Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder tend to have repetitive behaviors. Developing a natural rhythm and routine in their day can help them to feel safe and secure in their environment.
Knowing what to expect from the day ahead can alleviate some of the stress of an already overstimulating world. Today we are sharing some ideas to promote independence in your child.
Help Your Child Create A Self Care Routine
Teaching kids to take care of their hygiene is a key life skill for them to develop that fosters independence.
Of course, there are a wide range of abilities for children on the autism spectrum. One child may be ready to start learning hygiene skills at a very early age, where as another child may not be ready until they are much older.
Starting as young as possible for each individual will promote independence and help them to establish a daily routine and schedule that will help them thrive.
Teaching basic skills like how to wash their hands, or how to comb their hair, or brush their teeth are all great places to start.
You can start by modeling the action. You can have them stand at the sink to wash their hands and break it into easy steps while miming the action next to them. First turn on the water, next put the soap on your hands, then rub your hands, then rinse, etc…
Practicing on a daily basis will help them to eventually master the skill and then you can move on to the next skill.
Let Them Choose a New Chore To Master
Getting kids involved in caring for their space is always a good idea. It promotes self-confidence and self-esteem.
Depending on their age and ability, the chores they will be able to learn to perform could range from moving a dust rag around on a table or wood door, to more complex chores like washing a floor, or folding towels.
Breaking a chore down into small, manageable steps will help them become a master of their new endeavor.
For example, if they want to learn how to fold a towel:
Step 1: Lay the towel flat on the table
Step 2: Fold the towel in half
Step 3: Fold the towel in half again
Your towel if folded!
Of course, there are a ton of ways to fold a towel, so the first decision you have to make before you teach a new chore, is what is the simplest way to achieve this chore? Should I teach them to roll the towel? Which direction should I teach them to fold it?
No matter what your decision is, be consistent and every time you practice the chore do it the same exact way or, if they’re able, let them decide which way they want to fold the towels.
You could take a picture of each step and create a little chart of how to do any specific chore for them to refer to.
Once they’ve mastered a chore, they can choose a new chore they’d like to attempt. Make it fun!
Have Them Help Prepare Their Meals
Mealtime happens every day. What a great opportunity to encourage kids to help prepare their food. Again, the varying degrees of teaching meal prep skills will vary widely.
Maybe they choose which apple they’d like to eat from the bowl. Perhaps they use a wooden spoon to mix the cupcake batter, or maybe they are ready to prepare something using the microwave?
No matter what it is, getting them involved in meal prep even in a small way will help in working towards the goal of them gaining independence.
Let Them Do The Shopping
Having kids help with the shopping can be a super rewarding experience for them. As with all the items on this list, the degree which they will be able to help will depend on each individuals needs, age, and ability.
You could begin with one simple shopping task, like having them pick out the bananas. Maybe that is their contribution at the market every Monday? Letting them do the same part of the shopping trip will build confidence in their shopping abilities and if you can do it on the same day every week, it gives them something to look forward to.
Start small and add on to their responsibility over time. Maybe they are ready to help put groceries on the belt? Maybe they can find the vegetables you buy every week? Or, maybe they get to pick out the cereal every week?
For older, higher functioning kids, a super independent task is letting them go into a shop and purchase something for themselves.
Around age 11, I started letting my boy go into our neighborhood bakery once a week to purchase his pizza strip for his lunch box.
I was able to conveniently park right alongside the building, that way I didn’t have to worry about him crossing any roads so it wasn’t a safety issue.
The glow on his face after doing this for the first time was priceless and all I needed to see to know, this was something that gave him a great sense of pride and independence.
It’s been two years since he first walked into that bakery alone, and he still goes in once a week—and he still feels proud every time.
Let Them Make Their Own Choices
There are multiple ways to get to where we’re going. Giving kids choices empowers them and gives them the sense that they have control in their life.
This can be as simple as holding two different snacks and having them choose which they’d like. For older kids and teens, it can be bigger decisions, like, what kind of skills are they interested in learning? Maybe they want to learn how to paint, or learn an exercise routine?
For a child with ASD, being able to make choices makes them feel powerful and will boost confidence in themselves. Finding ways to offer choices as early on as possible will not only promote independence, it will empower them and give them a sense of satisfaction--something we all desire.
An Examination of Savant Syndrome among Children and Adults With an Autism Spectrum Disorder
The idea that people on the spectrum can possess extraordinary abilities have appeared in popular culture for as long as most of us can remember. The most well-known example is Rain Man, the 1988 film about an autistic savant named Raymond Babbitt who had the ability to perform extraordinary calculations in his head.
What some might not know is that the inspiration for Raymond’s character originated with a real person named Kim Peek. Peek wasn’t on the autism spectrum but was born with significant brain damage. Though he lacked certain social and motor skills, he had a massive capacity for memory. He demonstrated the ability to read and memorize entire novels in under an hour!
This phenomenon, called “savant syndrome,” has been observed in both autistic and otherwise mentally challenged people for centuries. While Rain Man received some criticism for creating a stereotype that people on the autism spectrum often possess these savant skills, there is considerable research surrounding this topic. In this article, we’re going to examine the link between the autism spectrum and Savant Syndrome.
What is Savant Syndrome?
A savant is defined as someone with significant mental disabilities who possesses an ability that far exceeds the human average in a specific skill. In about half the documented cases of Savant Syndrome, the subject has an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Most often, the subject can demonstrate extraordinary ability in a narrow skillset. Whatever the specific skill, it is almost always related to memory. Specific skills might include mathematics, artistic or musical skills, or map-making.
The very first documented case of savant syndrome appeared in a German psychological journal in 1783. Though the terminology didn’t exist at the time, the journal describes an autistic man named Jedediah Buxton who possessed the ability to complete incredibly complex calculations in his head.
Since then, many savants have been identified and researched, but the cause and prevalence of savant syndrome are the subject of some debate.
Estimates for the occurrence of savant syndrome vary widely, but most experts agree that is uncommon or even rare. As many as one in 10 and as few as one in 200 people with an autism spectrum disorder are expected to excel in a specific skill.
Savant or Not - Autism is a Superpower
Savant Syndrome might be rarer than Hollywood lets on, but there’s no denying that people with autism experience the world in a different way than those without. They might not be able to make lightning-fast mental calculations or memorize volumes, but the way people with autism look at the world, the way they see other people, and their amazing capacity for love is something that’s truly amazing.
If anything, the existence of savant syndrome should teach us is that everybody thinks and behaves differently, and we should learn to look for the extraordinary in each and every person rather than focus on the things we perceive as negative.
If you live with a child with autism, it is no surprise that traveling with an autistic child requires a plan. You need to prepare for the unusual demands that can materialize when away from home. The team at Positive Synergy offers these tips for traveling with an autistic child.
Prepare and Practice
When traveling with a child who experiences autism, be sure to give them an idea of what to expect on the journey. Whether you are traveling by car, by train, or by airplane, you can discuss what the child might encounter during the trek.
You can even practice by visiting the point of departure or taking extended car trips to acclimate your child. If possible, prepare photos of some of the places you will see on your travels. Being able to anticipate what is coming next, with visual prompts, will help your child feel at ease.
Bring the Familiar
Don’t leave home without your child’s special stuffed animal, security blanket, or other attachment items. Most of us like to travel with our tokens of comfort, and your child is no different. It is vital to provide something to soothe your kiddo if they become over-stimulated during your travels. Keep these familiar items close by during the trip.
Cut Out All the Noise Possible
Traveling is extremely noisy. Airports, train stations, and even the open highway generally create too much stimulation for a child with autism. Noise-canceling headphones are a great option to address this. Employing the aid of tablets and other mobile devices also can make traveling with an autistic child much more relaxed.
Pack the Snacks
Preparing your meals and snacks in advance is a great idea when traveling with a child with autism. A full stomach always makes traveling more comfortable. And for children dealing with autism, having familiar foods available is essential. Many children with autism also have a limited range of foods they will eat. So be prepared. Do not rely on being able to find specific foods when you are on the road.
Ramp Up the Safety
Elopement, or wandering off, can be a serious issue when traveling with an autistic child. Unfamiliar surroundings and the stress of being out of their comfort zone can cause children to roam. Consider getting a smartwatch for your child to wear. These devices allow you to keep track of them even if they wander. Be sure your child wears an ID bracelet, such as a medical alert bracelet, with your contact information clearly displayed.
Keep Your Routines As Normal As You Can
We all thrive with structure and don’t want anything to disrupt it. A child with autism is especially sensitive to a shake-up in their routines. Keep as much normalcy in place as possible, especially around eating and sleeping. It can make all the difference in how well the trip goes and is worth the extra effort.
ABA Helps When Traveling with an Autistic Child
The ABA experts at Positive Synergy can help you and your child prepare for any changes you have coming up. From travel to holiday schedules, we have the tools to help your family be ready for success.
It can be difficult to make connections with other people. This is true whether you are five or 55 years old, but especially so for children on the autism spectrum. These feelings are only compounded when he or she is spending all day in a school classroom without their friends, something that could lead to loneliness and increased anxiety.
Your son or daughter being able to connect with other students in their classroom will be important to keeping stress levels low, interest in learning, and overall tensions to a minimum. Here are some of our favorite tips for helping your child navigate making new friends in school.
Encourage your child to share Interests with others
Bond over after school activities
This has a dual benefit, as your child might make some new friends while also getting exposure to something new and exciting. Activities like Girl or Boy Scouts, sports programs, art classes, and music classes will encourage gradual sensory stimulation.
Helping your child on the spectrum work on many of their needed skills to give them creative outlets to express themselves. These activities also give your child opportunities to meet other children who are at the same stage, something they can bond over as they grow together.
Remind your child to smile
Keep your spirits up
Not every interaction between your child and their classmates will end up in a rewarding connection becoming best friends. It is important to make sure your son or daughter knows that rejection is something we all face from time to time.
It can be hard for children to process rejection, so you will want to make sure you keep them focused on being excited about the chance to make a friend.
It can be difficult to make friends, especially when your child struggles with feelings like stress and social anxiety. Remind them that being a kind and caring person is always a good thing — no matter how close you end up being — and that true friendships will always work out in the end.
Going back to school is an exciting time for families. Parents get to have a little bit more time of their own than they’ve had in a while, and children get back to classes to learn new things and spend time with their friends. The back-to-school season might also be a little bit of a stressful time for your son or daughter.
As a parent, you know that disruptions to the daily routine can be a bit challenging for children on the spectrum. You probably work quite hard to keep things as “normal” as possible throughout the week and keep such disruptions to a minimum, which means some end-of-the day relaxation and fun might be just what your whole family needs.
Here are a few of our favorite tips for relaxing and unwinding after a long day or even week at school.
Get Outside as a Group
Children typically have recess, but that means they’re spending literally hours each day cooped up in classrooms and focused on learning. That also means your child is likely full of pent up energy, and running around outside is always a great answer.
Studies have shown that time outdoors, exercising, and getting fresh air all have healing benefits that can help reduce anxiety and stress, alleviate depression, improve mood and focus, and more, meaning you’ll be doing something great for everyone’s health.
Play tag, go to a park and climb on jungle gyms, or just sit together and discuss the day — just be surrounded by nature while you’re doing it.
Have Some Arts and Crafts Time
The homework is done and dinner has been had, so what’s more fun than unwinding with arts and crafts? Play with something fun and oozy like homemade slime, build with blocks, color pictures with scented markers, paint with watercolor paints, or make fun models out of modeling clay and watch as they bake in the oven.
Getting your child’s hands into a project will be educational, informative, and relaxing, not to mention creative and fun.
Try Yoga for Families
It is widely known that yoga has myriad health benefits, including improving flexibility, boosting blood flow and circulation, calming breathing, toning muscles, rejuvenating body systems, improving focus, relieving sleep issues, enhancing coordination, and reducing anxiety and depression. The fun animal names for poses make yoga great for parents and children alike, and yoga for families can provide great bonding opportunities that bring you closer together while also furthering your creativity.
Consider signing up for a yoga for families class, or purchase a DVD program that you can do as a family from the comfort of your own home. You can even have your family members all create their own pose.
Read a Book Together
Sure, your child might be in class reading and learning all day, but who doesn’t love the opportunity to read a favorite book in a cozy chair or while tucked into bed? Make sure it’s a favorite story, one that your child knows and can enjoy.
Read it together, making funny voices for each of the characters or pointing out your favorite parts of each picture. Play a game imagining what each of the characters is doing outside of the story pages, letting your creative juices flow.
Hope these fun activities help after a long day at school or over a much needed weekend, and provide your child the mental and physical relaxation needed.
Changing Lives. together