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Autism Advice

The Power of Unconditional Love

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When I ask parents What has Autism taught you? They almost always answer “Unconditional Love” (and “patience”!!!). The very first step in raising a child with or without Autism is to realize that they are perfect as they are. As a parent, you are not here to fix them. You are here to understand them and guide them to become the best version of themselves.

I was once asked by a therapist. So what’s your magic to working with children with Autism?! My answer… Unconditional Love. I shower so much Light on the children that I work with. I accept them as they are. I genuinely enjoy my time with them. This love HEALS!

This is not to say that we don’t work on skills. We work very hard on learning new skills! But I help children learn at their pace, I meet them where they’re at. My agenda is their agenda. I challenge them and help them feel successful. I teach, I guide and I expose them to different experiences. I don’t fix them.

 

The personal work we need to do when working with children is that they do not need to change in order to satisfy us! The message needs to be: You do not need to stop flapping your hands, you do not need to stop acting differently than peers, you do not need to be someone that you are not in order for me to love you!

 

Humanity is in need of a tremendous shift! A shift that sees from eyes of love instead of being blinded by the outer shell that our souls inhabit! If we could only see with eyes of soul, we would realize that children with Autism are the true Masters! They are the special souls that have come to be powerful teachers of unconditional love and acceptance! And you as their parent have been chosen to become their voice! Start with loving and raising your child from this place of non-condition so that together we shift the vision for all.

 

Let’s get practical:

How to practice unconditional love in a practical way?

  • Spend time with your child. Really just spend time enjoying each others presence. Zero expectations. Just enjoying a moment. And if that means stimming together so be it! 

 

2- Understand behaviors rather than fixing them. Question everything your child does with the goal of understanding them. Why do they rock? why do they have meltdowns? why do they repeat what I say?….why? why? Why? For ex: if your child is repeating the same sentence over and over again, instead of using a behavioral approach to eliminating this behavior and telling then to be quiet, try instead to figure out why your child is doing that?! Most likely it’s to reduce anxiety and your goal is to then figure out and reduce the source of the anxiety and not the OUTLET that your child has chosen to reduce this anxiety. Go to the source.

 

3- Enjoy your child!!!! Lighten up, have fun, find the humor. Most of the time, parents are all wound up and the child is happy and smiling. I am not minimizing that things can get very challenging but I can also see how parents have their guards up so high that they can’t appreciate their child as the sweet, loving, wonderful being that they are.

 

Categories
Autism Advice

Can’t Sit Stillllll!

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I can’t begin to tell you how many times I hear teachers and parents who call me for advice to help a child that can’t sit still in the classroom. They ask me to create a Sensory Diet for this child (i.e a set of activities and tools incorporated several times a day in the child’s routine). I do believe in the benefits of a Sensory Diet however, I am VERY aware of its limitations as well. This is by NO means the magic bullet! A Sensory Diet is NOT A REPLACEMENT FOR AN ACTIVE OUTDOOR LIFESTYLE! One that provides children with the opportunity to run, jump, roll, climb, fall etc… (all important components of developing a healthy vestibular and proprioceptive system) I in fact believe that providing them with a Sensory Diet sets up these children for failure and greater frustration to the child AND caretakers! When a Sensory Diet falls short (which it almost always does), we then raise our hands to the sky and we say…”We’ve tried everything!” as though this child is now hopeless.

Children need to MOVE in order to LEARN and furthermore, they need to be OUTDOORS in NATURE, a natural environment where they touch, smell, taste, observe their world.They do not need to be entertained but rather learn to use what is out there in nature to play, create and use their imagination! Otherwise, what we begin to see are children that don’t know how to play alone, keep themselves busy, they fidget, tune out, disrupt the class by talking or getting up and they are singled out as having an issue.

When I observe classrooms, I often wonder  how is it that the children who “behave” are not the ones that are singled out! They ARE CHILDREN! They are SUPPOSE to move, test boundaries, become excited and express it with their bodies! What we need in the schools (and at home) is NOT more academics, more homework more sitting (or even standing) to learn. We do not need to incorporate a Sensory Diet 3 times a day for 15/20min (an added burden to teachers and busy parents). What we need is for children to play and learn OUTSIDE as much as possible! They have a lifetime ahead of them for academics but only a short time to be children!

I encourage parents to push for longer recess, more frequent PE, classroom lessons that incorporate real life experience such as going outside or field trips and hands-on teaching methods.

Categories
Autism Advice

Innovative Classroom Strategies- A Proactive Approach to Early Intervention

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I just finished putting together the Teacher’s Workshop that I will be giving this week. Click here for the the Power Point Slides! Enjoy!

Categories
Autism Advice

Motivate your Child to Learn a New Skill!!!

Parents ask me all the time how to motivate their child to learn a new skill that they have no interest in learning. I usually like children to learn skills for the inherent value of acquiring that skill but there are times when a little push in the right direction is needed! I like to suggest this approach for toilet training, getting dressed, brushing teeth, sleeping in one’s own bed.

Here is my approach (it works VERY well)!

It’s important to get your child involved in every step of this activity so that they feel their involvement and become more easily committed to following through. One of the reasons this is so motivating is that it gives the child a VISUAL and KINESTHETIC feedback so they can see how far along they’ve come and how much more effort they need to do before winning the reward.

1- Discuss the desired skill with your child. It must be ONE skill. Keep it short, simple and attainable. Ex: Put on socks and shoes (not get dressed on your own…(this can be a goal when you feel your child is ready but if they are having difficulty getting dressed, break up the skills)

2- Have your child pick their reward. I like to go online and print out 2 copies of the desired reward. For example, we picked a Lalaloopsy Doll.

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3- Draw a grid on both pictures. Here I drew 12 boxes for the 12 days that I want to work on it with the child. (If you need more time draw more boxes.)

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4-On one image, number each box from 1 to 12 in small numbers AND on the back of the other image mark each corresponding box with number 1 to 12 in large numbers.

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5-Hang up the first image (with the small numbers) in your child’s room and cut the other image in 12 boxes. Save the boxes in a little plastic bag or a little box.

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6-Every day that your child puts on his socks and shoes, they get to stick a piece of the puzzle on the image. Once the entire image is completed, they win their prize and most likely will have learned their skill!

Categories
Autism Advice

Visual Schedules

One of the BEST tools I have found when working with children that have sensory and/or behavioral issues is to provide them with a visual schedule.

I am blessed with the ability to draw so most of my sessions begin as follows:

  1. I sit down with the child and we decide together on 3-4 activities they want to cover during out session.
  2. I draw a visual for each of them in a box and write the name of the activity next to it.
  3. Every time we complete an activity I as the child to check their schedule and to check it off with a checkmark!

They absolutely LOOOOVE this!

It is very organizing for children (especially children on the Autism spectrum) and greatly facilitates transitions from one activity to the next.  It allows children to know what is coming next (they can adjust their energy level knowing what’s in store for them) and it gives children the motivation to continue on a non preferred task knowing that something they enjoy is coming up!

Most of my children ASK me for a schedule as soon as they walk through the door!!

I realize that many people are not always good at drawing so using PECS cards from Speech Therapists is great!!!!

I like when tools that I use are visually appealing to children so I created this one with a DRY ERASE MAGNETIC BOARD!!!

What you Will Need:

  • Magnetic Dry Erase board
  • Pretty Ribbon
  • Stick on Foam Letters for AM and PM
  • 2 Metal Favor boxes with a magnet stuck in back of them
  • Laminated PECS cards with Magnets stuck behind each card
You can also purchase these boards here at MissMancy’s Shop (you can email me so that I can personalize it for your child!)

You can personalize the boards with your child’s name or stickers of objects that they love (just don’t make it too busy…it can become visually distracting)

I used this dry erase magnetic board and stuck ribbon down the middle to split the board in half. I then stuck AM and PM foam stickers on ether side. I also printed out PECS card with activities for a daily routine, laminated the cards and stuck thing magnetic circles behind each card.

I found metal favor boxes (that one would use for wedding favors) and stuck a strong magnet in back of it with a hot glue gun. These boxes can store extra PECS cards or as your child completes an activity, he can place it in the metal box!

You will be amazed at how well this works with most children! I have gotten even the most behavioral children to follow routines beautifully with the help of a visual schedule!

Categories
Autism Advice Sensory Activities

Sitting Still at Circle Time

Introducing Lil’ Wally the Weighted Worm!

I have been going to schools for the last 10 years and many teachers ask me advice for the same thing: How do I keep the fidgety children calm and sitting during circle time?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Allow the child to hold something ex: a puppet and actively participate as much as possible (teacher’s helper)
  • Sit the child against a wall or bookshelf. The added support will help sit up straight
  • Provide weight across the lap or shoulders. You can even weigh a back pack and have the child wear it

This is how I started making Lil’Wallys. These are just basic leg warmers that I fill with either dry rice or beans. I add buttons for eyes and a piece of ribbon for the tongue! (You can also purchase Lil’Wally here at MissMancy’s Shop)

 

The added weight across a child’s lap or shoulders provides them with a calming sensation to their nervous system (imagine getting a hug). This is not only useful during circle time but also during seated and quiet work or tests when added attention is required.

I like to make little Wallys for the neck/shoulders as well as longer Wallys that several children can put across their laps during circle time.

Categories
Autism Advice BLOG Fine Motor Activities

Spider Pick Up

I love using chopsticks to teach children the proper way to isolate the correct fingers and strengthen the correct muscles that they need for a proper grasp.

Just make sure that they hold the chopsticks with their thumb and 2 first fingers and allotter fingers are tucked in the hand. If the chopsticks are to heavy for little hands to hold, I allow them to use all other fingers however they MUST keep an open web space (i.e. the space between the thumb and index finger that forms a nice open circle when this tool is held correctly)

You can play this game several different ways:

Start by lacing Uppercase letter Stickers on the foam spider web (you can draw a web on a piece of paper)

You can play this game several different ways:

  • Ask your child to use the chopsticks to pick up spiders and place them only on the letters of their name!!!
  • You can also place lower case letter stickers on the plastic spiders and ask you child to match an upper case to its lower case letter.
  • Call out a spelling word and ask children to place spiders on the letters that spell that word.
  • Say things like: What letter does Spider start with? and ask children to put a spider on it.

This is a great Fine motor Halloween activity!