According to a study from Autism Speaks, the average age of autism diagnosis in the U.S. is 5 years (for boys) and 5.06 for girls. While this is still a relatively young age, and some individuals do not receive a formal diagnosis for autism or related conditions until adulthood, studies have found that autism can “reliably be diagnosed by a specialist at age 2.”


This is known as early intervention – and it is something that is widely considered to be beneficial for both the individual affected and their families.

Early intervention is key when it comes to autism | The Pittsburgh Jewish  Chronicle

What is Early Intervention?

Early intervention occurs when a child with autism or a related disorder receives a formal diagnosis before preschool age. This way, specific intervention strategies can be put in place to reduce the symptoms of autism or its impact on the child’s life moving forward.

What limits Early Intervention?

The primary reason why some children do not receive a diagnosis early in life is because their parents are unaware of the symptoms of autism. As a result, while they may display certain behaviors characteristic of autism during infancy, such as avoiding eye contact, they may not reach out to discuss this with a healthcare provider until a much later stage in their child’s development.

What are the benefits of Early Intervention?

As mentioned above, there are many benefits associated with early intervention when it comes to managing autism and related disorders.


Firstly, “in this period, a young child’s brain is still forming, meaning it is more “plastic” or changeable than at older ages. Because of this plasticity, treatments have a better chance of being effective in the longer term.” As such, it can be a great way to limit the impact that autism has on your child’s life, as they can develop a wide range of coping mechanisms and tactics at a time when they are most susceptible to learning or change.


Another (often overlooked) benefit of early intervention is that it enhances the entire family’s understanding of autism, how it works, and how it manifests in each individual person. After all, you may be more likely to research autism after your child is diagnosed. This will allow you to build a strong support network for your child while also ensuring everyone in your family understands their needs.


Beyond this, early intervention means that you can enlist the support of a therapist, who will also help make your child’s day-to-day life easier, be that through speech therapy, occupational therapy, or ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis). This way, when your child is ready to start school, they’re better equipped to handle these challenges and keep up with their neurotypical peers.


At Alee Behavioral, we have years of experience in supporting children with autism and related disorders and offer a range of in-person and online therapy services. If you’d like to learn more, please do not hesitate to get in touch today.


We look forward to hearing from you and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Children play game

Photo by Anna Samoylova on Unsplash


Field trips provide children with the opportunity to further consolidate the knowledge they’ve acquired in the classroom through real-life experiences. They also allow them to form stronger bonds with their peers outside of the classroom environment.


In short, they are an essential part of your child’s academic development. In fact, one study found that “children who take school trips have better grades (59%), higher graduation rates from high school (95%) and college (63%), and greater income (12% higher annually).”


However, for children with autism and related disorders, field trips may be a little anxiety-inducing.


Why are field trips harder for children with autism?


Children with autism and related disorders work best within a routine, both in and out of school. For example, they often like to know what they are doing and when. This knowledge is often empowering as they feel more confident heading into their day, knowing they will not encounter any unexpected challenges.


As a field trip is a direct deviation from their routine, this can lead to some upset. However, that’s not to say that children with autism do not enjoy field trips, especially when specific accommodations are put in place to support them!


How to help your child prepare for a school field trip.


  1. Put together a schedule for the day. Asking your child’s teacher to spend some time curating a schedule for the day can go a long way toward ensuring your child feels as prepared as possible for their trip. Read the schedule with your child beforehand, and provide them with a printed copy to refer to if necessary. You should also add the trip to their calendar in advance.


  1. Look at the destination’s website. Whether your child is visiting a local zoo or museum, checking out their website ahead of time is another excellent way to prepare your child for the trip. This is because it will give them greater insight into what to expect from the day, especially if they can view a virtual tour or check out pictures beforehand.


  1. Consider being a parent volunteer. Many schools ask for parents to volunteer to act as chaperones during school trips, so you may want to consider taking on this role if possible. This way, you’re on hand to help should your child be having a hard time.


  1. Pack noise-cancelling headphones. Field Trips can be noisy affairs, especially when children are excited to have a day off school. As such, you may want to pack some noise-canceling headphones in your child’s backpack, which can help ensure they do not feel overwhelmed or overestimated.


  1. Discuss the trip in therapy. If your child is currently receiving therapy, discuss the upcoming trip with their therapist. This is because they will be able to suggest other ways in which you can prepare your child and may also teach them some effective coping strategies that they can use on the day if necessary.


School trips are essential in more ways than one, and as such, you should encourage your child to participate in these activities as much as possible. The above guidance is a great way to prepare them for this challenge!


How To Ensure Your Child With Autism Stays Safe in the Sun.


Now that the Summer is finally upon us, it’s likely that you’ll want to spend as much time outdoors as possible – whether you’re going on a family day out or a summer vacation.


However, during this time, you must teach your children the importance of staying safe in the sun. This is particularly important for parents of children with autism, especially those who deal with sensory issues. Various studies have found that “sensory processing difficulties present a particular challenge to parents and carers when attempting to protect children with ASD from being exposed to harmful levels of solar ultraviolet radiation.”


What role do sensory processing issues play in sun safety?


Studies have found that “up to 90% of people with an Autism Spectrum Disorder have sensory processing difficulties.” This could mean that they show adverse reactions to different sensory experiences, which will reflect in their behavior. For example, if they’re exposed to something they do not like, they may be more prone to stimming or a meltdown.


As a result of these sensitives, “children with ASD may be extremely averse to wearing hats, the feel of sunscreen creams on their skin, which involves regular reapplication, and the wearing of clothing which covers and protects the skin.” As such, it can be difficult to keep them as safe as possible in the sun, especially during the summer months.


Top Tips for Ensuring Your Child With Autism Stays Safe in the Sun






There are many benefits associated with going on a family vacation. After all, without having to contend with work, school, or your usual social calendar, you can spend more quality time with each other than ever before.

While you may view an escape from your home and routine as something to look forward to, this can be an incredibly daunting experience for children with autism and related disorders. This is because they tend to thrive in familiar environments and prefer to stick to a consistent routine as a result.

However, that’s not to say that those with autism and related disorders cannot enjoy vacationing – you may simply need to put some extra accommodations in place to care for them during your travels.

With that in mind, here are some tips that may be useful when heading out on your summer vacation!

Put together a vacation schedule.

While you may be keen to catch up on sleep and enjoy a more relaxed pace of life during your vacation, putting together some kind of schedule or routine can help your child manage feelings of stress and anxiety. This is because it feels as though they are not stepping into the ‘unknown.’

For example, you could put together a list of everything you want to do during your vacation and discuss these options with your child. If you’re going to be visiting specific attractions, show them pictures ahead of time so they have an idea of what to expect when they arrive.

Bring some home comforts with you.

Bringing some home comforts with you can also help your child to feel more relaxed on vacation. For example, if they have sensory issues, they may not like the feeling of certain fabrics or materials, which could mean they won’t be able to sleep using hotel bed sheets. Bringing your own from home provides them with a sense of comfort while also ensuring they get enough sleep.

Be prepared for potential changes in behavior.

While taking steps to prepare your child for your vacation ensures they have the best possible time, you should also be aware of the signs that indicate they are struggling or feel overwhelmed. This puts you in the best possible situation to do something about it quickly.

For example, you may notice they are stimming much more intensely or often. This can be combated by identifying the trigger and working to reduce its impact on their day. For example, if you’re in an overly noisy environment, you could move to a quieter space or reach for sound-canceling headphones.

Chat with their therapist.

If your child is enrolled in some kind of interventive therapy, such as Applied Behavior Analysis, speaking with their therapist beforehand is also useful. This is because they’ll have a deeper understanding of your child’s needs and what you need to do to support them when traveling.

With decades of experience and a real passion for helping children thrive, we’ve curated a range of therapy programs for those with autism and related disorders. So, whether you’re planning the perfect autism-friendly vacation or want to prepare your child for the school environment, please do not hesitate to reach out today. We look forward to hearing from you.

Understanding Autism: Difficulty In Social Situations


While it’s important to stress that no two people with autism experience the condition in the same way, some symptoms are more common than others. For example, many children with autism and related disorders find difficulty in social situations.

What are ‘social situations’?

The social situation is a term that can describe a broad range of events that we encounter in our daily lives. For children, social situations can include everything from going to school to spending time with their siblings. In short, it refers to any situation where we are surrounded by others.


Why do children with autism and related disorders tend to struggle in social situations?

Children with autism and related disorders may struggle in social situations because they tend to experience the world differently than their neurotypical peers. As such, they may not know how to accurately respond to specific social cues that other children seem to understand from an early age.


Because of this, it is a common misconception that people with autism are not sociable – whereas this is simply not the case. It may just be that certain adjustments need to be made in these situations in order for your child to feel more comfortable – and making these accommodations can enable them to better communicate with those around them and make new friends.


How can I help my child cope better socially?

Fortunately, there are many ways in which you can make it easier for your child to thrive in social situations they may otherwise feel uncomfortable. This is an important duty to handle, especially when you consider the fact that nearly 1 in 3 people with autism are socially isolated.


For example, interventive therapies, such as occupational or speech therapy, can help your child develop socially by improving their communication and self-expression skills. As a result, they’re more adept when it comes to navigating social situations and talking to others.


Reading social stories can also help your child to better understand social situations ahead of time – especially those that may be overwhelming, such as going to visit the doctor or dentist. By developing their understanding of unfamiliar events ahead of time, they can adequately prepare themselves for what is to come, as opposed to being overwhelmed.


Encouraging your child to participate in a wide range of extracurricular hobbies, especially team-based activities, can also help them to socialize with others, especially those who are their own age. This often comes down to the fact that it encourages them to spend more time playing or interacting with others than doing so on their own. Furthermore, it provides them with a common point of interest to bring into discussion with their peers. As such, you may notice that it is particularly beneficial if their hobby relates to their special interest, should they have one.


However, while it is important that you encourage your child to socialize and make friends as much as possible, you must also remember that we all need a break from time to time in order to recharge our social batteries!

There are many different traits and behaviors that are often associated with autism and related disorders, including literal thinking.



What is literal thinking?


Literal thinking, sometimes referred to as concrete thinking, refers to the way in which we view the world around us. By definition, literal thinkers “may take information at face value without thinking beyond or generalizing the information to other meanings or situations.”


However, this manner of thinking can sometimes lead to communication issues, in children (or adults) with autism and related disorders, when they are introduced to abstract concepts.


Why do children with autism tend to think literally?


Children with autism and related disorders tend to think literally because they tend to adopt a more concrete thought process. They like to be able to understand what is happening around them, meaning that they’ll find automatic trains of thought to be confusing as they are not always sensical or straightforward.


What are the benefits of literal thinking?


Literal thinking can come in handy in many different areas of your child’s life. For example, it often enables them to perform well in school, especially in subjects that are based in fact or the ability to recognize patterns. For example, in one study by Stanford University, “children with autism and average IQs consistently demonstrated superior math skills compared with non autistic children in the same IQ range.”


Literal thinking can also help your children make smarter, more informed decisions in other areas of their life, as they’re better able to assess the situation and determine the best course of action. Furthermore, employers are often on the lookout for literal thinkers.


When can literal thinking present a problem?


As discussed above, one of the biggest issues that children with autism and related disorders encounter with literal thinking is difficulty understanding abstract thoughts and concepts.


While neurotypical people may find it easy to use idioms such as “under the weather”, or “piece of cake”, various studies have found that “children with ASD face greater difficulty than normal children in understanding idioms; they fail to consider social context and tend to interpret expressions literally.” For example, if they are told that information came “straight from the horse’s mouth”, this could be a point of confusion for them.


More generally, this thought pattern also means that children with ASD may also be more straight to the point when communicating with others – which can sometimes appear as though they are being rude. While this is not the case, it can make it harder for them to communicate, especially among others within their age group.


However, there are many ways in which you can encourage your child to become more familiar with abstract thinking or abstract concepts. For example, simply talking about different idioms and how they are used in conversation can help them to better understand why they exist. You could even turn this into a fun game, where each person has to guess the meaning of the idiom, or where it came from.


Therapeutic services can also prove useful when it comes to helping your child see the world from a different perspective, whether they’re enrolled in speech therapy or ABA.


If you’d like to find out more or would like to meet one of our qualified, friendly therapists, please do not hesitate to get in touch today.

While autism and related disorders impact different individuals in different ways, many individuals with autism develop a special interest.


In fact, one study found that some 75-95% of autistic individuals have a special interest that often begins during childhood but sticks with them throughout their life.


Working to better understand your child’s special interests can help you provide them with support and guidance moving forward.


Understanding Autism: Special Interests


What is a special interest?


Special interests are best defined as “an intense focus on specific topics.” For example, if given the opportunity, your child may dedicate all their free time to this interest or bring it up in conversation at every opportunity.


Why do children with autism develop special interests?


Various research studies are dedicated to understanding why children with autism may develop special interests. For example, some researchers believe that “young children with autism may experience greater rewards from non-social stimuli than social stimuli, causing them to turn to special interests rather than social contact.


Alternatively, their passion may be grounding, providing them with a sense of structure – which is something that many autistic individuals favor.


What are common special interests for individuals with autism?


Children with autism and related disorders may develop a special interest in a range of topics. However, some tend to be more popular than others. This includes:


What are the benefits of special interests?


There are many benefits associated with allowing your child to explore their special interests and passions. For example, they can:



As such, you should support your child with their passions as much as possible, so long as they are not becoming problematic. For example, try not to shut down any conversations about their special interest, even if they’ve been talking at length. Instead, show you care by asking plenty of questions.


When can special interests present a problem?


Special interests are somewhat narrow. This means that in some instances, they can become restrictive and consuming, meaning that children withdraw from other opportunities to pursue them. This can sometimes be challenging for both the child and those around them.


As such, you must encourage your child to develop various hobbies and interests. For example, sign them up for extracurricular clubs and activities that broaden their horizons.


You can make this seem more exciting for your child by trying to choose hobbies that complement their special interests. For example, if they have developed a special interest in Film & TV, you could encourage them to try writing their own stories, join a film club or even learn about cameras and how they work.


You may also want to discuss your child’s particular interest with their therapist, who can suggest other interventive methods to limit its hold over your child.


If you’d like to find out more or would like to meet one of our qualified, friendly therapists, please do not hesitate to get in touch today.

Emotional regulation is something that we all struggle with – even into adulthood. However, the way in which we regulate our emotions varies on a case by case basis – and the same can be said for children with autism and related disorders.


Many children with autism use ‘stimming’ as a form of emotional regulation, which is why you may already be familiar with the term. In this guide, we’ll break down exactly what stimming is, and steps you can take to support your child.




What is Stimming?


Stimming is short for self-stimulating, and refers to repetitive behaviors/actions carried out by individuals as a form of emotional regulation or self-soothing. While seemingly ‘random’, they provide the individual with a sense of comfort, especially when they feel overwhelmed.


According to Autism.Org, Typically stimming behaviors could include:


There are many different reasons why a person may ‘stim’. For example, it could be seen as an “an attempt to gain sensory input, eg rocking may be a way to stimulate the balance (vestibular) system; hand-flapping may provide visual stimulation.” Alternatively, it can be an involuntary response to emotional stress or anxiety.


Should I intervene when my child stims?


As a parent, it’s only natural to want to intervene when your child seems distressed. However, in most cases, stimming is a response mechanism, meaning that it actually helps them to calm down and intervention is not strictly necessary.

Intervention may be required if stimming behaviors leave your child at risk of physical injury. For example, this could include behaviors such as headbanging, scratching or biting. In these cases, parents should:


Identify (and remove) the trigger. Stimming is often not ‘randomized’, but rather a direct response to something happening around them. For example, children who are sensitive to loud noises may stim when in crowded or noisy environments. Identifying triggers enables you to remove your child from the situation and better avoid them in the future.


Learn to redirect. Parents of neurotypical and neurdiverse children alike often become adept at redirecting their children. For example, you may use toys to distract them when they are about to start crying. These same techniques can come in handy when redirecting a child who may be at risk of hurting themselves. For example, using the same example as above, if their stims are the response to loud noises, you could hand them some headphones that either cancel out noise completely or play their favorite songs.


If your child is enrolled in interventive therapy, such as ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) or Physical Therapy, you will also be able to discuss behaviors such as stimming with their therapist. This way, you can decide upon a suitable course of action moving forward, or find ways in which you can better support your child in their daily life.


If you’d like to find out more about the therapeutic services we offer, both online and in-person, please do not hesitate to get in touch today.

As we move into November, Thanksgiving is just around the corner.


Not only is now the perfect time to perfect your pumpkin pie recipe, but you should also ensure that you are planning celebrations that the whole family can enjoy, including those who may be neurodiverse.


After all, for children with autism and related conditions, large events such as thanksgiving parties and celebrations can be a cause of great stress. There are various reasons for this. For example, they may be forced to deviate from their routine or be surrounded by crowds and loud noises at parades.


However, this does not mean that they cannot join in the fun of this family celebration.


With that in mind, here are some simple steps you can take to ensure your thanksgiving celebrations are autism-friendly.


Invest in noise canceling headphones.


Whether you’re heading to a parade or are cooking for a houseful of lovely, but very noisy guests, noise-cancelling headphones can be a lifesaver for children who display sensitivity to sounds and loud noises. Explain to others guests that they are not being rude or trying to get out of the conversation, they’re simply keeping themselves comfortable.


Let them choose what’s on their plate.


One of the best things about Thanksgiving is the food – and while you may want to encourage your child to diversify their palette and eat all their veggies, it’s not worth pushing these changes at a time when they may already be feeling overstimulated. Instead, let them choose what they would and would not like to eat – and don’t push them if they aren’t feeling super hungry.


Put together a routine for the holidays.


As mentioned above, disrupted routines can sometimes leave children with ASD feeling stressed or overwhelmed. This is because they rely on the familiarity that a routine provides. One way in which you can make this time a little easier on them is by putting together a routine for the holidays – this way, they know what to expect from each day. You should also spend some time discussing your plans with them, so they can ask any questions they might have.


Discuss the holidays in therapy.


Whether your child attends family therapy or occupational therapy, discussing the upcoming holidays with their therapist can also be a great way to prepare them for the changes and oncoming chaos. For example, it could give them the chance to develop coping skills that they can apply when they feel overstimulated.


Help them find familiarity in unfamiliar spaces.


Your home is likely your child’s safe space, again due to the fact that it provides them with a sense of familiarity. However, as many of us travel to spend time with family over the holidays, it’s important that you find a way to help them find familiarity in unfamiliar environments. For example, you should bring along some of their most treasured toys and belongings. You could also make it easier for them to fall asleep by bringing their favorite bedding along, so the guest room feels a little more like home.

Children with autism spectrum disorder often have particular food preferences.  Chicken nuggets, crackers, macaroni and cheese, and bread tend to be foods that these kids accept and love.  Gently expanding that list of foods can be excellent for nutrition and getting new sensory experiences.  Here are some ways to get started:


Present a new food..


But take away the pressure of eating it!  Eating a new type of food can be an overstimulating sensory experience.  New smells, colors, textures, and tastes can be too much all at once.  Place the novel food on the child’s plate without the expectation that they’ll eat it.  Tolerating the food on their plate is a significant first step for exposure to new foods.  If it is too much to have it on their plate, keep putting it on yours until they are more acclimated to it.


Play with your food!


“Don’t play with your food” is outdated, especially for kids with special needs.  Children with ASD benefit significantly from having a positive experience with food.  Make pictures by putting yogurt or hummus on a plate and letting them trace lines into it with their fingers.  They might even have a taste before they are finished.  Have some fun by making popsicles with fresh fruit or building a structure with grapes and toothpicks.


Use food bridges


Food bridges are an excellent strategy for kids of all ages and abilities.  Start with food that the child is comfortable with, say, salty crackers.  This will be the base food.  Now change one thing about that food.  In this case, it might be the shape, the brand, a whole wheat option, or a dip that they can add on themselves.  Keep changing only one thing at a time.  The progression might look like: Salty cracker à whole wheat cracker à whole wheat cracker with yogurt dip à whole wheat cracker with yogurt dip with ½ a teaspoon of peanut butter added, and so on.  If the child doesn’t accept the next step in the food bridge, go back to their last successful step and make a shorter bridge.


Model healthy choices


While it is easier to make one meal that everyone will eat, try not to get stuck in the routine of planning meals around those limited preferred foods.  If kids don’t see nutritious options regularly, they are more likely to avoid them altogether when encountering those options in the future.  For some kids, seeing something on another person’s plate without explanation or expectation actually piques their interest.


Keep it tiny!


When placing a new food on a child’s plate, make sure it is small in amount.  Don’t start with a raw carrot stick if you’re introducing carrots.  Instead, cook it (this texture might be easier for some kids to tolerate), and offer a quarter of a sliced baby carrot.  This is less intimidating for kids, and if they do try it, an outstanding small win for everyone!  They might even ask for more.

Any questions? Give us a call!


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