Sensory Game Day at the South Bend Cubs

Therapy room at Lighthouse Autism Center with toys on a table with blue chairs and book shelves above

Sensory Game Day at the South Bend Cubs

Lighthouse Autism Center Celebrates Autism Awareness and Acceptance with a Sensory Friendly Game at the South Bend Cubs

Saturday, April 15, 2023, 4:05PM at Four Winds Field in South Bend, IN.

Lighthouse Autism Center and the South Bend Cubs are partnering to host a sensory friendly day in support of autism awareness and acceptance. Gates opens at 2pm. First pitch is at 4:05pm. Home Plate Suite will be open as a sensory room.

Checkout this year’s t-shirt design below! This design will be featured on the South Bend Cubs special edition Autism Awareness shirts and hoodies, for the month of April!

These shirts and hoodies will be available for purchase from the South Bend Cubs, in-store and online:

The Cubs Den team store hours are Monday – Friday 10:00am-5:00pm and Saturday 10:00am – 2:00pm and is located at 420 S. William St in South Bend.

Join us for a sensory friendly game that will support autism awareness!

Learn More Here:

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Lighthouse Autism Center Dine to Donate at Wings, Etc.

Wings Etc. South Bend is donating 15% of all pre-tax food & soft drink sales on Tuesday, April 4, 2023 to Lighthouse Autism Center in support of autism awareness and acceptance month.

Come to Wings Etc. at 2051 E. Ireland Road in South Bend, Ind. between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m.

Use code D2D0002 at checkout when ordering online at

Bring the flyer in and show it to your server so you can support the cause.

Wings Etc. Dine to Donate Program

At Wings Etc., we believe in Giving Back to the communities we belong to. We have a simple, easy-to-implement fundraiser program that fits into your busy schedule. Learn more here:

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Autism Awareness Month Sensory Film

Lighthouse Autism Center is sponsoring a Lights Up Sound Down Sensory Movie Screening with Yes Cinema in Columbus, IN in April 2023 in celebration of autism awareness and acceptance month.

The program provides a special opportunity for families to enjoy their favorite films in a safe and accepting environment. The auditoriums dedicated to the program. They have their lights up, the sound turned down and audience members are invited to get up and dance, walk, shout or sing!

The idea for the program began with a request from a parent with an autistic child for a special screening at AMC Columbia Mall 14 in Columbia, MD. More than 300 children and parents attended the first screening.

AMC Theaters is thrilled to now offer the program at many locations nationwide. As a leading theatrical exhibition company, they are so proud to help make a difference in the estimated 1.5 million Americans living with an autism spectrum disorder by offering families a chance to see a movie together — often for the very first time.

For a list of participating theaters as well as upcoming shows and times visit

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Lighthouse Autism Center Gives Back Fiesta

Lighthouse Autism Center Gives Back Fiesta in support of autism awareness and acceptance!

Interested in eating delicious Mexican cuisine and having your money go to a good cause?

Tuesday, April 11, 2023
Hacienda Mexican Restaurant
3903 Portage Ave, South Bend, IN 46628

The Hacienda on Portage Ave in South Bend is having a fundraiser to raise awareness and acceptance for autism! Bring your appetites and the money will go towards assisting special needs families in the Michiana community!

When you bring a Hacienda Gives Back Token on Tuesday April 11th to Hacienda on Portage Ave, you can then donate 20% of your bill to the Maggioli Families First Foundation! You can also donate 20% of your bill by having the tokens viewable on your phone!

You must show your token when ordering.

We hope to see you there!

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Elopement – Prevention & Safety

Elopement presents a major risk to your autistic child’s safety. Find out the causes for elopement, what prevention strategies to use, as well as how to plan for a possible elopement.

Autism Elopement Prevention & Safety

Elopement or wandering can be defined as when someone who may require supervision leaves a safe area or a responsible caregiver. When that person is an autistic child, the consequences can be tragic. Autistic children who elope often fall victim to harm through traffic accidents, drowning, falling, extreme weather, or even encounters with predators (human or otherwise).  

When faced with such a terrifying prospect, it is no wonder that parents of autistic children can be tempted to employ extreme measures to protect them without considering whether their interventions will be effective or not.  

The fact, however, is that nearly 50% of autistic children have eloped at some point in their lives, often with tragic consequences, and many parents are left in a constant state of anxiety.  

According to the Organisation for Autism Research (OAR) following their Safety Planning Cycle helps parents to constantly equip themselves and their children with the tools and skills to secure their child’s safety through prevention and planning. 

Why do autistic children elope? 

Firstly, it is important to understand why many autistic children elope. In their review of the assessment and treatment of elopement, Dr. Megan Boyle and Dr. Reesha Adamson of Missouri State University describe the four most common reasons for elopement as follows: 

  1. To get away from a place, activity, or person (escape) 
  1. To obtain access to an item, activity, or person 
  1. To engage in an intrinsically pleasurable activity, such as running 
  1. To gain attention 

Understanding your child’s triggers makes prevention and safety much easier to manage. If it is not immediately apparent why a child elopes, consider keeping a log of every elopement, to help you identify trends.

Here are a few questions to guide what to log: 

  • What sequence of events preceded the elopement? 
  • Who was present? 
  • Can you remember any significant stimuli or obvious triggers? 
  • Where was the child going?
  • What happened after the elopement?   

Once there is a fairly good understanding of the reason for elopement, parents need to develop an elopement prevention plan that anticipates these triggers and mitigates the need for elopement as a response.  

The prevention plan may include some of the following interventions. 

The Safety Planning Cycle

There are five basic steps in the Safety Planning Cycle: 

1. Understand

What does your child need? What makes the child safe or unsafe in a particular situation?  

2. Prepare

What skills does your child need to practice in order to be safe? What resources do they need? What can be done to support your child?  

3. Practice 

Once you’ve created your plan and identified the various tools and skills, implement them and find effective ways to reinforce them. 

4. Share

This is a key step towards securing your wandering child. Share your plan, skills and tools with everyone entrusted with your child’s safety as well as those who form part of your support network. From school teachers to community safety personnel like police and firefighters and EMS, the more people who are aware of your needs, the safer your child is. 

5. Update

Work with your child to constantly assess the plan, tools and skills. See what works and what doesn’t then revise and update the plan accordingly.  

Behavior modification

Elopement prevention for children with autism should go beyond just locking the house down to create a gilded prison for your child. Remember that a child who feels safe, who feels that they have choice in their decisions, and who feels that all their physical and emotional needs are met, are far less likely to elope.  

Your prevention plan should therefore begin with behavioral interventions that reduce the need for your children to elope. These should also be supplemented with more practical interventions to inhibit them should they be overcome with the urge to run.  

A behavior intervention plan for preventing elopement should focus on addressing the triggers mentioned above. A key tool in this is to implement Functional Communication Training (FCT), a process of reinforcing alternative behaviors to elopement that meet the needs of the child as defined by the triggers. Here are a few FCT interventions that you can discuss with your professional support network to consider in your plan.  


In the case of a child seeking attention, parents should use visual aids to teach the child how to get their attention without running away. Parents, who are often the preferred person, should be the ones using visual aids to reinforce the alternative behavior. It might also help to give increased fun and exciting attention in spaces where you want your child to stay.   

Parents should avoid overly angry responses in response to elopement as this will make it even more reinforcing for attention. Instead, provide positive reinforcement for all things you want your child to do, other than elopement.


Trying to escape

First, try to identify what would trigger a child’s need to escape a particular situation. This could be overstimulation, change in environment, or even just a chaotic or noisy environment.  

Parents need to teach their children how to ask for a break from whatever the trigger is rather than elope. If they run anyway, it is important to bring them back, safely and then review better strategies for escape in the future. 

Once back, parents should adjust the task or change the environment to reduce the stress on the child by introducing breaks or moving to a quieter room. This should then be followed by positive reinforcement of getting back to the task. Again, meeting elopement with anger will trigger further elopement or in this circumstance, turn it into a game.  

Doing something pleasurable

Sometimes referred to as “automatic reinforcement or maintained behavior,” autistic children often elope simply to engage in something they enjoy doing, like running or the feeling of the breeze outside.  

In cases where automatic reinforcement is the trigger, parents need to provide more regular access to that activity in a controlled environment. This will reduce the impulse to elope to access it. For example, a child who loves running should have additional access to a gym or track with supervision.  

Desire to access an item, person, or area

Where the trigger is a desire to gain access to an item, person, area, or activity, parents need to teach their children how to ask for it or access it in a safer way. It is also important to establish a routine for access and explain when they will get access and reinforce this by making absolutely sure that they get it on schedule. A break in routine will definitely encourage elopement.  

Teach your child essential skills

Here are some situational elopement strategies on how to prevent autistic children from wandering off, as well as ways to protect them should they succeed.  


Swimming lessons for children with special needs can be difficult to find. The YMCA in many locations across the country offers this specialized service at affordable rates. 

How to navigate traffic

Teach your child basic traffic navigation skills like what traffic lights mean, when and where to cross the road, and how to avoid moving vehicles.  

Stay with you in public spaces

Teach your child to understand the difference between walking and running. Reinforce holding hands or to walk within 6-12 inches of an accompanying adult as well as words like “go, walk, stop”. Reinforce things like staying by the cart in a grocery store, or keeping a hand on the cart in a parking lot.   

How to communicate contact information

Verbal children can be taught to memorize parents’ phone numbers, addresses, and other critical information and should be taught how to provide the answers. This may be difficult or impossible for non-verbal children so alternative means may be necessary in the form of an ID bracelet or card. Even in verbal children, this is a useful tool.  

Practical interventions

Behavioral interventions will only go so far towards mitigating the underlying reasons for elopement while skills are usually employed once in distress. Even if you have a high-functioning autistic child, there may still be a risk of elopement, which requires parents to take very practical steps towards preventing a child from wandering off and to be in a state of readiness should the child elope.  

Create an emergency plan

There are many resources available with templates for an emergency plan in the case of elopement. This plan should include emergency contact information and a step-by-step guide on what to do should your child wander off.  

Your emergency plan should include things like a Google map of the area, a 911 emergency call script, highlights of dangerous areas like bodies of water and high-traffic zones, possible points of interest for your child, etc.  

You should have multiple copies of the plan stored in your home, car, office, school, etc. Be sure to share the plan with key people in your safety network like neighbors, schools, EMS, and others, especially if your child has a history of elopement in the past.  

Secure the home 

In instances where your child routinely wanders, you may need to consider securing your home with locks for your doors and windows, home alarms, printed STOP signs around the house, and even fencing off your yard. It would be a great idea to discuss these options with your local emergency responders to determine what is most appropriate, but also safe.  

Explore a tracking device 

There are numerous wearable tracking devices that use different methods. Some use radio frequencies and triangulation while others use GPS. Consider the right wearable for your child. Some may prove irritating and be removed.  Many devices double up act as elopement prevention devices by alerting parents when a child leaves a predetermined radius or location.  

ID bracelets

Traditional medical ID bracelets will include your name, telephone number, and other important information. They may also state that your child has autism and is non-verbal, if applicable. If your child will not wear a bracelet or necklace, consider other means of ensuring that critical information is located on your child.  

Establish a safety network 

Informing those around you and your child of your child’s vulnerabilities will go a long way to preventing wandering into extremely dangerous situations.  

Introduce your child to your neighbors 

Creating a safety network starts with those in closest proximity. Introduce your child to the neighbors and try to establish a rapport where possible. Provide them with a picture of your child so they will recognize them.  

Introduce your child to first responders

Providing first responders with key information before an incident occurs may improve response. Informational handouts should include all pertinent information and be copied and carried with caregivers at all times. Circulate the handout to family, neighbors, friends, co-workers, and first responders. See the tool kits below for resources to use to alert them. 

Work with your child’s school

Ensure that your child’s school has a crisis plan in place in anticipation of possible wandering and elopement of autistic children.  

What to do if your child elopes

Should your child manage to elope, follow these steps to reduce the possibility of harm and ensure a speedy recovery.  

  • Call 911. 
  • Locate your emergency plan and follow the action steps.  
  • Alert first responders in your area and request an amber alert.  
  • Explain to first responders that your child has autism and, if applicable, that their cognitive impairment makes them unaware of danger. Explain how they should interact with your child and what may trigger a flight response or paralysis. Give them suggestions of what to do and what not to do specific to your child’s needs.
  • Request that your child’s information be immediately entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Missing Person File.  
  • Alert neighbors and enlist them to help search for your child.  
  • Distribute prepared materials with the following details: child’s name, communication level, how to calm your child if they are distressed, a recent picture of your child, caregiver’s contact information, and places your child is likely to go to. Distribute this information to individuals in your search party as well as public authorities. 

Lighthouse Autistic Center

The Lighthouse Autism Center is the Midwest’s leading autism therapy institution, which also provides world-class autism resources and is the proprietor of their unique, ground-breaking Lighthouse Fusion ABA Therapy program, which fuses the best practices of ABA and speech therapy into a one-of-a-kind clinical model to deliver better outcomes for autistic children. 

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Autism: Navigating Child’s School Refusal

We look at the best ways to navigate your autistic child’s school refusal. Find out how to work with the school and how to aid your child.

Navigating Autistic Child’s Refusal To Go to School

School can be a frightening and overwhelming place for many kids, especially autistic children. This can cause a child to refuse to go to school. With all of our knowledge and autism resources, we will navigate the reasons and how to address autistic children’s school refusal in a positive and proactive way. 

What is school refusal?

School refusal can occur when children become distressed thinking about going to school. Although allistic (non-autistic) children may also struggle with this problem, it may be more pronounced in autistic children. Autism and school can lead to a tough environment as factors such as sensory challenges, difficulties with reading and verbal comprehension, and executive functioning fine and gross motor skills all play a part.  

School refusal can go from being reluctant to go to school to not being able to leave home or go to school at all. This will result in the child missing some or even all of their school days.  

What are the signs and symptoms?

The signs of school refusal are similar between autistic and allistic children. Knowing what to do when your child refuses to go to school can be difficult as you try to navigate the reasons. Let’s take a look at some of the signs and symptoms of school refusal:  

  • Your child begs and pleads not to go 
  • Trouble sleeping the night before school 
  • Increase in complaining of being sick and feeling unwell before a school day 
  • An increase in anxiety  
  • More meltdowns and avoidance behaviors 
  • Difficulties following morning routines 

When it comes to learning how to help a child with anxiety about school, it is important to understand the reasons behind these heightened feelings. Here we will look at the reasons behind school refusal. 

The reasons behind autistic children’s school refusal

Some children may find it difficult to cope with the demands that the school environment can place on them. It is very important for the parents to get to the root cause of the problem. It’s very important to act quickly on these signs that suggest your child’s school refusal. School refusal will not go away on its own. Let’s take a look at some of the added pressures of the school environment and what your child could be experiencing. 

  • Your child may lack social skills, which could cause them to struggle to make and keep friends, or they might experience some form of bullying. 
  • The school curriculum could be a bit difficult for them to cope with. Autism support in schools may not exist. 
  • They might struggle to cope with the school timetable. 
  • The sensory differences in the school environment could be overwhelming, such as noises, lighting, and smell. 
  • They might get into trouble with their teachers for unintentionally being inappropriate or not respecting authority. 
  • Sudden changes in their routine could be difficult. 

How to strategize with the school

Autism  support in schools is needed to ensure that autistic children can thrive in the school environment. You can use your understanding of your child to identify coping strategies that can be used in schools. Here are some ways to strategize with the school: 

  • Make sure to utilize your child’s IEP (individualized education plan) to get the supports needed.  
  • Request the school to make some reasonable adjustments at the start and end of your child’s school day. A staff member your child feels comfortable with could meet them at the school entrance. 
  • Ask the school if extra breaks could be allowed for your child throughout the school day. This will allow your child to redirect their attention and energy to different activities. 
  • Ask the school if they are willing to reward your child for some small improvements in achievement. 
  • Find out if autism support in the school for staff is an option. More autism awareness will ensure that your child’s needs are met. 
  • Be sure to set up a regular meeting with your primary contact at the school. This is often the teacher of record on his/her IEP, but could be the home-room teacher, principal, counselor, or student support group. 

Working on school refusal strategies at home

Of course, there are some practical strategies that you can implement at home!  

  • Acknowledge their feelings: show your child that you understand their feelings and anxiety about going to school. 
  • Make it clear and reassure them that things will be okay at home if their biggest fear is leaving home. 
  • Regularly remind your child about activities that can help them feel calm, such as using a fidget toy or practicing deep breathing. 
  • Set up a routine for the morning to set your child up for success for the day 
  • Set a plan for reinforcement right when your child gets home to make a successful day a big deal 

Lighthouse Autism Center is here to help

At Lighthouse Autism Center, we provide the highest quality therapy! Compassionate care meets clinical excellence in a beautiful play-based environment. Contact us and find out about all our services, such as Lighthouse Fusion ABA therapy and so much more! 

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Elopement – What Is It?

We often hear the term elopement when talking about autistic children. Find out what it is, why autistic children elope, how to prevent it, and what to do should your child elope. 

Elopement – What Is It?

Running away is a fairly well-known behavior in neurotypical children and is often romanticized by a cute image of the little boy with his stick and wrapped lunch draped over his shoulder, moping along the railway tracks in an act of benign defiance.  

The reality, sadly, is much grimmer. Every year, we are confronted with stories of children escaping the relative safety of their homes and schools with their pictures ending up on the proverbial milk carton or worse.  

This scary and dangerous behavior is known as wandering and elopement. Though elopement isn’t uncommon for children in general, it is seen more often in people with autism, and is often more of a safety concern.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Autism Association (NAA), the statistics on how many individuals with autism display elopement behavior are alarming: 

  • 49% of autistic children elope 
  • 35% attempt elopement at least once a week 
  • 33% of autistic elopers cannot communicate basic information like name, address, or phone number 
  • 90% of elopement deaths are drowning related 
  • 42% of autistic elopements aged nine or younger end in death 

These numbers are enough to drive any parent of children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to despair. That said, you are not completely without options to reduce your child’s risk of becoming one of these statistics.  

To mitigate the risk of losing your child or avoiding any harm, you need to be clear on what eloping is, know why ASD kids elope, watch for signs of elopement, take steps to prevent it and, perhaps most importantly, know what to do if it does eventually happen.  

Why do autistic children elope?

The underlying reasons for both autistic and allistic (non-autistic) children to elope are fairly similar. Usually, a child is either trying to get away from something painful or pursuing something desirable.  

According to a review of the assessment and treatment of elopement, Dr. Megan Boyle and Dr. Reesha Adamson of Missouri State University broke these two primary causes into four distinct reasons: 

  1. To get away from a place, activity, or person (escape) 
  1. To obtain access to an item, activity, or person 
  1. To engage in an intrinsically pleasurable activity, such as running 
  1. To gain attention 

While these may seem fairly universal to all children, some children with ASD, depending on age and developmental level, may lack the mental acuity, awareness, and intuition to avoid danger and discern a threatening situation from a safe one.  

This becomes even more dangerous when autistic children are non-verbal or non-responsive to unfamiliar stimuli, making it difficult for them to communicate with concerned passers-by or even potential predators.  

Prevention is better than cure

It is never guaranteed that you can prevent your child from eloping. However, there are a number of strategies that you can implement to reduce the risk of elopement in high functioning autism, or autistic individuals with excellent social skills. 

Be vigilant

In most cases, caregivers or parents miss nuanced tell-tale signs that a child is about to elope. Keep an eye out for the following, especially if there is a history of elopement: 

  • Persistent glances at the door or exit 
  • Signs of sensory overload or overstimulation 
  • Fixation on objects, activities, or people outside or away from the safe environment 
  • Plays for attention 


If you are aware that your child is an elopement risk, it is crucial to inform all caregivers and provide them with a list of elopement signs and signals to watch out for. In some cases, a child with ASD may display consistently calm and complacent pliant behavior, leaving  caregivers with a false sense of security. Let them know that regardless of your child’s compliance, there is a high risk of elopement.  

Functional Communication Training

Functional Communication Training (FCT) is a process in which autistic children are given alternatives to problematic behavior like elopement to get what they need.  

For instance, if they previously eloped to get attention, use FCT or communication tools to ensure they receive the right kind of attention in similar situations, from their preferred person, possibly using visual aids as needed.  

In the case of escape, do not reprimand or punish the child for eloping, but rather assess what about the situation triggered the elopement and change the situation accordingly.  

Where the child simply enjoys a particular item or activity and elopes to engage with it (like running or trying to access a  particular toy), consider introducing scheduled events so that the child can anticipate it without indulging the impulse to elope to fulfill the desire.  

How to prepare for elopement

As mentioned earlier, elopement can be almost completely unavoidable despite your best efforts to prevent it. Thankfully, the CDC has created a list of tips to help you prevent elopement and aid in a prompt recovery should your child elope:   

  • Never leave your child unsupervised.  
  • Install specialized locks and alarms on doors. 
  • Attach GPS tracking devices that will trigger an alert if your child wanders from a specific location and track their whereabouts. 
  • Inform neighbors, caregivers, family, etc., of your child’s propensity to elope. 
  • Sew all basic information into your child’s clothing, such as their name, address, and phone number. 
  • Increase vigilance when your child is exposed to a change in environment. 
  • Help your child familiarize themselves with your environment so that they know of safe places and trustworthy adults in the area in case they get lost. 
  • Set up an emergency response plan. 
  • Walk your child through their portion of the emergency plan so that they know what steps to take in case they are separated from you for any reason. 
  • Teach your child safety commands such as “stop.” 
  • Teach your child to swim. 
  • Teach your child how to cross a street. 
  • Meet with any healthcare providers who understand your child’s unique situation and ask for their expert advice. 
  • Keep a current photo of your child at all times. 
  • Immediately call first responders. 

Let Lighthouse Autism Center help you and your child

As the Midwest’s leading autism therapy institution, Lighthouse Autism Center provides world-leading autism resources alongside our groundbreaking  Lighthouse Fusion ABA Therapy program which fuses the best of ABA and speech therapy into a unique clinical model to help you and your child navigate the world. 

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Lighthouse Autism Center Staff Spotlight: Maranda

Meet Maranda, Lighthouse Autism Center’s Staff Spotlight February 2023

Maranda is a Registered Behavior Therapist Trainer at our Decatur center. She previously worked as an Assistant Trainer and started as a Registered Behavior Technician. Maranda has been with Lighthouse Autism Center since October of 2022. As a mother of two, she has always enjoyed working with kids. Maranda enjoys spending time outdoors, exploring new areas, camping, and her two guinea pigs, Harry and Lloyd.

What made you decide to apply to Lighthouse?

Working with kids has always been a passion of mine, and learning to understand the functions of behavior intrigues me, so combining the two really drew me in to apply for my position at Lighthouse Autism Center. There is so much creative freedom in working as an ABA therapist. Each client learns in their own unique way, and I love helping them discover that; particularly, using arts and crafts, sand volcanoes, bubbles, and singing.

What is your favorite part of working at Lighthouse Autism Center?

Working with Lighthouse has provided me with, what feels like, infinite resources on applied behavior analysis and the intricacies of behavior. I know if I have a question, my supervisors and BCBA’s, Katie Ingram and Madeline Fletchall, are readily available. Training at the Champaign center was incredible, and I am grateful for everyone who shared their experience, knowledge, and support with me.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time here?

My favorite memory is shortly after I’d transferred to the Decatur center from Champaign. A client slowed his swing in front of me, looked my way, signed “more” and very clearly vocalized the word “more” after working on requests for wants and needs for a few days. I am so proud of him, and all of my clients, every single day.

What advice you would like to share for those interested in a career at Lighthouse Autism Center?

If you’re considering a career at Lighthouse, my advice is to apply. These kids have a lot to teach you! 

Ready for a career where you can make a difference?

Lighthouse Autism Center to Open New Center in East Moline, Illinois!

Lighthouse Autism Center Opening in East Moline, Illinois

Lighthouse Autism Center (LAC) continues to expand, now with a network of centers in four states – quite a journey from its humble beginnings serving four families in one building to now serving hundreds of families across four states for over a decade. It is truly amazing.

East Moline Childrens Autism Center

Our newest state-of-the-art ABA therapy center in East Moline, Illinois is Lighthouse autism Center’s fourth children’s autism center to open in Illinois. It is slated to open in the late spring of 2023 providing autism services to 21 children and their families and create over 32 new jobs in the area. 

With a mission of providing the highest quality autism services to children and families through our facilities, Lighthouse Autism Center has sought to do just that in East Moline, IL. As the need for ABA services continues to grow, Lighthouse seeks to fill that need by expanding into facilities that can accommodate a larger capacity of learners, helping more families and children with autism, reach their goals.

Lighthouse Autism Center is the Midwest’s leading autism therapy provider

With beautiful autism therapy clinics that promote natural and play-based learning, and a team of highly trained and compassionate clinicians, Lighthouse Autism Center brings together compassionate care and clinical excellence to offer the highest quality ABA therapy to children with autism.

With a unique clinical model called Lighthouse Fusion®, children at Lighthouse are making greater progress, faster, all while having fun. While other ABA centers typically keep ABA and speech therapies separate, Lighthouse Fusion brings these two therapies together into one enhanced therapy solution. We invite you to learn more about how this innovative clinical model is helping to unlock each child’s potential. 

To learn more about Lighthouse Autism Center or enroll your child, contact our Family Outreach Coordinator at 563-526-0533 or visit our website.

East Moline Center Contact Information

1045 12th Ave.

East Moline, Illinois 61244

Family Outreach Phone: 563-526-0533

Don’t see an autism treatment center listed near you? Contact us and let us know the area you are in, and we will notify you when we have a center opening near you!

Find a Center Near You

Interested in finding an autism center near you? Click Find a Center below to view a full list of current autism therapy centers.

Social Skills Deficits – Lighthouse Autism Center

Many autistic children struggle with social interactions due to social skills deficits. Read our blog to learn more about what social deficits are, how this can affect your autistic child’s life and the steps you can take to help them improve or overcome their social deficits.

Understanding Social Skills Deficits in Autistic Children

Many autistic children struggle with the basic social skills that many of us take for granted. Join us to learn more about the deficits in social skills for autistic kids, how to spot them and what impact they may have on an autistic child’s life.

What are social skills deficits in autistic children?

To understand the social skills challenges that autistic children (and adults) face, we must first define what social skills are.

Social skills can be understood as the skills that we use to communicate. These include verbal and nonverbal communication methods, such as our words and tone, gestures and body language. More complex social skills also include understanding social norms, seeking social engagement, understanding emotions, etc. Social skills are important because they allow us to build and maintain relationships with others and communicate with others to get our needs met, which in turn provides us with many benefits, such as happiness, social satisfaction and career advancement.

However, many autistic people often have certain social skills deficits. Note that autism does not present identically in everyone, so your child may not display all (or even any) of these deficits. Some key examples include:

  • Has little to no interest in social interactions
  • Struggles to listen and follow conversations
  • Doesn’t understand body language, including facial expressions
  • Inability to follow instructions or directions
  • Speaks excessively during a conversation or interrupts frequently
  • Lack of nonverbal social communication, such as pointing
  • Unable to initiate or continue conversations
  • Unable to empathize and build rapport with others
  • Inability to understand or respond appropriately to the emotions of others 
  • Takes everything said to them literally

The impact of a lack of social skills

For an autistic child, a deficit in key social skills can have harmful consequences. These consequences include:

  • Social rejection and isolation
  • Inability to perform at school due to social rejection
  • Increased levels of aggression, anxiety, depression, loneliness and stress
  • Poorer health due to lack of social connection

How to help autistic children who lack social skills

The good news is that many aspects of social skills can be taught or improved. This can have numerous benefits for an autistic child, including lower stress levels, better outcomes, a stronger social network and more success throughout their life.

Here are some tips to help improve social communication deficits in autistic children.

Lead by example

As a parent, one of the easiest ways to help your child better understand how to interact with others is by leading by example. Your child will mimic you, including your social interactions, so being a good role model for your child will help them develop good social skills.


Is it your autistic child’s first day at school? Perhaps they’re going to a birthday party for the first time? Or maybe another child has just taken their favorite toy? Whatever the situation is, you can help your child be prepared by roleplaying both expected and unexpected events that may take place in their life.

Practice using toys and games

Another important way for your child to improve their social skills is by using games that encourage the skills you want them to learn. For example, have a tea party with their stuffed animals and play out how the party should go with your child and her toys. A game that has turns, such as checkers or chess, is another great way to help your child understand the concept of taking turns with other people. 

Encourage interactions with neurotypical children

Whatever situation your autistic child is in, it’s important that you provide them with opportunities to engage with neurotypical peers, either in a formal schooling environment or through specifically arranged events or playdates. Both neurodiverse and neurotypical kids can learn a lot from each other, so getting them to socialize healthily can be a win-win!

Be on the lookout for buddy programs

Your autistic child can also learn from people who are older than them but not necessarily adults. There are programs that offer autistic children the chance to interact with older individuals who can act as a type of mentor by helping your autistic child learn and improve their social skills through various activities that are part of the buddy program. This can be especially helpful if you’re able to find an older neurodivergent person as a mentor – their lived experience will likely have equipped them with healthy coping strategies and techniques they can help your child with.

Praising successful social interactions

If your autistic child has a positive interaction with a peer or adult, it’s important to let them know they did a good job. This will encourage them to interact positively with others in the future. 

Specific social skills lessons

If you are unable to assist your child yourself, it’s important that you enroll them in a school environment that provides them with specific social skills lessons or seek out the assistance of a specialist who can help them outside of a school setting. Many health professionals, including psychologists and occupational therapists, can assist you and your child with learning and improving their social interactions.

Discover how Lighthouse Autism Therapy Centers can help your autistic child

At Lighthouse Autism Center, we provide a unique approach to ABA therapy that helps your child change, learn or improve certain behaviors. This approach is known as Lighthouse Fusion® ABA therapy and combines ABA and speech therapy into an enhanced therapeutic program for autistic children. We also provide extensive autism resources to help you better understand autism, how it affects your child and more.

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Sensory Seeking vs Avoiding – Lighthouse Autism Center

Children with autism may struggle with sensory issues that lead to sensory seeking or sensory avoiding behavior. We explore these two types of behavior, their causes, the problems they may create and how they can both lead to sensory overload.

Sensory Seeking vs Sensory Avoiding in Autistic Children

Many autistic children have a variety of sensory processing issues that can affect their behavior, of which the main two types are sensory seeking and sensory avoiding. Join us as we explore the difference between these two categories of sensory processing issues in autistic kids and how you can help them understand their sensory experience better.

Understanding autistic children who are sensory seeking

If your child prefers to get a lot of stimulation from their environment, they are likely sensory seeking. Autistic children who are sensory seeking are considered “hypo-responsive” and tend to exhibit the following sensory seeking symptoms or characteristics:

  • Prefers to be moving
  • Likes to smell things
  • Enjoys being touched, tickled or massaged
  • Has a habit of fidgeting with things
  • Standing very close to people when talking to them
  • Likes to jump, hop, spin, rock and other repetitive motions
  • Will slam or thrust their body into things
  • Enjoys touching objects and people
  • Likes loud noises and enjoys making them
  • Likes to put non-food items in their mouth and chew on things
  • Enjoys engaging in risky behavior
  • Prefers to go barefoot

What causes sensory seeking behavior?

As with autism, exactly what causes sensory seeking behavior is not yet known. We only know that some autistic children are under-responsive to sensory input, others are hyper-responsive and yet others are a mix of the two. Because of how their bodies experience and process sensory input, they will then engage in behavior that will help them meet their sensory needs.

The problems affecting those who are sensory seeking

If you have a sensory seeking child, it may have a negative impact on their life, especially if they do not learn how to manage their sensory needs in appropriate ways. Here are three examples of how a child may struggle if they are sensory seeking.

Might cause themselves physical harm

Firstly, a child may unknowingly engage in dangerous behavior to meet their sensory needs. For example, they may jump from dangerous heights or come up with their own risky stunts to stimulate themselves. 

Might be ostracized by others

Secondly, certain behaviors might provoke negative reactions from those around them. For example, if an autistic child randomly touches other children and adults without their consent, these people may choose to avoid the child.

Might struggle in learning spaces

Finally, they may struggle to pay attention due to the fact that they are constantly seeking out higher levels of stimulation. This could negatively impact learning and academic performance in a learning environment.

How to help those who are sensory seeking

Your first port of call when it comes to helping an autistic child who is sensory seeking is a professional, such as an occupational therapist, who will be able to directly assist your child with their sensory seeking behavior. 

There are also activities that you can engage in at home to help your child meet and manage their sensory needs. Some examples of these activities include:

  • Jumping on a trampoline
  • Bouncing on an exercise ball
  • Climbing on a jungle gym
  • Have a pillow fight
  • Using a weighted vest
  • Letting them play with specifically designed sensory toys, such as weighted toys, scented play-doh and sensory bins
  • Practicing respecting personal boundaries
  • Practicing asking and waiting for explicit consent before touching anyone

Understanding autistic children who are sensory avoiding

If your child prefers to avoid being stimulated by their environment, they are likely sensory avoiding. Autistic children who are sensory avoiding are considered “hyper-responsive” and tend to exhibit the following:

  • Has a greater sensitivity for smells
  • Easily startled by unexpected sounds or bright lights
  • Avoids crowded areas in favor of quieter environments
  • Filters out fewer sounds compared to neurotypical children, which means they “hear more”
  • Likes to wear headphones or earplugs to block out unwanted sounds
  • Incredibly sensitive to pain
  • Doesn’t like clothes with certain textures or clothes that are too tight
  • Finds seams or tags in clothes incredibly annoying
  • Is very picky about what they like to eat
  • Doesn’t like being touched, even if it’s affectionately or playfully
  • Dislikes being barefoot

What causes sensory avoiding behavior?

As with autism, we don’t know what causes sensory avoiding behaviors. What we do know is that some autistic children are overstimulated by certain activities or situations, which they then try to avoid so as not to overwhelm themselves.

The problems affecting those who are sensory avoiding

Sensory avoiding behaviors can affect your child negatively, most especially if they do not learn healthy coping mechanisms to meet their sensory needs. Here are a few ways sensory avoiding behavior can impact your child’s life.

May avoid activities and environments to their detriment

A sensory avoidant child may develop anxiety around activities and environments that make them uncomfortable, even if these things would benefit them, such as playing games with their peers or exercising on a playground.

May struggle to make social connections

Connected to the point above, if an activity or space is uncomfortable for your child with autism, they are likely to avoid it, which could, in turn, cause them to withdraw from social situations. For example, if they don’t take part in school games during breaks or are anxious about attending birthday parties, they may struggle to make social connections with other children.

Another example is that while other children may enjoy playing on a bouncing castle and all the rough and tumble that comes with it, a sensory avoidant child may not. Consequently, they may have to deal with feelings of loneliness, frustration, anger, sadness or being “left out” when they are the odd person out in such situations.

How to help those who are sensory avoiding

Again, as with sensory seeking children, you should seek out specialists who can help your sensory avoidant child learn to manage their sensory challenges. An occupational therapist or other health professionals can help you address your child’s needs.

There are also various precautions you can take to help your sensory avoiding child not feel overwhelmed. Some examples of these include:

  • Decluttering an environment
  • Keeping a pair of noise-canceling headphones nearby
  • Making sure their clothes are not too snug and are made from materials that they are comfortable wearing
  • Trimming the labels off their clothes
  • Considering a weighted vest or blanket to help them feel more comfortable when overstimulated
  • Preparing a quiet, calming space for them at home so that they have an area to retreat to if needed

Autistic children can have both sensory seeking and sensory avoidant traits

While we’ve split sensory seeking and sensory avoiding into two sections, it’s important to note that some autistic children can have characteristics of both categories.

What about sensory overload?

Regardless of whether your child is sensory seeking or sensory avoidant, they can still experience sensory overload. Sensory overload is when your brain is overloaded by the sensory information it is receiving. The amount or type of sensory information that causes sensory overload differs from person to person.

Sensory overload symptoms

Here are some of the signs of sensory overload:

  • Anxiety, irritability, stress, fear or panic
  • Overexcitement or restlessness
  • Physical discomfort
  • Need to limit source of overload by covering ears or closing eyes
  • Need to leave area or space where the cause of the sensory overload is
  • Tantrums or “meltdowns”

How to help with sensory overload

Here are some tips for managing and coping with sensory overload:

  • Take preemptive steps to avoid triggers that cause sensory overload for your child, such as asking for lights or sounds to be turned down. 
  • Ensure you are able to easily leave the location so that your child has the space to recover from sensory overload. 
  • Be prepared by making sure your child has enough rest the night before and is properly hydrated. 
  • Have a sensory toolkit filled with items that can help your child calm down, such as noise canceling headphones, sunglasses, fidget spinners and other objects that can help your child relax. 
  • Talk to a health professional about medications that might be useful in avoiding or minimizing the consequences of sensory overload. 
  • If possible, make sure those around your child are aware that they might become overwhelmed by specific triggers and explain to them what those triggers are. 
  • Most importantly: help your child identify and understand their own sensory needs and triggers as far as possible – this could go a long way in helping them learn to manage their sensory issues in healthy ways. 

Discover how Lighthouse Autism Centers can help your child

At Lighthouse Autism Center, we offer our unique Lighthouse Fusion® ABA therapy program which combines the best aspects of ABA and speech therapy. This program, as well as our autism resources, are vital in helping your child unlock their full potential.

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Sleep Tips For Children with Autism – Lighthouse Autism Center

There are many children who struggle with sleep issues that prevent them from getting a good night’s rest. We explore the ways that autism can impact a child’s sleep and provide tips to help you address them.

A child wearing a long sleeved blue t-shirt asleep in a bed with pale brown covers

Sleep Tips To Help Autistic Children

There are many children on the autism spectrum who struggle with sleep issues, which in turn, negatively affects other aspects of their lives. We explore how autism may affect your child’s sleep, how common sleep issues are, the consequences it may have for the child, and what helps with these sleeping issues.

How does autism affect children’s sleep?

There are several common sleep issues that children with autism may have to deal with. These include:

  • Falling asleep
  • Going to bed at a consistent time
  • Not getting the right quality of sleep
  • Waking up frequently during the night
  • Waking up too early

How common are sleep issues for children with autism?

A study from 2018 titled “The Relationship between Sleep Problems, Neurobiological Alterations, Core Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Psychiatric Comorbidities” has found that anywhere between 50% and 80% of autistic children have sleep difficulties. These are incredibly high numbers – and as you may no doubt guess – it can compound the difficulties that children with autism already have to deal with. 

What are the consequences of sleep loss for children with autism?

We’ve already touched on the fact that poor sleep can negatively impact your loved one’s life. But what are the consequences of sleep loss or poor sleep in children with autism? 

If your autistic child is not getting enough rest, they may end up experiencing increased levels of:

  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Irritability

They may also struggle with other behavioral issues, as well as lower learning and cognitive performance. 

And yes, many of these problems are not unique to autistic children. These issues can impact the lives of autistic adults, as well as neurotypical children and adults, but there’s no doubt that these challenges make things worse for many children on the autism spectrum. 

Now that we understand how lack of sleep and autism spectrum disorders can be connected and affect each other, here’s some advice on what you can do to help your children get the rest they need at night.

Tips for helping children rest well

In order for your autistic child to be able to tackle life at their best, they need to get the right amount of rest. Here are nine tips to help them get the right amount and the right quality of sleep.

1. Set an appropriate and regular bedtime

Setting an appropriate bedtime that you stick to isn’t only good advice for a parent with autistic children, but is good advice for everyone. Taking this advice and implementing it will ensure your child’s natural circadian rhythm (the body’s processes that operate on a roughly 24-hour cycle) isn’t disrupted, which makes it easier to get to sleep at night. It also has numerous other health benefits and will ensure the mind is operating at its best.

2. Have a bedtime routine in place

Having a set of activities that you, your child, or both of you partake in can help your autistic child fall asleep. You’ll need to assess and ensure that you implement activities that aren’t stimulating and will help calm your child. Reading them a soothing bedtime story or singing them a relaxing lullaby are some of the possible activities that you can use to help your child drift off to sleep. 

A visual or written list of things that your child needs to do may also be beneficial and can help them stick to their routine.

3. Set up the right kind of sleep environment

It’s important that your child has a space that’s dedicated to sleep. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you must forbid all activities or toys in the bedroom. Rather, ensure these activities are kept to a certain part of the room and that they definitely don’t take place in bed. If there are certain things that help your child sleep, such as a stuffed animal, then these sorts of objects can be kept in or near the child’s bed. 

It’s also important the bed itself is set up in such a way that it encourages your child to sleep. Remember, autistic children can be extremely sensitive to certain sounds and textures. Ensure any bedding you use doesn’t cause your child any kind of irritation or discomfort either due to the way it feels against them or the sound it makes when rubbing up against a person or other parts of the bed.

The rest of the environment should also be conducive to sleep. This means it should be quiet, at a moderately cool temperature, as well as dark or dimly lit.

4. Ensure they don’t eat or drink too late at night

The reason why it’s not a good idea to eat or drink certain things late is that it disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm. Think of it this way; the body is effectively getting ready to “shut down” for the night when all of a sudden, food arrives! This tells the body that it isn’t time for sleep but time to process the food. It’s only once the body is done processing the food that it can return to a state where it’s ready to go to sleep. 

Not only is it a bad idea to eat too close to bedtime, but certain foods and drinks can also really make the situation worse. Things like caffeine-filled sodas or sugary sweets can be incredibly disruptive and should be avoided at all costs. 

If your child is thirsty, water is fine, and if they are hungry, a small portion of certain healthy foods, such as nuts or fruits that aren’t too sweet, can be given. Ideally, this should be avoided by ensuring your autistic child eats at least three hours before bedtime.

5. Get a good amount of sunshine during the day, particularly in the morning

Sunlight is another key element that affects the body’s circadian rhythm. This is also why it’s so important to start the day with a good dose of sunlight so that your body knows it’s the morning and adjusts your circadian rhythm accordingly. This realignment of the circadian rhythm will also help the body know when it’s time to go to sleep, making it easier for your autistic child to fall asleep at the same time every day.

6. Manage nap times to ensure your child is tired enough to go to sleep at night

If your autistic child naps too much during the day, they may struggle to go to sleep at the same time every night. Keep naps to 20 minutes or less to ensure your child can keep to their regular sleep schedule.

7. Physical activity could be key to helping your child get to bed at night

The study “Potential of Physical Activity-Based Intervention on Sleep in Children with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder” has found that children with autism are likely to be less physically active than their neurotypical peers and that by ensuring children took part in exercise, parents could possibly increase the quality of their child’s sleep. While more research needs to be done to confirm the findings of this study, it is definitely something you could try with your child to test and see if exercise helps your autistic child sleep better at night.

8. Use sleep aids for autistic children

If you’re wondering what is the best sleep aid for an autistic child, here are some of the devices that you may want to investigate further.

  • A weighted blanket: There are studies that show weighted blankets can offer numerous benefits for autistic children, including helping them fall and stay asleep.
  • A white noise machine: A white noise machine can help your autistic child get a better night’s sleep by helping block any noises that might otherwise disturb their sleep.
  • Blackout curtains: There are many sources of light, including unnatural ones, that can disrupt your autistic child’s sleep. Blackout curtains can help you maintain a consistent environment so that they can sleep well. Eye masks could also work if your child does not experience sensory discomfort while wearing them.

9. Consider speaking to a specialist about medication

While there are many non-pharmaceutical interventions that can help you, you may find yourself still struggling to help your autistic child get to sleep. In these scenarios, it’s important to speak with an expert about pharmaceutical options, whether that’s melatonin supplementation or another prescribed medication.

Unlock your child’s potential with the Midwest’s leading autism therapy center

At Lighthouse Autism Center, we offer a unique approach to autism therapy called Lighthouse Fusion®. This unique approach to autism treatment combines the best aspects of ABA and speech therapy to help your child perform at their best. Learn more about Lighthouse Fusion® ABA therapy and take advantage of our autism resources to discover how it can help your child improve their outcomes.

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

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