Assessments for Adults with Cognitive or Mental Health Concerns

Do you have a family member who is struggling with daily activities due to difficulties with memory, concentration, safety awareness or poor insight? Whether this change in functioning is related to a normal aging process or is part of a mental health diagnosis, On The Spectrum Therapy provides functional assessments of daily living for adults of all ages.

Functional assessments may include any of the following:

– functional mobility (moving around in one’s home environment or in the community)

– self-care abilities (hygiene, bathing, toileting, oral hygiene etc.)

– household tasks (cleaning, cooking, laundry, sweeping, dusting etc.)

– daily routines (organizing a schedule, time management, sleep hygiene etc.)

Recommendations that maximize independence and safety are provided following each assessment.


Supporting parents and educators from First Nations in Manitoba through story-telling

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


Tamara Rogers


How do we label our Sensory Rooms in Schools? What message are we sending our children with ASD?

It occurred to me that many schools use different terminology to label rooms for children with special needs.  Some schools call it “Quiet Room,” “Sick Room,” “Sensory Room,” “Calming Room,” or “Blue Room.”  What does your child’s school call this space wherein children are sent who are not coping in the classroom?  Does your child understand the purpose of that room? Does your child feel that this is a punishment room? Does your child seek this room to avoid participating in classroom activities?

What does a label infer? How does the child interpret the “purpose” of that room? If we call it a “Sick Room” then the child with ASD will automatically assume that they need to be ill in order to access that space.  From a behavioral point of view, this child would then be “reinforced” for being “sick” which, as you can imagine, would lead a child to feign illness in order to leave the classroom.  Do we really want to encourage illness in children who know no bounds? I have met many children with ASD who will self-induce vomiting.  What about “Quiet Room?” What occurs in that space? Is it always quiet or are there noises that we hear when we are in that room?  Children with ASD are very literal communicators.  If you tell a child that they are going to a “Quiet Room” and they discover that the room still has noises (which is inevitable given the lack of sound-proofing in walls of schools, the fact that the number one sensory-sensitivity in ASD is auditory sensitivity and the fact that we may introduce sounds to that room that include soft music for relaxation purposes).  “Sensory Room” is a label that won’t make a lot of sense to many children as it is an abstract concept.  “Blue Room” (unless it is painted blue, and the absolute correct shade of blue that the child anticipates) is another label that may actually contribute to the stress of a meltdown.

I encourage all schools to consider developing a smarter language when labeling specific spaces that are intended for children with ASD.  It may be helpful to consider streamlining this concept to be Province-wide so that our children can reliably scope-out the safe places to go (even after changing schools) during times of emotional and physiological dysregulation.  Having the consistency of accurately and succinctly labeling a room that is intended for the same purpose across schools and across school divisions will enable children to trust in the security that adults provide across schools.  Many children with ASD do not like to “go” anywhere with a new person (educational assistant).  If the label of the space is consistent across the province this will improve our children’s trust in knowing that there will consistently be a safe place to go, no matter who is bringing them there.

I encourage the use of ‘safety’ in the label.  My recommendation would be to call all of our “Sensory, Blue, Sick, Calm or Chill-Out Rooms” in Schools across the Province the “Safe Zone.”  This would infer a safe place for children to go, to receive the care that they need to feel better, regardless of the cause of dysregulation.

Please share for the benefit of our children with special needs.

Thank you,

Tamara Rogers, O.T. Reg. (MB)


Manitoba Teachers Magazine interviewed On The Spectrum Therapy about “Caregiver Burnout”

Caregiver burnout is a real issue in schools.  Teachers work tirelessly to educate our youth with special needs, at times without adequate support or awareness of how to cope with extremes in students’ behaviours.

An article will be published in the Manitoba Teachers Magazine which highlights Tamara Rogers’ presentation on Caregiver Burnout and Stress Management Tools while working with individuals who have ASD.  It is critical that teachers participate in regular self-care activities and that they are aware of key strategies to reduce stress in the classroom.

A link will be posted in April 2017.

Stay tuned!

Autism Presentation on January 18, 2017 for Urban Eagle Transition Centre at the Victoria Inn, Winnipeg, MB.

What a delight it was to share knowledge with many individuals from various indigenous communities across Manitoba regarding Autism Spectrum Disorder.  I am thrilled to have been part of this exciting forum and look forward to collaborating with these remote communities to improve awareness in supporting individuals on the spectrum.

If you would like more information on receiving education, consultation and support for your community, please feel free to contact Tamara Rogers at (204) 415-7656 or email

Sensory-Friendly Visit to Manitoba Children’s Museum Dec. 29, 2016

The Manitoba Children’s Museum is offering a Sensory-Friendly Visit on December 29, 2016.  Please click on the links below for more information. 


Weekend Warrior – Keeping Kids with ASD Busy

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.

For example:

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.

Autism Society Manitoba Conference is on October 3, 2016

On The Spectrum Therapy Services is proud to sponsor Autism Society Manitoba’s conference this fall. We will be setting up an information table at the conference.  Come and check out the resources for those you love and support! Register by contacting Autism Society Manitoba at