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5 Possible Autism Red Flags for Preschoolers

Autism spectrum disorder is a diagnosis that affects each child differently. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and common ones include:blog-autism-red-flags-main-landscape

· Problems with social interactions

· Difficulties with communication

· Repetitive/stereotypical behavior

Our Family Child Advocates developed a list of five possible autism red flags for preschoolers. While this is not an all-inclusive list, and symptoms vary between children, these can be early indicators.

1. Not Just Shy

Don’t mistake shyness for autism — or vice versa. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a chart for parents that highlights the difference. For example, a child with a shy temperament might be “quiet and withdrawn in new settings.” However, a child on the autism spectrum suffers from a “lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests or achievements with others.”

During preschool years (ages 3 to 5), children are exploring their environment and interacting with their peers, family members and teachers. These interactions help children develop an understanding of the world and form important relationships with others.

Around this age, children should start showing an interest in what their peers are doing and begin to interact with them both during organized (e.g., planned activities) and unstructured activities (e.g., free play). If they only want to play alone (even if there are peers around them), this could be a red flag. In addition, if a child demonstrates limited eye contact with adults and peers — this could also be a sign of autism — especially if the child doesn’t make any eye contact when their name is called or during times of play/activities with others.

2. Something Doesn’t Sound “Right”

It’s true that speech and language milestones are reached at different times for each child. However, at the preschool age, most children should be able to:

· Speak four or more words in a sentence.

· Follow three-step directions like “find your chair,” “raise your hand” or “shut the door.”

· Answer “WH” questions: Who, what, where and why.

· Recognize some letters and numbers.

Children on the autism spectrum disorder may not be able to speak about or do these things. Also, when autism spectrum children do speak, people may struggle to understand what they are saying.

A child on the autism spectrum might repeat the same words (e.g., “clap, clap, clap!”) or phrases, (e.g., “How are you? How are you?”) over and over again. The repeated words or phrases might be said right away or at a later time. While most children go through a repetitive speech stage, this type of speaking pattern typically ends around age three.

3. Demonstrating Major Fury with Minor Changes

It’s common for children to struggle with changes to their everyday routine. However, children with autism can become extremely upset when changes occur, especially unexpectedly. This may be seen during transition times between activities, clean up time or when they are asked to do something. Some behaviors that may occur include: exhibiting withdrawal, repetitive behaviors, tantrums or aggression.

4. Stimming and/or Obsessive Interests

Stimming is self-stimulatory behavior which appears as repetitive body movements and/or repetitive movement of objects. Stimming can involve one or all senses, and some examples are: hand flapping, body rocking, spinning in circles or spinning objects.

It’s natural for children to be curious of the world around them. But obsessive interests are routines or hobbies that the child develops that may seem unusual or unnecessary. Some example of common obsessive interests might include only wanting to talk about and play with computers, trains, historical dates/events, science or a particular TV show.

5. Showcasing Signs of Sensory Sensitivity

Children with autism may have a dysfunctional sensory system. This means that one or more of their senses are either over or under reactive to sensory stimulation. This sensitivity could be the cause of stimming behaviors. Some preschoolers might react unusually to the way things sound, smell, taste, look or feel. For example, during sensory play (e.g., playing with sand, Play-Doh or shaving cream) a child who does not like to get their hands dirty and prefers to continually wipe/wash their hands — or avoid sensory projects all together — could be demonstrating signs of sensory sensitivity.


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.


 

5 Things You Didn’t Know a Speech-Language Pathologist Can Help Your Child With:

The title “speech-language pathologist” can be a difficult one to discern. In addition, the shortened “speech therapist” can also be slp reading with a childmisleading. Speech-Language Pathologists work with children and adults on a wide variety of skills that may surprise you. Speech sounds are not the only skill that SLPs work on! The following list is, by no means, exhaustive of the broad scope of practice SLPs are qualified to provide service in, but rather a list of lesser-known areas of expertise for SLPs. It should be noted that, although all SLPs are trained to treat each of these areas, individual therapists do have areas of expertise, therefore, it behooves you, as a parent or educator, to seek out a therapist with training in the specific areas you seek assistance with.

5 Things You Did Not Know A SLP Works On:

  1. Reading
    1. Reading is a cornerstone skill on which academics become progressively more demanding as a child moves on from elementary through high school. Reading is a Read more

10 Ways to Increase Your Toddler’s Language Using Communication Temptations

These communication temptations were adapted from Warren & Yoder (1998) to facilitate a child’s need to communicate in a variety mom and child with a ballof contexts. For example, the goals of the following exercises are to convey emotion, initiate conversation, make requests, make comments and ask questions.

Making Requests & Asking Questions:

  1. Withholding food/toys: Eat a desirable food and wait to give to your child until he makes a request (e.g. “more”) and/or give him/her the desirable food in small quantities (e.g. sip of juice, bite of a cracker) so that he/she is motivated to ask for more. The same strategy works during play. For example, give the child one block at a time when building a tower, blow one bubble at a time and close the jar, blow up a balloon and deflate it, etc. and wait to give “more” until the child requests.
  2. Initiate a familiar game, play it until the child expresses joy, then pause. Allow the child time to make a request for more. If the child does not respond, look expectantly at the child and ask, “What do you want?” For example, if you are rolling a ball back and forth,
    prompt the child to produce “ball” or “more ball”.
  3. Put a desirable object in view, but out of reach (e.g. on a nearby shelf, table or holding a toy out of reach). Prompt your child to “use his/her words” to request a toy.
  4. Pay less attention than usual to the child (e.g. back away or turn your back during an ongoing game). Wait for the child to elicit your attention.
  5. Place a desired toy in a clear container with an airtight lid (or a container the child cannot open). Give the container and wait. Prompt the child to ask for the desired toy.

Making Comments and Conveying Emotion:

  1. Give the child the run of the room for a few minutes- allow him/her time to direct your attention to something the child finds interesting.
  2. Roll a ball back and forth for several turns, then substitute for a different object (e.g. toy car). The goal is for the child to make a comment about the switch in toys. Consider how an adult responds to something unexpected!
  3. Bring the child a new toy or initiate a silly or unusual event (e.g. wear a clown nose). Wait for the child to react (including gestures, facial expressions, etc.).
  4. Place a toy that makes noise in an opaque bag. Shake the bag and hold it up to the child. Wait for the child to comment (e.g. “Whoa!”) or make a request (e.g. “open,” or “open bag”).
  5. Put the child’s hand in a cold, wet, or sticky substance (e.g. water, pudding, paste, play-doh). Wait for the child to comment on the sensory qualities (e.g. hot, cold, sticky, wet, etc).

Warren, S., & Yoder, D. (1998). Facilitating the transition from pre-intentional communication to intentional communication. In Paul, (2007) Language Disorders form Infancy through Adolescence (p.248)

Encouraging Language Skills during Family Board Games

One of the most impactful ways a child can make progress toward their speech and language goals is through home practice.  I compare it to working outFamily playing a boardgame at the gym; one day a week counts for something, but you’re unlikely to see noticeable results.  Instead, three or four days a week is the best way to build muscle and endurance and notice tangible changes.  Speech and language development functions in a very similar way. To help children maintain and make further gains between speech sessions, we assign home practice activities.  To kids, this often translates to “more homework!”  So how can we encourage children to practice throughout the week?  Try choosing fun and engaging activities that mask the speech and language goals

Here are some board games recommended for school age and adolescent students:

7 favorite games that encourage language skills:

Outburst Junior. This fast-paced game encourages the use of categories and vocabulary.  Players are given a word or category, and asked to name as many category members as possible before the time runs out.

Scattergories Junior. This fun game also encourages the use of categories.  Players are given a specific letter (e.g., “F” or “G”) as well as a list of categories.  Each player must think of various category members that begin with that letter.

Guess Who. This silly game encourages players to ask questions and group pictures together based on similarities and differences.  Players have a board filled with faces (or in the new version, animals, appliances and even monsters) and have to guess which face belongs to their opponent.

Headbanz. This engaging game encourages children to verbally describe objects, ask questions, and remember clues.  Players are each given a secret word to wear on their headband.  Players can look at other players’ headbands, but cannot see their own.  Each player must ask questions about their word, and give others clues for theirs (e.g., “Is my word an animal?’).

Catch Phrase Junior. This high-energy game encourages the use of vocabulary, verbal descriptions, categorization, synonyms, and word definitions.  Players are given a word and must try to get team members to guess what it is without actually stating the word.

Cranium Junior. This entertaining game also encourages the use of vocabulary and word meanings while tapping into the various senses.  Players are given a question card and must act, hum, draw, or sculpt the answer to help their teammates guess what it is.

Apples To Apples Junior. This interactive game encourages the use of vocabulary, word meanings, synonyms, and categorization.  Players are given a stack of cards, each with a different word (a person, place or thing).  A descriptive word is then placed in the center of the game and players must choose a card from their stack that best fits the description.

5 modifications for kids with language difficulties:

Each of these games relies heavily on language skills. Therefore, a child with language difficulties might find these games challenging.  To help, here are a few ways to modify each game so that your child feels more successful.  I advise using the modifications for all players, instead of singling one child out.

  • Extend the time allowed for each turn. Instead of using a sand-timer, use your own timer on a smartphone or stopwatch to allow each player more time to complete tasks.
  • Eliminate timing altogether.  If you notice your child crumbling under the time pressure, just eliminate timers altogether.  After your child has had practice with the game and feels more confident, you can slowly reintroduce the timer.
  • Adjust the vocabulary words. If your child seems unfamiliar or overwhelmed by the vocabulary in the game (e.g., Apples to Apples), create your own playing cards with more suitable vocabulary for your child.
  • Encourage note-taking. Games such as Guess Who and Headbanz rely on memory.  If your child seems to have difficulty remembering clues, encourage him/her to write things down during the game (e.g., my headband is an animal, it lives in the zoo, it has stripes, etc).
  • Provide lots of encouragement. Discourage any negative comments from players, while encouraging positive comments instead (e.g., “good try” or “nice job!”).  Give your child positive and descriptive praise for anything they are doing well (e.g., “Wow, you are showing great sportsmanship” or “That was an excellent question to ask.”)

Above all, have fun!  Games provide an excellent avenue for learning, but more importantly, they provide a fun and engaging way to spend time together.  By incorporating your child’s speech and language goals into games, your child will learn and practice without ever hearing those dreaded words, “more homework.”  Ask your child’s speech-language pathologist for more fun activities to address their speech and language goals at home.

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