DOING. BEING. BECOMING.
To celebrate, I am running a social group for adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder!
If you would like more information on becoming involved in a group, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
I had the opportunity to offer an educational workshop on Autism to staff at Ginew School Manitoba last month. I was thrilled with their enthusiasm to learn strategies to manage challenging behaviors and to know how to support their students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
This coming week, I am very much looking forward to providing parents of children with ASD from the Sagkeeng First Nation a half-day workshop on March 15, 2017. Parents need to know how to become detectives and how to interpret the behaviours they see at home. This will be a very engaging talk and I am keen to share my stories!
If you are interested in scheduling a half- or full-day/weekend workshop for your community, please contact Tamara Rogers at email@example.com
Keeping children with Autism Spectrum Disorder occupied in meaningful and productive ways on weekends is not always easy. The ‘automatic babysitters’ (iPADs, Nintendo DS, XBOX, tablets, iPHONE, etc.) become highly over-used and can contribute to missed opportunities for face-to-face interaction and communication. A common question I hear from parents is: “how do I keep my child busy when I have so many errands to run and tasks to complete before Monday rolls around?” The unstructured ‘down’ time is the hardest time for our children because they require structure, prompting and coaching to participate in many non-technological activities. So what’s the solution?
Firstly, developing a VISUAL routine for the weekend makes the hours predictable and less anxiety-provoking. A child with ASD will benefit from knowing what is expected for the duration of the weekend. Now that’s not to say that the weekend must be so rigidly structured that there isn’t a minute of ‘free-time’ but carving out some form of routine with clearly defined blocks of ‘free-time’ will promote organization in your child’s brain. Our children struggle with thinking into the future. Executive functioning is our brain’s ability to coordinate a mass of cognitive functions (planning, sequencing, organizing, predicting what tools are necessary for a given job, anticipating problems that may arise in a given task or situation, thinking ahead) and individuals with ASD have difficulty with this skill. The inability to plan for oneself can lead to immediate boredom, anxiety, random impulsive acts which can get a child into ‘trouble’, increased self-stimulatory behavior to fill the time and possibly an increase in attention-seeking behaviors. Creating a visual routine using what the child best understands (photographs, symbols or words) will provide a sense of ‘relief’ to the child who struggles to create their own agenda. It also helps the child to prepare for the sensory bombardment that may occur during specific activities (vacuuming, family gatherings, outings to the store etc.). Some families report that the more information they provide in advance CREATES anxiety in their child. In this case, I would encourage the family to become detectives in determining why the activity is so overwhelming for the child (is it the noise, lighting, temperature, presence of a feared object, previous negative responses to a similar situation) or is it related to cognitive rigidity and the child’s natural disposition to dislike change or transitions?
Secondly, create a few bins of activities using plastic totes (being mindful of your child’s age and stage of development for safety reasons). Fill and label each tote with 2 different activities that may spark your child’s interest. On the visual schedule you can incorporate “Mystery Box Time” and have your child pull a number out of a hat which corresponds to the Tote the child gets access to for a specified period of time.
TOTE #1: Drawing, Word-finding, Coloring Box – filled with markers, pencil crayons, your child’s favorite pen, paper, dollar-store coloring books or crossword puzzles, word-finding booklets, sudoku puzzles, blank paper, colored paper, coiled booklets with lined paper, a book on how to draw, etc.
TOTE #2: Building Box – filled with individually packaged Ziplock bags of lego, containers of plastercine or playdoh, sample pictures of items that can be built with these supplies, construction paper, glue, kid-friendly scissors (if appropriate), Oregami supplies, wooden popsicle sticks, a deck of cards to build a card house, a box of Dominoes to create a path of Dominoes to tip over etc. Providing instructions for each item will help the child understand how to use the supplies.
TOTE #3: Bubble Box – filled with bubbles, bubble wands, empty containers and a small container of dishsoap with instructions on how to make homemade bubbles, a few sticks of chewing gum, a towel, a washcloth, a laminated drawing of a talking bubble that can be written on with dry-erase marker, a dry-erase marker or water-based washable marker.
TOTE #5 – Fun Facts & Laugh Box – filled with various children’s encyclopedias of various topics (architecture, dinosaurs, insects, birds, animals, history, geography, weird and funny facts). This can also be a place to put “knock-knock” jokes, kid-friendly jokes booklets, social stories or books that explain topics of interest to your child.
TOTE #6 – Sensory Toolbox – filled with fidget tools (a paper clip, Mack-Tack, pen lid, dice, small square swatches of various fabrics, a spring from a pen, short piece of string, a short piece of ribbon, a felt pipe-cleaner, a cotton ball, a gel-filled ball, squishy stress balls), noiseless whistles, scented lip balm, chewing gum, a relaxation CD or soothing music downloaded on to an MP3 player or ipod, eye mask, scented bean bags, a Slinky, ear plugs, noise-reduction headphones, a lava lamp, glow-in-the-dark bracelets or sticks, bubbles, a massage roller, a foot pumice stone etc. There are many things that can be used in a sensory toolbox.
TOTE #7 – Photograpy Box – filled with pictures or photo albums of your child’s infancy and time throughout the years, photographs of family members over time, a sorting system to categorize the pictures such as “ME” vs. “Me and my parents” etc., a camera (if your child is able to use one safely), a list of items to find around the house to take pictures (a scavenger hunt for picture-taking).
Lastly, in addition to creating Mystery Boxes, it will be beneficial to block a certain amount of time in the visual routine where the individual can participate in some physical activity (for sensory regulation) with either the parents or a trusted adult (treadmill, walking outdoors, dancing to music, jumping on a mini-trampoline, stationary bike, lifting weights, raking leaves, shovelling snow, building a snowman, vacuuming, sweeping, Wii Just Dance, bowling, swimming, washing the windows outside). Whatever you can motivate your child to join you in ! Remember to use a “First… Then…” approach to introducing the schedule of activities with the ‘Then’ activity being the reward.
If your child is developmentally not ready to tackle any amount of unsupervised time, seek further occupational therapy assessment in determining how to best promote your child’s participation and ongoing learning. Advocate for respite through various organizations (Children’s disABILITY Services, Family Dynamics, CFS etc.). Being realistic about what goals you can achieve during a weekend while tending to the needs of your child. Sometimes we place very lofty expectations on ourselves and this can increase our stress levels and feelings of inadequacy. Be kind to yourself. It takes a village to raise a child.
If you have any further questions about supporting your child with ASD through the weekend, please feel free to call (204) 415-7656. I would be happy to assist you in determining your child’s needs.
I stumbled across this webpage today and wanted to share it so that people can get a sense of what OT’s do when working with individuals who have autism.
Many parents of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder look forward to September when they can get back in to some sense of ‘routine.’
Finding adequate supports over the summer is a common challenge. Keeping children with ASD ‘productively’ busy can be a real struggle for families. September is a time for new beginnings which often includes: new teachers, new classrooms, new peers, new educational assistants and often new schools. This may even be a time for new rules, new expectations and new challenges. Despite the transition, most parents welcome the support of the school staff in engaging the child in new and innovative ways.
September is a time to enter into your child’s school with an open mind.
September is a time to set up new expectations with your child (particularly VISUAL rules) that may not have ‘gone over well’ last school year.
September is a time to facilitate that little bit of growth and independence in your child (for example: teaching your child how to participate in making his or her lunch for school).
September is a time to let go of last school year’s frustrations, annoyances, tears, irritations and fears and start with a fresh perspective.
September is a time to build relationships with those who support your child.
September is a time for parents to have some time to enjoy an uninterrupted cup of hot coffee or tea.
September is a time to be proactive and contact your child’s school to set up a meeting and get the year rolling in a positive way.
We all know that September brings with it a new set of parenting challenges because it is yet another transition from ‘free-time’ to ‘work-time.’ Understand that ‘newness’ is anxiety-provoking for your child and using transition objects (a favorite toy or snack) may be helpful to facilitate your child’s steps out of the house.
Encourage your child to share something special from the summer months with his or her peers, in whatever way he or she is comfortable.
Be kind to yourself, breathe deeply and try to be patient in September while the schools sort out how they can best achieve goals collaboratively.
Congratulations on making it through another summer! Best wishes for this school year!
Click on the above link to listen to the interview that I did on Autism Spectrum Disorder with CJOB 680 AM. Choose June 14, 2016 at approximately 1:30pm (scroll the time bar to get to the interview). There are a few commercials throughout the interview so stay tuned. (Total interview was approximately 15 minutes).
Occupational Therapy is a regulated health profession that specializes in providing a client-centered approach to dealing with the occupations of every day living regardless of impairment or disability. Occupations are tasks or activities that every person does in the span of a day to care for oneself and to participate in work, play and leisure. One of the goals of occupational therapy is to assist an individual in finding and participating in meaningful occupations.
Having autism may mean that the individual has difficulty participating in self-care tasks (for example: toileting, brushing teeth, eating, dressing etc.), play (for example: interacting with peers in appropriate ways, initiating conversation either verbally or through communication device, maintaining friendships etc.), work (for example: finding a job, attending to the tasks of paid or unpaid employment) and leisure (for example: playing a team sport, tolerating the swimming pool, leaving the house etc.). Occupational therapy can assist the family (and child) in determining the most effective ways to facilitate engagement in these everyday activities or occupations.
Each stage of life comes with certain developmental milestones, roles and expectations from others to participate and behave in age-specific ways. When an individual has autism, the variety and discrepancy in skill development can be alarming and confusing to parents and caregivers. Occupational therapists are skilled in identifying the barriers to an individual’s success in achieving a specific goal and can assist the individual in breaking the task down into manageable chunks.
Occupational therapists are holistic in their approach. This means that the therapist will take all aspects of each individual (spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, physically, intellectually) into careful consideration while balancing the role that the physical and social environment play on either facilitating or hindering achievement of that individual’s goals. Individuals with autism may have difficulties regulating their emotions, may have sensory issues that overwhelm the body, may have a very negative self-esteem and may have cognitive impairments which impact on insight and self-awareness. Families may or may not understand the needs of a person with autism and may feel overwhelmed in attempting to provide support.
Parents and caregivers may struggle with keeping a positive outlook on life when chaos is occurring in the home. Occupational therapists have a keen understanding of mental health, how to manage stress, how to cope with anxiety, how to deal with anger, frustration and how to rally supports.
Finding a therapist that inherently understands autism from real-life experience means that you spend less time trying to explain a conundrum and more time finding appropriate, evidence-based solutions so you can get on with living the way you and your family want to live.
On The Spectrum Therapy Services can provide you with an occupational therapist who will help you understand the reasons behind the challenges you face and provide you and your family with guidance and support in achieving your goals.