A parent will always be their child’s biggest advocate. However, when your child is diagnosed with autism or a related disorder, your advocacy becomes all the more important.

Why is Autism Advocacy Important?

There are many reasons why autism advocacy is important. It can help to break down harmful stereotypes, challenge misinformation, and perhaps most crucially, build a more welcoming and inclusive world for neurodiverse individuals.

Furthermore, it can also help to raise awareness about autism and related disorders, which can increase acceptance and increase the amount of funding autism charities and research receive.

How To Advocate For Your Child With Autism


Start at home.

Advocating for your child often begins at home. Start by doing your research into autism, ensuring that all information is gathered from reputable sources. The more you understand the condition, the easier it will be to support your child throughout every stage of their life.

If you have neurotypical children at home, take the time to explain autism to them, too. They may have already noticed that their sibling acts slightly differently to them, but without having a concrete reason why, they may not know how to respond.


Speak to their teacher.

According to a recent study, few children have received an autism diagnosis before starting school. In fact,28% of students do not receive a formal autism diagnosis until they are teenagers.

As a result, you must keep your child’s teacher up to date, whether you’re considering looking into autism testing or have received a formal diagnosis. This can ensure that they put the proper provisions in place to support your child in the classroom, whether this means designing a sensory-friendly classroom or sticking to a clear routine each day.


Challenge negative assumptions.

Many people view an autism diagnosis as something inherently negative when it just means that your child sees the world in a slightly different way. As such, you should work to encounter this negative whenever you come across it. While speaking out can be hard, it shows your child that they should be proud of who they are and helps to break down some of the more persistent stereotypes relating to ASD.

You should also encourage your child to find their voice and speak up for themselves.


Remain involved in their therapy.

Therapy can play a key role in the life of a child with autism or a related disorder, helping them to develop the skills they need to thrive in any environment. Remaining actively engaged in their therapy, such as by attending sessions together or going over what they’ve learned each week, is another great way to support and advocate for your child. After all, it means that you are taking active strides toward making their day-to-day life a little easier.

If you’d like to find out more about autism therapies, including speech therapy and ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapy, please do not hesitate to get in touch today.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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.

 

Many parents feel overwhelmed when their child receives a diagnosis for autism or a related condition, as they wonder what kind of impact this will have on their lives. And, while it’s important to note that autism is not a debilitating condition that will stand in the way of your child’s long-term success, there are certain steps you can take to make their day-to-day life easier.

 

For example, you could explore a range of therapies, such as Intensive ABA therapy or online therapies. Alternatively, you could focus on making changes within your home, such as by creating a sensory room or curating a consistent routine. In recent years, varying studies have also found that owning a pet can be incredibly beneficial for children with autism and related disorders.

 

Of course, it goes without saying that pets are good for children on a general scale. They provide them with companionship, while also teaching them to be more responsible and mature.

 

The main benefits of owning a pet, or pet therapy, for those with autism, are:

 

Improved communication skills. Children with autism or related disorders may sometimes struggle to communicate effectively or find their voice. And, while they’ll not be able to have a “conversation” with their pet, the way in which they interact with them may help them to improve their communication skills. This can be particularly useful for those who “communicate non-verbally, as they will find other ways to interact and create a strong bond with the animal.” (1)

 

Lower levels of stress and anxiety. Those with autism or ASD are also more prone to dealing with anxiety disorders, both as children and adults. For example, a recent study found that “20% of autistic adults have an anxiety disorder, compared with less than 9% of typical adults”. (2) Owning a pet is scientifically proven to lower anxiety, given that playing with your pet will increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine that your body produces. These hormones are famed for the ability to calm and relax the nervous system.

 

The opportunity to follow a routine. As mentioned above, children with autism and related disorders thrive in stable environments (i.e. when following routines). Many pets, such as dogs and cats, also respond positively to routines. For example, they like to go for walks or be fed at the same time each morning/evening. This means that owning a pet can help your child follow a routine, giving them the structure they crave.

 

Pets are trusted companions. One of the major benefits of owning a pet is that they provide you with companionship and friendship, no matter which animal you choose to own. They are also non-judgmental, which can be incredibly comforting for children (and adults) who often feel judged in their daily lives. To put it simply, your pet will always be there for you.

 

Increased sense of empathy. It’s a harmful myth that those with autism and related disorders are unemotional, they simply express themselves in a way that is slightly different to their neurotypical peers. That being said, owning a pet can help them strengthen their empathy, or at least their outward expression of empathy as they learn to care for the complex needs of their pet.

 

References:

 

1) Golden Care Therapy, “PETS AND ANIMAL THERAPY FOR CHILDREN WITH AUTISM”.

 

2) Spectrum News, “One in five autistic adults may have an anxiety disorder”.

 

Kids with autism spectrum disorder tend to have play patterns that they repeat over and over.  Her favorite character from Netflix?  It’s the only one she’ll play with.  His cars that he seems to adore?  He only wants to line them up again and again.  Children on the autism spectrum tend to engage in stereotyped, restricted, scripted, and solo play.  So how do we guide children to expand these play patterns so they can learn and grow?  Here are seven things to try.

 

 1. Tap into their interests.

 

Take some time to intentionally observe the child at play.  What do they enjoy?  What gets them excited?  You’ll want to have a solid idea so that when you offer opportunities to extend their play, they’ll accept due to their peaked interest.

 

2. Look closely at the ‘how.’

 

You likely have an idea of your child’s interests, so now look closer at how they engage with their play interests.  Think about what kind of play the child gravitates toward.  Some kids enjoy visual stimulation and can be found spinning tops or bringing toys close to their eyes so they can inspect them more clearly.  Others like to bang toys together to create sound or feel various textures.  Take note and inspiration from how your child engages.

 

3. Provide structure.

 

Many children with ASD have difficulty with the open-ended nature of play.  Slowly and gradually provide strategies to give activities more form.  If they enjoy lining up cars, use tape to make parking spots and demonstrate parking the vehicles.  This will take some time and patience, but they’re much more likely to engage when you use this strategy alongside the child’s interests.  Other ways to add structure include:

 

        Practicing taking turns

        Modeling play

       Using a visual schedule

       Adding more steps to a play routine

 

4. Be present.

 

While adding structure can be a great way to learn and grow, be sure to follow your child’s lead during play.  It is a delicate balance.  However, creating these learning opportunities on the spot is beneficial to their learning and eagerness to try something different playfully.

 

5. Identify their strengths.

 

These are unique for each child with and without an ASD diagnosis.  Some children excel at math, and others are very caring toward animals.  When you offer play opportunities, tap into your child’s strength.  For example, the child who loves animals and math may be interested in counting and feeding the animals in a barnyard toy.

 

5. Reinforce.

 

Provide positive reinforcement when your child tries something new during playtime.  Even simply reminding the child, “I enjoy playing with you!” can reframe their perception of play.

 

7. Address toy clutter.

 

The environment around the child impacts their success with play.  When toys are disorganized, are placed on open shelves, or too many options are available, the child is more likely to flutter from activity to activity without meaningful play.  Offer limited and versatile options for a more profound play experience.

Symptoms Of ASD

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder, manifests itself differently in every person who has received a diagnosis. This is, in part, what can make diagnosis difficult – as the symptoms can be far-ranging and often overlap with other neurological conditions, such as Aspergers or even OCD.

 

As a result, it is essential that parents seek not to armchair diagnose their children – but instead pay attention to some of the signs and symptoms of autism in different age groups so that they can ensure their child gets the support they need.

 

However, some symptoms of autism are less frequent than others. For example, around 40% of children receiving autism therapies have a language delay – making it one of the more common indicators for parents to keep an eye out for. Others may be harder to spot – or you may not even recognize them as a symptom whatsoever.

 

With that in mind, here are three lesser-known symptoms of autism. (Note: this blog should not be considered a method of diagnosis – and you should reach out to a healthcare professional should you require more support).

 

Seizures.

 

For a long time, the link between autism and an increased likelihood of dealing with a seizure was unknown – despite the fact that 1 in 4 children with autism also had a seizure disorder. More recently, however, researchers have identified specific gene mutations that occur in both autism and epilepsy.

 

If your child has a seizure, try to move them to a safe environment, such as the floor/ground, where they cannot hurt themselves. Remove any hazards from the surrounding area and seek medical help. During this time, you should try to time the seizures. As medical scenarios such as doctor visits can be more daunting for children with autism, you should also make sure healthcare professionals know their condition ahead of time.

 

Hypo-reactivity.

 

Sensory processing issues are common in children and adults with autism and related disorders. However, common assumption means that we expect this to manifest itself in a strong (and noticeable) dislike of certain sensory factors, like textures and smells. This kind of response could be labelled as hyperreactivity, where responses appear a little over the top. However, the opposite can often be the case for children with autism, meaning they under-respond to certain stimuli. This is known as hypo-reactivity. For example, your child may constantly talk over others as they are unaware of how loud they are speaking.

 

Lack of Hazard Perception.

 

As a parent, we’ll always want to make sure our children are safe – which is why it can be particularly daunting when we notice them participating in behaviors that could be reckless or dangerous. However, while many children will learn to fear danger naturally – children with autism or related disorders may not develop this knowledge or insight at the same rate as their peers.

 

There are various reasons for this. For example, we are wary of hazards because we can imagine what goes wrong if we do not bear them in mind. Children with autism and related disorders may not think of what could happen – as they are focused on non-negotiables and black and white facts. They may also find it harder to understand situations that they have not experienced directly.

 

If you believe that your child has autism or a related disorder, please do not hesitate to get in touch today. We have decades of experience supporting children with ASD through extensive clinical services and one-on-one support, enabling them to reach their full potential.

At Alee Behavioral, we’re passionate about helping children with autism, and related disorders develop the skills they need to thrive in all aspects of their life – from social interactions to schooling. One way in which we achieve this goal is by offering a wide range of therapy services that target different areas in which they may need support.

For example, we use speech therapy to help children with autism develop their communication skills and find their voice. Another effective therapy practice is known as occupational therapy.

What is occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy is a service that aims to help the user develop a range of daily living skills that allow them to navigate their way through a complex world. These services are often used to help younger users transition into the school environment, connect with their peers, and learn how to take care of themselves. They can also support those who may deal with sensory processing issues – which is a common complication for those with autism. In fact, a recent study found that approximately 80% of children with autism deal with some form of sensory processing issue.

During occupational therapy sessions, your child will work one-to-one with Occupational Therapists (OTs) and Occupational Therapy Assistants (OTAs) and could work on any of the following:

To find out more about occupational therapy or the other clinical services we have on offer, please do not hesitate to get in touch today. We’d love to hear from you!

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.

 

Any questions? Give us a call!

401-228-8303

© Alee Behavioral Healthcare. All Rights Reserved.We respect your privacy and assure you that your information will be kept confidential.

Educational Staffing