Navigating the Holiday with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Holidays in general can be overwhelming and overstimulating for children with autism. The 4th of July Holiday can be one of the more overstimulating holidays consisting of large social gatherings, fireworks, parades, festivals and more! Preparing for these upcoming activities is crucial.
There are various ways to ensure that the holiday is safe and memorable for children with autism. Here are a few tips for families and caregivers of children with Autism:
Prepare your child in advance
Prepare your child in advance by telling them what is going to happen at the fireworks display or celebration. Focus on the fun aspect and let your child know that you are excited for these upcoming activities. Engage your child in the excitement and get them excited! Tell them about the holiday and stories of the good food, friends, and activities. You can read your child books about similar celebrations or show them videos online or even take them to the location beforehand to introduce and bring familiarity to the situation. Create a plan for activities including timing, location, safety, and helpful supplies. Have a plan B. It is important to understand your child’s limits.
Determine a location and create a safe space
Choose a location where your child can retreat easily, such as at home with a view of fireworks, where a quiet room is available if they need a break from the noise and lights or watch by distance from inside your vehicle. You can also create a special space for your child to make them feel more comfortable by bringing their favorite comfort items such as a pillow and blanket or a chair. It is important that your child feels comfortable and safe and has a space to prevent overstimulation. Create an escape plan if your child becomes too overstimulated. Events like community fireworks can become hectic, fast. As the crowd’s swell, noise grows, and children on the autism spectrum become prone to meltdowns. That is why identifying an escape route to a quiet place is important.
Bring helpful supplies and favorite items
Pack a bag ahead of time with sensory toys, games, and familiar snacks. Also consider headphones for children who are sensitive to loud sounds. As we all know, fireworks can pack a lot of sensory stimulation. Sensory items and snacks can provide a crucial distraction if your child gets antsy while waiting for activities to start.
Make safety a priority
Put a strong focus on safety around fireworks. Wandering and accidents can happen at any time. However, being in an unfamiliar environment can increase the risk.
Ask for help
Be clear with other adults around you about how they can help make the event comfortable for your child with autism. Make sure your child knows how to ask for help and how to ask for a break from the party or noise. If your child is verbal, they may only need a reminder. However, many children on the autism spectrum do best with a visual aid. For example, provide your child with a special card to hand to you when they need a break from the stimulation.
How a Child with Autism Can Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits
We take a look at the requirements for the SSI benefits for children with autism and other key information. From financial requirements to starting a claim, find out what you need to know.
A diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is not just emotionally difficult for parents; it also means they may have to make big lifestyle changes. There are many therapies and treatments to assist children with autism, but in most cases, a parent or caretaker will need to tend to the child full-time.
This need for full-time care can lead to financial turmoil in a family, especially one that relies on a two-person income to support themselves. With the loss of one income and the expense of treatments and therapies, parents are often under enormous pressure.
Many parents don’t realize that the Social Security Administration (SSA) program offers supplemental security income (SSI) to support children with disabilities. If your family qualifies, autistic child SSI benefits can be a significant relief from financial pressure.
What is the SSA Benefits Program?
The SSA offers monthly disability benefits to parents of children with disabilities. While most children with autism have no difficulty qualifying for the SSI benefits, there are some strict criteria, which we will cover in more detail below.
How To Qualify for the SSI Benefits Program
Is autism a disability under social security? Yes, autism is considered a disability that is eligible for benefits, providing the correct requirements are met. The SSA’s Blue Book covers what conditions children with ASD must have to qualify for benefits.
To be eligible for SSI benefits, children with autism must have:
Deficits in social interaction
Deficits in verbal and nonverbal communication
Significantly restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.
Parents must provide medical documentation to prove that their child has all three of the above deficits.
The child must also have an extreme limitation in one of these areas, or a severe limitation in two of these areas:
Understanding, remembering, or using information (ability to learn, remember, and use information, follow instructions, solve problems, and use reason to make decisions)
Interacting with others (ability to engage in interactive play, cooperate with others, maintain friendships, handle conflicts, initiate or sustain conversation, and understand social cues)
Focusing on activities (ability to engage in activities at a consistent pace, avoid distractions, and complete tasks in a timely manner)
Adapting or managing oneself (ability to regulate emotions, control behavior, protect oneself from harm, and maintain personal hygiene).
As mentioned above, parents must provide medical documentation to prove their child’s condition.
Financial Requirements To Qualify for Benefits
Financial limitations are the top reason why children with autism are denied SSI benefits. All parents with a child with autism that is under the age of 18 must meet the relevant financial requirements to access monthly benefits.
The SSA has an income cap that cannot be exceeded if a child is to qualify for SSI benefits. This cap increases with every adult that earns a wage, as well as the number of children in the household.
To prove that they qualify, parents must provide documentation such as a W-2 form or a federal tax return for each adult that earns a wage in the household.
How Much Does a Child with Autism Get From SSI?
So, how much is a disability check for autism?
There isn’t a simple answer to this question because every child and their parents will be treated as an individual case, and this will impact how much they receive each month.
Currently, the full benefit amount is $841 a month. However, the SSA will then apply a formula to work out how much to deduct from this once the parents’ income has been considered.
Starting a Claim
One of our biggest tips for parents is to get the claim for SSI benefits started as soon as possible. The process can take months, so it’s important to make an appointment at your local SSA office when you can.
The Lighthouse Autism Center offers the highest-quality therapy in a tranquil, play-based environment. Our innovative ABA (applied behavior analysis) therapy model, Lighthouse Fusion, helps children make greater progress, faster.
What Are the Characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome?
In this article, we take a look at Asperger’s syndrome, and describe its most common characteristics, how it differs from other autism disorders and how to treat it.
Asperger’s syndrome can be a difficult disorder for many parents to pick up since many children display Asperger’s characteristics as a normal part of their development. So it’s understandable why childhood Asperger’s is sometimes diagnosed a little later than other brain disorders on the autism spectrum.
We’re going to take a closer look at what Asperger’s syndrome is, along with some of its signs and characteristics, how it can be treated, and more.
What is Asperger’s Syndrome?
Asperger’s syndrome is a developmental disorder that falls into the autism spectrum. It’s a more mild type of brain disorder that affects behavior and makes it difficult for a person to communicate, interact, and form relationships with others.
Are Autism & Asperger’s Different?
As mentioned, Asperger’s is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD); however, it is not the same as an autistic disorder. The disorders that fall into the ASD group include:
Childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD; also known as Heller’s syndrome)
Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified.
In general, these disorders are characterized in varying degrees by:
Difficulties in social interaction
Verbal and nonverbal communication
What are the signs of Asperger’s?
It’s important to be aware of the Asperger’s signs and characteristics and how these set it apart from other diagnoses on the spectrum. Keep in mind that it is perfectly normal for toddlers to exhibit some of these symptoms, such as repetitiveness or one-sided conversations.
These are some of the most common signs of Asperger’s to keep an eye out for:
Displaying unusual nonverbal communication: Asperger’s and eye contact rarely go together, so avoiding eye contact is one of the first symptoms; also a limited number of facial expressions or awkward body positions and gestures.
Engaging in one-sided and long-winded conversations without noticing if the listener is paying attention or if the listener is trying to change the subject.
Appearing to not understand, be sensitive to, or empathize with the feelings of others.
Showing an intense obsession with one or two specific and narrow subjects such as the weather, snakes, basketball stats, or train schedules.
Difficulty “reading” other people or getting the gist of humor or sarcasm.
Speaking in a rigid, monotonous voice or speaking unusually fast.
Clumsy movement and poor coordination.
It’s worth noting that there are some characteristics of Asperger’s that should be considered strengths. These include (but are not limited to):
Strong ability to focus
Ability to recognize patterns
Attention to detail.
What Causes Asperger’s?
Although the cause of Asperger’s syndrome is not yet fully understood, there is a strong belief that it has a genetic basis and runs in families.
There are also some environmental risk factors associated with an increased risk of developing autism spectrum disorders, including:
Older parental age
Low birth weight
Exposure to the drug valproate in utero.
Treatment for Asperger’s
A holistic treatment program for children with Asperger’s is the best possible plan. The combination of speech therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, along with the right support and medication, will benefit your child the most.
Get the Best Treatment for Your Child
Lighthouse Autism Center provides compassionate, center-based ABA (applied behavior analysis) therapy and services for children with autism disorders. Our one-of-a-kind approach combines compassionate care with clinical excellence to give every child the best possible treatment.
Contact us for more information on how we can help your child.
We take a look at Autism Awareness Month, what it is about, when it was started and how everyone can do their bit to raise awareness about autism.
This amazing infographic was given to Lighthouse by Andy Mohr Toyota. The infographic shows the importance of Autism Awareness Month and how to #LightItUpBlue!
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is defined by the Autism Society of America as “a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others.”
The autism spectrum includes a range of conditions affecting social skills, behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication. It is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum disorder” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. The disorders found within the ASD spectrum include:
Childhood disintegrative disorder (also known as Heller’s syndrome)
Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified
Signs and symptoms are usually noticeable in early childhood and emerge between 24 and 36 months of age. One of the most important things you can do for your child is to learn the early signs of autism in children and infants. It is important that you are familiar with typical developmental milestones your child should be reaching as well.
Some of the most common signs of ASD in children are:
Not responding to their name
Avoiding eye contact
Getting very upset if they do not like a certain taste, smell, or sound
Repetitive movements and phrases
One-sided conversations without needing a response.
Of course, ASD is unique in every person, and no two people have the exact same symptoms.
Children with ASD also tend to excel at particular things and have above-average intelligence. Some of the things that they might excel at include music, academics, and visual skills. Roughly 40% of those diagnosed with autism have above-average intellectual abilities.
Inclusion and acceptance of autism spectrum disorders are just as important as educating the community and bringing awareness to autism. So when is Autism Awareness Month? Let’s find out below.
Autism Awareness Month
Want to learn more facts about autism?
In 1972, the Autism Society launched the first annual National Autistic Children’s week, but it wasn’t until 2007 that the official Autism Awareness Day was declared to fall on April 2nd by the United Nations General Assembly.
Although Autism Awareness Day still officially falls on April 2nd, most countries recognize the month of April as Autism Awareness Month.
How People Can Raise Awareness About Autism
It is wonderful to have a month to raise awareness about autism, and it’s an incredibly busy time for organizations and individuals. However, we don’t believe that autism awareness should be limited to a single month – it’s something that should happen every day.
If you would like to raise awareness about autism, here are some of the things that you can do:
Educate yourself: Awareness starts at home, and you should do everything that you can to understand more about autism and how it affects people.
Attend local events: There are ongoing autism awareness events throughout the year. Go to these events, take your friends and family and even volunteer if you have the time.
Stand up for others: If you see someone with autism being bullied or hear someone talking negatively about them, it’s time to stand up and let them know that it’s not okay.
Set a positive example: It’s important that you show others how to treat people with autism. Always act with kindness and help those with autism, and you will become a positive role model for others.
Methods of Inclusion and Acceptance
One of the biggest issues that people with ASD face is the feeling that they are not included and accepted. This could be for children in school or an adult at work.
It’s easy to help people with autism feel more included. Keep an open mind and an open heart when interacting with autistic people. Invite them into your circles and to events (even when you know they will decline) and encourage others to treat people with autism with kindness and care.
You can also become more involved by calling or writing to local legislators, state representatives, and other leaders about proposed legislation that could impact those with autism. Be aware of how new policies affect access to things like services, research, insurance, and more. Speak up and encourage others to do the same.
Contact us at Lighthouse Autism Center for more information about Autism Awareness Month and how you can help.
We take a look at what CPI is and why it is so beneficial for de-escalating crises for children with autism.
At Lighthouse Autism Center, safety is our priority, and we take great pride in the safety of our centers. Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI) training is one of many safety precautions implemented at all Lighthouse Autism Centers. All of our employees receive weeks of training before beginning therapy with a child and are certified in First Aid, CPR, and CPI.
We’re going to take a closer look at what CPI is, the benefits of CPI techniques,and why we use it at the Lighthouse Autism Center.
What is CPI?
CPI is a strategy used for crisis prevention for a wide variety of people, including those with autism spectrum disorders. CPI can best be described as non-violent crisis intervention training designed to teach best practices for managing difficult situations and disruptive behaviors in children with autism. Behavior therapists or Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) learn how to identify at-risk individuals and use nonverbal and verbal techniques to defuse hostile behavior. This type of training not only ensures the utmost safety of the children at our centers but also the safety of our staff.
The Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) is an international training organization that specializes in the safe management of disruptive and assaultive behavior. Since 1980, more than six million professionals have participated in CPI’s training, and thousands of organizations worldwide have successfully implemented CPI’s safe, non-harmful techniques and developed comprehensive crisis prevention and intervention plans. Only highly trained and certified CPI instructors are equipped to teach others CPI methods.
What is a CPI instructor?
A CPI instructor is someone who has gone through rigorous training at the CPI international training organization and has been certified as an instructor. They are taught the tools and techniques to instruct and teach others to implement CPI strategies where needed.
The Benefits of CPI at the Lighthouse Autism Center
There are a huge number of benefits when it comes to using CPI strategies. These are the most notable.
Teaches staff to recognize and respond to a crisis appropriately: CPI teaches our staff imperative decision-making skills to effectively match their response to the level of risk in the crisis. They learn to focus on the least restrictive response to ensure crises are de-escalated with as little fuss as possible. They are taught how to recognize the different stages of an escalating crisis and how to use evidence-based techniques to de-escalate.
Safe physical intervention as a last resort: Staff are trained to respond appropriately to the level of risk. Sometimes de-escalation strategies don’t work, and the risk requires physical intervention. CPI teaches staff the best physical intervention strategies to ensure as little trauma as possible.
It’s fully accredited: CPI is an evidence-based training program that is also fully accredited. The training is reviewed bi-annually to ensure all interventions are up to international standards.
Why We Use CPI at Lighthouse Autism Center
While CPI is an excellent non-violent crisis intervention strategy for a wide range of people, it’s particularly effective for children with autism. People with autism have unique characteristics, and the nature of autism means that there are some special circumstances to consider when employing CPI techniques with them.
Here are just a few of the CPI strategies we use for children with autism.
Learn How Autism Shows Up in Individual Children
Autism shows up in every person differently, and there is no such thing as one size fits all. Our staff works closely with a child’s parents, teachers, and other adults in their lives to learn about their specific anxiety signs and triggers. For example, some children with autism can clench their fists when they are happy or excited. Others do this when they are starting to feel anxious or frustrated. How does a particular child show anxiety?
It’s important to understand what triggers every child has. Do they like to be touched? Or should touching be avoided? Do they like schedules, and if so, what kind of schedules? What are their very favorite things? What has helped calm this child down in the past? You can see the other important questions that are asked in our Tips for Parents blog post.
These types of questions allow our staff to intervene using the right type of support to avoid escalation.
Teach Communication Skills
Children with autism struggle to verbalize their needs and wants, which often leads to frustration. Our staff finds out how the child tends to communicate when they ask for things. They will also teach the child how to ask for specific things that might not be tangible.
We will figure out the best system for the child, whether that’s verbal, sign language, or something in between. Teaching children with autism these skills is an excellent way to avoid crises and escalating frustration.
Avoiding Reinforcement of Problematic Behaviors
It can be quite easy to accidentally reinforce a problematic behavior. For example, if a child throws everything off the table because they don’t want to do a particular task and you then immediately give them a break, this could be something they will use in the future to get what they want.
CPI strategies will instead call for a few more simple tasks that won’t stress the child out and then prompt the child to indicate they want a break using a productive communication skill that they have been taught.
Safely Using Holds as a Last Resort
CPI strategies only use physical interventions as the very last resort and only when the child’s behavior is posing more risk to their own safety than any physical hold does. We are taught to safely and effectively use physical interventions with children in a way that causes no harm and that also doesn’t reinforce problematic behaviors. Some children find the pressure of holds comforting and will resort to aggression if they know that they will be held as a result.
The Best Autism Treatment With Lighthouse Autism Center
At Lighthouse Autism Center, we believe that we can help every child reach their true potential with our innovative treatment approach to autism. CPI strategies are just a facet of the incredible work that our staff do throughout our centers.
Don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like to talk to someone about our treatments and how we can help your child.
We take a look at the most common autism symptoms in babies and toddlers, and the importance of getting children diagnosed as early as possible.
The signs and symptoms of autism are unique to every individual, and they vary in intensity from person to person. It’s a difficult disorder to pick up when children are young, but an early diagnosis can significantly impact a child’s quality of life and shape their development. Having an awareness of autism symptoms in babies and toddlers is critical.
Common Autism Characteristics
Although it’s specific to each individual, there are some more common autism characteristicsthat indicate a child could be autistic.
1.) Lack of smiling
Children with autism often display a lack of smiling. Does your child smile back at you when you give them a warm, joyful smile? Does your child smile on their own? By the age of six months, your infant should be giving you big smiles or happy expressions.
2.) Rare Imitation of Social Cues
Does your child imitate the sounds and movements of others? Do they share expressions back and forth? Infrequent imitation of sounds, smiles, laughter, and facial expressions by nine months of age can be an early indicator of autism in infants.
3.) Delay in Babbling and Cooing
Missed milestones of babbling and cooing can often be a leading indicator of autism in babies. Is your child making “baby talk” and babbling or cooing? Do they do it frequently? Your baby should typically reach this milestone by 12 months.
4.) Unresponsiveness to Name
Is your baby increasingly unresponsive to their name from 6 to 12 months of age? Parents who see this in their child are often concerned it may be hearing loss and are unaware it can be a sign of autism in babies. If you see this behavior in your child, be sure to monitor the signs and consult a doctor. Knowing the signs can be the key to early intervention and getting your child the resources they need to reach better outcomes and live a more independent life in the future.
5.) Poor Eye Contact
Lack of eye contact is a very common sign in those with an autism diagnosis. Does your child make limited eye contact with you and other loved ones? Do they follow objects visually? Severe lack of eye contact as the baby grows can be an early indicator, as it is a form of communication and comprehension.
6.) Infrequently Seeking Attention
Does your child initiate cuddling or make noises to get your attention? Do they reach up toward you to be picked up? Disinterest in seeking a loved one’s attention or bonding with a caregiver is a sign your baby may eventually have difficulty relating to others, which can be a struggle for those on the autism spectrum as they grow up.
7.) Lack of Gesturing
Does your child gesture at objects or people to communicate? Do they wave goodbye, point, or reach for things? This is a milestone that is typically reached by the time an infant is 9 or 10 months old. Lack of gesturing is a common sign in infants on the autism spectrum.
8.) Repetitive Behaviors
Repetitive behaviors are another highly recognized sign in children with autism. Does your child engage in repetitive behaviors such as stiffening their arms, hands, or legs? Do they display unusual body movements like rotating their hands on their wrists? Do they sit or stand in uncommon postures? This is a form of stimming or self-stimulatory behavior.
9.) Delayed Motor Development
Has your child experienced significant delays in motor development milestones, such as rolling over, pushing themselves up, and crawling? These could besigns of autism in newborns, but they may not be recognized as autism until much later. Early symptoms of autism in babies or toddlers often go unrecognized by parents or caregivers and are often put down as the child simply being a slow learner.
Why It’s Important to Recognize the Signs of Autism in Infants
One of the most important things you can do for your child after birth is to learn the early signs of the autism spectrum. While most children will start to develop symptoms as newborns, many are only diagnosed when they display the common symptoms of autism in toddlers.
Getting your child diagnosed as early as possible is the best decision you can make. Firstly, you could get peace of mind if the medical doctor tells you that what you are seeing are signs your baby is not autistic.If they do diagnose autism when your child is an infant, you’ll receive the following benefits:
Improved overall development: As parents, our single goal is to ensure our children’s lives are as easy and enjoyable as possible. The same goes for parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The bottom line is that infants who receive autism treatment, support, and education at appropriate ages and key developmental stages are far more likely to gain the essential social and reasoning skills needed in society.
Diminished distress: Imagine a child at school who can’t talk to their classmates, finds it hard to make friends, gets frustrated at not being able to communicate what they want, and is great at math but can’t articulate that. Undiagnosed autistic children become incredibly distressed in social settings; they don’t know what’s wrong with them, and parents and teachers think they are just acting out. An early diagnosis can diminish this distress hugely.
Early understanding and acceptance: For parents, it can be hard to understand their child and accept that they are autistic, and it certainly takes time to get used to a new way of life. Getting your child diagnosed early means that you have more time to understand and accept their disorder and to become an advocate for awareness.
The Type of Therapy to Expect at the Lighthouse Autism Center
At the Lighthouse Autism Center, we use a unique approach to ABA therapy called Lighthouse Fusion™. This is a unique program for children on the autism spectrum fuses together ABA and speech therapy and helps children make greater progress, faster. ABA therapy helps children with autism develop new skills, as well as improve the skills that they already have and decrease problem behaviors.
Our therapy programs are tailored to each individual child, and achievable goals are set out for the child to strive for in different areas of skill. Some skills include:
Communication (including speech and language skills)
Improve attention, focus, and memory
Decrease problem behaviors
Self-care (such as showering and using the bathroom)
Play and leisure
Learning and academic skills.
ABA therapy is based on positive reinforcement, and it brings together a number of different disciplines to ensure that each child gets the greatest chance of becoming the best version of themselves.
Contact us at the Lighthouse Autism Center if you want to know more about our treatment programs, and we can create a custom therapy program for your child.
DUBLIN—Some employers increasingly are viewing autism as an asset and not a deficiency in the workplace.
A Germany-based software company has been actively seeking people with autism for jobs, not because of charitable outreach but because it believes features of autism may make some individuals better at certain jobs than those without autism.
It’s a worthy initiative, according to disability experts, since 85% of adults with autism are estimated to be unemployed.
Piloted in Germany, India and Ireland, the program is also launching in four North
SAP employee Patrick Brophy, right, with his co-worker and coach David Sweeney. Ciaran Dolan for The Wall Street Journal
SAP aims to have up to 1% of its workforce—about 650 people—be employees with autism by 2020, according to Jose Velasco, head of the autism initiative at SAP in the U.S.
People with autism spectrum disorder—characterized by social deficits and repetitive behavior—tend to pay great attention to detail, which may make them well suited as software testers or debuggers, according to Mr. Velasco, who has two children with the condition.
In addition, these people bring a different perspective to the workplace, which may help with efficiency and creativity as well, he said.
“They have a very structured nature” and like nonambiguous, precise outcomes, Mr. Velasco said. “We’re looking at those strengths and looking at where those traits would be of value to the organization.”
Autistic employees at SAP take on roles such as identifying software problems, and assigning customer-service queries to members of the team for troubleshooting.
One employee works in “talent marketing,” issuing communications to employees internally. The company is looking for someone to produce videos and is considering an applicant with autism who has experience in media arts.
SAP is also considering other positions, such as writing manuals to give clients very precise instructions on how to install software.
Individuals with autism might excel at going step by step, without skipping details that others may miss, said Mr. Velasco. The business procurement process, such as getting invoices or managing the supply chain, is another area in which an individual with autism might shine, he said.
SAP isn’t the only company to have such a program. In the U.S., mortgage lenderFreddie MacFMCC -1.12% has offered career-track internships since 2012, including in IT, finance and research.
The lender hired its first full-time employee from the program in January, according to a Freddie Mac spokeswoman. In IT, the company has found that interns often perform well in testing and data-modeling jobs that require great attention to detail and focus as well as a way of seeing things that might not have been anticipated by the developers.
“Harnessing the unique skills of people on the autism spectrum has the potential to strengthen our business and make us more competitive,” according to the lender’s policy.
To be sure, as with any group, people with autism have a range of interests and abilities. SAP is working with a Danish autism-focused training and consultancy firm, Specialisterne, which carefully screens and interviews the candidates to find the appropriate matches before sending them to SAP to evaluate.
Patrick Brophy, 29 years old, has a bachelor’s degree in computer science in software systems and a master’s in multimedia systems, which includes website development and editing. Mr. Brophy says he has Asperger’s, a term commonly used to describe a milder form of autism spectrum disorder.
He had been looking for full-tine work for a few years but said that in the handful of interviews he went to, he would sometimes stutter or misinterpret questions, which he felt reflected poorly on him in the interviews.
When he arrived at SAP for the screening day, however, he had the technical qualifications and he appeared to have skills to work in a corporate setting, according to Peter Brabazon, Specialisterne program manager. Mr. Brophy was hired by the quality assurance department in July, where he identifies glitches in software prior to it being issued to clients.
“Four weeks before joining, I was steadily more and more nervous,” said Mr. Brophy, who worried about his adjustment to a new environment. “Within a month, [the work] was second nature. I had found myself.”
Mr. Brophy said there have been challenges with his job, particularly when he has to revamp how he does a certain task.
From a social standpoint, he found it easy to integrate into his team, said both Mr. Brophy and David Sweeney, a colleague assigned to be his mentor.
About 1% of the population in the U.S.—or some three million people—is thought to have an autism-spectrum disorder. The latest figures issued Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that one in 68 children have been identified with an autism-spectrum disorder.
Their lifetime employment rate is extremely low even though many want to work, said disability experts. Among young adults between 21 and 25 years old, only half have ever held a paid job outside the home, according to a study published last year in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Though many people with autism go on to higher education and are qualified for employment, they may have trouble getting in the door of a workplace because of difficulties with networking or interviews, according to Wendy Harbour, executive director of the Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education, at Syracuse University.
There are a number of companies and outreach efforts that aim to hire people with autism, seeking to tailor work to their abilities.
But SAP and employers like Freddie Mac said their effort is specifically a business decision to take advantage of what they see as unique skill sets.
SAP said that individuals being considered to work there usually have had at least some higher education.
In Dublin, the candidates arrive at the company’s software design center, dubbed the “AppHaus,” which features open spaces, movable desks and whimsical furniture. They are asked to work in pairs on a task building a motorized robot. Candidates are given the instruction manual and brief instructions.
Assessors from Specialisterne look to see if the candidates listen to instructions and pick up on cues, and how they react to challenges such as how the colors of the pieces to the robot look different from the instruction manual. “I want to see how they work together and their technical skills,” said Debbie Merrigan, one of the assessors for Specialisterne.
She wants them to be meticulous, she says. If they aren’t it doesn’t mean they aren’t employable, but they may not be a good fit for working at SAP. Sometimes candidates get overwhelmed and simply leave.
After Specialisterne identifies a candidate as being a good fit, SAP then conducts further interviews, as they would with any other applicant, says Kristen Doran, a program manager in human resources at SAP Dublin. At this facility, 15 candidates were screened and interviewed in order to hire the three who are currently placed as contractors. Mr. Brophy works in the quality assurance department while the other two individuals are in the troubleshooting division.
The candidates are paid market rate and if they succeed on the job, they will be hired as full-time employees after a year, said Liam Ryan, managing director of SAP Labs Ireland.
Difficulties with social interaction and inflexibility can sometimes pose significant problems for individuals with autism, and SAP has a mentoring system and in some cases has made changes to the work schedule to accommodate these new employees. The company also conducts a month of employee-adaptation training to increase employees’ comfort level at working with the team as well as another month or more of job training.
“It’s hard to go into a corporate space if you prefer order to disorder,” says Thorkil Sonne, founder of Specialisterne. “Our biggest effort is to work with them…to define and strengthen their comfort zone,” said Mr. Sonne, who has a son with autism.
For any child, and even adults, a trip to the dentist can often be filled with anxiety, fear, and discomfort. For a child with autism especially, these feelings can be even further heightened by sensitivities to noise, smell, and touch. In order to make this experience better for both the child and family, Lighthouse Autism Center has compiled a list of ABA therapy tips to make taking your child with autism to the dentist just a little bit easier.
Below is a list of tips that are commonly used during ABA therapy that may help your child with autism during their next trip to the dentist:
Tip 1 – Prepare Your Child for the Visit
Be sure to talk about the visit for days or even weeks before it is going to happen. Show your child pictures of the dentist office and explain to them what kind of things will take place there (ie: “you will sit in a chair, a nice man or woman will ask you top open your mouth so they can look and touch your teeth. They want to make sure that your teeth are nice and healthy!”).
Tip 2 – Consider Visiting the Dentist Before Your Visit
If your dentist office will allow it, consider making one, two or however many visits it may take to get your child comfortable with the atmosphere. Show them the lobby, waiting area, and if available, even the room or seat they may use for the teeth cleaning. The more your child is exposed to the space, the more comfortable they will become.
Tip 3 – While You’re at the Dentist
Bring along a favorite toy, activity or treat so as your child is attempting and engaging in new experiences you can provide them with that item.
Tip 4 – Be Flexible
A trip to the dentist can be challenging for anyone. If your child begins to experience difficulty at the visit, or is visibly frustrated, scared or uncomfortable, understand that your child simply may not be ready or able to complete the visit that day, and that’s ok. You as a parent or caregiver know your child best!
Tip 5 – Consider Requesting A Therapist to Attend the Visit
For those children who receive aba therapy, some centers, like Lighthouse Autism Center, will send a therapist to help your family and child during the dental visit. They can serve as a helpful resource for you and your child by applying aba therapy techniques.
To learn more tips for parents of children with autism, visit: https://lighthouseautismcenter.com/parents-of-children-with-autism/tips/
A big change is about to take place in the soon to be released Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, more commonly known as the DSM-V. Asperger’s syndrome has dropped from the manual and instead it will fall under the category of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
The name for Asperger’s Syndrome has officially changed, but many still use the term Asperger’s Syndrome when talking about their condition.
The American Psychiatric Association released a statement stating that, “The new criteria
will incorporate several diagnoses from the DSM-IV, including autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder (not otherwise specified) into the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder for the DSM-5 to help more accurately and consistently diagnose children with autism.”
According to the CDC, boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls.
But does this mean that boys are more likely to have autism or does this mean that girls are just being underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed? Signs of autism in girls can be easily missed, especially in cases of high-functioning autism. The signs and characteristics displayed by children with autism is more easily recognizable with severe and problematic symptoms, often observed among boys. Therefore, boys get referred for diagnostic testing and treatment services earlier in development than girls typically do and are more often diagnosed. Autism in girls and autism in boys do not always look the same. In fact, recent research suggests that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may look quite different in girls—so different, that it can be difficult to diagnose. It may not get noticed in girls until later teen or pre-teen years, when it becomes harder for a child to “cover up” their autism-related characteristics. As the gender differences among children with autism get more closely examined, many experts are beginning to observe that girls may be better at imitating socially appropriate behaviors and have fewer behavior problems than boys. This creates a masking of autism symptoms for girls that prevent them from being referred for services.
Some of the differences in girls with autism verses boys with autism based on resent research are:
Boys with autism often have very repetitive and limited areas of play. Girls with autism are less repetitive and have broader areas of play.
Girls with autism are more likely than boys to be able to respond to non-verbal communication such as pointing or gaze following. They are also somewhat more focused and less prone to distraction.
While boys’ social communication issues become challenging very early in their lives, girls may be able to manage the social demands of early childhood but run into difficulties as they enter early adolescence.
According to the Kennedy Krieger report, Boys with ASD may tend to engage in disruptive behavior to gain objects, while girls with ASD may tend to engage in disruptive behavior to get attention.
Girls with autism are more likely than boys to also suffer from anxiety and/or depression.
While girls with autism do have perseverative interests, they are more likely to choose interests (such as TV stars or music) that appear more typical than, for example, many boys’ perseverative interests in schedules, statistics, or transportation.
Girls with autism are less likely to behave aggressively and more likely to be passive or withdrawn.
It is fairly common for girls with autism to appear socially competent as youngsters because they are “taken under the wings” of other girls who enjoy mentoring their peers. These mentors often fade out of the picture as they enter adolescence and find other interests or groups of friends.
What is autism?
Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder is defined as the broad range of conditions that include challenges with communication skills, social skills, motor skills, daily living skills and more. In the most recent study performed by the CDC, 1 in every 44 children are diagnosed with autism. Furthermore, boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls.
How to Identify Signs of Autism and Evaluating Your Child
Having a child tested for autism spectrum disorder is only something that a qualified professional will be able to do. However, knowing the signs of autism can help you decide whether or not to seek further evaluation for your child. The easiest way to be able to determine if a child should have further evaluation for autism spectrum disorder is to know the signs.
Getting an early diagnosis of ASD is key for proper treatment and early intervention. With that in mind, what are the characteristics of autism?
This week, Lighthouse Fusion Director, Janine Shapiro, CCC-SLP/BCBA, and Lighthouse Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Jessica McCuen, traveled to London. Tourist sightseeing, international cuisine, and West End shows were not on the itinerary. Instead, the focus was Hannah*, a doe-eyed, 5-year-old girl with autism secondary to a very rare genetic condition. In short, Hannah represents another Lighthouse success story, but she also serves as the inspiration and proof of concept for the entire Lighthouse Fusion approach to integrated ABA and speech-language therapy.
A Video Gives Hope
In 2019, Access Behavior Analysis (which has since been acquired by Lighthouse Autism Center) created a video documenting the speech development of a female toddler in Indianapolis with a rare genetic condition. Given the severity of communication deficits of most individuals with this disorder, this young girl’s gains proved shocking to her family and professionals in the medical community. The video highlighted the benefits of an integrated ABA and speech-language approach with the goal of providing hope to families traveling the same uncharted road. Not long after the video posted, Hannah’s mother stumbled across it, recognized similarities between the child featured and her own, and reached out to the dually certified practitioners with a plea for help.
Virtual Therapy Success
Local client and family obligations precluded an immediate trip to London, so Jessica and Janine scheduled a virtual intake via Skype. Hannah initially presented with very few sounds and never produced them in an imitative context. Jessica and Janine virtually coached Hannah’s mom how to leverage the principles of behavior in combination with speech prompting techniques to teach Hannah to imitate a variety of sounds. Six months following the first email, Janine and Jessica finally met Hannah in person. By the end of the three-day international consultation, Hannah was producing a variety of vocal words to request her favorite items and activities. Here again was a child given a very low likelihood of ever developing more than a few vocal words defying the odds with behavioral speech techniques, and this time, most targets were achieved virtually! Janine and Jessica left promising to return soon, but just a few months later, the world shut down. Virtual sessions resumed and progress continued.
Meanwhile, Lighthouse Autism Center wanted to offer all of its learners the opportunity to benefit from therapy with practitioners who were dually certified as speech-language pathologists and Board Certified Behavior Analysts. Often referred to as “unicorns” these practitioners are as effective as they are rare. Lighthouse also envisioned a more collaborative model with its BCBAs and SLPs working together with the learners, rather than simply housing speech and ABA under the same roof. The experience with Hannah demonstrated the power of behavioral speech strategies within a virtual format. Though instead of a parent taking direction, Lighthouse’s talented BCBAs develop objectives and implement therapy alongside the speech-language pathologist. This is the Lighthouse Fusion approach to ABA therapy, and it takes place every day at every Lighthouse Autism Center.
Janine, Jessica, (and Paddington) returned from their second trip to London thrilled with Hannah’s progress and energized for the week’s Lighthouse Fusion co-treatment sessions with learners in Indiana, Michigan and Illinois. Lighthouse practitioners will soon be packing their bags again, this time for Ireland, where they will share Lighthouse Fusion techniques at an international ABA conference. As Janine and Jessica joked on the flight home from London, the proof was “in the Paddington!”
I have two younger siblings who presented with developmental speech disorders. I grew up in clinical waiting rooms! My parents had enormous respect and gratitude towards my brothers’ speech therapist; she was a hero in our house!
What inspires/drives you?
I’m inspired by the progress I see each day. I am driven to create new techniques- Fusion procedures- that produce results parents and other practitioners never dreamed possible.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Working alongside and collaborating with some truly brilliant speech and behavior analytic clinicians. I look forward to going to the office each day. I’m passionate about my career, which I don’t view as work. I’m extraordinarily lucky.
How has this career path impacted you?
I do not take anything for granted. I live a very grateful life. I’m most thankful for the families who trust me to give their children a voice.
What advice would you give to those seeking a Similar career path?
When offered an opportunity to learn, raise your hand! Add as many techniques to your toolbox as possible; each one will one day bring a learner a step closer to better communication and a more independent life. Seek out great mentors.
To learn more about Lighthouse Fusion™, click here.
Ready for a career where you can make a difference?