Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Vacations on the Spectrum: Improving traveling for those with autism

Summer is approaching, school is ending and vacations are beginning.  I received a wonderful email from a reader regarding vacations.  She has been through some struggles in the past and trying to avoid future disaster with her 7 year old child with High-Functioning Autism.  There is no way to perfectly prepare for vacations.  Changes in routine, transitions and sensory overload are a few of the problems at hand.  Each child needs to be met at their level of understanding.  The following strategies will be too much information or too abstract of concepts for some and perfect for others.  Hopefully what we can emphasize is that we must prepare the individual, make things visually clear and reduce as many stresses as possible.  Easier said than done but let's try to tackle the issues. 

Questions from our reader:

Recently he's been getting impatient in the car and won't seem to accept the answers we provide... like "we'll be there in 20 minutes."  He just keeps asking even though he's very capable of telling time on the clock
The verbal battle of "Are we there yet?" can go on forever!  Make the passage of time more visual.  Giving him a picture/written (if he's a reader) list of what will take place before you get to the location.  If he is watching movies in the car, showing him that he will watch 'Shrek' and 'Toy Story' and then he will arrive at the hotel.  Also, for those interested in maps, road signs, etc. use this interest!  Let him be the navigator, show him map quest directions and look for exits.  Rather than saying "A few more minutes", say "What's next on our directions?". 

We live in Orlando and usually just travel to the beaches.  We stay in timeshares, sometimes large "hotels", sometimes small condos.  Either way, it's super hard for him to settle down and get to sleep at night- even harder than at home.  I know this is common with people, but it's just so extreme with him.
Unfortunately sleeping problems cannot be left at home!  The individual that struggles with the sleeping routine at home will have even more trouble when away.  We talked previously about sleep issues and what to do when at home but on the go can be even more challenging.  First, prepare for the new environment as much as possible.  Many times hotels have great pictures online of the room and it's layout.  Reviewing this ahead of time can prepare the individual for this new space.  Second, try to recreate your home 'sleep hygiene' or sleep routines as much as possible.  Winding down is a process and even more so for those with autism.  Lastly, eliminate as much noise and light as possible.  Earplugs, sleep masks, calming music and white noise machines can all help to subdue the environment and hopefully lull to sleep. 

We occasionally have the opportunity to travel overseas, but I cannot envision doing this.  He hates crowds (airports), loud noise, has lots of anxieties, always has trouble getting to sleep, can't tolerate people speaking anything other than English, etc, etc.  He also has no concept of what's embarrassing, ex: people watching him fuss about something that makes no sense to typical people.  He will loudly blurt out whatever is on his mind, regardless of how it might sound to others.  He's often negative and very grumpy, so his comments out in public are usually very unbecoming.  Add the stress of travel and it just exacerbates everything.
Overseas travel can involve an entirely new set of issues!  Using 'Social Stories' with pictures to prepare for things like having to take your shoes off at the airport, being around new people, the airplane bathroom, etc can help to alleviate some of the anxiety that may occur.  Also, reminding of rules of what TO do rather than what NOT to do.  Whisper in my ear or write down in your notebook if you want to say something about what's going on around you.  Blurting out that the person in front of them doesn't smell good can sometimes be steered towards writing mom a note.  Also, airports are LOUD and full of people.  Using something such as 'Noise Cancellation Headphones' can help to subdue the noise around him and make it more manageable.  *Tip: these can be bought at construction supply stores for much less; usually around $5 or so. 

Waiting in a restaurant is often not tolerated well.  when he's ready to eat he wants it NOW, and when he's done he wants to GO, regardless of whether others are eating or not.
Waiting is another abstract concept that is meaningless to those on the spectrum, and many of us as well!  Having a bag of tricks is important for periods of inactivity.  Books, origami, fidgets, or other items of interest are great for having during times that there may be waiting involved.  Also, practicing and teaching 'waiting' when we aren't in the moment is important.  Starting with short segments of waiting time to prep for the sit down dinner can make it a little more manageable. 

 He also has ADHD, so is no help at all as far as getting his stuff together, pulling his own weight, etc.  In fact, often his younger brother assists him with some tasks like bringing toys to the pool, to the beach, making sure they have their goggles, etc.
Bring in the visuals!  Have a beach checklist of things that he is responsible for.  Show him by writing or using pictures of things he needs to bring and have him check each one off as he puts each item into the bag he is carrying.  Sometimes individuals don't know where to get started so they don't start at all. 

Additional Traveling Strategies:

Sequence of Events

Understanding the 'when' can many times be confusing.  Impending events, can be misunderstood as to how far into the future they will occur.  Using a calendar can help many individuals see when things will happen and in what order.  For this particular child, the entire month was too overwhelming.  We took it day by day to show what day it was and pictures of the big events that would occur. 

Picture Book

Carol Gray, as mentioned in a previous post, designed amazing strategies to prepare children for a wide range of situations.  Using her strategies around Social Stories, helps the student to know what to expect of a situation and better prepare for any changes. 

In preparing a child for a trip, some of Carol Gray's 'rules' were put into play.  I designed this story to help the child deal with an airplane ride, waiting at an airport, going on a ship and various events that may take place.  Although this is not a 'Social Story', I kept it in first person, focused on the positives and did not use terms of absolute such as, "never" and "always".  Using pictures specific to this vacation, allowed us to prepare the child for the rooms they might be staying in, what things there would be to do on the ship, etc. These are a few of the pages in the photo book:

Decreasing Stimulation
Traveling can have a lot of over-stimulation involved.  Trying to take into account for areas you may need to reduce noise can be especially important.  Having music to listen to, noise cancellation headphones or ear plugs can help with these areas. 

Daily Activities
Often at the beginning of the trip we give kids a mountain of toys, books, games, etc. and they become bored of everything quickly.  Dividing art supplies, games and books into daily bags can help stretch your entertainment and have things to look forward to each day.  Crafts and games can be found at dollar stores or dividing up some of your existing games, DVDs, books, etc. can help in know what to do on certain days.

Familiar Items
Making it more comfortable for a child with autism many times means feeling familiar with the environment.  On a trip, this doesn't happen easily.  Bringing along a favored cup, toy, blanket or even their own pillow and pillow case can ease the transition.

Happy travels this summer!!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Autism and OCD; Comorbidity or Misdiagnosis?

Autism is a diagnosis that can be missed or mislabeled.  In reviewing evaluations, I rarely see a child, adolescent or adult with only a diagnosis of autism.  OCD, ODD, ADHD, Anxiety, Depression, Bipolar and/or Conduct Disorder are only a few of labels that are given to the individuals with autism.  It is overwhelming for families to know what direction to go and what might be the primary or all-inclusive diagnosis. 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is one of many labels that is given to individuals with autism and not always for appropriate reasons.  Comorbid is defined as, pertaining to a disease or other pathological process that occurs simultaneously with another. (Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved)  Comorbidity, or having multiple disorders, is not always as common as it appears.

According to the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), OCD is defined as such:

DSM-IV Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Criteria

A. Either obsessions or compulsions:
Obsessions as defined by (1), (2), (3), and (4):
(1) recurrent and persistent thoughts, impulses, or images that are experienced at some time during the disturbance, as intrusive and inappropriate and that cause marked anxiety or distress
(2) the thoughts, impulses, or images are not simply excessive worries about real-life problems
(3) the person attempts to ignore or suppress such thoughts, impulses, or images, or to neutralize them with some other thought or action
(4) the person recognizes that the obsessional thoughts, impulses, or images are a product of his or her own mind (not imposed from without as in thought insertion)
Compulsions as defined by (1) and (2):
(1) repetitive behaviors (e.g., hand washing, ordering, checking) or mental acts (e.g., praying, counting, repeating words silently) that the person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession, or according to rules that must be applied rigidly
(2) the behaviors or mental acts are aimed at preventing or reducing distress or preventing some dreaded event or situation; however, these behaviors or mental acts either are not connected in a realistic way with what they are designed to neutralize or prevent or are clearly excessive
B. At some point during the course of the disorder, the person has recognized that the obsessions or compulsions are excessive or unreasonable. Note: This does not apply to children.
C. The obsessions or compulsions cause marked distress, are time consuming (take more than 1 hour a day), or significantly interfere with the person’s normal routine, occupational (or academic) functioning, or usual social activities or relationships.
D. I another Axis I disorder is present, the content of the obsessions or compulsions is not restricted to it (e.g., preoccupation with food in the presence of an Eating Disorder; hair pulling in the presence of Trichotillomania; concern with appearance in the presence of Body Dysmorphic Disorder; preoccupation with drugs in the presence of a Substance Use Disorder; preoccupation with having a serious illness in the presence of Hypochondriasis; preoccupation with sexual urges or fantasies in the presence of a Paraphilia; or guilty ruminations in the presence of Major Depressive Disorder).
E. The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition.

At the 32nd Annual TEACCH Conference, we had the pleasure of attending presentations that helped to update Molly and myself regarding a variety of topics.  Every year we are impressed with the information shared and this year was no exception.  Jonathan Abramowitz, PhD., presented his expertise in the area of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  OCD, can often be confused with a number of disorders, including Autism Spectrum Disorders. 

Obsessions for those with OCD, cause great distress for the individual.  They recognize that they are thoughts that they shouldn't have or that they are unrealistic.  Compulsive behavior is performed to combat these thoughts and to help reduce anxiety in relation to their obsessions.  It is quite upseting for individuals with OCD to experience these obsessive thoughts and they try to get rid of them.

Why is autism sometimes confused with OCD?  Those individuals on the autism spectrum can display repetitive behaviors or thoughts.  Although on the surface they may look similar, they are quite different.  Those with autism aren't necessarily upset by the repetitious behavior they engage in.  In fact, often those on the spectrum enjoy these behaviors and find them to be calming. 

Dr. Abramowitz, presented some of the important distinctions between OCD and autism.  This is a simplified description of the differences but important to analyse behaviors and their source.  It can be a confusing area for parents and professionals to find the 'right' diagnosis.  Asking questions, researching and finding specialists in those areas is most important.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Social Success with Social Stories

Last week Abby and I had the pleasure of attending an autism conference with a number of very talented and interesting speakers. In the next few posts we hope to update our readers on some of the things we learned there!

Some of you may have heard of Carol Gray. She is the founder of Social Stories and President of The Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding (http://www.thegraycenter.org/social-stories). She was one of the conference speakers last Friday and it was very enlightening to hear her perspective.

The Definition of A Social Story, according to The Gray Center, is:
Gray's Latest Social Story Book 

"A Social Story™ describes a situation, skill, or concept in terms of relevant social cues, perspectives, and common responses in a specifically defined style and format."

 "The goal of a Social Story™ is to share accurate social information in a patient and reassuring manner that is easily understood by its audience. Half of all Social Stories™ developed should affirm something that an individual does well."

 "Although the goal of a Story™ should never be to change the individual’s behavior, that individual’s improved understanding of events and expectations may lead to more effective responses."

I wanted to write out Carol Gray's definition of a Social Story because so many people out on the internet and even people publishing information use the term very loosely and probably are not using Social Stories in the way that Gray intended.

During her presentation, Carol Gray stressed the importance of writing social stories in the context of the situation if at all possible and providing the most basic information first, and then adding more specifics if necessary. The goal is not to overwhelm the individual with unnecessary wordiness. Also it is very important to use less definitive terms, such as "I will try," sometimes," or "usually" because there are always exceptions to the rules and as we know, our rule-followers may take the language quite literally and it could wind up backfiring on us!

The beauty of Social Stories is that anyone can write one and Gray pointed out that they compliment any intervention strategy you may be using. Gray's book "The New Social Story Book" (shown above) provides many examples of common social situations and pre-written stories. By reading these stories you may also get more of an idea of how they're written so you can begin writing your own based on specific difficulties of your child, student, or client.

NOT a social story, just a funny comic! We'll talk about Gray's Comic Strip Conversation Strategies soon though!

One question that people often have about Social Stories is when is it appropriate to use them with individuals (what age or level of understanding)? 

Although some Social Stories have been shown to work for young children who are not yet reading, they are typically intended for individuals who can read the stories for themselves. Having said that, however, Gray suggested that if you write a Social Story for a more beginning learner and for someone who is not yet reading a lot, then it's important to provide a general picture that depicts the concept you are trying to teach. A lot of times teachers and other professionals (myself included) have added several pictures to encapsulates several of the words, but this strategy can be very visually overwhelming to individuals and the person may focus on an irrelevant detail so she cautions us to keep it simple and again, to include one general picture rather than several specific ones.

Also, it's important to note that as individuals get older, they may start to view Social Stories as more juvenile, and therefore, you can use "Social Articles" and "Comic Strip Conversations," but we'll save those for another post! In the meantime, check out The Social Story website and Carol Gray's new book for lots of ideas and examples!

- Molly

Monday, May 16, 2011


Pretend and creative play is something that we often have to teach children on the spectrum.  Finding ways to make these play skills more understandable is important in gaining abilities in this area.  Pretending is a very abstract concept so our goal is to make it more concrete and therefore, more meaningful. 

Feed the Character

Using interests is always a good way to capture a child's attention.  When purchasing kids' shoes, they often come with an adorable box featuring that character.  Dora the Explorer was featured on the box that I used to make this task.  You can also print out pictures of Thomas, Barney, etc and adhere to a plain box.  To hold Dora's stick "food", I used foam packing material to hold each stick upright.

We put some animal stickers on the end of the Popsicle sticks, another interest for this little girl, which you can do with or without.  Depending on fine motor abilities, you can cut the hole for the mouth for a certain size.  This is great for strengthening fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination and emerging pretend play. 

Also, cutting out a 'door' in the back of the box makes it easier for retrieving the sticks afterwards.

Feed the Puppet

Puppets can be engaging for many kids however, knowing what to do with them can be tricky.  Start the individual with 'feeding' the puppet while stabilized.  This puppet did not have a mouth, so I cut a hole the size of the various food items.  I covered a pretzel box with paper (so the label wouldn't be distracting), put the food in a container and held the puppet in place with an empty paper towel roll down inside the box. 

I secured (with Velcro) a plastic baggie inside the puppet to catch the food items.

Once the individual is more familiar with the items it can be removed from the container.  At that time, another person can hold the puppet and work together at feeding the puppet.  This can make this activity more engaging and interactive.

Have fun!!


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Hygiene Hysteria!

 In a recent post Abby mentioned the importance of teaching hygiene skills early on. The goal is for our kids/adolescents to be as independent as possible in activities of daily living so that parents can gradually back off from prompting through all the steps to complete a certain task. In previous posts we've tackled topics such as toileting and brushing teeth, so today I'm going to give some ideas about showering/bathing!

Many people, especially those on the autism spectrum can become completely distracted and off task during showering/bathing times. The steps of how to "get clean" are often not intuitive to them and so we have to specifically teach these skills. Time and time again parents share with us how their adolescent child will get in the shower and be in there for 30-45 minutes and come out looking just as dirty as before getting in! At this age parents do not feel that they should have to give constant reminders and prompts of what to do, plus we often hear that they tell their child time and time again to remember to wash their hair or use soap etc. but some how it's not all sinking in! So, let's try another strategy-- let's make it visual! The beauty of writing things down or showing in another visual way (whether it be with pictures or with objects) is that we can back ourselves out of that process and the steps are still outlined for them to be independent.

Ideas for Young Children: At an early age we can get our kids involved in the process of bathing. Bath time can either be a dreaded or a favored activity, but first we need to make it clear to the child where it is that he/she is going by using an object to get them there. So, think about a toy that your child loves to play with in the bath and hand him/her this toy every time it's bath time. Your child will then take the toy, for example a rubber ducky to the tub and eventually begin to associate this object with that activity.

Next, have all the items you are going to use to "get clean" in a container. I love the product below that can be found at amazon.com:

 This way you can arrange the items in the order (from left to right) of which ones you're going to use first, second, and so on. After you have used the soap, for example which may be the first item, then your child can put it in another container, maybe a bucket to signify that you are "finished" with the soap and you can then move onto the next step. Eventually, as your child becomes more familiar with this process, then he/she will be more independent in performing these steps independently.

Ideas for Older Children/Adolescents: As kids get older, they are going to move into taking showers, but even older kids need to be reminded of exactly the steps required to get clean. For individuals who are reading, show them when they are required to bathe by writing it on their daily checklist. After all, this may not be a top priority to many and your child may feel that he/she only needs to shower once a week, so let's make this clear again by writing it down! Then, once in the shower, we need to have written lists of what to do to avoid having to constantly call out, "did you wash your hair?", "did you wash your face?" etc! One strategy we've used is to make a laminated flip book detailing each step that the person can flip through to make sure not to leave anything out.
Note the additional visuals-- we have showed this person how much shampoo to use by giving a example (the red dot). We've also used some pictures to help explain concepts such as rinsing your hair by putting your entire head under the water. 

* Some individuals may not be particularly motivated to use these systems, especially if there is a lot of written information, however. Therefore, we can always use more of our basic systems even if the individual is reading. We all use our own systems in the shower, and I know for me personally that I often wash my hair twice because I've zoned out and forgotten whether or not I had already done it! So, another idea is to use a basic shower caddy and organize our shower materials in specific ways. 

Make it Simple: Here arrange the shampoo, conditioner, soap etc in this shower caddy moving from top-to-bottom and again the individual can put the product already used either on the edge of the bathtub or a basket on the floor of the shower. That way the person remembers what they have already done.

If you notice that your child does not seem to know how much shampoo or condition to use, etc., then another thing you can do is to:

Write instructions on the bottle (in permanent marker). For example, "use 1 squirt of shampoo.

Measure out ahead of time: If you still notice that your child has used way too much or too little shampoo, then you may just want to pre-measure and put the products in small containers to make things easier.

* Remember the goal is for you to back yourself out of this process so that you don't have to record verbal instructions of what to do for your child to take with him/her to college! And don't take anything for granted-- you may need to teach things you've never even dreamed of having to teach. Just because you say "put your deodorant on," you may have to specify where it goes. I've heard one story of a teenager going off to college who saw a commercial for deodorant where they showed how clear it came out by using someone's arm and that's where he put his deodorant for several years! 

Try out several things and find out what system is easiest and stick with that. The first thing you try may not work, but keep trying and I promise you will find something that makes sense for your child and you can rest assured that you won't have to be the constant reminder until the end of time! Anyone else try a strategy not mentioned that works for you? We'd love to hear from you.


Monday, May 9, 2011

New Autism Research-- higher estimates than previously thought

New research came out today in the American Journal of Psychiatry on autism 
prevalence rates. In this study conducted in Seoul, South Korea researchers started by
sending out 55,266 screening questionnaires to parents and teachers of children between
the ages 7 and 12. They received 23, 234 responses from the regular education system 
(in addition to 294 students already identified through special education). Of these 
students 1, 214 received positive results from the screening and 286 of these received
a full clinical evaluation. of the 286 students who were evaluated, 201 were diagnosed 
as being on the autism spectrum. Based on their mathematical calculations they 
estimated that 1 in 38 children in this city have an autism spectrum disorder. 
Click  here for the full article.

The authors were surprised by a couple of things found in the study. Firstly, more girls 
were identified that the current numbers suggest and two thirds of the children had not 
previously been identified. This could be partly be due to cultural differences, but 
the authors expect that if we used similar research strategies here in the United States
that our numbers would actually be pretty similar (regarding the number of children 
with the disorder). Currently the CDC is considering doing a similar analysis, but this
research has not yet started. Clearly this study suggests that we have a lot more 
research to do and that this disorder is prevalent throughout the world and across
ethnic and geographic boundaries. Very interesting things to think about.

- Molly

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

We hope all of the Moms out there are taking some much needed 'me' time today.  A time to reflect, rejuvenate and renew.  An often thankless job is that of a mother, so we are saying 'Thank you!" from The Autism Angle.  Thank you for being their advocate, teacher, support and friend. 

A Special-Needs Mother's Day Wish List

To my loving partner in parenting:
I know you're trying to figure out a Mother's Day present for me (and if you aren't, take this as a big, fat hint). Jewelry is a lovely thought, but not exactly practical, given that our child might steal, break, perseverate on, or require us to hock anything nice to pay for medical expenses. Candy is always appreciated, but since I've just consumed all the children's Easter sweets to save them from obesity, diabetes, and allergens, I'm not really in the mood. Instead, honey, why not pick one of these gifts I'd really love. They may take a little more effort than something in the Hallmark aisle, but they'll make a big difference to me.

1. You know that material I've been asking you to read about our child's disabilities, that stack about 500 pages high? Read it. Now. Really.
2. Do some research of your own for a change and bring me something I haven't seen before. Then explain it to me.
3. Find the home number of every specialist and educator who ever dissed me and make some really good prank phone calls.
4. Offer to stand guard duty at the bathroom door while I take a nice, long, hot bath, free of constant cries of "Moooooooooooooom."
5. Buy some sturdy boxes for storing all the children's school papers, and then believe me when I say I have to save everything they've ever done for possible documentation of learning progress.
6. Buy some sturdy notebooks for storing all the children's specialist reports, and then organize them for me so I can always find the exact one I want in a snap.
7. Sit down with me for one hour to discuss decisions we have to make about our child's behavior, treatment, schooling, and/or future. No TV watching, newspaper reading, or dozing allowed.
8. Next time you're tempted to make some crack about a neighbor or a teacher or a family member that you just know our child is going to repeat out of context at the worst possible time ... don't. Just don't.
9. More precious to me than diamonds and rubies is a good long nap. Make it happen.
10. Next time we have a dispute over discipline, I win. (What's that? I always win anyway? It's the gift that keeps on giving!)

A meeting was held quite far from Earth.
It was time again for another birth.
Said the Angels to the Lord above --
This special child will need much love.
Her progress may be very slow,
Accomplishment she may not show.
And she'll require extra care
From the folks she meets down there.
She may not run or laugh or play,
Her thoughts may seem quite far away.
So many times she will be labeled
'different,' 'helpless' and disabled.
So, let's be careful where she's sent.
We want her life to be content.
Please, Lord, find the parents who
Will do a special job for you.
They will not realize right away
The leading role they are asked to play.
But with this child sent from above
Comes stronger faith, and richer love.
And soon they'll know the privilege given
In caring for their gift from heaven.
Their precious charge, so meek and mild
Is heaven's very special child.
~Author Edna Massimilla

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Autism and Setting Goals for the Future

One of the most common questions parents have is "What does the future hold?".  My answer is never very satisfying because none of us can predict what it will look like for each individual child.  But one thing I do always say is, the sky is the limit.  Have the highest of expectations but live in the now.  It is hard to not think about 10-20 years down the road but also important to not overwhelm yourself in the process. 

What to keep in mind:
  • Quality of Life - This is different for every person and also different for every person on the spectrum.  Try not to put desires of society but rather the individual desires.  Happiness and health is what is most important and this looks different for every person depending on what they enjoy about life.
  • Social Needs - As with overall quality of life, this may look different than the "norm" for those on the spectrum.  One or two friends that enjoy the same interests as the individual may be satisfying enough.  There are also many of adolescents and adults that enjoy the interactions that online gaming gives.  Sometimes talking through the X-box Live or computer headset can be less intimidating and more rewarding. 
  • Jobs - Tied into quality of life, is career path.  There are jobs that can be satisfying for individuals on the spectrum that may not be as enjoyable for others.   Assessing skills for that job are not just what is written in a job description.  Social abilities are tied into many jobs and must be taken into account when choosing a career path. 
  • Life Skills - We underestimate how early we need to start teaching skills for daily living.  We become so focused on academics of school; reading, writing and arithmetic.  Life skills are just as important: time management, budgeting, hygiene, cleaning, to name a few.  Start early with gaining independence. 

  • Coulter Video - We have previously mentioned Coulter videos regarding siblings.  They are an amazing resource for adults as far as videos to transition to adulthood and articles such as 'Secrets to Job Success'.  Information on this site is invaluable for parents and professionals.
  • Autism Speaks Transition Tool Kit - Autism Speaks does it once again.  This great transition kit answers a lot of questions and gives a lot of strategies.  This kit helps to know what to prepare for with community living, self-advocating, employment, housing, etc. 
  • Realizing the College Dream by Ann Palmer - Ann Palmer created a perfect guide for parents.  Being a parent of an individual with autism allows her to touch on the most important issues parents are faced with when considering higher education.
  • Preparing for Life by Jed Baker - Dr. Baker helps with life skills for success into adulthood.  Conversational difficulties, reading non-verbal cues, dealing with frustration and relationships are a few of the covered topics.
  • Life Skills for Secondary Students by Darlene Mannix - This workbook helps go through various activities involving life skills that are necessary for more independent living.
This is only a brief list of things to consider and resources we hope to continue to add to!


Sunday, May 1, 2011


Tasks, activities, file folder games, adaptive books, etc. are something that if we had all the time (and money!) in the world we would make them for all the wonderful families we work with!  To share our fun with everyone else, we have decided to create a reoccurring post illustrating the excitement with learning that we can have.  Therefore, 'Activities on the Angle' will be ideally a weekly or bi-weekly insight into our creative side; or a peek into the madness!

I am always viewed as thrifty; the nice way of saying cheap!  I am always looking for a good bargain or a way to reuse what I already have.  The results may not always have the most curb appeal but they get the job done.  Trying to incorporate this into making tasks is important for us, as it is for so many parents and professionals.

Matching is a way of putting things that are the same together.  It is a skill that is at the foundation in many academic areas.  Sorting and matching can be overwhelming for the kids we work with because of the disorganization of the materials and/or presenting too many items at once.  Each child needs to be started at a different stage based on their developmental progress, distractability and organization.  Hopefully we will start with a few tasks to get your creative juices flowing for your own situation.  Often, individuals with autism are somewhat driven to match and it can even be a calming process (or at least a distraction from the frustration). 

Number and Letter matching
'Dollar Tree' is a great resource for materials for learning.  Teachers, homeschooling, therapists and parents can find lots of great teaching tasks to use as is or if adapted.  I started with a couple of posters of numbers and one of the alphabet.  On the alphabet poster you will notice extra pictures next to each letter.  There are stickers of 'Toy Story' characters that were added to learn phonics since this was my little helper's big interest ;) 

If I could laminate everything around me I would but it is quite costly and it may not be great for my kids!  When thinking thrifty and time-saving, clear packing tape (or contact paper) is my go to.  Packing tape made these numbers & letters sturdy for lots of matching.  I also try to find alternatives to Velcro as much as possible but for this activity I went all out.  So, with our posters here is what we started with.  Although I printed the numbers and letters, it is super easy to just write on index cards or paper. 

We used an old coffee can to pull the letters and numbers from but recognize this could be overwhelming amount of materials at first.  Giving a smaller amount at a time or covering up a section of the poster at first may be a starting point. 

Card Sorting
These materials can be used to make lots of different activities in one.  Tell people in your life to clear our their baseball card collections (I sure did!).  It is time to part with those cards that have no value and make some fun activities.  Baseball card sleeves are perfect for sorting random cards that are cluttering up closets everywhere.  Little is needed for this task but I did use 'library pockets' (without adhesive but they sell them with sticky backing as well).  Also you can use an envelope to gather loose cards for each page.  A simple three ring binder can contain all your goodies.

 We used some dinosaur cards to sort and match (along with old baseball logos and cards). 

On the matching with animal pictures we added clear words on the card and card sleeve to match.  (These cards are from a children's National Geographic magazine)  Although this child is not at reading level yet, matching the letters was fun for her. 

As stated before, this is the start of an ongoing process for Molly and I.  We thoroughly enjoy making activities that each individual can be successful at and enjoy at the same time.  Finding ways of incorporating interests, can truly make learning fun!