Long hair can be a problem. Food could get in it, your child could bite it or try to chew on it, or it could be constantly dirty and difficult to keep clean.
Eventually, your child on the spectrum will need a haircut! This can be a major challenge for parents. All of the different sounds and sensations that come along with getting your haircut can be a complete sensory overload. Here are tips to help make this a smooth process!
1. Don’t surprise your child. Allow them to plan ahead and prepare for the haircut beforehand. Include a social story to explain what happens when you do go to get the haircut so there are no big unexpected events. Reminders about the haircut on the days leading up to it can help them be more at ease.
2. Often times, a child on the spectrum will be extremely sensitive to certain noises and sensations, especially around the ears. Introduce them to hair clippers and the sounds they make. Desensitize your child to the vibrations and sounds of the clippers. When you arrive at the Salon, the tools being used will already be familiar. Use ear plugs to block out the noise.
3. Bring a preferred item to take the child’s mind off getting a haircut. This could be anything that is reinforcing to them and they play with a lot at home. Some examples are a tablet, animal toys, iPod with favorite songs, fidgets, coloring books, or a small toy train that they love. Pack a bag of possible items they would use as a coping skill or to calm down when feeling scared.
4. Pack your child’s favorite snack (I suggest more than one). A haircut can be a frightening experience for them and at times the sensory overload may become too much. This is when a break involving a snack will come in handy. Explain that “we can take a break now and come back and do more after we have a snack”. Just as adults, children with autism need time to regulate themselves when they become agitated, this break time will provide an opportunity to relax.
5. Use positive reinforcement and reward them for getting a haircut. Remember that this is an overwhelming experience and remind them that they have a treat waiting either at home or in the car when the haircut is done. This could be a new toy, a frappe at McDonald’s, or a trip to play mini golf in the summer. Anything the child will look forward to and ease some of the stress.
6. Find a hairdresser who does home visits. If this is not possible, choose the time and day that you go to the salon wisely. Find out what the quietest times of business are. Less people equals less noise and a calmer environment.
7. Model it! Use a modeling video to show another child getting their haircut. This will give the child an idea of what to expect. Below is a video that can be used for modeling.
You may have heard the term “self-care” floating around lately. So what is it? Self-care is the things you do for the most important person in your life……yourself!
Sounds crazy doesn’t it? Your kids, significant other, pets, work are those who receive the most from you. However, in order for all the special people in your life to receive the best care from you, you need to care for yourself. I know, I know how in the world are you supposed to find time for that?
Sometimes, you have to demand that time or be real creative in making time for yourself. Some of us are lucky enough to have extra help at home when you need to just take some space. Other times, we are the only person we have in getting stuff done day after day. Regardless of your situation, it is important to find ways you can cater to your own needs.
My self-care routine usually entails a workout once a week, painting my nails one night a week, and taking an hour each Saturday to go wherever I want to (for example, driving to Target 5 towns away just to take a drive).
Your self-care might involve gardening, lighting candles at night to relax, and enjoying a hike in the woods. This is the most beautiful aspect of self-care, you get to pick what you do for yourself! Self-care also does not mean you have to perform these activities alone. You could take your kids out for ice cream or make time to see a friend you have not had a chance to see very often.
No matter what you decide is best for your situation, it is important to remember one thing. It is not at all selfish to recognize small things you can do for yourself each week in order to perform all the roles you are involved in. Being a parent is the most demanding role of all.
The sacrifices you perform for your children are seen daily. Your children will benefit from seeing you perform self-care for yourself. This can also assist in you teaching your child to recognize what they do for themselves for self-care.
Does serving pizza, processed foods, or chips every day for lunch and dinner sound familiar? Meal time can be an important part of the day for families to talk to each other, relax, and bond. These are the perfect times for modeling proper manners and setting an example of healthy eating. Furthermore, research shows that children who eat dinner with families have a lower chance of engaging in high risk behaviors later on in life. It can be a difficult and anxious time for a child with autism which can create a stressful situation for parents.
When it comes to your child on the spectrum, making sure they get the right nutrition can be a battle. This can be very frustrating for parents and can sometimes leading to giving up or “giving in” and feeding the child only what they prefer. Think back to when you were a kid, did you enjoy eating fruits and vegetables? Most likely your answer is no. One important aspect of this for parents to understand is that this is not your fault, you did not create this problem. In certain cases, this can be very dangerous for the child’s wellbeing. Melissa Olive Ph.D., a psychologist with experience treating eating disorders, says “some of them limit what they eat, in some instances so severely that it results in nutritional deficiencies that lead to weight loss, malnutrition and inadequate growth”.
In the journal article: Food Selectivity in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Typically Developing Children, the study concluded that food selectivity is more common in children with autism than in typically developing children, and limited diet may be associated with nutrient inadequacies. The article states that “children with ASDs exhibited more food refusal than typically developing children. A more limited food repertoire was reported for children with ASDs than typically developing children. Only four children with ASDs and one typically developing child were reported to demonstrate high frequency single food intake. Children with a more limited food repertoire had inadequate intakes of a greater number of nutrients”.
Often times a child’s diet will be diverse until one day they begin to be much pickier and only want to eat a few preferred foods. These foods tend to be unhealthy. This can be related to many different factors. The following is a list of some but not all of the possible reasons:
What Methods Have Professionals Used?
In their book Food Chaining: The Proven 6-Step Plan to Stop Picky Eating, Solve Feeding Problems, and Expand Your Childs Diet Food Chaining: The Proven 6-Step Plan to Stop Picky Eating, Solve Feeding Problems, and Expand Your Child’s Diet, Cheri Fraker, Mark Fishbein MD, Sibyl Cox, and Laura Walbert offer a “common sense approach to dealing with problem eaters”. The authors analyze the different characteristics of the child’s preferred food. These characteristics include textures, flavors, and food groups. The foods that are similar to preferred foods but are also nutritious are then introduced.
An additional approach is the the Sequential Oral Sensory (SOS) feeding program created by Dr. Kay Toomey. This program “integrates sensory, motor, oral, behavioral/learning, medical and nutritional factors and approaches in order to comprehensively evaluate and manage children with feeding/growth problems. It is based on the normal developmental steps and skills of feeding”.
Having ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) sessions within your home, we strive to help blend in with the environment and respect your home as much as possible. There are a few helpful ideas that can greatly increase the success of your child’s session and overall treatment.
1. Write down what is in your child’s daily routine. Think about what they like, need, and will surely ask for while away from home. You may not be able to get their favorite food or drink where you are going, so hit the local stores and pack these items. It may help to make a daily schedule while away which includes the time to enjoy some of these items in order to not stray too far from the routine. Think about including “snack breaks”.
2. As a safety precaution, make or order your child an ID tag for them to either carry on them or wear that includes a recent photo, contact phone number of the family, and an indication that your child has autism and may not be able to communicate similarly to the person who finds them. You can also do this with an ID card for older children who are able to carry it on them in a wallet. Some other important information to include are allergies, medications, and if the child is nonverbal.
3. Find or prepare a social story about vacations and traveling. Include possible situations that may occur to make the child feel more comfortable about the adventure that lies ahead. These may include eating at a restaurant or waiting in line (especially for Disney vacations as the lines tend to be long). This can include role-playing by the family and will help with transitions.
4. Going to a new place will include seeing new sights, hearing new sounds, and most likely experiencing new tastes. This may become extremely overwhelming. Make sure your child can access at all times to their favorite coping mechanisms. These may include a tablet, favorite stuffed animal, favorite toy, headphones, or anything that helps to calm them. OH! And be sure to load tons of videos and games onto any electronic device before leaving. Wi-Fi is not always available in flight.
5. Contact the airline and let them know you will be pre-boarding to allow your child a chance to get used to the airplane before others join. Make them aware of the situation and they will help accommodate you to make sure the child is comfortable. Airlines are required to make these accommodations, including having your child board first.
6. Use what is reinforcing and what the child is passionate about on the vacation to boost interest. If the child is into dinosaurs and animals, think about possible trips to the zoo or museums. If they like automobiles, find a city tour on a bus or a trolley. Let their passions guide certain parts of the vacation!
7. Bring your camera and be sure to TAKE TONS OF PHOTOS! Vacations are the perfect time to create family memories that will last forever. Capture as many of these moments as possible! Afterwards when it is time to leave on the next vacation, show these photos to your child and remind them of all the fun that was had. Photos from past experiences could possibly be very reinforcing and relieve any anxiety that they may have about future trips!
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