Why Autism Representation Is Important In The Media (And Where It Has Fallen Short)

 

As both adults and children, the media we consume is often partly responsible for how we formulate opinions or view the world around us. This is because it often provides us with a framework that we can use when navigating situations that may be new to us or when meeting new people. Furthermore, it is important that children of all ages see themselves – or characters that look, act, and think in the same way they do – in media such as TV shows, films, and books. This is because it helps them feel seen, respected and shows that they too have a story to tell. It also promotes inclusion while ensuring that the culture we devour is representative of the whole population – as opposed to a select few. 

 

However,  media representation can also create subconscious biases and spread misinformation when certain characters or stories are not portrayed correctly. Unfortunately, this is often the case when characters with autism and related disorders are shown on our screens. For example: 

 

In 2020, music-star Sia released her directorial debut film, Music, which chronicled the life of a child with autism and her sister that cared for her. However, despite claiming that she merely wanted to represent autism on screen – Sia was criticized for what ultimately became a portrayal that relied on myths and stereotypes. Furthermore, many critics stated that some of the advice given within the film regarding how to support a child with autism is harmful and outdated – which could lead to a lot of trouble further down the line. 

 

This is troublesome for various reasons but can be particularly harmful to children with autism who do not deserve to see their behaviors reduced to a stereotype. They should be able to look at a character on screen and go; He’s like me because he’s smart, and he likes to do ____. They should feel validated by what they see – and not because they are made to be the butt of the joke. 

 

While Sia’s movie is not only concerning, it is not alone. In fact, Music can easily be added to a catalog of films where autistic characters are forced into stereotypes – even though autism is not a set of rigid behaviors and affects every person in different ways. Whether you are watching Rainman or Atypical – these problems present themselves again and again. 

 

With that in mind, when it comes to parenting a child with autism, how can you find materials for them that are not only suitable but will not leave them feeling reduced to a certain (incorrect stereotype)? After all, despite what these cinematic blunders may have made you think – children with autism and related disorders are not anti-social people who are happy to sit on the sidelines. In fact, with the proper support, therapy, and care, they can thrive in any situation that comes their way. 

 

Thankfully, with a call for better representation coming directly from the autistic community, there are ways in which you can help your child in this matter. For example, you can:

 

 

In short, while consistent, authentic representation seems to be missing from popular culture – it is slowly finding its way into the mainstream. As such, you should continue to seek out this material wherever possible. 

Top Tips For Parents Whose Children Have Just Had An Autism Diagnosis

 

In the USA, the average age for an autism diagnosis is around 3.8 years for boys and 4+ years for girls. This is because this is around the time when their differences to their peers become more apparent, whether this relates to how they carry themselves or socialize with others. However, many individuals with autism and related disorders do not receive their diagnosis until much later in life, sometimes even into adulthood (70% receive a diagnosis after turning 18)

 

Nevertheless, while you may have noticed the signs of autism in your child from an early age, receiving an official diagnosis can feel daunting. 

 

With that in mind, here are some top tips for parents whose child has recently received their diagnosis on the steps you can take moving forward. 

 

Navigating the services and therapies for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can sometimes feel overwhelming.  If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) they may have a large team of interdisciplinary professionals (with a variety of different credentials) who contribute to their treatment.  This entry will briefly summarize the role of professionals and therapists and the services that they provide.  

 

Speech-Language Pathology

Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) and Speech-Language Pathology Assistants (SLPAs) often work with children with ASD to improve their ability to communicate.  SLPs work to assess, diagnose and treat speech disorders (for example when a person cannot produce speech sounds); language disorders (when a person has trouble understanding others); social communication (for example, asking questions or greeting a friend); and cognitive-communication (for example, organizing thoughts and paying attention).  Speech-language services support children in building the communication skills that they need to reach their individual goals.

 

ABA Therapy

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is an evidence-based intervention approach that targets improving specific behaviors.  A variety of professionals can provide this intervention including Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs), Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBAs), Registered Behavioral Technicians (RBTs) and paraprofessionals such as Behavioral Health Professionals or Education Technicians.  Prior to intervention, the provider will evaluate the causes and consequences of your child’s behavior and develop a plan for intervention and behavior change.  Strategies used may include positive reinforcement, changing the environment, and adding or removing cues that lead to a specific behavior.  

 

Social Work

Social workers help children and their families cope with the challenges in their daily lives.  A social worker may help a parent or caregiver build a supportive network; understand their legal rights; learn to advocate for their child; or collaborate to determine effective parenting strategies.  A child with ASD may learn and practice coping strategies, receive emotional support, and for older children, address how their challenges differ between school, home, and their community.  Common credentials for social workers include LSW (Licensed Social Worker); MSW (Master of Social Work); and LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker).

 

Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapists (OTs) and Occupational Therapy Assistants (OTAs) help give children the opportunity to participate in the things that they want and need to do.  For children with autism spectrum disorder this often includes building independence with learning, playing with peers, participating in fine motor activities, self-care, and more.  Intervention sessions may consist of preparatory activities (such as engaging in a sensory rich environment), skill building, modifying the environment, modifying an activity, or establishing a new routine.

 

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy helps children improve their ability to move and function.  For children with ASD, this often translates to improving coordination and developing postural control.  Physical Therapists (PTs) and Physical Therapy Assistants (PTAs) help kids develop skills that may allow them to engage in gross motor games, sit at their desk for learning, or play on playground equipment at recess.  


Case Management

Case management (CM) and service coordination professionals work alongside family members to assess needs and help them to access services and therapies for Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Case managers are valuable team members who advocate for families and link them with the tools and resources that they need for their child with ASD.  The role of the case manager is comprehensive and often includes initial screening, assessment, goal-development, creating referrals, conveying information, monitoring the child’s progress, and more.

 

If you have any questions please feel free to contact us at office@aleebh.com

 

References

 

  1. https://www.asha.org/public/speech/
  2. https://www.bacb.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Behavioral-Treatment-of-Autism-and-Other-Developmental-Disabilities-Fact-Sheet_210108.pdf
  3. https://www.socialworkers.org/News/Facts/Social-Workers
  4. https://www.aota.org/Conference-Events/OTMonth/what-is-OT.aspx
  5. https://www.choosept.com/symptomsconditionsdetail/physical-therapy-guide-to-autism-spectrum-disorder
  6. https://dsamh.utah.gov/pdf/case_management/CM%20Practice%20Standards.pdf

The Best After-School Activities For Children With Autism

 

Whether your kids are attending online school or have already returned to the classroom, with the new school year underway, it’s likely that they are going to be spending a lot of their time learning. However, while their academic pursuits are important, you should also ensure that they have plenty of fun outside of the classroom. After all, studies suggest that children learn just as much at home as they do in class – and having fun is a great way to relieve feelings of stress and anxiety in children of all ages.

 

With that in mind, here are some of the best after-school activities for children with autism and related disorders.

 

Sports Activities. 

 

As a parent, you are charged with the responsibility of ensuring that your children understand the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle. While there are various ways to achieve this goal, encouraging them to exercise regularly is a great way to get started. That being said, sometimes it can take a little while to find the sport that best suits your child – especially when children with autism and related disorders may prefer solo sporting endeavors instead of team sports. However, that does not mean that there is not an activity out there that they will fall in love with!

 

If your child is looking for a solo-sporting activity, then you may want to consider the following:

 

– Swimming
– Running
– Athletics
– Martial Arts
– Gymnastics
– Golfing

 

However, while they may take a little adjusting, team sports can prove incredibly beneficial for children with autism and related disorders. This is due to the simple fact that it encourages them to formulate better relationships with their peers while improving their ability to communicate. Great examples of team sports include:

 

– Soccer
– Baseball
– Basketball
– Dancing
– Tennis
– Badminton

 

Creative Activities.

 

Creative activities, especially those related to the arts, are a great way to foster creativity within your children and encourage them to express themselves more clearly. This shows them that there are plenty of different ways to communicate with others or express how they may be feeling.  Therefore, your child may benefit from spending some of their time outside of school participating in a local arts program. This could include:

 

– Theatre Classes
– Singing Classes
– Dancing Classes
– Painting/Sculpting Classes
– Model Building Classes

 

Group Activities. 

 

When looking for the perfect after-school activities for your child, you should keep an eye out for activities that will encourage them to hang out with other kids their age more often. This can be instrumental in helping your child step out from their shell and make new friends. As a result, you may want to sign your child up to join some form of society or group activity – perhaps one that is centered around their special interests or hobbies. For example, this could include:

 

– Girl Scouts
– Boy Scouts
– Trainspotting Club
– Photography Club

 

Family-time. 

 

While structured activities such as those listed above can be highly beneficial in supporting your child, you should also ensure that you leave time in their schedule for some much-needed family time. For example, you could head out for a daily walk or cook a delicious meal together each evening. Spending time with loved ones is another great way to reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and isolation – and it is just as beneficial for you as it is for your child – meaning that it is a win-win situation.

 

Put your child in charge.

 

As your children get older, you must let them take control of their own schedule and decide how they spend their time. After all, this helps them develop a sense of responsibility and agency that will carry them into adulthood. It also encourages a healthy sense of independence as they decide how they want to allocate their time. However, you should also be prepared to offer some guidance from time to time – especially if your child thinks the perfect after-school activity is playing the same video games over and over again.

 

In short, if you are searching for the best after-school activities for your child, you’ll be glad to hear that they are not in short supply. In fact, there are simply hundreds to choose from that simply did not make this list – but that does not mean they aren’t out there! If you would like more specific advice on how you can help your child – whether that be through finding the perfect hobby or through clinical services such as speech therapy or applied behavioral analysis -, please do not hesitate to get in touch today. We look forward to meeting you!

The new academic year can be challenging for any child. After all, entering a new grade (or school entirely) comes with a shift in responsibilities and expectations. They will also have to adjust to a new teaching style and re-integrate with their peers after spending a lot of time at home. Furthermore, due to school closures in 2020, these changes may feel even more intense as students transition from homeschooling and to a classroom environment. However, the prospect of returning to school may be even more difficult for children with Autism and related disorders.

 

As such, it’s important that you find as many ways as possible to prepare your child to go back to school!

 

Talk about going back to school ahead of time. Children with autism often react best to new situations when they are able to prepare for them ahead of time. Therefore, you should ensure you give them plenty of advance warning before their first day at school rolls around. One way in which you can achieve this goal is by making it part of your daily conversation. For example, you could ask them what they are most excited about learning in the new year, especially if their special interests align with the school curriculum. You can also bring it up more casually by saying, ‘School starts in ___ days, let’s get everything ready!’. Shopping for new clothes and supplies is another great way to help them feel more prepared.

 

Ask to meet their new teacher ahead of time. As your child moves into a new grade at school, it’s likely that they will also be assigned a new teacher. While this can be incredibly exciting, it does mean a slight deviation from what they are used to – as they may have grown accustomed to a specific teacher’s teaching style or behaviors. Thankfully, there are various ways in which you can go about making your child feel more comfortable with a new teacher. For example, you could ask if they can meet with their teacher ahead of time, ideally in their new classroom, to get a feel for the space. Alternatively, you could schedule a quick zoom session with the teacher so that your child can introduce themselves and ask any questions they might have.

 

Set new goals for the academic year. Children with autism and related disorders are often very driven and like to present themselves with a series of challenges. As such, they usually thrive in an academic environment. Therefore, you can help them feel more excited about starting school by encouraging them to set themselves new goals for the academic year.

 

Put together a schedule. Children with autism or related disorders also tend to thrive when operating in a clearly structured environment. In this regard, attending school each day works in the favor – as they will be expected to arrive at the same time each morning and eat lunch at the same time each day. However, you can support them during this time by putting together a clear schedule for the rest of their time. For example, they should have a short break after school before doing their homework or participating in extra-curricular activities.

 

In short, there are various steps you can take to support your child as they prepare for the new school year. Doing so will support them through these changes and ensure they put their best foot forward. However, if you think they may need some additional support – we offer both in-person and online therapy services designed to help children with autism and related disorders thrive in any situation.

Four Ways To Make Day-To-Day Life Easier For Your Child With Autism

We all run into struggles in our day-to-day life. However, during adolescence, these problems often seem far worse than they actually are. This is due to the fact that during this period in our lives, we’ve yet to develop the appropriate coping mechanisms and skill sets that enable us to work towards a quick and easy solution to our problems. As a result, children and teenagers are more likely to feel overwhelmed when things get tough. Thankfully, as a parent, there are various steps you can take to make day-to-day life for your children with autism easier, and by extension, less overwhelming. 

Doing so is particularly important for parents of children with autism and related disorders since they experience life a little differently to neurotypical children and, as a result, may require different kinds of support.

With that in mind, here are four ways to make day-to-day life a little easier for your children. 

Create a safe space for them. 

Whenever things get overwhelming, your child with autism must be able to retreat into a space where they feel safe and comfortable. This is one of the easiest ways for your child to calm down, especially if they are showcasing signs of a meltdown. Therefore, you should focus on creating a safe space for them at home. Typically, it is advised that these spaces are quiet and relaxing, with minimal furniture or decorations used – especially if your child struggles with sensory regulation. Furthermore, you should make it clear to your child that they can use this space as often as they like – and that they don’t have to ask for permission to do so. 

Follow a Routine

Establishing a clear routine is another great way to make your child with autism’s life easier, as it removes the element of surprise from their day. For children with autism or related disorders, surprises can often be the cause of great stress or discomfort, as they usually like to know what they are doing ahead of time so they can suitably prepare themselves. By putting together a daily routine – and discussing this with your child – you’re helping them prepare for what is ahead. 

Encourage them to attend therapy sessions. 

For children with autism and related disorders, attending therapy sessions with a licensed practitioner is a great way to help them develop the skills they need to better manage their symptoms and gain independence. For example, speech therapy is a handy tool for children with autism as it can help them to better communicate with others and find their voice. In doing so, they may also find it easier to discuss their feelings and emotions – meaning they can ask for help when they need it. 

At Alee Behavioral, we offer a range of online and in-person therapy services – including applied behavioral analysis that can be tailored specifically to the needs of your child. 

Change the situation, not the child. 

Whenever autism and related disorders are discussed in the media, the conversation often centers around autism being something that needs to be treated instead of managed. However, this simply is not the case. An autism diagnosis does not mean that your child is any less capable or less worthy than other children – they just experience life a little differently than the rest of us. Therefore, you can make your child’s life easier by understanding that when your child’s behavior is erratic or unpredictable, you need to change the environment around them instead of the child’s behavior itself. For example, if you are in a loud or noisy environment that is causing your child discomfort – instead of encouraging them to stick it out – move to a quieter place, or provide them with noise-canceling headphones.

In short, there are various steps you can take to make your child’s life easier on a daily basis – many of which involve being open-minded and supportive. Sometimes, simply asking your child what they need or how you can make things better for them can go a long way.

Parenting will always be tough – whether your kids are in the infamous terrible twos or entering their teens. However, if you are raising a child with autism or a related disorder, you may initially find it hard to provide them with the support and care they need to thrive in any situation. Thankfully, there are various ways in which you can begin to better provide for your child – many of which revolve around loving and respecting them for who they are. In this case, it’s important to remember that your child is not their autism diagnosis – it’s just a tiny component of who they are. They are also many other things – funny, kind, intelligent, and ultimately, capable of achieving their goals. With that in mind, here are some top tips that you can incorporate into your daily life to be the best parent possible for your child.

Unfortunately, there are many myths out there surrounding autism or what it means to be autistic – and these misconceptions can change how people respond to a person with autism or a related disorder. For example, they may believe that your child is less capable than they actually are based solely on their diagnosis. By doing your research and learning more about autism, you can help dispel these myths while ensuring you continue to meet your child’s diverse needs. You should also ensure that you discuss autism with other children in your family so that they understand why their siblings may behave a little differently to them. 

Attending therapy sessions, whether online or in-person, is another excellent way to begin to better support your child. For example, you could help your child find their voice through speech or ABA therapy. As each child is different, you must do your research ahead of time to ensure that you select a therapy program that is right for them and meets their unique needs. At Alee Behavioral, we’re always happy to answer any questions you might have about our services and will provide individualized therapy to improve your child’s skills and prepare them for a brighter future. 

Studies suggest that children with autism or related disorders prefer to follow a routine. This is because a well-structured routine removes the element of surprise from their daily lives, and they will not find themselves in a situation they are uncomfortable in. One way in which you can achieve this goal is by putting together a weekly calendar, which clearly details what your child will be doing each day and when. Following a routine is also a great way to encourage your child to follow a healthy lifestyle. If you are planning to deviate from their routine, ensure that you inform your child of this change in advance with as much notice as possible. 

Sometimes, children with autism or related disorders may find it harder to communicate how they feel, especially when entering a new environment. Therefore, to support your child, you should pay close attention to any non-verbal cues they may exhibit so that you know when they need extra support. For example, they may show signs of discomfort through nail-biting or hand tapping. 

When raising a neurodiverse child, it’s easy to feel separated from other parents as the issues you deal with on a daily basis are quite different from those that they may encounter. Therefore, joining support groups or connecting with other parents of children with autism or related disorders is a great way to gather more support or ask for advice when you need it. 

Many children with autism or related disorders have a ‘special interest.’ This is a specific hobby or activity that they enjoy more than anything else, and as a result, would like to dedicate most of their time to it. While it’s important that you encourage your child to diversify their interests and try out new things, you should also try to get excited about their special interests too and support them as they pursue their hobbies. This will help them feel more relaxed and confident. Furthermore, it could help them develop their communication skills as they discuss their interest(s) with you. 

While you may not always understand why your child is behaving in a certain way, especially if they are acting out of character, it’s essential that you are patient. For example, if your child is experiencing symptoms of a meltdown, you should remove them from that situation immediately and into an environment where they feel more comfortable. You should then help them find ways to calm down before asking them to explain how they are feeling to you. If they find it hard to discuss their emotions, you could use a feelings chart to help get the conversation going. 

In short, the easiest way in which you can provide for your child is simply being there for them – and letting you know that you’re there to help no matter what they may be going through. Doing so will enable you to raise a strong, confident child ready for whatever life may throw their way.

No student enjoys doing their homework. After all, after spending a busy day at school – they want to be able to dedicate their time to something a little more relaxing or fun, such as exploring their special interests or hobbies. However, for children with autism or related disorders, completing their homework could present them with a number of different challenges that they must combat. 

While the school year may be behind us, many teachers chose to set their student’s work to complete over the holidays. If not, it’s important that they develop these skills in time for the new academic year. 

With that in mind, here are some tips that you can use to help your child complete their homework (without the stress). 

At Alee Behavioral, we have decades of experience working alongside children with autism and their families to give them the skills they need to thrive in their daily lives. Through a range of different online therapy and clinical services, we can help your child through just about everything they encounter – from homework to finding their voice. Get in touch today to find out more! 

How To Help Your Child With Autism Formulate A Routine

 

Having a routine in our daily life can prove to be highly beneficial. This is because it allows you to better manage and divide your time between work and your social life and develop healthy and lasting habits. However, for children (and adults) with autism and related disorders, a routine can be invaluable due to the fact that it allows them to better manage their symptoms by providing them with a clear structure and a sense of familiarity. 

Therefore, while life can sometimes be unpredictable, you must make an effort to put together a daily routine that works for your child. Here are some top tips to get you started! 

  1. Wake up and make their bed.
  2. Brush their teeth.
  3. Wash their face.
  4. Get dressed.
  5. Have breakfast.

In short, there are various steps you can take to put together a routine that works for your child – though perhaps the most important step is ensuring that they feel relaxed and comfortable. 

 

How To Help A Child With Autism Enjoy A Big Family Event

 

As COVID restrictions begin to reduce globally, we can start to make plans to spend time with our extended friends and family once again. This means that you’re bound to be receiving invites for large-scale events such as reunions, birthday parties, and even weddings. While a big event is enough to make anyone feel a little anxious from time to time, they can be even more daunting for those with autism or related disorders. 

This is because they are often crowded and noisy, leaving children feeling stressed or overstimulated, particularly if they deal with sensory issues. Furthermore, children with autism and related disorders may sometimes find it harder to respond to social cues, meaning they may find socializing within a formal setting particularly difficult. Despite this, it’s important that you do not exclude them from the event altogether by leaving them at home – after all, they are a member of the family, and their presence is just as important as anyone else’s. With that in mind, here are some ways in which you can help make it easier for your child with autism to attend a big family event. 

Add the event to your calendar as soon as possible.

Children with autism and related disorders often value routine. It allows them to ground themselves in the world around them and prepare themselves for any changes that might be coming their way.  Therefore, one way in which you can help them prepare for the family event is by adding the event to your calendar as soon as possible. You can then talk them through the process, giving them an idea of precisely what to expect when they attend the event. You could even ‘rehearse’ certain scenarios, such as the kind of conversation they might have or the food they might eat. 

Planning ahead for the event also means that you could spend some time discussing the party during an online therapy session. At Alee Behavioral, we’re always on hand to provide you with the tools and techniques you need to help your child thrive in any situation.  

Bring plenty of snacks with you. 

While there will likely be a variety of delicious food and drink to enjoy at the party, they may not always be the best choice for your child. Regardless of any special dietary requirements, they might have, they may be unwilling to try new foods as they prefer to stick to things they already know they enjoy. While it’s good to encourage them to step out of their comfort zone, as they are already in an unfamiliar environment, bringing some food and drinks along with you is a great way to help them feel a little more relaxed and comfortable. 

Bring headphones and toys. 

If the event includes loud music (or you are already dreading your aunt bringing out the karaoke machine), it may also be beneficial to bring along some headphones for your child to wear, especially if they have expressed some kind of sensitivity to loud noises in the past. You should also ensure that your child has plenty of toys or activities on hand that they can use to keep themselves entertained during the event so that they do not feel left out or bored. 

Be prepared to leave early. 

While your child may be trying their absolute best to get involved in the party, it’s essential that you do not force them to stay in a situation that they find particularly uncomfortable. If you notice any signs of discomfort or struggle, it may be time to say your goodbyes and head home to avoid upsetting your child. If your child is particularly hesitant ahead of time, you could make a compromise wherein you agree to spend a set amount of time at the party (i.e., a few hours) – but you must ensure you hold up your end of the bargain if this is the case.

Any questions? Give us a call!

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