Kimberly a.k.a kimkaplan
kimkaplan Author Alias
I’ve discussed this topic in my previous four blogs.
I’ve been discussing teacher and the inclusion aide that is often assigned to an autistic student within an “inclusion” environment, which means a typical, general education classroom that may or may not have one or two special needs children.
In my previous blog, I discussed inclusion students, the aides that sometimes support them, and how a teacher can incorporate an inclusion aide into their classroom. I discussed how teachers should broker a reasonable working relationship with an inclusion aide.
My last blog introduced the topic teachers and the aides that are sometimes in their classrooms who are there to help support an autistic child. I call this aide the “inclusion aide.” What can be one stumbling block?
My next few blogs are directed toward school and teachers. Teachers, do you have an inclusion student in your classroom? And, does your inclusion student have an aide? From preschool to his current grade, 5th, my son has always had an aide with him at school. He has always needed that support.
Last week, I discussed how anxiety affects not only the child with autism but the parent as well and how it can even be a back and forth problem. And, what about that child?
I knew a mom once who refused to wait in the lobby during her child’s social skills group. She HAD to watch the group and specifically her child in the group setting. She insisted that she be the exception to the facilities policy.
Why do some autistic people behave inappropriately? Autistic people struggle with “proper” behavior.
Over the years, my son’s aides and teachers have worked together with us to help my son try to stay in the classroom. He is in an inclusion classroom, but sometimes struggles with the environment. What are some ways to help a child remain inside the classroom?
Does your autistic child have trouble smiling? This might be an age thing because my son is ten and many ten-year-olds (typical and special needs) don’t like to smile for the camera. It may very well be a pre-adolescent, attitude.
“You want inclusion,” said Rick Clemens, an inclusion specialist who spoke at a conference I recently attended. Rick gave one of the keynote speeches at the All Ages and Abilities Autism/Aspergers Conference in Huntington Beach.
My son makes noises while riding his Razor in front of our house. Should I be concerned? Should I check with my neighbors to make sure he “fits in?” Or, should I euthanize him?
Recently, I spotted a list called "Some things I wish I knew before I had my child with autism." It was fun to read, so I decided to assemble one of my own. Here's my list of things I wish I knew before I had my child with autism: 1. There is a learning curve of human behavior.
Not sure I’ve discussed this topic yet, so here goes: My child has several aides. He has a school district aide and a one-to-one aide for his after school program. He also has a respite person. Additionally, he works once a week with two social skills facilitators. What happens when the aide talks to you about your child’s day?
I recently had the pleasure of discovering an excellent article on hand flapping of autistic individuals on a Facebook page called Autism Discussion Page. (The page is sponsored by Autism Speaks.)
In my last blog, I discussed oral issues that can be triggered by dry skin or food, and how kids with autism may react to oral issues. In this blog, I’m going to discuss something my child has recently begun doing - finger licking.
Does your child have oral issues that relate to his autism?
In my last blog, I discussed a few classroom tricks to help keep your child in an inclusive classroom.
My child just completed his seventh year of formal school (pre-school, kindergarten through fourth grade). Over the years, his teachers and aides have worked with us on finding various “tricks” to help get him through a typical school day in an inclusive (a classroom with mostly general education students) classroom. What kind of tricks are you talking about?
When my child was in third grade, we discovered a school issue. In third grade, my son’s class began to have chapter tests. These tests covered a lot of material…an entire chapter of material. My son needed to study for a week to be ready to take a comprehensive test. This was a big change for him. Our son has struggled with this issue on and off since third grade.
Sad story alert: We just put our dog to sleep today (hours before this writing). Our lab/Australian shepherd mix was 15 1/2 years old and our son with autism had known her his own life. How did our son handle saying goodbye to the family dog? Our son was a superstar today.
I might have mentioned this one before but it bears repeating. Our child’s elementary school has an end-of-the-year open house each year. It’s an event where the entire family is invited to go to their child’s classroom and get a glimpse at what kids having doing at school the entire year.
What is the “shy newbie?” This is a term I created. To me, it means the individual who won’t talk about autism yet they most likely have someone in their life on the autism spectrum.
Every once in a while I like to revisit some classic autism-related characteristics. This time I’m going to revisit obsessions. Recently, I was reminded that my son always seems to have one or two obsessions. One of the latest ones I find very interesting and it makes me love him even more while also reminding me of one of the hallmarks of his diagnosis... autism.
I recently completed my sixth turn as the Volunteer Chair for the Walk Now for Autism Speaks Los Angeles Walk. This position is a committee position and I have to organize and post 300 volunteers for walk day.
I believe that I can go up to any person and ask, “Do you know someone on the autism spectrum?” and that person will know SOMEONE. That person will have a nephew, a co-worker’s son, or a hairdresser’s niece. This is just my belief but when I’ve actually gone out into the world and tested this theory, the results generally support it.
How much of a presence should I be at my child’s school? I am a big believer of being a “presence” at my child’s school. I do it for some typical reasons…and for one very specific reason. What are my typical reasons?
I recently attended yet another autism conference. Now, for me, attending a conference is about education. I want to learn what’s new in the autism world. I already have a working knowledge of autism but I like to keep up with the latest. A problem for me is I am not that outgoing. What do I do at a conference?
Recently, I spotted a list called “Some things I wish I knew before I had my child with autism.” It was fun to read, and in honor of Autism Awareness Month, I decided to assemble my own. Here’s my own version of the things I wish I knew before I had my child with autism: 1. Having my child matured me in ways I never thought possible. But, it was his autism that really made me understand human behavior. I had to learn how to break down human behavior into parts - understand antecedents, deal with responses, and find ways to resolve each issue.
In my last blog, I discussed going to an annual autism conference (paid for by regional centers if you live in California). I discussed why I go. In this blog, I will discuss three specifics about attending a conference.
Recently, I discussed some tips on traveling without your autistic child. I specifically discussed how I had attended my annual writer’s conference in San Francisco and how I dealt with leaving my child for several days.
What happens when another parent contests your child’s autism? You wouldn’t think I’d have to bring up this topic, except that this issue has happened to me.
What have I observed about cultural differences and autism? One time when we were traveling we were sitting on one of those airport shuttle buses with a woman who said she was teacher in an overseas school. It was a Middle Eastern country. The woman said there was a campus for all students of different ages.
This week I’m in San Francisco attending the San Francisco Writer’s Conference. I have attended this conference for six straight years. How do I travel and yet leave my child with autism at home? Besides the six times I’ve been to this conference, I’ve only been away from my child (for longer than one night) one other time which was a week away with friends.
In my last blog, I discussed a few situations where our child with autism had trouble with the unexpected. I explained how he would tell us that something was unexpected and we would talk to him and usually get him to try things.
This blog may be more appropriate for older children with autism and/or those children with the ability to communicate. And, not only communicate, but do it very well. How do children with autism deal with the unexpected?
When you should change your child’s school approach?
This blog is part two (read Autism Evaluations: Part 1) of my rant against pediatricians who do not listen to your concerns about your child AND the California Regional Centers who attempt to pre-screen your child over the phone. I’ll repeat this statement:
This topic is near and dear to my heart. I have much to say which will take place in two blogs. I’ll begin with a rant: Do not let a regional center (if you live in the state of California) turn you away if you have a concern about your child and autism. Do not let them screen your child over the phone! And, do not let your pediatrician blow off your concerns.
[Read Home Schooling Your Child With Autism - Part 1] How is home schooling harder on my child with autism? They already don’t know how to socialize. How are they expected to learn if they’re not put into a social situation on a daily basis?
Should you home school a child with autism? I mentioned home schooling in my previous blog and there are arguments for and against home schooling a child with autism. Here’s my argument against. Do I believe in home schooling?
I recently read a headline on Yahoo about the “forgotten victim” of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut is on all our minds, as it should be. Many reports have come out about this event. The conversations have ranged from what set off the 20-year-old shooter to school security to gun control.
What are the ways I can help prepare my autistic child for the holidays? Holidays can be fun but they can also be stressful. They can involve a change in routine including days off from school.
Here’s a common nightmare for parents - trying to get your autistic child’s hair cut or her nails trimmed. Have you had that experience? It’s not very fun for our kids.
What is the right number of aides for your autistic child? In this blog, I’m discussing one-to-one or respite aides and not therapists or facilitators.
Let’s be honest, our children need time and space to regulate their bodies and unwind. For example, trying to behave for six hours at school is hard for our kids. They need breaks. And, when they get home, they need time to regulate themselves. How can my child get a regulating break at school?
Why do children with autism have difficulties with speech and communication?
Okay, people with autism generally have a harder time in social situations. For a myriad of reasons, a person on the autism spectrum has an impairment of some degree in the areas of communication and socialization.
Halloween is fun for all kids. But, Halloween, like many other activities or holidays, may be a unique challenge for our children with autism. Can we take our child trick or treating? I say a big yes. We have always taken our child trick or treating and we have had successful Halloweens each year. What can we do to prepare our child?
You may be used to having an aide for your child. They could be school aides, respite aides, one to one aides, and even therapists. It may seem like your child almost always has an aide around who knows how to deal with all the myriad of behaviors that happen with our kids. What should you do when you have to act as your child’s one to one aide?
What are some options for after school activities for my child with autism? Is it a good thing to put him into typical after school activities?
What is our policy about homework? Homework comes first. Our child gets homework every Monday through Thursday. He’ll occasionally have something to do over the weekend, like study for an upcoming test or, at least, he has to do some reading.
In my last blog, I discussed swimming experiences for autistic children and I brought up the possibility that your autistic child may feel the water is a bit too comforting and why they may feel that way.
For any kid, swimming is fun. I know I spent half of my childhood in a pool. Is swimming good for children with autism?
There seems to be no shortage of autism-related drugs out there. There are stimulant medications, anti-stimulant medications for ADHD, anti-depressant medications, anti-anxiety medications, anti-psychotic medications, and mood stabilizing medications.
Should you go gluten free? What is a gluten-free diet? Gluten is “a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat, barley, and rye.” Therefore, a gluten-free diet would contain only foods that are made without gluten.
My child is entering 4th grade, what should I expect? 4th grade is a big transition for all kids. It’s a move from “lower grade” to “upper grade.” There is more independent study and, at least at my child’s school, there is no more afternoon recess. There is only one morning recess plus lunch. 4th grade is a big deal. What about special needs kids?
How do you help your child with autism get back into the school routine? Summer is fun. One reason it’s fun is…there’s no school. Right? How do our kids fare during the summer? First, our kids sometimes have a few weeks of school during the summer months. My child attends an Extended School Year program for five weeks each summer. The ESY program is offered by our child’s school district and this program is written into my child’s IEP. Is an ESY summer program like “real” school?
What should you expect from your special needs aide or therapist or facilitator? First, and this may sound a bit simple, but they are people. They have lives. You must always try to remember that the adults who work with your kids have their own lives and their own problems. How much does this matter?
In my last blog, I discussed how autistic kids can learn to read social cues or facial expression. I talked about how we added a bonus category to our son’s earnings chart where he could earn extra monthly points if he noticed a social cue.
How do our kids learn social cues? How do they learn to read facial expressions? It's tough for our kids to learn social cues and/or read facial expressions because they have a tendency to be uncomfortable looking at other people. How can they be expected to read non-verbal cues if they're not looking at other people?
My child frequently has a "high engine." He was taught this phrase to describe how his body is feeling. A high engine means he’s racing inside. His body sometimes has a “low engine” but that typically takes place first thing in the morning. Low engine means he has no energy in his body. When his engine is high, our child needs to do something to help his body. He wants to regulate his body to get the level to a moderate level, one that he's comfortable with and leads to less body-related behaviors.
In my first blog about OT, I focused mainly on oral issues, specifically teeth grinding. OT issues, however, involve the entire body. Remember, one part of the "OT experience" is trying to teach a child self-help skills. These are life-long skills such as potty training and being able to put on your own clothes. Other issues include brushing your teeth, combing your hair, feeding yourself, bathing your body, drying off your own body, and many more.
"OT" is a term that every parent of a child with autism is probably very familiar with. What does OT mean?
For a couple of years, whenever I saw a director friend of mine she would say, “We should do a short film together.” I agreed with her but never had a short film written. Eventually, we came up with an idea that involved a third party but that project fell through.
I often tell people that I believe my child will have some sort of specialty job as an adult and probably even live on his own. Often I add, "He may not have any friends." With that in mind, my child has said to us, "Why do I have to have friends?" After I pick my heart up from the floor, I typically answer, "Well, you don't really. But we'd like you to learn how to have friends."
When our son was first diagnosed, my husband had a full time job and I was the stay-at-home mom. When we understood the commitment we had to partake for our son’s issues, our decision was relatively easy - he remained at his job and I was responsible for the 22 hours of autism-related therapies and programs per week.
Most kids learn to ride a bike, right? I did it at age, oh, maybe four. I was a quick learner and the youngest and my brothers easily "challenged" me to learn to ride for myself. Because I'm also athletic, it wasn't a hard challenge for me. For our kids on the autism spectrum, transitioning from a bike with training wheels to one without training wheels may not be easy.
At the end of each school year, I prepare for next year. How can you prepare for the next year? First, at every (annual) IEP, we make sure to keep ESY (Extended School Year) written into our child's IEP. ESY is summer school. Not your traditional summer school, though. It is not "punishment" for missing too many school year classes or for failing a class or two.
In my last blog, I not only discussed some ways you could talk to your child's aides/teachers, etc. but I discussed how our kids can directly communicate with us, or vice versa. My child, for example, struggles with telling me about his day.
Our child has had a lot of adults in his life. Since he was very young, he has had a plethora of therapists and facilitators.
How autistic kids deal with a "high engine"
In my last blog post, I touched on the topic of our obsessions with our autistic children. I believe obsessions are more or less a fact of life for children on the spectrum.
I have a child with mild, high functioning autism. He has obsessions. He has always had obsessions and most likely will simply be an obsessive person for his entire life. Why do children with autism have obsessions?
Last Saturday, my family spent over five hours at the Walk Now for Autism Speaks, Los Angeles event at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
I discussed the word, "appropriate" in my IEP blogs. This time I'm using that word differently. I'm discussing it as it relates to something our kids struggle with - empathy and sympathy. Empathy and sympathy are difficult for our kids to learn. It's not that they don't care, it's just that they're autism-related diagnosis interferes with their "natural" ability to understand these concepts. Empathy and sympathy are simply tough for them to understand.
This time of year is a traveling time. There's Easter, Passover, and spring breaks galore! I am taking my child away for two days for some spring break fun. This got me to thinking of a question... How do I travel with my autistic child? We have never shied away from traveling with our child. We traveled with him pre-autism diagnosis AND after. We always wanted to travel and didn't let autism stop us.
Where do I take my child? My best answer is wherever I need to. But, sometimes, we take him to events that center around autism. For example, for the last five years, I have volunteered for Walk Now for Autism Speaks Los Angeles. It is one of largest walk events in the country. Throughout the year, due to planning, Autism Speaks has monthly meetings. I not only have my son at the walk event itself, but I bring him to my meetings.
My autistic child is a very literal thinker. He is much more comfortable with the concrete; numbers, exact measurements, details about preferred topics, and proper names of things. Numbers are especially satisfying to him. He is confident with the concrete.
How do our kids think? The most accurate word I use when describing how my child with autism thinks is he thinks "literal." Typically, children on the autism spectrum remember the concrete much easier than the abstract. They are logical and deep thinkers. Here are some recent examples from my own child to demonstrate: My child asked me, "Will I get my computer today?" I answered him, "Discussing your bad test is 6,000 times more important than computer." My child responded, "Or more than 6,000."
What is a regional center? In California, there are 21 regional centers. Regional center clients include people on the autism spectrum as well as people with cerebral palsy, mental retardation, epilepsy, and all other cases involving developmental delays. Recently, my child's regional center reported that approximately 90% of incoming cases are autism-related.
I attended a recent conference one week and then the next week I walked into a classroom for yet another class. I was reminded of why I feel educating myself is so important. Once my child began services for developmental delays, and ultimately autism, it didn't occur to me at the time that my autism education was going to be ongoing. Early on, I simply didn't realize that my education was never going to stop.
One of the "heroes" of autism, and one of my personal heroes, is Temple Grandin. If you know anyone on the autism spectrum and have a desire to learn more about what makes a person on the autism spectrum tick, read about Temple Grandin. (There's even a movie of the same name.)
Why collect data? What does data collection have to do with your child's behavior(s)? In my last blog, I explained the term, S.E.A.T. SEAT is a tool to help us understand and root out the cause of a child's unexpected and usually "bad" behavior. Was it a sensory issue, an escape issue, an attention issue, or a tangible issue that led up to a behavior?
S.E.A.T. What does S.E.A.T. stand for and why can it help you evaluate your child's behaviors? S.E.A.T. stands for Sensory, Escape, Attention, and Tangible. It is my understanding that SEAT is a tool used to help understand your child's behavior by attempting to break down undesirable behaviors. SEAT helps you discover the purpose or reason or explanation behind a behavior, or why it occurred and what lead up to that behavior. Why is this important?
Autistic kids are visual learners. They often understand and can handle visual input much better than they can absorb visual or auditory words. Our child has been receiving autism-related services since he was fifteen months old. We learned a long time ago how to help him when he's struggling, we use pictures. One way was social stories. What is a social story? A social story is a tool used to help a child who struggles to understand their social world. Social stories do this by showing a child a social situation explained in pictures.
Our child will lose a service at the end of February. We are mourning this upcoming loss. I am especially upset by it, not only because my child is losing the structured opportunity to play with a child who has become his friend over the last two years, but also by the way it all came about. The facility notified me in November that my child's funding had lapsed. To my astonishment, my child had been on a 30 day contract during that month.
How do you talk to your child with autism when a member of his immediate family is about to have major surgery? My husband had major surgery six years ago but our child was only two. We didn't really have to involve him. When he just had the same surgery last week, my husband and I had to come up with a strategy on how to tell and involve our now eight-year-old child. What did we do?
How do you deal with the sometimes colossal tantrums of your child with autism? What about the mild tantrums? Are you able to recognize the buildup before a tantrum? Can you predict a tantrum? For example, if you know the news you are about to give your child is not going to be well-received, do you cringe in anticipation of an oncoming tantrum?
Fading out your child's school aide. I began this year thinking hard about the grade my child was entering...third grade. Third grade is a big step up from second grade. For example, my child now brings homework home nightly instead of weekly. And, third grade is only one year away from when his class size will greatly increase (in fourth grade).
In my last post, I discussed how an "earnings chart" can help children with special needs. This week, I want to tackle our "communication log," which is directly linked to our son's earnings chart.
Do any of you use some sort of "earnings chart" for your child on the autism spectrum? Back when our child received DTT services 14 hours a week in our home, his DTT supervisor encouraged us to begin to use a behavioral earnings chart. During this time, our child was having too many tantrums and/or issues with compliance. Often, he would have these problems in relation to not getting a preferred item.
My son marched in his first parade this past weekend. The Montrose/Glendale area in California hosts an annual Holiday/Christmas parade in their "old town" section. It is generally a "local" event that features high school bands, local community service groups, and even a politician or two. Santa flies over the parade in a helicopter (Santa's a big hit!).
"Appropriate." This is a big word in the autism community. We learned about this word years ago. We also learned why it is considered an important word. One big reason why the word "appropriate" is so important to us is that it is often applied during conversations with regional centers (in the state of California) and especially during IEPs. Therefore, I'd like to stress the importance of this word, "appropriate." Why is it so important?
Is it ever possible to thank all of the autism people who have been involved in your child's life? We had a party on the day of our child's first birthday. A friend mentioned something to us on that very day. Imagine your child's very first birthday party, your only child. You're so excited for that day. You've planned and worked hard so everything will be perfect. And, the day ends with you and your spouse pouring over autism-related websites wondering, "Is this my child?" That friend was the first in a long line of friends we've had to thank. But, how?
You do not have to sign your IEP immediately at the end of the IEP meeting! IEP meetings are exhausting. They can last as long as three hours, or longer! I have heard of ones that lasted six hours. I'm sure there are ones that have lasted even longer than that and have covered more than one day.
Last week, I received this question from a fellow autism mom: "Is there any legal precedent for expediting our IEP meeting?"
What do you do if you disagree with your child's school district? Here's what we did when we found ourselves in our first school district disagreement. When our child turned four, he finished up the year in his inclusion class at the school district pre-school. The class had a mixture of four-year-olds and three-year-olds. Around his birthday, we had our second IEP meeting and for the most part nothing was going to change with his services. He would continue to receive speech, OT, and remain in an inclusion class.
Now that your child's IEP is complete, what happens next? Your child now attends a public pre-school, kindergarten, or elementary school. The school knows you child has an IEP. Now, you need to be sure that your child is receiving his or her services since those services will no longer take place in your home (where you know they're happening). You need to make sure the school is following ALL of the requirements of your child's IEP. What can you do? How can you check up on your child's services?
Even if you're just starting out in the world of autism (or your child is somewhere on the spectrum), you may have heard these three initials... IEP. The Individualized Education Program (IEP) is an educational program designed specifically for your child by your school district.
About a year into my child's social skills group, me and few other parents began to talk. There were five kids in our group. When the kids are in a session, the parents wait in the lobby. This particular facility allows the parents to leave during this time. Sometimes we go shopping or for a walk. Often, we stay. We read or write on a laptop (that would be me) or we talk. This one time we began discussing how valuable we all felt these social skills groups were for our children. And, we came up with an idea: To ask our case workers for a second group.
Should children with autism be encouraged in their obsessive behaviors?
This summer our child had to transition with two new aides. His one on one after school aide went back to school as did one of his social group facilitators. Plus, there was the start of school, where our child has two teachers and not just one (they teach a split week). Now, you must admit that our child dealt with some serious transitions lately! Of course, we have been down this road many times in the past. And here are some things we've learned about our numerous aide/facilitator/teacher transitions.
Like many parents, we prepare for our child's return to school. Because of our child's autism, though, we may prepare a little differently than parents of typical children. During the summer, our child spent five weeks at a pilot program for kids on the autism spectrum. The kids in this program are on the mild end of the spectrum. The program was five weeks long, four days a week, and only half days. The idea behind the program is to give children on the spectrum some school structure during the summer months.
I wrote my ebook, "A Parents' Guide to Early Autism Intervention," to tell the story of what we did with our son when he first started his autism journey. Among the many topics, I discuss the overall "parent learning curve" involved with an autism diagnosis.
The other day I was walking my two dogs on our street. My son was walking with me. Before we left the house, he had asked if he could bring a chocolate milk with him and drink it on the walk. I said yes and thought nothing of it.
I am the mother of an eight-year-old with autism and my family has been in the "autism system" for seven years. If you do the math, you'll figure out that we began around our child's first birthday.