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5 Tips for Dining Out with Your Child With Autism

5 Tips for Dining Out with Your Child With AutismGoing out to eat can be a fun pastime for many families,  but can be a bit difficult for families of individuals with autism. The following tips can help you and your family prevent behavior problems and have a successful and enjoyable experience for everyone!

Be Prepared.

Be sure to have activities for your child to enjoy while waiting for your food. Table activities such as coloring, drawing, reading, or tablet time will help. You might try calling ahead and requesting a specific reservation time to avoid long waits.

Set Expectations.

Before heading out to eat, set aside a quiet moment with your child to tell them the rules. For example, say, “Sit in your seat and speak with a quiet voice.”

Reward Good Behavior.

Reward your child throughout the meal for following the dining rules. Consider using more tangible items like favorite toys, dessert, etc. 

Choose a Familiar Restaurant. 

This allows for familiarity with the food and the environment which can decrease outbursts.

Leave On Time.

If you see your child is getting a bit fidgety and overwhelmed it’s okay to order the food to go and finish eating at home. It’s better to leave than to wait and trying to control any tantrums.

If your child still presents challenging behavior while dining out, we are here to help with additional tips and strategies specific to your child.  We offer Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and our services are outlined here. We encourage you to call us directly, toll-free, at (844) 263-1613 or email us at info@totalspectrumcare.com. We are based in Elmhurst, Illinois.

5 Effective Strategies for Calming Tantrums and Meltdowns

5 Effective Strategies for Calming Tantrums and MeltdownsAlmost every parent of a child has encountered a child’s meltdowns and/or tantrums. But dealing with an autistic child can be slightly different. So we’re going to give you some strategies for calming tantrums and meltdowns that actually work.

First, it’s important to differentiate between tantrums and meltdowns because for a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, they are not the same thing. A tantrum is a cluster of undesirable behaviors that are related to the child wanting something that he or she can’t have. Meltdowns for the autistic child are undesirable behaviors that are the result of sensory overload. So, in order to deal with tantrums and meltdowns, you have to identify what you’re dealing with.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Remain calm. No matter what situation presents itself, remain calm. Always remember who is the parent and who is the child. If you get very nervous and agitated, that will make the tantrum or meltdown worse.
  2. Tantrums in a public place may require leaving. However, if they’re at home, the best thing to do is say that you A) recognize the child is upset and B) and are happy to discuss it when they calm down without giving in to what the child wants if they want is not reasonable. If you give in then you are reinforcing tantrums and the child learns that if I do this ugly behavior, I get what I want. Instead, reward positive behavior when the child calms.
  3. Address sensory meltdowns immediately. If you know the basis for the meltdown and can remove what’s causing the sensory overload, then do that. Sometimes a weighted blanket can help. For some children, noise-canceling headphones are the answer. If the child is overwhelmed by crowded areas, you may need to leave to find someplace quieter.
  4. Emergency Meltdown Kit. Some parents carry a “kit” for dealing with sensory meltdowns away from home. These can include, for example, a weighted blanket, headphones mentioned above, a favorite toy, sunglasses, and perhaps a weighted coat or snug sweatshirt. You may even want to get an armband or something that says “my child is autistic—please step back.” The kit will be different for each child based on his or her individual needs.
  5. Safe Corner. At home, you may want to designate a small area as a “safe corner” for calming down. This could be, for example, just a corner of the couch or it could be tent permanently set up in the child’s room, which is filled with soft heavy blankets. It’s not a bad idea to have a designated spot that the child can go to for an opportunity to calm him- or herself down.

One of the problems with tantrums and meltdowns is that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) aren’t always the best at communicating what the problem is. So, it may not be immediately obvious to the parent. The good news is that the responses for a sensory meltdown can also calm a tantrum. If your child is going through therapy with us, talk to us about your child’s tantrums and meltdowns, and we can help to design problem-solving measures specific to your child.

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Applied Behavior Analysis helps to extinguish undesirable behaviors and reinforce desirable ones. ABA can improve your child’s toileting behaviors, eating behaviors, speech, and sleeping routines. ABA can be life changing for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. If you are trying to decide how to handle a child with ASD or what type of therapy is most appropriate for your child, please contact us today.

Let us help you. We offer Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and our services are outlined here. We encourage you to call us directly, toll-free, at (844) 263-1613 or email us at info@totalspectrumcare.com. We are based in Elmhurst, Illinois.

Sensory-Friendly Clothes for the Autistic Child

Clothing for the autistic child can cover a wide range of needs. What is important or helpful with one child may be totally different than what is needed by another child.

Fortunately, today, there are many brands of clothing specifically designed for the autistic child. Some of these companies were started by parents of autistic children in order to make available what was previously lacking—and needed—on the market. Here is a list of some of the common issues that appropriate clothing addresses.

  1. Sensory-friendly (soft). Some children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) find clothing that is scratchy or stiff to be intolerable. So, the first category would be soft fabrics such as fleece or prewashed denim or other very soft natural or artificial fibers. Soft clothing may also have fewer seams and no rough-edged labels inside.
  2. Sensory-friendly (variety). Other autistic children may benefit from some tactile stimulation. To this end, there are clothing designs that might have, for example, pockets or flaps with different textures that the child can touch and retouch all day long.
  3. Sensory-friendly (pressure). Many autistic children benefit from having clothing that is more fitted and puts pressure on them. There are coats and vests and scarves, for example, that are weighted so as to add a constant pressure on the skin. For some children, this pressure reduces fear and anxiety.
  4. Ease of wear. A number of autistic children have a hard time with fine motor skills, which extends to difficulty managing buttons or zippered pants, for example. If this is a problem, then there are clothes that are designed to be easier to get on and off. Ease-of-wear clothing can make the difference between a child being able to dress him or herself—or not. 

You may not realize how much the child’s clothing affects his or her day-to-day behavior, but it’s worth exploring. The child who isn’t very communicative may not be able to articulate exactly why he doesn’t like his sweatshirt. But once you hit on the clothing solution that best suits your child—like very snug-fitting tops—the positive change in your child’s behavior may surprise you.

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Applied Behavior Analysis helps to extinguish undesirable behaviors and reinforce desirable ones. ABA can improve your child’s toileting behaviors, eating behaviors, speech, and sleeping routines. ABA can be life changing for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. If you are trying to decide how to handle a child with ASD or what type of therapy is most appropriate for your child, please contact us today.

Let us help you. We offer Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and our services are outlined here. We encourage you to call us directly, toll-free, at (844) 263-1613 or email us at info@totalspectrumcare.com. We are based in Elmhurst, Illinois.

The Stigma of Autism

The Stigma of AutismWhat parent of a child with autism hasn’t had one of those moments in public? Your child is screaming, spinning or making noises, and you’re on the receiving end of disapproving stares or outright hostility from others. “Control your child,” they say coldly. Maybe he assumes your child lacks discipline; maybe he recognizes the disability but blames you for subjecting him to such behavior. The Annoyed can be a stranger, an acquaintance or cousin Pat.

At that moment, you feel the stigma that societies around the globe attached to autism. In different ways and to different degrees, people in many countries view autism as a source of disappointment, annoyance, shame or worse. According to some researchers, stigma may keep families from seeking a diagnosis and services for their children, from participating fully in their communities, and from enjoying the same quality of life as their neighbors. Simply put, stigma influences public health.

We need to move forward from preconceived, negative ideas surrounding an autism diagnosis. Views that suggest that parents are using the diagnosis as a “Badge of honor” or to “excuse poor behavior” do not consider or are not aware of how this could affect young people who may desperately need an autism diagnosis or ongoing support.  Parents are not wearing autism as a “badge of honor” like some craze or fashion statement, they are simply comfortable with the term and keen to promote awareness or acceptance.

Changes in perception need to be promoting acceptance to all types of people instead of marginalizing one group over another. Barriers around inclusion and awareness are still the areas we need to be prioritizing and not getting sidetracked with the negative stigma and misconceptions of “labeling.” If a more diverse playing field in society existed, then labels of difference could be viewed in the positive light they deserve.

Let us help you. We offer Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and our services are outlined here. We encourage you to call us directly, toll-free, at (844) 263-1613 or email us at info@totalspectrumcare.com. We are based in Elmhurst, Illinois.

Noise Sensitivity in Autism

Noise Sensitivity in AutismOne concern parents and professionals may have with children who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is that some of these children cannot tolerate listening to certain sounds. Often, parents observe that the children put their hands over their ears, run away from sounds, or sometimes lose control of their behaviors in the presence of certain sounds. These children are often identified as having auditory hypersensitivity or hypersensitive hearing.

One of the most commonly reported challenges for people with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) is hypersensitivity to sound. Some researchers view the strong avoidance reactions exhibited by some individuals with ASDs as emotional regulation, possibly as a result of learned behaviors that are either fear- or annoyance-based.

Two types of treatments have been tried to help children with auditory hypersensitivity.

  1. Listening Methods: The listening method described here uses specially chosen sounds and music, typically classical music. The sounds or music are acoustically modified to lead the child to react less negatively to sounds and, thus, reduce the child’s hypersensitivity.
  2. Systematic Desensitization: The basis of desensitization training, as the name suggests, is to desensitize the emotional and nonclassical auditory systems so that they no longer react negatively to loud and annoying sounds, the things that make the sounds, and the situations in which such sounds may occur.

A critical first step may be to discontinue overuse of ear protection (e.g., earplugs, etc.) that may be counterproductive. Another approach may be to enhance the child’s auditory environment by embedding sound stimuli (e.g., music, noise-making toys, etc) into positive, playful activities. Individualized systematic desensitization protocols, consistently implemented, can make a significant difference.

Let us help you. We offer Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and our services are outlined here. We encourage you to call us directly, toll-free, at (844) 263-1613 or email us at info@totalspectrumcare.com. We are based in Elmhurst, Illinois.

Bullying Prevention for the Autistic Child

Bullying Prevention for the Autistic ChildChildren with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are typically bullied more than average. Just like any other child who’s different: a very tall child, short child, deaf child or even the gifted child.

There are, however, some steps you can take to try to prevent this bullying or at least address it and cope with it. Forewarned is forearmed.

  1. Be alert to signs your child is being bullied. Since you know bullying is likely to happen sooner or later, then be prepared for it. Watch for telltale signs of distress in your child: changes in behaviors like disturbed sleep or nightmares or regression in toilet habits or other learned skills.
  2. Role play at home. We mention role-playing a lot, but it’s useful here, too. Go over different scenarios and give your child some pat phrases and stock responses to use if he or she is being bullied. For example, your child can learn to say, “whatever,” and turn away. Or the child can learn how not to melt down if accosted. Very often children get bullied because of how they react. If the child can react differently, the bullying may stop.
  3. Teach bullying avoidance. Work with the child and the school so that the child is not alone for bathroom breaks or mealtimes. Bullies are great at going after the isolated child. That means helping your child not to be isolated.
  4. Be aware of all of the school’s and school board’s rules and procedures. If you suspect your child is being bullied, then take appropriate action right away. Follow the procedures with crossing every “t” and dotting every “i.” You will waste less time if you give the school whatever they require to step in quickly. Just as Applied Behavior Analysis molds a child’s behavior with positive rewards, negative consequences such as bullying can also mold behaviors that you don’t want. So, don’t let the bullying go on thinking it will go away on its own.

If at all possible, try to cultivate a friend for your child in his or her class. One vocal defender can make a big difference.

Applied Behavior Analysis helps to extinguish undesirable behaviors and reinforce desirable ones. ABA can improve your child’s toileting behaviors, eating behaviors, speech, and sleeping routines. ABA can be life changing for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. If you are trying to decide how to handle a child with ASD or what type of therapy is most appropriate for your child, please contact us today.

Let us help you. We offer Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and our services are outlined here. We encourage you to call us directly, toll-free, at (844) 263-1613 or email us at info@totalspectrumcare.com. We are based in Elmhurst, Illinois.

Helping Children with Autism Deal with Winter Weather

The changing of the seasons and the advent of winter is not always welcome for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). There can be a number of challenges, and we have some suggestions that will help you.

Autistic children do best with routine in their lives, and winter weather changes that routine. The first and most obvious change is in the clothing they wear. Bulky winter wear is not necessarily pleasant for the child.

The autistic child may not like the feel or weight of bulky clothing. Fortunately, today there are lots of very lightweight and warm choices available that didn’t exist 20 years ago.

So, it’s wise to get the child used to the idea that he or she has to dress differently. Practice putting on coats and hats and gloves in the house before needing the child dressed in a hurry for an appointment.

If your child is in a program with us, we can help you with this by tailoring learning programs—in our learning environment or at home in yours—to include getting ready to go outside in the cold. Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) techniques can make getting dressed for winter weather a pleasant experience.

We’ve mentioned before that many autistic children have an issue with wandering off or what’s called “elopement.” You will want to be especially vigilant during the winter because what’s annoying in the summer can be life-threatening in the winter.

If you child isn’t crazy about the cold, consider planning some interesting outdoor activities collecting rocks or leaves or building a snowman or even making a toboggan track in your yard if there’s a slope to it.

There are also some winter sports that might appeal to your child. Team sports and very noisy sports aren’t always the best fit, but there are still independent sports to consider like snowboarding or skating.

For a very visual child, a winter birdfeeder close to a window can make a dreary day interesting. The child can learn the names of birds or count them or do all kinds of observational games. The point here is to try to make the best of foul weather. The good news is that spring is just around the corner.

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Applied Behavior Analysis helps to extinguish undesirable behaviors and reinforce desirable ones. ABA can improve your child’s toileting behaviors, eating behaviors, speech, and sleeping routines. ABA can be life changing for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. If you are trying to decide how to handle a child with ASD or what type of therapy is most appropriate for your child, please contact us today.

Let us help you. We offer Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and our services are outlined here. We encourage you to call us directly, toll-free, at (844) 263-1613 or email us at info@totalspectrumcare.com. We are based in Elmhurst, Illinois.

A Sibling’s Guide to Autism

A Sibling's Guide to AutismLearning that your brother or sister has autism can be a difficult experience. Siblings may start to notice behaviors that upset them and hearing the word “autism” might be confusing for them. During this time, siblings life and that of the family may feel different than they were before this happened. Sometimes families may be worried about how your family will cope.

It is very important to remember that brothers or sisters are just like any other child, except he or she has autism. This is a time for you and your family to learn as much as you can about autism.

At times, families will need to talk about how all of this affects you. So don’t hesitate to seek out a family member, teacher, or friend with whom you can be open and honest about your questions and feelings.

Some things sibling may be having trouble with:

 Understanding why their brother or sister acts in what seems to be strange ways.

 Feeling like their brother and sister gets more time and attention from your parents than they do.

 Feeling embarrassed about their brother or sister’s behaviors when with friends or out in the community.

 Not knowing how to play with their sibling.

Just like your child with ASD, your other children need your attention. Let us help you. We offer Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and our services are outlined here. We encourage you to call us directly, toll-free, at (844) 263-1613 or email us at info@totalspectrumcare.com. We are based in Elmhurst, Illinois

How to Handle Your Child’s Autism Diagnosis

How to Handle Your Child's Autism DiagnosisFinding out that your child has autism can be overwhelming. Shock, helplessness, guilt, anger, and resentment are a few of the emotions you may experience when your child is first diagnosed with autism. Once the initial reaction has subsided, remember your child is still the same person regardless of his/her diagnosis. Your child will continue to grow and learn and you can help.

Helpful suggestions for parents:

  • Seek help from other parents.
  • Take it one day at a time.
  • Gather information and start to learn the appropriate terminology.
  • Don’t be intimidated by medical or educational professionals.
  • Don’t be afraid to show emotion.
  • Keep a positive outlook.
  • Gather resources about effective interventions.
  • Keep daily routines as normal as possible.
  • Take care of yourself.
  • Recognize that you are not alone.

Let us help you. We offer Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and our services are outlined here. We encourage you to call us directly, toll-free, at (844) 263-1613 or email us at info@totalspectrumcare.com. We are based in Elmhurst, Illinois.

10 Tips for Traveling With an Autistic Child

10 Tips for Traveling With an Autistic ChildIt will come as no surprise that traveling with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can be challenging in the same way that any kind of social outings can be difficult. But there are some tips that can help you.

  1. If your child is already in a program with us, let us know about your travel plans. Our programs are individually tailored to each child. If you have some special travel plans coming up, we can work with your child to help him or her prepare. We can also give you, the parent, activities, and exercises to do at home to help the child get ready for the trip.
  2. Role play at home. If possible, do some role-playing at home to show the child what he or she can expect in a plane or train or long car ride. Talk about what the child will see and hear and experience to defuse any anxiety.
  3. Take something soothing. Try to bring something for the child that is soothing, whatever that is. A stuffed animal or blanket or a toy. Have something available to quiet the over-stimulated child.
  4. Appeal to your child’s special interests. Consider bringing along something new that you know your child will like.
  5. Bring earplugs or headphones for the sound-sensitive child. If your child is very sensitive to noise, then an airport or a crowded ferry terminal can be a scary place. Earplugs or headphones are an easy way to dull ambient noise.
  6. Prepare for meals in advance. If your child is fussy about food, then take food with you rather than rely on what you may or may not find during the trip. Any child is irritable if the child is hungry or thirsty, so try to take that worry out of the equation.
  7. Increase safety precautions. Wandering off or “elopement” is a problem for about half of the children with ASD, and this problem is magnified when the child is no longer familiar with the surroundings. So, if you travel, have the child wear a medic alert bracelet with his or her name and contact information and/or have that information affixed inside their clothing in case the child is separated from you.
  8. Plan trips to appeal to the child. While this is not always possible, if it is possible, then the trip may be happier for everyone. If the child likes water, take him or her to the beach. If the child likes airplanes or rockets, take the child to an air or space museum. This sounds so simple, but not all parents seriously consider what best suits the child on a trip or a vacation.
  9. Keep daily routines even when away. Everyone young and old benefits from a daily routine. And this is even more important for an autistic child. Whenever possible try to follow your at-home routines even when you are away. This predictability reduces stress and anxiety and helps the child feel more in control.
  10. Arrange things in advance. Figure out your schedule and hotel stops in advance, and ask for help if you need it. Airports and hotels have guest services that can lend a hand.

Traveling with an autistic child requires some preparation, but it will be easier if you plan ahead. Use some of our tips, and see how much better your next trip goes.

Applied Behavior Analysis helps to extinguish undesirable behaviors and reinforce desirable ones. ABA can improve your child’s toileting behaviors, eating behaviors, speech, and sleeping routines. ABA can be life changing for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. If you are trying to decide how to handle a child with ASD or what type of therapy is most appropriate for your child, please contact us today.

Let us help you. We offer Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and our services are outlined here. We encourage you to call us directly, toll-free, at (844) 263-1613 or email us at info@totalspectrumcare.com. We are based in Elmhurst, Illinois.

Events

30th Annual Autism Society Conference

Developmental Differences Resource Fair