An Autumn Outing with Spectrum

This past weekend, we enjoyed some Spectrum Family fun at Snead’s Asparagus Farm! What a great time to connect with our staff outside of work and have us grow as a team!

Autumn outings to animal farms, hayrides, and pumpkin patches have been a wonderful experience for Spectrum families and employees alike. They provide excellent opportunities for our kiddos to engage with peers and nature.

Everyday Learning Opportunities: At the Library

With the change in seasons, utilizing our local libraries can provide enjoyable activities out of our home for our little ones.

Many libraries offer weekly story-times. Some even offer sensory friendly story times specifically for kids with ASD. Visit your local library’s website to see if this is available in your area. If not, it can always be beneficial to ask your librarians about beginning one!

These story-times are an excellent opportunity to generalize your child’s skills and have them practice learning in a group setting.  

Learning opportunities provided may include:

  • Playing with musical toys, which can teach valuable imitation and group responding skills.
  • Preschool songs/nursery rhymes, which promotes following one-step instructions and imitation.
  • Group reading helps practice sitting quietly and listening.

It also helps your child to attend during sing-a-long songs if they are familiar with them from hearing them at home, so brush up on your Twinkle Twinkle and London Bridge!

Also, don’t forget to capitalize on the presence of same-age peers! Simply being around children your child’s age can help them become more comfortable in social settings.

Everyday Learning Opportunities for Toddlers with ASD: Meal Time

Meal time is an important activity for our kiddos. Due to its regularity, it provides the perfect opportunity to enhance engagement and implement ABA therapy.

We understand what it is like to be a parent that chases their toddler around trying to get them to take “just one more bite.”  Many of our kiddos are picky eaters too and resist staying seated at a table.  

Our Recommendation:

  • Limit snacks in between meal times and provide access to their favorite foods only at the table.  

Before you begin meal time, make sure you turn off all electronics.  It is vital that you are the most interesting thing in their environment.  

Position yourself face-to-face with your child. He is less likely to make eye contact and engage if you are standing up and moving around the kitchen. Keep the majority of the food on a plate beside you and place foods on his plate after he provides some indication that he would like more. This may be VERY subtle at first (looking towards plate, small movement of body or hand towards plate, etc.). Eventually, you will work up to having him request more food with eye contact or a gesture, and finally by asking verbally.

We like to provide our kiddos with child-sized silverware and dishes right away.  This provides them with opportunities to imitate others who may be eating at the table and promotes independence.  

Throughout mealtime remember to:

1. Stay in your child’s attention spotlight (face-to-face within 3-4 feet)

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

3. Imitate your child’s vocalizations and actions.  Children love to see that you are interested in what they are doing. Keep in mind that it might be best for you to have your own plate of food when imitating your child’s actions during engagement. We become possessive of our food at a VERY young age!

4.  Follow the ONE-UP RULE. If your child is nonverbal label items and actions with one word (e.g. “cookie,” “yummy”) If he is reliably using one word to make requests and communicate table items and actions with two words (“two cookies” “want chicken”).

You can practice and generalize new meal-time skills by going to a friend’s house or out to eat. These are successful methods of making meal time a learning opportunity that we use here at Spectrum Autism Services and in our homes.   

Some of our go to kids dishes and silverware:

If you have any questions or additional ideas, feel free to comment below!

The First Steps for Parents Following Your Child’s Autism Diagnosis

Has your child recently received an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis?

You might be experiencing a gamut of emotions. That is okay. We aren’t here to tell you how to feel, as we have been there too. But what we can tell you about are resources that work for us with our own children at our homes and with our clients.

“I know for me, I felt almost crazy for thinking something could be a little “off” about my child, because everyone else around me was saying ‘you’re just overthinking it’, or ‘all babies develop at their own pace’, or ‘this is your first child, so you just don’t know’…. I was relieved that I wasn’t just imagining things, I followed my gut, persisted, and was able to finally get him the help he needed.” 

-Melissa, a Spectrum employee and friend whose firstborn was diagnosed with ASD.

We understand that everyone responds differently to this news, so let’s begin by introducing you to a few of the resources we have used to successfully inform ourselves and clients.

Get every referral possible.

Studies prove that some young children have the ability to make drastic progress when Autism is found early and intervention occurs. Begin your journey by making an appointment with your child’s pediatrician and requesting referrals to a developmental Occupational Therapy, Speech, and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

Contact your community services board.

This resource has valuable information regarding early intervention services, providers within your area, connecting you with medicaid waivers (should your child qualify), disability resource centers, and local support groups to assist you through the process. That way, you don’t have to do all of the google searching yourself!

Ask Questions

Call around, ask questions, and set up assessments for services. Not every provider will be the perfect fit for your child, or your family, so you should evaluate the agencies as well.

Educate yourself

Learn as much as possible about Autism and what you can do to support your child. There will be a plethora of information that comes your way. Try to decide what methods work for your family. Autism treatment is not a “one size fits all”, so some of this journey will be trial and error, and that is okay.

The book below,  An Early Start for Your Child with Autism: Using Everyday Activities to Help Kids Connect, Communicate, and Learn, is a favorite resource of Nancy Daly, our CEO. It discusses research on how parents can play a pivotal role in helping their young children with ASD.

An Early Start for Your Child with Autism: Using Everyday Activities to Help Kids Connect, Communicate, and Learn by [Rogers, Sally J., Dawson, Geraldine, Vismara, Laurie A.]

Talk to your friends and family.

It is important to have a support group, not just for your child, but for you and our partner. Some family members or friends may not know how to handle the news, so communicate what you need or ways they can help. If they care, they will want to be encouraging in the ways that you and your family need. This process helps show you which people are going to be more reliable, and who you may want to distance yourself from. You are your child’s #1 advocate, and you need the people who are going to only work with you, not against you! 

There are many ways to navigate the ASD journey you are on. We hope that this blog post has provided you with a few ideas to point you in an informative, and hopefully helpful, direction.