Read an extract from Lisa Carne’s “Natural Curiosity: Educating and Nurturing Our Children at Home”

Carne_Natural-Curiosi_978-1-78592-033-2_colourjpg-printNatural Curiosity is a warm and contemplative insight into one family’s experience of moving from mainstream schooling to home education, and learning through the lens of nature and natural history.

Since becoming “unschooled”, the author’s two children have thrived on a diet of self-directed play and learning, amassing life skills, confidence, responsibility and a vast array of knowledge along the way. This thoughtful book touches upon important themes in education and environmentalism, including children’s rights in schooling, the use and place of technology in learning and the absence of the natural world in mainstream education. It gives a considered, balanced view of home schooling interspersed with entertaining tales, and offers an understanding of how this type of education works and what inspires the choice to pursue it.

>>Click here to download the extract<<

Why one growing up talk is not enough…

Growing up Guide

Davida Hartman is a Senior Educational Psychologist who has been working with children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder for fifteen years. Author of the two new books The Growing Up Guide for Girls and The Growing Up Book for Boys, Davida shares her top ten tips for parents to help guide their children through the confusing changes during the pre-teen and teenage years.

 

 

 

Who remembers how they learned about growing up and all that comes with it; body changes, hair growth, periods, wet dreams or dating? Was it in the school yard, from a less than well-intentioned sibling or being sat down by an embarrassed parent for a speech that made no sense and was never to be spoken again? Although we all no doubt found Hartman_Growing-Up-Book_978-1-84905-575-8_colourjpg-print

the whole thing a bit confusing and sometimes downright worrying, eventually most of us managed to muddle through it all without too much trauma.

You can take it as a given that children on the autism spectrum will find all of this stuff even more difficult to figure out. And let’s face it – as tempting as it may be to follow in our parents footsteps and either ignore it completely or give a once-off talk and never have to think about it again, any parent of a child with autism knows that talking about it once is going to make very little difference to their child being able to change a sanitary pad or finding the motivation to shower every day.

So if a one off ‘talk’ isn’t going to cut it, what will? Here are 10 tips:

  1. Decide what your key messages are going to be and be prepared to repeat them a lot. Don’t be too ambitious, you can always pick new key messages at a later stage.
  2. Get their teacher on board with the same key messages so that there can be even more repetition in a different environment (such as school).
  3. Fake it till you make it! No matter how embarrassed or uncomfortable you might feel, try your best to give the information clearly and calmly using a positive, upbeat tone of voice.
  4. Be concrete and use correct terminology (i.e. not made up names that nobody outside of the family will understand). Also be careful about language being taken literally (e.g. that boys’ voices do not literally ‘break’).
  5. Keep it visual. This might mean reducing language, focussing on pictures and single words, using social stories or visual schedules or perhaps adding speech or thought bubbles to comic type graphics. If your child learns best through PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) teach them that way, likewise if they learn best through social stories. Visual organisers such as relationship circles or timelines can also be really useful.
  6. Use this information to create a ‘growing up’ scrapbook or folder which can be reviewed regularly. This can be added to and adapted as the child gets older and will be meaningful as it can contain pictures and information relevant to them, e.g. pictures of members of their family growing from a baby into an adult.
  7. If you are going to buy resources to help you, be aware of the confusing graphics and language that are sometimes used and make them difficult to be understood by a child with ASD. Be sure to use information that is presented in a clear, visual and factual way that your child will understand.The Growing Up Guide for Girls - Image p.48
  8. Special interests are a great way of making learning interesting, fun and meaningful. For example, if your child loves a particular superhero, create problem-solving scenarios in which the superhero figures out what to do in areas that your child is struggling with (e.g. appropriate touch with strangers).
  9. If you are lucky enough to have them on board, using peers and siblings can be an extremely valuable teaching tool. In the teenage years children tend to pay more attention to what their peers say about a particular topic than their parents or teachers. For example, you could decide to get an older sister or next door neighbour on board to talk to your daughter about the dangers of internet dating. Or a small group of carefully chosen boys could be taught how to sensitively support your son to learn about the importance of good body odour and washing.
  10. Provide real life practice, like role plays and supported experiences in community (e.g. going to the shop to pick a deodorant they like). Children on the spectrum can be very good at learning by rote what they should do in a certain situation (e.g. being able to list internet safety rules or what to say to a girl they like), but can have difficulty applying this knowledge when it matters. Real life practice is vital!

 

 

Davida Hartman is a Senior Educational Psychologist in the Developmental and ASD Psychology Department for Carlow and Kilkenny, Irish Health Service Executive. She is a regular lecturer and trainer on sexuality and relationship education for children with ASD and consults to a number of different groups and agencies. She has been working with children and adolescents with ASD for fifteen years in the capacity of a psychologist and a teacher. Davida received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Trinity College Dublin, her MA in Educational Psychology from University College Dublin, and she is a Registered Psychologist with the Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI).

Read more about Davida’s new books The Growing Up Guide for Girls and The Growing Up Guide for Boys.

Hartman-GrowingUpGirls-C2WHartman-GrowingUpBOYS-C2W

Put the Fun Back into Tooth Brushing

JKP author Kate Wilde, Director of The Son-Rise Program®, shares tips from her forthcoming book, Autistic Logistics, on helping your spectrum child enjoy brushing his or her teeth.

Our children on the autism spectrum are no different from us in that they too move toward and want to do activities that are fun! Below are four steps that will help you help your child master the skill of cleaning their teeth.

  1. Take the stress out of the equation by letting go of the outcome. Everything we do with our child matters. What we think and feel is communicated to our children in so many different ways. In the tone of our voice, the touch of our hand and the softness or hardness of our facial expressions. Does the thought of cleaning your child’s teeth fill you with dread and stress, or fun and delight? Is it something you just want to get over and done with so that the real fun of playing can happen? If it fills you with dread then the first place to start is let go of the outcome of actually getting your child’s teeth cleaned and focus instead on enjoying the process. How can our children begin to enjoy this process if we do not? Try letting go of the outcome of actually getting your child’s teeth brushed just for a couple of days, and instead focus on making it as fun as possible for you and your child. You have nothing to lose by trying this and everything to gain.
  2.  Find two things to love about the process of brushing teeth. When we love something we tend to be more enthusiastic, the more enthusiastic we are the more inviting we will be in encouraging our children to move toward and enjoy the process of cleaning their teeth. There are so many things to love! We have the toothbrush itself—many amazing toothbrushes on the market—buy one YOU love. The way our teeth feel after they have been cleaned—all smooth and fresh. The minty sweet taste of the toothpaste. Get into it! Then express the sincere love you have of the process to your child. Tell them about the delicious taste of the toothpaste, or the awesomeness of your toothbrush. Sell the process.
  3. Model the joy of cleaning your teeth. Once you have your own things to love about cleaning your teeth, then clean your teeth in a joyous “over the top” way in front of your child. It is ok if your child is not looking at you or seemingly interested in what you are doing. Know that if they are in the room they are taking in some part of what you are doing. Have a blast showing your child how great it is to clean your own teeth.
  4. Make it fun for your child. Do this by adding what your child loves most to their tooth brushing experience. This is the key to making it especially fun to your child. Each of our children have their own unique interest and things that they particularly love. Put what your child loves most at the center. For example, if your child loves a particular character such as Thomas the Tank Engine, bring Thomas along and clean his teeth too. Get a tooth brush with Thomas on it. Create a train track with masking tape on the bathroom floor that leads to the sink where the toothbrush and toothpaste are waiting. If your child loves to watch ribbons and pieces of string dangle, wrap string and ribbon around their toothbrush to make it more inviting for them. If your child has a special topic of conversation that they love to talk about, incorporate that topic of conversation into tooth brushing. For example if their topic is about Austin Powers dance like him as you brush their teeth and say, “Cleaning teeth is Groovy” in an Austin Powers accent. If their topic is about different kinds of weather, pretend you are trying to clean their teeth in the middle of a tornado or snow storm.

For more ideas on how to inspire your child to love cleaning their own teeth or other everyday skills, read my book Autistic Logistics. Available January 21st, 2015.

Praise from a reader— An insight into how ‘The Asperkid’s Launch Pad’ changed one mother’s life

Rebecca in England shares how reading The Asperkid’s Launch Pad by Jennifer Cook O’Toole changed the way she thinks about autism:

Just dropping by to say that I got hold of The Asperkid’s Launch Pad yesterday, read the first couple of chapters and felt my life changing.

I have an 11 year old Asperboy who has just started college here in the UK. He is doing an amazing job. An absolutely amazing job. But he is finding the change really very difficult and of course, he is under scrutiny by all those older kids who seem so together and adult, as indeed many of them are. I guess it feels kind of like you are a tiny boat and you are trying, everyday, to negotiate the Bristol Shipping Channel; one of the busiest waters in the UK, if not the world. I think that’s what college must feel like to him.

Last week he had a big anxiety outburst and shouted at himself that he was a ‘stupid baby.’ It was the first time it had all come out like that, in those words. I held him and talked to him and made him an icy drink (your tip—thank you xx) and we spoke about demons and how they can grow inside your head. We talked about how they get put there and how they love to be fed with all the evidence they can find to back up their idea about you … which is not the truth. We spoke about how they lie and twist things and hang on to all the bad stuff and discount the good stuff so they can get bigger. My son said he had had his demon for years and that was what it said to him and it made him not like himself.

We both cried a lot at what demons can do. I told him his demon was wrong and I told him about my bad demon and he said my demon had it wrong too. We had a lot of hugs. We wrote down what those demons said, along with our other worries, and put the words in a box, on the shelf, in a cupboard (again—your tip from your video—thank you xxx) and left them there until we want to talk about them again. He calmed down instantly after doing this exercise. It really helped him. Thank you.

Anyway, yesterday, whilst reading The Asperkid’s Launch Pad I realized that I have been feeding my son’s demon. It makes me cry to say it but I can see it’s true. Not in the things I say but in the fact that I do so much for him, hover over him, jump in and help when he struggles. I guess I want his life to be as easy as possible and I know it is very far from that so I do all I can to help. Yesterday I saw that for what it was—that although my intentions were good and true, the effect of my actions was actually harming my son by not allowing him to grow, learn and take responsibility for things. I realized I have been doing too much for him, taking over when he struggles, doing tasks that he is actually really capable of doing if he was shown how and got support to do them.

I saw this, cried, took a deep breath and said ‘I can fix this!’ Again— your words—so simple but so good to say. I went downstairs and got to work. I cleared the surfaces in the kitchen so there would be space for him to help me cook. I made a dead space that just had an old box of bills in it into a space for him to have his college things. I made a sign for that space to designate it his—it was a good sign mounted on shiny card with his school logo on it. It looked great.

He came home and together we made hot chocolate. With all that space on the surfaces it was easy to do. I demonstrated and he copied. He made the whole thing. He got a bit worried but I did not jump in and do it for him. I just showed him how and encouraged him. He even lit the gas hob after I had shown him how. We went and sat down and watched our favourite TV show with our drinks.

Later last night we went into the kitchen to get ready for the next day. I have been packing his bag for him for college but now I can see that he needs to do this for himself. The funny thing is (although it will make sense to you I think) that I didn’t need to ask him or encourage him to do it. He went to the space I had made and packed his bag himself, got his water bottle and placed it next to his bag in the space for the morning. He got all excited and looked at the sign I had made and said “I like going to college,” and then, I’m not kidding, he drew himself up and said “I’m NOT a baby.”

I saw, right there, what I can do to make that demon shrink and to make my son’s confidence grow. After only one change in my little house I saw the difference right there in front of me. He said it. He spoke up against his demon and I saw it wince and shrink. It felt good, better than good, to see that.

I thought that my most important job as a mother of an asperboy was to protect my son and smooth out everything I could for him. I have been wrong. My most important job is to empower my son. To step back. To let him be him. To be there for him but not to take his powers away. To encourage his powers to come out, and, as they come out, so his demons will retreat.

I am so moved by what I have learned I had to let you know. It was your book that made me see a very very important thing. It is so often your advice and your words that I turn to when things get tough. I always come away from an encounter with your work feeling positive … yes, feeling empowered. You empower me so that I can empower my son. And thus the world gets better.

Bless you Jennifer. We are so lucky to have you in the world.

What every parent and professional needs to know

The Autism Spectrum, Sexuality and the Law by Tony Attwood, Isabelle Hénault and Nick Dubin.

This ground-breaking book explores issues that can arise surrounding the autism spectrum (ASD), sexuality and the law.

From the book, Larry Dubin

“I know the love and dedication that is required of parents raising a child on the autism spectrum. There are so many issues that are extremely difficult to navigate. I have great admiration for parents who work hard to find and pay for necessary services while helping their children deal with the many social, sensory, speech and language, and other issues that can arise. With my deepest respect for these special and dedicated parents, let me offer this advice in light of our family’s heart-breaking experience.

  • Recognize that your child is a sexual being. Although it may be difficult to deal with your child’s sexual issues, don’t ignore them, and seek professional help if necessary. Current research indicates that a variety of problems can arise with respect to sexual development for those on the autism spectrum.
  • Make clear to your child that certain behaviors could lead to an encounter with the criminal justice system and even to imprisonment. These behaviors include viewing child pornography on the internet, stalking, unwanted touching, having meltdowns in public and indecent exposure. Your child must understand the severe legal consequences that can occur when these types of charges are brought against people on the autism spectrum who may not understand that they were even committing a criminal act. It may be appropriate to place restraints on your child’s computer to ensure only lawful use.
  • Nick’s case was processed under federal law of the United States. Although most countries criminalize possession of child pornography, the elements of the crime, the possible defenses, and the potential prison sentences are not uniformly followed. Parents should become familiar with the laws pertaining to child pornography in the country in which they reside.
  • Be sure your child knows that if ever confronted by the police, with respect to having committed a crime, he or she should be polite and ask for a lawyer to be present without making any further statements. The trusting and naïve nature of people on the autism spectrum, who typically want to please authority, make them easy candidates to be taken advantage of by trained police officers who can question them without the protection of a lawyer. The law allows police officers to make certain false statements in order to get a confession that can and will be used against the person. There is also the danger that false confessions can occur. It is always best to have a lawyer present to represent the interests of a person on the autism spectrum before making any statements to law enforcement personnel.”

Why this Book Matters—

“As you will discover reading this book, we have been through a long and horrific ordeal. Our family has suffered in silence and shame for over three years. Many would wonder why we have actually chosen to publicly expose such an intimate and personal experience. The answer is that we wanted our experience to count for something; to have a larger meaning. Our purpose in writing the book is to bring forth an issue that has been in the shadows for too long.  In the process of preparing Nick’s legal case, we gathered significant information and research that we feel obligated to share with others who could benefit from it.”

Kitty and Larry Dubin

This book is an invaluable addition to the shelves of parents of children with ASD, mental health and legal professionals, teachers, caregivers and other professionals working with individuals on the spectrum. For more information, please visit our website.

Teaser Tuesday-Using an ABA Curriculum for Young Learners with Autism Spectrum Disorders

A Step-by-Step ABA Curriculum for Young Learners with Autism Spectrum Disorders (Age 3-10) by Lindsay Hilsen MEd, BCBA uses proven principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA) to monitor the progress of children on the autism spectrum and make sure they reach their full potential.

The book’s three sections, Assessment, Curriculum and Mastered, each include built-in data collection instruction and examples, reproduced on the accompanying CD to be easily downloaded and printed. Each section covers ten pivotal areas of progress for this age group, including reading, writing, math, conversation and social skills. The book gives teachers, counselors, and parents a clear outline on what to teach and how to teach it, in order to ensure children are reaching developmental goals at this crucial stage.

The first downloadable worksheet explains how to use Applied Behavior Analysis Components to encourage ‘Prompting.’ Prompting helps to teach children a particular skill by helping them feel encouraged and giving them guidance to make a goal easier to achieve.

Download the Prompting worksheet here.

The second downloadable worksheet ‘Asks a Peer to Join/Play,’ outlines an activity teachers and parents can do with children using the ABA principles and components explained in the instructional worksheet.

Download the Asks a Peer to Join/Play worksheet here.

Lindsay Hilsen is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst who has dedicated her career to working with children on the Autism Spectrum. She is a qualified elementary level and special education teacher with master’s degrees in both special education and education. She has worked as an ABA teacher and is currently the Autism Clinical Educator for Sunny Days Early Childhood Developmental Services, New Jersey. Lindsay is a frequent presenter and lecturer on Autism and ABA topics. She lives in Robbinsville, New Jersey with her husband and daughters.

Preparation for Independence—Is Your Student Ready for a New School Year?

Christy Oslund, Co-ordinator of Student Disability Services in the Dean of the Students’ Office at Michigan Technological University, shares helpful tips for parents on preparing students for a new school year and future independence.

Preparation for Independence

As students gear up for another year of school—perhaps even their last year or two before heading off to college or other independent goals—families tend to get caught up in last minute preparations. Do they have adequate school supplies, is it time to buy a scientific calculator, what will the schedule look like for classes and for after school activities? It is easy to get buried in details.

We need to remind ourselves to step back and remember the big picture. We need to help our students be prepared not just for the immediate school term but for the future when they will be required to live more independently. Consider the following questions:

  • Is my child able to take their medication reliably without reminders?
  • Does my child know how to wash their own laundry?
  • Could my child go shopping alone and find their own basic necessities?
  • Have we practiced the child getting up and ready for school without assistance/wake-up calls?
  • Has my child learned to shop for and cook a few simple meals?
  • Can my child wash up after preparing a meal?

Until a person has had the opportunity to practice all these steps towards independence, he or she is not really ready for life away from home, whether that be in a trade school, college, university, or first job. Particularly with high functioning children who are very smart, we can easily forget how important these other day to day life skills are for the young person to grow into a successful adult. Rather than trying to take on teaching all of these skills at once, consider working on them one at a time. It will depend on your child which of these steps will come easiest and which will require the most work.

Consider starting with the step that is likely to be the least difficult for the individual child you are working with, so that your student can build on success as they approach the next goal. If for example, your child is naturally starting to get up in the morning for school, allow that to become an independent activity where he or she is responsible for getting out of the home on time. Realize that this may mean that your child will be late a few times; this is the price that has to be paid in helping your student work towards independence. Once your child leaves home, there will not be anyone getting them out the door on time and this is a skill that is best learned before they are expected to act like an adult.

On the other hand, if your child has shown an interest in cooking, help them identify a few simple meals they would like to cook. Take them shopping and walk them through the process of choosing ingredients for the meal, paying, taking home the shopping, and preparation. For young people who find that process very involved, you may want to make clean up after the meal a separate lesson and learning opportunity.

Remember that almost everyone finds the most effective way to learn is to be given a chance for practice, with necessary explanation/information being provided by someone who has more experience with the skill being learned. If one wants to learn to milk a cow, one would look for a dairy farmer who has experience with milking; if one wants to learn to cook a meal, it helps if the person teaching has cooked before.

At the same time, parents and guardians can show the willingness to learn new skills themselves. If no one in the home is practiced at cooking a meal then helping the child prepare by learning this skill together—perhaps in a basic cooking class, or from a beginners cook book—demonstrates that learning new skills is always possible, and often necessary, no matter what stage we are at in life. By learning side by side with your child, you can demonstrate how to solve problems along the way:

  • How will we prepare for shopping?
  • How do we choose ingredients?
  • How do we decide which pan to use?
  • How can we tell if the heat we are using is too hot or not hot enough?

When more mature family members demonstrate how to solve problems as they are encountered, they also set another example that the child can learn from and call on later in life.

A new school year is an exciting, anxiety producing time of year. It is also a reminder that a child is continuing to grow towards eventual independence. Being mindful to include education and practice with the life skills needed outside of school is just as important as helping a child academically prepare for their future. Just as we wouldn’t expect a child to spontaneously start reading without previous education just because they have left home, we cannot expect them to suddenly know other life skills such as cooking, or getting up without reminders, just because they’ve moved. Use each day to practice these steps towards independence and you can ensure that your child has all the skills necessary to be successful.

Christy is the author of  Succeeding as a Student in the STEM Fields with an Invisible Disability: A College Handbook for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Students with Autism, ADD, Affective Disorders, or Learning Difficulties and their Families and the forthcoming  Supporting College and University Students with Invisible Disabilities: A Guide for Faculty and Staff Working with Students with Autism, AD/HD, Language Processing Disorders, Anxiety, and Mental Illness both published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Tips on Transitioning to the Flexibility of Summer for Children with Special Needs from JKP author and Occupational Therapist Cara Koscinski

SUMMER!

It’s here! Most families look forward to summer relaxation and lazy days. However, the lack of routine and structure can be the cause of great stress for families of children with special needs. School routines are predictable and provide consistency.  The transition to summer and its freedom may be a difficult one. In addition, the skills your child has gained in school should be carried over into the summer to stop any regression. Feeling overwhelmed? Need ideas that are therapeutic and fun?

NEVER FEAR……THE POCKET OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST is here!!

Try to keep a routine. Look at the calendar together and make a routine for your family. Include your child in choosing family activities.  Let him choose the colors that you’ll write with on the calendar. Post a list of daily schedules and chores with check off boxes. Include chores such as vacuuming the floor and cleaning windows (both great for heavy work).  Schedule new activities well ahead of time and be sure to prepare for them. Visit summer camp sites prior to camp, meet counselors before camp begins, and take pictures of camp locations. Make a memory booklet and encourage your child to write in a journal about his summer activities. If he’s not writing yet, ask him to draw pictures. This will be a great keepsake!

Schedule as many play dates as possible. Extended family and cousins may also be off of school and need to keep busy too. Play games together such as making up your own circus. Walk a taped line imitating a tightrope, learn to juggle, and pretend to walk like different animals in the circus. You can also pretend to make a zoo, jungle, or go on safari.  Walking on all fours to imitate a bear, lion, tiger, dog, or any other animal is great for proprioceptive (heavy work) input.

Make a parade with homemade instruments. Visit our Pinterest board for ideas on how to make your own instruments out of paper plates, oat containers, and paper towel rolls. Marching to different rhythms is a fun way to work on proprioceptive input and body coordination.

Play charades and act out different sports or occupations. This is a great activity to do as a family or during a play date. For an added challenge, act out different emotions.

Draw letters and numbers using only your fingers on your child’s back.  Ask him to guess what you are drawing.  Let him practice on your back too.

Tape a line on the floor and ask your child to jump in different ways over it.  For example, hop with your right foot on the left side of the line.  Jump three times on the right of the line.  Use the line as a pretend balance beam.

Describe each letter of the alphabet by the shapes that make it up.  For example, letter H is two big lines and one dash.  Letter A is like two sliding boards back to back with a dash in the middle.  Take one letter per day and make it the letter of the day.  Draw that letter throughout the day in sand, shaving crème, on sand paper, in salt, and on paper with pencil or paint.  Find things that start with that letter and place them into a paper bag.

Cross crawling is a great activity to help in right/left coordination and visual motor skills. Crawl by moving one arm and the opposite leg (right arm/left leg) and then switch (left arm/right leg). Try giving your child directional commands such as: “Touch your left ear with your right hand.” Be creative and encourage your child to give you directions as well. Sometimes, playing the teacher is empowering!

Evening activities at dusk are fun too. Go on a flashlight scavenger hunt with your child. Use a flashlight to draw different letters and numbers on the ground. Use glow sticks to write letters in the air. Add glow stick liquid to bubbles and have a bubble blowing competition.

Use sidewalk chalk on the concrete or on your trampoline. Ask your child to jump to the letter you call out.

Walk like a wheelbarrow in the grass. Hold your child’s ankles, knees, or thighs and ask him to “walk” on his hands. Remember that holding your child’s ankles is the most difficult challenge for him.  You can place different things such as bean bags or play tools onto his back to “transport” items like a real wheelbarrow does. This is an EXCELLENT activity to add into any sensory diet. It is filled with proprioceptive input/heavy work.

Hop scotch, jumping rope, and learning to ride a bicycle are always super summer activities.

Use a spray bottle to spray plants. Squirting each other on a hot day is a fun way to cool down while building hand strength!

Fine motor tasks such as bead stringing, macramé, puzzles, hunting for treasure in different sensory bins, card games, marbles, making letters in sand and shaving crème, jacks are all great ways to build fine motor skills.

Painting with different items such as leaves, sticks, or cotton balls is fun. Adding tweezers to any task builds fine motor coordination. Instead of picking up cotton balls with his fingers, use tweezers!

If your child has difficulty catching a hard ball such as a baseball, use a wiffleball which will move slower and is easier to catch. Playing mini-golf with plastic golf balls is a fun way to build skills without the danger of a real golf ball flying through the yard.

Make a book. Cut old magazines and paste pictures on to a book made of construction paper and bound with yarn. Write stories about the pictures or make your own. Even punching the holes (through which to bind the book) with the hole puncher is a great fine motor activity.

Make a game of feel and guess. Use an old shoebox and cut a hole for your child’s hand to fit into. Place an item such as a leaf into the box and ask your child to tell you what the item is just by the way it feels. This can be done every season and with many objects such as stones, ice cubes, and seeds.

Make puppets out of old socks and felt. Put on a puppet show for friends or family.

Give your child a treasure hunt list with items such as a butterfly, cloud shaped like a certain animal, or sound of a certain bird’s chirp. This should be a multi-sensory treasure hunt involving eyes, ears, touch, and smell.

Plan snacks that relate to different books. Examples include: Blue Berries for Sal, Stone Soup, and Bread and Jam for Frances.

Set up a store selling different summer items such as beach toys, summer fruits, and vegetables. Encourage your child to make signs for each item and practice making change when something is purchased.

Use old sheets and blankets to make tents. Go camping in your living room!

Finally, plant seeds and watch them grow. Move them from small pots or paper cups into a garden area. Chart their growth in a notebook. Encourage your child to help you with the responsibilities of watering her garden and re-potting when necessary. Caring for something such as a plant can empower a child.

Make sure to read a great book together (Don’t forget about reading and recommending The Pocket Occupational Therapist for families of children with special needs).

Most of all, HAVE FUN together! You never know when you are making a memory that your child will have for the rest of his life!

By  Cara Koscinski MOT, OTR/L

Author of The Pocket Occupational Therapist—a handbook for caregivers of children with special needs. Questions and answers most frequently asked to OTs with easy to understand answers and fun activities you can do with your child.  It’s like having your OT with you everywhere! Published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2012. For more information on Cara Koscinski,  visit her website at www.pocketot.com.

JKP Author Elle Olivia Johnson Shares Tips for Parents on Understanding Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

Specialized Academic Instruction Teacher (SAI) Elle Olivia Johnson shares some tips for parents from her NEW book, The Parent’s Guide to In-Home ABA Programs: Frequently Asked Questions about Applied Behavior Analysis for your Child with Autism, on navigating the confusing language of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

ABA.  DTT.  Maintenance.  Reinforcers.  Data.  Prompting.  A-B-C Data. 

Whoa.  Let’s slow down.  You CAN do this!

Learning that your child has, or is considered at-risk for an autism spectrum disorder, can be an emotionally draining, confusing, and stressful experience. Along with these challenges faced by parents and families, there are languages to master: the languages of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), in-home therapy, and behavior. You never thought you’d need these skills, right? Well, life is full of surprises, and the surprise that you and your family received is that you will be learning some unique and important information. Rather than getting caught up in the amount of new stuff you’re being asked to learn, keep it simple by focusing on learning a little about each part.

1.  Learning about applied behavior analysis and what an in-home ABA therapy session looks like, includes, and what is expected of you.
In-home ABA program supervisors and therapists will work closely with you to teach you about ABA and how the techniques in the ABA “toolbox” can help your child and your family. You will learn how ABA is used to teach your child, how you can use the same teaching techniques in your day-to-day lives, and how progress is assessed and documented. You will also receive information about the purpose of each task your child is being asked to do, why these specific tasks have been chosen, and how each task leads to new skills. View this portion of your ABA education a little like looking at a map. You can choose to look at a map from space, seeing just a blur of each area. Click a little closer, and you can see states and lakes. Move in closer still, and you will see individual street names and landmarks. Your ABA learning will feel a little like this. A big blur in the beginning, but clarity as you become more familiar.

2.  Learning the lingo!  What do all those acronyms mean?
Like I said….whoa. ABA lingo is the shorthand educators and ABA professionals use to keep notes and instructions simple. I know that if I jumped into the role of a nurse, I would have absolutely no idea what the medical notes and codes meant. It’s the same feeling you have as you are learning about ABA. Don’t worry, there will not be a test on this, but you should be familiar with the specific abbreviations your ABA provider uses, especially if you want to learn to take data yourself. It’s ok to use a cheat sheet….but soon, you won’t need it. You will become as familiar with ABA terminology as you are with the acronyms you use in your work life.

3.  Looking forward
Life sometimes brings you to places you never, ever dreamed you would travel.  You are there for a reason, and when things seem overwhelming, confusing, or impossible, remember that you are the absolute best person, in the entire world, to help your child. They cannot do it without you, the ABA provider cannot do it without you, and the in-home ABA team NEEDS you. Learn as much as you can, ask millions of questions, and if you feel you want to go further in your learning about ABA, ABA therapy, or behavior, look into expanding your education. Keep in mind that as an advocate for your child, it is also your job to carefully evaluate claims about therapies and cures for autism. Stick to peer-reviewed, research-based, reputable research claims. Anecdotal evidence is not equivalent to well-conducted research.

Finally, take a deep breath, smile, and enjoy your child. Things are going to be fine. This whole confusing ABA journey is about to get a lot simpler.

JKP author Barbara Bissonnette Shares Helpful Insight for New Employees

Career coach and author Barbara Bissonnette shares helpful advice from her forthcoming book, Asperger’s Syndrome Workplace Survival Guide: A Neurotypical’s Secrets for Success, on how to succeed in the workplace.

Why You Need a Work Buddy

Many years ago, I read that someone had figured out 200 different ways to wash dishes. This underscored that there are many different methods for achieving the same result.

This is also true in the workplace. Every organization has unique systems and processes. Even if you have the same job at a new company, there will be differences in procedures, policies, and equipment. The reporting structures may be different. Certainly the people will be, and they will have different expectations, preferences and communication styles. The company culture might also be a departure from your previous experience.

The unique way that “things get done around here” can only be learned on the job, and from your co-workers. This is why I believe that one of the most important employment success strategies you can implement is to find a “work buddy.”

A work buddy is a colleague, preferably a peer or someone in your department. This should not be your supervisor or a human resources representative. This is someone who can help you to understand and learn the many specific details about how to do your job and interact with others in the company. Sometimes, this is a formally established partnership with a designated mentor or trainer. More often, a work buddy is someone who you like and trust.

There are many benefits of having a work buddy. He can translate unspoken workplace rules for you: what is a priority, how your supervisor prefers to get information, whom you can trust and whom you should avoid. He can explain office politics—who in the organization really has power, how decisions get made, what qualities are valued, and how various departments or divisions interact.

Your buddy can also provide concrete ideas about how to work efficiently. Paul was overwhelmed by the weekly volume of patients that he had to manage in his job as a physician’s assistant. He couldn’t determine whether he was processing paperwork too slowly or simply had too many patients to see. Paul asked his buddy, a fellow physician’s assistant, to review his case-management methods. The co-worker showed Paul short cuts that saved four hours of administrative time per week.

Dan’s buddy was able to give him excellent advice about how to handle various conflicts and frustrations. Once, he stopped Dan from sending an angry email to the director of the IT department. “He talked me out of something that could really have damaged my reputation, or gotten me fired,” Dan said.

We all need a reality check from time to time, and this is another way that your work buddy can be of great value. This person can provide feedback about things such as: Is my supervisor critical of just my work, or of everyone else’s, too? Are other people confused by the new system, or it is just me? Is everyone overwhelmed or am I the only one who can’t keep up? Was that comment a joke or a put down?

Your work buddy needs to be someone whom you explicitly trust. You may or may not decide to tell him about your Asperger’s Syndrome. Signs that a co-worker will make a good work buddy include:

▪ Patience when answering your questions: they don’t say, “I’m surprised you don’t know that;” or “It’s obvious;” or “Weren’t you paying attention?”

▪ Volunteering information that is important for you to know, such as: things that annoy your supervisor, who is trustworthy, or who to go to with questions.

▪ Introducing you to other people in the company.

▪ Making sure that you are invited to lunches with your department or team members, or to social events outside the office.

Once you have identified a colleague with these characteristics, it is not necessary to ask that he or she become your work buddy. This will happen naturally over time. Be careful not to overwhelm this person with too many questions and requests for advice. Build the relationship through interaction and becoming friendly.

Express gratitude for the assistance you receive: “Thanks, Bill, for filling me in on the situation with Steve.” Be alert for ways to reciprocate, such as offering to pitch in if your buddy has a lot of work, bringing him a cup of coffee, or taking him to lunch.  You do not need to “keep score,” that is, do something for the person every time he does something for you. If you are uncertain of appropriate ways to show appreciation, talk the situation over with someone outside of work.

Excerpted from Asperger’s Syndrome Workplace Survival Guide: A Neurotypical’s Secrets for Success, © 2013, Barbara Bissonnette. Coming in May from Jessica Kingsley Publishers.