What are social stories?

In 1991, Carol Gray coined and trademarked the term “social stories.” It refers to a short, narrative-style description of a particular event or social scenario, broken down so that a neurotypical child may find it easier to understand.

After reading a social story, a child with autism or a related disorder will have a deeper understanding of a specific scenario that they may otherwise find daunting or overwhelming. They know what to expect going in, making the entire experience more pleasant.

Understanding Autism


When are social stories useful? 

As mentioned above, social stories provide children with useful context about a “new” situation or scenario they have not experienced before. For example, they could be used to help a child understand what will happen at their first dentist appointment, especially if they are in need of some kind of dental surgery. Alternatively, a social story about starting a new school could be useful if you have recently moved to a new town or neighborhood.

Why do children with autism benefit from social stories?

Children with autism often thrive in routine environments. When they know what to expect out of each day, they can prepare themselves accordingly. New situations, even “fun” ones, such as a playdate with a friend, are a clear deviation from the norm, which, for many, can therefore be challenging.

Social stories help to reduce their fears and anxieties surrounding this by taking the “unknown” out of the scenario. They provide them with a frame of reference that deepens their understanding of new social situations. As such, this can play a key role in encouraging children to broaden their horizons moving forward.

Where can I find social stories?

Many social stories are available for purchase online – and you can see some samples from Carol Gray here. However, many parents choose to curate their own social stories for their children so that they can be more directly tailored to their child or the situation they are trying to explain.

For example, when writing your own social story, you can include your child’s name or the name of others who may be involved, such as their doctor or pediatrician.

Final Thoughts.

Social stories are one of the more effective methodologies in place when it comes to preparing children with autism and related disorders to face new situations. Without them, children could feel stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed or may be more prone to adverse behavior and even meltdowns.

However, there are also many other ways in which you can ensure your child remains open to new experiences. For example, working with a therapist, such as an ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapist, can help a child to develop a range of lifeskills, ensuring that they are able to reach their full potential. Similar benefits can be obtained through other forms of preventative therapies, too, such as speech therapy and occupational therapy.

If you’d like to find out more about the therapy services we offer, please do not hesitate to get in touch today.

 

 

 

 

 

Top Tips For An Autism-Friendly Christmas

 

The most wonderful time of year, whether you’re hosting a big family event or spending hours decorating your Christmas tree – the holidays are simply magical. However, for children with autism and related disorders, they can also be a little daunting. This is due to the fact that they’re leaps and bounds away from their usual routine; with unplanned visitors popping by, time off school, and the potential for sensory overload at every possible corner. 

 

However, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are plenty of elements of the festive period that your children are sure to love – from giving and receiving gifts to rewatching their favorite holiday movies. As with any celebrations, from birthdays to thanksgiving, it’s easy to make the event as autism-friendly as possible, it simply requires some careful planning ahead of time.

 

With that in mind, here are some top tips for an autism-friendly Christmas! 

 

Keep routines consistent where possible. 

 

Putting together a clear routine is a great way to help your child thrive in any environment. This is due to the fact that it can provide them with the structure and stability that they require to function as normal. While it may be impossible to stick entirely to your usual routine during the festive period, being as consistent as possible in your day-to-day activities will go a long way towards helping your child feel more comfortable. For example, you could ensure that you: 

Think carefully about your decor.

 

Whether you prefer an artificial tree or the real deal, decorating your home for an autism-friendly Christmas can be a lot of fun – especially as it is an activity that the whole family can get involved in. However, when decorating, you should be particularly mindful of any sensory issues that your children may deal with as you do not want to make them feel uncomfortable in their own home. For example, while fairy lights are a great way to bring some sparkle into your lounge, they aren’t always the most autism-friendly choice of decorating, especially if they blink on and off or change colors frequently. 

 

Keep the Christmas songs on a low volume.

 

Playing (and replaying) your favorite Christmas songs is a great way to get the party started – whether you’re a fan of Mariah Carey or Michael Buble. However, if you want to keep your party as autism-friendly as possible, you should ensure that you keep the noise down to an acceptable volume. This is due to the fact that children with autism and related disorders often react negatively to loud noises. In fact, a recent report from the interactive autism network found that approximately 65% of children with autism are sensitive to noise. It may also be worth purchasing some noise-canceling headphones for your child.

 

Put together an autism-friendly Christmas menu.

 

While each and every child experiences autism in a different way, many children with autism and related disorders are also quite specific regarding the kinds of food and drink they enjoy. Again, this is often linked to the way in which they approach certain senses, such as taste and texture. For example, they may not like the texture of certain foods, or the way they feel in their mouth – and as a result, will refuse to eat them moving forward. While your parents may always have encouraged you to eat everything on your plate, it’s important that you do not force your child to eat something they do not enjoy. Instead, you should ensure you put together dishes and meals that you know they will enjoy. 

 

Listen to how they are feeling.

 

Listening to your child, and encouraging them to find ways to express themself is another great way for the whole family to enjoy the holidays. For example, when you put together your schedule for the holidays, you should discuss it with them in-depth and ask how they feel about certain events or activities. If they express discomfort, you’ll be able to soothe their worries or put alternative plans in place.

Top Tips For Autism-Friendly Thanksgiving Celebrations

 

Whether your favorite part of thanksgiving is the famous football matches, spending time with your family, or second (and third) helpings of pumpkin pie – you’ll likely already have put some plans in place for how you plan to celebrate the big day. After all, many thanksgiving celebrations were put on hold last year, meaning that we have twice as many reasons to celebrate in 2021.

 

However, when a child deals with autism or a similar condition, enjoying a big family event can be a little more difficult. This is due to the fact that celebrations not only mark a clear deviation from their usual routine, they are also busy, loud, and over-stimulating – which could leave your child feeling incredibly uncomfortable. However, this does not mean that they have to miss out on the fun!

 

With that in mind, here are some top tips for planning the perfect (autism-friendly) thanksgiving celebrations.

 

 

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. 

 

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!

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.

Autistic Child Finding Voice

 

When we are young, we begin to develop a range of skills that we will then carry with us into adulthood. This includes skills in areas such as problem-solving, relationship-building, and communication. In fact, these skills are often the foundation upon which our future personalities are based upon. However, some children with autism find it harder than others to communicate with their peers and loved ones. This could be due to the fact that they find communication in general difficult or because they are non-verbal. In fact, it is estimated that 40% of people with autism are non-verbal. With that in mind, it is important that you help your child with autism develop their skills in communication so that they can find their voice and reach their full potential.

Here are some simple ways in which you can get started and help them find their voice!

 

While many travel plans may have been put on hold as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the success of vaccination schemes and safety procedures means that we could very soon be traveling freely again. This means that it’s finally time to start planning your family vacation (or staycation, if you want to stay a little closer to home).

However, while many view vacations as something exciting and relaxing, children with autism or related disorders may view them with a degree of apprehension. This is because vacations often signify a break in their daily routine – which for many is a cause of discomfort. Nevertheless, this does not mean that they don’t enjoy traveling and won’t have a good time on vacation; it just means you need to find a way to make it as fun and exciting as possible for them.

With that in mind, here are some ways to help prepare your child for a fun family vacation.

Involve them in the planning process as much as possible.

As mentioned previously, children with autism and related disorders often thrive when they can stick to a certain routine or schedule. As you will be interrupting that schedule, you must help them prepare for this change so that it does not come as a surprise. Thankfully, there are various ways in which you can do this:

Put together an itinerary.

Though you may want to spend most of your vacation relaxing, an itinerary is a great way to help your child make the most out of their vacation. It takes away the element of ‘surprise,’ which can help them feel more comfortable and relaxed. When putting together an itinerary, consider the following:

Focus on making them comfortable.

When heading out on vacation, ensure you do whatever it takes to keep your child feeling relaxed and comfortable. Thankfully, there are various ways in which you can do this, such as:

Any questions? Give us a call!

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