How to make an autistic child respond to his name

How to make an autistic child respond to his name

My autistic child is not responding to his name. What do I do?

This strikes me as a very strange request, but only because it sounds more like somebody’s asking for dog or cat training. Your autistic child may not respond when you say or call his or her name for any number of reasons, but attempting to “train” him or her to respond is disrespectful and it ignores all of the possible reasons why your child doesn’t even blink when you call. That said, if you really want him or her to pay attention when you speak, here are some helpful tips.

  1. Get all the way down to his or her level. If he or she looked you in the eye, your eyes would have to be right in front of his/hers. Think about it—do you not look at other people when you address them? How do you get their attention? By looking right in their eyes and saying their names.
  2. Say your child’s name. Touch his or her hand when you say your child’s name, if he or she is not tactile defensive. It is a physical cue that connects with saying his/her name and will connect with his/her brain faster.
  3. Repeat this process a couple of times. Practice this process for several consecutive days. Once you get a visual recognition or a verbal one, you know he or she knows his/her name, even if he/she chooses not to respond to it the rest of the time.

Now, if you want to know why your child still does not respond to his or her name, get familiar with the reasons.

  1. He or she has a hearing problem. Get it checked out, as it could be anything from an ear infection to lost ability to hear.
  2. Your child has discovered “selective listening” and is being defiant. This is especially true of children on the spectrum who are high-functioning and can communicate when they want to.
  3. Your child is so lost in his or her own little world or so completely focused on something that he or she really doesn’t hear you when you call. Don’t fault them for it—even adults do this.

Remember, just keep trying and don’t yell or scream your child’s name. Even if your child is deaf and you don’t know it, yelling his or her name won’t make any difference. In a child with autism, you will either jumpstart a meltdown or you will cause your kid to tune you out, and neither of those is any good.

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How to prepare an autistic child for a new baby

New Baby on the Way: Your Autistic Child and Baby Preparations

This is not an easy thing to do, even with children that are not on the spectrum. Some kids are excited and great when they hear they will have a little brother or sister. Others, not so much. Children on the spectrum are the same way, whether they can verbalize it or not. Here are some helpful hints to aid your ASD child with the coming of the sibling.

How to prepare an autistic child for a new baby

If your ASD child is high-functioning and/or affectionate, tell him or her as soon as possible. Spend more time with him or her. Let your child snuggle up to your belly and talk to your belly. Sometimes if you can get your ASD child to formulate a bond with the yet unseen baby, he or she will be less likely to try and hurt the baby when you bring the baby home from the hospital.

If your child is on the other end of the spectrum, you could try to encourage him or her to touch your belly late in your pregnancy, when the baby is moving or kicking. The movement and sensations might be fascinating to him or her and then you can quietly talk about what is going on with Mommy’s tummy. If your child attempts to strike your belly or climb all over you, remove him or her and tell your child that that is not allowed now and will not be allowed when the baby comes.

Other things you can do to prepare your child with autism for a new baby is to engage him or her with the baby preparations. This would include decorating the baby’s room, making up the crib, showing your child how to wind the mobile to make music, etc. Also, give your child a pretend baby doll and his or her own baby doll crib or cradle. Show him or her how to hold a baby, rock a baby, feed a baby, change a baby, dress a baby and in all other ways practice taking care of the baby doll so it looks completely normal when you do it with the new baby. If you make it all routine, then your child on the spectrum will expect all of these behaviors in the house when the new sibling comes home.

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11 things never to say to parents of a child with autism

11 things never to say to parents of a child with autism

Eleven Things You Should Never Say to a Parent Who Has A Child with Autism

Some people say the dumbest things sometimes, and often they say the cruelest and unkind things too, thinking they are trying to be helpful and positive, but completely missing the mark. If you are a parent with a child on the spectrum, you probably have heard some of these comments below. If you are not a parent with an ASD child, do everyone a favor and not open your mouth to utter any of the following.

  1. “Well, at least he isn’t mentally retarded—some kids with autism are.” Not only is this an insensitive thing to say, but it is also an ignorant thing to say too.
  2. “Wow, I didn’t know she could do that! I didn’t think autistic kids could….(fill in the blank here)”. Really? What DID you think kids with autism could do? Give them more credit where credit is due.
  3. “What did you do wrong during your pregnancy?” This usually comes from someone who assumes it is all our fault that our kids “contracted” autism.
  4. “Did you drop him as an infant?” This one sometimes follows #3, when a much older person who knows nothing about the spectrum asks you.
  5. “You poor thing! Surely you won’t risk it and have any more like that one, will you?” Wow. Just…wow. Parents don’t need your pity, they need your support, and even though autism does seem to run in families, it doesn’t mean all of the children will be “afflicted”.
  6. “Control your brat, lady! He/she is….(destroying the store, having a tantrum and needs to be spanked, etc.)” Um, no, my child is overstimulated and needs to go somewhere nice and quiet for a really long rest period, not be screamed at by you.
  7. “What’s wrong with your kid? Why doesn’t he/she listen or look at me when I’m talking to him/her?” This is when parents with autistic kids stop and correct others by telling them there is nothing “wrong” with their children and then act as advocates for autism by explaining their children’s behavior.
  8. “This is God’s punishment for something you or your partner did.” While the sins of the father may still be visited upon the children, most of us like to think that God doesn’t make mistakes and that our children on the spectrum should be celebrated for all they are capable of, not shamed for what others assume must be the reason for their existence.
  9. “Nobody wants to play with your kid because he/she is weird.” There are too many viral stories out there of parents who refused to let their children play with an autistic child or attend an ASD child’s birthday party. That’s just sad, and more sad for those that think and utter this because they can’t see that having their children spend time with an autistic child would teach their own children more compassion and provide them with greater understanding and less fear.
  10. “What are you going to do with him/her when he/she grows up? Do they still put autistic people in a county hospital/asylum?” Overtly nosy people tend to ask this because they wonder if you are going to have a Boo Radley living with you until you die, or if you will send your adult child on the spectrum away to some place where he/she won’t hurt anyone (as if he or she would).
  11. “Autism? How do you get that?” Unless this person has been living under a rock since the sixties, you probably won’t hear this, but parents who do use it as an opportunity to share their knowledge about what autism is and isn’t.

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Can I give my autistic child up for adoption

The Difficult Autistic Child and Delayed Adoption: Can You Do It?

My friends have an autistic child they cannot handle. She asked me, “Can I give my autistic child up for adoption?” There isn’t a parent on this earth that doesn’t think to themselves, “Is it too late to give my child up for adoption?”, especially when they have just gone through a really horrible day with their kids. Although it may be a fantasy for some, for a few parents who have children on the spectrum, it seems like the best idea ever. Unfortunately, there are some legal barriers to adoption once your child is way past the five-day-old mark. There are alternatives instead, but none of them may be what you would consider responsible or compassionate, so be careful about what you decide to do.

Can I give my autistic child up for adoption

Option number one is probably the least favored of all, because it makes you look like an unfit parent and because the county in which you live will try to get you to surrender custody of your other children as well. In this option, you contact your local Human Services Department and inform them you want to surrender all parental rights to your child with autism. They will want to know why, try to schedule a home visit, and go out of their way to help you keep your child at home. If you are absolutely adamant that you need to give him or her up, then you have to go through a lengthy court process that severs all ties you have with your autistic child. You will never be allowed to see him or her again, but you will also never have to worry about how to manage him or her or take care of him/her. It is not a pretty way to handle your situation, and it is one you would eventually and deeply regret.

Option number two allows you to retain your parental rights to your child, but your child is then placed in a group home with other children like him or her. The majority of challenges you presently face you leave with better trained staff and nurses, while affording you the ability to have your son or daughter come home to visit once in a while or you can visit him/her at the group home. It relieves a lot of the emotional and physical burdens you presently feel while placing your child in what you know is a very safe environment for him or her.

Option number three is to ask a close, trusted friend or another family member to take full guardianship of your child. This is like adoption in that this friend or family member legally agrees to take over for you and takes full parental responsibility. This is done more often when a parent is a recovering alcoholic or drug addict and knows he/she cannot take care of a child on the spectrum until long after he/she has been through detox and rehab. However, extenuating circumstances can and do allow for perfectly healthy parents to grant full legal custody of their children to another family member.

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How much melatonin can I give my autistic child

Melatonin and the Autistic Child: What Is Safe?

If you have a child with autism and he or she can’t simply settle down and go to bed at night, you might be wondering what you can give your child to make him or her more calm and eventually go to sleep. First things first—consult with your pediatrician, especially if your child is already on some form of medication for hyperactivity, seizures or attention deficit disorder. Giving your child an OTC without consulting with your pediatrician first could seriously backfire.

How much melatonin can I give to my autistic child

Secondly, if your pediatrician cannot tweak the meds your child is on, then he or she would give you permission for the dosage of melatonin you can use. With neuro-typical children, a single dose of gummy melatonin chews consists of a single piece. For adults and children on the spectrum, it is two pieces, or 5mg. Any more than that and you could damage the body’s own hormonal regulation system, which produces its own natural melatonin. In rare cases where a child with autism cannot settle down or has trouble falling asleep because he or she is on a twelve-hour dose of Ritalin or some other stimulant, then a pediatrician might grant you permission to give your child a dose and a half of the adult dose, or 7.5mg. However, DO NOT give your child this much without first consulting your pediatrician.

Thirdly, and finally, do not expect melatonin to be the cure. Just as kids on the spectrum are all different, they will all react to melatonin differently. Simply put, some kids on melatonin get hyped up by it rather than calmed down. If, after three nights of dosing your child he or she is more hyper than before or has an even more difficult time falling asleep or staying asleep, discontinue its use. It is safe to discontinue melatonin on your own because it is an OTC and not a prescribed medication.

Autism Registry: Scary Government Tracking or Helpful Research?

Autism registry

Autism Registry: Scary Government Tracking or Helpful Research?

Some states have recently formed an autism registry. If you are not in a state that has such a registry, you may be wondering what this is, what it’s for, and if you should register should your state ever start something similar. Parents who are very protective of their children may be very wary at first—after all, a state registry that tracks who has autism, where they live, and documents information about the mothers and their children seems a little invasive and scary. However, there are some positive points to registering your children with autism and registering important information about your family.

Autism registry in NJ

Autism research is a very important and positive reason for adding your family to the registry. All of the information the researchers gather about autism, where it seems to be most highly concentrated, the age of both parents when they conceived a child that was later diagnosed with autism, etc., is kept confidential, but it helps determine if there are any common factors. The common factors can then steer researchers in a direction that has not been explored before, as they try to find a cure or a preventive measure and help reduce the frequency with which autism is discovered and diagnosed.

Another reason for registering is so that when there is a cure, a treatment or a preventive measure found, your family can be one of the first ones to hear about it. Researchers who compile the list of names and data can present their findings to you and your child to see if you would like to reverse the disorder (should it ever be possible), or if you would like to remain as you are.

Government planning for the future welfare and financial needs also relies on this collected data. Social Security Administration will have to fairly and accurately predict the number of group homes, nursing homes, special care attendants, disability benefit amounts per person, and life expectancy for healthcare for every autistic child in America. Since the current number of autistic children is growing at an unprecedented rate in human history, there is no data bank to assist the government with these tasks, at least not without the help of the willing and volunteering families and the state registries.

Currently, many states on the East and West coasts of the U.S. have autism registries. Some require that mandatory reporters who discover and diagnose children with autism register your child and your family without your permission. Other states give you the option, while letting you know that if you do volunteer your information, you may be offered more public assistance and referred to extra programs that can help you raise your special needs child.

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Summer camps for students with autism

Summer camps for students with autism

Summer Camps for Kids with Autism: Why You Should Send Your Child

Summer camps exist for both neurotypical and special needs campers across the U.S. The fact that many communities have taken notice of the fact that kids with autism need a very different sort of program speaks to the fact that these communities are doing their part to be inclusive of every child, regardless of where he or she falls on the spectrum. If you are thinking about sending your child to a summer camp for autistic kids, there are several reasons why you absolutely should.

Summer camps for students with autism

REASON #1: The camps are highly organized and very structured. Kids with autism, as you know, love structure. It helps them feel safe and less anxious or nervous knowing the exact itinerary each and every day. There is nothing that will cause your child to run willy-nilly and get injured or cause injury to someone else.

REASON #2: Socialization. Seriously, you have to get the kids out to socialize during the summer, but you do not have to let it all fall on you. There will be other kids at autism camp that will have similar interests and skill levels as your own child, and he or she will absolutely love finding somebody else to talk to about Minecraft or Shopkins, ad nauseum.

REASON #3: It’s fun. The groups are always small, do tons of arts and crafts, play outdoors, explore new things (like yoga!), and go on a couple of field trips to places kids with autism would love to go. The staff tire the kids out for you by keeping them so busy all day, and the kids are happy and content when you pick them up (usually—there’s always one in the bunch that might be having a meltdown about going home, but it won’t happen every day).

REASON #4: It’s very, very safe. There are at least two camp “counselors” to each child, unless your child is very low functioning and needs assistance sitting up, standing, etc., then there are three counselors to a child. Everyone makes sure the kids are participating or getting a needed break and all the counselors go through a rigorous screening process before they are hired. Most of them are actually college students who plan to teach special ed!

REASON #5: Because you absolutely deserve a break. Hey, don’t feel guilty in the least if you cop to this reason—all parents of special needs kids need a break, and we don’t always get one. Autism camp during the summer gives you a week long break you can feel good about because you know your child is safe, having fun, and is in very good hands.

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Extracurricular Activities and the Autistic Child

Extracurricular Activities and the Autistic Child
Obviously, we are talking about the high-functioning autistic child here, since most kids on the opposite end of the spectrum would not be able to participate in after-school activities with their peers. Although you want your child to experience all the world has for them to experience and want to support their interests completely, there is a parental learning curve here. Involving your child in a sport after school is great, but if the practices are too much or too long, your child will not have what he or she needs to maintain an even emotional keel for very long. That results in aggressive behavior, outbursts and meltdowns. Likewise, involving your child in too many after school activities will have the same effect.

So how do you choose what is right for your child? Most parents of “normal” kids figure it out by first limiting the number of activities their kids are involved in, and adding more as the child gets older or seems able to handle more activity and responsibility. However, the neuro-typical child has a filter that helps them block out excess environmental stimulation that ASD kids cannot.

So, simply put, if your son or daughter wants to experience an activity, like dance, soccer, music or art lessons, try it for short durations. The best time to enroll your child in a short-term experience is in the summer. It keeps him or her from getting bored and helps both of you figure out if the activity is a good fit . If your child wants to continue the activity once school begins again, he or she is already settled into the routine of the activity and can expect it with the same frequency as he or she did in the summer. It is best to try one activity at a time, and add only one more activity if your child requests it. If there are dramatic shifts in behavior or mood, then you know that two or more activities is too much, and you and your child will have to decide which one is most important before dropping the others.

Middle schoolers and High schoolers will have tons of opportunities and endless options for after-school activities. Although your child may be eager to try them all, you have to rein him or her in, because you already know what your child can manage and what is too much for him or her. Although your child may be heading to college and need those extracurriculars on his or her college application, most colleges are also forgiving and understanding of applicants who have ASD or other qualifying disability. What is more important is that your child finds out what he or she likes and sticks with it, rather than trying everything and sticking with nothing.

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Physical Placement and Custody of an Autistic Child

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Divorce is hard on kids, but much more so for kids with ASD because they cannot process why Mommy and Daddy won’t live in the same house anymore. Since they already have a difficult time with social interaction and personal relationships, it becomes especially confusing to the ASD child when parents split. If parents are not careful about making custody and placement decisions, the ASD child will suffer more than usual during and after a divorce.

More and more judges and lawyers are becoming familiar with autism and autism spectrum disorders. They are recognizing the impact it has on children who need consistency and stability in their lives in order to feel more secure. Parents who fight over where their child with ASD is going to live are actually jeopardizing that child’s sense of security. The ASD child will begin to lash out, become aggressive and stressed, be emotionally charged and have more frequent meltdowns. To them, their whole world is falling apart and now they are expected to go to Daddy’s on certain days and times and live with Mommy the rest of the time, or vice versa. Although this isn’t the best option already for kids who are not on the spectrum, it is the worst for kids who are.

If you, as a parent, are going through a divorce and are worried about your child with ASD, you need to fight really hard to keep your child living in one location to maintain consistency. That is not to say you should deny your ex of his or her rights to see your child, but instead offer liberal visitation and shared custody. Primary physical placement with one parent is the ideal situation for these children, but they need both parents in order to continue growing socially and emotionally. This is a very difficult thing to do, since some parents are quite insistent that children should split their time and living quarters between parents, but it isn’t a suitable option for kids on the spectrum, especially those who are high-functioning enough to understand some of what is going on.

If you are having difficulties with custody issues and your soon-to-be-ex, make sure you hire a lawyer who has experience with disability cases who can also schedule a hearing with a judge who is equally experienced and familiar with autism and ASD. Whatever your ex’s argument is regarding physical custody, the judge should be able to persuade him or her that it may not be in your ASD child’s best interests to toss him or her to and fro between two residences. Also, if you can prove that your child does not adapt well to change and has issues with transitioning between homes and transitioning in and out of other locations and situations, that may help solidify your case to keep your child in one home or the other consistently.

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Soothing Kits for Kids on the Spectrum

Calming toys for special needs children

No doubt that as a parent of a child with ASD, you have witnessed your fair share of meltdowns. Other people who are not aware of your child’s diagnosis might accuse you of bad parenting or that your child is a spoiled brat. What they fail to understand is that your child is currently overstimulated, and needs to be soothed but not coddled.

Mental health therapists who meet with higher-functioning kids on the spectrum often suggest a soothing kit. Usually within the first two or three meetings, kids discuss with their therapists the different things they find comforting. Some kids like really soft objects to brush up against their skin, while other kids really love fidgets, a type of toy that lets them putz and explore but still helps them focus.

Using a rundown of sensory experiences, your child’s therapist will come up with different things you can put into a soothing kit for him or her. There should be at least two different objects for each sense in the kit, e.g., two objects for touch, two for sound, two for smell, etc. The only sense you might want to avoid is taste, because you will have to replace it far too frequently. Many kids on the spectrum already stick everything in their mouths for oral stimulation, so actual edibles in the soothing kit is discouraged. It is also discouraged because you do not want your child to learn that eating is a healthy way to soothe one’s feelings when it is not.

The other thing you want to keep in mind is that not all children on the spectrum will appreciate soothing items for sound or light, but if your child naturally gravitates towards certain objects and finds them comforting, in the kit they go. Because of their high distractibility, kids with ASD will move out of meltdown mode if given something pleasing and soothing to their currently raw nerves.

Special needs retailers, such as Fun and Function, sell a wide variety of sensory soothing kits and items small enough to throw into a Rubbermaid tote to create a kit. It can be a real trial and error process, especially if you do not have anything at home that your child already responds to positively. Whenever possible, take your child to an educational toy store and head for the special needs toy aisles. Being able to touch and play with fidgets and sensory toys helps your child have a say in what goes into the kit, even if he or she is non-verbal. Once you have a well-stocked kit, keep it close by at all times. If you want to travel with it, then putting your son’s or daughter’s favorite soothing items in a backpack will ensure a more peaceful trip for all.

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