communication
Functional Communication: How It Helps Children With Autism

Functional communication aims to replace taxing behaviors with new forms of communication that achieve the same results. These communication skills are taught in the classroom and at home.

Below, we discuss how functional communication works and how it can help children with autism.

What is Functional Communication?

Functional communication refers to effective communication behaviors that express feelings, wants, preferences, and needs verbally or non-verbally. Functional communication forms part of basic development skills. It helps children understand how to present their requests or thoughts to receive an instant response.

In most cases, functional communication isn’t limited to verbal speech. It also includes gestures, sign language, and non-verbal cues. Sometimes, assistive devices may also be used.

Most children learn how to communicate effectively at the age of one. Their communication skills improve and expand with age. Children with autism experience a delay in learning functional communication skills and often learn how to communicate much later.

Functional Communication and Autism

Children on the autism spectrum struggle with verbal communication. It is estimated that in children with autism, communication is 90% non-verbal. These children also find it hard to make and maintain eye contact. This behavior causes them to miss non-verbal cues and facial expressions.

Children with autism also experience social and educational challenges because of a lack of functional communication. You may have noticed your child becoming increasingly frustrated or overwhelmed when they cannot express themselves.

Their frustration may result in undesirable behaviors such as yelling, hitting, and screeching.

How Can ABA Help Functional Communication

ABA (applied behavior analysis) therapy aims to help children increase helpful behavior and decrease challenging behavior.

The ABA strategy incorporates positive reinforcement and bases the therapy on three steps known as the ABCs:

  • Antecedent: An antecedent is what happens before, and a consequence is what happens after.
  • Behavior: The resulting behavior of an antecedent is the response or lack thereof to a verbal request.
  • Consequence: This is what happens directly after the behavior. Consequences come in the form of praise for good behavior or no response for inappropriate behavior.

If your child struggles to communicate functionally, you may want to approach an ABA therapist for help.

ABA therapy leans on the science of learning and behavioral skills. ABA therapy is also considered best practice by the American Psychological Association and the US Surgeon General.

Is Functional Communication Evidence-Based?

Functional communication and ABA training methods rely on science-backed principles. Functional communication training (FCT) meets the criteria of evidence-based practice.

This means that ABA and FCT methods promote appropriate behavior and effective communication skills. ABA is also evidence-based and has passed several scientific tests proving its success in improving behaviors.

How Can Communication Affect Behaviors

Children with autism face several communication challenges. They often cannot put words and sentences together in a way that others can understand. You may have noticed that your child uses the same sentence to start a conversation. They may even repeat something you say or use robotic speech.

If you have tried to teach your child how to read, you may have perceived that their language skills are uneven. They may also have difficulty spelling and sounding out words. You may also have observed that your child becomes frustrated when they cannot communicate with you effectively. They may also act out and display disturbing behaviors.

But perhaps the worst part is the lack of patience others may have with your child. They may even experience bullying if they are in school.

ABA therapy can be exceptionally effective in helping your child improve their communication skills by using trusted FCT steps.

Functional Communication Training Steps

When you’ve decided on an ABA therapist, you can expect the FCT steps to look like the following:

1. FBA

The therapist will conduct a functional behavior assessment. This means they will assess and define your child’s behavior and the function of each behavior. The therapist will also ask you to explain the behavior you have observed.

2. Replace Behaviors

Once your child’s problematic behaviors become apparent, the therapist will suggest replacement behaviors. The therapist will teach your child how to adopt the replacement behaviors.

These behaviors must be:

  •  Easy to learn and perform compared to the existing behaviors.
  • Something that your child can grasp and remember for future use.
  • Something that the rest of your family can understand and respond to.

The therapist will help your child appropriately communicate their needs and requests.

3. Practice Replacing The Behavior

An ABA therapist will also teach your child to use the replacement behavior to get a favorable response.

For instance, your child may throw tantrums because you won’t allow them to play with a toy when they should be eating or learning. The therapist will guide your child to use replacement behavior to access the toy at the appropriate time.

Your child will also discover that the new behavior gets a response while the old behavior doesn’t. Positive reinforcement will then be used to reward your child for using replacement behavior instead of challenging behavior.

4. New Opportunities

You may want to use the new behavior tactic to help your child practice replacement behaviors outside of therapy.

For example, if your child wants to play with a new toy but is displaying old behavior when asking for it, you can use it as an opportunity to enforce the new behavior. You can use positive reinforcement to encourage your child to display only the new behavior when communicating or requesting something.

This reinforcement can be a small reward that eventually leads to the extinction of inappropriate behavior.

5. Maintain The Behavior

You must help your child maintain the new behavior. Once your child is no longer displaying problematic behaviors and is using the new behavior to ask for something, you should slowly decrease the reward reinforcement.

It must happen at a gradual pace; otherwise, you may observe a recurrence of the problem behavior.

Conclusion

Children with autism need constant guidance and support to develop functional communication skills. Communication is essential to your child’s development and will help them learn acceptable behaviors. Functional communication also helps with learning and socializing skills.

FCT will help your child learn new ways to communicate functionally in ways that are less stressful and help them replace destructive or disruptive behaviors with acceptable ones.

Ultimately, this training will also help you better understand your child’s communication challenges and needs.

 

 

If you are ready to work with the best ABA therapy provider in New York, New Jersey or Indiana, 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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hugging
Applied Pressure Techniques

Everyone loves the feeling of a good hug, but for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the pressure in a hug accomplishes an entirely different purpose. This article will explain the science behind applied pressure techniques in autism and how they can help children with autism regulate their emotions. 

What is Deep Pressure Therapy?

Deep pressure therapy is a type of applied pressure technique used to help manage symptoms of autism. It involves applying gentle, consistent pressure on your body in order to induce a calming, soothing sensation. 

This type of therapy has been found to be particularly beneficial for people with autism who experience heightened levels of anxiety and sensory overload

Deep pressure therapy is best described as the feeling experienced when someone is hugged, squeezed, or held firmly – like the embrace one might receive from a parent or loved one. 

The idea behind this form of therapy is to mimic those types of comforting sensations in order to relieve many of the issues experienced by people with ASD. 

Dr. Temple Grandin, a world-renowned professor who also happens to be autistic, developed deep pressure therapy as an effective tool to help people like herself manage their symptoms. 

She believes that applying gentle pressure on the body can be calming for those who experience sensory overload or difficulty managing emotions. By using this technique, she has seen many positive changes in her patients’ behavior and well-being.

So how exactly does this type of technique work? We’re glad you asked.

How Does Deep Pressure Therapy Work?

This type of therapy helps children with autism regulate their proprioception – the awareness of where your body is in space and how it moves. Here is a breakdown of everything that is triggered in the body – for the better – after intense, sustained pressure is applied:

  • Deep pressure on the body causes the release of endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals in your brain. This can help reduce stress and increase a sense of calm and relaxation. 
  • It activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming down your body when you’re feeling stressed or anxious.  
  • The pressure stimulates touch receptors in the skin, giving a pleasant sensation that helps to relax muscles and reduce tension in the body. 
  • When deep pressure is applied to certain parts of the body it can also stimulate nerve pathways that travel from your spinal cord up into your brain, helping to regulate and balance the body’s response to stress. 
  • Pressure can also activate proprioceptors in the joints, which are receptors that help your brain process information about how your body is moving in space. This helps with coordination and balance.

As your child feels more relaxed, their body is better able to self-regulate and they are less likely to experience anxiety or stress. Deep pressure therapy can also help improve other areas of life for children with autism. 

Benefits of Deep Pressure Therapy for Children With Autism

Here are just some of the benefits that deep pressure therapy provides for children with autism:

  • Relaxation. Deep pressure helps relax and soothe children who are feeling overwhelmed or anxious. This overall sense of peace and calm can last for hours after therapy. 
  • Improved sleep. Pressure stimulation has been found to help improve sleep in children with autism. This is especially helpful since many children with ASD have difficulty sleeping through the night. 
  • Reduced sensory overload. These techniques can also help reduce sensory overload. When a child feels too much stimulation from loud noises, bright lights, or other environmental factors, deep pressure can provide relief and make them feel more comfortable. This especially helps children with ASD better tolerate the school environment. 
  • Increased focus and concentration. Deep pressure helps increase focus and concentration by calming down the mind so that it can better process information. 
  • Improved social interactions. With less sensory overload, children with autism can more easily engage in conversations and interact with their peers. 
  • Reduced aggression. Applying pressure to the body has been found to reduce aggressive behavior and self-harm in some kids on the spectrum. This is because it helps them feel calmer and better able to manage their emotions. 
  • Decreased occurrence of seizures. Due to its calming effect on the nervous system, this therapy has also been found to help reduce the frequency and intensity of seizures in some children with autism.
  • Reduce hypersensitivity to touch. By applying gentle pressure, the child’s nervous system is calmed, and they become less sensitive to tactile sensations such as light touches or textures.

Deep pressure therapy is a great way to help your child cope better with their condition. It offers many benefits that make life easier for you and your child. So, how do you know if your child would respond well to this type of therapy? Well, there are signs you can watch for.

Signs Your Child is Seeking Deep Pressure Input

It’s important to pay attention if you notice these behaviors, so you can help your child get the sensory input they need. Here are some common signs that indicate a child is looking for pressure: 

  • A fondness for sleeping with weighty blankets or a heap of stuffed animals, even on sweltering nights. 
  • Preference for snug clothing such as leggings or elastic bands around arms and legs. 
  • Contentment from being bundled up, cocooned, or embraced firmly. 
  • Calm in restricted spaces like tents and boxes. 
  • Engagement in seemingly unsuitable behavior, including touching people, licking surfaces, or mouthing non-food items. 
  • Clenching teeth and knocking head against hard surfaces. 
  • Seeking tactile input by pressing into people or smacking into furniture.

If you recognize any of these behaviors in your child, they may seek deep pressure input. Talk to your doctor or an occupational therapist to learn more about how you can help meet your child’s sensory needs, either in a clinical setting or at home.

Deep Pressure Activities to Try at Home

If your child is pressure-seeking and you’re unsure what to do about it, don’t stress. There are a number of easy strategies you can try at home to help your kiddo get the pressure they need to help them feel calm and focused. Let’s unpack some of them: 

  • Weighted blankets. A weighted blanket is designed to provide consistent, calming pressure over the entire body. and is recommended by occupational therapists. You can find pre-made weighted blankets in various sizes and weights or make your own at home with items like rice, beans, or small fabric pieces. 
  • Squeeze toys. These are objects (often made out of foam) that you squeeze together; they provide a targeted amount of pressure on a specific area of the body. 
  • Pressure wraps. Pressure wraps are cloth strips secured around the body to provide deep pressure stimulation. They come in different styles and colors, but all work by providing gentle, consistent pressure. 
  • Compression garments. These tight-fitting clothes are made of lycra or spandex and provide a snug fit around the body. They can help to reduce anxiety by providing sensory input through pressure and movement. 
  • Swaddling. Swaddling is an ancient technique in which the child’s arms and legs are secured with fabric to provide deep pressure stimulation. 
  • Weighted vests. These heavy garments are worn over the child’s clothing to provide deep pressure stimulation. They come in various sizes and weights, so you can find one that best fits your child. 
  • Willbargers Brushing Protocol. This technique provides sensory stimulation through light, and repetitive brushing all over the body, which helps reduce anxiety levels. 
  • Deep Massage. Deep massage is a form of pressure therapy that uses slow, firm strokes on specific areas of the body. It can help to relax muscles, reduce anxiety levels and improve circulation. 
  • Therapy balls. Large, firm balls are rolled over the body or held in place on specific areas to help reduce tension and improve circulation. 
  • Bear hugs. This is a simple yet effective technique in which a parent or caregiver holds the child tightly for several minutes to provide calming pressure. It can help reduce stress and increase feelings of safety and security. 
  • Squishing (carefully) with pillows.  If your child is comfortable with being squished, try creating a pillow ‘fort’. Stack up pillows to encase them, and then lightly press on each one in turn. This can be soothing for many kids with autism who may crave pressure or deep touch input.
  • Making a burrito. Wrap your child in a soft blanket, tucking the ends around them like a burrito. This will help them feel secure and provide gentle pressure all over their body.

By trying some of the above techniques, you can become your child’s personal deep-pressure therapist and help them reap the benefits of this relaxing technique.

Conclusion

You now know the basics of applied pressure techniques and how they can be beneficial for children with autism. Pressure-seeking behaviors are common in children with autism, and applying pressure techniques safely can help relieve stress and anxiety. 

On top of these basic benefits, deep pressure can also improve focus and concentration, sleep patterns, and self-regulation. By being aware of your child’s behavior and seeking professional advice if needed, you can determine if applied pressure techniques are suitable for them. 

If so, you have the tools to incorporate these techniques safely and effectively at home. Take the time to observe your child’s actions and look for signs that they may need deep pressure therapy. If you have further questions, don’t hesitate to reach out for more information from professionals. You’ve got this!

 

If you are ready to work with the best ABA therapy provider in New York, New Jersey or Indiana, 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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autism
What Falls Under the ASD Diagnosis?

Asperger syndrome was treated as a standalone diagnosis for decades. But since children with Asperger’s are today considered to be on the high end of the autism spectrum disorder, it’s essential to understand the differences and similarities between the two conditions. This article explains in detail the criteria for each.  

Asperger’s vs. Autism

Asperger syndrome or Asperger’s was identified by Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger in 1944. He noticed that some children with autism had better social and motor skills and fewer language challenges than their peers, leading him to establish a diagnosis separate from what was known as “autistic disorder”. Asperger syndrome first appeared in the 1994 edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV).

 

Today, Asperger syndrome is officially classified under the umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), along with conditions that were formerly labeled “pervasive developmental disorders” such as severe autism, childhood disintegrative disorder, and Rett’s syndrome. Asperger syndrome was incorporated into the diagnosis of ASD in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) in 2013. 

Autism spectrum disorder

Autism spectrum disorder is currently the only diagnostic category used for autism, regardless of where on the spectrum a child is. This means that a child with characteristics of Asperger’s will today receive a diagnosis of ASD because the condition falls under the broader classification. Autism spectrum disorder can range from mild to severe and its symptoms may vary significantly from child to child. 

 

The term Asperger’s is still occasionally used to describe children and adults who have only certain symptoms of autism, but lack some of the other defining characteristics. 

Differences between Asperger’s and autism

So what exactly are the differences between Asperger syndrome and autism? Although both conditions can affect behavior, social interactions, and relationships, they differ when it comes to language abilities, cognition, and the typical age of onset. 

Speech and language

Children who previously may have been diagnosed with Asperger’s have good language skills. However, they may have difficulty fitting in with their peers and feel uncomfortable or awkward in the presence of others.

 

On the other hand, most children with autism experience speech delays, as well as verbal and nonverbal communication challenges. For example, they may have trouble understanding what another person is saying or they may be unable to pick up on nonverbal cues like hand gestures and facial expressions. Furthermore, children with autism typically use rigid and repetitive language and limit conversations to very narrow topics of interest.

Cognitive functioning

Children with Asperger’s don’t experience significant cognitive delays. On the contrary, they usually have average to above-average intelligence. 

 

Autism, however, is associated with varying degrees of cognitive deficits. According to the Center for Autism Research, around 40% of individuals with autism have some form of intellectual disability and an IQ score below 70. At the same time, the intellectual disability rate within the general population is only 1%. 

Age of onset

The average age of diagnosis for a child with autism is four, while a person with characteristics of Asperger syndrome may not receive a diagnosis until their teenage years or even adulthood. One of the main reasons for a delayed diagnosis is that the difficulty in responding to and understanding social interactions is not always obvious in young children, but it becomes more pronounced with age.

Criteria for Each Diagnosis

Many symptoms of Asperger syndrome are similar to those of autism. Since these are neurodevelopmental disorders, there are no significant physical differences in appearance between children on the autism spectrum and their neurotypical peers. Instead, symptoms are mostly related to social communication and behavior, both of which are affected by brain dysregulation. 

Asperger’s 

Children with Asperger syndrome rarely experience difficulties with language or cognitive skills, however, they may have significant challenges when it comes to social and communication abilities.

The diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s in the DSM-IV included:

  • Neurotypical intelligence and language development
  • Severe impairment in social interaction
  • Restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, and activities
  • Intense interest in particular topics or objects

It is important to note that since Asperger’s is not classified in the DSM-V, it is no longer used as an official diagnosis in itself. Instead, depending on the extent and severity of autism traits, your child will be diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum and given a severity rating ranging between 1 (mild/requiring support) and 3 (severe/requiring very substantial support). Your child will subsequently receive an in-depth diagnosis that will be used to develop a personalized treatment plan

Autism

Common symptoms of autism include repetitive behaviors, impaired social communication, and restricted interests. Behaviors that may cause a child to be diagnosed with autism include:

  • Experiencing cognitive delays
  • Having delayed speech or language skills
  • Speaking in atypical ways, such as:
    • Singsong or high-pitched voice
    • Repetitive or rigid language
    • Monotonic speech
    • Echolalia 
  • Uneven language development that consists in having an extensive vocabulary only within a specific area of interest
  • Challenges understanding other people’s facial expressions or emotions
  • Difficulty understanding and responding to social cues
  • Having difficulty engaging in everyday conversations
  • Expressing emotions or sharing interests less frequently than peers
  • Trouble developing or understanding relationships
  • Having deep and sustained interests in specific topics
  • Having a need for predictable structure, routines, and order, like following the same schedule each day or organizing items a certain way
  • Experiencing challenges in processing sensory experiences
  • Engaging in repetitive movements or behaviors (stimming), such as hand flapping or rocking back and forth.

Conclusion

Asperger syndrome and autism are classified under the autism spectrum disorder. The signs and symptoms of both conditions are primarily based on social communication and behavior, which can make relating to others extremely difficult. 

 

However, children with Asperger’s don’t experience the same problems with language and cognitive development as their peers with higher-severity autism. Understanding the difference between Asperger’s and autism is essential in order to implement a customized intervention that will help improve long-term outcomes and the overall life quality of your child.

 

If you are ready to work with the best ABA therapy provider in New York, New Jersey or Indiana, 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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Autism Food Challenges

You may have heard of disordered eating in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but do you understand what it is? It’s important to be informed about the different categories – such as food rumination – that can exist within this condition. Let’s look closely at how they affect those with autism.

Categories of Disordered Eating on the Autism Spectrum

If you have a loved one on the autism spectrum, you may be familiar with disordered eating. Disordered eating is when someone has an unhealthy relationship, both with food and their body, which can lead to poor physical health and emotional distress. 

Studies estimate that around 70% – 90% of children with ASD have issues with food or eating, making it a common problem among those on the spectrum. Each category of disordered eating has its own unique challenges and difficulties, so it’s essential to be aware of them when caring for someone with ASD. 

With proper support and understanding of the following eating disorders, your child on the spectrum can learn to manage their relationship with food more healthily.

1. Behavioral Rigidity

Behavioral rigidity is typical in many mental health conditions, including autism. In a nutshell, it means someone has a hard time adjusting to new or different things. When it comes to food, this can show up as cravings for certain foods, refusal of certain foods, and having a very limited diet. 

Rather than being driven by body image issues common in eating disorders, these behaviors related to autism are often put into the same category as Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). 

You’re not alone if you’ve never heard of this disorder. Basically, it’s when someone has a hard time eating certain foods or textures. Treatment for this type of disordered eating relies on behavioral techniques like “escape extinction.” 

This is where you repeatedly give the child the food they struggle to eat over and over again until they learn to accept it. Our next category of disorder has to do with our senses.

2. Sensory Abnormalities

If you’re on the spectrum, your senses may work differently than others. This means that things like hearing, sight, touch, and smell can be affected in ways that make eating challenging. 

Because children with autism experience food differently, they are affected by many characteristics of it, including the:

  • Size of each bite
  • Texture of different foods
  • Taste
  • Color
  • Shape 
  • Temperature

These factors can make it challenging for children with ASD to get daily nutrients. Proof of this comes from science, where studies show people with autism don’t identify specific tastes as well as others – like bitter, sweet, or sour. 

Interestingly, children with ASD could still tell when something was salty in the same way as those without autism, which could explain a shared love of potato chips!

However, some eating behaviors are not so funny and can produce serious consequences. 

3. Behaviors With Significant Health Risks

The third category in our list includes behaviors that can be very dangerous for your child’s health – so they’ll need lots of help and support to manage them. This group of behaviors includes things like:

  • Pica. A disorder in which an individual eats non-food items, such as dirt, paint chips, or paper.
  • Rumination. A type of disordered eating in which people repeatedly chew and swallow food without fully digesting it 
  • Disruptive mealtime behavior. Behavior in which a person with autism engages in disruptive or inappropriate behaviors while eating, such as spitting food out, leaving the table during meals, and refusing to eat.

All of these behaviors can have severe consequences if they’re not managed properly, so if you think your child is exhibiting any of these behaviors, it’s vital to speak with a healthcare provider. Now let’s examine rumination more closely.

Rumination

A less common but equally serious type of disordered eating for children with ASD is food rumination. This condition causes people with autism to regurgitate and rechew their partially digested food – sometimes over and over again. 

While this could be a sign of underlying health issues or anxiety in some cases, it’s not always clear why this might happen, particularly for kids with autism.

Due to the difficulty in clinically identifying this condition in nonverbal children and people with ASD, estimates for how many people are affected by food rumination don’t agree. Studies suggest that rates are somewhere between 6% and 10%. 

Fortunately, there are a few approaches to treating food rumination in individuals with autism. These include: 

  • Supplemental feedings to break the regurgitation cycle. The strategy of offering alternative food sources in addition to regurgitated food. 
  • Use of preferred stimuli. This tactic involves providing a positive or pleasurable activity or item when the individual begins exhibiting rumination behavior to divert their attention away from it. 
  • Emphasis on overall increased or alternative stimulation. This approach focuses on offering other activities that provide sensory input and rewards for individuals with autism, which can be used as a replacement for ruminating behaviors. 

You should discuss all these techniques with your doctor to find out what works best for you or your child’s needs and lifestyle. With the proper support and treatment, you can effectively manage food rumination for your child with autism. 

Sometimes, how you eat is just as important as what you eat, and we’ll look at that next.

Rapid Eating Behaviors

Eating quickly is often associated with risks such as choking, weight gain, and difficulty feeling full. For people on the autism spectrum, these dangers can also lead to indigestion and social isolation. 

Recent studies have found that a high body fat ratio is linked to rapid eating habits and may be caused by insulin resistance. Binge eating disorder (BED) was officially added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) in 2013, making it the most common eating disorder in America today. 

To receive a diagnosis of BED, an individual must not display any behaviors that compensate for the rapid eating, such as those found in anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.

Conclusion

Disordered eating in autism is a complex and often misunderstood issue. This article has discussed the three categories of disordered eating among those with autism: behavioral rigidity, sensory abnormalities, and behaviors that could cause health risks. 

It’s important to understand that these behaviors are not just “picky eaters” but have deeper psychological and physical roots that must be addressed. 

The key takeaway from this article is that it is essential for parents and caregivers of those with autism to be aware of the signs and symptoms associated with disordered eating so they can intervene early on if needed. 

If you suspect your child might be experiencing disordered eating, we encourage you to speak with a qualified healthcare provider who can help determine the best course of action.

 

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Social Stories for Autism

Social Stories Help Children With Autism Cope With Social Situations

A social story is a learning tool to help children with autism feel more comfortable in different social situations. These stories describe scenes from a child’s viewpoint and include pictures to make them more engaging.

 

The sections below discuss social stories and their importance to children with autism.

What are Social Stories?

After teaching children with autism at a public school in 1976, Dr. Carol Gray created Social Stories™ and Social Story™ in 1991. Gray’s social stories are narratives that describe specific social situations, including what to expect in these situations and why.

 

Gray wrote her first social story for the children she taught and published her first book in 1993. She has since taught parents and teachers worldwide how to write their own social stories to help children with autism navigate social situations.

 

Today, social stories help thousands of children with learning disorders as well.

What are Social Stories For?

Besides helping children who find it hard to learn new skills or cope with social situations, social stories are used as a guide to learning self-care skills.  

 

For example, if your child is diagnosed with autism and refuses to wash their hands or brush their teeth, a specific social story may make them feel more comfortable doing it. If your child struggles to interpret social cues, a social story will allow them to see how other children may respond to similar situations.

 

Social story structures follow a child with autism’s perspective, which will help you gain insight into how your child views the world. If your child doesn’t do well with changes to their routine, or if they are scared of extreme weather events, a social story can teach them how to cope with fear.

How do Social Stories Help?

Social stories help children with autism by breaking down overwhelming experiences into smaller chunks. For instance, if your child refuses to step inside a dentist’s office, a relevant social story may help them take that first step.

 

Furthermore, a social story opens the way for positive reinforcement and helps build your child’s self-esteem as you praise them for achieving a specific task.

 

If your child develops an obsession or becomes fixated on rituals, you can help them stop obsessive behavior with a relevant social story.

 

Social stories also highlight the sequence of social norms and provide ‘tips’ for your child that explain how to proceed when they find themselves in a particular situation.

Example of a Social Story

A well-known social story that has helped many children with autism cope with everyday social situations is My Toys, which is included in Dr. Gray’s The New Social Story Book.

 

If you observe signs of anxiety in your child when they go to school or socialize with other children, this story will teach them how to overcome their fear by sharing their toys.

 

My Toys will help your child recognize that their toys belong to them, but when they share their toys, other children can also enjoy them.

 

This story is perfect for children who may be reluctant to share their toys or play with other children.

How to Write a Social Story

If you can’t find a social story for a specific issue your child has trouble with, you can write your own story.

Picture the Goal

For instance, if you’re trying to teach your child not to wipe their nose on their sleeve, the story should detail why wiping noses on sleeves is a bad habit.

 

The story could describe a situation in which someone wipes their nose on their sleeve when they’re sick, and soon cause an entire neighborhood to become sick too. So here, the goal is to show the consequences of wiping noses on sleeves.

Gather Information

Once you’ve chosen the story you want to tell, you must gather enough information to describe all the scenes that lead to the goal. You should set the scene and decide how many people are in the situation and how long it lasts.

 

Take care to avoid words that may upset your child. You may also want to read up on appropriate topics for children with autism. The same goes for images: only choose appropriate pictures to punctuate the story and make it easier to understand.

Tailor the Text

Pictures and drawings help to tailor the social story, as does gentle language. You may want to use these illustrations to break up the story into sections below the title. These sections include the introduction, body, and ending.

 

Furthermore, the story should answer six questions:

 

  • Where does the situation play out?
  • When does the situation play out?
  • What happens during the situation?
  • Who is involved in the situation?
  • How is the situation resolved?
  • Why does the situation need to be resolved?

 

Use descriptive language throughout the story to answer these questions, and remember to add context as well.

 

In addition to answering questions and reaching the goal, your story should include coaching sentences. These include the appropriate reaction to an adult asking a child a question or how to deal with different emotions, such as anger.

 

For example, a child in the story may release feelings of anger by going for a walk or doing breathing exercises.

How to Use Social Stories

Additional ways to use a social story to help your child deal with social situations include adding more questions your child can find answers for. Or you can ask them to draw a picture based on the story.

 

You may want to wait until your child is relaxed before asking them if they want to read a story with you. If they agree, observe their reaction to the story to see how it affects them. If they react negatively, stop reading and start talking about something else.

 

If your child seems to enjoy the story, try to find more in the same vein.

Conclusion

Using social stories to successfully manage your child’s social anxiety will depend on their reaction to them. You should also remember that if your child displays non-verbal tendencies, social stories may not work for them.

 

In this case, you may want to discuss alternative ideas with a therapist or psychologist.

 

 

If you are ready to work with the best ABA therapy provider in New York, New Jersey or Indiana, 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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disruptive behavior
Disruptive Behavior and Autism Spectrum Disorder

One of the biggest challenges parents of children with autism face is managing disruptive behaviors. ABA therapists commonly rely on the ABC method to promote positive behavior in children on the spectrum. In this article, we describe the elements of the ABC technique and explain how they are used.

Disruptive Behavior and Autism Spectrum Disorder    

More than a quarter of children with autism spectrum disorder show disruptive behaviors. These behaviors may include: 

 

  • Screaming or yelling
  • Self-injurious behavior (SIB) like hand biting or head banging
  • Self-stimulating behavior, also known as stimming, such as flapping or rocking
  • Physical aggression, including biting, spitting, hitting, and kicking
  • Pushing others away
  • Taking apart or breaking objects.

Although your child may appear to go into a state of anxiety, panic, or rage for no reason at all, there are many possible triggers of negative behavior, including fatigue, emotional dysregulation, communication problems, and disruption of the child’s everyday routine or structure. 

 

In the following sections, we explain how the ABC method is used in ABA therapy to manage disruptive behaviors.

The ABC Method of Behavior Management    

ABC stands for antecedent, behavior, and consequence. ABA therapists use the ABC technique to determine the sequence of events that occurs before, during, and after the disruptive behavior and eventually replace it with a positive one.  

Antecedent

To understand and modify disruptive behaviors, it is essential to consider the events that precede them, also known as antecedents. For example, each time a teacher gives a child a challenging math problem to solve, the child throws the pencil and walks out of the classroom. In this case, the teacher’s request represents the antecedent of the unwanted behavior.

Certain antecedents can help minimize disruptive behaviors, such as: 

  • Giving a warning before the transition to a new activity or setting
  • Making your expectations clear
  • Providing the child with choices
  • Taking into account environmental factors, such as stress, hunger, fatigue, or distractions
  • Adjusting the environment accordingly, for example, removing video screens and other distractions before bed or scheduling breaks to prevent the child from getting overwhelmed.

Behavior

Behavior is the specific action, either positive or negative, that the child does in response to an antecedent. This is the behavior that you may want to discourage or encourage.

Consequence

The consequence is the result of a behavior. It directly affects the likelihood of the behavior happening again. While reinforcement makes behavior likely to reoccur, punishment such as timeout makes the child less likely to repeat the behavior in the future. The more immediate the consequence, the more influence it has on the child’s behavior.

 

To encourage appropriate behavior through consequences, it is important that parents:

 

  • Make sure that the expectations are clear and concrete
  • Remain consistent with consequences
  • Ignore negative behaviors
  • Use positive reinforcement in the form of rewards, praise, and other incentives to encourage positive behaviors.    

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) and Disruptive Behavior    

ABA therapy focuses on reducing disruptive behaviors and replacing them with desirable ones. Early intervention and a comprehensive treatment plan can help children with autism successfully manage their behaviors and improve their quality of life.

Focus on function

When assessing disruptive behavior in children with autism, ABA therapists focus on the function of the behavior rather than its characteristics. Understanding what the child is trying to communicate will allow the therapist to create appropriate antecedent strategies to reduce these behaviors. 

Functional behavioral assessment

To identify the function of disruptive behavior and suggest strategies for improvement, ABA therapists use the method known as functional behavioral assessment (FBA)

 

A functional behavior assessment consists of the following steps:

  • Defining the challenging behavior
  • Gathering and analyzing information
  • Finding out the reason for the negative behavior
  • Devising a plan to encourage positive behavior.

A variety of techniques can be implemented to conduct an FBA, including: 

 

  • Indirect methods, such as questionnaires and interviews, and
  • Direct methods (observation) where live behavioral data is recorded   

Function-based treatment

Once the function of the disruptive behavior has been identified through a functional behavioral analysis, the therapist can develop a treatment plan targeting that function. The goal is to teach the child an alternative behavior that will allow them to gain access to the same reinforcer that motivates the disruptive behavior.  

Tips for Parents    

The most effective way to deal with your child’s disruptive behavior is to ignore it, while at the same time teaching the child how to handle anger and frustration. Paying attention to what triggers tantrums can help you act before your child’s emotions escalate beyond the point where they can control them. 

 

Below, we list some tips to help you deal with disruptive behaviors.

 

  • Start by identifying the function of your child’s behavior. Does it occur because your child wants to escape a difficult task, gain access to a preferred item or activity, or get your attention?    
  • If the aim of the disruptive behavior is to escape non-preferred tasks, try dividing them down into smaller parts and provide a break to fun activities after the completion of each individual task.    
  • If the purpose of your child’s disruptive behavior is to gain access to preferred items or activities, teach them how to ask for the items. It is essential to provide the item as quickly as possible when requested appropriately and ignore minor disruptive behaviors. 
  • Similarly, if your child engages in disruptive behavior to get attention, show them alternative behavior that would have the same result.       
  • If the function of the disruptive behavior is not clear, the strategies you use are not effective, or your child’s behavior includes extreme aggression or self-injurious behavior, it is important to seek advice from a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) or a mental health provider who has experience using ABA therapy.    

Conclusion 

Disruptive behavior is a common issue faced by children with autism spectrum disorder, which can significantly impact their daily lives and functioning. ABA therapy focuses on understanding the antecedent-behavior-consequence sequence of behavior in order to identify triggers and implement effective interventions. 

 

If you are ready to work with the best ABA therapy provider in New York, New Jersey or Indiana, 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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Pretend Play and Autism

Pretend play, also known as imaginative play, is an essential part of child development. It helps children develop their language and social skills, as well as their creativity and problem-solving abilities. However, for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), pretend play can be particularly challenging. 

 

In this blog post, we will explore the differences between typical pretend play and pretend play in children with autism, why it is difficult for them, and provide some tips for parents to support their children’s imaginative play skills.

 

Child Development, Language, and Social Skills

Pretend play is an important part of child development. It helps children develop their language and social skills by providing them with opportunities to practice communication and engage in imaginative play scenarios. During pretend play, children use their imaginations to create fictional scenarios and act them out using toys, objects, or even themselves. This type of play encourages creativity, empathy, and problem-solving skills, all of which are important for child development.

 

For children with ASD, social communication challenges are a common characteristic. They may have difficulty understanding social cues, such as facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language, which can make it harder for them to engage in imaginative play scenarios. They may also have difficulty initiating and maintaining conversations and may prefer to engage in solitary activities.

 

Differences in Pretend Play between Typical Children and Children with Autism

Typical pretend play involves children engaging in imaginary scenarios, such as pretending to be a doctor or a teacher, and acting out these scenarios with toys or objects. They may also engage in role-play with their peers or family members. Children with autism, however, may struggle with this type of play due to their difficulty with social communication and their sensory processing differences.

 

For example, a child with autism may not understand the social cues involved in pretend play, such as taking turns, sharing, and communicating with others. They may also have sensory sensitivities that make certain types of play uncomfortable or unpleasant. For instance, a child who is hypersensitive to touch may not enjoy playing with certain textures or materials, while a child who is sensory seeking may prefer activities that provide intense sensory input, such as spinning or jumping.

 

Why Pretend Play is Difficult for Children with Autism

Pretend play can be difficult for children with autism due to several reasons. As previously mentioned, social communication challenges and sensory processing differences can make it hard for them to engage in imaginative play scenarios. Additionally, children with autism may have difficulty with abstract thinking, which is needed for pretend play. They may also struggle with changes to routines or new situations, which can make it challenging for them to engage in novel play scenarios.

 

Teaching play skills to children with autism

Teaching play skills to children with autism is an important part of promoting their development. Here are some strategies parents can use to teach play skills to their children:

 

  1. Model Play Behaviors – Children with autism often learn best through observation and imitation. Parents can model play behaviors by engaging in pretend play scenarios with their children, demonstrating how to use toys and objects in different ways, and showing how to take turns and share.
  2. Break Play Behaviors into Small Steps – For children with autism who struggle with abstract thinking, breaking play behaviors into small steps can make them easier to understand and follow. For example, when playing with blocks, parents can start by showing their child how to stack one block on top of another, and gradually increase the complexity of the task as their child becomes more comfortable.
  3. Use Visual Supports – Visual supports can be helpful in teaching play skills, particularly for children who benefit from visual aids. Parents can use visual schedules, picture cards, and storyboards to outline the steps of a play scenario or show how to use toys and objects in different ways.
  4. Reinforce Positive Play Behaviors – When children exhibit positive play behaviors, such as taking turns or sharing, parents can reinforce these behaviors by providing positive feedback and praise. This can help to encourage the child to continue using these behaviors in the future.
  5. Provide Opportunities for Practice – Practice is essential for developing play skills. Parents can provide opportunities for their child to practice play behaviors in a variety of settings, such as at home, at school, or during therapy sessions.
  6. Tailor Play Activities to Your Child’s Interests – Children with autism are more likely to engage in play behaviors that align with their interests. Parents can tailor play activities to their child’s interests, such as using toys or objects related to their favorite characters or hobbies.
  7. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is a type of therapy that has been shown to be effective in teaching play skills to children with autism. ABA therapy uses a structured, step-by-step approach to teach new skills, including play behaviors.

By using these strategies, parents can help their child develop their play skills and promote their overall development. It’s important to remember that every child is unique, and what works for one child may not work for another. Therefore, it’s important to experiment with different strategies and techniques to find what works best for your child

 

Tips for Parents of Children with Autism

  1. Start Small and Build Gradually – Begin with activities that your child enjoys and gradually introduce new elements. For example, if your child likes playing with cars, you can start by introducing a simple scenario, such as driving the cars on a road. As your child becomes more comfortable, you can add more details, such as stopping at a gas station or having a race.
  2. Use Visual Supports – Many children with autism benefit from visual supports, such as pictures or symbols, to help them understand and engage in pretend play scenarios. You can create visual schedules or storyboards that outline the steps of a pretend play scenario or use pictures to represent different characters or objects.
  3. Provide Opportunities for Joint PlayJoint play, where parents and children play together, can be particularly helpful for promoting pretend play skills in children with autism. By modeling pretend play scenarios and providing social cues, parents can help their children learn the skills needed for engaging in imaginative play.
  4. Use Your Child’s Interests – Find ways to incorporate your child’s interests into pretend play scenarios. For example, if your child loves dinosaurs, you can create a pretend play scenario where they are exploring a prehistoric world or digging for dinosaur bones.
  1. Use Sensory-Friendly Materials – Consider using sensory-friendly materials, such as soft fabrics or non-toxic play dough, that are less likely to trigger sensory sensitivities.
  2. Be Patient and Encouraging – Pretend play skills can take time to develop, so it’s important to be patient and encouraging. Praise your child’s efforts and provide positive feedback, even if the scenario doesn’t go exactly as planned.
  3. Seek Support – If you are struggling to support your child’s pretend play skills, consider seeking support from a therapist or autism specialist. They can provide additional strategies and resources to help promote your child’s development.

 

Conclusion

Pretend play is an important aspect of child development, promoting language and social skills, creativity, and problem-solving abilities. While children with autism may struggle with pretend play due to social communication challenges, sensory processing differences, and difficulty with abstract thinking, there are several strategies parents can use to support their child’s development. 

 

By starting small, using visual supports, providing opportunities for joint play, using your child’s interests, using sensory-friendly materials, being patient and encouraging, and seeking support when needed, parents can help their child build their pretend play skills and promote their overall development.

 

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Sensory Integration Therapy

Information from the environment bombards our senses daily, which can be challenging for children with autism (ASD). The good news is sensory integration (SI) therapy helps us understand and incorporate this information into our behavior.  This article will explore how SI therapy can help those with autism live more comfortably. 

What is Sensory Integration?

Sensory integration is the process of taking in information from our senses and using it to make sense of the world around us. It helps us understand what we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. It can affect how we feel physically and emotionally. 

How Does SI Work?

Sensory integration works in several ways to enable us to make sense of the world around us. Here is a brief description of the process: 

  1. Our senses take in information about our environment 
  2. The brain processes this information so that we can respond appropriately 
  3. The data is then used to help us move, think and interact with the environment meaningfully 

For example, if it’s cold out, we wear a coat.

How Does SI Help Us?

Sensory integration helps us to make sense of our environment so that we can function in everyday life. It allows us to: 

  • Interpret sensory input accurately 
  • Adapt to changes in the environment 
  • Participate safely and comfortably 

We use sensory integration in every aspect of our daily lives, from brushing our teeth to socializing with our friends. Now that you understand the framework of SI, let’s examine how our bodies absorb information from the world around us.

How is Sensory Information Received From the Human Body?

There are five senses, right? Wrong. We actually rely on eight sensory systems when interpreting our environment. Let’s break down each for you:

  • Sight (vision). The eyes are the main part of our body that receives visual information. 
  • Hearing (auditory system). Our ears help us to hear sound waves and interpret them as sounds.  
  • Taste (gustatory system). Our tongues and taste buds sense chemicals in food that give us a feeling of sweet, salty, sour, or bitter flavors. 
  • Smell (olfactory system). Special nerve cells in our nose detect molecules from the air around us that we recognize as smells
  • Touch (tactile system). We can feel pressure on our skin when something touches it because special sensors send signals to our brains about what’s touching us. 
  • Proprioception (sense of body awareness). Our muscles, joints, and ligaments tell our brains how our body is positioned in space. 
  • Interoception (how we feel inside our bodies). Internal organs like the heart, lungs, stomach, and intestines send signals to our brains that let us know what’s happening inside our bodies. 
  • Balance (vestibular system). This lets us know in which direction we are moving in relation to gravity.

We often hear the terms sensory processing and sensory integration used together. But are they the same thing? Well, yes, and no.

What is the Difference Between Sensory Integration and Sensory Processing?

Sensory integration and sensory processing are two terms describing how our brains process information from our senses. Sensory integration was first developed by Dr. A Jean Ayres in the 1970s, while Dr. Lucy Miller later refined this concept and created a model of “sensory processing disorder.” 

The main difference between these concepts is that sensory integration looks at how we take in, organize, and make sense of sensations. In contrast, sensory processing focuses on how we respond to those sensations through behavior. 

Overall, these terms are often used interchangeably, depending on where the medical professional was trained. What matters most is the challenges that may occur if these systems aren’t working properly.

What do Sensory Integration and Sensory Processing Difficulties Look Like?

If the signals that come to us from our senses are either too weak or too strong, or if our brain reacts inappropriately to them, it can lead to sensory integration issues. This can show up in someone’s behavior. 

They may feel overwhelmed and distressed by the amount of sensation coming at them – this is known as ‘sensory overload.’ People can be overly sensitive to certain feelings, not sensitive enough, or a combination of both.

People with autism experience these sensations far more intensely. You may feel overwhelmed by certain sounds, smells, textures, or even temperatures that don’t bother most other people. 

It may be hard to focus on tasks if you are constantly bombarded by too much stimulation in the environment around you, and it can also be difficult to block out noise when you want to concentrate on something else. Here’s a breakdown of why this happens.

Four Common Sensory Integration Challenges

There are four problems most children with sensory integration issues experience:

  • Sensory modulation issues. When the brain over- or under-responds to stimuli, problems occur. One person could be oversensitive to certain sounds but undersensitive to others. A person’s sensitivity may also depend on their environment; they could become more aware of sensations in stressful situations while less responsive in calm settings.
  • Sensory discrimination and perceptual problems. If you have autism, your brain may struggle to make sense of the information it receives. This can lead to difficulties with touch sensitivity, including clumsiness or using too much or too little force when performing tasks. If it’s related to visual perception, you may need help locating objects in a messy setting or picking out a word on a page. 
  • Vestibular bilateral functional problems. Have you ever noticed that it can be challenging to maintain balance or coordinate movements with both sides of your body? This could be due to vestibular bilateral functional problems. A qualified SI practitioner will help diagnose if this is the case and work on overcoming these issues. With proper intervention, individuals can improve their ability to stay steady and coordinated when performing daily activities.
  • Praxis problems. Praxis is the medical term for how our brain plans and executes movements. This could be learning to jump for children or more complex skills for adults. When sensory information isn’t processed correctly, it can make new activities difficult.

Now that you understand what can go wrong with your child’s sensory integration system let’s discuss ways to make it right.

What is Sensory Integration Therapy?

Sensory integration therapy is a specialized treatment that should only be done by an expert. These professionals are highly-qualified occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, or physiotherapists who have undergone additional, intensive field training. 

This protocol aims to help people with autism better process sensory information. It involves understanding how the brain processes and responds to various inputs, such as sound or touch. 

With this knowledge, therapists design activities and treatments to help individuals with autism learn how to respond appropriately to different stimuli. The goal is for these individuals to function more effectively in their day-to-day lives.

Some activities included in sensory therapy may be:

  • Structured exposure to sensory input, such as playing music or using scents and textures 
  • Movement therapy, like stretching, and jumping exercises 
  • Balance treatments, including yoga poses, standing on one leg, and other coordination activities 
  • Customized physical activities tailored to your needs and preferences 
  • Environmental or routine accommodations, changing the atmosphere around you for more comfort

Your child’s SI practitioner will use input from family, school teachers, and other professionals to create an individualized plan called a ‘sensory diet’ for them. This list contains specific activities and accommodations tailored to their particular needs. 

These activities provide the correct amount of sensory input during therapy sessions and at home or school. 

Sensory Integration Therapy for Children with Autism

If you have a child with autism, they may struggle to interpret and use sensory information. Sensory integration therapy is an option that could help them understand the world around them better. 

This type of therapy uses physical activities and exercises to assist kids in understanding multiple sensations at once. For instance, when we read a book, we take in several senses – sight (seeing the words on the page), sound (hearing pages turn), and touch (feeling the book in our hands). 

We then combine this sensory input to get a complete picture of what’s happening. Unfortunately, children with autism can have trouble interpreting and using these sensations. That’s where sensory integration therapy comes in. 

Through physical activities, children can learn to combine multiple senses more effectively. It’s like a puzzle – the therapist will provide exercises that help your child learn how to make sense of all the input they get from their environment. 

Such therapies can be highly beneficial for children with ASD and enable them to better understand the world around them. But do they really work?

Does Sensory Integration Theory Help children with Autism?

It’s hard to know if sensory integration therapy will help your child on the spectrum since more research is needed. Studies so far suggest that the treatment might lead to improvements in some areas, but there are issues with how these studies were designed.

First, it isn’t clear what the therapy can do – does it lessen sensitivity to touch or smell? It’s essential to be aware of potential adverse effects. Several studies have indicated that self-harming behavior may increase after using sensory integration therapy. 

Before deciding whether this therapy suits your child, weigh the pros and cons.

Conclusion

Sensory integration therapy is a new frontier to explore in the autism landscape. While research still needs to be done, many believe it offers an array of benefits and opportunities for children with ASD to improve their quality of life. 

By creating sensory “diets,” qualified professionals can help children with autism to process sensory input better and respond in healthier, more regulated ways. Therapies done at home between sessions allow parents and caregivers to support their child’s development further. 

If you feel this may be a good fit for your family, don’t hesitate to contact a specialist today who can help you explore the potential benefits of sensory integration therapy. With a knowledgeable and experienced professional by your side, you can provide your child with the opportunity to lead a healthier, more fulfilling life.

 

If you are ready to work with the best ABA therapy provider in New York, New Jersey or Indiana, 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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How ASD Affects the Development of Motor Skills

As children grow and develop, they learn important motor skills. Many children and adults with autism experience difficulty with both fine and gross motor skills.  

 

To understand the effect of autism on motor skills, it’s essential to understand autism spectrum disorder.

What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a brain development disorder that changes how a child interacts and communicates with others. There is no cure for ASD; symptoms show up during childhood, and the disorder continues to affect the person throughout their life.

 

Scientists still don’t know what causes ASD, but it has been found that the disorder affects the development of motor skills.

Motor Skills and Autism

Medical research shows that children with ASD struggle with posture and coordination. Some find it hard to keep their balance or even run. However, difficulty mastering motor skills is not the main symptom of autism.

 

Children and adults diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome also have motor skills issues.

 

Children with autism are usually affected by a range of motor skills issues.

What Types of Motor Skills Issues Do Children With Autism Have?

Children with autism often experience delays in developing their gross and fine motor skills. If your child has ASD, you will notice the following symptoms and issues as they grow:

 

  • They have a low muscle tone.
  • They may stumble a lot while walking.
  • They may find it hard to write or draw.
  • Your child finds it difficult to use a swing or to jump and hop.
  • Your child will be less active, and they will display low muscle tone.
  • Their hand-eye coordination will be lacking, so they will find it difficult to play catch.

 

You will want to prompt your child to mimic you to help enhance their motor skills. Teach them to try and copy what you do, such as jogging or hopping. Follow this up with fine motor skills like hand movements and writing.

You must consider your child’s age and choose appropriate movements so they don’t overexert themselves.

At What Age Do Motor Issues Start?

Motor issues are noticeable in infants who are a month old. If your baby is reluctant to move their arms, it may be a symptom of ASD.

 

Track their development for the following issues:

  • Their head may still flop backward when they turn four months old.
  • They can’t sit or stand on their own at the age of 14 months.

 

There are other signs that an infant may have ASD, including the inability to grasp small objects or clap their hands together. If you suspect your infant may have ASD, make an appointment with your doctor to assess them.

How Do Doctors and Researchers Measure Motor Skills?

It is crucial to have your child assessed while they’re still young so they can receive the correct treatment.

 

The doctor will ask you a series of questions, including the following:

 

  • When did your baby smile for the first time?
  • Did your baby make sounds and have different facial expressions at 9 months old?
  • Do they have a range of vocal sounds?

When doctors and researchers test motor skills, they assess whether a child can perform basic motor tasks.

 

For instance, they will check your child’s ability to run, skip, hop, and jump. They will also check if your child can hold a crayon or pencil and if they can transfer an object from one hand to the other.

 

In recent times, researchers have investigated new methods of testing motor skills issues using the following tools:

 

  • Sensors and infrared motion sensor cameras.
  • Gyroscopes and accelerometers to determine the extent of arm and leg movements.
  • Pressure sensors inside small mats to establish gait issues.
  • Virtual reality technology.
  • Electromyography technology for electrical muscle activity tests.

 

If your child’s assessment results point toward ASD, your doctor will suggest a treatment plan.

 

How Are Motor Problems Treated?

The treatment plan will include physical and occupational therapy, during which your child will learn motor skills training techniques.

 

It may also include the following therapies:

 

  • Cognitive therapy
  • Kinesthetic therapy
  • Sensory integration therapy

 

Doctors believe that special sports programs and music therapy are also beneficial as ASD treatment options. More research is needed to establish the effectiveness of these therapies.

Some doctors swear by applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, which helps children develop their motor skills using a few defined steps.

 

These steps include setting long-term goals and dividing them into several short-term goals. This process makes it more attainable for a child to enhance their motor skills.

 

Research shows that ABA treatments produce mainly positive results, and as such, many healthcare professionals recommend them. Along with ABA therapy, you can use everyday activities to make motor skills learning easier for your child.

Tips for Everyday Activities

Daily activities include taking walks or dancing to your child’s favorite music. You can also try engaging your child in building a puzzle or painting a picture. If your child loves making things with their hands, you can allow them to dig a sand pit or set up a fort.

Dressing

Since getting dressed is a daily activity, you can help your child do it on their own. If they struggle with buttons, use colored stickers to match them with the buttonholes. Buy your child socks with colored heels and toes to make it easier for them to pair.

 

If your child finds it difficult to grasp jacket zips, you may want to add key rings to zips to simplify the task.

Using Cutlery

Make dinner time easier for your child by purchasing cutlery that shows where their fingers need to go. Stickers can also do the trick. If their lack of fine motor skills causes them to make a mess while eating, use a plate guard.

Again, consider your child’s age. If it’s safer for them to use their fingers instead of utensils, allow them to do so.

Conclusion

If your child is diagnosed with ASD, you may be overwhelmed. But rest assured that the techniques mentioned above will allow your child to develop their motor skills at their own pace.

 

The most important thing to remember is to be patient throughout the process, even when it seems the treatment plan is not working. You will see progress, even if it doesn’t happen as quickly as you want it.

 

If you are ready to work with the best ABA therapy provider in New York, New Jersey or Indiana, 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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Elopement and Autism

Elopement, or “running away” is a common behavioral issue in children with autism and one that can be both dangerous and frustrating for kids and their caregivers alike. However, the first step to stopping this behavior is understanding it and why it happens. Take a look below.

What Does Elopement in Autism Mean?

Elopement is a common action for children who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who run or wander away from caregivers or secure locations. They are typically running toward something or away from something and can do so seemingly without reason. Many times, children will get lost or may end up in potentially dangerous or life-threatening situations, especially if they are too young to look after themselves.

This action can be a traumatic situation for a child and their caregivers. This is why it is important for parents and all caregivers to understand eloping behavior, why it happens, and how to mitigate the risks when it does.

Why Do Children With Autism Elope?

Children with autism may elope for a variety of reasons. Some children elope to get to desired items or places. For example, a child might elope to get a favorite toy in a store. Other children with autism may find it hard to cope with certain everyday situations and may elope to get away from different stressors. For example, a child may elope to get away from a noisy birthday party.

Other children elope because they enjoy running or being chased by a caregiver, so they may elope when a caregiver is distracted. Every child is unique and has different reasons for eloping, but overall research indicates it is a common behavior among children with autism.

If you are caring for a child who engages in eloping behavior, the first step is to start a journal and begin logging instances of elopement, including what he or she may have been running toward or away from. Identifying common triggers can help you be more prepared to prevent elopement in the future.

How to Prevent Elopement

One of the first questions that parents have when their child with autism starts eloping is: how they can prevent it from happening. Here are some of the tips that can help prevent this type of behavior:

  • Put locks on doors and windows that your child cannot unlock. If you use a key to lock windows and doors, ensure the key is easily accessible to adults in case of an emergency.
  • Install alarms so you are alerted if your child has opened a door or window.
  • Have your child wear a device that allows you to track her location. Some devices will alert you if your child has left a certain perimeter.
  • Monitor your child frequently. During busy times when you may be more easily distracted, set a timer to remind yourself to check on your child.
  • If your child has siblings, make sure that they also know how dangerous elopement can be so that they can help encourage your child to refrain from this behavior.
  • Give frequent praise or rewards when your child doesn’t elope.
  • Talk to your child about their elopement and help them understand why it frightens you when they run away and try to get to the root cause of the issue encouraging this behavior.

One of the first and most important things for parents to do is to start applying strategies to stop elopement entirely. Then, they need to learn how to reduce harm when their child does elope in the future.

How to Reduce Harm When Your Child Elopes

Even with plenty of preparation, parents will quickly realize that kids who are prone to eloping will always find a way to engage in this behavior. This is why it is also important to know how to reduce harm when your child does elope. Here are some of the top tips to keep in mind:

  • Remain prepared for an elopement so you can act quickly and confidently.
  • Notify all caregivers and teachers of your elopement plan so you can be ready to take action when something happens.
  • Identify people such as neighbors and family who agree to help you search if needed.
  • Prepare materials that include your child’s name, communication abilities, ways to calm your child if she is upset, a current picture, caregiver contact information, and places your child has commonly eloped to in the past. Distribute this information to individuals in your search party as well as public authorities as needed.
  • Keep track of where your child is most likely to elope so you can check those spots first.
  • Teach your child to recite his or her name, telephone number, and address, or keep this information attached to your child during times when elopement is likely to occur.
  • If elopement is a regularly occurring issue for your child, seek assistance from a psychologist or behavior analyst with experience in treating elopement to develop a comprehensive treatment plan.

Many parents find that CBT, or cognitive behavior therapy, is a great tool for helping children with autism understand behaviors such as eloping so they can work on correcting these tendencies and engaging in less-dangerous behaviors when the urge to elope arises. 

As most parents already know, when a child runs away, time is of the essence, so the more prepared you are to act quickly, the better off you will be. Having a well-organized plan for when elopement happens is essential to making sure your child stays safe.

Conclusion

Nothing can be as frightening for parents as losing track of a child, and it can happen to any parent. However, parents of children with autism who engage in eloping behavior need to take extra precautions, particularly if this becomes a repeat issue. Having a detailed plan, working with your child, and seeking professional help are all great ways to help keep kids with this tendency safe.

 

If you are ready to work with the best ABA therapy provider in New York, New Jersey or Indiana, 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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