Grand Opening Extravaganza

What a wonderful last few weeks we have had at Spectrum Autism Services! We are so grateful for the Stafford community for welcoming us with open arms and for supporting the opening of our clinic!

In addition to providing one on one ABA therapy, our clinic, located at 35 Walpole St #204 in Stafford, Virginia, also offers both Full Day and Half Day Programs for children ages 2-5.

Our Board Certified Behavior Analysts, Registered Behavior Therapists, and certified teachers will develop individualized programs for your little one with ASD.

Reading with Your Toddler

At the bottom of this blog post we list recommended books to read with toddlers who have ASD

Reading to our children is a time-honored parenting tradition. Experts in education and child development are continuously touting the benefits.

These research based benefits include*:

  • increased communication skills,
  • a larger vocabulary
  • stronger child-parent bonds
  • enhanced imagination

Although they are eager to share this bonding experience, parents of children with autism can often be at a loss when it comes time to engaging their children during story-time. Here are a few of
the techniques we have found to be successful with many or our earliest learners and most resistant little readers:

Begin by:

  • Limiting distractions
  • Sitting face to face
  • Reading while your child is seated in a confined space such as a high chair or child-sized desk
  • Read developmentally appropriate picture books – Children with ASD tend to be very visual and vibrant pictures may be needed to capture their attention
  • Touch and feel books are great for making reading a multi-sensory experience
  • Make sound effects when narrating the story – Remember we all learn best when we are having fun!

Additional Tips:

  • Pull-tabs and books with flaps can be a great way to keep a little one engaged with a story while working on fine motor skills
  • If you are working on eye contact and your child is highly engaged in the story, pause when it’s time to turn the page and wait to see if they will make eye contact as a request for you to continue
  • This is a great time to work on following a point as you gesture to interesting images on the pages

Recommended Children’s Books with Toddlers with ASD:

Quiet Loud by Leslie Patricelli
Big Little by Leslie Patricelli
Happy Baby Words by Roger Priddy
My First Colors Board Book

This list of children’s books is courtesy of the text “An Early Start for Your Child with Autism“.

*Sources:

https://www.raisesmartkid.com/all-ages/1-articles/14-the-benefits-of-reading-to-your-

5 Sensory Summer at Home Activities for Kiddos with Autism

Summer days can be sunny and magical, but they can also leave parents wondering how to keep their kids from climbing the walls. 

That’s why having a few go-to warm weather activities can make an otherwise stir crazy stay-at-home afternoon a little more enjoyable. We have found that using daily visual schedules helps ease our kids’ anxiety.

This specific schedule is available here

This type of home schedule can help maintain routine and predictability for your child.

There are endless possibilities for at home activities, but these are some of our household favorites!

1. At Home Obstacle Course

There are endless options when creating your own obstacle course. Consider activities you already have, that your child finds exciting, and add a few new items to keep it entertaining.

Components of an at home course:

Take advantage of any stable trees in your backyard and add a few pieces of 4×4 or wall climbing pieces to make climbing steps along the trunk of it, or attach a rope to a branch that can be used to climb up the base as well!

Easy climbing grips for a wall or tree!
You can make a tree climb as complex or simple as you want! Kiddos will still enjoy conquering a mammoth tree 🙂

Take a portable slide that you might already have and add it to the “course.” Considering it’s summer weather, putting the slide into a kiddie pool makes a fun splash!

Our go-to slide here

Another fun component of an obstacle course would be something to crawl through! A tunnel would be a fun addition.

Consider the toys you already have around the house, write out the sequence of events in the course, and get racing!

2. Sensory Sandbox

Creating a sensory box can be an indoor or outdoor experience! If you are interested in a traditional sandbox outdoors, here are some fun additions to keep it exciting:

Available Here
Melissa & Doug Sand Toys
Sandbox vehicles

If you are interested in a mess-free indoor sensory box, fellow blogger 3 Dinosaurs offers a great water bead alternative!

Add water beads of any colors and toys of your interest!

For instance, add dump truck toys or shovels for scooping!

Consider Playmobile toys and houses as other creative additions to an otherwise typical house-play!

3. Self Made Water Park

If available, corner off a section of your yard and deem it the “Waterpark”! Everything sounds better with an alluring name 😉

Items to consider including:

a slip n slide:

https://amzn.to/2WmmaNZ
Available here

a sprinkler of your choosing!

a water table with boats, mermaids, and torpedos!

squirt guns!

a kiddie pool with slide!

4. Chef In Training!

Create a summer recipe book with your child’s favorite meals or baked goods, consisting of at least 5 items that include pictures of the dish and the ingredients!

Have your child brain storm the meals and help with compiling the images into the recipe book/scrap book with you. That way, when you need an interactive activity together, they can pick out their favorite summer snacks/meals and help make them with you!

Fellow blogger Thirty Hand Made Days has some great images and details of ones she has created!

This activity helps teach valuable skills such as following multiple step instructions and team work!

5. Make A Home Garden

The wonders of new life mystify all of us, and it is especially exciting to witness it in the eyes of children!

There are many ways to begin a home garden with your kiddos. Some fun and mostly fool proof items to plant in a garden are herbs and potted plants! Some go-to favorites of ours are the following:

  • Tomato plants- they are exorbitantly fruitful and often produce en masse! So you won’t have to worry about “nothing showing up”! Make it a weekly outing to the garden to pick a basket full for the week’s meals!
  • Basil- A generally easy plant to maintain in the home or outside! The magnificent smell provides a sensory experience your child won’t want to miss! They also produce quicker the more they are plucked, so don’t hesitate to have your child pick a few leaves off each week!
  • Bromelaide Plant- the Bromelaide plant has many varieties, and is a simple indoor plant that can survive even unattended conditions (even though we don’t recommend that! We just know it might be easy to forget them 😉 ). Usually only needing watering about twice per week, this can be a source of beauty, nurturing, and responsibility for your child.

There are limitless options with plants and herbs for your young one to water and nurture, both indoor and outdoor! Learning about nature and adoring its resilience and beauty is fun usually for kids aged pre-school and up! Feel free to comment below with any plants your youngster loves to care for, or other go-to summer activities!

Employee Spotlight: Emily Taylor

This month we are spotlighting a wonderful team member at Spectrum Autism Services!

Emily Taylor has always had a passion for working with children and helping them reach their potential. In 2016, she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from James Madison University. She then began her career in the field of Autism in the school setting by providing both classroom-based and one-on-one services at a Special Education, Applied Behavior Analysis based school in Maryland.

In 2018, she moved to Fredericksburg where she became a part of the Spectrum family as a Registered Behavior Technician.

It wasn’t until joining Spectrum that Emily truly realized her calling for working in the field of ABA. She is currently enrolled at The University of Southern Maine in pursuit of a Master’s in Educational Psychology and Applied Behavior Analysis.

Emily is extremely excited to continue her education and to inspire others to find passion in working in the field of Autism! We are so lucky to have her on our staff.

Thank you for all that you do, Emily!

The Zones of Regulation: A Cognitive Behavioral Approach

The Social Thinking® initiative creates differentiated strategies and treatments to increase cognitive development and social skills. Often applied to those with ASD, the Zones of Regulation curriculum is rooted in cognitive behavioral therapy strategies for emotional and sensory self-management. These tools can be applied from the age of four to adolescents and through adulthood to assist in conquering interpersonal social skills.

Available here

The curriculum’s learning activities are designed to help those who struggle with social skills recognize when they are in different states of mind, or “zones”, with each of four zones represented by a different color.

In the activities supplied in the book and often implemented by our ABA therapists, clients also learn how to use strategies or tools to stay in a specific zone or move from one to another. They learn and develop calming techniques, cognitive strategies, and sensory supports to provide them with a toolbox of methods to use to move between zones.

With the goal of assisting those with ASD to better understand why emotions matter and how to self-regulate, the lessons set out to teach clients the following skills:

  • How to read others’ facial expressions and recognize a broader range of emotions
  • Gain perspective about how others see and react to their behavior
  • Develop insight into events that trigger their less regulated states and why they feel the way that they do
  • Understand when and how to use tools and problem-solving skills

The curriculum includes 18 lessons with detailed questions and follow ups, worksheets, other handouts, and visuals to display and share. These can be photocopied from this book or printed from the accompanying USB.

The Red Zone describes extremely heightened states of alertness and intense emotions. A person may be elated, euphoric, or experiencing anger, rage, explosive behavior, devastation, or terror when in the Red Zone.

The Yellow Zone describes a heightened state of alertness and elevated emotions; however, individuals have more control when they are in the Yellow Zone compared to the Red Zone. A person may be experiencing stress, frustration, anxiety, excitement, silliness, the wiggles, or nervousness when in the Yellow Zone. Many individuals with ASD believe the Red Zone is the only option when their emotions begin to heighten, but the Yellow Zone is the in-between, an option to catch themselves before they escalate too far.

The Green Zone is used to describe a calm state of alertness. A person may be described as happy, focused, content, or ready to learn when in the Green Zone. This is the zone where optimal learning occurs and where we would like to come back to after experiencing emotions in another zone.

The Blue Zone is used to describe low states of alertness and down feelings such as when one feels sad, tired, sick, or bored.

The zones themselves each offer a range of emotions to accompany many situations, environmental or otherwise, however, it is entirely plausible that an individual may be in more than one zone at any given time. This could occur when someone is too sick (Blue Zone) and may also feel frustrated (Yellow Zone) that they cannot go to a birthday party. Understanding what these zones mean and how they relate to each other is the optimal understanding of the four zones.

It is important to teach that all of the zones are natural and okay to experience, but the idea of the curriculum focuses on teaching individuals how to recognize and manage the zone they are in based on their situation and the people around them.

Learn more about the Zones of Regulation in the article, All the Zones are OK! Tips for Managing the Zones You’re In.

Teaching to Handle with Care when Working with Children with ASD

Handle with Care provides teaching strategies for those working with the behaviorally challenged population. The goal of Handle with Care is to ensure a safe and nurturing environment.

By teaching and implementing preventative actions that decrease the need for physical restraints, Handle with Care equips parents, ABA professionals, school teachers and many other professionals proper restraining techniques for the event that a restraint is absolutely necessary for the safety of a client or student.

Handle with Care believes that if staff work in fear and do not feel personally safe, then there can be no emotional safety whatsoever as fear will be the controlling emotion. 

Similarly, if the client cannot trust the staff to keep them unharmed and treat them fairly, they will not trust the staff or therapists to teach and provide the therapy they need.

Handle With Care is committed to the emotional and physical safety of behaviorally challenged individuals whose behavior may become harmful to themselves or others and the staff and organizations that support them.

In this video, Faith demonstrates how to responsibly remove yourself from an approach to then calm a client/child.

At Spectrum Autism Services, Faith Martino, one of our Clinical Assistants, and Abby Hawkins, our Office Manager, are trained to teach the employees of our company proper prevention, de-escalation techniques, and also proper restraining techniques.

A Handle with Care course is provided annually at Spectrum Autism Services to re-certify staff as well as certify newly joined staff. We believe that handling our kiddos with respect, despite the difficult emotional behaviors they sometimes exude, is not only morally fair, but paramount to teaching them the successful behavioral therapy they deserve.

Schools and facilities that use Handle With Care see on average a 30-40% reduction in injuries and incidents.

Handle with Care training addresses problematic behavior early in the cycle, thus reducing the number of incidents, injuries, holding times and assaults on staff, teachers, clients, private parties and students.

The following reviews convey the positive impact of implementing Handle with Care (HWC) protocol in professional environments:

For more information about Handle with Care, visit their website at http://www.handlewithcare.com

Learning Opportunities at the Park

Leaving the house with a child who has Autism Spectrum Disorder can be difficult, but we promise, it is worth the countless learning opportunities these outings provide.  New places and people are excellent ways to ensure your child is generalizing all of the amazing new skills you are teaching him from making eye contact to asking another child to join him in play.  

Things to note:

  • Stand in front of your child when he or she is swinging.  This way they can associate you with the fun sensation of being pushed back and forth!
  • Work on language and social skills while simultaneously performing gross motor activities. This builds critical connections between different regions of the brain.
  • Encourage your child to play with many different items at the park.  Make sure you prompt him to move on if his play becomes repetitive in nature (ex: going up the same ladder and down the same slide over and over).

While at the park:

1. Get in your child’s attention spotlight as often as possible (face-to-face within 3-4 feet)

2. Have fun (goofy faces, sing songs, big smiles, play movement games).

3. Imitate his vocalizations and actions.  Trust us children love to see that you are interested in what they are doing. Initially you may need to be careful to bring two of certain items such as balls, toy trucks, etc.  Some children will shut down if they feel like you are taking their toy.

4.  Follow the ONE-UP RULE. If your child is nonverbal label items and actions with one word (e.g. “push,” “swing”) If he is reliably using one word to make requests and communicate table items and actions with two words (“go fast” “kick ball”).

These strategies can increase engagement between you and your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We hope you have found them useful.

Feel free to comment with any additional strategies below!