An Autistic’s Advice: Ten Tips for Teachers

Lydia Wayman autisticspeaks.wordpress.com There is so much misinformation and so many misperceptions out there about people with disabilities, and that includes autism. I’ve read some things lately, comments by teachers or people who will teach, that have sent me reeling. In typical Lydia fashion, I will write a Ten Things in an attempt to dispel these myths about people like me. 1. People with disabilities are not always happy, joyful, eternally childlike, or “perfect angels.” People with disabilities are humans. This means that we experience the full range of human emotion, including the uncomfortable ones, such as anger and sadness. Some of us are generally happy, just like some people without disabilities are generally happy, but others of us are confused, angry, hateful, manipulative, and so on. Autistic children display inappropriate and unwanted behavior just like typical children do. 2. Always assume we understand everything you’re saying when we’re in…

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Autism and Holidays: Success Through Meticulous Planning

Shannon Des Roches Rosa www.squidalicious.com As the 2008 holiday season sputtered out and the last relatives left our house, I exhaled, then smiled. I’d really enjoyed all the feasting and fun, from the morning moment the kids’ cousins started frolicking underfoot, until the last precious late-night conversation wound down. But there is no way in hell we can manage another holiday season like that one, because floundering in all the happy happy joy joy was one miserable, disoriented, sleep-disturbed little boy with autism and his equally disoriented parents. Please, learn from our mistakes and successes so that your holiday season can be as enjoyable as ours was but suck less than ours did. Your advocacy skills need to go into overdrive during the holidays. Of course you need to advocate for your child, to ensure they’re accommodated — but you also need to advocate for yourself. Your children are sensitive…

Thanksgiving Table Manners

Hartley Steiner www.hartleysboys.com I hate eating with my kids. Really, I do. Our meal times usually push me to the edge of sanity. And with Thanksgiving just weeks away, I am reminded that I will be eating with my kids in a formal setting with other people. Perhaps the turkey is less nervous than I am. Why? It isn’t for the reasons you may think. I have long ago gotten past the worries about what food my kids will eat, or whether they can stay seated at the table, or their inability to be hungry at meal time, preferring to graze all day. What I haven’t gotten over is their utter lack of table manners. Yes, table manners. I hear you — you think I shouldn’t worry about table manners, that perhaps I have bigger fish to fry. But bad table manners is a pet peeve I just can’t let…

My Child and Me – Keeping Everyone Honest (Or, the Therapists We’ve Fired)

Jennifer Minnelli, M.S., CCC-SLP www.autismsphere.com When your child first gets diagnosed with a developmental disorder, you, as a parent, are in a very vulnerable place. Regardless of your area of professional expertise, it’s almost as if you start over again, as a beginner. A beginner to parenting, and a beginner to this new world of diagnoses, specialists, medications, teacher opinions, and therapists. When we started down the road of diagnosis for my quirky oldest child, I was reluctant. It was hard for me to submit to other peoples’ opinions, when I felt I knew exactly what was going on with her and how it should be treated. Also, I felt, I knew the dark under-belly of the world of allied health professions. Several years out in my career, I had already worked in a variety of settings, from public school to inpatient hospital, and everything in between. I had worked…

Advertising for Autism

Dr. Claire Hughes-Lynch www.professormother.com The Wyndham Hotel in Austin, TX recently started to offer “autism-friendly” rooms with sensory activities and an alarm on the door that will alert you when the door is opened. Colgate is sponsoring a Dental Tool Kit for children with autism. Dealing with a child’s Asperger’s is a main plot theme in the show Parenthood on NBC, the movie Adam and many, many other more main-stream media. Regal Cinemas offers “autism-friendly” movie showings in which it is OK to make noises, cry and wander around. Discovery Toys just started marketing a line of toys designed for children with autism. And of course, there are the various foods, technology and products specifically designed to educate, cure, support, and raise awareness of autism I think we’ve just reached the tipping point of autism being used as a marketing tool to reach families. As Kristina Chew said, back in…

DIR®/ Floortime™: An Introduction

Sara Chapman, MA www.playconnectlearn.com Navigating the world of autism is no easy task for parents, particularly with so much information — and misinformation — currently available. Parents spend hours searching for what is best for their child, understandably so, often confused or uncertain about what will truly help their child learn, develop, and grow into a warm, independent, and emotionally connected individual. The DIR®/ Floortime™ model provides a framework for helping parents better understand their child and to re-establish those early connections that once seemed lost or unattainable. It is about finding the “gleam in the eye” and falling in love with your child all over again, no matter what your child’s challenges might be. In turn, this will lead to healthy foundations for social, emotional, and intellectual development. What is the DIR® Model? The DIR® Model, or Developmental, Individual-Differences, Relationship-based Model, is an interdisciplinary framework for assessment and intervention…

What to Ask of an Occupational Therapist

Barbara H. Boucher, OT, PhD, PT www.therextras.com My identity as an OT runs as deep as my sense of being an adult. I begin on a personal note because if you have trouble discerning a person’s face or need concrete affirmation of my being you might imagine me to have three heads: As a naive undergraduate I learned at the feet of Jean Ayers’ generation of occupational therapists. For reasons that are most easily characterized as my professional “developmental” trajectory, I became a physical therapist, also. A complete psychological profile of me might read that I received a great deal of reinforcement in an academic setting. From my Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Human Development and Family Sciences I claim the title of Child Development Specialist. If the words “occupational therapy” (OT) are new to you and accompanied your child’s diagnosis, you are not alone in struggling to understand what…

Autism: Feeding Issues and Picky Eaters

Judy McCrary Koeppen www.septar.org www.sagetherapy.com www.sagetherapy.blogspot.com Autistic children are often very picky eaters, or have eating issues. Having your child refuse to eat any foods that are not white and soft in consistency can be maddening, but as a speech therapist and parent I’ve found it most helpful to have a clear understanding of why a child self-limits their diet. Eating is a multi-sensory experience. Each mouthful brings the possibility of a variety of flavors, textures and temperatures. A feeding specialist would break this down further, identifying “Flavors” including sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter and neutral; “Textures” including crunchy, chewy, soft, mixed, puree, thick liquids, and thin liquids; and “Temperatures” including cold, room temperature, warm, and hot. In addition, we experience food odors, and often the way they feel in our hands. Many children who are picky or problem eaters may have Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). In her book The…

What a Great Speech-Language Pathologist Can Do for Your Child With Autism

Jordan Sadler, MS, CCC-SLP www.communicationtherapy.net When your child is diagnosed with autism, one of the first professionals you will need on your child’s team is a high quality speech-language pathologist (SLP). This is because challenges in communicating and relating are core features of the diagnosis, and improvement in this area will make a tremendous difference in a child’s — and family’s — life. For many children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), the speech-language pathologist is the cornerstone of the therapeutic team. A speech-language pathologist may also be referred to as a “speech therapist” or the more descriptive “communication therapist.” Whatever the title, parents will want to be sure their child’s therapist is licensed by the state and certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Furthermore, be sure to work with a practitioner who has extensive training and experience in the field of autism, and don’t be afraid to ask the therapist…