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.

 

What To Do If You Believe That Your Child Has Autism

 

As a parent, you will always want what is best for your child. As a result, if you begin to suspect that they have a condition such as autism, you may be feeling concerned or even worried about what the future may hold for your child. After all, children with autism or related conditions experience life differently from their neurotypical peers and may need certain support fixtures in place to ensure they can reach their full potential. 

 

First things first, however, it’s important to remember that an autism diagnosis is not a bad thing. Therefore, if you are beginning to suspect that your child may have autism, it is important that you do not panic. We all have qualities that make us different from each other, and autism is simply one of these differences. Furthermore, those with autism can fully achieve their goals – no matter what they may be. That being said, getting that autism diagnosis can make a real difference to your child’s life for the better, as it means you’ll gain access to the appropriate support networks. 

 

According to recent reports, approximately 1 in 54 children in the US have been diagnosed with ASD, though it is also estimated that a quarter of kids with autism go undiagnosed. This is likely because autism manifests itself differently in each person – and there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ list of symptoms that you can apply to receive a diagnosis. 

 

Nevertheless, if you suspect that your child may have autism, there are certain steps you can take to ensure that you give them the support and love they need. For example, you should: 

 

Research the different signs of autism. 

 

As mentioned previously, no two people with autism will have the same experiences and symptoms, but parents can be on the lookout for certain signs of signifiers. As detailed by autism speaks, these symptoms may present themselves at different stages of your child’s development. For example, some of the earliest indicators of autism or a related disorder can be identified when a child is around six months old – such as limited eye contact or a lack of expression. Furthermore, when your child reaches their first birthday, you may notice a lack of babbling or chatter, alongside a lack of response to their name. 

 

Despite this, most autism diagnoses happen when children are around four years old – though boys are often diagnosed much quicker than girls. Other common symptoms of autism that you may notice during this time include: 

 

Autism Speaks have also put together a quick survey for parents who may be considering looking into their child’s behavior further, which could give you some of the answers you are looking for. You can try it out here.  

 

Speak to a health professional.

 

After doing your research, if you still feel your child may have autism or a related disorder, it is time to look into getting a diagnosis. In some cases, medical professionals may prefer to wait until your child is over the age of two before they diagnose them. This is because all children develop differently and at different rates, so early diagnoses are sometimes discouraged – even though they can be beneficial.

 

Doctors and health professionals will diagnose children based on behavioral studies – as there are no medical tests that can actually be carried out. Once your child receives a diagnosis, they will also provide you with information on what you can do to best support them moving forward. For example, they may consider that you look into therapy services

 

At Alee Behavioral, we have a range of different therapy and clinical services on offer that can be specifically tailored to each child. For example, if your child is non-verbal, we can support them through speech therapy. 

 

Make lifestyle changes.

 

Once your child has received a diagnosis, you will then introduce changes into your daily life that enable them to reach their full potential. In addition to connecting with therapists, this could include putting together a daily routine that helps your child thrive by providing them with structure. You’ll also be able to figure out ways to slowly and safely introduce your child to change without overwhelming them. For example, you could begin by scheduling ‘surprises’ into their daily routine – by adding a question mark to a calendar and displaying it within your home. This way, your child knows that they will be trying something new and can prepare themselves a little for these changes. 

 

Don’t panic.

 

As mentioned previously, the most important thing to remember if you believe your child has autism (or if they have just received their diagnosis) is that you must not panic. Autism will not stand in the way of their success in any way whatsoever – and getting that diagnosis means that you’ll be able to provide them with additional care and support.

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!

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.

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:

 

Though each and every person who receives an autism diagnosis experiences autism differently, there are often symptoms that overlap with each other and are experienced by a vast number of people. For example, children with autism often deal with some form of sensory regulation.

What is sensory regulation?

Sensory regulation refers to the way in which we respond to certain stimuli. This could include sensitivity to:
– Sight (Specific colors or levels of brightness)
– Touch (Certain textures or materials)
– Taste (The taste, or texture of certain foods)
– Sound (Specific sounds or levels of volumes)
– Temperature (Heat, or the cold)

For example, you may not like how a knitted jumper feels on your skin because it is made of itchy material. Alternatively, you may choose to avoid certain foods due to their texture instead of their actual taste. Our responses to certain stimuli can be broken down into two sections:

Hypersensitive. Generally, a hypersensitive response refers to an overactive response to certain stimuli – wherein the child will make their displeasure clear and actively avoid that object in the future.

Hyposensitive. A hyposensitive response often refers to an under-reaction, or perhaps more succinctly, a lack of reaction to certain stimuli. For example, children with autism sometimes do not respond to body signals in the same way as a neurotypical person, meaning that they may have poor balance.

How can I help my child work through sensory issues?

Thankfully, there are various steps you can take to help your child address (and combat) their sensory issues.

Here are some great examples to get them started.

Dealing with hypersensitivity.

– Find the cause of their discomfort, and try to figure out exactly what makes it uncomfortable for them. For example, they may say that they don’t like certain clothes when in actuality, they dislike the sensation caused by the label on the inside. Alternatively, they may say they don’t like having a bath – but may actually be responding to the temperature of the water. Encourage them to use descriptive language when explaining themselves so that you can work towards a resolution quickly.

– Where possible, avoid situations where you know your child will feel overstimulated. For example, if they are susceptible to loud noises – then you may want to avoid busy areas such as public transport during peak hours. If this is impossible, you could provide your child with headphones that block out the bulk of the noise.

– Use arts and crafts to introduce new textures to your child gradually. For example, you could spend some time putting together a collage using materials you find around the house – encouraging them to use things that they may not have felt entirely comfortable with in the past. This is a great way to slowly and safely expose them to new sensations in an environment where they feel comfortable.

– Find ways to help them remain calm if they feel overstimulated or oversensitive. For example, you should always find a way to help them step away from situations that make them feel uncomfortable – as remaining in the situation is often not the best step to resolving the issue.

Dealing with hyposensitivity.

– If your child deals with hyposensitivity that results in lower body awareness, it may mean that they struggle with balance and coordination. You can help them improve these skills by participating in fitness activities, which often help children and young people become more aware of their bodies and how they move.

– Help them gain a deeper awareness of what is happening around them by focusing on ground techniques. For example, if they appear to be lacking in focus, ask them to list: 5 things they can see, 4 things they can touch, and 3 things they can hear.

– Surround them with objects that can stimulate their senses. For example, this could include a fidget spinner or cube. Studies show that these tools can be handy when they are trying to concentrate.

At Alee Behavioral, we have years of experience working with children with autism and related disorders, helping them reach their full potential. We offer a range of specialized therapy services, from speech therapy to applied behavioral analysis, that can help them adjust to any issues they may be facing – whether that means sensory regulation or processing change. Get in touch today to find out how we could help your family!

Any questions? Give us a call!

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