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.

 

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. 

Any questions? Give us a call!

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