April was Autism Awareness month, which made it an extra special time for those of us in the autism community. To celebrate, we participated in several fundraising events while also collecting donations for the Lighthouse Families First Foundation. The LHFFF allows us to help special needs children, adults, and their families outside of Lighthouse’s capabilities by giving 100 percent of the money raised to help those we assist.
On April 15, the Lighthouse staff volunteered at the annual Hockey 4 Life tournament. This group of civic-minded hockey enthusiasts raises money each year with their weekend-long event, which includes hockey games, a silent auction and a raffle. We helped keep score during the tournament while also passing out information on Autism Awareness to participants and spectators.
One of our Mishawaka Lighthouse Autism Center neighbors, Evil Czech Brewery and Public House, also promoted Autism Awareness to their customers throughout April. This included “A Night of Awareness” on April 21, which we co-hosted with Evil Czech for the second time. On that night, Evil Czech donated 10 percent of all its sales to special needs families in the northern Indiana area. The event raised over $2,200 that will go directly to helping families in the area.
We can’t thank these groups, businesses and all those who participated enough for their compassionate generosity and support. Because of you, we’re able to make a positive difference in the lives of special needs children or adults and their families.
Lighthouse Autism Center has recently created the first episode to a series called the Autism Minute. The Autism Minute will be a series of videos created by Board Certified Behavior Analysts at Lighthouse Autism Center who want to help you learn some of the skills we use at our centers. The content of the videos will include a range of topics from toilet training to dealing with problem behavior at home and anything else we believe will be helpful to caregivers. The goal of the series is to give all those caring for someone with autism the tools and skills to make life at home just a little bit easier.
Stay tuned for the first episode of the Autism Minute!
We recently came across an article in Indy’s Child that provided a list of amusement parks in the Midwest that provided unique supports for families with special needs. If you are looking for a family outing this summer, take a look at the list of parks below and see how these parks can accommodate your special needs family member to make the whole family experience better.
1.) Holiday World & Splashin Safari, Santa Claus, IN
They offer a Holiday World Ride Boarding Pass to individuals who are unable to wait in lines. It allows the individual and three guests to check in at a ride and return later without actually having to wait in line. For more information visit www.holidayworld.com/help-information/accessibility
2.) Kings Island and Cedar Point, Mason OH and Sandusky OH
Kings Island and Cedar Point both have a Boarding Pass Program which allows those who are unable to wait in ride lines and three guests to check in and return later to avoid the crowds. Visit Guest Services to request a pass once arriving at the parks. For more information visit www.visitkingsisland.com/plan-a-visit/guests-with-disabilities and www.cedarpoint.com/plan-a-visit/guests-with-disabilities
3.) Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay, Louisville, KY
Similar to other parks they offer an Attraction Boarding Pass at Guest Services that allows those who are unable to wait in ride lines and three guests the option to skip lines by going to the ride exit and speakign to an employee who will help them board the ride. Additionally, for those with sensory sensitivities, the park offers a quiet resting place for two people in the Carousel Courtyard and Health Services.
For more information visit www.kentuckykingdom.com/faqs-and-policies/rider-requirements/
4.) Six Flags Great America, Gurnee, IL
They offer an Attraction Access Program that allows those whoa re unable to wait in lines and three guests the option to “check-in” at a ride and return later. Unless you request before your trip, you will need to bring a doctor’s note to the park.
For more information visit www.sixflags.com/greatamerica/plan-your-visit/guests-with-disabilities
The first episode of the Autism Minute is presented by Katie Meyer, a BCBA at our Warsaw center. Her video describes how to create a night time routine for your child, to help them get to bed faster and stay asleep longer.
Hi, I’m Katie Meyer. I’m a Program Manager at Lighthouse Autism Center in our Warsaw location. I have worked at Lighthouse for over three years and I am a parent myself to two girls who are three and five years old. I developed a passion for applied behavior analysis in my Undergrad in college and chose to pursue a Master’s Degree from Ball State University. I have been Board Certified since February of 2014 and one of my favorite parts about working as a Behavior Analyst is helping parents at home make those more difficult tasks just a little bit easier.
Today we’re going to talk about the importance of a bedtime routine for kids who have autism. Often, when we have new kids start at Lighthouse, parents report that their child does not sleep through the night, follow any sort of bedtime routine or has difficulty falling and staying asleep. Well, this is not uncommon for kids who have autism. There are strategies to help your child have a better night’s sleep and develop a routine for getting ready for bed.
After developing a routine with your child, you should be able to help your child fall asleep faster, experience less nighttime wakening and you could also potentially help your child be more alert during the day due to obtaining more sleep. For kids without bedtimes, it’s very difficult to implement a bedtime routine with a new sleep time if this is done abruptly. The first step in developing a routine is to first identify what time your child is falling asleep most nights. This time could be late. Even 11:00 or 12:00 at night.
The second step is identifying an ideal time you want your child to fall asleep. With the idea that this will be your target time for bed. Next you’ll want to build a routine of four to five steps that you begin to follow every night, with each step taking five minutes at most with the majority of time being spent in bed, reading with mom and dad or just looking at a book with pictures.
For example, you can set the routine thirty minutes before the child’s current bedtime. Have your child go potty, brush their teeth, put on pajamas, then read a book with mom or dad. The first time you implement this routine, you will begin thirty or minutes or so before their current bedtime and start roughly ten minutes earlier after a week of starting at that current time until you get to the desired bedtime for your child.
Before starting the routine each night, give your child a thirty minute warning that it is almost time to begin the bedtime routine. Give your child this warning again at twenty, ten and five minutes before bed. Once you begin working through the steps of your nighttime routine, continue doing so until it is finished and do not allow any interruptions. If your child refuses to stay in bed at the end of the routine, you should engage in what we can an extinction procedure.
You’ll do this by putting your child back in bed, tucking them back in and saying, “It’s time for bed.” You should not say anything else to your child at this time and you should walk back out of the room. If your child continues to get out of bed, continue to use this same procedure until they stay in bed and fall asleep. Keep in mind, you will likely see this behavior increase for a few days before it works and it will take many tries until your child finally falls asleep on their own.
To wrap up, by developing a routine for your child, you could potentially help them fall asleep faster, get more rest at night and improve their alertness throughout the day due to getting more sleep. By following these steps, you can begin a nighttime routine with your child. Identify their current bedtime. Establish a desired bedtime. Make a routine of four to five steps. Give your child a thirty minute warning before beginning the routine.
Thirty minutes before their bedtime, go through the established nightly routine. Follow through with the routine by engaging in the extinction procedure if necessary. Finally, move up bedtime by ten minutes once a week until the desired bedtime is achieved. Check out our website at www.lighthouseautismcenter.com for a copy of this presentation as well as links to resources that could help you.
For those unfamiliar with Discovery Toys, this is a company that provides quality toys for children from newborns all the way up to school age. The company was founded by a group of educators and parents who firmly believed in the power of education through play. The toys they create are meant to encourage imagination, and inspire learning.
A unique aspect of Discovery Toys is their “Autism Toy Guide,” a list of hundreds of toys that are specifically designed to promote learning for children with autism. They have a chart that breaks down the toys by their function, with categories such as “toys that promote sustained engagement,” “toys that encourage pretend play,” and “toys that build skills for cooperative play.” This is a great resource for therapists, teachers and parents alike. To learn more about Discovery Toys and the Autism Toy Guide, visit https://www.discoverytoys.com/pws/InvestInChildren