Autism Resources in New Jersey

The State of New Jersey offers numerous resources for families with children diagnosed with autism. This comprehensive guide will help you find the best autism programs, support groups, and other useful resources near you.

Bergen County

Autism programs

The Arc of New Jersey

The Arc of New Jersey serves children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism. The organization offers a wide range of programs, support, and training for family members. It also advocates for quality health care for individuals with special needs. 

Support groups

Family Support Organization

The Family Support Organization of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (NJDCF) provides support for families of children with emotional and/or behavioral challenges. This nonprofit organization helps families find information on workshops, forums, advocacy, and access other services free of charge.

Other resources

Bergen’s Promise

Part of the New Jersey Children’s System of Care, Bergen’s Promise is a community-based care management service for children with serious behavioral health or developmental issues and their families. The organization focuses on prevention and early intervention by providing young people with the care they need in order to remain physically and emotionally safe in their environment.

Brick

Autism programs

Parents of Autistic Children (POAC)

POAC is a nonprofit organization that offers a wide range of activities for the autism community, for example, parent and educator training, recreational and support services, and training for police and first responders working with children and adults with autism. In addition, POAC supports and promotes legislative issues that impact individuals with autism and their families.

Support groups

Sunny Days Sunshine Center

Sunny Days Sunshine Center serves children who are experiencing challenges with learning, speech-language, social skills, sensory processing, and/or motor development. They offer individual and group therapy, community-based activities, and at-home treatment sessions. Other services include social skills classes, mini camps, parent training , support groups, counseling, and more.

Other resources

Edu Music Inc

Edu Music Inc is a bilingual English-Spanish, multicultural music and movement program for children of all ages and abilities, whether they are neurotypical or have special needs. The program combines different aspects of physical, occupational, and speech exercises through music and dance. Music Instruments are also used to help children develop physical, emotional, and social skills. 

Cherry Hill

Autism programs

Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Southern New Jersey

The Jewish Family & Children’s Services offers a Special Needs Program for children with disabilities by providing affordable, quality services. The program consists of enrichment day activities, social and recreational events, as well as training for young people with disabilities that will help them achieve their full potential and lead independent lives. 

 

Support groups

ASPEN

ASPEN is a national volunteer nonprofit organization with headquarters in New Jersey. It provides children with autism and their families assistance with the issues surrounding the disorder, support, and advocacy when it comes to educational programs, medical research funding, and increased public awareness and understanding.

Other resources

South Jersey Jewish Abilities Alliance

The South Jersey Jewish Abilities Alliance (JAA) is the Cherry Hill Jewish community network. It provides services, support groups, workshops, and recreational programs to members with disabilities and their families. The organization offers resources to assist with everything from early identification and behavior management to special education, health services, financial resources and benefits, housing, and legal matters. 

Egg Harbor

Autism programs

FACES 4 Autism

FACES 4 Autism is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the education and support of children with autism and their parents. It is a central point of resources and information on autism for families and educators in the South Jersey area. 

Support groups

Special Education Parent Advisory Group (SEPAG)

The Egg Harbor District Special Education Parent Advisory Group is a state-mandated, parent group that allows families of children with special needs to provide direct input to their school district about different policies, programs, practices, and services. 

Other resources

Continuum Associates

Continuum Associates addresses the needs of children and adults with behavioral disorders and other developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder. Continuum provides care and treatment both at home, in the community, and/or school setting, under the supervision of their professional Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs), Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBAs), and behavior technicians. Programs include a variety of social skills groups where individuals with disabilities can practice social interaction. 

Jersey City

Autism programs

Positive Development

Positive Development offers personalized developmental therapy to individuals with autism and related disabilities throughout New Jersey. Treatments are based on developmental relationship-based interventions (DRBI) rather than behavioral-based approaches. This comprehensive developmental therapy treats children with autism holistically and includes occupational therapy, speech therapy, and mental health therapy as part of the intervention process.

Support groups

VRCaPS

VRCaPS is a counseling and psychological service dedicated to training parents and caretakers of young children with autism in the Jersey City area. The organization aims to educate parents whose children are newly diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder about the condition, in addition to providing a variety of resources and information.

Other resources

Jersey City Special Needs Program

The Jersey City Department of Recreation offers a range of programs for residents with special needs. These programs give participants many opportunities to socialize with their peers while engaging in fun recreational activities.

The Project GLAD Summer Camp is held for Jersey City residents between the ages of 7 and 22 every year. Activities include swimming, arts and crafts, dance classes, outdoor sports, physical education, and field trips.

Newark

Autism programs

WAR Ministry Corporation

WAR Ministry Corporation is a nonprofit organization that provides services for children and adults with autism and other disabilities, including behavioral assistance, support services, respite care, social work, music therapy, early childhood intervention, and more. 

Support groups

Newark Autism Parent Support

Newark Autism Parent Support is a Facebook group created by parents of newly diagnosed autistic children. The purpose of the group is to share information and best practices, as well as to encourage families in all stages of their children’s lives. 

Other resources

Youth Consultation Service (YCS)

Youth Consultation Service is a private, nonprofit behavioral health agency that provides psycho-therapeutic and psychiatric treatment for young people with autism and other complex special needs. Services also include crisis intervention, foster care, and treatment home placements, and a variety of in-home and residential youth programs. YCS operates two special education schools for students with special needs, including autism. 

Paramus

Autism programs

New Bridges Restart Plan

The New Bridges Restart Plan program serves students ages 14-21 in the Bergen County Special Services School District. The program uses the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA) to help students transition successfully into adulthood. In addition, New Bridges offers a wide variety of support and services determined by the Individualized Education Program (IEP), for example, speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and job coaching. 

Paramus Public Schools Special Services Autism Program

The Department of Student Personnel Services serves children with special needs and their parents through individual special education programs. The Autism Program, based on the principles of ABA therapy, focuses on teaching academic skills, language skills, play and social skills, and vocational skills to students from preschool through high school.

Other resources

Every Piece Counts

Every Piece Counts is an ABA therapy clinic dedicated to helping children with autism spectrum disorder and other disabilities improve their academic and social skills. The EPC offers clinic-based and home-based ABA therapy programs for young children with autism. 

Passaic

Autism programs

Passaic New Jersey Autism

The Passaic Police Department assists individuals who pose elopement or wandering risks and those who have communication challenges. Their website lists useful resources for parents of children diagnosed with autism.

Support groups

Passaic Autism Support Group

The Passaic Autism Support Group gets together on the fourth Friday of each month to discuss and share their experiences when it comes to raising children with autism. The group also provides information on autism workshops, conferences, and other events. 

Other resources

PassaicResourceNet.org

PassaicResourceNet.org lists autism-related resources for Passaic County families, such as therapy services, associations, support groups, and more. 

Trenton

Autism programs

The Trenton Public Schools Department of Special Education and Services develops educational programs and services for children with special needs, including autism. The department is responsible for ensuring that students receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE).

Support groups

NJ Autism Warriors

The NJ Autism Warriors Facebook Page is the POAC online support group where parents of autistic children can meet and exchange experiences. This is also the official POAC event group that has many opportunities for children with autism and their families to get together and support each other. 

Other resources

Disability Rights New Jersey (DRNJ) 

 

The Disability Rights New Jersey is a private, nonprofit organization that advocates for the human, civil, and legal rights of New Jersey residents with disabilities and promotes public awareness and recognition. The organization also provides advice to families of disabled individuals through referral, technical assistance and training, legal and non-legal advocacy, outreach, and education.

 

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physical therapy
Physical Therapy Autism

If you want to learn about how autism impacts children’s physical and motor skills, you’re in the right place.

In this article, we cover the bodily defects that autism causes and how physical therapy can enhance your child’s motor skills, balance, and movement coordination.

What is Autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological condition. ASD also leads to developmental problems among children.

Children with autism typically deal with a range of challenges that influence their social, behavioral, communicative, and physical capabilities.

Physical Challenges of Children with Autism

Children with ASD usually experience delays in developing many skills, among them are their gross and fine motor skills.

Gross Motor Skills

Autism can affect one or more of a child’s following gross motor skills:

  • Staying balanced and coordinated while making large bodily movements.
  • Moving the arms, legs, and feet.
  • Running and jumping.

Why are their gross motor skills not developed?

Children tend to acquire gross motor skills by observing others (namely adults and older children) and mimicking them.

However, autistic boys and girls prefer to keep to themselves and don’t show a lot of interest in interacting with or watching people who are around them.

As a result, they don’t pick up these gross motor skills. The same could be said about their fine motor skills.

Fine Motor Skills

Here are some of the fine motor skills that autistic children commonly struggle with:

  • Intricately moving their hands and fingers, such as when they write or draw.
  • Being able to perform tasks like tying a knot, scribbling, and feeding oneself.
  • Staying coordinated, stable, and reliant on their core strength. For example, a boy or girl with ASD may run into this challenge when they ride a bike.

Needless to say, the same shortcomings that impact an autistic child’s motor skills also affect their physical abilities.

Physical Issues You May See in Autistic Children

Children with ASD generally experience one or more of the following physical difficulties:

  1. Delays in learning how to walk, skip, jump, and/or run.
  2. Their moves can be slow and/or unpredictable.
  3. Reductions in their muscle tones, which can make them clumsy and likely to fall.
  4. Imperfect coordination.
  5. Poorly-maintained physical balance.
  6. They struggle with controlling their body posture.
  7. Balance problems that prevent them from walking or running in a stable manner.
  8. They find it difficult to walk on their toes (much more so than neurotypical children).
  9. In the same vein, going up and down the stairs can be complex for children with ASD.
  10. Deficiencies in eye-hand coordination.
  11. Limitations at aligning their sensory processes with their bodily movements.
  12. They struggle when they want to decide on their next physical movements (such as getting up from a chair) or repeat previous ones.
  13. Challenges that limit their ability to perform movements or tasks in a certain order.
  14. They have a hard time emulating others’ actions and behaviors.
  15. Autistic children might develop fine motor skills and activities (including writing and drawing) at a later stage than their neurotypical counterparts.

With that being said, many of these ASD-induced barriers can be minimized and managed through physical therapy.

How can physical therapy help those with autism?

Physical therapy revolves around helping people with various medical conditions regain or acquire movement, balance, and coordination capabilities.

This can be especially advantageous to children with ASD, particularly when they get treated by a physical therapist who focuses on working with autistic patients.

What is a physical therapist?

Simply put, physical therapists are medical professionals who are trained at diagnosing and handling medical conditions that impact a person’s bodily movements and makes it difficult for them to perform day-to-day tasks.

There are many physical therapists who particularly specialize in treating autism-related physical issues.

How does it work?

When you take your autistic son or daughter to a physical therapist, here is what you can expect the process to look like:

  1. The physical therapist conducts an evaluation, examines your child’s motor skills, and identifies developmental delays.
  2. They put together a custom treatment program that suits your child’s personal needs.
  3. The therapist starts your child’s treatment program, which might include exercise therapy, one-on-one sessions, and/or group therapy.

Alongside physical therapy, there are additional treatment methods that could enhance your autistic boy or girl’s motor skills.

Other Types of Therapies Offered by Physical Therapists

Physical therapy sessions may be conducted alongside certain forms of therapies that help children with ASD with improving their motor skills.

The following are a few of the most prevalent types:

  • Dance and Movement Therapy
  • Hippotherapy
  • Music Therapy
  • Play Therapy
  • Recreational Therapy

Both physical and other types of therapy sessions will entail similar activities that can strengthen an autistic patient’s motor capabilities.

What To Expect During a Therapy Session

At a typical session, you can expect to see gym balls, swings, slides, and physically-engaging objects.

Meanwhile, here are some of the exercises that your autistic son or daughter might participate in:

  • Catching: For example, your child may catch a ball or frisbee.
  • Clapping
  • Jumping: This could be jumping as part of a hoop course or to catch/throw a ball.
  • Kicking
  • Skipping: Playing skipping rope, for instance, can assist your child with developing new balance and coordination capabilities.
  • Throwing

How long does a physical therapy session last?

The length of a physical therapy session depends on your son or daughter’s age.

For younger children, sessions are generally 20 to 30-minutes long. Older children, on the other hand, could spend up to an hour with the therapist.

This is because boys and girls in different age groups are treated through specific forms of exercises and activities.

Physical Therapy: From Baby to Adult

Here is what physical therapy entails based on your child’s age:

Birth to Age 3

Physical therapy for ASD patients who are 3 years old or younger is centered around basic motor skills. For instance, the therapist may show them how to roll, sit, stand, and run.

Most of these activities are done in a fun and engaging way.  

Ages 3 to 18

From the time they turn 3 years old and up until they become an adult, an autistic child’s physical therapy sessions start to pivot towards more advanced motor skills.

Examples include skipping and kicking, catching, and throwing balls.

18 Years and Older

After they reach their 18th birthday, an ASD patient’s physical therapy sessions will revolve around giving them the tools that they need to live as independently as possible.

Notably, the frequency of your son or daughter’s sessions is equally as important as their length.

How often should a child get physical therapy?

How often your child attends physical therapy is based on the program that they’re enrolled in.

  • Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP)/Individualized Education Program (IEP): These sessions are provided by the education system (i.e. your child’s school). Their frequency is determined by the IFSP or IEP team that works with your autistic boy or girl.
  • Clinical Settings: Here, the child’s primary care physician, their therapist, and you (their parent or caretaker) decide on the recurrence and length of the sessions. Another factor to consider in clinical settings is the number of physical therapy hours that your insurance will cover (and whether you can afford to pay out of pocket for the uncovered time).

Before you enroll your autistic son or daughter in a physical therapy program, consider researching the different providers that are in your area and learning about the services that they offer.

The Best Physical Therapists in New Jersey for Autistic Children

The following are five of the best physical therapists in the Garden State:

1. Maywood Physical Therapy and Rehab Center

  • Address: 119 E. Passaic St, Maywood, NJ 07607
  • Phone Number: (201) 880-7787

2. InHome Pediatrics

  • Address: 6 Alexander Ct, Jersey City, NJ 07305
  • Phone Number: (201) 401-0702

3.Liberty Physical Therapy

  • Address 1: 115 Christopher Columbus Dr, Ste 300, Jersey City, NJ 07302
  • Phone Number 1: (201) 366-1115
  • Address 2: 132 Newark Ave (Pedestrian Plaza), Jersey City, NJ 07302
  • Phone Number 2: (201) 366-1116
  • Address 3: 2 Journal Square (Opp. JSQ Path Station), Jersey City, NJ 07306
  • Phone Number 3: (201) 366-1120

4. Child PT

  • Address: 575 NJ-28 Building 1, Ste 204A, Raritan, NJ 08869
  • Phone Number: (908) 543-4390

5. Cardinal Children Therapy

  • Address: 825 NJ-73, Ste g, Marlton, NJ 08053
  • Phone Number: (856) 435-6023

As you study your options, you should keep your autistic son or daughter’s unique personal challenges in mind. Finding a therapist who’s covered by your insurance plan is also crucial.

In turn, this allows you to identify a therapist who is trained to help them improve motor skills, balance and coordination, and other abilities based on their age, needs, and desires.

 

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autism quotes
43 inspiring Autism Quotes

As a parent of a child with autism, it can sometimes be overwhelming to care for them. 

These inspiring quotes about autism will help to inspire you when you need a little pick me up.

43 inspiring Autism Quotes 

“If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism” – Dr. Stephen Shore

“Autism… offers us a chance for us to glimpse an awe-filled vision of the world that might otherwise pass us by.” – Dr. Colin Zimbleman

“Don’t think that there’s a different, better child “hiding” behind the autism. This is your child. Love the child in front of you. Encourage his strengths, celebrate his quirks, and improve his weaknesses, the way you would with any child. You may have to work harder on some of this, but that’s the goal.” – Claire Scovell LaZebnik

“Do not fear people with autism; embrace them. Do not spite people with autism; unite them. Do not deny people with autism; accept them, for then their abilities will shine.” – Paul Issacs

“Children with autism are colorful – They are often very beautiful and, like the rainbow, they stand out.” – Adele Devine

Autists are the square pegs, and the problem with pounding a square peg into a round hole is not that the hammering is hard work. It’s that you’re destroying the peg.” – Paul Collins

“I am different, not less.” – Dr. Temple Grandin

“If they can’t learn the way we teach, we teach the way they learn.” – O. Ivar Lovaas

“Kids need to be encouraged to stretch their shine!” – Amanda Friedman

“It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a child with autism to raise the awareness of that village.” – Elaine Hall

“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible” – Frank Zappa

“It seems that for success in science and art, a dash of autism is essential” – Hans Asperger

“Even for parents of children who are not on the spectrum, there is no such thing as a normal child.” – Violet Stevens

“Autism is part of my child. It’s not everything he is. My child is so much more than a diagnosis.” – S.L. Coelho

“Autism can’t define me. I define autism.” – Kerry Magro

“There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child can do instead of on what he cannot do.” – Dr. Temple Grandin

“To measure the success of our societies, we should examine how well those with different abilities, including persons with autism, are integrated as full and valued members.” – Ban Ki-Moon

“The most interesting people you’ll find are ones that don’t fit into your average cardboard box. They’ll make what they need, they’ll make their own boxes.” – Dr. Temple Grandin

“Autism is like a rainbow. It has a bright side and a darker side. But every shade is important and beautiful.” – Rosie Tennant Doran

“I am autistic and I am proud” – Sez Francis, Autism Advocate

“Autism is really more of a difference that needs to be worked with rather than a monolithic enemy that needs to be slain or destroyed.” – Dr. Stephen Shore

“Autism doesn’t have to define a person. Artists with autism are like everyone else: They define themselves through hard work and individuality.” – Adrienne Bailon

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” – Dr. Seuss

“Autism makes you listen louder. It makes you pay attention to an emotional level as well as an intellectual level.” – Jace King

“Children with autism develop all kinds of enthusiasms… perhaps focusing on one topic gives the child a sense of control, of predictability and security in a world that can be unpredictable and feel scary.” – Barry M. Prizant

“I’ve learned that every human being, with or without disabilities, needs to strive to do their best, and by striving for happiness you will arrive at happiness. For us, you see, having autism is normal — so we can’t know for sure what your ‘normal’ is even like. But so long as we can learn to love ourselves, I’m not sure how much it matters, whether we’re normal or autistic.” – Naoki Higashida

“When enough people care about autism or diabetes or global warming, it helps everyone, even if only a tiny fraction actively participate.” – Seth Godin

“When a family focuses on ability instead of the disability, all things are possible… Love and acceptance is key. We need to interact with those with autism by taking an interest in their interests.” – Amanda Rae Ross

“We cry, we scream, we hit out and break things. But still, we don’t want you to give up on us. Please, keep battling alongside us.” – Naoki Higashida

“Why should I cry for not being an apple, when I was born an orange? I’d be crying for an illusion, I may as well cry out for not being a horse.” – Donna Williams

“Autism: Where the ‘randomness of life’ collides and clashes with an individual’s need for sameness.” – Eileen Miller

“What would happen if the autism gene was eliminated from the gene pool? You would have a bunch of people standing around in a cave, chatting and socializing and not getting anything done.” – Temple Grandin

“The difference between high-functioning and low-functioning is that high-functioning means your deficits are ignored, and low-functioning means your assets are ignored.” – Laura Tisoncik

“Autism is as much a part of humanity as is the capacity to dream.” – Kathleen Seidel

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein

“What I like to tell parents is that raising a child with autism is running a marathon. It’s not a sprint.” – Dr. Brian Bowman

“Get to know someone on the spectrum and your life will truly be blessed.” – Stephanie L. Parker

“Disability is a matter of perception. If you can do just one thing well, you’re needed by someone.” – Martina Navratilova

“If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” – Maya Angelou

“Our duty in autism is not to cure but to relieve suffering and to maximize each person’s potential.” – John Elder Robison

“Disability doesn’t make you exceptional, but questioning what you think you know about it does.” – Stella Young

“Those without obsessive focus have to take classes to cultivate it.” – Rudy Simone

“I might hit developmental and social milestones in a different order than my peers, but I am able to accomplish these small victories on my own time.” – Haley Moss

Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed this list of inspiring autism quotes. 

If you are ready to work with the best ABA therapy provider in New Jersey, give us a call at (732) 402-0297. Our dedicated team is ready to help and we will treat you like family.

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Pets and Animal Therapy for Children with Autism

Pets and Animal Therapy for Children with Autism

Animal-assisted and pet therapies are among many different types of therapies available for children with autism. 

 

They are a great option because they are risk-free and can be effectively combined with other forms of autism treatment. 

 

Here’s everything you need to know about choosing animal therapy for your autistic child. 

How Can a Pet Help a Child with Autism?

Numerous studies have shown that owning and interacting with pets is highly beneficial for children with autism. Pets can help children cope with anxiety, build communication skills, and socialize with others. Even children who spend only short amounts of time in the presence of an animal can see temporary improvement of some symptoms of autism. 

 

Pets can benefit autistic children in several different ways, such as: 

Combat loneliness

Looking after a pet can help children with autism combat loneliness. Pets are easy to interact with, they provide companionship, as well as unconditional love and affection. 

Increase social behavior 

Many kids with autism experience difficulties in connecting with others. Owning a pet brings about many socializing opportunities. What’s more, taking care of a pet can teach your child about treating others kindly, displaying gentle behavior, and compassion. 

Improve communication skills

Many autistic kids with impaired communication skills speak more frequently when playing with their pets. Pets are also great companions for children who communicate non-verbally, as they will find other ways to interact and create a strong bond with the animal.

Help deal with stress and anxiety

The presence of a pet offers a sense of security to autistic kids. A pet may help lower stress and anxiety, improving the child’s self esteem and overall well-being. 

Improve cognitive and emotional skills

Having a pet promotes positive feelings of care, love, and empathy in children with autism. Studies show that the longer they own a pet, the more their cognitive and emotional skills increase. 

Offer sensory support

Pets offer invaluable support for autistic children with sensory needs. For example, the reassuring pressure of a dog’s head on a child’s lap can help them remain calm in a stressful situation. 

Teach responsibility

Involving your child with autism in the training and daily care of a pet teaches responsibility, effective task management, and helps boost the child’s self-esteem.

Strengthen family bonds

Research has demonstrated that having a pet may reduce stress and create stronger bonds between parents and children with autism.

What Is the Best Pet for an Autistic Child?

When considering a pet for a child on the autism spectrum, the first animal that comes to mind is often a dog. However, dogs are not a suitable choice for all autistic kids. The good news is, almost any kind of animal can provide the emotional, physical, or social support that your child needs. 

 

There are a few things to consider before you choose a pet for your child, including how severe their autism is, what type of support they need, and most importantly, what kind of animal they prefer. 

 

You should keep in mind that reptiles, birds, and fish are somewhat less suitable for children with autism since they can’t provide the type of interactions that build skills. Hamsters are also not ideal pets for autistic kids, as they move fast and can get angry and aggressive when disturbed.

Dogs

Dogs are wonderful pets for children with autism. They provide invaluable companionship and can help your child build confidence and social skills.

However, dogs are expensive to care for and demand significant time commitment. Some autistic children find dogs intimidating and unpredictable, and highly active breeds might trigger sensory overload.

Cats

Contrary to dogs who have an intense stare, cats tend to quickly avert their gaze, which may feel more comfortable for autistic children who struggle with eye contact. Cats have a soothing presence, are quiet, and are well suited for children with sensory issues. On the other hand, some cats may show aggression toward children with autism.

Rabbits

If your child is afraid of dogs, a rabbit may be a great alternative. Rabbits are safe, non-threatening, and soothing to watch and pet. Unlike dogs, they don’t require extensive care or treatment.  

 

At the same time, it’s important to keep in mind that rabbits are social animals and prefer to have other rabbits as companions in addition to human interaction. 

Guinea pigs

Just like rabbits, guinea pigs are gentle and low-maintenance pets. Children with autism often become more cheerful and talkative when they are in the presence of guinea pigs, they make eye contact more frequently, and interact better with others. In addition, guinea pigs have a longer lifespan than other small pets and can live for up to seven years. 

Rats

Rats are extremely social and intelligent pets. They are curious and playful and love interacting with children. On the downside, they like to stay close to their owners for hours on end and require a great commitment of time and attention. 

Animal Therapies Available for Autistic Children

Animal-assisted therapies are supplemental treatments often used in combination with applied behavior analysis (ABA) and other therapies for children with autism. Animal therapies use emotional support animals, service animals, and specialized therapy animals. These animals receive formal training and are certified by licensed professional trainers and therapists. 

Service animals

A service animal, usually a dog, offers emotional support to a child with autism. For example, dogs can be trained to apply weighted pressure when a child is distressed, use their body as a blocker to prevent the child from hurting themselves, and help them deal with other stressful situations. 

Because service animals are considered to be a form of medical support, you may be able to get a prescription from your child’s physician or therapist. Service dogs are allowed in most public places.

Therapy animals

Therapy animals, such as cats, dogs, guinea pigs, parrots, horses, and many other animals can help your child with autism build social communication skills and manage their emotions. Therapy animals are also used to improve play skills and support positive social interactions with peers.

Emotional support animals

Emotional support animals are often pets, such as a dog, a cat, a potbelly pig, or a miniature pony. They make it easier for children with autism to manage stressful situations at school, during medical interventions, or travel. Unlike service animals, they are not trained to perform specific tasks.

Hippotherapy

Even if your child with autism enjoys being around animals, they may not be suited for having a pet that demands attention and care. In this case, you may consider animal-assisted therapy, such as hippotherapy. 

Hippotherapy or equestrian therapy is therapeutic horseback riding and horse care. Some children with autism may find horses intimidating, but those who enjoy the experience will largely benefit from this type of therapy. Here are some ways in which hippotherapy may help your child:

  • Many children with autism have low muscle tone and sitting on horseback can improve their physical strength. 
  • Guiding and talking to a horse can enhance your child’s social communication skills. In addition, hippotherapy is shown to have a positive impact on the understanding of spoken language and social cognition. 
  • Equestrian therapy can reduce irritability in children with autism.

 

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Autism and Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a relatively common form of mental illness in individuals with autism. Although the two disorders share certain symptoms and genetic causes, they are not the same. 

In this article, we shed light on the co-occurrence of autism and bipolar disorder, their overlapping symptoms, and available treatments.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a common psychiatric mood disorder, in the past known as “manic depressive illness.” Approximately 2.3 million Americans are currently diagnosed with bipolar disorder, out of which 1%-3% are adolescents. This disorder is not common in children. 

 

Individuals with bipolar disorder alternate between two extreme emotional states: manic and depressive. Manic and depressive episodes can happen over several days, weeks, or months. Some people have fast and frequent mood swings, called rapid cycling, although this condition is rare. 

 

The dramatic mood shifts typical for bipolar disorder can affect every aspect of a person’s daily life, including behavior, energy levels, judgment ability, sleep, and performing everyday tasks. This is a chronic condition that requires life-long treatment.

Manic episodes

Manic episodes are periods of excited behavior that last for a week or more. A milder version, hypomania, lasts for a few days. People who experience manic episodes feel euphoric and full of energy or are extremely irritable. 

Symptoms of a manic episode may include:

  • Acting unusually upbeat and happy
  • High levels of energy
  • Inflated self-esteem
  • Fast and loud talking
  • Excessive pacing
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Impulsivity and risk-taking behaviors
  • Aggression 
  • Sleep disturbances.

Depressive episodes

Depressive episodes are characterized by extreme sadness and the feeling of hopelessness. Most bipolar people experience episodes of mania and depression, but some may have very few depression episodes or none at all.

Symptoms of a depressive episode may include:

  • Feeling sad and without hope
  • Fatigue and low energy
  • Loss of interest in everyday activities
  • Dramatic changes in appetite
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Suicidal thoughts.

Are Autism and Bipolar Disorder Related?

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by socialization and communication difficulties, in addition to repetitive and obsessive behaviors. Bipolar disorder involves mood swings and significant variations in energy levels. Both disorders can interfere with normal daily functioning.

 

An estimated 27% of individuals with autism also have symptoms of bipolar disorder, compared to only 4% of the general population. Research shows that individuals with autism are at increased risk for bipolar disorder and vice versa.

 

The connection between the two disorders is not well understood, however, some studies have suggested that autism and bipolar disorder may share underlying genetic risk factors. People who have a close family member with bipolar disorder are at a greater risk of developing autism. 

 

The difference between autism and bipolar disorder is not always clear, as individuals affected by these two conditions may behave in similar ways. Here are some aspects to consider:

  • Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder, while bipolar disorder is a psychiatric illness.
  • The main symptoms of bipolar disorder are mood-related issues, while autism is unrelated to mood. Individuals with autism typically don’t experience manic and depressive episodes.
  • Most people with autism have difficulties with language, social communication, and sensory processing. People with bipolar disorder who don’t have autism are very unlikely to show these symptoms.
  • Stimming or repetitive actions that occur consistently over longer periods of time, such as rocking and hand flapping, are typical of autism. These symptoms are not related to bipolar disorder.
  • The first signs of autism are often noticed before the age of 3. However, symptoms of bipolar disorder tend to emerge much later, usually around the age of 25.

Although bipolar disorder and autism are two distinct diagnoses, they have many similarities and overlapping symptoms. Here are the most common ones. 

Overlapping Symptoms of Autism and Bipolar Disorder

Overlapping symptoms for autism and bipolar disorder may include:

  • Irritability
  • Sleep problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Being prone to accidents
  • Behavior issues and tantrums.

Some symptoms of bipolar disorder may appear in individuals with severe autism, for example, hyperactivity, agitation, disturbed sleep, impulsivity, and irritability. However, people with ASD who show these symptoms, don’t necessarily have bipolar disorder. In fact, the symptoms of bipolar disorder in people with autism will usually not appear in the same way that they would in a non-autistic person. 

Individuals who are diagnosed with both conditions are likely to present the following symptoms: 

  • Loud and fast talking
  • Constant pacing
  • Increased impulsivity 
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Sudden sleep disturbances.

Treatment

Bipolar disorder is one of the most severe comorbid psychiatric disorders in people with autism. Managing co-occurring autism and bipolar disorder involves a combination of behavioral interventions and medications. It is essential to have an accurate diagnosis for comorbid autism and bipolar disorder, since treatment for each of the disorders may not be effective when they overlap.

Autism

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy is the most successful intervention for treating autism. It focuses on teaching communication and social skills, coping with sensory issues, and performing daily tasks through positive reinforcement of desired behaviors.

With intensive early intervention, close to 50% of autistic children who go through ABA therapy see significant improvement in their symptoms and reach a development level where they are indistinguishable from their neurotypical peers. Young children should receive at least 25 hours of ABA therapy per week for maximum effect. 

Depending on their level of functioning, individuals with autism may also require supplementary treatments, such as developmental and play therapy, speech therapy, sensory integration therapy, social skills training, and dietary intervention. When medications are used, they include anti-anxiety drugs and second-generation antipsychotics.

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder is treated with a combination of lifestyle changes, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and medications to help control symptoms of manic and depressive episodes. Medications may include antipsychotic drugs, mood stabilizers such as lithium, as well as some anti-seizure drugs. With adequate treatment, most people with bipolar disorder are able to live normal, productive lives and control their illness.

 

If you are ready to work with the best ABA therapy provider in New Jersey, give us a call at (732) 402-0297. Our dedicated team is ready to help and we will treat you like family.

 

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Sleep Medication for Children with Autism

All children may occasionally have trouble falling and staying asleep, but kids with autism often deal with significant sleep problems. 

 

Read this article to learn more about autism-related sleep disorders, what causes them, and how lifestyle changes and medication can improve your child’s sleep.

Sleep Disorders and Autistic Children

Sleep disorders are common among children with autism. Research shows that up to 80% of autistic children have some type of sleep issues, for example:

  • Resistance to bedtime
  • Trouble falling asleep (sleep-onset insomnia)
  • Restlessness and discomfort while sleeping
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Sleep apnea or breathing interruptions during sleep
  • Sleeping much less than recommended for their age
  • Waking through the night and staying awake for more than an hour
  • Waking too early and daytime sleepiness.

Researchers aren’t sure why sleep issues occur more commonly in children with autism than in their neurotypical peers. Some theories include sensitivities to stimuli, biological brain differences, high rates of anxiety, and other factors. Read on to learn more.

What Causes Sleep Disorders in Autistic Children?

Sleep problems in children with autism can be related to their daytime and bedtime habits, as well as a range of other environmental and biological factors. Once you understand what’s causing your child’s sleep problems, it will be easier to find the appropriate solution.

Bedtime habits

  • If your child does not have a consistent bedtime routine, there are no predictable cues indicating that it’s time to sleep.
  • Your child’s sleep environment may be too hot, cold, or noisy. These conditions can make it challenging to fall asleep, and even more so if your child has sensory sensitivities.
  • If your child is very active in the evening, it will be harder to feel calm and sleepy before bed.

Daytime habits

  • Unhealthy eating habits, such as eating foods low in fiber and high in saturated fat and sugar can lead to lighter and less restorative sleep.
  • Lack of physical activity and exercise during the day may cause sleep-related problems.
  • Long or late daytime naps can negatively impact sleep quality and the duration of sleep at night.

Social communication difficulties

Sleep problems in autistic children may be a result of their social communication difficulties. Many children with autism have difficulty reading social cues and may not understand that it’s time to get ready for bed. 

Heightened sensitivity

Children with autism who have heightened sensitivity can find it challenging to calm down and fall asleep. They are also more prone to be awakened by noise during the night. 

Health conditions and medications

Children with comorbid medical conditions, such as asthma, epilepsy, gastrointestinal disorders, and anxiety may develop sleep problems. Some medications like ADHD drugs may also affect sleep and lead to insomnia. 

Abnormal melatonin production

Many autistic children have abnormal levels of tryptophan, an amino acid involved in the production of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin. They also tend to have atypical circadian rhythms that cause them to produce more melatonin during the day than at night.

Genetic factors

Researchers have identified a gene associated with sleep latency and poor sleep quality that is often missing in people with autism

Sleep Disorder Effects on Autistic Children

Studies show that children with autism who have sleep problems display more severe behavioral and learning issues, for example: 

 

  • Increased social communication challenges
  • More compulsive rituals and obsessive behaviors
  • More frequent occurrences of challenging behavior
  • More instances of hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder
  • Higher levels of irritability and aggression
  • Higher rates of behavioral issues, depression, and anxiety
  • More frequent concentration problems
  • More frequent instances of obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Decreased learning and cognitive performance
  • Decreased ability to develop peer relationships.

 

Many parents believe that there’s nothing they can do about the sleep issues of their children with autism. However, it is possible to improve your child’s sleep quality by making some lifestyle adjustments. 

Ways to Help a Child with Autism Sleep Better

All children need good quality sleep to grow and stay healthy and children with autism are no exception. Here’s what you can do to help your child sleep better:

 

  • Establish a nighttime routine to make it easier for your child to understand that it’s bedtime
  • Add bedtime to your child’s daily schedule to help them know when it’s time to go to bed.
  • Remind your child it’s bedtime a few minutes in advance by using a cue, like a clock or a picture.
  • You can use social stories to explain the importance of sleep to your child.
  • Help your child relax before bed. Give them a bath and a back massage, read a story together, and turn on relaxing music.
  • Avoid giving your child stimulants, such as caffeinated drinks and sugar before bed.
  • Make sure your child is physically active during the day.
  • Use stress-relieving techniques and breathing exercises throughout the day to help your child relax.
  • Switch off the television and electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Keep your child’s bedroom dark, quiet, and cool in order to minimize any sensory issues. 
  • Consider purchasing products designed for children with sensory issues, for example, weighted blankets, soothing pillows, sensory sheets, and white noise machines.

With enough practice and consistency, many children with autism will highly benefit from these steps and start sleeping better, however, others will still need a bit more help. In the following section, we take a look at sleep medication for autistic children. 

Sleep Medication for Children with Autism

Your child’s doctor may prescribe medication to improve sleep quality. The most commonly prescribed sleep medication for children with autism include: 

Clonidine

Clonidine is a prescription medication used to treat a variety of conditions from high blood pressure to anxiety. It has also been found to induce sleepiness and reduce nighttime waking in children with autism. Clonidine may help your child fall asleep and have fewer awakenings at night. 

Antidepressants

Antidepressants like Mirtazapine are sometimes prescribed for sleep problems in children with autism due to their sedative properties. However, like all medications, antidepressants come with side effects, including sleepiness, dizziness, headaches, and increased appetite.

Antihistamines

Motrin and other antihistamines have sleep-inducing side effects, but can cause daytime drowsiness which might affect your child’s ability to learn during the day. Antihistamines can also cause some children to become hyperactive, which can make their sleep problems even worse.

Benadryl

Some doctors recommend Benadryl to induce drowsiness. This antihistamine is often given in addition to another prescription medication. 

Z-drugs

Some children with autism are given hypnotic sleep aids such as zolpidem, zopiclone, and zaleplon—commonly referred to as the z-drugs—that work by slowing activity in the brain. These medications are generally well tolerated, but they may have adverse effects in some children, including drowsiness and gastrointestinal issues. 

Risperidone and clonazepam

Risperidone and anti-seizure medication like clonazepam are usually given to older children and teenagers with autism when other medications are not effective.

Melatonin supplements

Melatonin is a dietary supplement commonly used to treat sleep disorders. Melatonin might help some autistic children fall asleep faster, sleep for longer, and wake up less frequently during the night. It has relatively few and mild side effects, but keep in mind that taking too much melatonin can make your child’s insomnia worse. 

 

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Autism and Sleeping on the Floor

Most children with autism experience some type of sleep problems due to sensory overload and other issues. 

 

They often find sleeping on the floor more comforting than laying in bed. Read this article to find out why and learn more about products that can help your child sleep better. 

Autistic Children and Sleeping Disorders

Sleeping disorders are much more common in children with autism spectrum disorder than in neurotypical children and those with other developmental disabilities. It is estimated that between 40% and 80% of all children on the spectrum experience sleep problems, including:

 

  • Difficulties falling asleep
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Restlessness during night
  • Waking frequently at night
  • Sleepwalking and night terrors
  • Sleep apnea
  • Sleeping less than typical for the child’s age
  • Waking up too early
  • Daytime sleepiness. 

 

It is unclear what causes such a high prevalence of sleep challenges among children with autism, but researchers believe that many issues come from sensory sensibilities typical for autism, in addition to several other factors, such as:  

 

  • Children with autism often have difficulties with social language and are not able to pick up on social cues that indicate when it’s bedtime.
  • Some children on the autism spectrum have atypical circadian rhythms. They produce lower amounts of sleep-related hormone melatonin at night than neurotypical children.
  • Gastrointestinal problems, asthma, epilepsy, and other commonly co-occurring conditions in children with autism may disrupt sleep.
  • Increased levels of stress and anxiety, inability to relax, and ADHD can also cause insomnia in children on the spectrum.

Why Do Children With Autism Sleep on the Floor?

Some autistic children prefer to sleep on the floor instead of in their beds. This can be due to a number of factors: 

Sensory processing disorder

Many children with autism have a sensory processing disorder (SPD). This means that they experience extreme sensitivities to external stimuli, including light, sounds, smell, and touch. If your child becomes overwhelmed by sensory stimuli, they won’t be able to get the sleep they need. 

 

Your child may find bedding itchy or scratchy, which makes laying in bed extremely uncomfortable. The bed may also trigger sensory overload in your child because it feels too soft, too squishy, or not smooth enough. They may simply prefer how the floor feels against their skin. 

The bed is too warm

The wrong temperature at bedtime can also disrupt your child’s sleep. If the bed gets too warm at night, your child may seek out the coldness of the floor for more comfort. 

The floor just feels better

Your child may choose to sleep on the floor because it offers the sense of security that their bed can’t. A smooth, cool, and hard floor can be easier to deal with than a very soft bed. Laying on the floor can also help them feel more connected and grounded.

If your child struggles with sleep, there are many products that can help them fall asleep more easily and feel at ease in their bed. 

8 Products That Help Autistic Children Sleep in Their Beds

Children on the autism spectrum meet many challenges and it’s essential that they get the right amount of quality sleep so that they can develop and grow. Here are some products that can improve your child’s sleep. Most of them are designed specifically for children with autism and other special needs.

Dreampad products

Dreampad offers a wide range of products to help your child fall asleep, from weighted blankets and support pillows to white noise machines. These products can help relieve anxiety and dysfunctions that may be preventing your child from getting a good night’s sleep.

Fidget toys

Fidget toys like this one provide the right amount of sensory input to help your child relax. This fidget pillow has lots of texture and easy tasks that your child can focus on before falling asleep.

Weighted blankets

Weighted blankets provide an even pressure across the child’s lap, chest, and shoulders to help them find calm. If your child’s anxiety gets worse around bedtime, a weighted blanket can offer the much-needed reassurance. This natural sleep aid will help your little one relax before bed, fall asleep faster, and stay asleep longer. 

Sensory sheets

Sensory sheets are an alternative to weighted blankets, suitable for autistic kids of all ages who struggle with sleeping. The sheets provide adjustable compression and stress relieving support, while preventing the child from tossing and turning in the bed at night. Sensory sheets are comfortable, breathable, stretchy, easy to put on, and adjustable to suit your child’s comfort.

Sleepy Time pillow

The natural fragrance of these soothing pillows will provide relief from stress and anxiety and help your child relax. The pillows are filled with natural lavender flowers and flax seeds and come with a small bottle of lavender essential oil for re-scenting. You can also place them inside your child’s pillowcase for restful sleep. 

Naturepedic Verse organic children’s mattress

This Naturepedic Verse mattress is one of the best mattresses for autistic children. It is made from organic materials that help eliminate toxins and reduce smells, which makes them suitable even for the most sensitive children. The individually encased coils minimize sounds, while the upper layer reduces pressure points that your child may find uncomfortable. These mattresses can be used both by younger and older autistic children.

Rohm portable white noise sound machine

Rohm compact portable white noise machine makes a soothing, consistent sound similar to that of a fan. It effectively masks disturbing noises, allowing your child to sleep better. This noise machine is suitable for everyday use as well as for traveling. 

ZPod Autism Bed

ZPod beds are enclosed capsule beds specifically designed to create ideal sleeping conditions for children with autism. The beds feature intelligent lighting control, a white noise generator, air filters, room temperature and light control, and many other smart functions that will help your child sleep soundly through the night.

 

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Autism Summer Camps New Jersey

Autism summer camps provide a safe and nurturing environment for children on the spectrum where they can learn new skills and interact with peers. Below, we list the best autism summer camps in New Jersey and provide useful tips on how to choose the perfect one for your child.

Summer Camp Options for Autistic Children

Autism-friendly summer camps are structured environments that allow children with autism to participate in activities along with their peers and learn new skills. Autism camp counselors and staff are specifically trained to work with special needs children.

 

Activities typically combine play and discrete teaching techniques to help children on the spectrum practice life and social skills. Some camps also provide specialized educational and outdoor activities, medical care, and dedicated counselors to meet the needs of each camper. 

 

Attending a summer camp is an excellent opportunity for your child to learn how to make friends, gain independence, and avoid regression during the summer break. Research has shown that children with autism who attend summer camps experience significant improvements in their language and social communication abilities

Types of autism summer camps

Autism summer camps come in all shapes and sizes, from one-week day programs to multiple-week overnight camps. In New Jersey, there are two main options to choose from: specialized (inclusive) and exclusive programs.

Specialized (inclusive) programs

Specialized programs are designed to integrate children with autism or other disabilities and their neurotypical peers in regular summer camps. These programs provide children with an opportunity to try new activities, practice skill building, and socialize, and at the same time increase autism awareness among kids without special needs.

Exclusive programs

Summer camps with exclusive programs are intended specifically for children with disabilities. While some camps include only autistic children, others welcome a broad range of special needs. Exclusive programs allow children with autism to meet others with the same condition and focus on learning specific skills and coping strategies.

 

Finding a summer camp that is the right fit for your child can be time-consuming and require a lot of research and planning. Here are some tips to help get you started.

Choosing a Camp That Is Right for Your Child

There are several things to keep in mind when choosing a summer camp for a child with autism:

  • Take into account your child’s needs and interests. If the camp offers the type of activities your child enjoys, they will be more likely to benefit from the experience.
  • Talk to other parents whose children have participated in autism summer camps. You can connect with families of autistic children through local support groups or online social media platforms. 
  • Ask the summer camps to provide you with references so that you can speak to other parents about their experiences.
  • Consider the cost of the program. Financial assistance may be available through national groups such as Autism Speaks, the New Jersey Children’s System of Care (CSOC), and PerformCare New Jersey, or through your local Kiwanis and Rotary clubs.

Once you’ve made your selection of summer camps, you should schedule interviews with program directors to receive more information. Here are some questions you can ask:

  • What is the camp‘s experience with children with disabilities?
  • Does the camp have previous experience with including children with autism in their program?
  • What percentage of campers have autism? 
  • What license does the camp have?
  • What is the staff-to-camper ratio?
  • What general and autism-specific training have staff members received?
  • What are the camp’s typical daytime and evening schedules?
  • What are the alternatives for children who are not willing or able to participate in certain activities?
  • What are the camp’s safety and emergency protocols?
  • What are the medical facilities on site? You can contact your child’s doctor for suggestions on medical questions to ask.
  • Does the camp offer scholarships and/or grants?

In the section below, we provide two resources that will help you start your search for an autism camp for your child. 

How to Start Your Autism Summer Camp Search

The American Camp Association

The American Camp Association (ACA) has a comprehensive database of close to 4,000 summer camps nationwide. To search, specify that you’re looking for a camp that serves children with autism. You can also narrow down your search by location, the duration of the program, types of activities, cost, and other criteria.

Autism New Jersey

Autism New Jersey is a non-profit organization that provides support to children with autism and their families. The autism services database includes several summer camps in New Jersey that specialize in autism programs.

 

Continue reading for our choice of the best autism-friendly summer camps in New Jersey.

Five Camps for Autistic Children in New Jersey

1. Amazing Summer

Amazing Summer is a camp for children with autism spectrum disorder and other special needs between the ages of 6 and 14. The camp’s Social Skills Program for special needs is offered on weekdays for a minimum duration of three weeks. Your child will learn how to make friends, engage in a conversation, manage conflicts, and cooperate with others. 

 

The Amazing Summer Social Skills Program is facilitated by certified special education teachers, behavior analysts, and ABA therapists.

Contact information

144 Kings Highway West
Haddonfield, NJ 08033

Tel: 888-859-7749

Website: Amazing Summer

2. Camp Marcella

Camp Marcella is an inclusive camp designed to help children with special needs socialize with peers and participate in activities in a traditional camp setting. The program is based on small groups where campers work on their fine and gross motor skills and socialization. The staff is specially trained to work with children with disabilities, including autism.

Contact information

27 Durham Rd
Rockaway, NJ 07866

Tel: 973-627-1113

Website: Camp Marcella

3. Daisy Recreation and Camps

Daisy Recreation and Camps is a municipal recreation program for children with disabilities offered by the township of East Brunswick. Day camp activities include arts and crafts, games, and sports, and are adapted to each camper’s skill and ability levels. The camper-to-staff ratio is determined on a needs basis.

Contact information

180 Hardenburg Lane
East Brunswick, NJ 08816
Tel: 732-390-6797

Website: Daisy Recreation and Camps

4. Camp Sun ‘N Fun

Camp Sun ‘N Fun is an exclusive program that offers overnight and day summer camps for kids with autism and other disabilities. Campers ages 5 and up have the opportunity to work on their social interaction skills in a safe and structured environment. Dedicated counselors are available for children who need more assistance, plus there’s full-time medical staff on site. 

Contact information

1036 N. Tuckahoe Rd.

Williamstown, NJ 08094

Tel: 856-848-8648

Website: Camp Sun ‘N Fun

5. Camp Fatima of New Jersey 

Camp Fatima provides a unique summer camp experience for children with autism and other disabilities 6 years old and above. During a week-long sleepaway session, children participate in fun activities, make friends, and acquire new skills under the supervision of highly qualified and trained staff. The camp is free of charge for qualifying families. 

Contact information

PO Box 654
Harrison, NJ 07029
Tel: 973-555-1212

Website: Camp Fatima of New Jersey

Unsure of your summer plans? Call us at 732-624-6475 or send us an email at info@goldencaretherapy.com to get more ABA hours and learn more about our services.

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Positive Reinforcement Autism

Curious about positive reinforcement and whether it’s the right choice for your autistic child?

By reading this article, you will know why positive reinforcement benefits children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), what its processes involve, and what you could do to help your son or daughter get the best treatment outcomes.

What is positive reinforcement?

Positive reinforcement is part of applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, which is the most common method for treating autistic children. ABA therapy revolves around using rewards and incentives to motivate kids with ASD to act in a desirable way and, at the same time, avoid problematic behaviors.

Through utilizing positive reinforcement, an ABA therapist would reward your autistic son or daughter for listening to you (as their parent), behaving in a certain manner, and/or avoiding undesirable actions.

This reward could be anything that incentivizes your child to positively respond to this technique, whether it’s an object or activity.

For example, the therapist may motivate your kid to finish their homework by allowing them to play with their toys or watch their favorite TV show after they do so.

The simplest method for motivating your child is through verbally praising them. Meanwhile, the most intrusive approach is one that involves their meals and food.

At the end of the day, your objective is to find a reinforcer that enables your kid to reach their behavioral goals.

What is the importance of positive reinforcement in autism?

Positive reinforcement is important because it helps children with ASD learn a variety of new skills and improve their existing capabilities, such as the following:

  • Academic Performance 
  • Adaptive Learning Skills
  • Functional Life Skills
  • Non-Verbal Communication
  • Social Interactions
  • Verbal Communication

To get the best results from positive reinforcement on a regular basis, you want to make sure that you consistently reward your child with a reinforcer whenever they act or behave in a desirable way.

Equally important is that positive reinforcement is also useful for preventing and minimizing bad habits (aggression, to give an example).

However, before you implement any reinforcement techniques, you should initially get the advice and guidance of a licensed ABA therapist.

How ABA Therapists Use Positive Reinforcement

ABA therapists rely on the ABC model for behavior modification. In fact, this is one of the cornerstones of ABA therapy.

In short, an ABA practitioner would observe your son or daughter’s behaviors and identify the triggers and environmental factors that influence them. Next, organize what they see into patterns of improvement.

To illustrate, the ABC model entails the following steps:

  1. Antecedent: Firstly, the therapist pinpoints the specific situation or item that led your autistic child to behave a certain way, such as bright lights or loud noises.
  2. Behavior: After that, the practitioner looks at your kid’s reaction to the antecedent, which may be positive or negative. 
  3. Consequence: This is what the behavior resulted in. The consequence could be positive (to encourage good habits) or negative (to prevent problematic actions).

Once you understand how to use the ABC model, you can start implementing positive reinforcement methods in more detail.

The Process of Positive Reinforcement

There are four key steps that make up the positive reinforcement process.

Identify Needs

Initially, you want to look at your autistic son or daughter’s current behavioral, academic, social, and other skills. From there, find the areas that you would like to see them improve in.

When you do so, discuss your child’s needs and goals with an ABA therapist so that they build an appropriate behavioral treatment program for your boy or girl.

ABA practitioners usually apply positive reinforcement techniques in a systematic way to teach your kid new skills.

Choose Reinforcers

You want to pick the reinforcements and rewards that yield the best results. A lot of this can be discovered through trial and error.

Start by choosing the least intrusive reinforcers and, based on your child’s responses, move to the more intrusive ones until you define the most effective rewards.

A secondary reinforcer is also helpful. As an example, you could tell your boy or girl “good job” (as a secondary reward) while you hand them a piece of candy (which would be the main reinforcer).

Measure Success

You want to make sure that you measure your child’s success over time. Here are some goals and objectives that you can track:

  • Have they improved academically and did their grades get better?
  • Are they making new friends or participating in social activities more often?
  • Did your autistic kid’s problematic behaviors fade away after they began to attend ABA therapy sessions?
  • Is your child getting better at communicating and expressing themselves?

Needless to say, you could also measure other objectives that are important to you and your child. This helps you evaluate the effectiveness of their ABA treatment and the therapist’s positive reinforcement techniques.

When your son or daughter develops new skills and enhances their existing ones, the therapist may make it more difficult for them to get rewarded. This will challenge the kid in a healthy way and motivate them to further grow their capabilities.

Working Together

Above all, parents, caretakers, and therapists must all work together on implementing positive reinforcement methods and encouraging desirable habits.

Keep in mind that you can get the most out of your child’s ABA sessions through a collaborative effort. In other words, it is the most efficient way for assisting your kid in reaching their goals.

The Ethicality of Positive Reinforcement

While certain ABA programs are controversial, professionals who treat boys and girls with ASD generally agree that positive reinforcement is the best and most ethical type of ABA therapy.

This is because it revolves around rewards and positive encouragement.

Negative Reinforcement and Punishment

As an alternative form of ABA treatment, negative reinforcement entails taking away an object or ending an activity when your child behaves in an undesirable manner.

To clarify, here is an example of how negative reinforcement is used:

  1. The autistic kid demonstrates that they don’t like a specific item, activity, or sense. For instance, when the TV volume is too loud, the child may cover their ears and point towards the remote.
  2. In response, the therapist or parent utilizes negative reinforcement approaches to remove the problematic element. In our above example, they would turn down the volume.
  3. After that, the child gets comfortable again. They will also learn that covering their ears and/or pointing at the remote is the best way to express that they’re uneasy with the volume (as opposed to shouting or getting aggressive).

As illustrated above, negative reinforcement is not a form of punishment. Instead, it’s a technique for teaching your autistic son or daughter new habits and communication skills.

Aversive Reinforcement

This is arguably the most controversial ABA approach.

Simply put, through aversive reinforcement, an autistic kid is exposed to physically and/or psychologically uncomfortable situations. In turn, they are expected to learn how to avoid bad behaviors and embrace positive ones.

Since this method is similar to punishing a child, it is very uncommonly used today. Instead, ABA practitioners and professionals who work with autistic kids mainly rely on positive reinforcement.

Need an ABA therapist in New Jersey?

Golden Care Therapy is an in-home ABA therapy provider that serves autistic children and their families in New Jersey.

Our team of experienced and licensed experts will put together a custom plan for your child while working with the entire family on implementing it at home and in school.

After all, the best therapy results are achieved through a collaborative effort.

Here at Golden Therapy, we’re all about conducting ABA therapy together.

Let us help you. Click here to contact us and get in touch!

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The Autism CARES Act

The Autism CARES Act helps to expand and further authorize funding and other provisions that were originally introduced in the 2006 Combating Autism Act. 

This act aims to secures federal funding not just for autism research, but for many other services vital to those with autism and their families.

What is the Autism CARES Act?

The Autism CARES Act was signed into law on September 30, 2019, and acts as a massive expansion of previously established legislation and funding. The core function of the Autism CARES Act is to reauthorize and expand the provisions first introduced in the Combating Autism Act of 2006 and to continue funding and providing essential autism services and research for the following 5 years.

The Autism CARES Act is a continuation of the Combating Autism Act, and while it continues the original goals of that act, it also considerably expands the functionality of it in new ways. The Autism CARES Act has become the core source of federal funding for not only autism research and social services but for additional training and monitoring necessary to carry out that research and those services.

The 2019 CARES act reauthorizes many programs that are intended for those living with autism and provides significant financial support to those services. It also helps empower the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, or the IACC, to officially survey and report on the state of federally funded autism services. 

As a whole, the primary goal of the Autism CARES Act is to enhance social services for members of the autistic community, throughout their life.

What does CARES stand for?

The “CARES” in the Autism CARES Act stands for “Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support”. This helps illustrate its goal of improving the lives of those with autism, and their families, no matter their age or life stage.

  •       Collaboration: The Interagency Autism Coordinating Community has been empowered to work with representatives of the autism community to advise and provide input on issues that affect the autism community.
  •       Accountability: The improved accountability made possible by the Autism CARES Act means that not only will there be much more visibility in the failures to meet the health care needs of neurodiverse children, but that the oversight will have considerable input and advice from parties who are members of the autism community.
  •       Research: The research facilitated by the Autism CARES Act is one of the primary achievements of the act, and it provides funding to organizations such as the CDC (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), NIH (National Institutes of Health), and the HRSA (Health and Resources Services Administration), to conduct biomedical research. This research allows the development and administration of intervention services as well as life-enhancing support services for the entire autism community.
  •       Education: The research done by the IACC and other organizations as a result of the Autism CARES Act helps to provide education in key areas. These key research areas include screening and early intervention, profiling risk factors and even potential prenatal exposure, in-depth demographic information about the autism community, beneficial treatments for those with autism and their families, and more.
  •       Support: The expanded services made possible by the Autism CARES Act include greatly enhanced reporting and infrastructure research that helps develop more effective autism support programs. This can include general social support services, treatments, and support for the community in general. It enables better behavioral support, enhanced recreation, better nutritional services and support, and other services that enhance the overall quality of life for those living with autism and their family members.

Autism CARES supports the following:

The Autism CARES Act supports many different programs and research projects, as well as requiring the development of others. The original CARES act of 2014 was the impetus behind a report to congress made 3 years later, and just 2 years before the Autism CARES Act was signed in 2019, that outlined the challenges of young adults and youth transitioning to adulthood while living with an autism spectrum disorder.

This has led to a greater drive to monitor the prevalence of autism overall, as well as the development of training materials and programs to help healthcare professionals detect and diagnose autism more easily. This saves valuable evaluation time that could be better used to provide care for the individuals.

The Autism CARES Act has also contributed significantly to the development of treatments for medical conditions associated with autism. While there are many different treatments, such as ABA therapy, that autism can necessitate, working around co-morbidities has traditionally been a large challenge. The new CARES act helps to minimize those challenges so that those with autism can obtain more well-rounded treatment.

The funding of the act helps the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) and its annual strategic plan, furthering cooperation between the neurotypical community and the autistic community. It also created Centers of Excellence in autism surveillance and epidemiology, so that autism prevalence could be monitored in detail, and supports countless programs and research grants that benefit individuals with autism in a variety of ways.

Effect of autism CARES act?

The Autism CARES Act has been directly responsible for many beneficial effects and improvements to the diagnostic ability and support framework for autistic individuals. The scientific research alone has resulted in measurable benefits just within the first few years following legislation.

Researchers have found that not only can autism be reliably detected and diagnosed as early as 18 to 24 months of age, but that following these diagnoses, early and immediate interventions can result in a lifetime of difference for the individual. Research has also been able to readily identify possible comorbidities that either contribute to, or occur in unison with, autism. Recognizing these comorbidities can increase the potential of beneficial and timely treatment significantly.

Additionally, there has been a greatly increased understanding of the biological causes of autism. Research funded by the Autism CARES Act has even identified genes that have a potential role in the development of autism, and possible medication targets have also been identified. This makes treatment and life quality improvement much easier and more effective when performed promptly. 

The Autism CARES Act has even facilitated the development of a field of research that can identify and foster early career autism researchers.

 

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