Assistive Technology For Children With Autism

Within the last fifty years, children with special needs have gained enormous grounds with civil rights and general knowledge and understanding in the public eye. What’s more, autism has not only become more easily recognized and diagnosed but technology has grown to the point where adaptive and assistive devices break through the autism barrier to make real connections. While some of these devices are more common place, some are more adaptive to the skill level of the individual child.

Most commonly used now is an iPad or touch screen tablet, enclosed in a extreme behavior-proof case. Because behavior analysts that treat many children have recognized that a child with autism readily connects to a screen more than to other human beings, and that they actually learn more and can better communicate with those in their daily surroundings, tablet computers are frequently used. Children with autism don’t have to make eye contact with a tablet, but there are several apps on these tablets that these children can use and learn to “speak” to others (if they are generally non-verbal). The top two teaching and communication apps for these devices are Proloquil and Autism Speaks 2. These types of assistive technology devices for children with autism get them to interact, make choices, respond, and tell parents and others who work with them in therapy what they want, need, think, and maybe even feel.

Additionally, anyone familiar with Stephen Hawking has seen assistive technology devices for children with special needs. Sometimes the hardest part for parents is trying to figure out if there is a thinking soul trapped within the body of their child with severe CP or if they have mental retardation. In regards to Stephen Hawking, he uses adaptive devices that many of these children use as well; wheelchairs that move with a puff of air from their mouths and computers that type with eye movements. While the majority of children with autism disorders are generally able to get around on their own, the computers that type by tracking eye movements are currently being used in some public school settings.

Children on the spectrum who are sensitive to the sounds in their surroundings may also encounter other assistive devices. These particular assistive technology devices for children with autism may include noise cancelling headphones or headphones that at first may cancel noise and then the therapist may gradually expose the child to a little more noise at a time until the child is no longer bothered by what they hear without the headphones. Similar therapies can be applied with light, touch, and taste/oral therapy. (For instance, some children with autism are compelled to chew or have an oral “fixation”. Electric assistive devices in this case might help. They are a lot like a sonic toothbrush; very quiet but they vibrate to to provide stimulation where the child wants it most).

Many other assistive devices are available; checking with your child’s therapist or special needs teacher will help you get started. Federal, state and local government allows financial assistance for families with autistic children.

Assistance For Children With Autism

Financial And Community Supports For Children With Autism

Having a child with autism can be such a difficult thing for parents. You love that child because they are your own flesh and blood, but that child may or may not be able to return that affection or even eye contact. They may shirk and shy at your touch, being tactile defensive. They may have issues you don’t even know where to begin to deal with. It’s hard, but there is a lot of help out there if you know where to turn.

If you have all the right documentation from diagnostic specialists and pediatricians, the first place to go is your local Social Security Administration office. Applying for disability funding only takes an hour of your time, and in most states, Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is applied for at the same time. Within two to six months, you will know if your child has been approved. The amounts vary as much as a $1,000 per child per month, depending on where you live, but the standard monthly allotment is about $2,000-3,000. This includes the amounts of Disability plus SSI from both the state and federal levels, and can be direct deposited into your checking account to help you take care of all the special needs your child has. This, of course is a great comfort, to say the least, as you can hire specially trained people to come in and take care of your child giving you a little more freedom to focus on things that might otherwise be difficult with an autistic child in tow.

Additionally, the sooner you enroll your child in a State Birth to Three Early Intervention service the sooner your child can start getting therapeutic care at home. From there, early learning classes for four and five year olds in local elementary schools can continue what the birth to three therapists have started. There is hope for every child, but only if you start as soon as possible. Regular visits to the pediatrician will help you recognize if your child is behind developmentally and may have autism and be in need of services.

Also, many states have Long Term Care or LTC services, that will continue to care for your autistic child when they reach young adult years and can’t care for themselves. Each situation is different and needs to be evaluated by a specially trained intake worker at the county level to determine if your child qualifies. This type of service also has therapeutic services provided by a separate autism therapy office that sends autism line therapists into your home to work with your child a certain number of hours a week for as long as they need it. Because the parents do not need to be present during these therapy sessions, this is also a good time for a little respite for stressed parents. The downside to this is that most states require that you apply for such services before the child turns eight. It’s a race against the clock, because the application process can take up to a year, so applying as soon as you can means everything.

Lastly, there are support groups out there and in your community for parents undergoing some of the same problems and issues with their children who have autism. No one could expect you to do this alone, and these groups are a great place to safely vent everything you need to. The other parents there understand what you’re going through, and will be of comfort to you. You have to take care of you just as much as your child; remember that.

Next time, we will discuss assistive technology for children with autism.

Respite Care Information for Children with Autism

Challenges Vs. Self-care

Having a child with autism is often very challenging. Parents, while they work to understand and deal with and take care of a special needs child, also need to find the balance wherein they care for themselves. Loving parents often feel guilty for this, but they shouldn’t. If a parent doesn’t care for themselves and get a break once in a while, they lose the ability to make rational choices regarding their autistic child or start to lose a sense of compassion and concern and care. If you are involved in any extra assistance programs with your child, chances are you already have a great resource to find respite care services for children with autism.

What Is Respite Care?

Respite care is a wonderful way for parents to get a break from the extra challenges they face parenting a child with special needs. Depending on where you live, finding a respite care program that works for you and your child may just be a simple phone call away to the county agency that provides resources and support to parents like you. Respite care for children with disabilities often involves day programs, support groups with other like individuals and families, and even referrals to specially trained childcare providers who understand your need for a little “me time” and are there to help.

Where Can I Find Info On Respite Care?

Some states actually have a respite care providers network. These may be operated by the state and county in which you reside or they may be non-profit organizations dedicated to providing temporary care to individuals with special needs. Respite care costs are the parents’ responsibility in some cases, while in others if the county makes the referral for you the county foots the bill, and if you do not have the fiscal resources to pay.

Most states have what is referred to as a “Long Term Care Waiver” for special needs children. Once your child has been diagnosed with autism, ADD/ ADHD, Down’s Syndrome, Asperger’s, or any other developmental delay/ disorder you can apply to this waiver program. Generally the age limit for these children is eight years of age, so it is vital that you seek out a diagnosis early and apply as soon as you can for your child(ren). The determination for eligibility is a long one, unless your child(ren) also receive(s) Federal Social Security Disability Income or Social Security Income benefits. If you have a determination letter from the Federal office of disability it speeds the process along much faster. A county representative then meets with you in your home to fill out paperwork and meet your child face to face and discuss concerns and reasons for entering the long term waiver program. If the determination is a positive one, your child receives additional in home therapy for their issues, and this also includes respite time for you. The agent conducting the investigation will also hand you a list of resources in your area that will help you manage the challenges you are facing in a healthy and more functional way.

A Childcare Resource And Referral Center, or a Family Resource Center in your community can also be a great service to consult. This organization is very good at compiling lists of people and daycares and other child- related programs and offering up these lists to parents who come to them for help. If there is a respite care program for your child available in the area that would best suit your needs, or a respite care providers network in your state, these centers will know it and gladly give out the information free of charge. They will also have day programs where your child may come in and play while you talk with a specialist about how you can find respite care services for children or different approaches you can take to care for your special needs child.

Technical Colleges that offer two year degrees in Child Development have young adults who are looking for work experience in their field as well as “work for credit” opportunities. Speaking to the heads of this department will help point you in the direction of focused and energetic young adults who would love to work and learn about your child and apply what they are learning in a real life situation. As long as they know they will be applying for a position that entails respite care for children with disabilities they will come better equipped to handle things and that will give you a sense of security and some time to yourself that is invaluable.

On The Flip Side

If you think you would like to be a provider for respite care for children with disabilities or even become a respite care foster care provider to give foster parents a break, the jobs out there exist. You have to either apply through the county and be heavily scrutinized and exposed to background checks of all kinds, or look for work with a non- profit that does such work. If you really want to make respite care your life’s work for a specific type of special needs child, you may even open up your home to do so, but licensing is brutal and you have to have a completely open book approach to follow this career choice.

If you have a degree in child development that is especially useful and makes it appear that you are serious in your commitment to the children you will host. It’s imperative that you know and understand about developmental disorders like autism and Asperger’s, Down’s and ADHD. Do not walk into this line of work without working knowledge of what to expect thinking that working with these children will be a cake walk; it most definitely isn’t.

Your home must fit with the special physical needs and challenges these children present. It isn’t about having a fenced in yard with an outdoor gym and plenty of toys inside to play with; many times door widths have to be a certain measurement to avoid injury, breakable items need to be completely removed from all rooms, poisons and cleaning chemicals must always be locked up, and sharps like kitchen knives have to be kept out of sight and locked as well. A complete overhaul in your home as well as your mindset has to take place if you plan on doing this in your own home. It takes a very special person to do respite care services for children, and you have to know, not just believe, that you are ready.

Explore more details on “What is Pervasive Developmental Disorder

Kids With Autism

Children with autism are unique in every sense of the word; no two children with autism are exactly alike. Each and every one of them has his or her own set of skills that shine a light on what they know and how they think. Autism was thought to be just a boys’ developmental disorder years ago, but more and more girls are finding their diagnostic spot on the spectrum.

Just like children with mental retardation, the level of functioning in children with autism starts at the very low end and ends with children who almost seem as though there is nothing apparently different between them and the “average” child on the very high end. Because there are so many pieces to the puzzle of Autism and Autism spectrum disorders, children can be deficient in social and gross motor skills but be able to speak. Of course, they can also lack self-help skills, not speak at all, but clearly understand what others around them are saying. In the six areas that children with Autism disorders are measured there is as much of a variance as there is between a pineapple and a kumquat.

Careful observation by parents early on in their child’s development in conjunction with regular well-baby visits to the pediatrician will help catch some delays that may signify a possible disorder is present. However, a pediatric neurologist in conjunction with the services of a autism psychiatric specialist will be the only sure-fire way of verifying a diagnosis of autism. Some children will just be behind their peers and others have autism so it is important to involve these three medical professionals in the determination of autism.

Some people might be surprised at involving a pediatric neurologist, but recent studies have shown that the brains of children with autism are quite different than those of average children. Something in the brain development, either while still in the womb or just before a child turns two alters, and changes the child’s life forever, as well as his parents and extended family. Genetic scientists are working on discovering the origins of autism as it appears to be genetic in some families. (I have one boy and one girl who BOTH have Autism/autism spectrum disorder and two second cousins who also have it).

There is no cure for autism as no one has yet figured out what causes it. One thing is certain; children with autism can be very challenging, but they can also be very loving. Some avoid touch at all while others are so cuddly it’s hard to let go. Their hypersensitivity to everything alters their ability to interact with the rest of the world. Some, one or all of their five senses might be hypersensitive; it’s important to log what bothers them and remember to help them work through their fears and/or develop positive coping mechanisms when around the things they are sensitive to.

Higher functioning children with autism have the “savant” skills that often come to mind when people picture “Rain Man”. Some are hyperlexic, showing a reading ability way above their age or grade level, but may not understand idioms, similes, metaphors and other expressions of speech. Some may excel at math but may have a hard time grasping the concept of three dimensional shapes. In many ways these skills are amazing, but really are what most specialists refer to as “splinter skills”.

No matter what, children need love and support just like everyone else.

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What is Pervasive Developmental Disorder?