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5 Things to Keep in Mind When Potty Training a Child with Autism

Potty training is a big milestone for any child. It definitely is an important milestone for parents as well! No more diapers!! However, there are some things to keep in mind prior to considering potty training as well as during potty training. Blog-Potty-Training-Main-Landscape

  1. When should you consider potty training?
    • On average you would consider potty training when the child is around 2.5 years of age and above, can hold urine for 60-90 minutes, recognize the sensation of a full bladder, and show some form of awareness that they need to go to the bathroom.
    • Do at a time when you can spend large amounts of time at home! Some parents find it best to do in the summer (less clothing!).
  2. What schedule should you use when potty training?
    • You want to take your child to the bathroom every 90 minutes, if your child urinates then you wait for the next 90 minute interval, if not you reduce the time by 30 minutes.
    • Consistency is extremely important to ensure success.
  3. While on the toilet what should we do?
    • Praise your child for sitting appropriately on the toilet.
    • You can do activities with them as long as they are not too engaging or involved.
    • If they do urinate you want to CELEBRATE!
    • You need to wait up to 15 minutes if there is still no urination, then you let them get off and bring them back after 60 minutes (this keeps decreasing by 30 minutes each time there is not urination).
  4. What should you do when there is an accident?
    • It happens! Make sure you have your child help you clean it up, this is not meant to be punishing but more a natural consequence of having an accident. Keep a neutral tone and assist your child if needed to clean up the mess.
    • If your child is having too many accidents you may need to shorten the intervals of going to the toilet, or it may be that your child is not ready to be potty trained yet. Always rule out any medical reasons as well!
  5. Things to remember!
    • When starting potty training you want to make sure you child can sit on the toilet for up to 15 minutes with minimal challenging behaviors.
    • The goal is INDEPENDECE, you want to work towards your child walking to the bathroom on their own and removing and putting on their underwear and pants independently as well as washing their hands.
    • Make sure you child is in underwear throughout potty training! NO DIAPERS/PULL UPS!
    • Diapers and pull-ups are okay during nap time and bed time.
    • Number one thing to remember is PATIENCE, try to be consistently upbeat and encouraging to your child and deal with accidents as calmly as possible!

It is important to ensure that potty training is as positive an experience as possible for your child! Maintain your positive energy and constantly praise appropriate behavior seen throughout the potty training process! This will encourage your child to become more independent as well as want to go to the bathroom more often on their own!

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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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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What Exactly is a Social Group for Children with Autism?

We interviewed Latha V. Soorya, PhD from the Rush University Medical Center to learn about the study of social skills groups for children with autism.

Many children with autism are working toward learning, building and strengthening their social skills. The Autism Assessment, Research, Treatment and Services Center (AARTS Center) at Rush University Medical Center has dedicated their mission to on-going research in hopes to find new interventions to help those with autism. Latha V. Soorya, PhD explains and answers some questions regarding their newest study on social skills and the use of Oxytocin. early autism

Oxytocin is a hormone that plays an important role in social bonding and connections. Social skills groups for children with autism are widely used and well-liked. The Autism Assessment, Research, Treatment, and Services Center at Rush is studying both of these treatments to better understand how to improve social connections in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We are looking for 8-11 year old children with ASD to participate in a unique study called ION: Integrated Oxytocin and NETT (Nonverbal synchrony, Emotion recognition, and Theory of mind Training).

What is the benefit for parents? Families will receive support from therapists and other parents during parent groups that run at the same time as the social skills groups. Qualifying families will receive evaluations and treatment from licensed psychologists, child-psychiatrists, and therapists at no-cost as part of their participation in the social skills research study. The AARTS Center has run the social thinking group in the past, and a parent shared their positive feedback with us, saying, “We liked connecting with other parents during parent group and still use the materials from group to help our son focus on other people’s thoughts and feelings.”

How can parents & clinicians use the results? Before the study is published, families will receive results from their child’s evaluations as well as information about their progress. After publication, the AARTS center will share results with participating families, community partners, and the academic/medical community. Our hope is that the ION study will target social skills development in a new way, and that parents and clinicians will see lasting changes in the way that children with ASD apply these skills across settings.

Has similar research been done in the field? This is a unique study that combines promising research from two fields. Intranasal oxytocin may increase attention to social cues (e.g. where someone is looking) and social skills groups are well-liked and may help improve some aspects of social behavior. However, research also shows that changes from social skills groups, as well as intranasal oxytocin, do not last very long. This study is the first to examine what happens when the two treatments are combined.

What are you most excited about exploring in this study? We are most excited about this study’s potential to develop a more powerful, longer-lasting treatment for critical social thinking skills—skills we know are critical to navigating many life experiences and building social relationships.

Latha V. Soorya, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, board-certified behavior analyst and assistant professor of psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center. Soorya serves as the research director at the AARTS Center at Rush and brings expertise in diagnosis and intervention development to the research program.

For more information on the study, please contact Anthony Burns at 312-942-6331 or email Anthony_burns@rush.edu.

7 Tips for Working on Social Skills During School

School days can be a perfect opportunity for children to work on social skills. Children are surrounded by their peers throughout the day and there are endless opportunities for interaction.Blog-Social Skills-Tips-Main-Landscape

Here are some opportunities to promote social skills throughout the school day:

  • During circle time, snack time and lunch time, have the child sit next to different peers each day. This will promote multiple opportunities to meet new peers!
  • Assign different “peer buddies” for the child throughout the day and week. These peer buddies can help assist the child complete tasks, play games with the child, engage them in conversation and model appropriate behaviors.
  • Set up small, group structured activities such as completing puzzles, building train tracks, playing a board game or playing catch. It is often easier for children to interact and develop appropriate skills in a small group setting, rather than in a large group.
  • For older kids, during lunch time, give the table a topic of conversation to talk about that day to promote conversational skills.
  • If children need help throughout the day, prompt them to ask their peers for help, rather than always approaching an adult.
  • Set up situations where the child would need to interact with peers. For example, if there is a play dough station, have all the tools with the other peers, so that the child would need to ask their friend for tools in order to complete the activity.
  • Parents can also talk to the teacher about peers who the child gets along with, and set up play dates at home with the peers so they can practice those skills in different places.

For additional information, check out our other Autism and school blogs.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. 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!

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A Letter I Would Have Written for My Parents When I Was Still Nonverbal

This guest post is from Kerry Magro, a 28-year-old adult with autism who has become a national speaker and best-selling author. Magro is also on the Panel of People on the Spectrum of Autism for the Autism Society.

Dear Mom and Dad,

I know it’s breaking your heart to see me as I am now. Most of the kids we know are starting to talk while I’m just making sounds. I’m lashing out because I’m struggling. I can’t communicate myNonverbal Feature needs, and things are just not going the way I wish they would. I scream and fight with you every time you try and bathe me because I can’t stand the feeling of water. I cringe anytime I hear thunder, and I don’t like to be touched because of my sensory issues. Even now, as we make all the adorable videos of me dressed up as one of the best looking toddlers of all time, I know things aren’t easy, and we don’t know what my future has in store.

I want to tell you, though, to keep fighting for me and believing in me because without you both — my best advocates — I’m not going to be the person I am today. There’s hope, and you both play a huge part in that. Things are going to get better, and without you that wouldn’t be possible.

At 2 and a half, I’m going to say my first words, and at 4 you’re going to find out from a doctor that I have something called autism. In 1992, it will be something you would have only heard from some of the leading experts in the field and from the 1988 movie “Rain Man.” The road now is going to be difficult, but we’re going to get through it together.

Supports are going to be difficult to come by. The numbers of autism are 1 in 1000 right now and so many people still don’t understand. Life is going to be difficult. Challenges are coming. But here’s why you should fight through the challenges…

By fighting for me every day and helping me go through occupational, physical and speech therapy for the next 16 years, while giving me support at home and in school, I’m going to grow into an adult who is a national motivational speaker and gives talks about autism across the country.

Because if you fight for me right now and never give up, not only will I be that speaker but I’ll have the opportunity to write an Amazon Best Seller, consult for a major motion picture that makes 30 million dollars, and be someone who gives you love every single day. I will grow into an adult who embraces affection.

Love,
Kerry

I hope for any parent who reads this letter — coming from a now 28-year-old adult on the autism spectrum — that you never give up on your loved ones. The autism spectrum is wide and everyone’s journey is going to be slightly different. Become an advocate because by doing what you’re doing now, you not only give hope to your loved ones but you give hope to the autism community. We’re learning more and more about autism every day and more and more answers are coming to help our community progress.

Most important, I hope you take this letter as a sign that all parents of children on the autism spectrum can make a difference. Some days are going to be more difficult than others, but just know that you’re never alone in this community. And if you ever need someone to talk to, I’m just one message away if you click on my Facebook page.

A version of this blog originally appeared on Kerrymagro.com.

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How Can Virtual Therapy Benefit a Child With Autism Spectrum Disorder?

As with any diagnosis, there are no two cases alike. People can have the same “label” or diagnosis, butHow Virtual Therapy Can Help People With Autism this label can be exhibited in very different ways.  This is also true for the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). An ASD diagnosis has a spectrum of variables and intensity of behaviors. The patterns of behavior that are affected are common for all diagnosed, and these common variables include the following:

Common Variables for All Autism Spectrum Diagnoses:

  • Problems with communication
  • Problems with social interaction
  • Repetitive thoughts, interests and / or physical behaviors

There are many therapies that can help a child and family with ASD.  Speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy are just a few of the common therapies.

Virtual therapy (also known as Tele Therapy) can also help. Through virtual therapy, a child, adolescent, or adult with ASD can learn what is needed to manage a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Social interaction can be improved by specific guidance and strategy.  Helping a person with ASD tell their story through virtual therapy can be empowering and vital to their growth as well and can be administered in the comfort of the patient’s own home.

Virtual therapy is one tool that can help a person with ASD grow and meet his potential.

Find Out More About Tele Therapy

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!

autism spectrum disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder: An Overview

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurobiological disorder that has three primary characteristics which are impaired social interactions, impaired communication and restricted and repetitive behavior. Children are usually diagnosed around age three, although many of the signs and characteristics of autism may appear prior to age three. The current prevalence of autism in 1 out of every 68 children and is more common in boys (1 in 42) than in girls (1 in 189).

Autism-A Spectrum Disorder:

ASD is known spectrum disorder which means individuals with ASD all have similar features, but rangeautism spectrum disorder in severity. Individuals with ASD do not typically have any defining physical characteristics that set them apart from other people.

How is Autism Diagnosed?

To receive an autism diagnosis a child must be evaluated and assessed by a licensed psychologist. There are several different diagnostic tools that are currently used when evaluating an individual with autism. Currently one of the most popular assessment is the Autism Diagnostic Observation (ADOS), this assessment combines observation with more interactive activities for the child. During the assessment the evaluator engages the child in some common childhood activities such as playing with dolls and having a pretend birthday party. Another popular assessment is the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS), which is a behavior rating checklist.

Therapy for Autism:

Once a child receives an autism diagnosis, the parents must then find appropriate education and therapeutic service for their child which can be a daunting process. When considering how to help your child with autism, it is important to make sure that the intervention is evidenced based. Sadly there are many interventions that claim to “cure” autism, but there is no evidence supporting that intervention does in fact work. The “gold standard” of autism interventions is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA has many years of research proving its effectiveness with individuals with autism.

 

What to Expect When You Suspect Autism Download our free, 17-Page eBook

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!

Reference: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html

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Recreational Therapies: A Guide to Keeping Your Kids with ASD Active

Today’s guest blog by Vanessa Vogel-Farley of ACEing Autism explains the importance of recreational therapies for children with ASD.

Keeping children physically active and involved in activities outside of traditional therapies as theyrecreational therapies for ASD develop has proven to be very beneficial in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  We know that all developmental domains are intrinsically connected and impact each other, motor development is key for social communication skills, so enhancing motor skills can help in all areas of development, especially early in life. The availability of programs that specialize in the flexibility needed for children on the spectrum has increased tremendously over the past couple years.  Horseback riding, tennis, and soccer are all options. Picking the program that is right for you and your children can be tricky and expensive.

In addition, increased BMI in children with developmental disorders has become a huge issue that further complicates the life of the child as well as their families.  Physical activity is a solution to this growing problem, but keeping kids with ASD active is easier said than done.  As a person who has been running an Autism specific tennis program for 8 years, even getting some children on the court is nothing short of a miracle.  Below are some tips I have found to be beneficial over the years.

Tips to Keep Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Active:

  1. Continuity from program to home- Choose a sport or activity that you can enjoy as a family outside of the organized activity. Parental enthusiasm and joy in the activity has profound effects on how a child reacts to a new activity.
  1. Equipment- For some kids, the thrill of getting new equipment can be a useful tool in getting and keeping them engaged. There are programs that provide equipment while participating; asking if you are able to use that equipment between sessions can help to develop your child’s interest in that activity, while saving you the money of having to buy your own set.
  1. Down-time- There is a lot of waiting in most childhood activities and the patience that turn taking requires is even tougher in children with ASD. Attention to task and stimming behaviors become inhibitory. We have found that physical activity or routine during the time that waiting is required is helpful to keep kids engaged an attentive to the next task.  Use sit-ups, push ups, running in place, jumping jacks, toe raises, neck rolls, or anything that your child enjoys and helps to keep their heart rate up goes.
  1. Competition- Friendly competitions in safe environments can be easy ways to get kids active. Saying things like, “Beat you to the park,” “Race you to your room,” or “How many push-ups can we do in 30 seconds?” can increase physical activity on a daily basis as well as engaging you as a parent in a bit of a different light.  The aim is to have both of your giggling by the end.  Any child’s push up form is hilarious, not that mine, as an adult, is any better.
  1. Communication- If you choose an organized physical activity program, communication with the organizers and any one-on-one coach is essential.  Goals for each child can differ so much and your satisfaction with the program and the progress within that program is so important. If you do not feel like the program, which you are paying for, is working, communicating with the organizers can turn a bad experience into a successful one.

Finding a recreational program that works for you and your child may not be financially possible or if adding another thing to your family schedule makes you want to scream, increasing physical activity at home can be easy and fun.  Adding a walk after dinner or kicking a ball around for 15 minutes during the day can help to get everyone in the family more active.

Check out ACEing Autism to get your family and child with Autism moving with tennis lessons. Click here for one free class for North Shore Pediatric Therapy Affiliates!

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!

Communicative Intent in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Have you ever thought to yourself, “How did I know that my infant wanted their bottle?”, “How did I know that my toddler wanted more juice?”, or “How did I know that my school-aged child wanted some water?” The answer is that they demonstrated some form of communicative intent.

What is communicative intent?communicative intent and ASD

Your infant likely cried or fussed, and then calmed once he received the bottle. Perhaps your toddler directed his eye gaze and reached towards his juice cup. Your school-aged child most likely utilized words to say, “I want some water, please and thank you!” Communicative intent is the use of gestures, facial expressions, verbalizations, and/or written words to deliver a message. There are two types of communicative intent: intentional and non-intentional.

What’s the difference between intentional and non-intentional communicative intent?

Non-intentional communicative intent is the communication of a message that is automatic and completed without thinking (spontaneous). Intentional communicative intent is the deliberate communication of a message to a person, whether it’s via gestures, gaze, or vocalizations. The infant mentioned above exhibited non-intentional communicative intent through crying and the toddler and school-aged child demonstrated intentional communicative intent through eye gaze, gestures, and speaking.

How does this relate to autism?

Demonstrating communicative intent is often an area of difficulty for kids diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Children diagnosed with ASD may have trouble utilizing gestures, eye gaze, and/or words to communicate. Additionally, they may not understand or be aware of the messages they are sending to others. This makes knowing what your child wants and needs a challenge!

What can I do to Help My Child With Autism Communicate?

Anticipate communication opportunities: Anticipate when your child is going to need to communicate- meal times, ends of routines, transitions, etc. Prompt them to communicate what he wants in a meaningful way by modeling the desired behavior and helping your child perform the behavior. When your child wants more juice, hold his juice and model and prompt them to say ‘more’. This helps to enforce the power of the word ‘more’. If your child is not yet producing words consistently, encourage your child to reach for the juice, point to the juice, look at the juice, or sign ‘more’.

Give consistent responses: Provide consistent responses for your child’s words and gestures. Following through with your child’s requests enforces the fact that his words and gestures have power and are going to result in his needs and wants being met. Follow through with the request even if you know it is not really what your child wants. This creates an opportunity for your child to use his words (“no”) to communicate his dissatisfaction and then another opportunity to communicate his message accurately.

Utilize these tips to help teach communicative intent at home. Consult with a speech language pathologist if you are concerned with your child’s ability to communicate his wants and needs effectively.

What to Expect When You Suspect Autism Download our free, 17-Page eBook

NSPT offers services through our Autism Center as well as Speech Therapy services in Bucktown, EvanstonHighland 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!