Archive | Diagnosing Autism RSS feed for this section

How to Safely Motivate Autistic Children

Children with autism have problems interacting with others and may suffer from impaired communication skills. A challenge for parents and teachers is to find a method to motivate these children that is both safe and effective. Developing language, behavioral and social skills can be extremely challenging for some autistic children; however, some tips to aid this effort are highlighted here.

Immobilier

Getting to know the child

Before you can get started on any type of learning strategy, it is essential you get to know the child in question. This includes:

  • Creating and updated a list of the child’s interests and strengths. Include any fascinations or preoccupations that could be strange.
  • Take not of activities that cause anxiety of frustration.
  • Notice any pacing or processing issues that may be present.

When you understand these things, you can create a strategy that will be conducive to the way the autistic child will learn best. No two children are exactly the same, which means you need to carefully observe and evaluate prior to trying to motivate.

Methods of motivation

There are a number of methods that can be used to motivate an autistic child. Some of the most common motivators are highlighted here.

  • Play therapy

You can motivate autistic children with play therapy, which can help to provide a sense of accomplishment, encourage self-expression and teach new skills.

  • Provide choices

It is also possible to motivate autistic children when you allow them to select the stimulus activity, such as dancing or jumping. You can join them in with this activity until the child successfully makes eye contact or they communicate spontaneously.

  • Utilize positive reinforcement

When you are actively learning or providing therapy, prompting for another try after the wrong answer, or praising a correct choice will encourage a child to respond more often.

You can also use other types of reinforces to help children learn new skills. In some cases, children who suffer from autism are not able to be adequately motivated with traditional, social feedback. In these instances you will have to find a reinforcer that works for your child.

One way to find an effective reinforcer is to set out a number of different items and see which the child chooses. Take note of what they choose and how long they interact with that item. In most cases, the first item selected will be the most powerful reinforcing tool.

Once you have discovered the reinforcer that works best for your child, then you should deliver it directly after a correct response is give. Be sure that this is always paired with some type of verbal praise, such as “good job.” This will help them also understand the importance and effectiveness of verbal praise.

  • Cover new and familiar skills

It is important to keep learning fun and interesting for your autistic child. This means you should introduce both new activities and skills, as well as ones they are familiar with. While it is important to create a routine and sense of familiarity, studies have also shown that autistic children remain focused, give more right answers and are better behaved when the activities are varied.

Autism 5

To illustrate, you might want to help them create motivational posters with inspiring quotes such as, “Smile” or “Be Awesome.” Then, as they look as these posters they will experience both inspiration and pride knowing they helped to make them.

  • Integrate sensory activities

Utilizing sensory based activities can help autistic children learn new skills more quickly. However, it is important to introduce these slowly to begin with in order to ensure it does not become sensory overload.

  • Use music therapy

There are a number of autistic children who can sing, even when they are unable to speak, and when you expose them to songs that have repetitive, simple phrases can help them to develop new language skills. Singing may also be beneficial in helping to eliminate monotone speech patterns and by learning to match various musical rhythms. It can also help to enhance a child’s social interaction by encouraging them to participate in a group activity, such as a music group or class.

  • Implement rewards

While reinforcers and rewards are similar, you can use rewards for good behavior, or a day of completed lessons. These rewards can be something that is given at a certain time of day, if they have completed the necessary tasks and activities.

Motivating autistic children is more difficult than those without the disorder; however, there are still a number of methods that can be used to do this successfully. When you read the information here and take some time to get to know your child better, you will be able to create a plan or strategy that can help to successfully motivate children that suffer from autism.

Be sure that you work with teachers for the child in order to ensure the same reinforcers or rewards are used, which will help the child better understand the verbal cues that go along with these items. This will help to further motivate your child and help them pick up on new skills much more easily.

Comments { 0 }

How Did You Know Your Child Was Autistic?

We get this question a lot, which is wonderful. It means that people are interested in knowing what to look for and ultimately, that’s what ‘awareness’ is all about. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million times, the only person who can diagnose your child is you. It’s up to you to recognize the signs and then and only then will your child have a chance at getting an official diagnosis and then the help that they need.

Autism signs are tricky because on the surface, they seem like childhood quirks… funny little things that some children do. However, if you add up all the signs… you may come to realize that they’re not quirks at all… especially if they persist longer than just a typical ‘phase’ should.

Since all children tend to exhibit different signs, or sets of signs, you can’t really go by my list as an exact set of signs to look for but it should give you a pretty good idea.

First was something we thought was natural, and I guess it still is. But now we realize he liked it a little too much, and that is swaddling. The idea is that the child feels held and confined as they did in the womb. That it comforts them and keeps them warm. Many babies love it, some do not. It doesn’t hurt them, or have any ill effects. However, in our case, Cameron seemed to like it a little too much and for too long. We, of course, never questioned it. It wasn’t even considered a sign… but looking back, I think it truly was our first sign… and it came at a very early age.

From the moment Cameron was able to sit up on his own, we’d catch him moving his toys from one side of his body, to the other and back again. This would happen for hours. Rather than play with a car, or flip things or examine them… he would simply move them from his left, to his right, one at a time. If he had 5 cars, he’d move them individually to his left side… then once all 5 were there, he’d move them individually to his right.

Eventually this turned to blocks where he’d position himself into a pile of blocks and then move them all to one side of his body. Then, individually, he’d move them all to the other side yet again. For a while, he’d even separate the blocks by colour! He’d end up with 3 or 4 piles of blocks all around him, separated by colour! We thought he was a child prodigy, doing this before he was 1.

After a while, he singled out the purple blocks as his favourite. He would actually dig through a pile of blocks in search of the rare purple ones. We just assumed that purple was his favourite colour.

Soon he moved on to cars where he’d pass them in front of his face, doing his ‘Practising Thai Chi‘ moves. If the car was big enough, he’d much rather flip it over onto it’s back and sit for hours spinning the tires, or even spinning the entire car around. Friends bought him big Tonka trucks, he found the wheels the most exciting, spinning them for hours. We got him a wagon, he’d flip it over and spin the wheels.

For the first 8 months, people thought we had the best baby ever. He never made a sound, never cried. In fact, we had to keep our baby monitors at full volume because when he woke up, he didn’t make a peep. No crying, no nothing. He even made a rather huge mess in his diaper one time and no complaining. He could be hungry, tired, waking up… it made no difference. As a newborn, he’d wake up every 3 hours for feedings in the middle of the night. Think he cried? No, I had to listen for small foot and hand movements.

This brings us to his first birthday where we were really hoping we could get him to dig into a chocolate cake and make a huge mess and get some great pictures. The problem? Cameron hated to be dirty! He didn’t really want to touch it and didn’t like having his hands covered in anything. So we put his hands into the cake for the sake of the pictures and he didn’t get upset but he sure wasn’t happy. We had no idea why.

After, we were hoping for his first word to come at any time but we waited and waited…. and waited. He was finding alternate ways of communicating instead, such as bringing us his cup, pointing at what he wanted and ‘humming’ to indicate he was hungry. It was a very distinct kind of hum, which many family members found funny and often imitated.

For a while, in between 1 and 2, we would find Cameron lining up all his toy cars or trains into a perfect circle around the living room, or making perfectly straight lines. I mean, not exactly perfect but way better than a 1 year old should be doing. He didn’t even know his shapes yet but he was doing this with some crazy precision. He would even go back to adjust some toys to make sure they lined up just right. Again, we were so impressed and thought he was brilliant.

As Cameron‘s second birthday approached, he became more and more secluded, shying away from hugs and kisses. He was also less willing to play with friends or even with us… being quite happy with just doing things on his own off in a corner somewhere.

From the day Cameron was off of baby food, he was a vegetarian… not by our choice, but his. He absolutely refused to eat any meat, even before having tried a bite. The same is true for fast food. He has yet to try a french fry or pizza. He simply knew, even at that young of an age, that he did not want anything to do with any of it. His diet has always been extremely limited by his own choice and no amount of forcing can make him eat the things he doesn’t want to eat. Eventually he even stopped drinking milk on his own, but he loves soya milk… especially the chocolate.

It turns out that even at the age of 1, he knew that the GFCF Diet was what was best for him. Some say that those proteins can act like a drug in Autistic children, much like heroin acts in adults. So at some point, he decided he didn’t like that feeling and just stopped eating the things that gave him those feelings. Even to this day, some ‘scientists’ are saying that the diet really doesn’t help and in some cases, it’s true. But it made a huge difference for us once we cut out bread and other wheat products from his diet. He knew before we did. Read the comments, you’ll see that parents don’t agree with every ‘study’ that comes out.

Finally, the biggest of them all is repetition and routine.  All of these things can be viewed as just quirks that kids have but these things lasted months, years…. still happening! And routine is huge as well, because all children need routine but Autistic children especially. The best example I can give is when we had to change our clocks for daylight savings time and Cameron‘s bed time was an hour later. He wanted to go to bed at exactly the time he knew it was bed time and not a minute later, much less an hour. He was 1, he couldn’t tell time. But he was so set in his routine that when we said no… it’s not bed time yet, he literally hit the floor in the middle of the living room and through a tantrum. He was so upset that we were breaking his routine.

It’s a lot to take in, there are a ton of signs. Chances are, if your child is Autistic, you may recognize some of these, all of these and maybe even some signs that I haven’t mentioned.

Recognizing Autism is not easy…. it’s particularly not easy if it’s not your child and this is why I say, only you (as the parent) can make that first diagnosis.  You’d be very lucky if someone else recognizes it before you… either that, or you weren’t looking for it.

The sooner you can get that diagnosis and start getting the help you need, the better the life your child will have later. So do not put it off, do not dismiss signs. Who knows, maybe they are just quirks in your child, but if not, you owe it to them and to yourself to be sure.

I can’t emphasize it enough, do not let anyone convince you that “it’s nothing” or “sometimes they just talk later” or “it’s just something cute he/she does” because it’s not their decision, it’s not their child. We heard it all from a lot of people, even our own family doctor… he told us he thought Cameron was fine, going for a diagnosis is a waste of time. You MUST LISTEN TO YOUR INSTINCTS. If you read any of what I said here and think it sounds familiar, get your child looked at. Don’t be afraid of the doctors being wrong, don’t be afraid of what it might mean… just get it done.

Comments { 4 }

Searching For A Reason, For Something to Blame

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately on all of the various possible causes of Autism and it got me to thinking… we really have no clue! I am no doctor and certainly not a scientist but let me give you a rundown of a few things that I have read, and a few things I know.

Possible causes have been tracked down to genetics, birth defects, gastrointestinal tract problems, vaccines, viruses, pollution… ok, I can’t list them all or you may be here reading all day. A little more specifics, they tracked down a rather high rate of Autism in a small town down wind of a sunglasses factory where the pollution was heavy. They have discovered that Autism happens more frequently in boys, especially if they have an older sibling with Autism. They’ve discovered that more people with certain viruses get Autism and of course, vaccines.

Here’s what I know, some children have Autism despite no family history of it, no pollution, their country doesn’t get vaccines and they didn’t catch the same viruses. So… what caused it?

The organization that wrote the main article accusing vaccines has since retracted their findings, one organization in Europe actually found that children with vaccines had less cases of Autism than those without!

What this all means is that if your child has Autism, it’s perfectly natural and quite alright to want to find out why. It’s perfectly natural to blame yourself, someone else… to spend all of your time and energy looking for a reason.

However, unless you are a doctor or a scientist and even then, a very very good one… your time and energy can probably be better spent elsewhere, like learning how to help your child through it.

Since Cameron was diagnosed, we’ve had a lot of questions from a lot of people and I think it’s safe to say that the majority of them have been about vaccines and what we think caused the Autism. People asked if we were still going to get our second child vaccinated…  we did. They asked about our family history, if we thought something went wrong somewhere. They still ask us why there’s more kids with Autism today than before, what we think causes it, what we think about vaccines and diets.

Superman has villains, your child does not.

Denial, anger, shock, self doubt… I went through them, every parent does. If they don’t, they’re not human. But sooner or later you’ll have to accept it. If you don’t, you’ll eventually find that you’re focus hasn’t been where it should have been and for that, you’ll have only yourself to blame… and that brings with it a whole new circle of grief cycles.

Your child doesn’t care what caused it, you do. You finding something to blame is for your own self satisfaction because if you have something to blame, you can feel that it’s not yours nor your child’s fault… even though you already know that.

Put down the lab coat and find out what you can do moving forward. Your child will appreciate it much more.

Comments { 0 }

Tugging on My Ear – For Comfort, For Love

One of my earliest memories of Cameron, apart from his birth, is how he always had to be playing with my ear lobes, or my wife’s. In fact, he would get down right mad if we didn’t let him or he wasn’t able. It was such a big part of his life that he would do it in his sleep. If he fell asleep on me on the couch, or slept in our bed, his hand would wander until it found my ear even though he was fully asleep.

All children find something to do that soothes them, whether it’s sucking a thumb, holding a favourite blanket or stuffed animal… we just assumed that this was his way of soothing or comforting himself. As he got older, it became more of an issue for us as he needed it more and more, even if it meant us having to be bent over uncomfortably just so that he wouldn’t be furious.

It wasn’t until years later, after his diagnosis that we discovered that it was so much more than that. When Cameron first went to school, we came to realize that his biggest fear, his biggest issue is feeling unsafe. Not just unsafe, but that those around him are not keeping him safe.

You could argue that ‘soothing’ is a form of helping yourself feel ‘safe’ but I think it’s more than that. Cameron would not do the ear thing with just anyone, it wasn’t just a motion that helped him feel better.

He tugged on our ears because it kept us close, it kept us in contact and it made him feel safe.

More so than even that, because he was unable to speak and is still very much unable to express his stronger emotions, it was his way of saying he loves us and he needs us.

I think many people dismiss Autistics as being unable to handle and express emotions but the truth is, if we look hard enough, if we don’t look passed the little things… they are telling us, in their own way.

Cameron was telling us a lot with his cute little self soothing technique, I just didn’t know how much.

Comments { 0 }

Autism Denial – Einstein Didn’t Talk Until He Was Four

In my experience, the most likely person to be in denial of a child having a disorder like Autism is the parents, primarily the father. However, in my family’s case, my wife and I never denied it for a moment, everyone else did!

At first our family, trying to be supportive, told us that some kids are just like that, some kids are just quirky, some kids just don’t talk until they’re older. When you observe each individual ‘sign’, they weren’t wrong. Every sign that a child has Autism can be viewed as just a quirky thing that some kids do, when you look at them individually. But when you group all the signs together to form a diagnosis, you realize that they’re not just quirks.

Unfortunately, no one really spent time with Cameron as much as we did so no one could really ever know. Being in denial was a matter of convenience for some because it also meant being supportive at the same time, helping us feel that there was nothing wrong. While that is appreciated, it’s not what we needed, as parents. What we needed more was information. “Awareness” means more than just knowing it exists.

The next case of denial came from the most unlikely of sources, our family doctor. He is an extremely smart and gifted doctor and has a wealth of knowledge in many areas, we are lucky to have found him. But when we brought up the word Autism with him, he immediately dismissed it, assuring us that his quirks and delayed speech are fine.. there was still a lot of time for him to “catch up”.

Did you know that Einstein didn’t talk until he was four? Did you know that he didn’t form complete sentences until he was nine? And he was fine! He was brilliant.

Perhaps, but I’d venture a guess that if Einstein were a child today, he’d be diagnosed with Autism. And the thing with Autism is, no two children are the same. maybe he beat the odds and went on to become a brilliant man, but obviously that isn’t true for everyone. Telling me that Einstein was a delayed speaker does not put my mind at ease when I look at my son at the age of 2.5 who is still unable speak.

Eventually we got into workshops, got speech therapy for Cameron, learned all new ways to teach him, diet tips and more and by the time Cameron was 3, he had a pretty full vocabulary. He’s approaching 5 at the time of this writing and he can speak as well as any other 5 year old.

The reason I mention this is that we’re still facing denial from family and friends who now approach us saying “he is so smart, he seems to be a perfectly normal child… are you sure he ever really did have Autism?”

It hurts a little, to have people dismiss 2 years of very hard work that we’ve done… saying that he must have been perfectly fine all along. But it’s also very flattering and a wonderful compliment as well. After all, what could be better than for people to think an Autistic child is not Autistic??

Those who are close enough to us to spend a decent amount of time with Cameron know the truth. They see it. They realize the extent of what Autism can do when a child is at their worst.

All I can say is, if you suspect Autism, or you know someone who suspects it in their child… don’t deny it. Don’t be supportive by comparing their child to Einstein. Instead, help them get the information they need to find out for sure. Maybe, with your help, they’ll get their child all the help they need that in 2 years others will ask them “are you sure they ever really were Autistic?”

Comments { 12 }