Traveling With a Child Who Has Autism

The word “travel” can bring a sense of excitement and joy, because you are going on a vacation or to visit relatives or to explore something new. However, the word “travel” can also bring feelings of anxiety or stress. Blog-Traveling-with-Autism-Main-Landscape

Traveling with a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can seem overwhelming, especially when it comes to flying.

Here are some tips that can help a family prepare for flying with a child on the autism spectrum:

  1. Call the airport prior to your travel date and see if you can schedule a “trial run” to acclimate your child to the surroundings. During one of my therapy sessions I took a child to O’Hare with his parents to prepare for the many transitions involved in navigating an airport. We were able to start from the beginning of pulling up to the parking lot, riding the train and walking up to the security desk. We took pictures of each step so the child had a schedule and felt comfortable the day of the flight. Many large airports have guides to assist families with special needs children through the airport experience. Call to find out how to set up a guide for your family on your travel day.
  2. Provide your child with a schedule of “what’s going to happen, once you are on the airplane.” Make your child aware of what boarding the airplane will look like, what your seat number will be, what waiting for the plane to take off is like, the pre-flight security guidelines, take off and what to do during the plane ride.
  3. Have your child help plan activities during the plane ride. Bring favorite toys and games to help keep your child occupied.
  4. Have your child watch videos and listen to sounds of the airplanes. This is especially important for those kiddos who are sensory avoiding. Prepare your child for all the sensations he or she may experience on the airplane including the noise, ears popping, the vibration of the plane, what the seats will look like, what standing and going to the bathroom may feel like, etc.
  5. Finally, prepare your child for what happens when the plane lands and collecting your luggage.

Talk to your therapists and ask them to participate in the planning process. Talking about the process a few sessions before the travel date can instill confidence and help eliminate fear. Call the airports that you are flying in and out of for any resources and help available for your family.

Lastly, enjoy the vacation!

Check out these valuable resources for popular vacation spots and how they accommodate families:

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140.

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Happy Travels with a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder

Throughout the year, you and your family are bound to hit the open road a time or two forTraveling with Sensory Processing Disorder one of a number of reasons. Many families may want to check out the scene in a new city. Others, will seek thrills at an amusement park or visit a family member that lives out of town. These trips can provide children with priceless learning opportunities and families with memories that will last a lifetime. For children with Sensory Processing Disorders however, these trips can be also be extremely challenging. Below are 5 tips and tricks to use in order to best support children who have difficulty processing sensory information on your next family vacation.

  1. Discuss what to expect: Talking about the specific logistics of a trip can help to ease your child’s anxiety about the ambiguity of what’s coming next. Similarly, it’s important to talk about what will be expected of your child while traveling. Here are some questions that your child may have prior to traveling. Think through each one and discuss them as a family before your next adventure begins:
    1. What is the mode of transportation (ie. plane, train, or automobile)?
    2. What will you see? Will there be a lot of people?
    3. What will you smell?
    4. What will you hear? Will it be loud?
    5. How much time will it take? What will you do to pass the time?
    6. How much space will your child have? Will there be time or room to play?
    7. What are the rules while traveling?
  2. Decrease the amount of extraneous and unfamiliar noise: Use noise cancelling headphones or calming music. Both strategies can help your child to calm themselves and more effectively process auditory sensory information, especially with the added stressors of travel.
  3. Prepare a backpack of travel essentials: Many adults pack a small carry-on bag with a few items that will help them pass the time. Items often include shoulder pillows, eye masks, ear phones and iPods; as well as a favorite book or magazine. For children with various sensory processing disorders, include some of the items listed below:
    1. Snacks, water, gum, or hard candies.
    2. Pack a heavy object to help your child regulate. A book or weighted blanket are great options.
    3. Bring a comfort object such as a blanket or favorite stuffed animal.
    4. Include fun activities such as mini board games, coloring pages, books, or playing cards
  4. Call the airline or tourist destination ahead of time: Explain your child’s sensory needs. Certain airlines, parks, and museums have special accommodations for children with sensory processing disorders.
  5. Preparatory Heavy Work: Before taking off for your trip, or during breaks in travel, engage your kiddos in Heavy Work activities. Tasks include animal walks, pushing or pulling luggage, push ups, or big hugs from mom and dad. All of these activities provide your child’s big muscle and joint groups with proprioceptive input. This input is extremely regulating for children, like exercise could be for an adult, and will help to calm your child for the next leg of travel.
  6. Expect some ornery fellow passengers: While it is unfortunate, you may come across someone throughout your travels who will have a low tolerance for kids being kids. Depending on your comfort level in doing so (or your ability to turn the other cheek), write out small note cards explaining that your child has a Sensory Processing Disorder and that as a family, you are doing the best you can to travel with minimal interruptions to the routines of those around you. You could even offer nearby passengers earplugs to help block out any extraneous noises.

The bottom line is that while traveling can be challenging, it can also be an extremely rewarding experience for everyone involved. With a fair amount of foresight and appropriate preparation, you can help to shape your trip into an experience of a lifetime for your whole family. Happy travels!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

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Speech and Language Games to Play on Spring Break

Spring Break – the weather is (hopefully) bright and sunny, flowers are beginning to Speech and Language Gamesbloom, and the kids are out of school. What better way to spend this week off than to take a vacation with the whole family. Not only can a Spring Break vacation be a wonderful way to recharge, it can be a great time to grow your child’s speech and language skills, all while playing games.

Many different types of games can help children with language development while also entertaining everyone in the family. These games can be played anytime and easily incorporated into any Spring Break vacation!

Speech and Language Games:

  • Car games: road trips can be a great way to spend quality time with our families. Playing word games on these long road trips can foster close relationships and increase phonological awareness (the knowledge of sounds and their rules in language).
    • With younger children, look at road signs for words beginning with A, B, C, and so on, to encourage letter identification skills. Whoever finds the most wins!
    • For older children, take it one step further and play Name-Place-Job. For example, if someone sees a sign for Baltimore (letter B), he or she has to come up with a name and job to go with it: “I’m Beth from Baltimore, and I’m a beekeeper.” Not only does this game involve more advanced skills (like alliteration), it encourages creativity and vocabulary growth.
  • Board games: board games are fun and educational for the whole family, and many of them are language-based – perfect for facilitating language growth.
    • Elementary-aged children can play Apples to Apples or Apples to Apples, Jr., both of which encourage vocabulary development and word-association networks.
    • Children in middle school can play Taboo, a game where the speaker describes a word to his or her team without saying “taboo” words. Taboo incorporates higher-level, more abstract language skills, such as idioms, multiple-meaning words, and comparing and contrasting.

Spring Break is the perfect time to enjoy some quality family time and focus on language skills.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

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speech and language activities for travel

Speech and Language Games for Traveling

Vacations are wonderful times to make memories and experience new places. Likewise, these experiences offer unique opportunities to expose your child to new vocabulary and practice language skills in a new environment. Although the hours spent in a car or on a plane seem anticlimactic and dull, this time offers the perfect opportunity to mix fun and language practice to maintain skills while away from therapy. Check out this list of speech and language games for traveling that will keep children entertained while also practicing various speech and language skills.

Speech and Language Games for Traveling:

  1. I Spy: This traditional game is a great exercise to use adjectives and to target expanding a child’sSpeech and Language Games for Travel utterance length. A player can provide clues that include descriptive words or colors (e.g., “I spy something that is shiny” or “I spy something that is blue”). This is a great opportunity for repeated practice of the meaning of an “adjective” as well as for improving a child’s vocabulary.
  1. Category Game: The Category Game is an easy adaptation of the game Concentration that is more appropriate for the car. The Category Game involves thinking of one category/group of items (e.g., Disney movies) and then taking turns until someone can’t think of anything. This is a great vocabulary activity that targets enhancing a child’s lexicon and improving his or her word retrieval skills. As children become more advanced, the category can also be more difficult.
  1. The Picnic Game: The Picnic Game is a great way to exercise memory and pre-literacy skills. The Picnic Game starts with the phrase, “I’m going on a picnic and I’m going to bring…”. The first player picks an item that starts with the letter “A” (e.g., apple). The next person then recites what has been previously said, adding their own item that starts with the next letter of the alphabet (e.g., “I’m going on a picnic and I’m going to bring an apple and a banjo”). This game will test a player’s short term memory, as well as give him or her added exposure to the alphabet.
  1. Speech Sound Game: This game is similar to the Category Game, but rather than focusing on vocabulary, this game will target a child’s phonological awareness skills. To start, a player will pick a speech sound (e.g., “s”). Players will then have to think of words that start with that sound (e.g., “sit….sand….sun”). The first one who can’t think of a word is out. This game can be made more difficult by starting with just a random word (e.g., “pot”). Rather than thinking of words that all start with “p”, the next player will have to think of a word that starts with “t” (i.e., the last sound of the word that was said before). This is a great way to practice segmenting the sounds within a word, as well as give extra practice for producing certain speech sounds. Phonological awareness skills provide a foundation for later developing literacy skills.
  1. 20 Questions: This game is a great way to target receptive and expressive language skills. To begin a player will think of a person, place or thing and announce what category that is in. The other players will then ask yes/no questions in order to try to guess what the player is thinking of within 20 questions. This game requires answering with a reliable yes or no, as well as using a variety of vocabulary words to ask creative questions. 20 Questions can also be adapted to a variety of levels, making it as easy or hard for each player’s skills.

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NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Road Trip Do’s and Don’ts for Children with Autism

Going on a road trip requires a lot of preparation for everything to go smoothly. If you have a child with autism, going on a road trip will require a little extra preparation, but it should not deter you from taking a trip. A little bit of extra preparation will go a long way to ensure a stress-free enjoyable ride.

Road Trip Do’s and Don’ts for a Child with Autism:

Road Trip Do’s:

  • Prepare. Have an itinerary for the time in the car. Plan scheduled stops along the way for Road Trip Do's and Don'ts for a Child with Autismrestroom breaks, meals, etc.
  • Know your route. This will help with any unexpected stops that may occur. Know where the rest stops are located and where you are planning on stopping to eat meals.
  • Bring your child’s favorite snack and toys. Be well stocked with a variety of snacks, beverages, and activities. Also buy some new activities that can be used if they lose interest in the other activities.
  • Find a social story about car trips. Even better write your own using pictures of various landmarks that your child will see on their journey. Read this story each day in the weeks and days leading up to the trip.
  • Prior to the start of your trip, take small shorter trips (in increasing length if necessary) to get your child used to being in the car for long periods of time.
  • Reinforce and praise appropriate car riding behaviors (e.g., give a preferred snack or access to a preferred toy). Or after a successful outing, stop at your child’s favorite restaurant for a reward.
  • If your child has difficulty using public restrooms, practice going to different restrooms before your trip.
  • Leave for your trip very early in the morning, or even drive overnight if possible so there will be less traffic and your child will be more likely to sleep for the first portion of the trip.
  • Prepare for the worst. Think of everything that could possibly go wrong and then come up with solutions for those situations. Of course you can’t plan for every possible scenario, but having a general idea of what to do when things go wrong will be helpful.

Road Trip Don’ts:

  • Don’t “wing it”. Preparation is key in having a successful road trip. When you are unprepared for the trip there is a bigger chance of something going wrong.
  • Don’t assume that just because your child does well in the car for an hour that they will do well with long trips. Prepare for the worst and have a plan in place if your child begins to get restless during the trip.
  • Don’t wait for problem behaviors to arise. If your child is doing a great job of riding in the car, let them know by either providing specific praise (i.e., “I love how you are sitting and playing so nicely.”), or give them a few bites of their favorite snack in addition to the praise.
  • Don’t show your frustration. Even in a very stressful situation, it is best to remain clam. If you child sees that you are upset, it is just going to make them more upset.

Whatever may happen, good or bad it is important to focus on the special moments that were shared with your family and all of the good memories that are created during the trip that you can reflect back on for years to come.

Click here for more travel tips for children with autism.

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NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Traveling with Kids with Autism

Travel Tips for Children with Autism

The holiday season is quickly approaching, and for many people the holidays involve some type of travel. When traveling with a child with autism it is very important to plan ahead and be well prepared for the trip. One of the best ways to begin preparing is to identify the triggers for your child which lead to meltdowns, and come up with strategies on how to handle or avoid these meltdowns. It is also important to think ahead and consider the various scenarios which could occur, and make sure you are prepared to handle those situations. Of course, traveling can be very unpredictable, but if you are well prepared for a variety of different situations, your trip should be a relatively smooth one.Traveling with Kids with Autism

Travel Tips for Children with Autism

  • Create of visual schedule of activities for the travel day(s). Review the schedule in the weeks leading up to the travel day and then on the day of travel – Many children with autism do well with structure and knowing what to expect. When making the schedule, avoid making it too detailed (i.e., with specific times of each activity) since travel plans can sometimes change unexpectedly at the last minute. So, keep the schedule simple (i.e., drive to airport, fly on plane, drive to Grandma’s house).
  • Create a vacation calendar – This calendar can begin as far as a month before your trip. You can cross off the days leading up to your trip. The calendar can also include the days you will be away and the day you will return home.
  • Practice sitting for long periods of time – Regardless of the mode of transportation that will be used, there is a good chance you will be sitting for an extended period of time. Take practice runs in the car and reinforce good sitting behaviors. It can also be helpful to use portable DVD players and/or IPads to help during longer trips.
  • When traveling by plane:
    • Watch videos of airplanes taking off and landing and if time allows, take a trip to the airport to watch airplanes in person.
    • Use headphones to drown out any loud noises at the airport or on the airplane.
    • If possible, book a direct flight to avoid the process of switching planes.
    • Contact the airport and airline to see if they have any special accommodations for children with special needs.
      • Some airports and airlines have programs in place that allow practice runs through the airport, and even allow you to go onto the airplane itself familiarize your child with the airport and an airplane.
    • Bring chewy candy or gum to help with the change in cabin pressure which cause your ears to pop.
    • Airports are very busy and crowded, especially during the holidays. If your child has trouble in loud and/or crowded places, begin taking them to crowded places (i.e., a mall) to help de-sensitize them to crowds and loud environments.
  • Pack a bag with all essential items – This bag should include a variety of snacks, favorite books, toys, games, sensory items (i.e., chewy tubes, weighted blankets, etc.), headphones, IPad, and any other favorite or reinforcing items from home.







Travel Tips For Kids With SPD

Seat belts, exit doors, floor path lighting, oxygen masks, life vests, preparation for takeoff, and in-flight rules such as no smoking, follow the directions of the crew, and the appropriate use of the lavatory are all included in the flight attendants’ cadence preceding take-off. While these safety speeches vary slightly between airlines, one commonality rings true for many parents: Instructions are not given for how best to support children who have difficulty processing sensory information.  Below are 5 ways to ease your travels the next time you and your family fly on an airplane.

Discuss what to expect

Discuss the trip in detail in the days and weeks preceding your trip. What will the airport look like? Will there be a lot of people? What are the behavioral expectations for your child? What is the process for checking luggage, the security line, and waiting to board the plane? Then, what will the inside of the airplane look and sound like? How long is the flight? Where will your child sit and who will be seated beside them? How will the flight attendants prepare the aircraft for take-off? What will it feel like when the airplane leaves the ground? What might happen in your child’s ears? What are the rules while you are in-flight? Then, what will it feel like to land? What is the process for getting off the airplane and collecting your baggage?  While some of this information may seem trivial to frequent flyers, for children, especially those with difficulty processing sensory information, the more detail you can discuss before the big event occurs, the easier it will be for them to prepare themselves for the experience. One way to discuss the process of flying on an airplane is to write a short book, inserting your own family as the main characters. Parents can write the storyline of the book, including answers to the questions above, while their kids can create personalized illustrations using markers, crayons, stamps and stickers. Read your family’s travel story every night before bedtime to help your child prepare for the big day. You can even bring the book along to the airport to follow along with the storyline as you progress through your trip.

Decrease the amount of extraneous and unfamiliar noise

Use noise cancelling headphones or calming music. Both strategies can help your child to self-regulate and more effectively process auditory sensory information.

Prepare a backpack of “travel essentials”

Many adults pack a small carry-on bag with a few items that will help them pass the time during the flight. Items often include shoulder pillows, eye masks, ear phones and ipods; as well as a favorite book or magazine. For children with various sensory processing disorders, items to include:

      1. Snacks and water. Gum or hard candies (if your child is old enough) may be good options to help your child pop their ears during flight.
      2. Pack a heavy object to help your child regulate. A book or weighted blanket are great options.
      3. Bring a comfort object such as a blanket or favorite stuffed animal.
      4. Include fun activities such as mini board games, coloring pages, books, or playing cards

Call the airline ahead of time

Explain your child’s sensory needs. Certain airlines have special accommodations for children including the opportunity to board the plane early to get situated in your seats before other passengers.

Expect some ornery fellow passengers

While it is unfortunate, you may come across at least one person on your flight who has a lower tolerance for kids being kids. Prepare yourself for an eye-roll or a muttered complaint hidden under your neighbor’s breath. Depending on your comfort level you could write out small note cards explaining that your child has a Sensory Processing Disorder and that they are doing the best they can to get through the flight. You could even offer nearby passengers earplugs to help block out any extraneous noises.

The bottom line is that while traveling with children who have sensory processing disorders can be stressful, with foresight and appropriate preparation it can be done and can even prove to be a fun experience. The most important part of travelling is creating warm and lasting memories with your friends and family. Try your best be prepared for the flight but remember not to sweat the small stuff- after all, you’re on vacation! Safe travels!


 

8 Tips for Flying with a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder

Taking a flight with kids is hard enough!  Flying with a child with Sensory Integration takes special planning!  Sensory Processing Disorder/Sensory Integration (SPD) occurs when Child on plane with SPDthe nervous system has difficulty regulating, processing, and interpreting information from one or more of the senses.  Different children perceive and process sensory information differently. Some children find loud noises scary, while others like to bang objects and search for interesting ways to create noise. Similarly, some children may only tolerate certain fabrics or textures for clothing, while others may enjoy rolling around in grass, sand, or on the carpet. All children and adults have different sensory preferences, and while most adults have learned to adapt to their specific needs, some children need guidance in processing sensory information to reach their full potential.

8 Tips for Flying with a Child with SPD:

  1. Bring noise canceling headphones.
  2. Make sure your child has slept and is well fed prior to the flight so he or she is regulated.
  3. Be prepared with food and water during the flight, especially if the flight is long.
  4. Bring a heavy object to help calm your child.  Examples include a book, laptop, or a weighted blanket or vest.
  5. Try to schedule your flight during nap time or at night if your child is able to sleep comfortably on planes.  If the flight is during the day, try and have your child run around and use his or her energy before the flight.
  6. Gum chewing or sucking on a lollipop may be helpful to help regulate your child.
  7. Have activities ready for the plane. It can be a good time to practice fine motor skills.
  8. Create a visual schedule for your child.  Include everything from driving to the airport, waiting in the terminal, taking off, eating snacks to landing and  getting luggage.  This way your child will be prepared and feel less anxious about what to expect.

If you would like more tips  and information on Sensory Processing Disorder, click here

Educational Graduate Gifts At Each Age

It’s that time of year!  Children are graduating and proud parents are celebrating this milestone.  Read on for special gift suggestions for graduates of all ages that also have educational value.

Educational and Fun Gifts for Your Grad By Age:

Kindergarten Graduation Gifts:

  • Special Books: Classic, hard-cover books will be fun to read in the moment and treasured as a keepsake for years to come.  Consider titles like Ferdinand, The Tale of Peter Rabbit or Paddington Bear.
  • Magna-Tiles: Consider investing in a set of Magna-Tiles.  These magnetic building tiles will occupy the imagination of your soon-to-be first grader for hours on a rainy day over the summer.
  • Lego Building Blocks: Legos have been around for a long time and for good reason.  Lego building sets engage young builders as they create predetermined buildings or design their own.

Junior High Graduation Gifts:

  • Special Books: Inspire your soon to be high school kid with a copy of Oh the Place You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss.
  • Educational Video Games:  You can’t tear your teen away from the Xbox360 or Wii, but at least you can inspire them with a game that will teach something.  Consider Civilization Revolution (Xbox360) or The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii).

High School Graduation Gifts:

Graduation is a wonderful accomplishment.  Celebrate your children with gifts that will continue to enrich them as they move to the next phase of  life!

10 Ways to Promote Language Skills During Winter Break

School is out for a few weeks, but that doesn’t mean your child has to stop working on language concepts. Using these 10 tips, you can winter girlwork with your child to promote his or her language skills in a fun and meaningful way!

10 Ways to Promote Language Skills During Winter Break:

    1. Narrate Everything: Explaining what you’re doing can help expose your child to the correct production of language concepts and verb tenses. Narration can also help to increase your child’s vocabulary size. Some examples include: “I am putting the eggs in the bowl” or “I cracked the eggs”, etc.
    2. Make Lists: Creating a list of items can help increase vocabulary. If you create lists with your child of grocery items, gifts needed, or even locations, it can help to promote language development and thought organization.
    3. Build Vocabulary: Targeting and explaining new winter words can help to improve your child’s vocabulary. Saying things like, “look at the snowman,” “the icicle is hanging from the tree,” or “look at those children sledding,” will reinforce the new words and encourage usage.
    4. Read Aloud: Reading aloud to your child is extremely beneficial for language development. When reading stories, emphasizing and reinforcing new words will enhance vocabulary skills, and asking questions while reading encourages understanding (e.g., what did the Polar Bear see?). If age appropriate, ask your child to retell the story (or part of the story). This will allow him or her to use new vocabulary words in context.
    5. Emphasize Pronouns: Many children struggle with correct usage of pronouns, so emphasizing pronouns at family functions can help reinforce correct production. Some examples include: “look what he is doing,” “she made the cake,” or “I hope we get to watch the movie!”
    6. Take Turns: Playing holiday games can promote your child’s ability to follow directions and learn about turn-taking. Games are a great way to target these language skills, and you can reinforce turn-taking and direction following by saying things like, “my turn” or “your turn.” Children may also benefit from posing the question, “whose turn is it?” and then allowing time for them to answer with “mine” or “yours.”
    7. Promote Social Skills: Pragmatic language, or the social use of language, can be targeted during winter break as well. Preparing your child to use appropriate greetings when family arrives, demonstrating appropriate volume during family gatherings, and discussing the social rules of gift exchange can be very beneficial to children who may be struggling with how to act in social situations.
    8. Ask “Wh”-questions: Asking your child questions throughout the day is a great way to encourage language skills, including naming and understanding functions. Questions like, “what do we use to make a snowman?” or “where do your gloves/hat/scarf go?” or “who baked the cookies?” can all help to enhance language skills.
    9. Use Sequencing: Discussing the appropriate sequence of actions for winter activities can not only target language concepts (e.g., first, next, last), it can also target your child’s awareness and planning. Asking your child to sequence how to get ready to build a snowman or wrap a present will allow him or her to list the steps required using many different language concepts.
    10. Find Similarities/Differences: Examining the similarities and differences of winter concepts as they relate to summer or other seasons can solidify a child’s understanding of seasons, as well as develop winter vocabulary. Asking questions like, “how is snow different from rain?” will target various cognitive/language skills and promote language development.




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