The Autism category compiles any blog related to Autism on the North Shore Pediatric Therapy website.  The blogs in this category are meant to help educate, inform and encourage parents of children with Autism. Readers will learn about Applied Behavior Analysis, Autism-friendly activities, school, appropriate toys, red flags, special needs lawyers, financial planning, multidisciplinary treatment options and more. If you are looking for any information related to Autism, this category will help you get started. If you need additional assistance, please give us a call at (877) 486-4140.

Encouraging Speech & Language Development in Infants and Toddlers

Mom reading to babyInfants immediately begin to learn from the environment around them after entering into our unfamiliar yet exciting world. The experiences they are exposed to and the people they encounter will ultimately help to shape them into the intelligent and independent children their parents hoped for. The importance of facilitating speech and language in young children is significant, and research has shown that early exposure is crucial to their development. Many parents therefore wonder what they can do to help elicit speech and language development at home, in order to help give their children every advantage possible.

Below are some simple suggestions and activities that can be easily incorporated throughout the day to help focus on these areas:

Reinforce communication by looking directly at your child when speaking and imitating them when they communicate, even if it is jargon!

• Teach animal and environmental sounds using motivating toys such as farm sets and cars.

• Talk about an activity while you are engaged in it (e.g. When cooking, talk about all of the steps and describe the ingredients).

• Point out everyday objects in the environment by expanding upon your language (e.g. When walking through the neighborhood, explain what is around you: “I see a tree. The tree is tall. The tree has green leaves.”, etc).

• Be a role model by using simple but grammatically correct speech for your child’s age.

• Associate sounds with objects around the house, as this is a precursor to phonics (e.g. The vacuum says “vvvvvv”.)

• Expand on your child’s speech and reiterate what they’ve said by modeling more complex sentences (e.g. If your child says “red car”, respond to them by saying, “You’re right, there is a big red car outside”.)

• Read books to increase comprehension and point to objects when named.

• Use preferred items to help promote language (e.g. If they have a favorite stuffed animal, use it to demonstrate brushing, dressing, bedtime routine etc).

• Use picture schedules and songs to facilitate smooth transitions (e.g. The “clean-up” song).

• Find time to communicate with your child without using technology.

• Provide choices throughout the day and reinforce successful communication.

• Have your older child expand on their utterances by having them tell you about their day (e.g. “Tell me what you did at camp today.” or “Tell me 3 things you saw at the park.”).

• Stay away from using only yes or no questions, as they do not always allow your child to formulate more descriptive sentences. Ask more specific questions when you can.

• Show your child that you are interested by listening attentively and engaging them during structured activities.

• Model appropriate behavior in social situations.

• Reinforce pretend play (e.g. cooking/kitchen sets, etc.).

• Participate in sensory-motor play (e.g. musical instruments).

• Supervise your child during play groups and encourage play-dates.

• Encourage sharing and turn taking during games and other structured activities.

• Allow your child to lead during motivating activities to give them a sense of independence.

• Expand social communication and story telling by participating in dramatic or symbolic play by “acting out” scenarios (e.g. feeding their dolls).

 

While the initial task may appear daunting and you may feel overwhelmed with trying to incorporate all of the activities into your daily routine, remember to start out slowly. Keep in mind that you may already be doing many of these activities without formally addressing them, so it may be simple to quickly add a few new behaviors to your routine. The key is to make these activities fun, so remember to expose your child to as much communicative interaction as possible throughout the day.

While parents know their children best, if something does not seem quite right, it may be advantageous to speak with a Speech-Language Pathologist about more specific activities that can further help your child. Just remember that every child is unique, and many variables may impact their own speech and language development. Follow typical developmental norms and milestones, and seek help if your child does not seem to be progressing at an appropriate rate.

Top 5 Pediatric Therapy Myths: Explored and Explained

Scared Girl

There are numerous misconceptions about pediatric therapy out there. I hear parents reporting to me all the time that they “heard from a friend,” or better yet, “saw on the internet” that developmental therapy does not work and that pediatric therapists “just keep kids in therapy” with no real improvement.

Below, I will address the 5 biggest myths out there regarding Pediatric Therapy:

Myth 1:   My child will “mature” and this will not be an issue.

I have heard this numerous times from parents about their children. Will the child “mature” and develop eventually? Sure, probably to some extent. My question back to them is: at what cost? What would be the consequences of not addressing the specific issues that the child demonstrates? How would these issues play out in school? Would the child be teased, bullied, or unable to progress to the best of his or her ability? There are obviously certain developmental stages that children reach at certain times, but some children develop at a slower rate than others . The goal of pediatric therapy is to enable these children to catch up with their peers and prevent later consequences. Additionally, research has demonstrated that the earlier the developmental issues are addressed, the better that child’s long term prognosis will be. Read more

Your Child Has Been Diagnosed With Autism, Now What?

What To Do After Your Child Is Diagnosed With Autism:

Several weeks ago Deborah Michael posted a blog about warning signs that parents should look out for regarding Autism Spectrum Disorders.  That blog article got me thinking about the next steps and how to help prepare parents for those important decisions.  The initial diagnosis is often heart wrecking for parents.  Too many times I have seen parents develop a sense of hopelessness once the diagnosis is given.  Autism is a spectrum disorder.  There are children who are really low functioning and will require one-on-one assistance for the rest of their lives.  Yet, at the same time, there are many children who are really high functioning and will be able to lead normal lives, get married, and live on their own.  I was supposed to write a blog article on a checklist for parents as to what they should do once a diagnosis is given.  After thinking about that, I came to the realization that doing so would be impossible and also act as a disservice towards parents.

Therapies Available For Children With ASD

Hand in HandThere are many therapies available for children with a diagnosis along the Autism spectrum.  Children with the diagnosis often require speech/language therapy to develop their pragmatic and social language skills.  These children often benefit from participating in a social skills group in which they are forced to engage in social activities in a safe, non-judgmental environment.  The children often have difficulties with fine motor functioning and sensory regulation and would benefit from woSchedule A Visit To Our Autism Clinicrking with an occupational therapist to develop those skills.
Additionally, the children often would benefit from participating in behavior therapy to focus on increasing positive, on-task behaviors while extinguishing negative behaviors.  However, due to the fact that Autism is a spectrum set of disorders, one cannot say how many hours a week or even what specific therapies are warranted for any particular child.  As a neuropsychologist, I would work with the individual providers to help develop any particular child’s treatment plan.  So, the only checklist of services parents need to seek for their child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder is:  work with the neuropsychologist who made the initial diagnosis to help develop a treatment plan including speech/language therapy, occupational therapy, behavior therapy, and social work.  Read more

Autism Signs Appear in Babies’ First Year: What that means for Parents and Doctors

A Chicago Tribune Article states:

“In its detailed comparison of 50 babies – half of whom would go on to be diagnosed with autism – the researchers in this new study found a steady loss of sociability and responsiveness in the babies who would progress to an autism diagnosis. Those babies’ loss of social skills looked more like regression and less like a slowing of progress that allowed normally developing babies to pull far ahead of them. And that regression was most marked between 6 and 18 months, though it continued more gradually to the 3-year mark, where the study left off. But while the reduced rates of face-gazing, vocalizations and social engagement were evident to researchers who systematically evaluated the babies every six months, 83 percent of the parents did not observe the changes chronicled by researchers – not, at least, in the first year they were happening”.

Autism Checklist

We need to teach parents to look for Sociability and Responsiveness between 6 and 18 months. Pediatricians, you can teach parents to look for these things when the baby is seen at the 6-week check-up!

Here are a few things to start looking out for (feel free to contact us for a more detailed checklist!):

Face gazing

Does he respond to your voice?
Does he smile?
Does she make eye contact?

Vocalizations
Does he coo?
Does he make noises?
Does he cry and keep calm at appropriate times?

Social engagement
Does he smile?
Does she enjoy playing games like peek-a-boo?
Does he want mommy at around 9 months and cry with others?
Does he show interest in other children?
Does she use her index finger to point at people or objects?

A few questions can make the difference between early intervention and a quick jump on learning, versus a wider gap in skills as more time passes without proper awareness and attention. You and your pediatrician need to be watching for signs! Don’t forget- family history is a HUGE piece with autism spectrum disorders. If you have any form of social challenges in the family, start looking for signs very early!

Schedule A Visit To Chicago's Autism Clinic

If you are a parent, what advice would you like your pediatrician to give you at your 6 week check up?

If you are a parent of an ASD child, how would an earlier diagnosis have changed where you are today?