- Proloquo2go: This application, referred to as an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) app, allows children who have difficulty communicating to create sentences using pictures, words, and their own voice. A bit pricey ($189), but it is well worth the cost for enabled communication.
- ABA Flash Cards: This helpful app quizzes children with autism on different facial and social cues to help them recognize emotion in others. Best part? It’s free.
- GraceApp: This is a life-saver for people with autism who are non-verbal. This is a basic AAC app; users communicate by choosing pictures for words. $24.99
- TaptoTalk: This is a free AAC app that also features choosing pictures to form sentences and make requests.
- Autim Tracker Pro: This ten-dollar app lets you, the caretaker, stay organized about your child’s behavior, habits, and development. You can also create, organize, and share calendars.
- iCommunicate: This is an awesome app that lets your child create sentences using photos of themselves and others they know and connect them to universal symbols of needs and places, like bathroom or bus. $49
- First Then Visual Schedule: This is a great visual manipulative device for the child who feels more comfortable with a routine. You can program you child’s day with activities and events that he or she can check off after completing. Additionally, the events come with timers, so your child can feel comfortable knowing the beginnings and ends of daily events. $9.99
- iCan Toilet Training Program: This affordable ($3.99) app teaches autistic kids the benefits of using the bathroom and rewards them with fun games. It also includes timers and reminders to use the bathroom.
- Caught Being Good: This is one awesome 99c app. Reinforce good behavior by “catching” your child being good and then allowing them to spin the wheel for a reward. This will thrill your child when he or she is using good behavior and will remind you to make sure you look for the good and the bad.
- Count to 100! – This is a fun, basic math game you can play with your child. In addition to counting up, you can teach your child to skip count up to 100 by different numbers. And, at $2, this won’t break the bank.
- Communicating Basic Needs – For children who are less communicative, this allows them to use universal symbols and pictures to get their message across fast. It’s $39.99 for the full app, which includes full use of the web-interface, where parents can upload and record customized messages and pictures.
- Dr. Suess’s ABC: Help your child learn and appreciate the ABC’s with this fun, creative, and classic app. Each letter comes with entertaining pictures and is read aloud when tapped! $3.99
- Expressions: Teach your child to better recognize common emotions in others with Expressions, $1.99. Using a fun game, children can match the faces to the emotions they’re expressing. You can up the challenge by timing the rounds. Each correct answer gets a reward from the game.
- Fun Timer: This app will help you teach your child an understanding of timing and encourage him or her to finish tasks. A place or reward activity is pictured on the phone or iPad as well as a timer that counts down. When your child wastes time doing chores, homework, or a required task, you can make the timer count down. Your child can see how getting his or her work completed will lead to more time doing the reward activity.
- Felt Board: Just like the traditional toy of the same name, the felt board is an iPad app that lets children design and dress people, pick scenery and animals, an encourages creativity. This iPad app is low-cost, $2.99, and includes letters and numbers.
- iDress for Weather: This $1.99 app is an interactive game that teaches the functional skill of choosing appropriate clothing for the weather.
- Type-A-Word: This app teaches beginning typing skills that can be used with the iPad keyboard or an attached keyboard. It’s a great functional skills and educational app and rewards children for picking the right letters. $2.99
- Alpha Writer: This is a $4.99 Montessori designed application that teaches spelling and word recognition.
- Behavior Tracker Pro: This $29.99 app is a great help for parents, teachers, or therapists that want to quantitatively assess behavior patterns in children with autism. This will allow you to notate, date, and even graph behavior events of a child and assess what behavior modifications and interventions are necessary.
- Draw Free for iPad: Encourage your children to express themselves creatively with this free app that works like a sketchpad. They can draw on photos and share their work over social media.
Some of the best options for high-technology software and hardware for children with autism:
- Boardmaker – This is a software program that communicates commonly used words through symbols are universally understood. You can also add text to any of the pictures. This can help teachers and students communicate. This falls into the category of Visual Representation Systems.
- Picture This – This is another Visual Representation System software that uses photographs to clearly illustrate different words. Both student and teacher to communicate can utilize this.
- MyVoice – This is a communication aid that helps non-verbal or low-verbal children express what they need or want. It works on an iPhone or Android phone.
- Grace App – this is an iPad app that allows children with autism to communicate by choosing from a picture vocabulary and stringing those pictures together to make sentences.
- iConverse – Also designed to allow for communication, this app is for children with autism or other developmental disabilities who can’t yet converse freely. More basic than other conversational software, this app represents six basic needs along with audible and visual cues that non-communicative children can use to express basic needs.
- Proloquo2go – this is an iPad or iPhone app that allows children and adults to communicate using symbols.
- Dragon Dictate – This software by Dragon is a Voice Recognition System that can take dictation and make it simple for children with autism to use an iPad or Computer.
- Speak it! – If a child has trouble reading text on a screen, Speak It! (an iPad app) can read the text for him or her aloud.
- iComm – Parents and children can upload pictures and record voice-memos that go with them.
- MyTalk – Another iPad app, this also allows for effective communication by letting people with autism choose symbols or recorded words that express their desired message.
- Look2Learn – This is an app that combines photos with audible descriptions. Autistic users can pick photos that communicate what they want to say. They also can upload their own photos and record verbal descriptions.
Emotional Awareness and Expression
- Autism Xpress – This is a free iPad app that allows an autistic child express their feelings by choosing one of the 12 “face-expressions” on the screen that show a different emotion. It also helps teach children with autism to recognize facial expressions and emotions, something that is often difficult for them.
Educational Support Software
- Alphasmart – This is a keyboard that will allow students with autism to practice typing skills and keep up in classes that require writing. Over time, typing will allow students to write faster, neater, and with fewer errors
- Story Builder – For more advanced students, this app guides children and allows them to write their own stories by asking important narrative questions and providing fifty pre-made storylines for children to choose from.
- Living Safely – This iPad app is designed to teach basic safety lessons to children with autism, from stranger danger, to proper sun-safety.
- iCommunicate – Create flashcards, schedules, and any other important information for children with autism in this iPad app. It also allows students and teachers to create storyboards and communicate through symbols and pictures.
1). Why is assistive technology important?
2). Assistive technology for children with autism
3). 20 best social games for children with autism, aspergers, ADHD
4). 20 Best iPad Apps for Children with Autism
5). How to handle an autistic child in the classroom?
Teaching social skills through games can be a fun way to relate to your student or relative with autism and impart important emotional skills. Be sure that you adjust the rules of the games to fit with your child’s needs and current skill level.
- Ryuu – This game is inspired by the hit children’s games of Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh with its popular, collectible cards. Each of the “creatures” on the cards is related to a specific social skill and describes that skill.
- Traditional Board Games – This is general, but board games are a great way to work social skills with your student. It’s important to stress how one should react when you are winning or losing. Just like with other young children, it’s important to emphasize not to be a bad sport. For example, following directions teaches many social skills.
- Social Stories – Reading and interacting with your child through social stories is a great way to enjoy time with your relative or student with autism and impart important social skills.
- See Blocks – These see-through blocks are a great tool for working on building eye contact with your child with autism.
- Emotions Board – This is a toy that helps children with autism recognize emotional face expressions on felt photographs. This is both a textile and social experience. This is just one of many games that are made for children with autism to help them recognize and understand their emotions and the emotions of others.
- Red Light – Green Light – This classic game teaches following the rules and playing a somewhat-competitive game. Once again, set up what your child needs to do when they encounter different situations.
- Simon Says – This also teaches following directions and paying attention to the speaker. It also requires your child to watch the leader, which is an important social skill.
- Guess Who? – This is a great board game for children with autism to help them describe and recognize different faces.
- Second Life – This online game allows users to play a character and interact with the other characters in the online world. There is a special “location” in the game for people with autism (primarily Asperger’s). The special thing about Second Life is that the characters you create live, interact, and work in the world and so can teach people with autism important social skills in the virtual world that they can then bring to their real life.
- Autismgames.com – This website contains tons of online games that address specific social issues students with autism experience, such as dealing with change and making eye contact.
- Berenstain Bears Learn to Share Game – This game features the world-famous Berenstain Bears and also teaches an important skill for a child with autism, sharing.
- 6 Social Skills Game Set from National Autism Resources – These board games come as a set and are specifically geared toward teaching social skills to children with autism.
- Playtime with Zeebu from National Autism Resources – This is a DVD and puppets combo that teach social skills that parents can reinforce with fun puppets!
- The Blunders Game from National Autism Resources – This game teaches children with autism about social skills and manners through a group of kids called the “blunders” who are always making mistakes. Autistic children can win the game by recognizing the mistakes the blunder kids make.
- Charades or Guesstures – Teaching autistic students to use gestures and expressive body language is a great skill to encourage which makes these classic games excellent tools.
- Create a Face Pad – This is a large pad with a blank face on each page that students can draw on and create emotions!
- Social Skills for Small Groups Play Pack from National Autism Resources – This is a deck of cards with 15 different social skills games for your child to use! It is played in a group, which will automatically create a greater social experience.
- Guess How I Feel Game from National Autism Resources – Using drawing and role-playing, children playing the game can work on recognizing and expressing emotions.
- Manhattan Toy Dress Up – This is a special doll (that can come as a boy or girl!) that teaches dressing on your own and all the different parts of an outfit!
- Nintendo Wii Sports – This game comes standard on a Wii and is a great activity for a child with autism and can be played as a group.
Joint attention refers to a person’s ability to engage in focusing on an object or activity with another person. Most often it is first noticed when an infant follows the gaze of his parent or caregiver and participates in giving attention to an object with the adult. For example, when a parent is holding their child, and directs their own gaze toward a window, the typically developing child will follow the adult’s gaze and give joint attention to the window. Joint attention is a noted deficit in children with autism, and is often the earliest indicator that a child may receive a spectrum diagnosis.
Joint attention is imperative to establish for optimal communication development. A child with autism has extreme difficulty shifting focus to external stimuli, including other people and their feelings. They may not be initially capable of recognizing interactions, relational impact or social cues. Joint attention is the first piece of the puzzle in this regard. Often, it is overlooked in the course of treatment unless a therapist steps in to recommend working on it. Joint attention is often a stage of infant development for typically developing children. If a five year old child or even ten year old child with autism displays significant impairments in communication or awareness of others, joint attention must be a starting place for therapeutic intervention.
Establishing joint attention skills are very difficult. They require calculated practice and intense focus. The caregiver and therapist must work as a team to make this establishment. The first attempts might fail, and fail again. Steps must be small and victories must be reinforced. The first steps toward establishing joint attention involve gaze pairing. The caregiver focuses on an object in the room, and prompts the child to shift attention to the object. It is often best to start with a preferred object that the child will likely take an interest in observing. Noises are also good ways to attract the attention for the child with autism. The caregiver can produce a familiar or even unfamiliar noise and prompt the child to take notice. Often the child will ignore these external factors of his environment. Continued prompting and reinforcement will help the child shift attention.
Once initial joint attention is established with a shift in focus, interaction can begin to take place. Floortime therapy refers to this as “back and forth” play. Tickling, bubble blowing and other play time activities are ideal for initial engagement. These are safe, preferred activities for children with autism. Take an interest in the child’s interests and gradually shift them toward other activities and objects.
Joint attention is the basic building block for communication. Many children with autism become absorbed into their internal world, making joint attention establishment a hard battle to fight. The longer these children spend in their internal world, the harder it becomes to draw them out of it. Joint attention maintains the surface awareness of others that is required for external interactions. Ideally, joint attention becomes regular practice for clients with autism and their families.
Successful joint attention reduces stimming behaviors and anxiety. Many children with autism are prone to meltdowns due to sensory overload. This often happens when the child spends a great deal of time absorbed in the internal world, and then is bombarded with a trip to the grocery store where the external factors are unfamiliar and intense. Without the ability to interact with the external environment, the child with autism develops fewer pro-social behaviors, communication capabilities and successful interactions. Dedication to developing this critical skill on the part of the parents or caregivers makes a huge difference for the child with autism.
Parents who first find out that they have a child with autism wonder just what kind of fun they can have with their child. They worry that they might not be able to share their likes, interests and hobbies with their child. While those are completely natural concerns, the answer really boils down to the level of functioning that the child has.
Physical Activities For Autistic Children
The majority of kids with autism really enjoys motion and seems to be filled with endless energy. It can even be quite exhausting at times for parents, but it’s also a good motivator to stay in shape. Running, jogging, taking walks, and biking are not dismissed so long as the safety concerns are taken care of. Finding safe environments to do these activities for physical fitness is first and foremost. For parents who are concerned about biking, tandem bikes or special needs bikes or balance tires placed on a standard bike can really help a child with autism gain balance, muscle control, and skill.
Learning Activities For Autistic Children At Home
Indoor activities can include board games, simple bean bag toss games, video games, and computer games. All should be supervised and the child with autism learns through repetition, so frequent hand over hand demonstrations help them learn to play and play with others. Reading books and watching movies for a little quiet time to decrease anxiety and nervous activity are good too.
If a parent is fortunate to have an autistic child who isn’t very tactile defensive, or not at all tactile defensive, anything that involves sensory input that can be touched/ felt, tasted, stretched/ smashed/ squished/ crunched, heard, or smelled is a go. Just be sure that all materials are non-toxic just in case the child wants to taste the play dough or your bouquet of roses. Autism resource websites can help with ideas, and often have links directly to sensory items that will not over or under stimulate the child.
A child who’s much higher functioning who can speak and answer questions and understand right from wrong can engage in arts and crafts. Generally these children won’t try to eat glue or paint the walls and table; they understand they need to stick to the areas they are told. Lesser functioning children can still do art, but it has to be hand over hand, and sharp instruments have to be in the control of parents at all times.
Parents should also take note of what their children with autism like to do or are drawn towards. Encouraging interests just as anyone would encourage a child without autism is very important to their sense of self. Those that can’t vocalize what they like and don’t like will still be able to show an interest in something, and parents need to interact with their children on that level and with that interest. Bonds can be formed, it just takes a little extra effort when the child with autism doesn’t speak or rejects human affection.
In all cases of activity, indoors or out, stimulating or relaxing, never let the activity go beyond thirty minutes. Too much stimulation can happen very quickly with a child with autism, and then unexpected or unwanted behaviors start. It’s also a good idea to follow your child’s own cues. He or she will move away from an activity or get distracted and then it’s time to take a break or move on to something else. Parents really need to be in tune to their special needs children, because it makes all the difference in the world.
Most Related Concerns:
To work with and teach children with autism not only requires a great deal of patience, but also a degree in special education. Since the majority of kids with autism are mainstreamed in regular classrooms unless they are nonverbal, most of the verbal kids with autism work with a paraprofessional in the classroom when the head teacher is working to teach a topic or working with a small group. Depending on the number of special needs children in the mainstream classroom, the number of “parapros” are added to the room. They are allowed to help any of the students in the room, but primarily are there to assist with any special needs situations.
As for the nonverbal students who have autism, they attend the special needs classroom for x number of hours, and maybe an hour or two mainstreamed depending on what their IEP goals are. Special needs teachers are trained to handle all of the situations that may arise with multiple special needs diagnoses. They also have the capacity and connections to multiple toys and devices that help children with autism learn and express themselves, even if they can’t speak.
Children with autism learn like most, through repetition. Once an autistic child demonstrates the lesson without any prompts, the lesson is considered learned, and the teacher moves on, adding to the lesson that has been learned. Baby steps or more advanced lessons are taught, depending on each child’s ability to learn, retain, and demonstrate the knowledge gained. Because many children with autism have exceptional memories, the problem with learning usually isn’t retention; it’s comprehension and/or demonstration. They also have a tendency to learn some school topics easier than others; children might readily absorb math, reading and/or science but be lost with spelling, comprehension, writing, etc.
All of this is addressed in the annual or biannual meeting that involves the parents of the child, the teachers, and any additional special service teachers the child sees during the week. At this meeting the Individualized Education Plan, or IEP, is discussed at length. Goals are developed based on the expectations of what the child is expected to know and understand by a particular grade in school or developmental age. The goals can’t be developed without a parent’s guidance because only a parent can reveal what the child is like outside of the school and what issues need to be addressed, if any.
The special needs teacher takes notes on what the parents and every other member of the scholastic team has to say and develops and IEP with clearly outlined goals and the expectations and strategies that will be carried out to meet those goals. Everyone gets a copy of this IEP once it’s typed out and checked for errors and professional tone. When everyone is “on board” with the plan, the child with autism can succeed better than a few teachers alone.
Behavior modification programs are often developed as well to teach address expected social behavior to the child with autism. Instruments of positive reinforcement are used when the child does what is expected, and punishments that apply to a negative behavior are in place to help deter that behavior in the future. Careful observation of the child’s behavior helps in deciding how to approach this plan of action.
Additional careers in teaching and working with kids with autism include an autism therapist, who works for and under the guidance of a psychologist/ applied behavior analyst. In this career, the therapist sees a number of children in the course of a week, spending up to three hours at a time with each child and each visit. Most families need the additional support because their children are behind their peers academically, physically, or in some other capacity. The services are often applied for through the county and state program levels that then approve the number of hours of therapy each child is entitled to receive. The county pays the psychologist or applied behavior analyst and the team of therapists that work with the children. Most of the activities help the children with whatever areas of development and skills they are behind in.
No formal education is required, but if the potential therapist has experience with special needs kids or adults, and/ or a teaching degree or psych degree of some sort, they are qualified enough to be hired. Again, they have to be the right type of person to work with children with autism, and that requires a lot of patience.
As it should be, children with autism need special toys to help them play and learn like their peers. The difference between the toys for children with autism and the toys for average children is that the special toys for ASD kids work with their strengths while challenging them to strengthen their weaknesses. This close to Christmas, I thought it might be nice to review some very effective toys for children with autism.
Children with autism enjoy motion, without a doubt. They either love to watch things in motion, trying to understand or reproduce it, or they love to be the ones in motion. While this is fun for parents as well as their children, it doesn’t stop with a half hour on a swing. Their fixation on items can literally exhaust parents and thus they might need redirection. However, in the mean time, motion toys are fun for all.
In this category are swings. Kids with ASD love swings, outdoor or indoor. Indoor swings can be purchased from special needs equipment catalogs and online. The two things parents have to remember most about installing an indoor swing for their child is that it has to be very secure to the ceiling and give their child a very wide berth for movement. They will swing as wide and as high as they can get in pursuit of that swinging sensation, and you don’t want your child to crash into your TV or a wall.
A Human Roly-Poly ball is another fun toy they like. It resembles a giant soccer ball, and requires a lot of air to inflate. Children with autism can roll in it, jump on it, or just rest kangaroo’ed inside. Clear octagon windows lets parents peer in to see how and what their child is doing in the ball.
Cause And Effect toys
Kids with autism have a unique way of viewing things and seem fascinated by cause and effect. This is true whether they are high functioning or lower functioning. They love to act on something and find out the result.
Toys that reward them with sound, lights, music or some other very interesting effect are perfect for children who like to see things happen when they try to make things work. Shake toys, bop toys, drop and bounce toys, and correct placement of objects and parts toys fall into this category. These toys get children with ASD to interact with something and even prompt them to interact with you or another child.
Children with ASD are easily overstimulated and need to be soothed regularly. Quieting and calming toys make excellent gifts because the children gravitate towards them almost immediately. There are several different types of calming and soothing toys, and you just have to find the one or two that works for your child.
If he/ she isn’t tactile defensive, they might really enjoy the “womb” toys. These toys give a sense of enclosed pressure that is comforting and reassuring to your child with ASD. Closeness and tightness feels secure to them, and in turn, is very relaxing. Pea pods, weighted bed blankets, and crawl tunnels with just enough wiggle through room are a few of the more popular ones.
Massage toys are another form of soothing. Any sort of massager, in a chair, battery- operated, meant for the feet, handheld—it doesn’t seem to matter as long as it’s a massage. Quite frankly, who doesn’t like massages and find them relaxing? For autistic kids, a deeper pressure might be needed for them to feel the full effect, but otherwise they absolutely love this.
Chewies are toys that kids can wear as accessories but allow them to chew for comfort. If your child chews holes in his/ her clothes, chews pencils, or is constantly trying to put something in their mouth when frustrated, chewies are great. It saves the clothes, it saves pencils and for the biting child, it gives them a redirective toy to sink their teeth into rather than somebody else. Some even vibrate, so extra oral stimulation is provided.
Large and Small Muscle Development toys
For the ASD child that has difficulty using crayons or can’t quite pedal a bike or find his/ her balance, adaptive toys that graduate up are another gift idea.
Famous crayon makers for a century, Crayola markets their products to younger and younger children, but they also recognize that their products work well as adaptive and therapeutic devices. Oversized crayons and chalk as well as crayons and chalk and some paints placed in special orbital holders for fingers that can’t quite grasp the regular materials work well for ASD kids.
Theraputty, a wonderfully stretchy plastic putty that works the small muscle groups in the fingers, hands, and forearms, is available from special needs retailers.
Sorting toys that require pinching and picking up items work well for small muscle development too.
Pedal trainers, bands that latch the feet to the pedals of any bike, trike or pedal toy, help kids keep their feet on the pedals while learning to pedal.
Trampolines are, were, and will always be an excellent large muscle as well as a movement toy that kids on the spectrum love. Hey, adults love them too, so why not? You can even buy colorful smaller ones with handle bars for safety that you can put in their rooms or in the family room.
Balance or yoga balls and special front wheels for bikes help kids learn balance and coordination. Many children on the spectrum seem to have issues with inner vestibular regulation, which causes them to be clumsy or trip a lot. They can learn to ride a bike almost on their own with the special bike wheels and the balance balls are always fun to do some exercises on.
This list is just the basics, but some of the best toys for autism and for Christmas are on here. Here’s to hoping your special Christmas is the best one yet this season!
Shopping for a babysitter when you have special needs children
What’s more extraordinary than the mind of a child with autism is the parent who loves and cares for him or her. However, that child can still press your buttons, and adult company and some time away helps you be a better parent when you have to face the challenges that come with your special needs child. The problem here, is not when or how or where to go for a break, it’s who’s going to look after your child and his/her challenges while you’re out?
If you have a great support network in your family, then a sibling or your parents might be willing for a couple of hours. If not, you have to shop around for sitters who don’t mind the challenge and are knowledgeable in your son or daughter’s diagnosis. Chances are, that’s not going to be a teenager who lives down the street unless that teenager has a sibling with special needs too. It’s a real catch-22; get out and take care of yourself so you don’t crack under pressure, but find someone who can be an adequate stand in while you’re out or you have to stay home. While it’s very noble to do the latter, most parents even with “normal” children need a break and a moment of sanity, and you might be surprised to find that , while reaching for sainthood, a break or two is exactly what will boost you up.
Where do you turn then?
While it’s not allowed legally for teachers from school to babysit, daycare providers are allowed a little more flexibility. If any of your other children find themselves in daycare, you could ask around to see if any of the teachers there have the training and the will to take on a few extra hours for a little extra pay. (I’d highly recommend that you check to make sure they have taken courses in child development and special needs children, at the very least). If any of them have an Associate’s degree in child development, and seem to have a good rapport with children, those are the people who should be on the top of your list to ask first.
If that should not be fruitful, there are a few websites out there that are very good. Many sitter sites screen all of their applicants before allowing them to place an ad for hire on their site. Some of them even have search engines that allow you to type in the area where you live and the specific nature or reason for your search. One of the best out there is http://www.sittercity.com. No matter where you are in the U.S., this site can find you mother’s helpers, nannies, sitters, and even au pairs that are qualified to handle your special circumstances with your special needs child. All you have to do is connect by email, interview, and choose which one or more work for you. http://www.sitter.com is another, although you will have to do your own background screening and references with this one as it’s more of a “Craigslist” for babysitters than anything else. However, it will post sitters fairly close to you, which may be helpful if you don’t want to run a babysitter to and from long distances.
Nanny agencies are also good places to find the help you’re looking for. Generally, a nanny has had many years experience with just a few families, and those that are hired by an agency are run through rigorous testing to make sure they are drug-free, have no criminal history, and clean driving records. Agency nannies tend to be pricey, so you might want to use this as a last resort.
Out of the norm behaviors come with the territory of autism, but how can a parent manage them? First, it is necessary to understand the behavior; what causes it, what prompts it to continue, and how to safely decrease its occurrence if not eliminate it altogether. You don’t need a degree in psychology to navigate this, because it’s really just common sense. A child development or autism therapy specialist may be able to assist you, if you’re unsure how or where to begin.
In the meantime, the majority of behaviors in a child with autism usually occur with reason. Their are different approaches a parent can take to help their autistic child in this department. They are:
- Ignoring: obvious, of course, is this technique because if your average child was throwing a tantrum you know enough to ignore the behavior so they stop. It works with children with autism too, who may be exhibiting an unwanted behavior for attention seeking, shock, or to get something they want. If the child is in a safe place and away from anything that can cause them harm, then this technique when used consistently, will help eliminate a negative behavior.
- Positive reinforcement: when your child is having a good day or a good moment, even, lots of praise reinforces in even a non-verbal child that what they are doing appeals to mom and/or dad and they should continue to act that way. Small treats or special outings/ events for accomplishing good behavior over a longer period of time are also examples of positive reinforcement.
- Environment: This one is not so obvious to many parents, but a child’s environment does effect the way they behave. If you set up the surroundings such that the child is able to control what they do or don’t do, rather than having to constantly be in control of the child and stop them from doing what you don’t want them to do, that teaches them that they can have some control, but you are in charge. E.g., placing the furniture in the room so as to break up the space and keep the child from running in circles or using everything as a trampoline or jumping off platform ensures that these behaviors stop. Used in conjunction with redirection to a more appropriate area, like outside play equipment, definitely helps.
- Warnings, timers, and transitions: warnings can be used with any child that has autism. It is simply vocalizing what you plan to do next and how long the wait is before you plan to do it. It creates and expectation for them that they will follow your plan and that they get to participate in what you’re planning. Timers and transitions are more often used with higher functioning children to get them to understand limits and periods of moving on to the next thing, or transitioning, to the next activity.
- Redirection: This is a big one. Bad behaviors turned good is the name of the game. You take away the power and focus of the unpleasant behavior by redirecting the child to something more positive. They want to punch because they’re mad? Give them a bop-it bag toy or some play-doh at the table and let them diffuse in a way that doesn’t hurt anyone. They want to climb and jump on the furniture? Take them outside to run off the energy and climb the playground equipment in the backyard. Simple but conscientious substitutions make all the difference.
Designing a behavior modification plan with a special needs team will help. When everyone’s on board, the behaviors can begin to decrease or disappear entirely.
Behaviors To Expect When Your Child Has Autism
The difficulties that lay with diagnosing a child with autism depends a lot on a parent’s visual record of their child. The majority of this visual record is about the behaviors the parent has encountered with their child, and the types of responses received versus the types of responses that are typical. While a parent can either keep a journal of these things or relay them to a behavior analyst when the child is being tested, it is still vital to the process.
So what behaviors should you expect if you suspect your child has autism?
Beyond the physical and vocal limitations and slow development in each of these areas how can you tell what’s developmentally approrpriate and what isn’t? It’s a difficult question, because of the level of autism your child may have, but often the behaviors are very noticeable.
- Repetitive vocalizations or phrases, if he or she is verbal. It may worry you that your child has something a little more complicated than autism, (such as obsessive compulsive disorder) but these children often appear to like the sound of their own voices and will repeat noises or compulsively focus in on a topic and talk nonstop about it even if it isn’t appropriate or doesn’t fit in with the conversation around or with them.
- Repetitive hand movements. Shaking or flapping hands like a bird, wringing of the hands or twisting of the fingers, anything that looks like a bird taking off or self torture. This can also occur with other limbs and parts of the body, and it doesn’t stop without behavior modification and therapy.
- Rocking, swinging, swaying, pacing, running from one spot to the next and back again several times. These are all out of character for the average child if they are not purposeful and seem out of context with what is going on in the environment.
- Shrieking, screaming, crying, wailing. These sounds are usually the ones that bother parents the most, because they will occur at the drop of a hat or, as is the case with higher functioning autistic children, when something has completely frustrated them and they act out over the top vocally. It’s also very difficult to discover what a non-verbal autistic child wants or needs, because half the time the loud vocalizations come when the child wants or needs something, is in pain, doesn’t feel well, etc. With time a parent can learn intuitively what causes their autistic child to make these loud utterances and how to deal with them.
- Biting, hitting, kicking, scratching, punching, and slapping. While these can be typical kid things, in children with autism it’s acting out aggressively because they don’t like the rules, the status quo, the fact someone else has a toy they want, or even if they don’t like their lunch. If these behaviors are present in your child beyond the expected age for them to disappear, special training may be needed. Healthy redirection, quiet time apart from a group, and verbalizing to the child that that type of behavior is not allowed are the best approaches to this kind of behavior. In a child with autism, this is a behavior that they really don’t outgrow, it just has to be modified to occur less and less. In the average child, once they get past age two or three they outgrow it and find other ways to appropriately express themselves.
- Tantrums, stripping in public or in front of houseguests, etc. These are usually attention seeking behaviors and can be dealt with by only paying attention to the child when their behavior is acceptable or if you need to remove them from danger. While these may be even more shocking than all the previous behaviors together, you have to remember as a parent that shock on your face is exactly what your child is looking for.
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