Lighthouse Autism Center Releases New Outcomes App To Enhance Clinical Outcomes for Learners with Autism

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

Lighthouse Autism Center Releases New Outcomes App To Enhance Clinical Outcomes for Learners with Autism

Indiana’s Largest Center-Based ABA Provider Announces New Technology That Will Change How Clinicians Collect and Track Learner Data

Lighthouse Autism Center, a Midwest  ABA therapy provider  has announced a new clinical project that will enhance outcomes for children with autism enrolled in their centers. Led by Chief Clinical Officer, Leila Allen, the Learner Outcomes Project is transforming the way clinicians collect, analyze, and use learner data across Lighthouse’s 33 center locations.

With the support and guidance of industry consultants, a third-party technology and data analytics firm, and thousands of data points Lighthouse has collected in their 11 years of operation, Lighthouse is using its data in an innovative way to enhance clinical quality, support clinicians, and drive positive outcomes.

Through the creation of an advanced data application called the Outcomes App, the Lighthouse Team has analyzed thousands of learners, their medical and behavior history, treatment plans, programming, and more to gather valuable insights into progress, length of care, and other factors that may impact a learner’s success while at Lighthouse.

The ongoing use of the Outcomes App will provide the tools for Lighthouse’s team of Board-Certified Behavior Analysts to collect learner data in a standardized way by using norm-referenced assessment tools like the Vineland-3 Comprehensive Assessment and the Behavioral Health Index. With over 700 learners enrolled at Lighthouse, the volume of data collected is ever growing.

In the future, we anticipate clinicians can use the Outcomes App to track their learners’ progress with standardized assessments that will allow them to measure progress against learners with similar profiles, access a database of other learner data across Lighthouse, and ultimately provide a more standardized way to track outcomes, while still recognizing the individuality of the learners we serve. Clinicians will also be able to track the trajectory of outcomes and see if their learners are progressing as expected, or if changes need to be made. This will give all levels of clinical leadership oversight into the quality of programming happening at Lighthouse.

Lighthouse believes in bringing together compassionate care and clinical excellence. The Learner Outcomes Project is just one of the ways Lighthouse continues to invest in clinical quality to ensure that learners at Lighthouse are on the cutting edge of clinical practices and receiving the highest quality therapy. 

About Lighthouse Autism Center

Lighthouse Autism Center offers autism therapy services in a natural, play-based environment. Children are immersed in imaginary spaces where they can naturally explore their interests, engage in sensory experiences, and practice language. At the newest center in Omaha, Nebraska, families will have the opportunity to benefit from ABA therapy, speech therapy, school programming, parent training and diagnostic services to meet each child and family where they are on their autism journey.

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Benefits of Speech Therapy for Autistic Children 

Discover the value of speech therapy for autistic children as we explore how this essential treatment addresses developmental issues like speech delays and abnormal or repetitive speech patterns and answer some commonly asked questions. 

The Benefits of Speech Therapy for Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects communication and social interaction skills. It can also cause delays in speech and language development, making it difficult for autistic children to express themselves effectively. This is where speech therapy comes in. 

Also known as speech and language therapy, this treatment focuses on improving language development and communication skills in individuals with speech disorders. There are a number of key resources and services available for the healthy development of autistic children, with speech therapy playing an integral role. 

Stages of speech development in autism

Autism often affects the natural progression of speech development in children. Unlike allistic children, autistic children might exhibit significant delays in speech, abnormal speech patterns, or even lack of speech. 

Stage 1: Non-verbal communication

The first stage often involves non-verbal communication. Children may communicate through gestures, facial expressions, or physical contact. Speech therapists help these children understand and use these forms of communication effectively.  

Stage 2: Basic language skills

Autistic children may exhibit significant delays in vocal speech, abnormal speech patterns, or lack the ability to communicate vocally at all.  

Stage 3: Vocabulary building

From there, therapists work on enhancing vocabulary and sentence construction, allowing the child to express complex thoughts and ideas.  

Stage 4. Conversational skills

The final stage focuses on conversational skills, teaching children how to engage in back-and-forth communication with others. This helps autistic children connect more effectively with their peers and the world around them. 

Parents often ask how many hours of speech therapy are needed for autism. The answer can vary greatly depending on the child’s unique needs, the severity of their speech delay, and their level of engagement with therapy. However, many experts recommend that intensive, consistent therapy — often several hours per week — can be most beneficial. Regular interaction with a speech therapist can significantly enhance your child’s communication skills over time. Even so, parent involvement and reinforcement of these skills at home are crucial for long-term success. 

How does speech therapy help autism?

Speech therapy is a specialized field that focuses on evaluating, diagnosing, and treating communication disorders, both in verbal and non-verbal forms. In the context of autism, speech therapy primarily aims at addressing issues related to speech delay, restricted speech patterns, and repetitive speech that are commonly observed in autistic individuals. 

1. Addressing autism speech delay

One of the most common challenges for many autistic children is speech delay. This means that they may not develop speech and language skills at the same rate as their peers, or they may not develop them at all. Speech therapy can help address this delay by introducing strategies and techniques that promote language development. 

Speech therapists work closely with these children to understand their communication needs and create individualized treatment plans. They use a variety of methods, such as visual aids, sign language, and play-based activities, to help children improve their communication skills. 

2. Improving autism speech patterns

In addition to delays, autistic children may also have difficulties with speech patterns. This can include repetitive or unusual speech patterns, such as echolalia (repeating words or phrases) or pronoun reversal (using “you” instead of “I”). 

Speech therapy can assist children in developing more functional speech patterns. Here, they are taught how to use language effectively in different contexts, such as social interactions or daily routines. Speech therapists also work on improving the clarity and articulation of speech to make it easier for them to communicate their thoughts effectively. 

3. Addressing autism and repetitive speech

Repetitive speech is another common characteristic of autism. This can include constantly repeating the same words or phrases or having a narrow range of topics that they talk about. 

Speech therapy can help autistic children expand their vocabulary and use language in more meaningful ways. Therapists may also introduce techniques such as structured play and social stories to teach children how to engage in conversations and stay on topic. 

The overall benefits of speech therapy for autism

Speech therapy can have a significant impact on the development and well-being of autistic individuals. By improving their communication skills, speech therapy further helps in reducing frustration that stems from any difficulty in expressing their needs. Additionally, speech therapy can help improve social skills and interactions, as communication is a key component of building relationships. 

Learn more with Lighthouse Autism Center

Speech therapists, or speech-language pathologists, employ a range of techniques and interventions to enhance your child’s ability to communicate effectively. In Lighthouse Fusion ABA therapy, these interventions are tailored to your child’s individual needs and abilities and can include improving articulation, expanding vocabulary, enhancing auditory processing abilities, and fostering appropriate use of non-verbal communication cues.  

Contact us to discuss your child’s needs and develop a personalized treatment plan. 

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

What to Do After Autism Diagnosis

We take a look at some of the first steps to take after your child is diagnosed with autism.

My Child Was Just Diagnosed with Autism. What Do I Do First?

The first few moments after your child gets an autism spectrum diagnosis can be daunting and overwhelming. For some parents or caregivers, the autism diagnosis comes as a complete shock, while other parents may feel relieved as they’ve suspected it for some time.  

However, one thing that almost all parents or caregivers have in common is that they aren’t sure what to do after an autism diagnosis. It’s completely normal to question what the future looks like and to be unsure about what to do in the immediate days following the diagnosis.  

We understand that the moments after the diagnosis can be difficult, but we’re here to help guide you through the next steps. We’ll take a look at what the diagnosis means and what you should do following your child’s autism diagnosis. 

What does an autism diagnosis mean? 

So, your child has been diagnosed with autism, what does this mean? Does an autism diagnosis change anything? 

Of course, confirmation that your child is autistic can be frightening. It’s normal to be nervous and a little apprehensive. However, it’s important to remember that there is nothing different about your child after the diagnosis. Your child has not changed. 

 
What has changed is your understanding of their needs and how to meet them. One of the biggest benefits of an autism diagnosis is that this new information informs how you can support your child to ensure the best possible future for them. 

So, what happens after the autism diagnosis? You now have the opportunity to learn more about autism, how it impacts your child, and what you can do to make their daily lives easier and more fulfilling. A diagnosis also means that you should have access to professional support and benefits. 

Steps to take after the diagnosis

The first important steps to take immediately after the diagnosis are as follows: 

Ask questions and educate yourself

The best thing that you can do immediately after your child is diagnosed with autism is to educate yourself as much as possible about the disorder. Start while you are with the medical professional (whether that’s your GP or someone else) who has given you the diagnosis. They have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to autism, and you should ask them any questions that you might have or bring up any concerns. They will be able to answer you with expert knowledge and provide you with resources to do more research. 

Once you’re home, it’s important to find more trusted autism resources online that enable you to learn as much about the disorder as you can.  

Educating yourself about autism and how it affects your child is an essential step in learning how to create an environment and find the right support for your child that will help them thrive. 

Equip your home environment to help your child

Now that you know your child is autistic, you can ensure that your home environment is set up in such a way that it encourages them to learn new life skills while making it feel safe and secure for them. 

Every child is unique, which means that each will have their own way in how autism presents — so how you prepare your home will depend on their individual capabilities. However, there are some symptoms, such as fixations, sensorial sensitivities, and verbal learning difficulties, that are present in many autistic children. Some of the best ways to make your home safe for an autistic child include: 

  • Ensuring that they have a dedicated quiet room. 
  • Putting all medications and dangerous items far out of reach. 
  • Labelling everyday items so they know what they are and where they belong. 
  • Using visual labels around the house to warn them about dangers, such as a sign with a red X saying “NO” at the door that leads to the garage. 
  • Creating visual boundaries for where they can and can’t go. 
  • Ensuring that all furniture is mounted to the floor or wall.  
  • Use of a visual schedule to help with daily routines. 
  • The use of gates or barriers at the top and bottom of stairs. 

Of course, these are just a few of the considerations for your home environment, and there are many more that you can put in place to make your child’s life easier. 

Find out about support for your child and your family

Now that you have sorted out your home environment, you need to support them in other areas of their life to maximize their potential. This is essential for autistic children, who will benefit from having the right support from an early age. An early diagnosis of autism allows you to find autism-specific support systems across different areas. 

At school

If your child is at school already, then it’s important that you inform the school of the diagnosis. You can then get an assessment for an Individual Education Program (IEP). Speak to the school about what support they can provide. Teachers will then be aware of the situation and the care that they need to give your child going forward. Or, you may have to find a school that is better suited to your child’s needs. 

Financial support

Find out what kind of financial support you qualify for after the diagnosis. You could be eligible for something like the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit, which will help with extra expenses.  

Family support

Remember that this diagnosis impacts the whole family. It’s easy to become absorbed in getting the right care for your child, but don’t forget about yourself, your partner, or any siblings. Ensure you spend time with other family members and that siblings understand what is happening if they are old enough. Ask them about any questions or concerns, and try to answer them as honestly as you can. Seek out family therapy for extra support if needed. 

Find the right therapy program

One of the most important steps after an autism diagnosis is getting your child into therapy as soon as possible. Your GP is likely to recommend a particular medical professional or practice but don’t be afraid to do your own research, too. 

The right therapy program will change your child’s life. Experienced therapists will equip you and your child with the tools and life skills to navigate the challenges of autism successfully. 

LAC is here to help you take the first steps after diagnosis 

We know that an autism diagnosis can be overwhelming, but with the right tools, resources, and therapy, there’s no reason that your child’s future shouldn’t be an incredibly positive one. 

ABA therapy is gaining traction in the industry, and at Lighthouse Autism Center, we combine it with speech therapy in our Lighthouse Fusion ABA Therapy approach. This enhanced therapy has been designed to get the best results for your child, ensuring that they have a bright and happy future ahead of them. 

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Community Resources for Autism

Autism affects the individual, the family, and the community at large. Understanding these impacts can aid in creating an inclusive society for everyone. Discover resources and tips on the role of the community with autistic children.

Tips for Community Interactions With Autistic Children

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may struggle with building relationships and interacting in social situations. However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t want to engage or connect with others. In reality, it is crucial for children with ASD to have meaningful interactions and connections with their family, peers, and the community. 

In this article, we’re discussing some tips for communities of autistic children to better interact with them. Parents already work hard to assist their children’s development, with solutions like Lighthouse Fusion ABA therapy and community support, they can further enhance their efforts and increase quality of life for all those affected. 

How does autism affect the community?

Autism affects the individual, the family, and the community at large. Understanding these impacts can aid in creating an inclusive society for everyone. A key concern often revolves around autism and safety in the community. Autistic children may unknowingly place themselves in dangerous situations due to their difficulties with social awareness, without having the tools to effectively communicate their needs or situation and get the help they may require. This can lead to heightened anxiety for parents, caregivers, and community members. 

With adequate knowledge and proactive strategies, the community can play a pivotal role in promoting safety and inclusivity for autistic individuals. This includes implementing procedures to locate wandering children quickly and educating community members about autism and potential safety risks. It’s important to remember that every autistic individual is unique, and a safe, supportive community can significantly enhance their quality of life. 

How to interact with autistic children 

Addressing autism in a community can offer support to both autistic children and their parents while expanding the skills and worldview of community members for a safer, more inclusive environment for all. Community autism resources are a good place to start — online resources, books, and gatherings should all be widely available and encouraged. 

Below, we discuss tips for both community members and parents. But first, there are some important things all people should know in order to have healthy, fulfilling interactions with people with ASD. 

  • It is essential to note that autistic children might have difficulty interpreting non-verbal cues and may not respond to facial expressions like smiles or frowns. 
  • Their literal perception of language means that you must be precise when speaking to them. For instance, if you’re urging them to hurry by saying, “Step on it,” they might become confused, wondering what they’re supposed to step on. Be precise and keep conversations focused and simple. 
  • Handling a single thought or idea at a time could be their maximum capacity, especially in unfamiliar or chaotic situations, requiring conversations to be focused and straightforward.  
  • They may show intense interest in a particular topic, discussing it repetitively. 
  • They may perceive their surroundings differently, being acutely sensitive to sounds, tastes, touches, smells, and sights that you might not notice, which could cause them discomfort. 

Tips for community members

Community members can assist with encouraging inclusivity by implementing some basic courtesy behaviors around autistic kids. 

Speak clearly and use simple language 

Autistic children often process information differently. When communicating with them, use clear, concise, and straightforward language. Avoid metaphors, idioms, or complex sentences that might be confusing. 

Respect their space

Many autistic children have sensory sensitivities and may become overwhelmed in crowded or noisy environments. Like all children, some autistic children may not want to be touched at all, while others may require a lot of care and affection. Respect their personal space and avoid touching them without their consent. 

Encourage interaction through shared interests

Identify the child’s interests and use them as a way to engage in interaction. Whether it’s a favorite book, a love for trains, or a passion for a particular TV show, shared interests can provide common ground for communication and connection. Physical play, such as running around and playing outside, can also be a great way to interact, tending to their limited attention span and helping them feel more calm and at ease. 

Be patient and give them time to respond

Autistic children often need more time to process information and formulate responses. Therefore, be patient, give them time, and do not rush them to respond. Regular pauses, as well as slowing down your speech to match theirs, are helpful. 

Practice active listening 

Show that you’re interested and that you value their communication by giving eye contact and responding appropriately. While autistic children can have trouble expressing their feelings, they still need to know that you are interested and that you care. Attentive listening and positive reinforcement can help them feel understood and supported. 

Tips for parents 

As a parent, you can also introduce various practices to enhance your relationship with your autistic child. 

Use visual aids 

Visual aids can be highly effective in helping autistic children understand and communicate their thoughts and feelings. These can take the form of pictures, symbols, or even physical objects. Visual schedules and social stories, for instance, can help a child understand what will happen next and thereby reduce their anxiety. 

Cultivate constructive expression of anger 

Teach your autistic child to express their anger in non-aggressive ways. It’s important they understand that it’s okay to let out feelings of anger and frustration. Though this can be difficult, there are several types of inventions that can help with teaching new and more socially accepted forms of communication.  

Exhibit persistence and resilience 

Maintain your resolve and resilience. If your child does not react in the way you had hoped, avoid getting your feelings hurt. Remember, autistic children can struggle with expressing and controlling their emotions. Their responses can come off as blunt, but it’s essential not to take it personally. 

Learn from your child

Embrace the unique perspective your child brings. Their special needs and abilities might offer a new way to look at the world. As challenging as it might be at times, creating a relaxed, humorous, and appreciative environment in which you celebrate your child will result in a healthy, nourishing, growth-oriented environment for everyone involved. 

Practice self-care

Join parent support groups or ask understanding friends and relatives to care for your child while you rest and recharge. School psychologists and counselors also offer resources that can help. When your needs have been taken care of, you are able to be fully present and care for your child in the ways that they need. 

Join Lighthouse Autism Center in creating caring autism communities

It’s important to remember that every child is unique, and what works well for one may not work for another. As such, approach each child as an individual, adapt as necessary, and always strive to foster a respectful and understanding environment. For more community resources for autism, check out our autism resources and services

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Simple Autism Routine 

We take a look at the benefits of a simple routine for autistic children and how to create a straightforward schedule for a higher chance of success.

The Benefits of Simplifying: Creating a Routine for Autistic Children 

Routines are important in everyone’s daily life. They help us to stay organized and complete essential tasks. Daily routines are useful for all children, but they are especially important to help children with the challenges of autism in everyday life. 

Establishing solid, simple routines at home and at school can help reduce stress for parents, caregivers, and children. They also help to teach and establish different life skills.  

We’re going to take a look at autism and routine and how to build a simple schedule for your autistic child that will bring stability and calm to their everyday life. 

Why is routine so important for autism? 

Do autistic people like routine? Yes. Routines bring a level of comfort and stability to everyday activities that, otherwise, could be overwhelming. Consistency and predictability are valuable tools for an autistic child. Repetitive patterns reinforce positive behaviors and important life skills. 

Here are some of the more obvious benefits of developing a simple schedule for an autistic child. 

Reduces stress

Routine is a stress reliever for everyone — knowing what is expected of you at a certain time makes things more predictable. Autistic children can be overwhelmed easily, and routines help them to become familiar with their surroundings and expectations. They also help to improve confidence that they can achieve the tasks ahead of them. 

Assists with transitions 

Many autistic children simply don’t like change, and what can be extremely exciting for other children could be extremely stressful for an autistic child. Putting a routine in place before a transition helps children to get used to their new environment and expectations. 

Nurtures a learning environment

While allistic children might easily retain information when learning new daily living skills, autism makes it difficult to remember and repeat skills straight away. For kids on the spectrum of autism, a schedule can help them practice and remember new things. 

Gives them a sense of ownership over their day 

It’s frustrating when you can’t explain what you want or achieve something that you’ve set out to do, and autistic children experience this daily. Establishing a routine helps to give them a sense of ownership over their day, especially when they get to a level of independence where they can take on some of the tasks on their own or make their own schedule. 

Builds stronger connections

Autistic children can struggle to connect with parents, teachers, caregivers, and friends. However, as their sense of purpose, fulfillment, predictability, and security increases, their stress and anxiety decrease. This can make them more receptive and able to connect with others. 

Creating a schedule for your child

Before you begin, it’s important to remember that simplicity is key. Your child is not going to follow or learn from an overtly complicated routine. So, strip it back and create a straightforward, easy-to-follow routine using the following steps. 

Identify the most important tasks in their daily routine 

A successful schedule is a simple one. Outline the tasks that you classify as the most important for your child to complete during the day. Write them down. Start with just a few at the beginning, and you can always add more once they’ve mastered it.  

One of the common challenges of autism is difficulty following instructions, so ensure that all of the steps are predictable and specific.  

First, give the task a name, and then break that into smaller, more manageable instructions for your child. For example, the bigger task could be “Get ready for bed”, and you can break it down into smaller steps such as: 

  • Get into pajamas 
  • Brush teeth 
  • Listen to one bedtime story 
  • Turn off the light 

 
Be patient and figure out what format works best for your child. 

Assign times and alerts

To ensure that the routine is predictable and on schedule, it’s important to assign every activity a time and preferably an alert that will remind you and your child. Alerts can help to diminish the monotony of a schedule. You can use fun alerts, such as animal noises, on your phone and assign a different alert to each task. This gives your child the chance to recognize what the alert is signifying and either tell you what needs to be done or attempt the task on their own if they are ready and capable. 

Make it visual 

Simply writing down the tasks and steps isn’t enough. In many cases, autistic children learn and respond best to visual cues. So, it’s essential that you make your schedule more than a simple list. Take pictures of your child doing the tasks, or print a picture of the task and put it next to the instructions on the schedule. 

Refer to the schedule throughout the day

Don’t expect your child to remember what they are going to do at the end of the day. Instead, refer to the calendar throughout the day and remind your child of what is going to happen next. For example, remind them while they are crafting that they are expected to clean up their craft materials once they are done. 

Use positive reinforcement

Everyone could use a bit of positive reinforcement, and you should let your child know how well they are doing when they get a task done successfully. Of course, how you do this depends on your child’s individual nature, but putting gold stars next to a task on your visual schedule or something similar is a great idea. Do whatever it is to let them understand that you are proud of them. 

Patience and persistence

The first couple of days with a new schedule can be challenging for both of you. Consistency is key in the beginning, and you need to ensure that you tick off all the steps in order. Repeat the routine in the same way every day and remain patient. It’s all worth it once your child starts to get the hang of it. 

Once the routine is firmly established, you can start to alter things a little bit at a time. Try to involve another family member or caregiver in the routine, or slowly introduce an additional step if you would like. As much as a consistent routine is important, it’s also a good idea to get them used to change and transition while they are comfortable, as this will be a valuable tool for the future. 

Learn about routines, schedules, handling change, and more with LAC

Lighthouse Fusion ABA Therapy is an innovative approach that combines the best ABA therapy practices with speech therapy to create a unique model that delivers exceptional outcomes for autistic children. With our decades of experience in the industry and a wide array of autism resources that are available to you, we aim to equip you and your child with the right tools to tackle everyday activities that will set them up for a better future. 

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Lighthouse Autism Center Staff Spotlight: Nicholas

Nicholas’ Lighthouse Autism Center Journey

Nicholas is a Registered Behavior Therapist at our Winona Lake center and has been with Lighthouse Autism Center since July of 2023. He is currently a student at Ball State University, studying for a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis. Nicholas loves spending time with his family and his dog. He is happily married and has a daughter.

What made you decide to apply to Lighthouse?

I applied to LAC because I was searching for a career that allowed me to serve people and focus on the patient more than on scheduling and travel.

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

My favorite part of working at Lighthouse is the willingness of coworkers to help provide support as well as the guidance from trainers and supervisors towards the goals of making me a better therapist. 

How would you describe your experience working for Lighthouse?

My experience with LAC has been what only could be deemed as concentrated. It has been concentrated with learning, growing, and help all with the focus of helping me reach our goals. 

Do you have a favorite memory from your time here?

One of my favorite memories comes from a learner that started the same time I started working at LAC. It felt like we had a connection based on our relative starting point of this part of our life’s adventure. We ended up working together quite often and paired quite well. One day during lunch, this learner decided they were not hungry and wanted to go play. We made our way back out to the playroom from the cafeteria, and I asked them what they wanted to do by presenting the manding board. The learner pointed to the play icon and said ‘swing’ with their soft voice and we proceeded to the swing. Once at the swing, the learner for the first time since we both started at LAC began singing to themselves while swinging. It was not for attention or for anyone around but simply because they enjoyed singing. I was reminded that day just how amazing we are as humans. This amazing little person decided at that moment to sing their own song and allow me the honor to hear it. LAC is a place you can help people learn to communicate. It helps people to learn how they can take action in their life and be heard.  

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

Lighthouse is an amazing place to work. Be prepared to learn and also be open to instruction. Trainers and supervisor will inform you of what you need to do to be the best RBT. 

Ready for a career where you can make a difference?

Fall Activities for Autistic Kids 

Any change of season brings changes, but fall is particularly transitional. We take a look at some of the activities that can help autistic children adapt to these changes.

Fall Activities for Autistic Children 

While each season brings big changes, fall is possibly the standout one in this respect, with a big seasonal shift and the start of a new school year.  

Many children (and adults) love fall. There’s the change from summer colors to oranges and reds, and tangerine-tinted leaves start to line the floor. Hot summer days make way for a fresh bite in the air, signaling the change to a new wardrobe. Of course, it means Halloween is just around the corner, too.  

Where fall is an exciting prospect for allistic kids, the big changes can be stressful and overwhelming for autistic kids. However, with the right planning and sensory activities, autism doesn’t need to stand in the way of your child enjoying the seasonal change. 

Let’s look at why seasonal shifts are challenging for autistic children, as well as the autism-friendly activities that you can use to make the transition less stressful. 

How seasonal shifts affect autistic children 

Autistic children thrive with a predictable routine, schedule, and timetable. Seasonal shifts can be stressful because they signal change. Fall, in particular, can be an overwhelming transition for several factors. 

End of summer holidays

Summer holidays are long, and children get used to their holiday routines. Returning to school means changing and adjusting to a new set of expectations, schedules, and routines. 

New school year

The new school year starts in September, which could mean big changes for your child: a new classroom environment, a new teacher, some new classmates, unfamiliar routines and subjects, and more. 

Wardrobe changes 

Autistic children can become attached to a certain piece of clothing, whether that’s because of the color or how the texture feels against their skin, etc. Falls means that there’s a wardrobe change, which could mean giving up a piece of summer clothing they aren’t willing to let go of. 

Weather and outdoor changes

While it’s not an overnight change, fall does signal that winter is imminent, and depending on where you live, this could mean waking up in the dark, snow days, and more. All of this can be upsetting for an autistic child in a set routine. 

Fall activities for autistic children 

The change of season can have many positive impacts and opportunities for your child to have new experiences. By using learned skills and tools and with your support, these transitions can be beneficial for them if planned for correctly. 

These are just some of the fall kids’ activities that you can plan for to make the seasonal transition easier for your child.  

Create a fall sensory bin

A sensory bin is a wonderful tool and is an essential autism activity throughout the year. Fill the sensory bin with a range of fall-related objects like dried corn, chestnuts, gourds, pinecones, etc. Then, allow your child to run their hands through these items and pick each one up to feel their texture.  

This is an excellent sensory activity that is hands-on and can benefit a range of other developmental domains. Use cups, spoons, or tweezers to pick things up to develop fine motor skills, separate objects into colors for color identification, or simply leave them to explore and hone their independent play skills. 

Visit a pumpkin patch 

Autumn is synonymous with pumpkins, and while it’s simpler to buy a pumpkin from the grocery store to carve at home, it doesn’t beat the experience of going to an actual pumpkin patch. If your child is sensitive to sensory stimulation or struggles with crowds, then try and find a small street-side display on a quiet day. However, if you’re comfortable taking your child to a farm, they could get the full experience of a petting zoo, corn mazes, tractor rides, and more.  

Talk to your child at home about what kind of pumpkin you want to bring home. Discuss the various shapes, sizes, and color options they will see. Then, let them choose their own pumpkin (or two) to take home. 

Carve a pumpkin at home 

Carving a pumpkin is one of the classic fall activities for kids. It’s also full of beneficial sensory experiences.  

Allow your child to pick out the design that they want to carve out with you and then take note of the different sensory experiences on the way. Ask your child to feel the smooth skin of the outside of the pumpkin and then the slimy texture of the flesh inside. The squishy nature of the strings around the hard seeds is always an exciting find. Also, engage their sense of smell. You could extend this by baking a pumpkin pie or something similar afterward so that they can use their taste buds, too. 

Bake seasonal treats 

Children love to be involved in baking activities, and it’s a wonderful way to engage a variety of different skills. Of course, you should probably expect a mess, and the end result might not win any bake-off awards, but it’s the experience with your child that really counts. 

Show them what you want to make, whether that’s pumpkin muffins, an apple pie, or Halloween-shaped cookies. Allow them to help you pour and stir mixtures, and perhaps they can even try portioning or measuring out the simple ingredients, such as a cup of flour.  

There’s nothing quite like watching their eyes light up when they get to tuck into something that they’ve made themselves. It also practices turn-taking, following directions, and fine motor skills. 

Fall themed arts and crafts

There are abundant opportunities for fall-themed arts and crafts for autistic kids. When deciding on what to do, it’s essential to consider your child’s abilities, needs, and interests. The best autism arts and crafts incorporate independent play, creativity, color and identification, following directions, fine motor skills, and much more. 

Support your child while they create by providing demonstrations, visual cues, gestures, and clear verbal instructions. Consider activities such as putting paint on cut apples or fallen leaves to create fall-themed stamps. Place dried or fresh leaves under a light piece of paper like tracing paper, and use crayons or oil pastels to go over and see its outline. 

Spend time outdoors

Spending time outdoors is beneficial for every child, and the onset of fall offers a wonderful opportunity to take note of seasonal changes. Of course, this is extra effective if you live somewhere where the seasonal changes can be quite evident. 

A great way to get your child excited about going out on a trail or simply into the garden is by going on a fall-themed treasure hunt. Write a list and create visuals of different fall objects that you want to collect while you’re outside, such as a pinecone, an orange leaf, a yellow leaf, an acorn, etc. Then, set out on a mission with your child to gather them all up. 

Afterward, you can create another great outdoor experience by getting them to help you rake up a pile of leaves for you both to play in. The texture, sound, and color of the leaves are bound to delight both you and your child. 

With planning and support, changes can be beneficial for autistic children

Autistic children are resistant to change, but with the right support and preparation, transitions don’t need to be traumatic.  

Programs like the Lighthouse Fusion ABA Therapy are geared around preparing you and your child for changes like this. We use our expertise to equip you with essential tools and autism resources that you can use to ensure that your child can benefit from the experience by using their skills to adapt and prepare for, rather than react to, transitions and changes. 

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Healthcare Provider Visit Tips

Visiting the doctor or dentist can be overwhelming for autistic children, especially those with sensory difficulties. We discuss choosing the right healthcare practitioner and how to prepare your child for their trip. 

Tips for Taking Your Child to the Doctor’s Office or Dental Office

Going to see a healthcare professional can be a frightening experience for any child. Often, negative experiences in the past in any medical setting can set the tone for future visits, and it’s not unusual for children (and adults) to have fear and anxiety around going to see the doctor or dentist. 

Having an autistic child further complicates the matter. Dentists, doctors, and autism are rarely a match made in heaven. However, with the right preparations in place and healthcare professionals who are experienced with autism, a dentist visit or doctor visit can be successful and less traumatic. 

Let’s take a look at why autism and doctor’s visits or going to the dentist can be overwhelming and how you can prepare your child for these visits. We’ll also discuss how to choose the right doctors and dentists to ensure your child gets the necessary healthcare without the stress that usually comes with it. 

What makes healthcare visits so difficult for autistic children?

While going to the doctor or dentist isn’t any child’s favorite activity, it can be completely overwhelming and traumatic for autistic children, and this makes it difficult for parents and caregivers, too. 

Here are some of the more common aspects that make a visit to the doctor or dentist difficult for autistic children. 

Sensory sensitivities

One of the most problematic areas that makes healthcare visits challenging is the unique sensory issues that most autistic children have. Everyday sensations can be overwhelming and uncomfortable, and this is merely exacerbated at the doctor or dentist. 

Autism and the dentist rarely gel. Dental environments usually have big bright lights, high-pitched sounds of drills and suction machines, the sharp taste of fluoride, and more. Doctors’ offices are filled with chatter in the waiting room, the coldness of the stethoscope against the skin, bright lights shining into eyes, and wooden sticks on tongues. 

All of this can be extremely triggering for an autistic child. 

Difficulty adapting to change 

Autistic children thrive with predictability and routines. A visit to a healthcare provider throws their daily routine out. To add complexity, the doctor or dentist could be new, which means a new environment, person, and possibly procedure in the mix. Additionally, no wait time is guaranteed, so excessively time waiting without activity can compound the already stressful situation.  

Challenges with communication 

Some autistic children have trouble communicating how they feel and what they need, want, or dislike. Many healthcare professionals rely on patient feedback to adjust their approach and will ask if something is uncomfortable or hurting so that they can try something different. This can cause unnecessary distress for the patient, parent, and healthcare professional. 

Many of these appointments also require patients to follow instructions, such as “open wide,” “follow the light,” “bite down,” and so on. Autistic children may have trouble understanding instructions and need more time to process and respond to them. 

The importance of choosing the right healthcare practitioner 

One of the most important components of a successful trip to a healthcare provider is finding the right one for your child. Make sure that you do your research to find an autism-friendly dentist or doctor who advertises specifically for special needs patients. 

How to talk to your doctors about autism? Just be honest. Don’t feel bad to ask to meet the doctor or dentist beforehand to ask them any questions you have and assess their experience with children with sensory sensitivities. Ask about their process and how they usually help to make the interaction with autistic children less traumatic. 

Ask whether they will allow you to do a desensitization tour for your child before their appointment; the best doctor or dentist for autistic kids will have no problem with this. See whether they are willing to examine your child in the waiting room if they don’t want to go into the practice room. 

As a parent or caregiver, your instincts should be able to point you in the right direction, and you’ll be able to judge in person whether a professional and the offices themselves are suited to your child. 

It’s also important to book an appointment slot that will require as little waiting time as possible. This is normally the day’s first appointment, the first after lunch, or the very last of the day. 

How to prepare your child for their visit to the doctor or dentist

Here are some of the most effective ways that you can prepare your child for their visit. 

Familiarize them with the space

Prior to your child’s appointment, it is important to familiarize them with the space they will be visiting. Show them pictures of the doctor’s office or the dental clinic and children at their appointment. This shows them what to expect. If possible, it’s worth visiting the premises beforehand, meeting the staff, and getting your child familiar with the space and the people. 

Use visual schedules and tell stories 

Your child is used to their routine, and breaking this pattern can be challenging. However, using a visual schedule and social stories will help prepare them. This simple practice includes a detailed, step-by-step explanation of what they can expect from when they leave home until they return. Remember to use clear, concise language or pictures to get this across. Repeat the story regularly in the build-up to the appointment. 

Play dentist or doctor at home 

Play is one of the best ways for children to learn, and demonstration is particularly important for autistic children. Play dentist with your child. Put on some gloves and touch their teeth with your hands or a toothbrush and get them used to the sensation of having someone touching their mouth. 

Invest in a medical play set and practice getting your child used to the stethoscope against their skin, a light in their eyes, and a tongue depressor (or popsicle stick) on their tongue, etc. 

Play is one of the most effective ways to create familiarity with the process. 

On the day

The day of the appointment is here, and you’ve prepared your child as much as you can, so what now? First, it’s important to remind your child of the plans for the day as early as possible and repeat the visual story of what they should expect. 

Pack essential sensory items that your child might need or want, such as noise-canceling headphones and sunglasses. Take their favorite toy, blanket, and book with them, too. Keeping them entertained while they wait is important. 

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t force your child to do anything if they don’t want to. While healthcare is crucial, sometimes you might need to try on another day. If your child gets incredibly anxious and wound up in the waiting room and refuses to go into the medical rooms, then it’s worth seeing if they can be seen in the waiting room or booking an appointment for another day.  

Remember, you don’t want this to be traumatic, as it could impact future visits. 

At LAC, we prepare your child for these important interactions

At Lighthouse Autism Center, we know that planning for changes in your child’s life is crucial, and visits to healthcare providers are often challenging. That’s why we help you navigate these delicate processes and equip you and your child with the tools they need for these interactions. 

Our innovative programs like Lighthouse Fusion ABA Therapy and the wide array of autism resources on the website are among the best ways to give your child the future they deserve. 

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Do Autistic Babies Smile?  

We take a look at the importance of early intervention, some of the milestones for parents to look out for, and the more common signs of autism in babies. 

Do Autistic Babies Smile? Signs Of Autism In Babies?

Watching your baby grow is exciting, even though it’s also characterized by a lack of sleep. You get an intimate view of your baby’s development as a parent or caregiver and will notice the day-to-day changes in their behaviors as they build new abilities and skills. 

But, while every child develops at their own pace, failure to reach particular milestones can indicate developmental delays. If you know what to look out for, you could be able to detect early symptoms of developmental differences that are associated with autism in babies. Remember that autistic baby symptoms aren’t in the presence of unexpected behaviors but rather in the lack of development in expected behaviors and skills by a certain age. 

In this article, we’re going to look at the importance of early detection and the common signs of autism in babies. 

The importance of observation and early diagnosis

The importance of early detection and intervention cannot be understated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that most parents will notice early signs of autism within the first year, and 80 to 90% will pick up developmental differences by the time their child is two years old.  

 
As a parent or caregiver, you have unique insight into their daily behaviors and interactions. You will likely be the first person to notice any developmental milestones or early signs of autism in your child. 

Early diagnosis and intervention are critical, as they allow specialists to start working with autistic children in the crucial developmental years.  

Any therapist or professional will tell you that the earlier you detect and diagnose autism, the more effective any therapy will be. This is particularly true for targeted programs like Lighthouse fusion ABA therapy

Research clearly shows that early intervention is critical for improved outcomes in skills development. It also helps reduce the challenging behaviors that hinder autistic children in social and educational settings. 

Neuroplasticity is higher in young children, which means that their brains can more easily change and adapt to their experiences. Intervention at an early age offers a better chance for an autistic child’s brain development to be positively influenced by therapy. Therapists can help create and shape new positive neural pathways that benefit the child and their parents or caregivers. 

Developmental milestones as early indicators of autism 

There are several developmental milestones in a child’s early years. These are some of the most important to look out for. 

Smiling 

A child will often smile for the first time between six and eight weeks old. Your baby should be smiling, giggling, and chuckling by four months. They should also respond to your smile, laugh, or efforts to engage them.  

Verbal communication

Some autistic children are non-verbal communicators and won’t develop the same verbal communication in infancy as allistic (non-autistic) infants. A baby will start to gurgle and make noises early on and could start to say words like “mama” from six to 12 months. However, 16 months is the usual limit for a single word, and they should know two-word phrases by age two. 

Gesturing

Infants should have a broad range of movements by six months old. They should be reaching for things, leading, or pointing. Mimicking your gestures, like kisses, is also expected. 

Fine and gross motor skills

Grip strength, and finger and wrist movements are fine motor skills, while larger body movements like walking, running, and balance, etc., are gross motor skills. These are all important milestones. 

Crawling 

Crawling is a hugely significant milestone as it requires coordination and balance. Children should be able to crawl by 12 months and walk by 18 months. 

What are the signs of autism in babies?

The milestones above will start to develop between six months and a year old, but it’s also important to keep in mind that all children develop at different rates. One of the following on its own is not a sign of autism in a baby, but if your baby shows a few of the symptoms, then it’s worth going to a doctor for an assessment. 

Some early signs of autism in babies include: 

Lack of social smiling

Autistic babies smile but don’t smile as much as allistic babies. Typically, a baby will smile back at you as early as six weeks, but certainly by four months. Autistic children tend to lack social smiling in response to your gestures. 

Lack of eye contact

Babies like to make eye contact from a very young age. This allows them to mimic their parents or caregivers, and it’s interesting for them. Autistic babies may not make eye contact. 

Not responding to their name or attempts to engage

Most babies will respond to their name by nine months, while they should respond to attempts to engage them much earlier on.  

Lack of social anticipation

Allistic babies can usually anticipate social interactions. For example, they might lift their arms in anticipation of being lifted out of their cribs or laugh or cry in response to peek-a-boo. It’s worth looking into if your child is not anticipating these kinds of social interactions by about nine months. 

Limited eye tracking

Eye tracking is another vital marker. Babies should follow their favorite toy if you move it around in front of them, or they should visually track your movements. 

No social babbling and limited verbal communication

Babies are highly social beings, and they will babble to themselves and you while learning to talk. Autistic babies can be slow to verbalize or might babble at a young age, but this could stop after a certain point.  

Fixations

Autistic children tend to develop fixations on particular subjects or textures when they are older. Babies might develop fixations on unusual objects like fans or certain parts of a toy. They could also fixate on ceiling or floor patterns.  

Sensory sensitivity 

Autistic children tend to have sensory issues that can become more apparent as they grow up, but even babies can display sensory sensitivities that might be a sign of neurodivergence. This usually includes signs of distress like hand waving, covering their ears, and more. While this differs between individuals, it usually includes sensitivity to bright lights, certain noises, smells, and more. 

On the other hand, an autistic baby could have hyposensitivity in some areas, which means that they are under-responsive to certain stimuli. 

Get the quality of life your child deserves with early intervention therapy at LAC

At the Lighthouse Autism Center, we fuse the best speech and ABA therapy practices to create a unique clinical model that delivers outstanding results for autistic children. Combined with the vast array of autism resources at your disposal, LAC offers the best chance of the future that your child deserves. 

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Is Autism A Disability?

We take a look at the different models and definitions of disability and where autism fits in. We also cover whether autistic individuals are eligible for disability benefits.

Is Autism a Disability

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a diverse group of neurodevelopmental disorder conditions that affects around 1 in 36 children in the United States. However, autism looks different for every individual. We use the term “spectrum” because there is a wide variety in the type and severity of the symptoms that autistic people experience.  

Many parents and caretakers wonder whether autism is a disability. If not, is it a disorder? Or could it just be a difference in the way that people respond to the world around them?  

Should we think of autism as a disability? The truth is that it depends. Some autistic people do not identify as disabled, while others embrace the term. The only reason this definition is important is because it is used by the Social Services Administration (SSA) to determine whether parents, caretakers, or individuals are eligible to receive disability benefits for autism. 

In this article, we will look at the different models of disability, where autism as a disability fits in, and the disability benefits that parents, caregivers, and individuals can take advantage of. 

What is a disability?

Before thinking of autism as a disability, it’s important to comprehend the relationship between the two by looking at the two most common definitions of disability in the U.S. 

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an individual with a disability can be defined as “a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.” 

The definition of a medical disability, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is “any condition of the body or mind (impairment) that makes it more difficult for the person with the condition to do certain activities (activity limitation) and interact with the world around them (participation restrictions).” 

Disability models 

There are a number of different ways of thinking about what constitutes a disability. The medical and social models have been the most common over the years, but a neurodiversity approach has also gained traction over the last few years. Here are some of the key aspects of each model. 

Medical model of disability

Although the medical model of disability is still used, it’s a bit of an outdated concept for neurodiverse disorders. It refers to a disability that results from a physical condition that causes disadvantages to the person. The focus of this model is working on the person to try to “fix” the disability to lessen or eliminate the disadvantages it is causing.  

This model often requires autistic people to mask or hide their symptoms in order to present as neurotypical. Repression is not an ideal solution, and this can lead to increased depression and anxiety. 

Social model of disability

The social model of disability recognizes that a person might have impairments, but it is the restrictions imposed on these individuals by society that cause them to be at a disadvantage. Disability is seen as an element of diversity, and disadvantages are less obvious when societal and environmental barriers are removed.  

It strives for societal changes rather than changes to the individual. Accommodations should be made for autistic people to ensure that they have the same opportunities as others despite their impairments. 

An example of accommodations made in schools for autistic children can be using visual aids, having peer mentors, allowing extra time, and reducing sensory distractions, among others.  

Neurodiversity approach to disability 

The neurodiversity approach is gaining traction, and it builds on the social model. The approach in this model is that brains, like physical appearance, are all different and that this diversity should be valued. 

It focuses on healthy growth and positive reinforcement to reduce negative habits and behaviors while simultaneously adjusting environmental and societal conditions to give neurodiverse individuals equal opportunities.  

The type of intervention used varies from person to person and will be based on which approach will be the most beneficial for the individual. Changes to the individual are more about learning adaptive behaviors rather than trying to “normalize” the person.  

Adaptive behaviors are taught through a combination of applied behavior analysis (ABA), occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy. 

What type of disability is autism? 

Technically, autism is a developmental disability that stems from structural and functional differences in the brain. While autism and some learning disabilities can go hand in hand, autism certainly has nothing to do with the intelligence of individuals. More specifically, it is about behavioral and social impairments that prevent autistic people from learning like neurotypical students in a traditional classroom environment. 

With a combination of the right therapy, support structures, and accommodations, some autistic children and individuals can overcome and adapt to the barriers around them. 

Can autistic individuals receive disability benefits? 

Yes, people on the autism spectrum can get disability benefits. There are two kinds of autism disability benefits for eligible individuals, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). These are:  

  • Social Security Disability Income (SSDI): This benefit is for adults who have worked in the past but who can no longer do so due to disability. 
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI): This benefit is for disabled children and adults from lower-income situations. There is no requirement to have previously worked. 

Of course, there are strict levels of criteria that individuals must meet to qualify for these benefits. However, autistic individuals who don’t meet the requirements could still qualify for other benefits such as a medical-vocational allowance, a Medicaid waiver, and other state-specific benefits. 

Get early intervention and support with Lighthouse Autism Center 

While autism is considered a disability from a legal and medical standpoint, it’s critical to be aware of the fact that not all autistic individuals self-identify as disabled. There are many different ways of defining a disability, but the most important thing is that autistic individuals get support and services as early as possible. 

Our Lighthouse Fusion ABA therapy provides a uniquely high standard of care and assistance for autistic children. We have a passionate team of professionals and a huge archive of autism resources that ensure autistic individuals have access to world-class support. 

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential