Category Archives: Caring for children with autism

Using Technology and GPS

Over the past few years, there have been many news stories of children with special needs who have wandered off or been separated from their parents. With the evolution of technology and global positioning trackers, protection for children is just a bracelet or necklace away. Tragedies can be averted with the tracking devices that can be worn as wristwatches, anklets or clipped onto belt loops or shoelaces. Here is a quick look at some of the newest devices.

  • Amber Alert GPS – The Amber Alert GPS product is a durable, child-friendly product that allows children to call a parent through the touch of a button via AT&T’s 3G network, as well as allows parents to call and track their kids.
  • Filip – This device is a simple mobile device that children aged between 5 and 11 could wear on their wrist.
  • Angel Sense – AngelSense provides a GPS and voice monitoring solution to keep children with special needs safe and well cared-for. The solution includes a wearable GPS device – designed to address sensory issues and a friendly app based on smart analytics.
  • Safety Link – SafetyLINK wearable devices are available as wristband, key fob, clip-on also self connect to the anchor device. When a child leaves home without permission the device sounds an alarm and send notifications to parents.
  • Eyes On – The EZ-100 from EYEZ-ON gives families of wandering special needs children added peace of mind and the confidence to engage in activities and adventures with the whole family. 

Talk to your child’s pediatrician or occupational therapist about which option would be best for your child.

Life Skills Learning this Summer

For many families, summer means a change in routine and a time of relaxing with friends and relatives. For students, summer translates into no homework and not having to sit in a classroom all day long. Summer, however, should not mean an absence of learning. Here are a few tips to maintain life skills throughout the summer so that your child returns to school in the fall with strong self-care skills, organization skills, and other life skills that can be practiced outside the classroom.

  • Library Card – Have your child apply for a library card at your public library. This means that he/she will need to approach the librarian, fill out paperwork and use communication skills.
  • Organizing a Bedroom or Closet – Rainy days lead to comments such as, “I’m bored!” Organizing a bedroom or closet can help students makes decisions and take control of their surroundings.
  • Garage Sale – Yard sales or garage sales can help with communication skills, organization skills, and math skills for budgeting and pricing of items.
  • Planning a Trip – Summer is a great time to plan a trip to a favorite location or museum. Planning takes mapping skills, money skills and time management skills.
  • Overnight or Camping Skills – Planning and executing an overnight trip means packing, self-care activities and lots of communication skills.
  • Shopping Trips – These types of excursions can help your child practice many skills including planning a shopping list, working with money and dealing with the public including cashiers.
  • Dining Out – Practice life skills at a local restaurant where your child can order, dine and help deal with the bills.
  • BBQ or Picnic – Planning for family or friends to come over means working with a menu,. setting a table and talking to friends.

10 Tips to Avoid Summer Slide

“Summer slide” is the tendency for students to lose some of the achievement gains they made during the previous school year. This can include social skills, reading skills, math facts, or other areas of learning loss. This loss of academic and social skills can be curtailed by following some advice from educators, therapists and scholars. Here are ten tips to avoid the summer slide this year.

  1. Read every day either with or to your child. Check out summer reading programs at your local library and encourage your child to read anything including magazines, comics, novels etc.
  2. Audio books on long road trips can keep children interested in literature as well as expand their vocabulary.
  3. Journaling – Ask your children to write a daily journal of all of the things that they learn each day. This will help with writing and organization skills.
  4. Social Skills – Arrange play dates or excursions to practice social skills.
  5. Summer Enrichment – Fill in learning gaps by visiting museums, historical locations, and other locations that can expand your child’s knowledge.
  6. Math Facts – It may seem like a drag to your child, but practice math facts and other math problems regularly throughout the course of the summer.
  7. Turn the Mundane into Learning – A trip to the grocery store, cooking or other daily chores can be learning experiences that include reasoning, math and social skills.
  8. Quality Camps – Try researching summer camps that will challenge your child. Many camps provide opportunities to expand their minds and sharpen their critical thinking skills.
  9. Use Technology – There are copious amounts of apps that can be used on mobile devices to sharpen skills that are easy to navigate and can be a lifesaver on road trips.
  10. Have Fun!  Camps, reading and science experiments can be fun if you do it right. Make sure you are having fun with your child this summer.

Autism and Employment

Finding meaningful employment can be a struggle for anyone. As a caregiver or parent of a young adult with ASD moving into the workforce, you want to not only to prepare your family member on how to gain and maintain employment, but also aid in where to look for help and guidance on the transition from school to the workforce. Milestones Day School and Transition Service can help provide many resources as well as trained personnel to take you and your young adult to the next phase in this journey. Here are a few tips.

  • Work with your son or daughter to assist them in articulating their strengths, talents and challenges to their transition teacher or counselor.

  • Encourage your child to request a career assessment from the school’s transition coordinator or a vocational rehabilitation counselor.

  • Explore the option of supported employment where a job coach, co-workers, business supervisors, and mentors who can be utilized as employment supports for people with autism.
  • Encourage skill development at home such as teamwork, counting change, social skills, taking directions, manners etc.
  • Encourage self-advocacy where your young adult speaks for him/herself in a challenging situation.
  • Work with teachers and transition team members on employment opportunities and how they may or may not match with your young adult.

Resources –

Reluctant Readers and Autism

Reading can be such a joyous and special time to escape into another world and learn about so many things around us. Sharing reading with a child can be a great way to connect and learn about social skills and ideas that are new to the child. Unfortunately, for many children, reading does not come easily and thus they are reluctant to read or, at the least, must be coaxed into reading more. Many children with ASD often have trouble with reading and relating to characters or plot lines. Here are a few ideas to help with reluctant readers as well as a few series that he or she may find interesting.

  • For younger readers who do not have the attention span needed for longer books, choose age appropriate books with lots of pictures and a catchy rhyme or plot. In addition keep reading time short and at a time when they are most likely to pay attention. Build up minute each time you read together. Make it fun!
  • Read aloud and talk about what you learned or the characters that you like or dislike and why.
  • For school age children, find books that are on a topic that interests them whether it is Minecraft, Barbies or the Solar System. Letting them choose puts them in control.
  • Using audio books while a child follows along can take the pressure off while still providing vocabulary and a plot.
  • For older children, try books that they can relate to with characters their age such a Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Timmy Failure series. Reluctant readers who are on the spectrum may benefit from shorter chapter books that have pictures that relate to the story and have straightforward story lines. Avoid stories that have subtext or double meanings as it may get confusing.
  • Remember that reading is reading, so it doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as they are enjoying it and are invested in it. If that means graphic novels or books that drive you nuts, so-be-it!

Special Education Advocates

Every child deserves a rich and meaningful educational experience. When a child has special needs, however, the experience may be very different from his/her peers. How can parents find out their rights and their child’s rights when it comes to special education, IEPs, 504 Plans and modifications in and out of the classroom? Special Education Advocates are a great tool that can help parents navigate the sometimes overwhelming world of special education.

While advocating for your child requires some level of self-education and research about your child’s needs and disability, it may also require the help of a professional advocate. An advocate is someone who helps a parent or family to understand the special education process. Advocates can provide information about special education options and requirements, and can help parents seek a specific service or program for your child. Advocates usually have a broad range of professional and or personal experience within the special education system – as teachers, lawyer advocates or parents of a special needs child. They have the insider knowledge of how to navigate the special education process so that your child will get the services he/she deserves. 

Advocates are intended to help empower you as parents with information and provide concrete steps that will help you get your child the services needed. Many advocate groups provide workshops and mediation services as well. Here are a few resources to check out while researching advocacy and how it works.

Special Education Advocacy 

Advocate Support for Parents 

 

Connecting through Blogging

Being a parent of a child with special needs can be stressful, overwhelming and down-right hard at times. It can extremely painful to watch as neurotypically developing peers advance and evolve through milestone after milestone while your child struggles along at home and at school. It can be sad to see the hurt in your child’s eyes as they try to do what others around them do. It can be exhausting to deal with meltdowns, communication issues and social interaction triggers. For social media savvy parents, there seems to be some relief in a new method of connecting with parents in the same situation – blogging.

Blogging is not something that is new, but is new to many parents who are using it as a release from the daily grind. The wide range of types of blogs coming from parents who have a child on the spectrum are amazing. From moms of the newly diagnosed kids to moms of adults on the spectrum, there are blogs that can help you connect and deal with whatever issue you are currently facing. There are even blogs written by children and adults with Aspergers or autism spectrum disorders. For siblings who are looking for answers and someone to listen, there are blogs of that nature as well. 

No matter what stage or life event you are dealing with, blogs from parents, siblings or those affected first hand by ASD can create a sense of community and a feeling that you are not alone out there navigating this by yourself.

Find a blog that you can connect with through these resources or better yet start your own blogs.

Autism Speaks Blogs 

Top 10 Blogs by People with ASD 

Autism Blogs Directory 

What to Expect During the IEP Evaluation process

If you suspect that your child has a special need when it comes to his/her schooling, getting special education placement is the best course of action. In order to gain special education services for the first time, he/she will need to undergo a comprehensive evaluation. This process is guided by legal rules in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Starting the process of evaluation is fairly easy in that asking for it in writing from the school system within your community is the first step. A letter to the child’s teacher, principal and special education director should state your concerns and formally request evaluation by the school district. The school district then has a certain number of days to respond, gain permission and conduct the testing.

Once an evaluation date has been agreed upon the child will undergo the testing. These tests may include:

  • A psychological evaluation. This gathers information about how your child learns best. It may also look at social skills and emotional health.
  • Interviews. The evaluator will speak with you and your child’s teacher about your child’s social and academic history. You may also be asked to fill out questionnaires. Teachers who currently have your child in class as well as past teachers may be asked to fill out a questionnaire so the evaluator knows what the issues are.
  • Physical exam. If needed, tests are done to measure vision, hearing and general health. Usually this is done to rule out a medical issue and can be done at your child’s pediatrician’s office or done during a routine yearly exam.
  • Observations. Your child will be observed in the classroom. Special education teacher will watch your child interacting with others, reading, writing, and behaving in the classroom setting.
  • Educational testing. This may include new tests to measure your child’s skills and needs. It may also include information collected from schoolwide testing. Each school system has certain tests that they will administer. Do your homework and ask what tests and why.
  • Functional behavioral assessment. This information, gathered from teachers and others, aims to get a better understanding of how your child behaves in a variety of settings and situations. A functional assessment includes rating scales, checklists, questionnaires and observations.

From here the team of teachers and special educator will meet with parents and make their assessments known. Check back with us next month when we discuss the initial IEP meeting.

 

Deciphering your IEP

Individualized Education Plans are meant to bring teachers, specialists, therapists, and parents together to develop an educational program for the student. This plan – IEP –  will support progress in the general curriculum and meet other educational and functional needs resulting from the disability. In general IEPs are meant to help the student, parents and school personnel all get on the proverbial “same page” when it comes to the needs of the student. Unfortunately, some educational terms and acronyms are confusing and get lost in the wording of the plan. Here is a quick cheat sheet to help you decipher an IEP.

 

  • IEP – Individualized Education Plan
  • Accommodations – Resources given to the child.  For example, taking a test in a small group, having a longer time to take the test, taking the test in a different environment. While the test had not changed the needs of the student have been taken into account.
  • Early Intervention – These are services provided to children 0-36 months who are at risk of having a disability or have been diagnosed with a disability. Early intervention has been shown to help children progress.
  • Inclusion – This is a term used to describe services given to a special education student in the general education classroom with appropriate supports and modifications.
  • Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) – Special Education and related services are provided at the public’s expense, without charge to the parents.
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) –  In 1975, legislation was written guaranteeing students with disabilities a free and appropriate public education and the right to be educated with their non-disabled peers.  IDEA was revised in 2004.
  • Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) The placement of a child with special needs in the general school population in a manner that promotes the maximum possible interaction with general education students.
  • OT – Occupational Therapy/Therapist An Occupational Therapist supports school staff in the areas of fine motor and sensory integration.  Fine motor being skills such as writing, picking up objects, and pointing.
  • PT – Physical Therapy/TherapistA Physical Therapist supports school staff in the area of gross motor.  Gross motor focuses on larger muscle sets and include walking, throwing, climbing.

Stress Reducers for Special Needs Parents

Seems like everyone is stressed out lately. Whether it is work, home, kids, traffic, politics or the constantly growing piles of bills. There seems like there is always something triggering our stress on a day-to-day basis. For parents who have children with special needs, the never-ending balancing act of work and caregiving can be overwhelming. In addition, finding ways to reduce stress can be elusive and time consuming. Here is a quick list of ways that you can reduce stress in your life even if it is just for a few minutes a day.

 

  1. Try progressive relaxation. To to get those muscles to relax all the way from your fingers to toes. First tense each set of muscles then relax them.
  2. Practice deep breathing exercises. This has been shown to lower cortisol levels, which can help reduce stress and anxiety. Studies suggest deep breathing can also cause a temporary drop in blood pressure.
  3. Practice doing daily exercise even if it is only a quick walk around the block or yoga stretches in your bedroom.
  4. Cut down on caffeine and alcohol. These may make you depressed or on edge.
  5. Pet your dog or cat. Dog owners have been shown to be less stressed out—most likely thanks to having a buddy to cuddle.
  6. Take a power nap. Even ten or fifteen minutes can help reduce your cortisol level and help you focus. Sleep deprivation can only heighten your stress.
  7. Do something you love whether it is gardening, art, writing, drawing or shopping. Treat yourself to something that brings you joy. Can’t find the time? Try visualizing it until you can do it.
  8. Laugh often. Parents who are stressed often find stress reduction in talking and laughing with other parents who are in the same boat.
  9. Physical touch can help. Stress can be reduced when you hug, hold hands, snuggle or kiss.
  10. Listen to music. While it doesn’t need to be classical it should be music that is calming and allows you to get your mind off the stressor for a moment.

 

If you are having difficulty reducing the stress in your life – talk to your friends, relatives or even a therapist to find ways to cut back on stress and anxiety in your life.