ASD may be triggered by folate and glutathione metabolism issues that result in high levels of oxidants and inflammation in the brain.

 

 

Neuropathy is a weakness, pain, or numbness in the extremities caused by nerve damage. Neuropathy is sometimes asymptomatic. This is a common manifestation of mitochondrial disease and it often appears as a comorbid condition with ASD.

 

 

About 35% of individuals suffering from Asperger Syndrome are affected by tinnitus (a ringing or buzzing sound in the ears that’s not caused by an external sound).

 

 

Tuberous Sclerosis is a genetic disorder that results in the development of benign tumors in the brain and other organs of the body. It has a strong correlation with ASD. Approximately 1-4% of Autistic Children receive a diagnosis of tuberous sclerosis.

 

 

Various vitamin deficiencies are more common in ASD children than in the general population. Common deficiencies include vitamin D, vitamin B12, vitamin B9 (folate), vitamin A, Zinc, Magnesium, and Calcium.

 

ABA Therapy Help for Low-Functioning Autistic Children

Applied Behavioral Analysis or ABA therapy is a type of treatment for autistic children that aims to improve their social and communication skills as well as their learning abilities by using positive reinforcement. For children with autism spectrum disorder and certain other developmental conditions, ABA is considered to be the gold standard in therapy. At Hidden Talents, we use ABA therapy to help parents and children better understand how both positive and negative behaviors develop and are maintained through relational transactions.

 

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder learn differently than other children. They have unique skills and strengths and through ABA, our staff will determine not only your child’s weaknesses but also what skills and strengths they possess to help them overcome the challenges they face. By using an approach that actively looks for the child’s strengths and weaknesses, we can create a customized intervention plan for targeted treatment designed to promote positive behavior modification under the watchful eye of our trained BCBAs.

 

ABA therapy usually is administered in phases. The process begins with intake and an evaluation of the child. The intake coordination team obtains and records the necessary information to make sure your child receives the appropriate type and level of care. We then verify eligibility and seek an assessment from the child’s insurance company. We conduct an assessment of the child after insurance coverage has been verified.

 

During the assessment process, the child’s social environment is evaluated including the school, family, and the child’s level of functioning. A treatment plan can then be created and ongoing services are requested for the child.

 

During treatment, children are assigned a team of BCBA and ABA therapists who work together to provide personalized and comprehensive treatment. Once the treatment plan is being actively implemented, therapists will track your child’s progress and make adaptations to the plan to ensure that progress continues. At Hidden Talents, we pay attention to each child and customize their treatment plan, making modifications as children change and grow to ensure that they’re always working to achieve new levels of success.

Boy exercises putting fingers with therapist
December 9, 2020 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

In-Home ABA Therapy

ABA therapy is an effective treatment method used to improve the independent living and social skills of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 

 

With the care and guidance of trained ABA therapists, your child will be able to see significant improvements. But what exactly does an ABA therapy session consist of? And how do you best prepare for training at home? 

 

Below, we tell you what to expect from ABA therapy and how to set up your home to ensure optimal learning conditions for your child with autism. 

What Is In-Home ABA Therapy?

Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA is a form of behavioral therapy that focuses on changing unwanted behaviors and reinforcing desirable ones. ABA therapy provides targeted treatment based on the child’s individual strengths and weaknesses. 

 

Developed by Norwegian-American psychologist Ivar Lovaas, ABA therapy has been successfully used to help children with autism and related developmental disorders since the 1970s. It has been proven highly effective in helping children with autism develop and progress. In fact, research shows that ABA therapy is the most effective form of autism treatment with more than 90% improvement rate. 

What is ABA therapy used for? 

ABA therapy is used to build and improve social and communication skills in addition to daily living skills in children with autism. These skills include:

  • Activities of daily living (feeding, dressing, bathing)
  • Potty training
  • Following directions
  • Understanding social cues (facial expressions, body language)
  • Social skills (initiating conversations, responding to questions)
  • Reducing problematic behaviors like tantrums
  • Basic academic and pre-academic skills.

What methods are used in ABA therapy? 

In general, 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. Each ABA therapy session consists of a combination of play, direct instructions, various activities, adaptive skills training, and parent guidance.

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 toy or activity, children are more likely to repeat the action. Over time, this method can encourage positive behavioral changes in children with autism.

What are the benefits of in-home ABA therapy?

In-home ABA therapy can either supplement or completely replace facility-based care. Having ABA therapy sessions at home has numerous advantages: 

 

  • It allows for more flexible scheduling.
  • It enables your child to practice and learn new skills in a non-threatening, familiar environment.

 

  • It facilitates parent/caregiver training, which is an essential component of ABA therapy. 

 

What Is In-Home ABA Therapy Like? 

The in-home ABA therapy has three stages: intake, assessment, and treatment.

Intake

The Hidden Talents ABA coordination team conducts an initial interview to verify your child’s eligibility for ABA therapy. You can expect them to ask questions about your child’s developmental history, problem behaviors such as aggression and tantrums, any prescribed medications, speech and occupational therapy, and previous ABA treatments.

Assessment

Our Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) will assess your child’s communication along with academic and social skills to develop a detailed individualized treatment plan. Based on this assessment, they will also make a recommendation on how many hours of ABA therapy your child should receive. 

Treatment

Once the treatment plan is developed, your child will be assigned a team consisting of one or more ABA therapists and a BCBA. The composition of the ABA treatment team will depend on the number of therapy hours. Your child can have anywhere from one to four ABA therapists who are regularly supervised by a BCBA. The team will work together to deliver a comprehensive treatment and adapt the plan as needed to ensure continued progress. 

 

The therapists will monitor your child’s progress towards set goals by collecting data during each therapy session. Our BCBA experts regularly meet with both therapists and family members to review this information, which allows them to plan ahead and adjust teaching plans, the intensity of therapy, and learning goals as needed. 

How Long Is an ABA Session?

An ABA therapy session can last anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. If your child receives several therapy sessions per day, therapists will be rotated every 2-3 hours to keep things fresh and interesting and hold your child’s attention longer. 

Preparing for In-Home ABA Therapy

In-home ABA therapy requires careful preparation. Our professional therapists are trained to provide in-home services and will assist you every step of the way. 

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Choose a dedicated therapy space. It can be an office, a playroom, or any other location where your child will be able to focus on learning new skills. 
  • Let the therapist know about your child’s special interests, favorite toys or activities. These can be used as motivation and reinforcement during sessions.
  • Show your child any changes you made in the room before starting the therapy to make them feel comfortable and safe.
  • Create a consistent schedule and let your child know what to do when the therapist arrives. Make sure to review this routine before each session.
  • Prepare your child for the session. He/she should be awake, fed, and have a dry diaper or pull up. Also, make sure that your child is not actively engaged in a favorite activity as it may be used as reinforcement during therapy. 
  • Make a list of questions to ask your therapist before the start of the first session. The effectiveness of ABA therapy for children with autism is shown to largely depend on parents’ involvement, particularly when it comes to speech and social interactions. Clear communication between parent and therapist is a must.
  • At least one adult is required to be at home during ABA therapy. It is important that you or another responsible person don’t leave the house while sessions are taking place and that you are available at all times.
  • You should avoid interrupting or joining the session without discussing it with your ABA therapist first. You are free to observe the therapy, however, if a problem behavior occurs, you should let the therapist handle the situation.
  • There is no need to offer your therapist food or drinks while they are at your home. It’s also worth keeping in mind that therapists are not allowed to accept gifts.

How Should You Set up Your Home So That It Works Best for the Therapist and the Child?

Since in-home ABA treatment requires that your child has therapy sessions at home, it’s essential to provide a comfortable, distraction-free space that stimulates learning. Here’s how to create an environment where your child can concentrate and where therapists can best do their job: 

 

  • If you have the possibility, designate a specific room or space in your house that will be used exclusively for therapy sessions. Your child should think of this space as the “therapy room.” 
  • Keep the therapy room simple, calm, and completely free from distractions. The therapy room should ideally not have a TV, computer, or other electronic devices.
  • Prepare a child-sized table and chairs to make the environment as pleasant and secure as possible for your child.
  • Have a dedicated therapy box or basket for storing ABA therapy tools such as puzzles, flashcards, stacking toys, reinforcement items, sensory toys, or any other items your therapist may need to use. Your child shouldn’t have free access to these items outside of the sessions so that they remain associated with therapy.
  • Be clear about your expectations from the start to make sessions seamless and more efficient. Inform the therapist about any home rules like the “shoes off” policy and let them know if there are certain rooms or parts of your home that are off-limits for your child. Also make sure to take into consideration your therapist’s special needs like pet allergies, for example.

How Do You Get ABA In-Home Therapy Services?

If you are interested in ABA in-home therapy for your child with autism, start by speaking with your pediatrician or another medical provider about the ABA treatment. They will help you decide whether this type of therapy is right for your child. If necessary, they will also write a prescription for ABA treatment for your insurance.

The second step is checking whether your insurance company covers the cost of ABA therapy and what your benefits are. Most states, including Georgia, require insurance coverage for autism services. Be sure to compare different providers when choosing a plan for your child to get the best coverage possible.

Feel free to contact us for more information about in-home ABA therapy or to request an intake evaluation. You can call us at 404-487-6005, send us an email at info@hiddentalentsaba.com, or fill out our contact form, and we’ll be in touch with you as soon as possible. 

November 18, 2020 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Autism Support Groups In Atlanta

What are autism support groups?

A support group provides a safe environment for people with common issues to share stories and information as well as ideas about how to deal with the problems they face. 

Autism is a disorder that can create a lot of turmoil in social relationships, so having a support group can help parents and relatives as well as children connect with other people who are patient and understanding. 

Autism support groups often include activities for both adults and children. Though every group is different, all autistic support groups engage in a variety of activities that are designed to enhance coping strategies, connect people with similar experiences to each other, and create opportunities for participants to learn new techniques for dealing with autism.

The Importance of Having an Autism Support Group

One of the easiest ways to get to know other parents with autistic children is to attend an autism support group and become an active member. Other parents are often the best source of support and information and through a support group, children with autism and Asperger’s can develop important lifelong friendships.

 

Having an autism support group can be beneficial in a variety of ways. The support group functions a lot like a community, providing a sense of connection, information, and resources that may be difficult to find outside of the group. 

Without the group, parents, grandparents, or siblings may feel isolated or alienated by the problems they face. In contrast, if you have a support group to provide you with tools, information, and guidance, you’ll be much better equipped to deal with mental health professionals, teachers and school officials, and other individuals who will have an effect on your child’s life.

 

Autism Support Groups in Atlanta provide services for:

 

  •       Parents
  •       Grandparents
  •       Siblings
  •       Autistic children and children on the autistic spectrum
  •       Asperger’s syndrome children

 

If you live in the Atlanta area check out the top 5 autism support group options listed below: 

The 5 Best Autism Support Groups in the Atlanta Area

 

(If you are looking for ABA therapists in the Atlanta area click on the link.)  

 

1.    Spectrum Autism Support Group

The Spectrum Support group was established in 1998 and they currently serve over 1,500 families in Gwinnett County and the Atlanta metropolitan area. It is a well-known resource in the autistic community. They administer a wide array of different programs for the autism community including:

 

  •       Respite Programs
  •       Monthly Support Groups
  •       Family camps
  •       Overnight Camps
  •       Summer Day Camps
  •       Social Skills Groups

 

The social opportunities are geared toward providing support for the entire family through education and online resources to improve the lives of families and individuals who have been impacted by autism.

 

Mailing Address for Spectrum Autism Support Group, Inc.:

 

P.O. Box 3132

Suwanee, GA 30024

 

Claire Dees – Executive Director

770-617-8775

claire@atl-spectrum.com

 

Mary O’Connell – Social Skills Today and Camp Program Director

mary@socialskillstoday.com

 

General Information and Questions:

info@atl-spectrum.com

 

2.    Autism Speaks Georgia Support Group(s)

Autism Speaks provides both in-person and online support groups for families with special needs children throughout the state of Georgia. As a service to the community, they provide general information about autism. They are dedicated to finding solutions and management strategies for all members of the family across the autism spectrum and for people of all ages.

Through the Autism Speaks organization, parents can access the following services;

 

  •       Fundraising opportunities for research to find better treatments for this disease and other related diseases.
  •       Advocacy
  •       Support

 

Mailing Address for Autism Speaks Georgia:

 

PO Box 199

Rocky Hill, NJ 08553

 

Email:

georgia@autismspeaks.org 

 

General Telephone: 770-451-0570

 

Kimberly Dick – Executive Director

kimberly.dick@autismspeaks.org 

470-377-7963

 

Kaitlyn Morris – Senior Manager

kaitlyn.morris@autismspeaks.org 

470-377-7964

 

Janet Williams – Director

janet.williams@autismspeaks.org

470-377-7966

 

Georgia Parents Support Network (GPSN)

The Georgia Parent Support Network is a group that’s dedicated to providing services to children and families with a variety of different mental health and development issues. They offer the following resources to parents with autistic children:

 

  •       Support
  •       Education
  •       Advocacy

 

Mailing Address for the Georgia Parents Support Network:

 

1381 Metropolitan Parkway

Atlanta, GA 30310

 

Email: info@gpsn.org

 

Telephone: 1-844-278-6945; 404-758-4500

Fax: 404-758-6833

 

Georgia Crisis and Access Line: 1-800-715-4225

Marcus Autism Center Support Group(s)

Marcus Autism Center provides essential resources to families with autistic children, funds groundbreaking research into autism, and offers supportive programs for autistic children and young adults. The center has multiple support groups (such as their bilingual caregiver support group) available to families in need that cater to different populations in the community.

 

Marcus Autism Center offers the following services to families with autistic children:

 

  •       ABA Therapy Program
  •       Severe Behavior Program
  •       Assessment and Diagnosis
  •       Online Tips and Resources
  •       Educational, Training, and Outreach programs

 

Marcus Autism Center is open from 8am to 4:30pm Monday through Friday. Their address and contact information for Marcus Autism Center is listed below:

 

Marcus Autism Center

1920 Briarcliff Road

Atlanta, GA 30329

(404) 785-9400

North Fulton Autism Support Group at Emory Autism Center

The Emory Autism Center is an important community resource center for autistic individuals and their families. The North Fulton Autism Support Group is a notable group in Atlanta that consists of over 450 members that include parents, grandparents, and advocates of autistic children. This group is considered to be one of the most informative and interactive groups in Atlanta. The North Fulton Autism Support Group arranges regular meetings that are based on specific subjects so as to maximize the time used by the group.

 

During meetings, a speaker from the community discusses a preset topic at the beginning of the night, and then parents are free to discuss it with each other afterwards. There is also an online message board available to families.

 

In addition to the North Fulton Autism Support Group, the Emory Autism Center offers the following resources:

 

  •       Behavior Support and Skill-Building Programs
  •       Autism Screening and Assessment (for all ages)
  •       The EAC Educational and Transition Services Program
  •       Childhood Education and Training for Autistic Children

 

The North Fulton Autism Support Group meets at the following address and may be contacted using the information below:

 

TherapyLand

6505 Shiloh Road, Suite 100

Alpharetta, GA 30005

debbiedobbs@comcast.com

(678) 315-2498

 

November 18, 2020 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Potty Training a Child With Autism

Potty Training a Child With Autism

 

Children with autism are often extremely attached to their long-established routines. A transition from being in a diaper to using a toilet is a major change that, combined with communication challenges, can be very difficult for an autistic child. 

 

That’s why toilet training your child with autism may take a long time and require a lot of patience. This guide will provide you with some tools and tips to make the potty training of your autistic child easier.

Can a Child With Autism Be Potty Trained?

Teaching children who are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) independent toilet skills is essential for improving their quality of life. Extended use of diapers not only increases physical discomfort, but can also have a negative impact on their bladder control and self-confidence, and may limit their participation in social activities. 

 

Before starting to potty train a child with autism, it is recommended to consult a pediatrician to rule out any medical conditions that may prevent your child from effective toilet training. If there are no medical issues, most children on the autistic spectrum can successfully learn how to use the toilet. However, be prepared that the process will take lots of time and effort.

At What Age Should You Potty Train Your Autistic Child?

There is no perfect age to begin toilet training for children with autism. Every child has different skills and needs. You should keep in mind that autistic children are often delayed with toilet training, also compared to children with other developmental disabilities. The average age of successful toilet training for children with autism is 3.3 years in comparison to 2.5 years for children with other developmental disabilities and 2.3 years for children without disabilities. 

What Are the Signs That a Child With Autism Is Ready to Be Potty Trained? 

Several conditions need to be met before you can successfully start potty training your autistic child: 

 

  • Your child has the gross and fine motor skills to carry out a toileting routine.
  • Your child is able to imitate actions such as sitting on the toilet.
  • Your child can sit on a potty, toilet, or toilet training seat without resistance.
  • Your child is capable of pulling down his/her pants and underwear and pulling them back up on his/her own or with minimal assistance.
  • Your child knows where the bathroom is located in your house.
  • Your child stays dry for at least 2 hours during the day and after naps, which is an indicator of sufficient bladder/bowel control. 

In addition, children with autism who are ready for toilet training will:

  • Express that they don’t like the feeling of a wet diaper either by trying to take it off or signing or gesturing that they’ve wet or soiled their diaper. 
  • Show interest in the toilet by sitting on it or flushing it without being prompted to do so. 
  • Let you know when they need changing by taking you to the bathroom to get a clean diaper, for example. 

How to Potty Train an Autistic Child?

Potty training of an autistic child consists of three phases: planning phase, setting up, and implementation phase. 

Planning phase

Teaching your autistic child to use the toilet requires careful planning. During this phase, you’ll need to prepare the following items: 

  • Toilet training seat for children or a transitional potty
  • A footstool if your child needs support while sitting on the toilet
  • Two weeks’ worth of underwear
  • Timer
  • Wipes
  • A basket filled with fun activities such as books and toys to keep the child entertained 
  • A reinforcement bin with rewards like the child’s favorite candy, treats, toys, and stickers 
  • A data chart to track the success of toilet training
  • Visual supports
  • Toilet training books 

Because children with autism are often visual learners, they can benefit from visual cues and prompts while potty training.

Picture cards

Picture cards indicate the sequence of actions the child is expected to accomplish: trousers down, pants down, sit on the toilet, pee/poop in the toilet, wipe, pants up, trousers up, flush the toilet. 

 

You can also create a step-by-step visual sequence of the toilet routine with the help of the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) icons. Alternatively, you may want to use actual photos you have taken of your child if he/she finds it more motivating. 

Social Stories

Personalized social stories can help children on the autism spectrum develop appropriate behaviors and cope with new and potentially confusing situations such as toilet training. 

These simple stories, written from the child’s perspective, explain in detail what will happen when they use the toilet. Make sure to read the story with your child multiple times each day until he/she starts understanding the process.

Your child’s speech and occupational therapists as well as early intervention or school teachers can help you create a toilet training social story.

Setting up phase

Once you have everything ready, you can start the setting up phase. Choose the bathroom in your home that your child feels most comfortable using and designate it as the training bathroom. You can then make it ready for potty training:

  • Position a toilet training seat on the toilet or a transitional potty in the bathroom.
  • Place underwear, wipes, and timer in the bathroom.
  • Place the activity basket within reach. Your child should be able to easily access it while sitting on the toilet.
  • Hide the reinforcement bin so that your child doesn’t have access to the rewards.
  • Place the picture cards where your child can easily see them, for example, at the back of the toilet door or by the toilet.
  • Tape the data chart on the wall outside of the bathroom.

Implementation phase

The implementation phase will take time, consistency, and patience. Because children on the autism spectrum appreciate routine, it’s important to keep the sequence of behaviors the same every time. 

Make sure to use specific language to help your child understand what to do. Choose one word to refer to going to the toilet and have all the family members use it. Using several different words to describe the toilet, like potty or bathroom, can be confusing for children with autism.

Positive reinforcement and rewards can be useful in the toilet training of children on the autism spectrum. Use the reward that your child responds to best. Some children prefer praise and nonverbal encouragement like hugs or thumbs up, while others respond better to an object or a favorite activity. Whatever you choose, make sure the rewards are immediate and consistent and that your child clearly understands what behavior is being rewarded. 

When starting the toilet training, you should take your child to the bathroom every 20 minutes and have the child sit on the toilet for only 5 minutes. Sitting on the toilet for too long can feel like a punishment. Keep the child entertained by reading to him/her or have him/her play with the toys from the activity basket. Repeat the process consistently until bedtime and use the diaper for the night.

After a couple of days, you will start noticing a pattern: your child will either pee or poop more in the morning or afternoon. You can then increase the frequency of bathroom visits from every 20 to every 30 minutes, and eventually an hour. 

Useful tips for potty training

  • Many parents find it easier not to use a potty as part of toilet training to avoid any additional transitions. You can go straight to putting your child on the toilet or use a toilet training seat to limit the number of changes during the toilet training process.
  • If your child is sensitive to or upset by the sensory aspects of going to the toilet, let them get used to sitting on the toilet seat by practicing for a few minutes every day. 
  • Ensure that everyone working with your child follows the exact same method and routine to ensure consistent and efficient training.
  • Have your child use underwear as soon as possible. This will help the child associate accidents with wetness and discomfort.
  • Keep in mind that peeing and pooping are two separate parts of toilet training. After you teach your child to successfully pee in the toilet, you can start on poop training.
  • At the beginning of the potty training, it is a good idea to encourage autistic children to eat salty foods. This will make them thirsty and they will be likely to drink more fluids throughout the day. 
  • Don’t worry about accidents. When they happen, don’t focus on them and just briefly remind the child to use the toilet next time he/she needs to go.
  • Try to stay calm and positive. Toilet training your autistic child may take a long time. As long as your child is making progress and is having a positive experience, you should continue with the training. The more they practice, the more familiar the process will become and the easier it will be to use the toilet.

When to take a break from potty training

If your child is resistant to going to the bathroom and there are no signs of progress, consider taking a break from potty training. You should wait for at least three months before starting the training again. 

 

Don’t think of it as a failure, but rather an indicator that the child is not yet ready to be potty trained. Once they are ready, toilet training will become a positive experience. You may want to consult your child’s occupational therapist or early intervention service if you feel you need more intensive support.

 

However, if you don’t see any improvement at all after several weeks, you should see a pediatrician. There might be a medical reason like constipation or urinary tract infection behind your child’s lack of response to toilet training. 

Issues That Autistic Parents Face When Potty Training Their Child

There are many challenges you are likely to face when potty training your autistic child. Here are some of the most common ones:

What if my child is afraid of the toilet and doesn’t want to sit on or go near it?

If your child is afraid of the toilet, start the training by using a transitional potty. Have the child sit on the potty outside the bathroom and slowly transition it into the bathroom. Alternatively, your child may accept to sit on the toilet with the seat down or with clothes on. Gradually, have the child sit on the toilet with the seat up on a training seat. 

What if my child has an excessive interest in flushing the toilet?

Explain to your child that flushing is done when there is pee or poop in the toilet and is only done once. You can put a visual stop sign on the toilet or deny access to the toilet by closing the bathroom door.

What if my child has a fear of flushing the toilet?

Children with autism are often afraid of flushing the toilet because the loud sound is overwhelming to their sensory system. Always tell your child in advance that you are going to flush the toilet. At first, wait until the child has left the bathroom to flush. Gradually, when he/she is more comfortable, let him/her stand in the bathroom (while wearing earplugs at first) when you flush the toilet. Once they get used to the sound, they can try flushing on their own. 

What if my child wants to play with toilet paper?

Explain to your child that toilet paper is only for wiping after going to the toilet. Keep the toilet paper out of their reach or use tissues, wipes, or folded toilet paper instead

What if my child likes to play with the toilet water?

Encourage your child to play with water in other places in your home such as the sink or bathtub. Deny access to the bathroom or put a visual stop sign on the toilet. Or you may want to place safety catches on the toilet until your child can understand that it is not a place to play. 

What if my child is afraid to have a bowel movement

Children with autism can find bowel movements frightening. In fact, it’s very common for autistic children to hold in bowel movements while they are being potty trained. If this is the case, you may want to let your child poop in the diaper while in the bathroom. Slowly transition to having him/her poop into the diaper when sitting on the toilet until eventually he/she feels comfortable sitting on the toilet with the diaper off.

Teaching a Child to Ask to Use the Bathroom

Encourage your child to let you know when he/she needs to go to the toilet. It is especially important to help children with limited verbal abilities to express themselves when they need to use the toilet. They can communicate through nonverbal signing or PECS cards, for example. If your child uses an assisted communication device, add a picture of a toilet that he/she can press to give you an audible cue. 

Hand Washing 

Once you have successfully potty trained your autistic child, you can teach them how to finish the potty routine and wash their hands after they use the bathroom. It is essential to concentrate on only one task at a time. Teaching potty training and hand washing at the same time can be overwhelming for an autistic child.

Make sure to follow the same sequence each time: turn on the water, wet the hands, rub the soap into hands, rinse hands, turn off the water, and dry hands. Just like you did with the toilet training, you can create a step-by-step visual sequence of the hand washing routine using the PECS icons or photos that you have placed at the child’s eye level by the bathroom sink. 

Resources

    • Books about potty training will help autistic children visualize the process, especially when they can relate to a character’s experience. Here are some books suitable for children on the autism spectrum: 
      • Ready, Set, Potty!: Toilet Training for Children with Autism and Other Developmental Disorders (Amazon)

 

 

    • Bear in the Big Blue House – Potty Time With Bear (Amazon)
  • Picture cards can help children with autism understand the exact sequence of actions required for toilet training. Several websites offer free printable picture cards: 
  • Toilet training apps can be useful for children on the autism spectrum, particularly less verbal ones. These apps can both help them communicate the need to go to the toilet and provide a visual schedule. 
    • AvaKid See Me Go Potty is a communication app that helps children with developmental delays and communication disabilities say when they need to go to the bathroom. 
    • Potty Training Social Story from TouchAutism is customizable for boys or girls and designed not to overwhelm sensitive children. 

 

Autism Puzzle Piece Symbol drawing image in Vector cliparts category at pixy.org
November 4, 2020 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

The Autism Speaks Chapter in Atlanta

What is Autism Speaks

Autism Speaks is an organization that is dedicated to improving the lives of autistic children and their parents. 

The organization promotes educational materials designed for families with autistic members and facilitates scientific research into autism so as to improve the resources and information available to individuals and families working with autistic children and adults.

 

Autism Speaks makes connections and partnerships with individuals, companies, organizations, and other entities in an effort to increase understanding and acceptance of autistic individuals, encourage groundbreaking research, and develop more effective, valuable educational materials for both autistic individuals and their families. 

They also have made it their mission to help autistic children transition into adulthood more comfortably, meanwhile funding and encouraging efforts toward early childhood autism screening and treatment.

 

The Next 10 Vision is currently one of the main driving factors in the Autism Speaks mission. This is a set of goals that the organization hopes to achieve within the next 10 years. The goals are to:

 

  •       Obtain a clearer perspective on the causes and typology of Autism Spectrum Disorder
  •       Be able to diagnose autistic children before the age of 2
  •       Give autistic children and their families ample access to interventions, services, and resources after diagnosis
  •       Provide more effective treatment of ASD pathology as well as of the common conditions that go along with the diagnosis
  •       Develop practical, easily implemented strategies to help autistic children transition into adulthood and become as independent as possible
  •       Ensure that individuals along the autism spectrum have access to supportive resources, information, and services throughout their lifetime

 

The Autism Speaks organization offers grants for research and autism-related service programs. They also may provide limited grant funding to families or individuals who have been severely affected by a negative life event or natural disaster. These grants fund various autism programs across the United States and other countries to make life-changing discoveries possible and accessible to the general public. 

 

In addition, Autism Speaks members contribute to numerous research programs. These research programs include the MSSNG program, the Global Autism Public Health program, and the Autism Treatment Network (ATN), among others. Research fellowships are also available through Autism Speaks for individuals who wish to contribute in a more hands-on way to the organization.

The Georgia Chapter of Autism Speaks

The Georgia chapter of Autism Speaks is located in Atlanta and serves the entire autism community in Georgia. The staff members at Autism Speaks Georgia are responsible for managing events, resources, research, and grantmaking in the state of Georgia. You can contact Autism Speaks Georgia at georgia@autismspeaks.org or you can communicate with any of the staff members for this branch. Contact information for the Autism Speaks Georgia staff members is listed below:

 

Kimberly Dick – Executive Director

  •       Kimberly Dick has been a part of the Autism Speaks Georgia team since January 2016. She is also the executive director of the Tennessee branch of Autism Speaks, and she has been a participating member of Autism Speaks for over 10 years. She initially started working as a volunteer for the organization after her son was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2 and then eventually progressed in the organization until she reached the higher level of executive director.
  •       Email: kimberly.dick@autismspeaks.org
  •       Phone: (470) 377-7963

 

Kaitlyn Morris – Senior Manager, Field Development

  •       Kaitlyn Morris has been working at Autism Speaks Georgia for almost 8 years. She started as a senior coordinator and progressed upward to become the senior manager and field development manager of the Autism Speaks Georgia branch. Prior to her work with Autism Speaks, Morris was an event coordinator in the Greater Atlanta Area.
  •       Email: kaitlyn.morris@autismspeaks.org
  •       Phone: (470) 377-7964

 

Janet Williams – Director, Community Outreach

  •       Janet William started working as an Autism Speaks volunteer in 2015 after her 11-year-old son was diagnosed with autism. Shortly after starting to volunteer, Williams was promoted to be the Walk Chair for the Atlanta Walk. In 2017, she was hired to be the community outreach manager and director of the Autism Speaks Georgia branch.
  •       Email: janet.williams@autismspeaks.org
  •       Phone: (470) 377-7966

 

The Autism Speaks Georgia headquarters is located at the following address:

 

Autism Speaks Inc.

900 Circle 75 Parkway

Suite #445

Atlanta, Georgia 30339

(770) 451-0570

Work that Autism Speaks Has Done in the Atlanta Area

Autism Speaks is very active in the Atlanta area and in Georgia. Some of the efforts that the organization has made in Atlanta are listed below:

 

  •       “Blue Blessings” Initiative – A program designed to encourage faith-based communities to come together to provide support and acceptance of autistic individuals in Atlanta. This initiative encompasses all faiths present in Atlanta and Georgia.
  •       Support of the Black and Hispanic communities – Autism Speaks Georgia places an emphasis on diagnosing, treating, supporting, and including minority autistic children and their families in the community.
  •       Individualized Educational Programs (IEP) – This Autism Speaks initiative is intended to help educators and parents provide high quality education to autistic children of all ages. Autistic children learn differently, so the IEP program is designed to support the healthy education of these children.
  •       Support of local autism-related programs – Autism Speaks provides financial and educational support to various autism-related programs in Atlanta. For example, the organization supports the ACEing Autism Tennis Program.
  •       Educational webinars and online events for Georgia residents
  •       In-person seminars and meet-ups for individuals with autism and families who have an autistic member (for example, the CSULB Community Conversations event)
  •       Atlanta Walk autism fundraising and awareness event (more information below)
  •       The Autism Speaks Autism Response Team (ART) – This online or in-person medium is designed to help autistic individuals and their families quickly find resources, tools, information, and community events.

Autism Speaks Atlanta Walk

The Autism Speaks Atlanta Walk is a well-known, popular fundraising event that brings awareness to autism while also promoting community involvement in the support of autistic individuals and their families. People who sign up to walk are growing funds that go toward autism research, support, and educational facilities. The distance that walkers will go in the Atlanta Walk is 1.54 miles, which is representative of the 1:54 ratio of children who are on the autism spectrum to those who are not.

 

Participants are encouraged to post pictures of themselves on social media and to tag Autism Speaks with the tag @AutismSpeaks, @AutismSpeaksGA, or #AutismSpeaksWalk. People who are doing the walk may go individually or they may get together a group to go with. The more people who walk, the more awareness is raised to support the Autism Speaks mission and autistic children and adults everywhere!

 

Each year, a donation goal is set. In 2020, the goal was $652,000. This is one of the primary fundraising projects that Autism Speaks puts on each year, and it is also one of the most lucrative for the organization. Almost half a billion dollars have been raised in the past and put into research initiatives and programs to increase understanding and acceptance of autism worldwide.

 

If you can’t walk, you can make donations to support the Atlanta Walk instead. You can download the Atlanta Walk app to your smartphone to upload checks, or you can mail your donation to the following address:

 

Autism Speaks

P.O. Box 199

Rocky Hill, NJ 08553-0199

November 4, 2020 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Avoiding ABA therapy horror stories by choosing the right provider

What is ABA therapy?

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Therapy is considered the gold standard treatment for children struggling with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and many other cognitive issues. 

Based on learning theory, ABA therapy is the systematic application of the scientific understanding of learning and behavior. 

Used by trained professionals, ABA therapy can support improved behavior, learning, communication, and social engagement. Unfortunately, implemented by poorly trained individuals, this highly effective intervention can prove not only unhelpful but problematic.

 

ABA therapy was formed in the 1980s for use with children on the autism spectrum by Dr. O. Ivaar Lovaas and is based on the work of behaviorists like B.F. Skinner.  

The intention of this form of therapy is to identify behaviors that create a problem and provide retraining to help your child develop behaviors that are more beneficial to them. Training takes place with the use of rewards or reinforcers. ABA therapy should not be punitive in nature.

 

ABA therapy isn’t a rapid therapeutic intervention. It isn’t unusual for ABA therapy to take several hours a week. The ABA therapist, or an ABA team, will work one on one with a child to break down behaviors into small steps. Each of these steps is taught to the child and reinforced with a reward.

 

Intensive learning of a specific behavior is called a drill. Your child will practice drills many times to support learning. Repetition of the individual skills they are learning will not only help your child learn a skill, it will also strengthen your childs’ long-term memory, making them more likely to remember the learned skill after not using it for some length of time. Each repetition of the skill your child is being trained to use will be reinforced.

Who Conducts ABA Therapy?

ABA Therapy is practiced by an assortment of professionals and paraprofessionals with varying levels of education. Though there is no licensing body within the United States, many states require certification of their ABA practitioners. Generally, you will find a variety of certifications in the individuals that work with your child. Most ABA providers work in a team with individuals with higher levels of certification supervising other team members.

 

ABA providers who engage in ABA therapy use a team approach to support your child in developing improved behavior, social skills, communication, and learning. Providers often prefer the team approaches because ABA therapy is an intense process and it isn’t always necessary to have a highly trained individual working one on one with your child to train small incremental behavior changes.

 

However, it is important that the professional designing the interventions that will be used with your child, have a full understanding of ABA therapy and the principles it is based upon. ABA therapy is performed one-on-one and can be done in your home or at a provider’s place of business. 

BCBA (Board Certified Behavioral Analyst)

A Board Certified Behavioral Analyst (BCBA) is a professional with a minimum of a masters level degree and training in Applied Behavior Analysis. Individuals seeking a BCBA must have their masters degree in an appropriate field. These individuals may hold master’s degrees in areas like counseling, psychology, or social work. They will take any additional training needed before scheduling to take their certification exam.

 

Professionals with this level of certification have the training necessary to work independently as ABA professionals. They are also required to pass a certification exam and to maintain their skills by acquiring Continuing Education Units (CEU). BCBA therapist will recertify every two years. To do this they must take 32 CEUs (4 CEUS must be in ethics) and apply through the certifying board.

BCaBA (Board Certified Assistant Behavioral Analyst)

A Board Certified Assistant Behavioral Analyst (BCaBA) is a professionally trained ABA therapist with a bachelor’s degree level of education. To acquire certification, these individuals must take training coursework in ABA Therapy and pass an examination. They are also required to maintain their learning through CEU’s to keep their certification active. BCaBA therapists must work under the direction of BCBA level professionals.

 

A BCaBA therapist is required to complete 20 CEUs every two years to maintain their certification. A minimum of 4 CEUs must be in the area of ethics. 

CAS (Certified Autism Specialist)

A Certified Autism Specialist (CAS) is an individual who has obtained a master’s degree level of education and worked in a field with individuals with autism for a minimum of two years. You may find teachers, counselors, doctors, and other professionals with this certification. Just like the other certified specialists we had discussed, individuals with this certification must meet CEU standards to maintain their certification.

AC (Autism Certificate)

An Autism Certificate (AC) requires a minimum of 14 hours of continuing education related to autism. This certification requires that the individual also take and pass an exam. Individuals with this level of certification are required to maintain CEU’s and reapply for certification every two years. 

RBT (Registered Behavior Technician)

A Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) certification provides identification that the individual has:

 

  •       Obtained a high school diploma
  •       Completed 40 hours of specialized training
  •       Passed a background check
  •       Completed a competency assessment
  •       Taken and passed the RBT Exam

 

These paraprofessionals must work under the supervision of another professional, renew their certification annually, and adhere to RBT ethical standards. Individuals with this level of certification may not work as independent ABA therapists. 

This certification is appropriate for individuals working in special education. Individuals with this credential can be found working as teachers, bus drivers, and paraprofessionals both within and outside of the education system.

 

What to look for when choosing an ABA therapy provider

A qualified ABA therapist is a licensed clinical therapist with additional ABA training and the appropriate certification level. A BCBA certification identifies an ABA therapist with a master’s level education and a BCBA-D identifies an ABA therapist with a doctoral degree. 

You should look for highly trained ABA therapists who use data and the most up to date techniques. An ABA therapist without a BCBA or BCBA-D certification must work under the supervision of an independent ABA therapist.

 

Although individuals who make up your child’s ABA therapy team do not all require BCBA level certification, it is essential that the individual leading your child’s team have the certification to be an independent ABA therapist.

 

Can ABA therapy be harmful?

Just like any other form of therapy, ABA therapy can be harmful if practiced incorrectly. A professional ABA therapist must have the appropriate training to be able to identify the functions of the problematic behaviors your child is displaying, to create an appropriate training plan, and to provide consistent and appropriate learning opportunities for your child.

 

Although you will find horror stories when searching for information on ABA therapy online, it is important for you to remember that some of these issues occurred before certification of ABA therapist was widely required. It is also important for you as a parent to have a good understanding of your child and the goals you have for your child.

 

Disrespectful and abusive practices have unfortunately happened under the guise of ABA therapy. So, it is important that parents understand what to look for in an ABA therapist, understand the behaviors that the therapist is seeking to change, and feel comfortable with the way the therapist approaches teaching their child. Just because your child exhibits unusual behavior doesn’t mean that that behavior must be altered.

 

Being an active participant in your child’s care will help you to find the appropriate ABA therapist for your child. You will want to pay particular attention to how your child’s ABA therapist identifies and deals with “problem” behaviors. 

If your child’s therapist identifies behaviors as problematic that you disagree with, you should be concerned and feel free to discuss your concerns with your ABA therapy team. If you feel uncomfortable asking questions, or your questions aren’t well-received, this is concerning.

When they reflect back on their experiences in ABA therapy, some adults with autism believe that some of the behaviors that are distinctive to children on the autism spectrum aren’t either problematic or in need of being discontinued.

 

Many adults with ASD feel that this particular approach is disrespectful to individuals diagnosed with autism. There are some ABA therapists that have attempted to retrain children on the spectrum to discontinue non-harmful behaviors, referred to as stimming, like flapping and rocking. 

Many adults with ASD would suggest a more balanced approach to dealing with these symptoms. This is an important issue for you to consider and discuss with your child’s ABA therapist.

 

ABA Horror Stories

 Many of the stories you will see in the media are shared by adults who struggled with autism spectrum disorders themselves. Some individuals indicate that their ABA therapists focused not only on re-training them out of problem behaviors but sought to do away with behaviors that were not actually problematic.  

 

No doubt, if you have a child on the spectrum or work with children on the spectrum, you have noticed behaviors that though they may look odd are not disruptive in a classroom environment or harmful for your child. Historically, there have been some therapists and educators intent on making children struggling with ASD discontinue these behaviors.

 

One of the reasons that certified ABA therapists are required to take CEUs in ethics is to help end the practice of retraining children on the autism spectrum to stop behaviors that aren’t harmful or problematic. Clearly, there can be an economic temptation for professionals to support perfection among children on the autism spectrum. However, ethical professionals will not seek to over train your child.

 

It is important that you are clear about what you want for your child in regards to stimming types of behavior. Some people feel that these behaviors increase a child’s vulnerability to bullying, so there are times when people will disagree about ending these particular behaviors. 

As the world moves toward more inclusion of diverse behaviors and away from an idea of classroom conformity, you should see more tolerance for stimming behaviors. Having a conversation regarding these types of behaviors with the professionals supporting your child should help you to develop a plan for how to deal with such behaviors that make you and your family comfortable and confident.

 

Historically, some individuals have participated in practices that feel abusive to children. For example, some autistic adults endured punishments like “Sticky hands” where their hands were stuck down with tacky glue as a form of punishment. This type of punishment is especially traumatic for autistic children who experience hypersensitivity to physical sensations and should not be tolerated.  Again, most of the horror stories you will hear in the media predate the current certification standards.

 

One early source of criticism placed against those practicing ABA therapy comes from the fact that the early forms of ABA therapy weren’t based completely on the principles of positive reinforcement. 

As the Child Mind Institute indicates, the early ABA therapists sometimes used aversive reinforcement, or punishments, to obtain positive outcomes. Although these practices were generally used only in extreme cases, their use is no longer considered acceptable. 

The best ABA therapy provider in the Atlanta area

Hidden Talents ABA offers a team of experienced BABA’s who lead caring professionals in providing loving and ethical care for your child. Hidden Talents provides both in-home and community-based therapy to help your child improve their social and communication skills and to ultimately enjoy a richer life with a more rounded sense of community engagement.

 

If your child is demonstrating problematic behaviors or struggling with communication or social skill development consider reaching out for the support of Hidden Talents ABA professionals. Our therapists take pride in developing individualized plans for your child’s particular needs. We work with children from birth to 12, supporting the development of your child’s hidden talents. 

October 28, 2020 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Functional Communication and Autistic Children

Communication is an essential part of our everyday lives. Though we generally mean verbal speech when we think about daily communication, we all use more than our words to communicate with one another. 

 

If you work with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), you are no doubt aware of how much difficulty children on the autism spectrum may struggle with verbal communication.

 

It is often estimated that over 90% of communication is non-verbal. The aspects of communication other than verbal speech include tone, facial expressions, gestures, and body language. Unfortunately, for those on the autism spectrum, their challenges in communication aren’t limited to their difficulties using verbal speech.

 

Many children struggling with autism fail to make visual contact with the person speaking to them. This means that they are likely to miss many non-verbal cues that most of us use to understand when someone is speaking to us. Children on the autism spectrum also often experience difficulty in reading or providing facial expressions and body language as well.

What is Functional Communication?

Simply stated, functional communication is the way in which a person communicates their wants and needs to others. This is also the way that people socialize with those around them. Functional communication isn’t limited to verbal speech. It may include verbal speech, gestures, non-verbal cues, sign language, the use of pictures, and the use of assistive devices.

 

For those on the autism spectrum there is often difficulty engaging in functional communication. If your child is on the autism spectrum, they may suffer with difficulties in communicating. They may also struggle in social and educational engagement due to their communication challenges.

 

Children on the autism spectrum often suffer from bullying due to poor communication skills. They may also find themselves struggling to form meaningful relationships with peers. Children on the autism spectrum often struggle to read social cues and can appear rude to people with rigid expectations for how others behave socially. Children who struggle to follow verbal instructions may also fail to thrive in educational environments. 

How does Functional Communication relate to ABA therapy?

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapists use functional communication training to teach children on the autism spectrum to replace problem behaviors with socially acceptable ways of communicating their needs and desires. 

 

If your child’s ABA therapist determines that your child is resorting to problematic behavior because of the anxiety or frustration associated with difficulty in communicating, they will use functional communication training to help your child replace their problem behaviors with appropriate communication.

 

Identifying the reasons a child resorts to problem behaviors can be challenging. A professional ABA therapist is trained to identify problem behaviors and to determine the reasons that these behaviors have become part of your child’s behavior patterns. A professional ABA therapist is also able to understand how to help reduce your child’s problem behaviors and to teach your child more appropriate ways to communicate and engage. 

Is Functional Communication Training Evidence-based?

According to the literature on Functional Communication Training, the practice of using Functional Communication Training meets the requirements to be considered an evidence-based practice. This practice has proven effective for children from preschool age through high school age. Literature indicates that Functional Communication Training is helpful in helping children with social concerns, communication challenges, behavior issues, play behaviors, adaptation to their environment, and school-readiness. 

Relationship Between Communication and Behavior

Children struggling with ASD will often display behaviors that are unacceptable to others. Many times these behaviors occur because of the levels of frustration children on the autism spectrum struggle with due to their inability to make their needs and desires known to those around them. Children on the autism spectrum often struggle with language skills. Children on the autism spectrum often have difficulty with the meaning and rhythm of sentences and words.

 

Some children with ASD have difficulty stringing together words in a meaningful way. Other children may experience difficulty in using gestures to communicate with others. Not only do children on the spectrum struggle with issues associated with speech, but their attempts are also often met with ridicule. All of these individual issues can contribute to an autistic child experiencing high levels of frustration in social situations and can result in the child behaving in ways that are ineffective and/or problematic. 

 

If your child struggles with communicating, you have no doubt watched your child try to communicate their needs with others. This can be a heartbreaking experience for parents who have often developed a way of communicating with their autistic children. The reality is that your child needs to be able to communicate with people who aren’t as motivated to understand them as you are. Your child needs to be able to communicate and engage socially with people who are busy, distracted, and often uninterested in being particularly helpful.

 

 

What does a Functional Behavior Assessment Look Like?

If your child exhibits problem behaviors, they may benefit from a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA). An FBA may be performed by an education specialist, a psychologist, an Applied Behavior Analysis therapist, or a counselor.

 

Oftentimes, when FBA’s are performed as part of the education system, many people may be involved in the FBA process. Although many FBA’s occur when children exhibit problem behaviors in the classroom, it is in your child’s best interest to have an assessment when problem behaviors are first noticed. Regardless of who is performing an FBA, there are specific steps that will be taken.

 

The steps of your child’s FBA will follow are:

 

  •       Step 1: Identifying the problem behaviors your child exhibits. The person performing your child’s assessment will interview you, your child, and those important in your child’s life. They will also observe your child. This allows for both direct and indirect assessment of your child’s behavior.

 

For example, it may be determined that your child yells when they want to ask a question. This problem behavior may have developed as a way of getting needed attention in a classroom because your child struggles to be heard over other children and hasn’t made the connection between raising their hand and getting the teacher’s attention.

 

  •       Step 2: Determining where these behaviors happen. This information may come from the interviews performed, observations, and written information like school records.

 

Once it is determined that your child yells to obtain their child’s attention when they have a question, it will be necessary to determine if this happens in every classroom, or only some classrooms. It will also be necessary to determine if your child also yells to get attention outside of the classroom.

 

  •       Step 3: Collecting information about your child. The person performing your child’s assessment will generally talk to you, your child, and other people important in your child’s life.

 

The person involved in performing your child’s functional behavior assessment will want to talk to you, your child, and teachers. However, they may also want to read your child’s school records to help them understand when this problematic behavior started. Your child’s doctor may also be beneficial in helping the person making the assessment determine any medical issues your child is dealing that could impact their behavior.

 

It is possible, for instance, that a child with autism becomes overwhelmed in certain situations and that this could impact the child’s behavior. If, for example, it is determined that your child only yells for attention when the classroom is unruly, it may be due to your child’s hypersensitivity to sound. If your child perceives the environment as loud, they may be yelling out of a belief that this is the only way they can be heard.

 

 

It is understood that behavior is intended to fulfill one of four functions:

 

      Escape: Your child may use behavior to get away from a situation that they find uncomfortable or anxiety provoking.

      Attention: Your child may use behavior to get attention.

      Obtain Tangible Objects: Your child may use behavior to get something physical that they want.

      Sensory Stimulation: Your child may behave in a certain way because it feels good or is in itself some way positive.

 

In the example we have been using, your child’s yelling is used to obtain attention. It is possible that this same behavior may fulfill other functions for other children.

 

 

  •       Step 5: Identifying appropriate behaviors that your child can be taught to use in place of the problem behaviors. The appropriate behavior will be chosen specifically for your child. The appropriate behavior will serve the same function as the problem behavior and be one that your child can easily perform.

 

With the example we have been using, your child would be taught another way to get their teacher’s attention when they have a question. Your child’s ABA therapist will determine an appropriate behavior for your child to use in place of yelling. If, for example, your child has poor control over their limbs they will not be taught to use hand raising to obtain the teacher’s attention.

 

Functional Communication Training Examples

Your child’s ABA therapist will use a series of steps to help your child move from exhibiting problematic behaviors to using appropriate and effective communication. To help your child make this transition, their ABA therapist will follow a series of steps. The steps you can expect to see are:

 

  •       Step 1: Define the challenging behavior and complete a functional behavior assessment. As we discussed above, the FBA is a multi-step process of its own. To define the problem behavior your child’s ABA therapist may interview you, your child, and others important in their daily lives. They will also observe your child in situations where they are working or playing.

 

  •     Step 2: Identify an appropriate form of communication that will meet the same function as the problem behavior. This information will be based on your child’s FBA. If it has been determined that your child throws a tantrum in class to get their teacher’s attention, for example, their ABA therapist will find a way for your child to communicate their need for attention to the teacher in an appropriate way.

 

The exact behavior your child will be taught will depend upon their individual needs. The replacement behavior should be:

 

  •       Easier to perform than the problem behavior
  •       Something that your child can learn quickly
  •       Something that other people will understand

 

A child who has limited verbal skills may be given an assistive device to use for this purpose or may be taught to use sign language, for example.

 

  •       Step 3: Teach the identified appropriate replacement behavior. To do this your child’s ABA therapist will create situations where the challenging behavior is likely to occur and prompt the child to use the appropriate communication behavior before the problem behavior occurs. Once the appropriate communication behavior is used, the child will be reinforced.

 

It is important at this stage that the problem behavior be placed on extinction. This means that your child should not be reinforced for the behavior problem. If your child is using yelling to get attention, yelling can not get your child attention at this point. If your child yells, for example, their therapist may ask the child to stop or use a signal to let your child know that they have to stop yelling. Once the problem behavior has been stopped the child will be redirected to perform the appropriate behavior.

 

Ideally, your child’s therapist will notice your child’s agitation and ask if they need help before they yell for attention. Your child’s therapist may intentionally teach your child something likely to cause confusion. Rather than allow the child to struggle, the therapist may ask the child if they have a question and cue them to use the identify appropriate behavior to get attention. When they use the appropriate behavior, the reinforcer will be provided.

 

If your child starts to yell out in the classroom, the therapist will stop the negative behavior. The therapist will prompt your child with a reminder of the appropriate behavior. When your child uses the appropriate behavior, it will be immediately followed with a reinforcer. The reinforcer will be determined by the therapist specifically for your child.

 

  •       Step 4: Create opportunities for the learner to practice the new behavior. To help your child generalize the new learned behavior to multiple situations, they will need to see that this new behavior is rewarding in multiple situations.

 

To this end, you will often be encouraged to reinforce your child’s use of a new behavior when it occurs in spaces outside of therapy, or if the learning takes place at school, outside of the classroom. If your child has multiple teachers, they will all be taught to reinforce the use of this new behavior whenever it occurs.

 

  •       Step 5: Maintain the new behavior. Initially your child will be reinforced every time the appropriate behavior is used. Slowly, and over a course of time, the level of reinforcement will be reduced.

 

As the new behavior becomes a habitual response, and the original problem behavior has stopped occurring, the new behavior will become your child’s default response for getting their needs filled. If reinforcement is discontinued too quickly, the new behavior may also stop. So, this step in functional communication training is slow and intentional.

 

The Best Atlanta Based Applied Behavior Analysis Program that Offers Functional Communication Training

If you are located in the Atlanta area, you will find that the best Atlanta based ABA program offering Functional Communication Training is Hidden Talents ABA. Hidden Talents ABA works with children from birth through age 12 helping them to become the best they can be.

October 12, 2020 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

The Four Functions of Behavior

In Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), therapists believe that all behavior happens for a reason. Heather Gilmore, MSW, BCBA, identifies the four basic functions that motivate behavior in Reflections on Applied Behavior Analysis.

What are the four functions of behavior?

1) Escape

One of the major reasons a child will behave in a certain way is to get out of doing something they don’t want to do. This is the definition of the escape function.

For example, a child who feels anxious in social situations may hide to avoid doing things in groups. The child may find novel ways to get out of doing things with others. Or a child might avoid eye contact or place their head down on a desk during a lesson to get out of school work.

 

Behaviors you may see when children are motivated to escape include:

 

  •       Avoiding physical discomfort
  •       Avoiding social situations
  •       Running away
  •       Avoiding people or situations
  •       Hiding

 

2) Attention:

An individual may also behave in negative ways to draw the attention of parents, teachers, or others to them. Again, attention seeking behavior can be appropriate or problematic, depending on the situation. For example, a child might raise their voice or talk over those around them to draw a parent or teacher’s attention. A child might complain or scream to draw attention away from others in a classroom setting.

 

Although we generally think about attracting attention to ourselves as it is a means of having positive engagement with others, children may behave in negative ways to get attention even if the attention isn’t positive.

 

Things you may see when children are motivated to attract attention include:

 

  •       Raised voices
  •       Whining
  •       Being overly loud
  •       Raising a hand or waving hands

3) Tangible Items:

A person may behave in a problematic way to obtain an object they want or to get to participate in an activity that they particularly enjoy. Behaviors that may be used to get tangible items or experiences can be either positive or negative in nature. For example, a child may throw a tantrum in an attempt to get a toy or to go to see a movie.

 

Behaviors you may see that are intended to obtain something tangible include:

 

  •       Throwing a tantrum to get a toy
  •       Ordering a pizza
  •       Stealing a desired object from a store or another person
  •       Buying a desired object

 

4) Sensory Stimulation:

The best way to describe the sensory function is that a child might do things that in and of themselves are pleasurable. For example, you will often see children twirling their hair around their fingers. Some children will twirl themselves around or pick at their skin or hair. Others may hum or crack their knuckles.

 

Behaviors you may see that are reinforcing in themselves:

 

  •       Picking at hair or skin
  •       Cracking knuckles
  •       Twirling
  •       Twisting hair
  •       Humming or making noises that vibrate within the child’s chest or throat

 

Clearly, the function of a particular behavior may not be obvious. Sometimes a parent may assume that a particular behavior has one function, when in actuality it is found to fulfill a less obvious function. 

For example, you may initially assume that your child always cracks their knuckles when you are driving to school in an attempt to get your attention. Although this is a possibility, and may be true for some children, your child may actually find the act of cracking their knuckles physically rewarding.

How the Four Functions of Behavior are used in ABA Therapy

ABA therapists will identify the function of problem behaviors they see your child exhibit. Understanding the reason that your child is behaving inappropriately, will help the ABA therapist determine a way to help your child meet their needs without having to resort to negative behavior. 

Once an ABA therapist understands why your child is exhibiting problem behaviors, they can develop intervention strategies to discontinue this behavior.

 

Understanding the reason your child performs a particular behavior will not only help the ABA therapist understand the needs that the behavior fulfills for your child. This information will also help your child’s therapist understand how to help your child stop this problematic behavior. If the problem behavior fulfills a needed function, the ABA therapist will work with your child to help them develop a positive alternative behavior to fulfill this function.

How Reinforcement can be used to Stop Negative Behaviors

ABA therapy looks at learning as occurring due to a sequence. According to learning theory, learning occurs due to A – an antecedent, which is followed by B – a behavior, and results in C – a consequence. 

According to learning theory, negative, or problem, behaviors occur because they have been reinforced by a positive consequence. Therefore, an ABA therapist must determine why the problem behavior occurs and what is reinforcing it.

 

Reinforcement can be used both to increase positive behaviors and to reduce negative behaviors. Once an ABA therapist understands the function of a behavior, they can determine how to use a combination of positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement to reduce or stop these negative behaviors.

 

To stop a problem behavior, an ABA therapist will identify the consequence that is reinforcing the behavior. Reinforcement that is provided for a problem, or negative, behavior is then stopped, by removing the reinforcer from the Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence sequence. This process is referred to as extinction.

 

The extinction process will depend upon the functions of the behavior your child is engaging in. If a child’s problem behavior is being reinforced by positive reinforcement, the reinforcer must be discontinued. For example, a child may yell out for attention in the classroom. Attention garnered by this behavior may be reinforcing and must stop. 

 

However, this same behavior may be fulfilling the escape function. Say for example, that the child is being removed from the classroom due to the outburst. The removal from the classroom, and class work, may be reinforcing the behavior. 

In this instance, the negative reinforcement of being removed from the classroom must be discontinued, or if avoiding the work is the issue, the work must accompany the child when they are removed from the classroom.

 

If the problem behavior is fulfilling the sensory function, it will be reinforced automatically. It may be a stretch of the imagination, but let’s say we determine that the child in question is actually yelling because their voice reverberates against the blades of a nearby fan, and that the child finds this sound reinforcing. To extinguish this behavior, the physical environment would need to be rearranged so that the yelling would no longer be rewarding the child with their reverberating voice.

 

How Reinforcement can be used to Increase Desired Behaviors

ABA therapy also uses aspects of reinforcement to replace negative behaviors with positive ones. Once an ABA therapist identifies the functions of negative behaviors, they will develop a plan for diminishing negative behaviors. When appropriate, an ABA therapist will help your child replace problem behaviors with desired behaviors.

 

For example, if your child is using problem behaviors to obtain attention in the classroom to ask a question, the problem behavior needs to be discontinued, but your child also needs to know how to obtain the attention they need appropriately. Your child’s ABA therapist will develop a strategy to help your child replace problem behaviors with desirable ones in instances like this.

 

The first step, in this instance, would be to obtain your child’s attention when the negative behavior occurs. If your child yells out for attention when they have a question, the goal would be to teach your child an appropriate way to get the needed attention. First, the problem behavior would be stopped. This may be done simply by asking the child to stop or through the use of nonverbal behavior.

 

Once the negative behavior has been stopped, the child is redirected to replace that behavior with a positive behavior. For example, a child who is interrupting during a lesson, may be asked to stop. The child would then be cued for the appropriate positive behavior. In this example, the therapist may simply remind the child to raise their hand. The positive behavior, in this case hand raising, is then immediately followed by a reinforcer.

 

Positive reinforcement occurs when a positive, or motivating, stimulus is presented after a behavior occurs. ABA therapist will provide positive reinforcement directly after a desired behavior occurs. Often a desired behavior will be immediately followed by verbal praise, non-verbal praise, for example a smile, or a reward. An ABA therapist may reward a child by providing access to a toy or food that the child has previously identified as reinforcing. Your child’s ABA therapist will work with your child to determine appropriate reinforcers.

September 22, 2020 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

25 Best Autism Charities in the US

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) rates in the United States continue to climb. ASD is a developmental disorder that impairs an individual’s ability to communicate and engage socially with others. 

Those diagnosed with ASD may also have difficulty learning and experience heightened sensitivity to sensations. Luckily, early diagnosis and intervention can help those on the autism spectrum improve their social, communication, and learning skills.

Thankfully, there are many charities that are designed to help those struggling with Autism.

Below, we have listed 25 of the best autism charities in the US.

Organization for Autism Research (OAR)

The Organization for Autism Research (OAR), “strives to use science to address the social, educational, and treatment concerns of self-advocates, autism professionals, and caregivers.” Based in Arlington, VA, OAR provides educational resources for siblings, parents, and educators. This charity also supports individuals on the autism spectrum through college scholarships, self-advocacy support, and an employer portal for those interested in employing those on the spectrum.

 

Over 80% of OAR’s financial resources are used to support programs for individuals on the autism spectrum. This organization not only provides direct support for college students struggling with an ASD diagnosis, but they also provide grants to help teachers teach others about autism spectrum disorders. Adults diagnosed with ASD will also find resources designed to help them develop a resume, write a cover letter, and complete job applications and job searches. 

The Asperger/Autism Network

Based in Watertown, MA, The Asperger-Autism Network (AANE) works with families, individuals, and professionals to provide support for individuals struggling with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). 

This network provides education, information, advocacy, and community sorrow surrounding ASD and other neurological diagnoses. Founded in 1996, AANE was one of the first Asperger focused organizations in the US. The AANE website provides resources for adults struggling with ASD, family and friends of those on the spectrum, and educators, employers, therapists, and others who work with individuals on the autism spectrum.

 

The Autism Community in Action

Located in Irvine, CA, The Autism Community in Action (TACA) is a US-based nonprofit charity. TACA’s mission statement is to, “provide education, support and hope to families living with autism.” Their vision statement is to support every individual diagnosed with autism in leading an independent life. TACA provides resources, education, and support for individuals and family members of those living on the spectrum.

 

TACA has chapters across the US that hold autism learning seminars, family events, meetings, and Coffee Talks. This charity is a great resource for helping individuals and families dealing with ASD to maintain a sense of community.

The Autism Society of America

The Autism Society of America located in Rockville, MD, is a grass-roots organization that offers person-to-person community-based support through chapters located throughout the US. The Autism Society of America was founded in 1965 and spends almost 80% of its financial resources on programs designed to support those struggling with ASD.

 

This charity provides educational information for those interested in obtaining a better understanding of Aspergers and Autism. Individuals will find information on interventions and therapeutic options, autism through the lifespan, and how to navigate services as well as information on legal resources, employment, and legislation.

The Autism National Committee

The Autism National Committee (AUTCOM), based in Burlington, Vt is dedicated to, “Social Justice for All Citizens with Autism.” Founded in 1990, AUTCOM produces a regular newsletter called The Communicator and provides access to educational information related to autism and social justice. 

AUTCOM’s website provides access to educational position pages, other links related to autism, and autism articles related to issues of interest to individuals, families, and professionals interested in supporting those on the autism spectrum.

Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Institute (ARI) was founded in 1967, “To support the health and well-being of people affected by autism through innovative, impactful research and education.” This charity was created with the intention of conducting and supporting scientific research related to autism spectrum disorders. ARI’s website offers educational information regarding symptoms, prognosis, prenatal factors, and interventions.

 

The website also provides access to diagnostic checklists and ARI supported research. Those interested in participating in autism-related research can find information regarding ongoing research on the site. Professionals working in the field can also find information regarding research grant opportunities on the charity’s website.

The Autism Science Foundation

The Autism Science Foundation, based in New York, NY, provides support and funding to those conducting scientific research related to autism. This organization also provides educational resources to families, communities, and individuals on the autism spectrum. Founded in 2009, this organization is committed to supporting and providing access to the highest quality research on autism-related issues.

 

In 2018, this foundation provided over $350,000 funding for autism research at the pre-doctorate, post doctorate, undergraduate, and collaborative consortium activity levels. The foundation’s website provides resources for grant seekers, families, and siblings of those on the autism spectrum. Information related to ASD, symptoms, diagnoses, treatment options, the use of medical marijuana for individuals on the autism spectrum, and the relationship between autism and vaccines can also be found on the foundation’s website.

Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism

Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism based in Farmington, MA works to improve the quality of life of those impacted by autism by working in seven key areas. These areas or dimensions are stated by the foundations, “A Day in the Life.”

 

The Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation espouses the belief that “People and families affected by autism deserve to be:”

 

  •       Educated
  •       Employed
  •       Active
  •       Social
  •       Safe
  •       Supported
  •       Informed

 

The Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation provides financial support for families by offering camp scholarships. They also provide support for the safety of autistic children by covering the costs of a SafetyNetBracelet and offering family support through Joe’s Fund. Joey’s Fund can be used by families to cover the costs of art classes, horseback riding lessons, camp tuition, and respite care to support an improved quality of life of children on the spectrum and their families.

Have Dreams

Have Dreams based in Park Ridge, IL was formed in 1996. This organization strives to help people on the autism spectrum learn to function independently and, “socialize, so they may realize their full potential and develop into contributing members of their communities.”

 

Have Dreams offers after school and weekend programs for elementary, middle-school-aged kids, and teens. They also offer an array of programs for adults living on the autism spectrum and training opportunities for professionals, employers, educators, and family members.

The Miracle Project

Based in Beverly Hills, CA, The Miracle Project, develops and provides musical theater, film, social skill development, and expressive arts programs for individuals dealing with autism spectrum disorders. The Miracle Project provides the opportunity to share creative peer-to-peer experiences and encourages individuals on the autism spectrum to develop improved self-awareness, confidence, communication skills, social and employment skills using creative expression.

 

Those interested in participating in The Miracle Project can find programs for those aged 5 years through adulthood. This organization also offers training and workshops for schools.

National Autistic Society

The National Autistic Society (NAA) uses six areas to achieve its mission, “to respond to the most urgent needs of the autism community…” The areas NAA identifies are:

 

  •       Advocacy
  •       Research
  •       Education
  •       Direct tools
  •       Thoughtful awareness
  •       Hope

 

NAA programs include:

 

  •       Autism ATRIUM Webinars
  •       Autism ATRIUM Digital Library
  •       NAA’s Big Red Safety Box
  •       NAA’s Big Red Saftey Teacher’s Toolkit
  •       NAA’s Give a Voice Program
  •       Meet the Police
  •       Progress Research
  •       NAA’s Autism Safety Site
  •       NAA’s AWAARE Site

 

NAA’s website provides information regarding signs of autism, facts associated with ASD, the importance of early intervention, dietary interventions that those on the autism spectrum may find helpful, discussion of medical interventions, and information regarding therapeutic approaches families may wish to consider to help their autistic child. Interested parents can also locate downloadable resources to help with a wide range of issues. There are resources provided for dealing with the IEP process, supporting your ASD child’s siblings, and educating your child’s grandparents.

NEXT for AUTISM

Based in New York, NY, NEXT for AUTISM works toward three specific goals. This organization seeks to:

 

  •       Create and support high-quality programs designed to maximize the potential of individuals living with autism across their lifetime.
  •       Ensure that individuals living with autism and their families are positively integrated into their communities.
  •       Expand services to individuals living on the autism spectrum by coordinating services across disciplines and agencies and encouraging the spread of expertise in this area.

 

The NEXT for AUTISM website offers an array of resources and blogs associated with education, community, families, and adults living with autism. Over 82% of this organization’s expenses go toward programs designed to support those living with ASD.

Autism Helping Autism

Autism Helping Autism based in Loveland, CO focuses on helping high functioning youth and young adults transition into the world by teaching daily living skills, independence, and supporting job placement.

Autism Allies

Autism Allies based in Buffalo, MN, provides a wide range of programs for those on the autism spectrum. Autism Allies Center-Based Programs include:

 

  •       An intensive day program for children aged 0 to 6.
  •       An after school program for children ages 5 to 17.

 

Other programs provided include:

  •       Social skills groups overseen by Board-Certified Behavior Analysts
  •       In-Home Therapy
  •       Community programs

Autism Speaks

Autism Speaks, based in New York, NY, is dedicated to “promoting solutions across the spectrum and throughout the lifespan for the needs of people with autism and their families.” Autism Speaks seeks to fulfill its mission by:

 

  •       Increasing understanding and acceptance of those living on the autism spectrum.
  •       Supporting life-enhancing research.
  •       Improving the ease of transition of those living on the autism spectrum into adult life.
  •       Increasing early childhood screening and interventions for those living with autism.
  •       Ensuring access to reliable information and age-appropriate services.

This organization spends over 75% of its yearly expenses on program expenses.

Autism Angels

Autism Angels, based in Nutley, NJ is a non-profit organization created by parents of a child on the autism spectrum. This organization proposes to assist economically disadvantaged parents with educational information and resources.

One World for Autism

Based in Lanham, MA, One World for Autism, was founded in 2007 as a coalition of parents, educators, therapists, medical providers, and community residents focused on improving the lives and outcomes of those living on the autism spectrum and residing in Prince George’s County, Maryland. This organization provides:

 

  •       social skills groups for teens
  •       healthy relationships groups for teens and adults
  •       family support services.

 

The One World for Autism website offers information regarding:

  •       Behavioral and relational resources
  •       Financial support resources
  •       Medical center information
  •       Autism resources in Prince Georges’ County
  •       Autism resources in the state of Maryland
  •       National resources for autism 

Balance Autiscm

Balance Autism, based in Altoona, IA, espouses their mission, “to develop and implement solutions to engage people with autism. This organization bases their mission on the core values of:

 

  •       Curiosity
  •       Passionate care about people and autism
  •       Active engagement
  •       Data-driven information
  •       Optimism

 

Balance Autism offers balanced children’s services, social skills groups, parent training, and a youth home.

Alpine Autism Center

Alpine Autism Center, based in Colorado Springs, CO, is a private non-profit treatment facility for children diagnosed with ASD. This organization was founded in 2005 and offers Board Certified Behavior Analysis and In-home care. Alpine Autism Center offers:

 

  •       full-day programs
  •       half-day programs
  •       Consultation and representation at IEP meetings
  •       Day habilitation for individuals over the age of 18
  •       Home-based Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy

The Autism Project

Founded in 1997, The Autism Project (TAP) focuses on children and young adults diagnosed with ASD. Established as a collective of parents, professionals, and community members, TAP provides support for families, social groups for individuals diagnosed with autism, and a summer camp program. The TAP website offers educational resources in the form of information sheets and took kits. TAP also provides continuing education opportunities for professionals and parents and consultations for agencies and school organizations.

Autism Services Inc

Autism Services Inc, based in Amherst, NY, focuses its efforts on, empowering people with autism to be themselves at home and in their community. Autism Services, Inc offers a wide range of services. They offer residential services, adult day services, and employment support services. The organization also provides Physical Therapy Services, Speech Therapy Services, and Occupational Therapy Services. There are family support services provided in the way of after-school programs, vacation camps, respite services, and Saturday Therapeutic Recreational opportunities.

Aceing Autism Inc

Aceing Autism, Inc supports children on the autism spectrum to grow physically and socially through affordable tennis programming. Founded in Boston, MA in 2008, this organization was created with the intention of using the sport of tennis as a way to provide social and developmental benefits to children diagnosed with ASD. This organization has 73 programs in 29 states and has served over 1300 children since its inception.  

Chattanooga Autism Center

The Chattanooga Autism Center (CAC), based in Chattanooga, TN, offers a wide range of programs and services for individuals on the autism spectrum and their family members. CAC provides clinical services to those living with autism through its outpatient clinic.

 

CAC also offers a music therapy program called Ascending Scales, a support group for parents, and a summer learning program. The CAC website offers information about regional resources for:

 

  •       Education
  •       Therapeutic care
  •       Medical care
  •       Recreational opportunities, and many other support services.

Gha Autism Supports

Gha Autism Supports serves individuals living on the autism spectrum from across the state of North Carolina. Based in Albemarle, NC, Gha Autism Supports was formed when a group of parents gathered together in 1978 to secure funding for a residence for their autistic children. This organization has grown to provide educational, residential, and vocational services to nearly 100 individuals at any given time. Gha Autism Supports provides services for individuals diagnosed with ASD from childhood through their lifespan.

 

Gha Autism Supports expresses its commitment to:

 

  •       Valuing the uniqueness of the individuals it supports
  •       Involving the individuals it supports in making their own decisions and directing their own lives
  •       Nurturing personal growth and the dignity of those they serve
  •       Supporting those thy support in building relationships with local communities

Avenues for Autism

Based in Toledo, OH, Avenues for Autism expresses their mission as, “to expand opportunities to enrich the lives of individuals and families affected by autism.” The organization indicates that its mission is based on the values of:

 

  •       Value
  •       Ability
  •       Inclusion
  •       Advocacy
  •       Integrity
  •       Empowerment
  •       Leadership

 

Programs supported by Avenues for Autism include the Suzanne Tyner Autism Fund that provides support for families struggling to pay for autism services. This program provides support for:

 

  •       Early interventions
  •       Testing and assessment
  •       Programs designed to build social skills
  •       College support programs
  •       Recreational activities
  •       The purchase of tough devices
  •       Programs designed to help those diagnosed with ASD transition to employment

September 15, 2020 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

Aba Therapy Jobs

In this article you will learn everything there is to know about ABA therapy jobs. This includes:

  • What is ABA Therapy?
  • Why People Become ABA Therapists?
  • What Training Do You Need to be an ABA Therapist?
  • Is ABA Therapy a Growing Field?
  • Where Can ABA Trained Professionals Work?
  • How Much Can an ABA Therapist Expect to Make (Broken down by state and certification)?

If you live in the Atlanta area and are interested in a career as an ABA therapist click the link.

So let’s start breaking down everything you need to know about ABA therapy jobs.  

What is ABA Therapy?

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy is a therapy based on the science of learning and behavior. This approach is, simply put, a therapy based on the belief that the behaviors one wishes to see can be taught through the use of rewards and consequences.

 

An ABA therapist is someone who uses ABA interventions to help their clients change problematic behaviors. ABA therapy is frequently used to help children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). However, ABA therapists may work with children, teens, and adults with a variety of diagnoses.

Why People Become ABA Therapists

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is an area that combines aspects of psychology, counseling, education, and social work. Individuals who are drawn to this field are generally people with an interest in helping others. This field requires direct interactions with others and requires a wide range of problem solving and communication skills.

 

Although there is a wide range of educational skills that help one succeed in this field, there are also many personality traits that attract people to this particular type of work. People attracted to this type of work often have high levels of empathy for others, exhibit high levels of caring, and are attuned to noticing the needs and struggles of others.

 

People who are likely to fit well within this occupation tend to have above average amounts of social perceptiveness, persuasion, and critical thinking skills. Those considering this as an occupational option will need good active listening skills, good reading comprehension, and good writing and speaking skills.

 

What Training Do You Need to be an ABA Therapist?

Applied Behavioral Analysis is a theory used by many people in the fields of education and psychology. Historically there has been difficulty standardizing ABA treatment due to the time and cost associated with certifying and licensing providers. In 1998 the non-profit Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) established a series of certifications to help standardize the field. Not only does certification and licensing support standardization of education and practice within a field, but it also helps providers obtain recognition for their skills and coverage by insurance companies.

 

There are several levels of training and certification for people working within the field of ABA therapy. Adults at every education level beyond high school can find a certification level to help them move toward their professional goals.

Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) Certification:

There are no college degree requirements for an individual seeking Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) certification. This level of certification requires that the certificate holder have a high school diploma, be at least 18 years old, obtain 40 hours of ABA training, take and pass the RBT exam. This certification is for paraprofessionals and requires that the individual review their certification annually, follow specific codes of ethics, and work under the supervision of a professional in the field.

Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) Certification:

A Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) certification is the certification level for an ABA therapist with a bachelor level college education. A BCaBA must hold a bachelor’s degree, take ABA course work, undergo supervised experience, and pass a certification exam to obtain certification. To maintain their certification, analysts at this level must complete 20 CEU’s every two years, maintain supervision, and follow specific ethical codes.

 

A BCaBA may not provide ABA services without the supervision of a Board Certified Behavioral Analyst (BCBA). However, a BCaBA may supervise the work of an RBT.

Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) Certification:

A Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) must hold a master’s degree. To obtain this certification an analyst must have a master’s degree in an acceptable field from an accredited university, take ABA specific course work, obtained supervised experience, and pass the certification exam. To maintain certification, a BCBA must complete 32 CEU’s every two years, follow specific ethical codes, and meet requirements for supervision. Professionals with a BCBA certification may work independently as ABA therapists.

 

Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral (BCBA-D) Certification:

A Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral (BCBA-D) Certification is a separate distinction from the BCBA but it does not grant any privileges beyond those conferred onto a BCBA. To obtain a BCBA-D, an analyst must be actively certified as a BCBA and hold a doctoral degree. The type of doctoral degree the analyst holds (accredited or non-accredited program) will impact the amount of supervision and ABA specific source work the analyst must complete prior to certification at this level.

Training for ABA Certification

Students looking for ABA certification can obtain course work both in brick and mortar classrooms and online. Many online ABA programs also offer practicum experiences that are required for certification at the bachelor’s level. College students may obtain the appropriate training courses as part of their undergraduate degree or in specially designed course work once they have obtained a bachelor’s degree.

 

Students seeking training in ABA therapy will be trained to:

  •       Write behavior plans
  •       Implement behavior plans
  •       Analyze data
  •       Conduct ABA assessments

 

Students looking to go beyond the bachelor’s degree can find many online degrees that offer master’s level ABA degrees and ABA master’s certificates.

Is ABA Therapy a Growing Field?

Those curious about ABA as a field of study will be heartened by the fact that this is likely to be an area of continued need and growth. In 2020, the CDC shared statistical information indicated that 1 in every 34 boys born in the US, and 1 in every 144 girls born in the US is diagnosed with autism. ABA is the most researched and most commonly used intervention for children on the autism spectrum.

 

Recent findings in the US show that autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability. If the trajectory of recent findings continues, we can expect the need for ABA professionals to continue to grow. Even if the trend reverses, we will continue to see an increase in the need for those with ABA training as there is no effective cure for ASD.

 

Where Can ABA Trained Professionals Work?

Behavior Analysts

When you think of a career in ABA, you probably find yourself thinking of an analyst working as a direct care provider as part of a therapeutic practice. Individuals working as an ABA may find work in a school setting, non-profit organizations, or in a clinical practice. A behavior analyst can expect to earn a median salary of $59,000/year. A new analyst with a master’s degree can expect to make about $59,000/year, while an analyst with a doctoral degree can expect to make around $78,000/year.

ABA Consultants

Although many ABA providers will work as direct care analysts, some prefer to work as consultants. An ABA consultant may find work in a clinical setting, in a school, or they may work in private practice. An ABA consultant may expect to make between $34 and $55 an hour. The rate a consultant can command will depend upon their level of education, expertise, and the location in which they work.

 

Clinical Directors

Some ABA therapists will provide less direct care to clients and focus their efforts on leading a team of clinicians. A clinical director may work for a non-profit or a for-profit agency. A clinical director may provide training and supervision/mentoring for other ABA therapists and paraprofessionals. The average median salary for a Clinical Director of a clinic focused on behavior analysis is $76,000 annually.

Schools

Many special education teachers will obtain ABA training in addition to their training in the field of education. This training gives them the ability to adapt general education lessons for students struggling with physical and sensory disabilities. Special Education teachers make an average of $40,000 to $55,000 a year, depending upon where they teach and the number of years they have in teaching experience.

 

School psychologists will hold either a Master’s degree or a Doctorate degree. These professionals may also seek special training in ABA therapy. School psychologists may work within an individual school, a set of schools within a district, or an entire school district. These professionals may conduct psychological evaluations of students, help in the development of Individualized Education Plans (IEP), and/or provide support to the overall student body for issues surrounding personal and community issues like grief and crisis. A school psychologist’s income will vary due to education levels and the areas in which they work. The median salary for a school psychologist is $61,000/year.

Social Workers

Social workers may also find ABA therapeutic training helpful in their direct care of families and children. Whether they work in a community setting, a school system, or a non-profit agency, a social worker who helps individuals deal with disabilities or crises will find the skills gained by ABA training augment their professional career skills.

 

How Much Can an ABA Therapist Expect to Make?

AppliedBehaviorAnalysesEdu.org offers a great deal of information on the salaries an ABA therapist can expect to make. This site offers one the ability to look at expected salaries in the largest cities of specific states.

Georgia

A BCBA can expect an average salary of $64,694 when working in the Atlanta area. The average salary for a private practice in this area is $66,091. A BCBA working for a company in Austin can expect an average salary of $64,643.

 

A BCBA can expect an average salary of $56,284 when working in schools in the Columbus area. The average salary for a private practice in this area is $58,053. A BCBA working for a company in Austin can expect an average salary of $54,444.

California

 A BCBA can expect a median salary of $58,000 in Los Angeles when working in schools. The median salary for a hospital in this area is $56,000. A BCBA in private practice in this area can expect a median salary of $58,000.

 A BCBA can expect a median salary of $66,000 in San Francisco when working in schools, The median salary for a hospital in this area is $62,000. A BCBA in private practice can expect to make a median salary of $61,000 here.

 

Texas

A BCBA can expect an average salary of $61, 361 when working in schools in the Austin area. The average salary for a private practice in this area is $63, 033. A BCBA working for a company in Austin can expect an average salary of $63,173.

 

A BCBA can expect an average salary of $66,380 when working in schools in the Houston area. The average salary for a private practice in this area is $67,488. A BCBA working for a company in Houston can expect an average salary of $67,251.

Florida

A BCBA can expect an average salary of $ 61,731 when working in schools in the Miami area. The average salary for a private practice in this area is $62,655. A BCBA working for a company in Austin can expect an average salary of $62,583.

 

A BCBA can expect an average salary of $59,900 when working in schools in the Orlando area. The average salary for a private practice in this area is $60,630. A BCBA working for a company in Austin can expect an average salary of $62,136.

 

New York

A BCBA can expect an average salary of $71,203 when working in schools in the New York City area. The average salary for a private practice in this area is $71,487. A BCBA working for a company in Austin can expect an average salary of $70,900.

 

A BCBA can expect an average salary of $ 57,631 when working in schools in the Buffalo area. The average salary for a private practice in this area is $60,070. A BCBA working for a company in Austin can expect an average salary of $60,764.

Pennsylvania

A BCBA can expect an average salary of $63,182 when working in schools in the Philadelphia area. The average salary for a private practice in this area is $64,407. A BCBA working for a company in Austin can expect an average salary of $64,389.

 

A BCBA can expect an average salary of $52,017 when working in schools in the Erie area. The average salary for a private practice in this area is $55,025. A BCBA working for a company in Austin can expect an average salary of $55,719.

Illinois

A BCBA can expect an average salary of $65,991 when working in schools in the Chicago area. The average salary for a private practice in this area is $68,628. A BCBA working for a company in Austin can expect an average salary of $69,081.

 

A BCBA can expect an average salary of $62,320 when working in schools in the Aurora area. The average salary for a private practice in this area is $65,174. A BCBA working for a company in Austin can expect an average salary of $66,461.

Ohio

A BCBA can expect an average salary of $61,447 when working in schools in the Columbus area. The average salary for a private practice in this area is $63,603. A BCBA working for a company in Austin can expect an average salary of $63,943.

 

A BCBA can expect an average salary of $59,981 when working in schools in the Cleveland area. The average salary for a private practice in this area is $62,113. A BCBA working for a company in Austin can expect an average salary of $62,435.

 

North Carolina

A BCBA can expect an average salary of $61,260 when working in schools in the Charlotte area. The average salary for a private practice in this area is $62,827. A BCBA working for a company in Austin can expect an average salary of $62,912.

 

A BCBA can expect an average salary of $55,855 when working in schools in the High Point area. The average salary for a private practice in this area is $58,352. A BCBA working for a company in Austin can expect an average salary of $58,906

How Much Can a BCBA-D Expect to Make Annually?

A BCBA-D can expect to make considerably more on average annually than a BCBA.

California

In the state of California, a BCBA-D can expect to make an average of $92,551 annually.

Texas

In the state of Texas, a BCBA-D can expect to make an average of $83,414 annually.

Florida

In the state of Florida, a BCBA-D can expect to make an average of $79,532 annually.

New York

In the state of New York, a BCBA-D can expect to make an average of $103,261 annually.

Pennsylvania

In the state of Pennsylvania, a BCBA-D can expect to make an average of $82,510 annually.

Illinois

In the state of Illinois, a BCBA-D can expect to make an average of $82,510 annually.

Ohio

In the state of Ohio, a BCBA-D can expect to make an average of $87,863 annually.

Georgia

In the state of Georgia, a BCBA-D can expect to make an average of $84,382 annually.

North Carolina

In the state of North Carolina, a BCBA-D can expect to make an average of $75,732 annually. 

 

August 27, 2020 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

The Best Clothing Brands for Children With Autism

Many children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) experience heightened levels of sensory information that can create discomfort. Their experiences of hypersensitivity often include their sense of touch. You will often notice that children on the autism spectrum have difficulty finding comfortable clothes and struggle with issues like breaking in new shoes.

 

If you struggle with helping your autistic child find clothing that they will wear, you will want to consider what is creating the difficulty. Once you determine what is causing your child discomfort, there are several things you can do to help. You will find that there are some fairly easy ways to help your autistic child overcome issues related to clothing.

Ways to Help an Autistic Child Deal with Clothing Issues:

Helping your child live in comfort means, first and foremost, figuring out what your child is experiencing. Some children on the autism spectrum will experience

 

  •       Clothing as scratchy
  •       Clothing as stiff
  •       Issues with binding around arms and legs
  •       Sensitivity to elastic
  •       Irritation from seams
  •       Difficulty dealing with fasteners
  •       Clothing as too confining
  •       An aversion to a particular texture

 

You can help your child deal with these issues by finding clothing designed to:

 

  •       Be Soft: Many clothing manufacturers are using soft materials for children’s clothing. Brushed and combed cotton is generally a good choice of fabrics for your autistic child. Although many blended materials feel soft to the touch, you should also be aware that your child may struggle with feeling too warm in synthetic fabrics as they do not breathe as well as natural fabrics.

 

  •       Allow Ease of Movement: Pre-washed fabrics and athletic wear often work well for children on the autism spectrum. Many children on the autism spectrum will find denim stiff and frustrating due to binding waistlines and difficult closures. Choosing athletic wear rather than bluejeans is often an easy solution for daily school wear. If your child is interested in jeans, look for prewashed comfortably stretchy denim. You may want to look for jeans with elastic waists if your child struggles with snaps and zippers as well.

 

  •       Have Limited elastic: Autistic children often struggle with under garments due to the way thin elastic cuts into their limbs. Luckily, there are increasingly more options to traditional brief underwear. You will find many brands using wider elastic at openings to reduce the likelihood of discomfort at waist and leg openings. If your child is extremely sensitive to underwear, you may want to try elastic free and tag free underwear options.

 

  •       Have Less Irritating or No Seams: Autistic children also tend to struggle with socks and shoes. Toe seams in socks are often frustrating whether or not your child is on the autism spectrum. Kids on the autism spectrum are even more sensitive to socks and shoes than other kids. If you can avoid socks with large seams at the toes it will help a great deal. Looking for well fitting socks that are less likely to fall about your child’s foot and cause rubbing at wrinkles will be a big help in keeping your child happy.

 

  •       Have Less Irritating or No tags: Tags create frustration and irritation for many children. Kids on the autism spectrum often struggle more with the irritation of tags than other children. You will often find that removing a tag is insufficient, as the seams where tags are sown in are thick and can continue to create irritation.  Luckily more manufacturers are using soft fabrics for tags, creating tear away tags, or making tagless options.

 

  •       Wik Moisture: Kids with autism can be more sensitive to moisture and heaviness associated with clothing that have become wet due to sweating than other kids. To help your child remain comfortable in warm weather and when physically active, consider natural fabric like cotton and fabrics designed to wick away moisture.

 

  •       Provide deep pressure without restricting movement: Many children with sensory issues find the pressure of compression clothing reassuring and calming. Compression clothing works essentially the same way a weighted blanket does. Many children on the autism spectrum find gentle deep pressure in stretchable fabric comforting and reassuring.

 

Other ways to help your autistic child deal with clothing related issues include:      

 

  1. Allowing your child a choice when dressing for the day. Providing your child a choice between two shirts or pairs of socks helps them to feel in control and will help them to deal with the things that they can’t control.     
  2. Buying more than one of your child’s favorite piece of clothing. Since autistic children often struggle to find clothes they enjoy, it is a good idea to invest in more than one of your autistic child’s favorite piece of clothing.
  3. Allow for extra time. Children on the autism spectrum may need more time to dress. Adding extra time to your daily schedule to accommodate your child’s need for time to dress can make this daily challenge move more smoothly.

 

7 of the best clothing lines for autistic children:

Here are some of the best clothing companies that make products for autistic children.

Hanna Andersson:

Hanna Andersson makes simple, colorful clothes from 100% organic cotton. Their clothes are constructed of OEKO-TEX certified cloth that helps to protect your child’s sensitive skin. OEKO-TEX certification is given to clothing safe from harmful chemicals and dyes.

 

Hanna Andersson produces products for babies to kids up to 14 years old. Parents can also find matching pajamas (women’s Mommy and Me pajamas sell for $94). Long sleeve kids pajamas sell for $46.

 

Hanna Andersson clothing features extra smooth flatlock seams, encased elastic, zipper guards, and nickel-free snaps and zippers for added comfort. Print tees for boys can be found for $24. Hoodies for toddlers cost $42 with hoodies for kids selling for $54. Girls Soft Art Tees retail for $28, and Super Soft Skater dresses are priced at $48.

Alien Loud Music:

For discerning teens, Alien Loud Music shirts design ASD friendly t-shirts. These intentionally designed shirts feature high quality 100% combed ringspun cotton jersey with tear-away tags. Due to the high quality of the cotton used in constructing these unique t-shirts, they lie more lightly about the shoulders and provide long-lasting durability.

 

Some of the designs available from Alien Loud Music Shirts are limited edition and range in price from $32-38 each. However, the icon long-running shirts are listed for $25-30 each. You will find a variety of cool designs on these quality t-shirts. Most of their long-run designs are available in a wide range of colors allowing your teen to have a variety of high-quality comfort for daily life.

 

Smart Knit Kids:

Smart Knit Kids offers a variety of seamless products to help you and your child avoid those irritating seams that frustrate so many autistic children. 

 

You can buy your autistic child a set of three pairs of seamless underwear for between $26 and $32 on Amazon. You will find Boxer Briefs for your growing boys and Boy Cut Undies for your growing girls. 

 

You will also find bralettes for young girls and “compresso” tees for young boys. These specially designed undergarments offer the sensation of a gentle hug that many children on the autism spectrum find reassuring and anxiety-reducing. There is no elastic used in Smart Knit Kids products to bind or wear against sensitive skin.

 

Smart Knit Kids also offers seamless socks designed to help reduce your autistic child’s aversion to wearing shoes. Designed to be super soft and form-fitting, these moisture-wicking socks will reduce the likelihood of bunching and wrinkling that can lead to sensitive wear against your child’s feet.

Target:

Target has an adaptive clothing line for kids who struggle with sensory challenges and other special needs. This clothing line features no tags, flat seams, and cotton blends for softness and comfort. This site offers cost conscious choices for children who struggle with comfort but can tolerate flat seams.

 

You will find girls leggings priced $7.50 for two pair. Toddler t-shirts sell for $9.50 for two, and pajamas range in price from $12.99 to $14.99.

Hanes:

You will also find tagless options from Hanes for your autistic kids. If your child struggles with tags but can tolerate elastic and seams, Hanes brand is a much less expensive option for obtaining your autistic child’s undergarments. You will find Boys Tagless Briefs (7 pack for $9.99), boys crewneck t-shirts (6-pack for $13), Toddler Girl’s Cotton Hipsters (6-pack for $8).

Van’s:

Van’s offers a collection of sensory-friendly footwear and apparel. The items in Van’s Autism Awareness Collection feature calming colors and soft materials. Van’s Comfy Cush Old Skool Shoes are produced with soft outsoles and rubber tread for a winning combination of comfort and durability. Priced at $75, these shoes are designed with added arch support and moisture-wicking linings for added comfort.

Kozie Clothing:

Kozie Clothes provides a selection of compression clothes that can be worn as outerwear or under clothing to help your autistic child relax. These clothes are designed to provide deep pressure without binding. Compression clothing works the same way as a weighted blanket. Kozie’s compression clothing supports the release of serotonin and dopamine.

 

Neurotransmitters released due to the gentle pressure of compression clothes will help your child feel calm. In response to compression clothes, your child can be expected to experience a reduced heart rate and blood pressure. The gentle pressure of compression clothing can help your child feel safe as he/she moves through the day.

 

You will find short sleeve compression shirts for $38 to $46 each. Long sleeve compression shirts retail for $39. Unisex compression shorts will cost $35 and compression pants will cost $38. Kozie offers compression clothing for children from 12 months to size 16.

Smart Knit Kids:

Smart Knit Kids Compresso-T offers gentle compression. Easily worn under everyday clothes, this t-shirt is an exceptional layer that allows your child to feel a relaxing all day hug from a  soft tagless shirt. Designed of wicking fabric, this sleeveless t-shirt provides four way stretch and is available on Amazon for $14.99 to 22.96 each or $41.96 for a set of three.

August 21, 2020 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

How to Explain Autism to a Child

When your child is diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), you can expect to experience a variety of thoughts and feelings. Some parents deal with an initial shock when their child is diagnosed. 

 

However, receiving a diagnosis for your autistic child helps you to define the issues your child deals with and supports you in obtaining the help your child needs to best deal with their individual challenges.

 

Process the Diagnosis Yourself First

 

Once your child gets an autism diagnosis, you are going to find yourself dealing with a variety of new challenges. One of these new challenges will be helping your child’s siblings, friends, family, and classmates understand what autism is. 

 

However, before you throw yourself into supporting those around you and your child, first process the new diagnosis yourself.

 

Everyone will process their child’s diagnosis differently. Here are a few suggestions that can help you with the process.

 

  •       Educate yourself on autism. The Center for Disease Control is a great resource for learning about ASD. This site will help you gain a fuller understanding of the disorder your child has been diagnosed with.
  •       Make sure your child has received the correct diagnosis. There is a good deal of overlap in diagnoses. If you feel that the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder fails to fit what you are seeing in your child, voice your concerns, and seek advice for a second opinion.
  •       Give yourself time. The diagnosis of ASD can be distressing for many parents. If you find yourself struggling with the awareness of your child’s diagnosis, give yourself the time you need to feel whatever you are feeling.
  •       Reach out for support and locate specialists to help you and your child. Every state provides early intervention services for children with ASD diagnoses. 

Depending upon what state you live in, you may be able to find services for your child before he/she reaches the age of three. Initiating the process of obtaining services for your child will help you feel that you are making progress even in the early days of your child’s diagnosis.

 

Explain the Basics of Autism

 

While this may sound like a straightforward task, you are going to want to be aware of the age of your audience when you share information regarding your child’s autism diagnosis. If you start engaging your child’s sibling(s), friends, and classmates in a discussion of autism early on, you can add to the conversation as your audience’s ability to understand grows.

 

Children under the age of seven may not be able to understand theoretical information. You can find talking points in the “Growing Up Together” brochure created by the Autism Society. You are going to want to be very concrete in the information you share. Children under the age of seven can understand that:

 

  •       Your child’s autism isn’t something they can catch
  •       Your child’s autism isn’t anyone’s fault
  •       Your autistic child, if he/she is prelingual, hasn’t learned to talk yet
  •       You will keep them safe

 

There are several books that can help you introduce young children to what autism is. For example, It’s Okay to be Different uses bright colors and silly scenes to explain differences.

 

Children over the age of seven are able to understand less concrete information. Children between the ages of eight and eleven can handle more complex explanations. Children in this age range can understand that:

 

  •       Your child was born with autism
  •       Your autistic child’s brain is different
  •       Your child’s autism creates problems with speaking, playing, and understanding other people’s feelings
  •       Your autistic child can learn
  •       Your autistic child may have to work very hard to learn
  •       When your autistic child behaves aggressively it is the parent or teacher’s job to deal with it, not theirs
  •       That you are willing to answer questions, if they have any
  •       That they can help your autistic child by engaging them in play and/or showing them how to do things

 

You can find talking points for your teen on the Autism Society’s “Growing Up Together” brochure for teens.

 

You can find a list of the thirty best children’s books about autism here. If you find talking about autism difficult, there are a wide range of books that can help you start this conversation. 

 

You may also find that providing books for your autistic child’s sibling can help them understand how they can engage with an autistic sibling.

 

Autism In My Family is an appropriate book for children aged 8-12 who have a sibling diagnosed with autism. This book is an interactive workbook that can help your child understand autism. 

 

It will encourage your child to help their autistic sibling develop their own identity and emotions. This book can be supportive in helping you maintain a strong family and is a good supplement for siblings working with professionals to understand their place in the family.

 

Share Information Specific to Your Child

 

Once you have begun the conversation on autism, you will want to engage his/her siblings and friends by sharing information that is specific to your child. If your child experiences hypersensitivity to sounds, lights, or textures this is something that your child’s siblings and friends may need to know.

 

Understanding your child’s particular challenges will help those around him/her understand how your child is feeling and predict his/her reactions to situations. 

 

For example, knowing that your child is hypersensitive to sound will help siblings and friends understand why your child is allowed to wear headphones when they aren’t.

 

Remember, Autism exists on a spectrum. Some children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder will struggle with verbal communication, others won’t. Some children on the spectrum will struggle profoundly with social interaction, others may show little impairment in their ability to connect with others socially. Help those around your child understand where he/she lies on the spectrum.

 

Share Suggested Ways to Interact With Your Child:

 

Help your autistic child’s siblings, school mates, and friends engage with your child by providing suggestions on ways to interact with your child.

 

  •       Teach the children around your child how to catch your autistic child’s attention before asking them a question
  •       Encourage others to always recognize and respond to your autistic child’s attempts to communicate. When others respond to your child’s attempts to communicate, these responses act as positive reinforcement for the behavior. This will lead to your child’s increasing attempts to communicate. Nothing kills the attempt to communicate as quickly as having these attempts be ignored. 
  •       Held those around your child understand that offering an autistic child a choice in activities will improve the likelihood that they will engage in play.
  •       Help others engage with your autistic child by teaching them to summarize other’s statements, check for understanding, and asking questions.
  •       Engage the children around your autistic child in games that your child enjoys. Play, particularly creative play supports the use of verbal communication. If you engage your autistic child and his/her sibling(s) in play, you will help them to develop a stronger bond while encouraging your autistic child to use their communication skills.

 

Read books about autism and autistic characters

 

Engaging your children by reading books about autism will help both your child that lives on the autism spectrum and their siblings. Reading books about autism helps to normalize the diagnosis. 

 

You may know that 1 in every 54 US children is diagnosed with ASD, but that doesn’t mean much to a child. Meeting characters with autism in a book provides your autistic child with the understanding that they aren’t alone. Reading books about autism also helps your other children understand that, though their sibling is unique, they aren’t lesser.

 

You will find books related to autism that can help every member of your family. My Brother Charlie is a good book for children with a sibling on the autism spectrum. It is written from the point of view of a child with a younger brother with autism. This book allows an older sister to discuss her brother Charlie’s challenges and strengths in a kind and honest way.

 

All My Stripes allows children on the autism spectrum to travel and learn alongside an autistic zebra named Zane.

 

1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders offers strategies for those raising and educating children with ASD. This book has helpful suggestions for engaging your autistic child in sensory-motor activities using simple materials you can find in your home. You will also find tips for improving communication and behaviors.

 

Explain your child’s strengths

 

Help your autistic child’s sibling understand that your child has strengths. We often view those on the autism spectrum disorder according to their limitations. 

 

Clearly, you are going to help your children understand the limits that your autistic child may have, but don’t forget to explain their strengths as well. Help your child and their siblings, classmates, and friends to appreciate your child’s specific strengths.

 

Many children on the autism spectrum have a strong appreciation and understanding of particular topics. If your child loves trains, help those around him/her understand that this is a particular interest your child holds. 

 

If your autistic child exhibits mathematical skills, help those around him/her see this strength. Play up the strengths of your autistic child just as you would the strengths of your other children. 

 

Honest questions are not rude

 

Help both your autistic child and their siblings, friends, and classmates understand that honest questions aren’t rude. Establish an openness regarding your autistic child’s diagnosis. 

 

This will encourage those around your child to express their curiosity and become more comfortable both with your child’s diagnosis and with your child him/herself.

 

Warm and open communication will help others develop an understanding of what you and your family are dealing with. 

 

This attitude may also help those around your child develop empathy. If you approach questions in a challenging manner, you may well miss the opportunity to enlighten someone who could be helpful in your child’s life.

 

Some questions may be misguided, but if someone is expressing curiosity, they are generally trying to understand. Helping those around your child develop a deeper understanding of their challenges and abilities will ultimately help your child feel welcome and secure in their world.

 

What do you do when an autistic child hits you?

 

Most people tend to act out when hurt. You may have experienced this yourself, or you may see it, if and when, your autistic child acts aggressively toward others. Perhaps the best way to deal with your autistic child’s aggressive behavior is to establish expectations in those around them and to help reduce your child’s aggressive behavior.

 

Autistic children may tend to act out when frustrated. For many children, this behavior creates a reaction that is reinforcing. If your autistic child acts aggressively and obtains attention for this behavior, you may unintentionally reinforce this behavior. Clearly, this is the last thing you want to do.

 

It is best to remain calm when your autistic child behaves aggressively. Interrupt the aggressive behavior, and redirect your child’s energy. If you are working with an ABA therapist, they will help you with techniques and strategies for dealing with aggressive behavior. 

 

Pay attention to what creates aggressive behavior in your ASD child. If you notice that your autistic child tends to hit to get attention when playing with siblings and friends, you can help reduce hitting by helping the other children understand to pay attention to your autistic child’s attempts to communicate. 

 

If you notice that your autistic child tends to hit others when they become frustrated, you can help to reduce this behavior by checking in on the child to access their frustration level.

 

Pay Attention to Sibling Stress

 

Many children with siblings on the autism spectrum cope very well with their sibling’s diagnosis. However, children with siblings on the autism spectrum may experience stress that children in other families don’t have to deal with.

 

Issues that may cause stress for siblings include:

  •       Feeling embarrassed around peers. There are several points in a young person’s life when they want to be “normal” and to fit in more than anything else. Your child’s sibling may feel embarrassed if they feel their sibling makes them stick out as different.
  •       Jealousy over the amount of time and attention their autistic sibling receives. Parenting an autistic child requires a great deal of time and attention. Siblings can’t help but notice the amount of time and energy you spend engaging in supporting, educating, transporting, and attending educational and professional appointments. 

It is possible for siblings to feel slighted if you spend all of your time and energy dealing with an autistic child.

  •       Frustration at not being able to engage their autistic sibling. Children on the autism spectrum often struggle to engage socially with others. If your child’s sibling doesn’t understand this, they may take their sibling’s lack of interest in them personally. 

This is one reason it is helpful to make sure your autistic child’s sibling(s) understand how autism impacts a person.

  •       Anger over their sibling’s aggressive behavior. Children may not understand why you deal with their sibling’s aggressive behavior in a mild fashion. Your autistic child’s sibling(s) may be more apt to feel this frustration if there is frequent aggressive behavior and/or if you deal with acts of aggression from your autistic child differently than you do when they act aggressively. 

It may be helpful to talk about these things as a family with some frequency.

  •       Concern about the stress felt by parents and other family members. If your autistic child’s sibling(s) are aware of your stress, they may feel protective of you. This is one reason that it is helpful for you to make sure you are dealing with your stress levels in a healthy manner. 

Maintaining self-care and seeking professional help when you need to can help you deal with your stress levels. Dealing with your stress levels can keep your stress from spreading to your children.

  •       Concern that they may have to act as a sibling’s caregiver later in life. This is another time that it is important to maintain open communication with your children. Establishing and communicating appropriate expectations for your autistic child’s care can prevent these types of concerns.

 

Books like What About Me? A Book By and For An Autism Sibling can help young children understand the day-to-day struggles and joys of having a sibling on the autism spectrum. 

 

Here you go
August 17, 2020 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

13 ABA Therapy Techniques

If your child has been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), you have probably heard about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy. ABA therapy is simply a method of therapy that is used to improve or change specific behaviors. 

This therapeutic approach is often used to help children improve their social skills, communication patterns, fine motor skills, grooming, and academic skills. ABA has also been used to help individuals improve their job proficiency and learn simple skills, like maintaining a clean and organized room.

History of  ABA Therapy

For those of you who took Introduction to Psychology at some point in your past, ABA therapy is based on the work of psychologist B.F. Skinner. Skinner developed a theory of operant conditioning. Skinner’s theory looks at how one can control behavior by altering the consequences of that behavior. Parents generally use the same principles when they punish a child for doing something wrong and reward them for doing something well.

 

To help you better understand ABA therapy, we will look at some of the techniques that an ABA therapist is likely to use with your child. 

 

ABA Therapy Techniques

Below is a list of some of the common techniques used by ABA therapists. It is important to remember that the strategy and techniques used by an ABA therapist will be tailored specifically for your child. 

 

So without further ado, here are some ABA therapy techniques:

 

Positive Reinforcement:

In the most general of terms, positive reinforcement is providing someone with a reward or praise to encourage them to continue to behave in the way you would like them to. The praise or reward needs to quickly follow the desired behavior. If a reward or praise quickly follows a behavior, the person will associate the positive reinforcement with the behavior. This makes the person more likely to increase the rewarded behavior.

 

Your child’s ABA therapist will work with your child to identify an appropriate positive reinforcement. The therapist will provide positive reinforcement as soon as your child performs the behavior he/she is trying to get your child to do. The behavior can be something as simple as looking into the eyes of the person they are talking to. The positive reinforcement can be something as simple as a word of encouragement.

 

Say your child’s ABA therapist is working to get your child to ask for toys rather than grabbing for them or simply taking them from a sibling or peer. When your child asks for the toy he or she wants, the ABA therapist will quickly provide the child with the toy. This will motivate your child to ask for the toys he/she wants.

 

Discrete Trial Training:

Discrete Trial Training (DTT) is one of the major teaching strategies used in ABA Therapy. DTT is a technique where skills are broken down into small, “discrete” (or distinct) elements. The therapist then introduces each element of the skill to your child, one at a time. Your child will receive positive reinforcement after each correct response to the discrete element being taught.

 

If an ABA therapist is engaged in teaching your child emotions, for example, he/she may break the concept of emotions into the individual emotions. Each emotion will be broken down into specific lessons. First, your child may be taught to distinguish the emotions.

 

For example, the ABA therapist may begin by having your child identify emotions. He/she may begin by introducing happiness. Your child may be given an array of photographs in which children portray a variety of emotions. Your child may be asked to point out the picture of the child expressing happiness. When your child correctly points out the image of the child expressing happiness, he/she will be positively reinforced with the praise or reward that was identified previously.

 

Once your child has learned to positively identify happiness, the therapist will move on to another emotion. Once your child has learned all of the emotions that he/she is being taught, the therapist will move on to teaching your child another step in the process.

 

This step may be something as simple as learning to say each of the emotions when shown a photograph depicting a child expressing that emotion. Again the therapist will introduce each emotion, one at a time. 

 

Antecedent-based Interventions:

To understand Antecedent Based Interventions (ADI), it is helpful to understand how ABA Theory looks at learning. ABA Theory looks at learning as a three-stage process (Antecedent Behavior Consequence). According to this ABC process, an antecedent (A) occurs that triggers a behavior (B). The behavior (B) then leads to a consequence (C).

 

For example, your child may become hungry. Hunger is the Antecedent that leads your child to eat an apple (B). Eating an apple (B) has the consequence (C) of reducing your child’s hunger. In this example, the consequence (C) should be a positive outcome and should lead your child to be more likely to eat an apple when he/she feels hungry.

 

However, if your child chose a snack that makes him/her feel unwell, the C would be negative and less likely to reoccur. Say your child is allergic to strawberries. If you child feels hungry (A), and chooses to eat strawberries (B), he/she will have an allergic reaction (C).

 

This means that your child feels unwell. This would be considered a negative reinforcement, meaning that your child would be less likely to eat strawberries (B) in the future when hungry (A).

 

One of the things that create issues with learning is that there can be many things occurring within an environment that interfere with, or replace, the intended Antecedent. For example, if your child is on the autism spectrum, he/she may be highly influenced by sound. 

 

In a regular learning environment, your child may have to deal with sounds that other children don’t appear bothered by. A conversation taking place across the room may impact your child’s’ ability to focus on what the teacher is presenting (the intended Antecedent).

 

ABI Strategies focus on modifying the environment to reduce the likelihood that something in the environment could trigger an interfering behavior. For this reason, your ABA Therapist may engage your child in an environment that has few distractions. Teaching your child in this type of environment, helps your child to focus on the intended antecedent.

 

Aspects of ABI Therapy include:

  •       Modifying learning environments
  •       Providing choices
  •       Engaging your child with motivating items.

 

One example of an ABI intervention is offering a child, who tends to behave defiantly, a choice. Rather than asking your child to complete a worksheet, your ABA Therapist may present your child with three worksheets and allow your child to choose one. This intervention will likely result in your child happily completing the chosen worksheet rather than defiantly saying no.

 

Exercise:

You may be surprised to learn that your child’s ABA Therapist may engage your child in exercise as part of his/her therapy session. Exercise not only improves one’s physical health, it has been proven to have many other benefits.

 

Exercise can:

  •       Increase your child’s feelings of happiness
  •       Create a sense of calm that helps your child focus
  •       Reduce sensations of pain
  •       Improve your child’s ability to sleep
  •       Encourage your child to use social and verbal skills
  •       Improve your child’s memory
  •       Help your child improve gross motor skills by working his/her major muscle groups
  •       Help your child improve fine motor skills needed for things like holding a pencil, by working his/her small muscle groups.

 

You may, for example, notice that your child’s ABA therapist engages him/her in a game of ball or a series of stretching exercises at the beginning of a therapy session or during a break between more traditional learning activities.

 

Extinction:

Extinction in ABA is simply a procedure used to help reduce problem behaviors. Different strategies are developed to reduce problem behaviors based on the way the particular behaviors are being maintained.

 

Some problem behaviors are maintained because they are being positively reinforced. Your child may obtain positive reinforcement in the form of attention when he/she becomes overly loud, for example.

 

Some problem behaviors are maintained because they are being reinforced by the removal of a negative. Your child may find that when they are openly defiant to doing work, they are withdrawn from the learning environment.

 

 For example if a child is removed from the classroom and placed in a quiet space to reflect after being defiant about completing homework. he/she may find that the removal of the offending work if reinforcing although the situation is intended as punishment.

 

Some problem behaviors are maintained because they are automatically reinforced by the behavior itself. For example, some children get great joy out of rolling the windows in a moving car up and down.

 

 Although this may seem to be a simple act of defiance, the change in the physical sensation of wind rushing across their face may be engaging for the child and therefore automatically reinforcing the unwanted behavior.

 

Regardless of why the negative behavior occurs, your child’s ABA therapist may use extinction to reduce it. To extinguish the problem behavior, it must become paired with a lack of reinforcement. A behavior that historically resulted in the removal of negative stimulus, must no longer have the same outcome. Ultimately, over a period of time, a child learns that the behavior fails to get them whatever was maintaining it.

 

Functional Behavior Assessment:

A Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) is the process your child’s ABA Therapist uses to identify the behaviors that need to be altered to help your child learn. This process helps your child’s ABA therapist identify specific behaviors, determine the purpose of these behaviors, and figure out the factors that are maintaining these behaviors. Your child’s FBA will become the basis for the interventions your child’s ABA Therapist uses to help your child learn and grow.

 

To develop your child’s FBA, your child’s ABA Therapist will spend time observing your child. Your child’s ABA Therapist may also speak to parents, teachers, and medical providers to get a better understanding of your child.

 

Functional Communication Training:

Functional Communication Training (FCT) uses differential reinforcement (DR) to teach a child to replace one behavior with another. Generally, a child is taught to replace a problematic behavior with an appropriate phrase or some other way of communicating. FCT interventions progress through a set of stages.

 

An FCT intervention is developed and taught by:

  •       Conducting an assessment of the problem behavior
  •       Determining appropriate communication
  •       Teaching the child the new communication skill
  •       Reinforcing every use of the appropriate communication
  •       Reminding your child to use the new communication
  •       Ignoring the problem behavior whenever it happens

 

For example, your child may be throwing his/her pencil whenever frustration builds. Your child’s ABA Therapist may work with him/her to replace the pencil throwing with the phrase, “I’m getting frustrated.”

 

Children who are non-verbal may be taught to replace the pencil throwing with using a gesture from sign language or a picture to express themselves.

 

Modeling:

Modeling is, simply put, when one person intentionally shows another person what an ideal behavior looks like. In ABA therapy, your child’s therapist may use modeling to help your child understand the behavior that he/she is looking for.

 

For example, if your child’s ABA therapist is helping your child learn to hold a pencil correctly, they may spend time showing the child how they position their fingers and the pencil to prepare for writing. They may then draw attention to how they move their fingers to make a mark.

 

Modeling is simply applying learning through watching.

 

Parent-implemented Intervention:

Some ABA programs have used Parent-implemented Intervention (PII) with great success. PII involves ABA practitioners training and collaborating with a child’s parents to provide ABA interventions. Studies indicate that this practice can be a highly effective way of teaching and supporting children on the autism spectrum.

 

With the growth in the numbers of children being identified as struggling with autism spectrum disorders, there is often a lag between identifying a child who could benefit from ABA Therapy and getting this type of support.

 

Studies show that Parent-implemented Intervention is beneficial for children on the autism spectrum. PII allows parents to engage their children in their natural settings. This allows the child to learn without the anxiety of traveling to a clinic. It also allows children to learn without the delays that can occur in finding appropriate professional care.

 

You may for example work with your ABA therapist to learn how to support the use of ABA strategies to help your child while you are waiting to get into seeing an ABA therapist. Or, in times like this, when we are all practicing social distancing, you may work with an ABA therapist to provide support to your child when face-to-face therapy isn’t a reasonable option.

 

Picture Exchange Communication System:

A Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is a modified ABB program that allows people without the ability to speak to use images to communicate. Studies have shown that suing PECS can improve your child’s language skills. A PECS can also help your child communicate needs and help reduce behaviors associated with the frustration of being misunderstood or unable to communicate.

 

For example, if you child is unable to ask for specific foods, he/she may be provided with a PECS of a variety of foods to pick from at snack time.

 

Pivotal Response Training:

Pivotal Response Training (PRT) is a variation of ABA therapy. This method is based on the idea that there are pivotal behaviors that influence other behaviors. Therapists using PRT focus on these pivotal areas instead of looking at specific behaviors. PRT often occurs through gameplay.

 

As your child progresses through PRT improvement in the pivotal area focus upon, you should see this behavior generalized to other areas of communication, social engagement, learning, etc. For example, if your child is learning to ask for toys during play sessions, he/she will be positively reinforced for asking for the toys available for play. You can expect that your child will begin to ask for other things that he/she desires in other settings as well.

 

Redirection:

Redirection is a technique used by many therapists, educators, and caregivers. An ABA therapist using this technique quill distract a child from a problem behavior that is happening. The child’s attention is drawn toward more appropriate behavior.

 

Suppose for example that your child hits another child to get their attention. Upon seeing this behavior, your child’s ABA therapist may either say something or tap your child on the shoulder. This breaks into the behavior that is occurring. The therapist may then direct your child to repeat a phrase like, “excuse me”. This allows your child to then to practice the appropriate behavior.

 

Scripting:

Scripting means repeating the same words over and over again. ABA therapists may use scripting to help your child learn a new skill. The therapist will create a description of a skill or situation. The therapist will practice the script with your child before the skill is used. A script may be as simple as, “ook the person you are talking to in the eye.”

 

Scripts may be useful when your child is anticipating social situations. Once the steps of a new skill have been practiced and learned, the ABA therapist will work with your child to fade the script.

July 28, 2020 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

The 6 Best Headphones for Children Struggling with Autism

If you have children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), you have probably noticed that they can struggle with loud noises.

In this article we are going to explore why children on the autism spectrum may experience physical sensations like noise negatively. 

We will also look at how a good pair of headphones can help improve the quality of these children’s lives.

 

Children with Autism often have a hard time with distractions:

You probably know that people diagnosed with autism process information differently than those who don’t live on the autism spectrum. However, understanding what that means and what it looks like is another matter. 

You may notice what appears to be an extreme reaction in children on the autism spectrum in response to noises, abrupt physical sensations (like bursts of air), and consistent physical sensations that most of us fail to recognize (like the rubbing of clothing and tags within their clothing). 

Some of these responses can be due to hyper sensitivity to stimulation from the environment. Others are due to the differences in the way a person with autism experiences stimulation from the outside world. For example some children on the autism spectrum will experience a burst of air as a vibrating sound.

 

In addition to differences in how they perceive physical sensations, many people diagnosed with Autism Syndrome Disorders (ASD) experience a condition called Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). 

People who suffer with SPD experience their environments in a different way than others. Depending on how their brains process sensations, people with SPD may appear indifferent to pain and changes in temperature. This is due to their brains being hypo reactive to bodily sensations. Simply put, these people don’t experience the sensations as intensely as others may. On the other hand, some people dealing with SPD may experience hyper reactivity to the signals they receive from their environment. 

Regardless of the reason, people on the autism spectrum may find themselves unable to filter out the irrelevant elements their environment provides. 

They may find certain sounds, sights, and textures highly distracting. They may be unable to filter out the persistent noises that occur around them. 

Why Noises Create a Problem:

Autistic children who are hypersensitive to sound may:

  •       Experience a soft conversation that is taking place at some distance from them as if the conversation is being directed toward them. They will not only hear these conversations, but they will hear them with enough clarity to understand words you and I may not even hear.
  •       Experience background noises like the humming of the heating unit as a constant distraction.
  •       Experience loud or abrupt noises as confusing and even physically painful.
  •       Be unable to determine which noises are important and which are irrelevant. This inability to distinguish which noises to attend to can cause autistic children to be hypervigilant, easily distracted, and anxious. 

 

Since this is your child’s everyday experience, it is unlikely that it will even occur to them to tell you that this is happening. Just as you expect others to experience the world the same way you do, children will believe that you perceive the world the same way they do.

 

How noise cancelling headphones can help:

Noise cancelling headphones or earmuffs can allow your child to focus on the task at hand by effectively turning off the invasive noises coming from the outside world. 

The technology of these headphones can completely cancel out distractions like quiet conversations occurring in other areas of the classroom. They can also minimize the impact of abrupt or loud noises that a child with autism may find frightening. You may want to consider that:

 

  •       A good pair of noise cancelling headphones should be able to block enough of the constant noises bombarding your child’s ears to allow them to focus on the task in front of them and reduce the noises that do come through to a level that can be managed.

 The amount of noise a set of headphones cancels will be identified by the noise reduction rating (NRR) in decibels (dB). The amount of noise reduction your child requires will depend upon how sensitive he/she is to noises. Some children will need headphones with higher levels of noise reduction than others.

 

  •       A good pair of headphones should be comfortable enough to be worn throughout the day. It is ideal if you can find headphones comfortable enough to be worn to bed. This can allow your child to get a good night’s sleep.

 

  •       Aside from simply cancelling invasive noises, some headphones can also provide therapeutic sounds to mask the noises headphones fail to block. If your child struggles with feelings of anxiety, you may want a pair of headphones that provide calming sounds.

 

  •       As children on the autism spectrum can be highly sensitive to the pressure and texture of headphones, you will want to be mindful of how the headphones sit on your child’s head. Most children will prefer headphones that completely cover the ears.

 

  •       To truly cancel out noise headphones should fit tightly to your child’s head. However, the best pair of headphones for your child is one that can be comfortably worn for long periods of time. You may have to weigh the balance of comfort and noise cancellation to find the best pair of headphones for your child.

 

  •       Many children and most teens are sensitive to fashion. Headphones that are purely functional may work well for young children, but as children age you may find yourself having to make concessions to style.

 

The Best Headphones or Earmuffs for Children with Autism:

Below is a list of the best headphones/earmuffs for children with Autism.

 

Vic Firth Kidphones Isolation Headphones for Kids:

These well reviewed (4.5 of 5 stars) are very lightweight. Although these simple headphones do not allow for adjustment of the headband, they are designed with large well padded ear cups that rotate to accommodate a variety of head sizes. Available for $26.99 on Amazon, these no nonsense headphones provide a noise reduction rating of 22dB. Customers note that though these headphones cancel out background noise and reduce surrounding conversations to a manageable level, they do not provide sufficient noise cancelling for children who are highly sensitive to sound. The one-size-fits-all design is best suited for older children and teens.

b-Calm Headphones:

National Autism Resources b-Calm headphones retail for $139 and were specifically designed with earbuds that play “acoustic shield” soundtracks. These soundtracks provide white noise for calming. The earmuffs of the b-calm headphones were intentionally constructed for long wearing comfort. Not intended to be noise cancelling, these headphones are best used for times when a distracting level of white noise can support your child. Customers indicate that these headphones are helpful in situations like long bus rides. Though well reviewed (four of five stars) customers that expected noise cancelling headphones have expressed some frustration with the level of noise these headphones allow through.

Comfort Wear Ear Muffs:

National Autism Resources Comfort Wear Ear Muffs retail for $29.99, these earmuffs were designed for day long wear. They have a noise reduction rating of 27 decibels and feature soft foam cushioned ear muffs that will fit over your child’s ears. Customers share that these earmuffs are exceptional at reducing distressing noises like thunderstorms. Exceptionally well reviewed (five or five stars), customers indicate that these earmuffs are comfortable enough to be worn through the night. 

Banz Headphones for Babies:

Available on Amazon for $34.95, these headphones are specifically designed for children newborn to 24 months. These colorful headphones have a noise reducing rating of 31dB. With super soft padding to protect your child’s delicate ears, these well rated headphones (4.5 of 5 stars) are comfortable enough for bedtime. Customers indicate that these comfortable headphones are ideal for intrusive noises associated with firework displays and music festivals.

Muted Designer Hearing Protection for Infants and Kids:

These colorful folding headphones are designed to cover your child’s ears and feature a padded headband for increased all day comfort. These well reviewed Headphones (4.5 of 5 stars) offer a noise reduction rate of 27dB and are available on Amazon for $24.99. Made with a foldable design these headphones can be tucked in a backpack or diaper bag to travel with you anywhere. Although most customers expressed great satisfaction with these colorful headphones, some customers indicated difficulty in unfolding and placing them on young children.

Venue Active Noise Cancelling Wireless headphone from Skullcandy:

For the older child and young adults who are looking for something beyond the ordinary, Skullcandy provides a well reviewed (4.5 of 5 stars) headphone retailing at $179.99. 

Featuring a lightweight design, these headphones have soft memory foam ear cushions to conform to your child’s ears and an adjustable headband for a perfect fit. These earphones have a bluetooth range of 30m, so your child can move around even while connected to a computer or tablet. Ideal for teens and older children that want to balance enjoying their audio activities with controlling outside noise. 

These high quality headphones allow your child to control their environment while making a statement of personal style. For those with a true interest in music, it should be noted that reviews indicate that these headphones may emphasize bass sounds. Some customers also indicate that they notice a hissing when there is no audio playing. These wireless headphones can be connected to a power source when necessary.

Other Things to Consider:

Children on the autism spectrum tend to be very attached to consistency. If your child finds a pair of headphones that work well, you may want to keep a second pair on hand. If your child should lose or break the headphone that he/she has become used to, it may be difficult to locate a similar pair in a timely fashion. 

Children on the autism spectrum may find it difficult to transition to a different type of headphone due to the texture of the earmuffs, the cushioning provided by the headband, the tension of the headphone, or the amount of noise the headphones allow through.

 

Citation: 

 

https://www.griffinot.com/asd-and-sensory-processing-disorder/

https://positivevibesinc.com/pages/how-can-noise-cancelling-headphones-help-with-asd-and-autism

https://iancommunity.org/ssc/noise-sensitivity-autism#:~:text=Among%20children%20who%20took%20part,percent%20were%20sensitive%20to%20noise.&text=Generally%20speaking%2C%20researchers%20have%20had%20trouble%20being%20much%20more%20specific.

https://www.nationalautismresources.com/headphones/

https://www.amazon.com/Earmuffs-Infant-Hearing-Protection-Sunglasses/dp/B07JGFTYTR/ref=as_li_ss_tl?crid=29XDAO0BULMA7&keywords=banz+kids+ear+protection&qid=1568141032&s=gateway&sprefix=banz+,aps,139&sr=8-6&th=1&linkCode=sl1&tag=lissbarale-20&linkId=9b269d994d5387637ac2b477e93df273&language=en_US

https://www.b-calmsound.com/

https://www.skullcandy.com/shop/headphones/bluetooth-headphones/venue

https://www.nationalautismresources.com/

https://soundwiz.net/best-sensory-headphones-for-kids/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbes-personal-shopper/2019/01/18/skullcandy-venue-review-noise-canceling-over-ears-with-an-exciting-sound-profile/#2209f6ae4cc4

 

July 28, 2020 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

The Atlanta ABA Therapy Guide

If your child is diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder or has experienced behavioral difficulties in school, you have probably heard of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy.

ABA therapy is a specific type of therapy that has been found helpful in improving behaviors, supporting learning, and improving outcomes for children struggling with a variety of issues. Unfortunately, understanding and locating the appropriate ABA provider for your child can be difficult.

We are going to help you by explaining the specifics of ABA therapy and by looking at the best option for ABA therapy in the Greater Atlanta Area.

What is ABA Therapy?

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) focuses on improving particular behaviors. ABA therapy may be used to help your child build social skills, learn to read, or improve any number of life skills. ABA has been effectively used with children struggling with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

 

An ABA therapist will work with you and your child to:

 

  •       Identify which of your child’s behaviors need to be changed.
  •       Develop individual goals and set expected outcomes that are specific to your child’s needs.
  •       Identify ways to measure your child’s improvements.
  •       Determine your child’s baseline. This will let you know where your child is starting from.
  •       Support your child in learning new skills and/or how to avoid problem behaviors.
  •       Help you learn to support your child’s learning and improved behaviors.
  •       Review your child’s progress.
  •       Decide if your child has other behaviors that need to improve or skills that need to be learned.

 

An ABA trained therapist should spend time with your child to determine his/her specific strengths and abilities as well as his/her challenges with doing a functional behavior assessment (FBA). The therapist will make observations regarding your child’s behavior, his/her communication skills, and his/her communication level. It is this assessment that will be the basis for the work your child will do in therapy.

 

What to Look for in an ABA Therapist:

You will want to look for an ABA therapist that is licensed or an ABA clinic that hires licensed ABA therapists. A licensed ABA therapist is a clinical therapist with additional experience and training in applied behavioral analysis.

You will notice that ABA therapists with a master’s degree, ABA training, and board certification will be identified with the initials BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) following their name.

Therapists with a doctorate degree will be identified by the initials BCBA-D.

You will also find board certified members of your ABA team that don’t hold advanced degrees. A Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) is a board certified analyst with a bachelor’s degree and additional training.

These analysts work as supportive members of an ABA team. There may also be members of your ABA team that do not hold college degrees. A BACB certified technician must hold a minimum of a high school diploma and have taken an additional 40 + hours of specialized training.

These technicians can only work under the direct supervision of an BCBA or a BCaBA. As ABA technicians must work under the supervision of a licensed provider, you want to make sure that someone on your child’s ABA team is a licensed professional.

Advantages of Home ABA Therapy:

If you have determined that ABA Therapy is right for your child, you may also want to consider whether your family would benefit from trying In-Home ABA Therapy. The goal of ABA therapy remains the same whether your child sees a therapist in a center or in your private home. ABA therapists and their team members will:

 

  •       Provide a detailed assessment of your child’s abilities. The difference here is that the ABA professional will provide the assessment in your home. Ideally, this will make the assessment more realistic as your child is being engaged in his/her home and not an unfamiliar space.
  •       Develop goals appropriate to your child’s needs.
  •       Select treatment methods with your child’s environment in mind. When you choose to use in-home ABA therapy, the therapist has the unique opportunity to engage parents and siblings in your child’s therapy in a more natural way.

 

In-home ABA therapy allows therapists to engage your child in the space where their behaviors are most likely to occur. In-home ABA therapy is particularly well suited for children who need support with daily living and household skills. However, in-home ABA therapy can also help your child with:

 

  •       Developing Social skills
  •       Improving Verbal behavior
  •       Learning academic information
  •       Learning skills that help them to be independent
  •       Learning skills associated with eating, self-care, toilet training, dressing, etc.
  •       Improving Family interactions (performing chores, eating out, shopping, etc.)

 

Finding ABA Therapy Services:

Your child’s pediatrician or your family physician is often where people find their ABA providers. Your doctor can help you determine if ABA therapy is right for your child and can write a prescription for this treatment if a prescription is required by your insurance provider. Your child’s school may also be able to provide you with the names of providers in your area.

If you have private insurance, your provider may be able to provide you with the name of ABA providers covered under your insurance. You will also find agencies that support individuals struggling with specific challenges offer connections to resources. For instance Autism Speaks offers information regarding ABA providers by age of the person seeking service and location.

The Best Atlanta Based ABA Therapy:

When it comes to ABA therapy in the Atlanta area, we at Hidden Talents ABA have set the standard.

We offer services for children from birth to the age of 12. Staffed by an experienced team of BCBA therapists, Hidden Talents ABA offers a wide range of treatment options. Whether you choose in-home or clinic based therapy, your child will be paired with a team of BCBA and ABA therapists. Hidden Talents follows a three step process. This includes:

○       1) Intake: At Hidden Talents ABA a member of the intake coordination will gather the needed information to determine eligibility and request authorization for services to cover your child’s ABA therapy,

○       2) Assessment: A Hidden Talents ABA BCBA therapist will conduct an assessment of your child’s skills and develop an individualized treatment plan taking into account your child’s school, your family, and your child’s special strengths and challenges,

○       3) Treatment: Once the treatment plan is created, your child will be paired with a team made up of BCBA and ABA therapists to support individualized treatment for your child.

 

Is ABA Therapy Effective for Autism?

More than 20 studies have been performed that establish intensive long-term therapy based on ABA principles improves outcomes for many children diagnosed with autism. ABA has been identified by the US Surgeon General as an evidence-based best practice treatment. This is the gold standard for therapeutic interventions. Clinical studies show that children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) can improve their intellectual functioning, language skills, social skills, and daily living skills through the use of ABA interventions. Though there are fewer studies completed on adults with ASD, those that have been done show similar results.

 

In 2013, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center indicated that adding home based treatment to center-based interventions for children on the autism spectrum can improve:

  •       Communication skills
  •       Play skills
  •       A child’s IQ in families that experience high levels of stress.

They also found that these services can help to:

  •       Reduce parental levels of stress
  •       Reduce parental levels of depression
  •       Increase parental levels of satisfaction and children’s outcomes

What does an ABA Session Look Like?

Your child’s first ABA session will focus on developing an individualized plan. If you are dealing with an in-home provider you can expect an ABA professional to come to your home and meet with you and your child. The professional will meet your child where he/she is and create a plan specifically designed to meet the needs of your child. What this plan entails will depend upon your child’s age, your child’s abilities, and your child’s specific needs.

 

After the individualized plan is developed your ABA therapy team will work with your child toward his/her specific goals. Due to the individuality of ABA plans it is virtually impossible to tell you what a session will look like. Your child’s ABA session will be guided by his/her specific needs. If your child is working on improving communication skills, your child may be engaged in work or play with a therapist where he/she is rewarded for verbalizing emotions, identifying his/her specific needs, or naming objects. If your child is working on following a new schedule, he/she may be engaged in working through specific steps of a chore or project.

 

Although the specifics of your child’s ABA session will be unique, you may see any of the following interventions in your child’s ABA session:

  •       Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention (EIBE): EIBI is often used with children under the age of five. This intervention involves an individualized curriculum intended to teach communication skills, social interaction, increase positive behaviors, and decrease negative behaviors like tantrums and aggression toward others. This can also be used to help children reduce behaviors that can cause harm to themselves like head banging.
  •       Pivotal Response Training (PRT): This intervention allows your child to take the lead in a learning activity. Here you will often see the therapist offering your child a set of choices.
  •       Discrete Trial Training (DTT): During DTT a therapist will work with your child in a formal learning interaction. This will likely take place at a tabletop. This aspect of the session calls for formal interaction between your child and his/her therapist. The therapist will use this time to teach specific skills. Your child may be practicing a specific verbal or social skill here, and he/she will receive feedback after each attempt.
  •       Early Start Denver Model (ESDM): This intervention involves play-based activities and incorporated working on several goals at one time. So, don’t become too concerned if your child’s therapy session looks like fun.

How do You Qualify for ABA Therapy?

Many types of private health insurance cover ABA services. To find out if your private health insurance covers ABA therapy services, you will want to contact your provider. Some providers will require a medical doctor to prescribe this therapy. Your family care provider or your child’s pediatrician will be the best person to speak to regarding whether or not your child can benefit from ABA therapy.

 

If your child is covered under Medicaid, you will find that all medically necessary treatments are covered for children under the age of 21. This means that so long as your child’s doctor prescribes ABA therapy for your child, Medicaid is required to cover the costs of this treatment.

Questions To Ask Your ABA Provider:

Of course, you are going to have a wide array of questions but here are a few you may want to consider asking:

  •       How much parent participation do you encourage/allow?
  •       How much training will I be provided?
  •       Will I be participating in sessions with my child?
  •       What will I be expected to implement outside of therapy to support my child’s progress?
  •       Are your analysts board certified?
  •       Is your staff required to attend ongoing training and workshops?
  •       What kind of training does your direct-level staff have before working with my child?
  •       What therapy services do you offer?
  •       What services do you offer to families?
  •       Do you provide group sessions to help children work on their social skills?
  •       What size are your groups?
  •       How will my child’s progress be monitored?
  •       How often will changes be made to my child’s treatment plan?

 

How Long Should ABA Therapy Last?

As with the question related to what an ABA session looks like, the answer to this question varies widely. ABA therapy can take hours each day and continue to weeks, months, or years. Although one behavior may be tackled and resolved positively, your child may need to deal with many individual behaviors or may need to learn a number of individual skills before treatment is complete.

 

There are several elements that can impact the amount of time your child spends in ABA therapy. Thing that impact the amount of time your child may spend in ABA therapy include:

  •       The behavior you are seeking to change or the skill your child needs to learn will have a huge impact on the amount of time ABA therapy can be expected to take. If your child requires ABA therapy to learn to read or write, he/she will generally spend more time in ABA therapy than if he/she needs to learn to follow a new schedule.
  •       Family Involvement has a large impact on the amount of time your child may spend in ABA therapy. The support of family members can decrease the amount of time your child spends in ABA therapy. However, if the family doesn’t have the time to spend reinforcing work done in therapy sessions, or if there is inconsistency in following through on therapy goals, the process can take more time.
  •       Insurance Coverage: Unfortunately, a large factor that influences the amount of time your child may spend in ABA therapy revolves around your insurance company. Some insurance coverage will limit the number of hours your client may spend in therapy a week. If the therapy must be parsed out, your child may ultimately spend more time in therapy as a task that could be resolved with intense therapy for a course of weeks may require more time if spread out over to accommodate a specific number of hours a week.

 

Citation:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/applied-behavior-analysis

https://www.healthline.com/health/aba-therapy#how-it-works

https://www.autismspeaks.org/applied-behavior-analysis-aba-0

https://hiddentalentsaba.com/our-process/

https://www.sbsaba.com/the-complete-guide-to-in-home-aba-therapy/

https://www.appliedbehavioranalysisedu.org/in-home-care/#:~:text=Home%2Dbased%20ABA%20therapy%20provides,%2C%20eating%20out%2C%20etc.)

https://www.autismspeaks.org/applied-behavior-analysis-aba-0#:~:text=More%20than%2020%20studies%20have,for%201%20to%203%20years.

https://behavioral-innovations.com/blog/what-happens-in-an-aba-therapy-session/

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/addm-community-report/georgia.html

https://atlautism.org/

https://butterflyeffects.com/aba-therapy-providers/georgia/atlanta-georgia/

https://www.autismspeaks.org/pivotal-response-treatment-prt-0

 

July 24, 2020 by Ben Schorr 0 Comments

How Technology Can Help Children With Autism

In 2020 the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that about 1 in every 54 US children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The prevalence of this disorder makes it essential that parents, family members, and educators understand how to best support children struggling with ASD

 

We are going to spend some time here exploring the challenges that children on the spectrum and their parents may experience as well as how technology can be used to help these kids.

Challenges of an autistic child

Children who struggle with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) experience varying amounts of difficulty mainly in two specific areas. 

 

These children may experience difficulties in social interaction and communication. Additionally, they often have difficulty:

 

  •       Developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships
  •       Being flexible with changes in schedules
  •       Developing language skills
  •       Learning to read
  •       Comprehending what they are reading despite being able to read at the same level as their classmates
  •       Sleeping
  •       Performing tasks associated with eating and maintaining hygiene

 

The challenges of raising a child on the autism spectrum can cause parents to feel anxious, depressed, angry, and isolated. 

 

Luckily, research indicates that early diagnosis and the use of technology can help children diagnosed with ASD overcome the challenges that they face. 

 

Technology also provides a great resource for parents. Research indicates that the use of technology helps children identified as existing on the autism spectrum to improve literacy, social-communicative skills, adaptive skills, and to accurately detect the emotions of others.

 

In 2019 Valencia, Ruser, Quinonas, and Janet reviewed 94 studies and found that the use of technology with children diagnosed with autism is very promising.

What is assistive technology?

If your child has autism, you have no doubt heard the term assistive technology. Although this may conjure images of complex computer systems, the term actually refers to any auxiliary aid, device, or tool (no matter how complex or how simple) that allows a user with a disability to perform tasks that they would find difficult or impossible without this assistance.

 

Technology supports individuals with disabilities in completing daily living activities, learning information more efficiently, completing work tasks, and simply enjoying leisure time.

 

Assistive technology can be used to help your child learn to use language. You will find some language apps come with lots of pictures. There are some apps that allow you to upload pictures of your own.

 

Assistive technology can also be used to help your autistic child to improve in other areas where they experience challenges. For example, children on the autism spectrum often have difficulty identifying their feelings. Apps like “Touch and Learn” allow kids to see what specific emotions look like on the faces of other children. This particular app provides realistic photographs of young children expressing a wide range of emotions. 

 

When you child accesses this app, they hear a voice provide the name of an emotion. The player then sees four photographs of young children. The point of this game is to correctly identify the child expressing the emotion you have been given. If the correct photograph is chosen, the player is rewarded with a large green checkmark.

 

Technology that can help autistic children with communication:

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

This is a particular type of assistive technology that helps people with autism by promoting independence and increasing social interactions and improving communication. AAC can help your child communicate his/her needs. When using AAC apps with your child, you will want to first model the use of the device. In the beginning, you will want to reward your child for using the device even if you are unsure of what the child is trying to tell you.

 

Once you have your child constantly using the device, you will want to reward the child for communicating with the device. For example, early on, you will want to provide a reward for the child playing with the AAC. After the child is used to playing with the device, you will want to begin being more selective about rewards. If you ask your child to use the AAC to tell you want they want for dinner, you will only want to reward responses that answer that question, for example.

 

Slowly, you will want to move to rewarding your child for communicating in more and more complicated ways. This encourages your child to develop more complex ways of communicating with you.

 

Perhaps the most obvious use of technology for children diagnosed with autism, is to provide help with communication skills. There are many apps available that support nonverbal individuals in making their needs known. You will find a long list of apps that can help your child learn to create multi word sentences. You will also find many apps that help your child identify letters and letter sounds to support the learning of reading skills.

 

Generally, when we talk about communication skills, we tend to forget that more than half of what we communicate is done without words. Subtle nonverbal communication like facial expressions and body language are difficult for autistic children to pick up on. 

 

However, you will find a variety of apps that can help your child with this aspect of communication also. There are several apps that help autistic children with strong verbal skills, learn to identify different emotions using photographs or drawings. This will help your autistic child learn how to read nonverbal communication and will help them develop healthy social interactions.

 

Prologue2Go:

This is identified as one of the top options for improving language skills. The app allows for a great deal of personalization. Settings and displays can be customized to support your child’s motor skill level as well as visual needs. Prologue2Go also allows you to have words sounded out with different accents to accommodate your specific needs.

Touch and Learn:

This app provides realistic photographs of young children expressing a wide range of emotions. Children can make identifying emotions a game. When you child accesses this app, he/she will hear a voice name and emotion. Four photographs of young children flash on the screen. The point of this game is to identify the face expressing the emotion that was named. If the correct photograph is chosen, the player is rewarded with a large green checkmark.

Otsimo:

For parents looking for assistive games, Otsimo offers a fun and engaging alternative. Otsimo offers an easy-to-use interface with buttons that provide image-words, When your child hits the button, he/sh will hear the word spoken. This app uses bright engaging images and allows your child to play a variety of games that support the learning of vocabulary. Games include puzzles, drawing games, matching games, and learning new sound games for varied play.

Technology that can help autistic children with Modeling Behaviors:

Children on the autism spectrum often have more difficulty with novel activities that other children do. They often don’t pick up on the unwritten rules that accompany new situations. Parents will find that using technology to model the steps for a new activity can help their child build confidence and reduce feelings of anxiety. Whether your child is preparing for a first trip to the library or an airplane ride, technology can help them develop a better understanding of the process.

 

Model Me Going Places:

This app provided illustrations and instructions to help autistic children understand the unwritten rules that accompany many everyday situations.

Social Adventures:

This app teaches relationship behaviors in an 8-week social skills awareness program. Designed by parents for children with ASD this app helps your child learn much needed skills like how to initiate a conversation. 

 

Technology that can help autistic children with Scheduling:

Choiceworks:

Available for ipad, iphone, and ipod, this app offers your child a scheduler that presents tasks in sequential order. Choiceworks provides visual indicators of which tasks have been completed and can help your child feel accomplished by working through what may otherwise seem like an overwhelming number of steps to complete a task. This app is good for helping children develop new schedules for anything from bedtime to schoolwork and can be used to help children soothe when waiting or when they feel out of control of their emotions. This app can be useful in helping your child understand how to establish and meet goals. 

Technology that can help autistic children with Motivation:

Children on the autism spectrum enjoy computer games as much as other kids. You will find that there are a great many games out there that can help your child build cognitive skills while at play. These apps are a great addition to the parenting arsenal. Apps with learning games are a great reward for children on the autism spectrum. Whether you are using these apps to motivate your child to complete daily chores or to learn a new skill, your children will love it when you use these educational apps as a reward.

Zoolingo:

This app was designed specifically for children on the autism spectrum. Zoolingo offers a variety of learning games. Your child will be readily engaged in puzzle games, pop the balloon game, games using nursery rhymes, shapes games, and a game where they are asked to match emotions with facial expressions.

Technology that can help autistic children with Social Skill Development:

Children diagnosed with ASD often lack social skills that build a sense of belonging in traditional classrooms and social groups. Children on the autism spectrum may not follow social norms like waiting their turn, looking the person they are speaking to in the eye, etc. Luckily, these skills can be learned with repetition and patience.

Look in My Eyes Restaurant:

This app engages your child in a series of social skills like practicing making eye contact.

Autism Express:

This free app uses gentle encouragement to help children master everyday social cues. This app will help your child recognize and practice facial expressions.

 

Ways parents can use technology to help with their autistic child’s daily activities:

People on the spectrum experience difficulties in developing communication and socialization skills. A child with autism may have difficulty communicating both verbally and non-verbally. They may have difficulty relating to others. They may have a pattern of repetitive behavior, and they may have difficulty being flexible with changes in schedules. Luckily, parents of children on the autism scale can find a wide range of technological devices and apps to help their children learn skills that don’t come naturally for them.

 

To support your autistic child, you may want to:

Use Devices and Apps That Improve Quality of Life:

Dreampad is a music app that looks like a pillow. This device/app creates gentle vibrations and calming music that lulls your child to sleep. Improved sleep patterns can help your child control feelings of anxiety. Ultimately, better sleep can lead to less stressful days for both you and your child.

Use Your Device as a Reward:

Children diagnosed with autism are often very interested in computers and technology. This means that ipads, cellphones, and computer games are wonderful rewards for completing tasks.

Use Technology as a Model:

Children with ASD often experience anxiety when faced with new situations. Using apps that help your child break down and understand new spaces and activities will help them to control their anxiety levels and great new scenarios with more confidence.

Teach Through Game Play:

Research has found that technology is a great way to support learning for your child regardless of his/her abilities. This is partly due to the fact that using technology as a teaching tool engages many of your child’s senses. Learning apps use bright colors and lights for visual stimulation. They use sounds and words for auditory learning. Your child will push buttons, drag tiles, or slide objects engaging his/her sense of touch. The other wonderful thing about apps is that they can be repeated over and over again. So, if your child requires repetition to learn new skills, technology is a consistent teacher that will never get tired of the same lesson. 

 

 What to look for in an app for your autistic child:

Regardless of whether or not you have good technology skills you will most likely want to look for:

Apps that Offer Some Customizability:

You will find many apps that allow you to add your own photographs to visual displays to help engage your child. Other apps will offer you the opportunity to choose the speed or the accent that verbal information is provided in. Although it isn’t necessary that an app be customizable, you may find that having pictures of favorite toys and people is very engaging for your child.

Apps With Pop Up Reminders:

If you are using an app to help your child maintain a schedule, you will want to look for an app that will provide pop-up reminders for special tasks.

Apps That Are Easy to Use:

You will want to make sure that the apps you are considering are easy for your child to use. Some apps have buttons and visual elements that are customizable so a child with visual challenges or poor fine motor skills can use them as easily as children without these particular challenges.

Other Things to Consider:

When you are looking at technology to support your child’s learning, you are going to want to consider issues associated with safety, price, and accessibility. You will want to consider whether to invest in a computer, a pad, or some other smart device.

Accessibility:

If your child is young or has difficulties with fine motor skills, it may be best to use a device with a touch screen. Luckily, there are many devices that now feature touch screens. You can find laptop computers, desktop computers, pads, and phones that feature touch screen technology.

Use:

Is your child going to be using this technology outside of the home? Does the device need to be lightweight? If your child needs a portable device, you are going to want to be sure that it isn’t too bulky to be easily transported. On the other hand, you are going to want to be sure the device isn’t so small that it can be easily lost. If the device is traveling back and forth to school, you may also want to pay attention to the length of battery life and the ease of recharging.

Hardware Features:

You are going to want to think about who will need to have access to the device you are looking at. You may want to consider whether the device offers parental controls to allow you to prevent unauthorized access to inappropriate websites.

Displays:

You will want to make sure that the sound level of the device you are considering allows your child to hear the spoken word elements apps may offer. You will also want to make sure that the visual display is large enough and bright enough for your child to see all of the elements he/she will need to be able to see. If you are using a phone with a small display to identify emotions in an array of photographs, the size of the visual display may create an unnecessary challenge.

 

Although there are a lot of choices associated with how to use technology with your autistic child, this is an adventure that you and your ASD child should embrace. You will find that there are many free apps that can get you started. If you find that your child responds well to learning with technology, you can find apps designed with your child’s specific needs in mind. Whether your child needs help making his/her needs known, or you simply want an app to help your child remember what tasks he/she needs to complete at bedtime, you will find an app to make both of your lives just a little bit easier.  

 

 

Citation:

https://www.autismspeaks.org/technology-and-autism#:~:text=Augmentative%20and%20alternative%20communication%20(AAC,communication%2C%20and%20increasing%20social%20interactions.

https://www.commonsense.org/education/app/touch-and-learn-emotions

https://web.b.ebscohost.com/abstract?direct=true&profile=ehost&scope=site&authtype=crawler&jrnl=10239391&asa=Y&AN=67088964&h=4RNJ0HylIm2hriFP%2b11f32k6qZaSoHxGPqSVBkatLsWC78jeqM6Zf%2b5GWVYKHmyRyijtVhOm%2fgofUc%2fhmqCo3A%3d%3d&crl=c&resultNs=AdminWebAuth&resultLocal=ErrCrlNotAuth&crlhashurl=login.aspx%3fdirect%3dtrue%26profile%3dehost%26scope%3dsite%26authtype%3dcrawler%26jrnl%3d10239391%26asa%3dY%26AN%3d67088964

https://www.autismspeaks.org/tips-using-assistive-technology-devices

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6832622/

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/autism-learning-disabilities/does-my-child-have-autism.htm

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10803-006-0130-1

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10803-012-1622-9

https://www.autismspeaks.org/autism-statistics#:~:text=Autism%20Prevalence,)%2C%20according%20to%202016%20data.&text=Boys%20are%20four%20times%20more,diagnosed%20with%20autism%20than%20girls.

http://thesocialexpress.com/amazing-apps-autism-absolutely-need-try/

https://otsimo.com/en/best-communication-apps-autism/

https://learningworksforkids.com/apps/choiceworks/

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1362361310365028

https://www.autism.org.uk/about/family-life/using-technology.aspx

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-05981-5_1

https://www.additudemag.com/slideshows/educational-apps-for-kids-with-adhd-social-skills/

 

Scott Rustulka

Scott, a native of Canada, joined the Hidden Talents team at the onset of 2021, moving his family of 6 from San Diego to the great state of Georgia. He began his journey in behavior analytics in 2001 at a time when autism programs had very little oversight by credentialled clinicians. The onset of that journey was wrought with disappointment in a system that seemed to do very little lasting good for the long-term growth of the individuals within that system.

Over the years, Scott determined to ensure that dignity and respect was afforded to the children he had the privilege of working, while devoting a lot of energy into understanding how the development of a child is the key focus to treatment and not reactive behavior modification. Truly listening to the child and the family and finding ways to make behavior change fun and engaging continues to be his passion. Over the last 20 years, Scott still relishes every opportunity to visit families and have the honor of being a part of their lives.

Maureen O'Brien

Maureen joined the Hidden Talents ABA Team in 2020 and has over 15+ years’ of Office Management and Administrative experience. Maureen is that friendly voice that will most likely greet you when you call into the office with a positive attitude and ready to assist with the screening and the ABA authorization process. Maureen said “the best part of my job is working with a phenomenal team and helping as many families as possible.

Olivia Steele

Olivia’s goal is to act as the bridge between our Registered Behavior Therapists and the families that they serve. She has always gravitated towards opportunities that harbor a personal client connection, with a mission statement to always help others.Olivia is passionate about fitness and wellness, spending the last decade as a part time fitness instructor. She most enjoys yoga and Pilates, disciplines that have both physical and meditative benefits. In her free time, she likes crafting and is an amateur woodworker. She is also a big animal lover; she owns a cat and 13 tarantulas.

Arye Hartal

Arye is a Licenced Behavior Analyst and a former airline pilot. His areas of interest include verbal behavior (VBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Improving the quality of life for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families is of great importance to him. Over the course of his career, he has become highly qualified in implementing many ABA techniques including PRT, FCT, ESDM, DTT and NET.

Arye has experience working in the school, community, and home-based settings. His patience, compassion, and knowledge of ABA contributes greatly to the success of the children that he works with. His interests outside of work include volunteering for I Can Bike (teaching kids with disabilities how to ride a bicycle), traveling, spending time with friends and family, playing hockey, and reading.

Joanna Young

Joanna is a graduate of Ball State University and became a licensed, board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA) in 2016. She has worked in this field since 2014 in a variety of settings ranging from in-center, in-home, and currently telehealth. Joanna was introduced to the world of behavior analysis as an undergraduate trying to fulfill her degree requirements, which landed her an internship working as an in-home behavior technician. She quickly realized how effective early intervention ABA therapy was and enjoyed seeing her clients gain new skills as they became more independent.

Joanna particularly loves working with children under 3, especially now that she has her own 6-month-old daughter! She is passionate about ensuring ABA strategies and techniques translate well into the home setting and parents feel empowered to help shape their child's life. Joanna joined the Hidden Talents team in March 2021 as a clinical supervisor and works remotely from Houston, TX.

Elissa Watson

Elissa is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst from Greenville, South Carolina. She has a Masters in Science for Psychology with an emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis and has been working in the field of ABA for 9 years. She has had experience as both an RBT and BCBA in the home, clinical, community, school and telehealth-based environments with a wide range of clients and ages. Elissa, as a part of the Hidden Talents team has broadened her experience to make ABA more accessible to all. When not working, Elissa enjoys spending time with her husband and pets, traveling, and playing music.

Matthew Grennell

Matthew received his Masters of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis in May of 2009 from Florida Institute of Technology. Over the course of his career, Matthew has worked in Florida, Texas and New York, serving both children and adults in both in-home as well as clinic-based settings. The majority of Matthew’s work in Applied Behavior Analysis has been in the in-home setting. Matthew has also consulted with schools and worked as part of multi-disciplinary teams as well as concurrently teaching certification courses for Florida Institute of Technology’s Applied Behavior Analysis program for four years.

Through teaching Matthew was able to not only ensure quality of services provided by himself but also work to ensure that high quality of services could be provided by other Behavior Analysts and service providers. Matthew is very familiar and experienced in working with families to ensure that behavioral progress for every child is maintained in the home through extensive involvement of parents in the process. Matthew has worked primarily with parents and families in all three states he has worked in and has experience with collaborating successfully with all professionals involved in a child’s care.

Matthew believes strongly that a child’s success is best achieved through building skills that maximize success in all areas of their life as a comprehensive approach. Matthew believes that, through this approach, not only does the child benefit directly from improvements in their skill level but the family benefits as well.

Sharifah Christie

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Sharifah moved to America when she was 8 years old. She knew from a young age that she wanted to have a career focused on helping children. In college for her undergraduate program, she studied Speech Pathology at the University of West Georgia. In the later part of the program, she was exposed to the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis and decided to make a switch, eventually graduating with a masters in ABA with an emphasis in Autism at Ball State University. Her fascination with the field deepened as she continued to work as a Behavioral Therapist for over two years.

Desiring to develop in other roles and responsibilities within this field, Sharifah is now managing the administrative aspects of the clinical hiring and training at Hidden Talents and enjoying every moment of it! Sharifah has always said that the most favorite part about her career so far has been the privilege of seeing the progress the kiddos have made overtime and making a difference in their lives while creating a fun learning experience for each of them.

Kimberly Culbreth

Kimberly is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst from South Carolina with more than 10+ years in the ABA field. Kimberly completed her undergrad at Clemson University, and she graduated from Capella University with a Masters of Science in Psychology with an emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis in 2018. Kimberly is very passionate about working with children with disabilities and helping them succeed. She consistently goes above and beyond for all of her clients.

Kimberly has experience working with children in the home, clinic, community, and telehealth-based settings. She recently started at Hidden Talents to help broaden her experiences with working with children with disabilities. Outside of work Kimberly enjoys spending time with her 3-year-old daughter, traveling, and cooking.

Emma Laramie

Emma (she/her/hers) is a Board-Certified Behavior Analysis and Licensed Applied Behavior Analysis with comprehensive education and experience in social services, wellness, early intervention, and autism spectrum disorder. Emma’s previous roles and experiences include pre-school teacher, lead childcare worker, and fitness instructor. After receiving her undergraduate degree in psychology, Emma was the Lead Health Mentor and Team Leader for adults and children with severe mental illness at her local community mental health center. Emma has an awareness of individualized, evidence-based practices, and she emphasizes the value of integrated behavioral and wellness practices in helping her clients achieve their highest potential.

Emma received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Keene State College. She then obtained her Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis with a Certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorder from Bay Path University. Emma gets an immense amount of joy serving disadvantaged and minority communities. Currently, she is seeking to further her education in learning American Sign Language at her local community college. When Emma is not analyzing data or reading behavior-based research articles, she can be found outside gardening, hiking, running, and playing with her dogs. On rainy days, she enjoys curling up with her cats and reading books with strong female leads.

Sophia Liu

Sophia graduated from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology with the M.A. degree in Clinical Psychology, emphasizing in Applied Behavior Analysis. She earned her Ph.D. in Industrial Organizational Psychology from The California School of Professional Psychology.

She has worked in the field of providing Applied Behavior Analysis treatments to individuals with developmental delays and emotional disturbance for 17 years. Sophia has been a consultant for Peking University Medical School’s Applied Behavior Analysis research and development, as well as the supervisor providing supervising and training for the students. She also has been the Training and Development Director of an ABA agency based in Orange County providing instructional designs for training and development needs.

Currently, in Los Angeles, Sophia is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst providing telehealth services for a Crisis Behavioral support team, a Therapeutic Crisis support team, home-school families, public school districts, and families in Georgia with Hidden Talents ABA.

Laura Lewis

Laura has worked in mental health for 20 years, with all populations, and has been a BCBA for the last 7 years. She believes this is her calling and works very hard to help each individual achieve their greatest goals. Utilizing behavioral processes, she is committed to best practice and invests considerable time in research to find the optimum solution to every challenge she encounters.

Bisirat Haile

Bisirat Haile is a passionate Board-Certified Behavior Analyst serving her community for over 10 years. Bisirat Has a 10-year track record of working collaboratively with families and RBTs to create lasting change for children with ASD. Bisirat is a telehealth BCBA for Hidden talents. Listening to the priorities of families and earning their trust is extremely important to Bisirat. Bisirat joined the Hidden Talents team as the company shares her commitment to learning and listening to families to provide them support. Bisirat is excited to potentially work with you and provide you support.

Danielle Strickland

Danielle is a Georgia native. She graduated with her master’s at Capella University in 2013, and received her BCBA certification in 2019. After graduating from Savannah State University in 2010 with a B.S. in Behavior Analysis, she realized she had a passion for the younger age children. Providing services in the clinical settings, home based settings, and telehealth, she has reached a variety of children, age 2-12 years, with varying skillsets.

As a parent herself she encourages other parents to use the same ABA based strategies she uses with her own child. ABA has been a major part of Danielle’s life and she loves seeing her clients make progress and helping parents to impact their child’s life. Danielle brings 11 years of multi-faceted experiences to the Hidden Talents team.

Lindsay Campbell

Lindsay Campbell is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Advanced Certified Autism Specialist. She is a future clinical neuropsychologist who is passionate in diagnosing, assessment and creating individualized treatment plans to address each child’s area of need. Lindsay has worked in a variety of settings including forensic, school, home, hospital, and telehealth settings. Lindsay received her dual bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Criminal Justice from California State University, and her Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis from National University. After receiving her BCBA, Lindsay went back to complete her Doctorate in Clinical Neuropsychology from California Southern University and will be graduating in 2021 with the highest honors.

Her ultimate goal is to bridge the gap between diagnostic evaluation and treatment with ABA to allow timely access to ABA services. Lindsay believes the most important letters after her name are 'MOM' as she is the mother of an atypical child. She brings a professional and personal perspective to teaching and raising a child with atypical learning skills to build relationships and further support parents. Integrating ABA techniques and evidence-based practices, she believes we can make significant changes to increase skills of children and their family.