Category Archives: Parents

Dr. Temple Grandin-My biggest takeaways from her keynote speech

I got to meet Temple!!! 

Temple Grandin at the US Autism Association keynote address 

Getting the chance to watch Dr. Temple Grandin talk has been a career long dream of mine!

I ran into Dr. Grandin at the airport!!!

When I started working with children with autism back in 1997, her book “Thinking in Pictures” was one of my first introductions to autism.  

Dr. Grandin was one of the first individuals with autism who could articulate what life is like for people on the autism spectrum. Parents and professionals both clamored for her knowledge, expertise and valuable insight. 

Here is a link to the first book I read…

https://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Pictures-Expanded-Life-Autism/dp/0307275655

Temple Grandin’s book 

I just had the amazing opportunity to hear her speak at the US Autism Association! 

Here are the major takeaways I had from her keynote speech: 

  • Limit screen time for children with autism to less than 1 hour per day. She noted that many of the children who could succeed in computer science are sucked in to video games and no longer can access their full potential due to their addiction
  • Parents need to “start letting go”-foster independence from a young age. She likened this to the adult cow who still wants to nurse from the mama cow. She said we need to “wean our children” so they are not dependent on us
  • “don’t over-protect”the child with autism
  • Allow children a multitude of hands on experiences because true learning takes place with hands on experiences not through screens
  • Teach young children how to “wait” and how to “take turns” and use board games as a way to teach these skills
  • Having real jobs are important for young adults with autism starting at age 13 (or so). 
  • Don’t get hung up on the label of autism
  • Focus on the strengths of the child not the deficits-build upon a child’s special interest which could end up leading to a valuable career one day. As an example, a child who is interested in pipes can become a plumber. 
  • Don’t make kids with autism do “baby math” if they excel in math. Allow the child to excel in the area they are gifted in
  • Encourage friendships through shared experiences such as cub scouts, school clubs etc. A shared interest will help build the friendship 
  • There is NO need to disclose autism diagnosis for milder cases due to some prejudice surrounding autism. Instead, tell what you need “those lights give me a headache”
  • Stretch students to grow and don’t overprotect them!
  • Allow for choices

If you were at the conference or have learned from Dr. Grandin yourself, please share what your biggest takeaways are in the comments! 

Here is a link to a youtube video of her (not from the conference I went to). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWePrOuSeSY

Set Up An Independent Work System At Home For Your Child With Autism

Benefits of independent work systems:  

Independent work systems are evidence-based practice for students with autism, but they are very helpful for any child who needs some structure to be able to work on his or her own.

Most children benefit from structure in their environment

My son who started Kindergarten, now has homework so I set up a structured work system so he has somewhere in the house dedicated to completing his homework.

  • Special education classrooms use a variation of these work systems and supports to help teach independence and provide structure.

♥ I want to share this technique and show how easy this independent work system is to create and use at home. Even if you don’t work with an autism specialist or have in-home Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapist, this is something you can create with a quick trip to the dollar store and moving around some furniture. Continue reading

Person First Language Vs. Condition First Language

 

Words are important! They hold meaning! Words have the ability to lift people up to promote and celebrate them and also have the potential to alienate and marginalize people. We must choose our words carefully so we don’t unintentionally get into a deficit mindsets with our students.

Condition First Language: This is when you put the condition first when speaking about people who have disabilities. An example of this is: A blind child

Person First Language: Put the child/person first before the condition. An example of this is: A child who is visually impaired (blind). Think of children with disabilities as children first.

Sped quote.jpg

Children with disabilities have a wide variety of skills. Some children with disabilities may be gifted in some areas. It is not helpful to think of any group of disabilities as a homogenous group.

Focus on what students can do to create a strength based approach. Before an IEP meeting, create a list of the child’s strengths to start the meeting with. What is an IEP?

Exceptions: The Deaf population typically refers to themselves as Deaf because they have a stand alone language (American Sign Language). They use the capital D in the word Deaf as well. Recently people with autism have been sharing their desire to be called autistic because they acknowledge that although they are not neuro-typical. They are proud of who they are and want to acknowledge their autism.

Check with the individual: It is always best practice to check with the individual to see what langauge they prefer. When you are in a school, defer to using person first langauge unless told otherwise.

 

 

The Difference Between an Accommodation and a Modification

Students with autism or other special needs, who have an Individual Education Plan (I.E.P) or 504 plan, will have a section in the plan detailing accommodations and/or modifications. The student’s IEP or 504 team will determine what these accommodation or modifications will be and it is the responsibility of the classroom teacher (and other members of the team) to follow through on the plan in class. To learn more about an IEP check out my link What is an IEP?

The Law:

Students with IEPs qualify under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Public Law No. 94-142

  • Laws require that students who have special needs have equal access to educational opportunities.
  • Equal access to general education curriculum
  • Schools are required to make reasonable accommodations for students identified as having a disability

Continue reading

Changes In The DSM-V For Autism

What is the DSM-V? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (fifth edition) which was just revised in 2013 and written by the American Psychiatric Association. The diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been modified based on the research literature and clinical experience in the 19 years since the DSM-IV was published in 1994. It is important for teachers to know this because the DSM-5 is used in part, to determine ASD diagnosis and eligibility.

Here is a quote from the DSM-5 to further describe what the DSM-5 is:

“The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a classification of mental disorders with associated criteria designed to facilitate more reliable diagnoses of these disorders….

DSM is intended to serve as a practical, functional, and flexible guide for organizing information that can aid in the accurate diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. It is a tool for clinicians, an essential educational resource for students and practitioners, and a reference for researchers in the field.”

A full pdf link can be found here DSM-5.

Here are the major changes from DSM 4 to DSM 5 in the area of autism:

  • The APA has gotten rid of the sub-categories Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), Rett’s Syndrome and Childhood disintegrative disorder and replaced it with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
  • Another huge difference is that Asperger’s Syndrome has been removed from the DSM-5. It has been replaced with the term ASD level 1 without language or intellectual impairment. Most professionals are still referring to Asperger’s Syndrome in describing the disability because the term is widely used and understood in the general public.
  • The new diagnostic criteria for ASD have been rearranged into two areas: 1) social communication/interaction, and 2) restricted and repetitive behaviors. The diagnosis will be based on symptoms, currently or by history, in these two areas.

  • DSM-5 has also added a category under restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interest or activities called hyper or hypo-reactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of the environment.

Screen Shot 2018-08-06 at 10.19.20 PM.png

Symptoms must be present in early childhood but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed capacities. Symptoms need to be functionally impairing and not better described by another DSM-5 diagnosis.

Symptom severity for each of the two areas of diagnostic criteria is now defined. It is based on the level of support required for those symptoms and reflects the impact of co-occurring specifier such as intellectual disabilities, language impairment, medical diagnoses and other behavioral health diagnoses.

The DSM-5 includes a new diagnostic category of Social Communication Disorder that describes children with social difficulty and pragmatic language differences that impact comprehension, production and awareness in conversation that is not caused by delayed cognition or other language delays. This diagnosis looks a lot like Asperger’s Syndrome to most professionals.

Hopefully this brief overview of the changes was helpful for teachers and parents who are on the diagnois journey.

Warning signs of ASD in early childhood

Check out my youtube video:

As a new mother, we become hyper aware of the need to track our child’s development. Our pediatricians may provide quality screeners at well child check ups which screen for  developmental delay so more in-dept assessments can take place if needed. One example of an early childhood developmental screening tool is the Ages and Stages Questionnaire.

I want to take a moment to honor and encourage you to follow your gut instincts as well. Mothers know their babies and know when something feels “off” about their social, communication or behavioral skills. I want to explore what research has shown to be the warning signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in early childhood.

Why early detection is so important?:

“There is overwhelming evidence that earlier is better, both in terms of autism, diagnosis and intervention”(National Research Council NRC, 2001)

The first step in the providing quality intervention is first learning the warning sings or “Red Flags” of Autism so we can identify children as young as possible.

Here are the warning sings:

Social: 

Has poor eye contact

Lacks sharing interest and enjoyment with others

Fails to Respond to his or her name

Appears disinterested in or unaware of others

Communication:

Lacks gestures-pointing, reaching, waving showing

Doesn’t appear to understand simple questions or directions

Speaks in an abnormal tone of voice or with an odd rhythm

May repeat words or phrases exactly as heard but doesn’t understand how to use them

Behavior: 

Repeats the same actions or movements over and over again

Develops specific  routines and rituals and becomes upset at the slightest change

Is preoccupied with a narrow topic of interest.

Additional Resource: Check out the website First Signs for more information. Here is a link to the website:  First Signs Website

“First Signs is dedicated to educating parents and professionals about autism and related disorders.”

To whom should a child be referred?

If you are seeing some of these warning signs, reach out to your child’s pediatrician. Some pediatricians will then refer families to a psychologist, developmental pediatrician, psychiatrist or neurologist for a full evaluation to determine if a child has ASD.

Reference: “Learners on the autism spectrum” edited by Kari Dunn Buron and Pamela Wolfberg

Additional Resource:

Autism awareness and acceptance in early childhood education. U.S. Dept. of health and Human Services

 

Mealtime Without Drama- 5 tips for kids with autism

I went to a great local training where Dr. Ashley Brimager, a clinical psychologist shared some tips for creating success at dinner time. She referenced support strategies from Dr. Marsha Linehan who created Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Check out more about DBT here: DBT therapy Information . 

Long Term Goal:

The goal is for children to learn to internalize healthy eating habits and develop a healthy relationship with food.

food healthy red summer

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What does “drama” look like in your home at mealtime?

Some parents have shared: food refusals, crying, acting out, meltdowns, throwing food etc.

Be Proactive:

Be mindful of the “setting events” before, during and after dinner. Make sure your child is not too hungry or too full when you attempt dinner routine. Do the best you can and every meal is a chance to work on creating harmonious mealtimes where kids work towards the long-term goal.

Continue reading