Navigating the Path to Special Education: A Journey of Learning and Growth

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

Navigating the Path to Special Education: A Journey of Learning and Growth

Allison Steele’s Journey in Special Education Teaching

Allison Steele discusses her journey in Special Education, leading her to her current role at Lighthouse Autism Center. Lighthouse is excited to welcome Allison Steele to our Elkhart County Team. As a special education teacher with experience in Indiana and Michigan, Allison brings her deep knowledge and expertise of special education to Lighthouse where she will support learners in developing skills to help them be successful in the classroom. Allison is currently working with our Goshen center to implement a daily school routine while providing consultations and training to our Elkhart autism centers.

From Humble Beginnings in South Bend, Indiana

As I reflect on my journey through the realm of education, it’s remarkable to see how each step has shaped my understanding and approach to teaching. My voyage began with a Bachelor’s degree in English, with a focus on writing, coupled with minors in East Asian Studies and Psychology from Indiana University – South Bend (IUSB). Little did I know then that this would be just the starting point of an enriching expedition.

After completing my undergraduate studies, I embarked on a fulfilling yet challenging role as a substitute teacher in Michigan. This experience, which included long-term positions in Special Education for elementary grades, left an indelible mark on me. Witnessing the progress of my students ignited a desire to delve deeper into the field of education.

Pursuing Further Education to Provide Tailored Support

Fuelled by this newfound passion, I returned to Indiana University – South Bend to pursue a Master’s degree in Special Education. During this period, I had the privilege of working with elementary students in a General Education setting, providing tailored support in both academics and social skills development.

The culmination of my academic journey came during my Student Teaching, where I engaged with students across different age groups and needs. From elementary to secondary levels, the focus remained steadfast on nurturing academic proficiency, social adeptness, and life skills essential for post-high school transitions.

This diverse exposure equipped me with a repertoire of teaching methodologies and de-escalation techniques, which I honed further upon joining Lighthouse Autism Center (LAC) as a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT). At LAC, I delved into the intricacies of behavioral analysis and reinforcement strategies, recognizing the profound impact of effective communication and life skill cultivation.

Armed with invaluable insights and experiences, I completed my Master’s degree in Special Education and transitioned to a middle school setting in Indiana. The role provided an opportunity for further growth, with training in Special Education laws, protocols, and classroom management techniques.

Inclusive Learning with a Pre-academic Focus at Lighthouse Autism Center

However, my journey came full circle when I returned to LAC, this time as a Special Education Teacher. In this role, I engage with learners in a small group classroom environment, following a structured curriculum encompassing academics, specials (PE, Music, and Art), and social skills development. The ultimate goal is to prepare these learners for eventual integration into the public school system, equipped with the necessary tools for success.

As I traverse the dynamic landscape of Special Education, I am continually reminded of the transformative power of education. Each interaction, each challenge, serves as a catalyst for growth and learning, not just for my students but for myself as well. And as I navigate this ever-evolving terrain, I am reminded of the profound privilege it is to play a part in shaping the futures of those entrusted to my care.

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Lighthouse Autism Center Set to Open New Autism Center in Nebraska!

Lighthouse Autism Center is Bringing Autism Therapy Services to Lincoln, Nebraska

Lighthouse Autism Center (LAC) continues to expand, now with a network of centers in now five states – quite a journey from its humble beginnings serving four families in one building to now serving hundreds of families across five states for over a decade. It is truly amazing.  Our services to the Lincoln community include ABA therapy, our unique approach to speech therapy called Lighthouse Fusion®, autism diagnostic testing, parent training, pre-academic learning, and more!

Lincoln Autism Center coming, Summer of 2024

Our newest play-based ABA therapy center in Lincoln, Nebraska makes 2 children’s Lighthouse autism Center’s to open in Nebraska, with plans for additional locations. This new center is slated to open in the summer of 2024. Lincoln Autism Center will provide autism services to 30 families and create over 45 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 Lincoln, Nebraska. 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 child-lead 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 speech therapy 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 provides children with greater opportunity for speech development by fusing speech therapy directly into a child’s daily programing. We invite you to learn more here 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 402-534-1486 or visit our website.

Lincoln Center Contact Information

8400 Cody

Lincoln, Nebraska 68512

Family Outreach Phone: 402-534-1486

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.

Lighthouse Autism Center Staff Spotlight: Ruthie

Ruthie’s Lighthouse Autism Center Journey

Ruthie is a Registered Behavior Technician Trainer at our East Moline center and has been with Lighthouse Autism Center since July of 2023. She is a mom to a seven-year-old boy and her favorite hobbies are writing poetry and painting. Ruthie also enjoys trying new things and meeting new people. She is a huge movie buff and her idea of a perfect evening is sitting on the couch watching a good movie and eating popcorn.

What made you decide to apply to Lighthouse?

I made a choice years ago to work in different fields- never doing the same thing twice. I was determined to find my purpose. I worked jobs as complicated as the government and as simple as a warehouse. There was one job I could never get away from- children. Everywhere I went I found myself teaching or molding a child from different walks of life. I applied at Lighthouse not knowing what was in store. I saw the website and was sold almost immediately. I knew I could be a teacher but never knew about being a Registered Behavior Technician. I live to try things I’ve never tried, so I applied, and now my life is filled with so much more purpose. 

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

My favorite part of working for Lighthouse is its solid foundation, which is very important for autism and the people working with individuals on the spectrum. Change is good, but too much change creates inconsistency. I love the energy as well. Everyone here is happy to be here and this is something I rarely saw throughout my many career choices.

How would you describe your experience working for Lighthouse?

My experience here at Lighthouse has reached new levels mentally for me. I usually go into the workforce and grasp everything at the beginning and when I have reached the ceiling of elevation, I quit and move on to another career. Here at Lighthouse, there is no limit. There are more opportunities and space to grow, if you are willing to work for it. I’m constantly challenged, creatively, mentally, and physically. I love the fact that I can be my authentic self and use my creativity to help each learner reach their goal.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time here?

My favorite memory from my time at Lighthouse happened within my first month of joining the team. When I was in training, I was so worried that I was not grasping all the terms and understanding how to run the programs. Every step of the way someone on the team was yelling “Go Ruthie” or “You got this” and it gave me the push and encouragement I needed to succeed. Now I can do the same for other trainees. 

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

While I do not have a college degree and I have never worked with children diagnosed with autism before Lighthouse, within 6 months I have advanced to an RBT Trainer through hard work and training from my fellow team members. Something that has not been easy as a single parent. If you are afraid because you believe you are not enough or you can’t help a child with autism, then you are the right person for the job because you have humility. All of this to say: “The sky is not the limit; it is only a point of reference.” —-Pastor Frank R. Livingston.

Ready for a career where you can make a difference?

Tips for Creating a Sleep Schedule

From difficulty relaxing to irregular melatonin levels, both autistic children and adults may experience trouble falling and staying asleep. Learn how to better manage your child’s sleep schedule by creating a healthy bedtime routine with these expert tips.

Autism and Sleep: Tips for Creating a Sleep Schedule

From difficulty relaxing to irregular melatonin levels, both autistic children and adults may often experience trouble falling and staying asleep. A 2022 study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry showed that up to 80% of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) experience sleep problems, which can have a significant impact on their overall well-being and daily functioning. 

Join us as we explore how and when to start a bedtime routine, with helpful tips from our experts. 

How does autism affect sleep?

The exact cause of sleep difficulties in autistic individuals is not fully understood. However, research suggests that there may be several factors involved, such as sensory processing issues, anxiety, medication side effects, and co-occurring medical conditions. 

Lack of quality sleep can have a profound impact on any child. It can lead to daytime fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating, which can affect their behavior and ability to learn. Poor sleep quality has also been linked to increased aggression and self-injurious behavior in some autistic children. Additionally, sleep problems can exacerbate existing sensory and anxiety issues, creating a vicious cycle of disrupted sleep. 

Here are 10 tips for helping your child get the best sleep possible. 

1: Maintain a consistent wake-up and night routine 

The key to creating a successful sleep schedule is to maintain a consistent wake-up and bedtime every day, including weekends. This helps regulate your child’s circadian rhythm (or body clock) and promotes better sleep quality at night. It’s also essential to establish a nighttime routine, such as brushing teeth, changing into pajamas, and reading a bedtime story. 

2: Implement appropriate bedtime boundaries

Setting boundaries around bedtime is crucial for all children. Clearly communicate and uphold the rules and expectations around bedtime, such as no electronics or snacks before bed. This helps your child understand what behaviors are acceptable and expected before bedtime. 

3: Avoid stimuli

Various factors can influence an autistic child’s sleep habits, so it’s important to practice good sleep hygiene. This includes avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and sugar close to bedtime, as they can interfere with your child’s ability to fall asleep. Similarly, screen time should be limited in the hours leading up to bedtime. The blue light emitted by screens can disrupt the natural sleep cycle and make it more difficult for your child to fall asleep. Creating an environment that encourages relaxation and sleep, free from these stimulants, can significantly improve your child’s autism and sleep habits. 

4: Create healthy sleep associations 

Sleep associations are essential for all children, but especially for those with autism. These are things that your child associates with sleep, such as a favorite stuffed animal or a special blanket. Introducing these items into their bedtime routine can help them feel more comfortable and at ease. 

5: Curate a safe, comfortable sleeping environment

Creating a safe and comfortable sleeping environment is essential. This may include using calming colors in their bedroom, minimizing distractions, and making sure the room is at a comfortable temperature. Another factor to consider is their pajamas and bedding. Because of sensory sensitivities, you’ll want to ensure that they are sleeping in and on soft, breathable fabrics that don’t cause any irritation. 

6: Do relaxation training

Autistic individuals may have difficulty relaxing their bodies and calming their minds before bedtime. To combat this, you can try relaxation training techniques such as deep breathing exercises or progressive muscle relaxation. These techniques can help your child unwind and prepare for sleep. Try a few techniques to see which they enjoy the most, then practice consistently as part of their bedtime routine. Speak to a professional to learn how to practice these helpful autism tools for parents

7: Eliminate household noises

Certain noises can be disruptive and make it difficult for your child to fall asleep. To create a more peaceful environment, eliminate any household noises that may disturb them. This could include using a white noise machine or earplugs to block out external noises. 

8: Use a bedtime social story

Social stories are visual aids that can help children with autism understand and process new situations. By creating a bedtime social story, you can prepare your child for the steps involved in getting ready for bed. This can help make their bedtime routine more predictable. 

9: Introduce a weighted blanket

Weighted blankets have been found to be beneficial for autistic children as they provide deep pressure and can help promote relaxation. While a 2014 study published in Pediatrics suggests that weighted blankets neither increase sleep time nor decrease time spent falling asleep, they do provide extra comfort and soothing, making bedtime more appealing. 

10: Ensure adequate physical activity each day

Regular exercise can help improve sleep quality and regulate the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. Make sure your child gets enough physical activity during the day to promote better sleep at night. To make this part of your child’s bedtime routine, you can start doing family walks before dinner. 

Small changes lead to big improvements with Lighthouse Autism Center

Discover more helpful autism resources from our team of experts. For even more guidance and support, consider Lighthouse Fusion ABA therapy. Our innovative method combines speech and ABA therapy, providing your child with one-on-one learning with a team of dedicated professionals. 

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Managing Autism and Food Aversion

Food aversion is a common challenge faced by autistic individuals. By learning about the root cause and applying practical tips, as well as leveraging the help of professionals when needed, you can support your child in overcoming their food aversions to enjoy a healthy relationship with meal times.

Tips for Managing Autism and Food Aversion 

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects an individual’s communication, behavior, social skills, and often, sensory processing. One of the common challenges faced by autistic children is food aversion or refusal. This can be caused by various factors, including sensory issues, anxiety, and rigid eating habits. Join us as we explore the root cause of these issues and share practical tips and autism resources on how to help your child overcome their food aversions. 

What is food aversion in autism?

So, what is a food aversion? Food aversion, also known as selective eating or picky eating, refers to the reluctance or refusal to eat certain foods. This behavior is commonly observed in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and can have a significant impact on their health and development. Children with food aversion may have limited diets and may only eat a small variety of foods, making it challenging to meet their nutritional needs. 

Signs your child may be experiencing aversion to foods: 

  • Refusal to eat specific types or textures of food or to try new foods. 
  • Intense negative reactions such as gagging or vomiting when presented with new or disliked foods. 
  • Preference for certain foods, eaten in large amounts and to the exclusion of others. 
  • Consuming the same food continuously for several days, then suddenly refusing it. 
  • Only agreeing to eat if specific conditions are met, such as using a certain plate or the food being prepared in a particular way. 

Common causes of food aversion

There are a number of reasons why autistic children may have food aversions. Identifying the root cause is essential in the process of addressing it effectively. Before diving into any behavioral reasons for food aversions, it is always recommended to have a thorough medical evaluation to ensure there is no medical reason for what you are seeing. Most behavior analysts and speech language pathologist will request a confirmed clearance from your child’s pediatrician before starting any food goals or programming.  

Sensory sensitivities

Autistic individuals often have sensory processing issues that can affect their eating habits. They may be sensitive to certain textures, tastes, or smells of food. As a result, they may refuse to eat foods that feel unpleasant to them. 

Transitioning difficulties

Autistic children tend to thrive on routines and familiarity. Introducing new foods or changing the way a food is prepared can be a challenging experience. They may feel anxious and overwhelmed by changes, leading to food refusal. 

Rigid eating patterns

Autistic individuals typically exhibit rigid or repetitive behaviors, including when it comes to food choices. They may prefer to eat the same foods every day and become distressed when their routine is disrupted. 

Gastrointestinal issues

Some studies have shown a link between gastrointestinal (GI) issues and autism. Children with ASD may experience discomfort or pain after eating, making them avoid triggering foods. 

The relation between sensory processing disorder and food 

A significant factor contributing to food aversion in autistic children is sensory processing disorder (SPD). Autistic children may have difficulties in processing sensory information – which includes not only taste but also texture, color, smell, and even the sound that food makes when it’s chewed. This hypersensitivity can lead to feelings of irritation, overwhelm, frustration, stress, and panic attacks. This results in a preference for certain foods and rejection of others, leading to a highly limited diet.  

For instance, a child might only accept crunchy foods and reject soft or pureed ones. Similarly, they might be more sensitive to spicy or sour flavors, preferring bland foods instead. Understanding the link between SPD and food aversion can help parents and caregivers approach mealtime with empathy and patience. It’s also beneficial for professionals in creating customized interventions. 

How to overcome food aversions

Keep meal times structured and routine 

Maintaining a consistent meal schedule can help your child understand when it’s time to eat and what to expect during mealtimes. Keep to a specific number of meals each day, at specific times, to create a sense of structure and familiarity. 

If your child has difficulty eating larger meals, offer them snacks, again, keeping to a regular routine. This can help them stay nourished throughout the day and avoid feeling too hungry or full during mealtimes. 

Take small steps toward new foods 

Most autistic children prefer routine and consistency, which makes it challenging for them to accept new foods. To overcome this, introduce new foods gradually and in small portions. A practical example of this process would be starting with a familiar food that your child already enjoys, such as chips, and then substituting it for something with a similar texture, such as banana chips. Once the banana flavor is palatable, you could move to sliced bananas. The final step after that would be introducing a whole banana. 

Involve your child in the cooking process

Involving your child in meal prep and grocery shopping can help increase their interest in trying new foods. You can have them pick out a new item at the store to try or have them help with simple tasks, such as stirring or mixing during cooking. 

This also serves as a playful opportunity to teach your child about different foods and their benefits, helping them develop a better understanding and appreciation for a varied diet. 

Get professional assistance

If your child’s food aversion is causing nutritional deficiencies or health issues, it may be necessary to seek professional help from a therapist or nutritionist who specializes in autism.  

At Lighthouse Autism Center, we provide tailored strategies for addressing food refusal in autistic children and offer effective autism tools for parents. We can also help address any underlying sensory issues or behavioral challenges that may be contributing to the aversion. 

Lighthouse Autism Center 

With patience, persistence, and support, you can help your child manage their food aversions and enjoy a healthy relationship with food. During Lighthouse Fusion ABA therapy, your child receives one-on-one ABA therapy with a selection of dedicated professionals, tailored to their specific needs. 

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Tips for Shopping With Autistic Children in Overstimulating Environments 

The grocery store can be an overwhelming experience for autistic children. Here are tips for shopping with autistic children in overstimulating environments.

Autism-Friendly Shopping Tips for Overstimulating Environments

Everyday shopping, such as in a grocery store, might seem like a pretty straightforward experience to most, but for autistic children, it can be seriously overwhelming. Grocery stores are prime candidates for sensory overload, with bright lights, music, people, shopping carts, vegetable misters, and beeping registers all adding to what might already be a stressful outing. 

The way you approach everyday shopping can make a world of difference for you and your child. It does require some preparation, but it goes a long way to relieve undue stress. Of course, it is important to learn the signs of overstimulation with autism so that you can react in the right way, but by preparing yourself and your child for everyday shopping experiences, you will hopefully prevent any overstimulation from the start. 

Here are some helpful tips for sensory overload and how to avoid it when shopping. 

1. Be Proactive: Think About Your Child’s Sensory Experiences

It’s better to anticipate potential triggers than to hope for the best. Think about the elements that could cause your child distress. If you identify and understand these triggers, you can either help your child avoid them or create a plan to manage the situations that could lead to sensory overload. By thinking ahead, you can discover how to avoid sensory overload. Are the noises an issue? Bring headphones. Do they like touching everyone? Bring fidgets in the store with you.  

2. Stay Organized

You can start with a written schedule and a visual checklist for your child to follow along with. If you are organized, the shopping trip can proceed much more smoothly. While you might enjoy a trip to the mall and browsing for hours, limiting your time in the shops and getting only what you came for will help keep your child from feeling overwhelmed. Ensure that you write down what you need and get to those things and out of the store as quickly as you can. Think about going in order of the isles in a store you know and ensuring you aren’t running around the store.  

3. Make Multiple Shorter Tips to the Shops

If you’ve got a huge list of things to buy, it might be best to do it in little bits rather than in one go. So, instead of doing one big monthly shop, perhaps split it into weekly visits. This makes each shopping experience shorter and also gets your child used to visiting the grocery store and learning an important life skill that they will need in the future. 

4. Look for a Quiet Zone 

It’s beneficial to know how to deal with overstimulation in autism while shopping. For instance, find a quiet zone so that your child can catch a breather from the busy areas. Look for a less populated area in the shop and know this spot before you get there with your child. This will help if your child is experiencing sensory overload or is uncomfortable in any way.  

5. Bring a Sensory Toolkit 

A sensory kit can provide comfort while shopping. You could pack sensory items such as fidget toys, a favorite blanket, and headphones. The sensory kit can also help with self-regulation. Fidget spinners or soft toys can actually provide a comforting touch and promote a sense of security. 

6. Choose Stores Wisely 

Do some research on shops that prioritize inclusivity and understand the unique needs of autistic children. Look for stores that have a reputation for creating sensory-friendly environments. These environments could include softer lighting, well-organized spaces, and quieter atmospheres. Some stores have special carts for kids (and adults) with disabilities that help to contain them and keep them comfortable. 

7. Set Realistic Expectations

Realistic expectations are crucial for creating a positive experience. When you recognize that unexpected factors may influence your child’s behavior, you can be flexible in these situations and adjust accordingly. It is important to communicate with your child about the upcoming shopping trip: remember to use visual support or social stories to set expectations. Social stories are short descriptions of everyday situations that are depicted visually; you can run through them with your child before an activity or event in order to make it a less stressful experience for them. 

A good idea would be to break down the shopping excursion into manageable steps. If you’re open to embracing the possibility of minor challenges and seeing them as opportunities for growth, it could end up being a positive experience.  

8. Celebrate Small Victories

Be on the lookout for small victories that you can acknowledge and celebrate with your child and reinforce their efforts. This will establish a positive and supportive environment. Completing a shopping task should never be prioritized over your child’s well-being. Sometimes a successful trip to the store means getting one item and leaving on a positive note.  

9. Use Reinforcement and Praise 

Using positive reinforcement is an excellent way to make the shopping experience more pleasant for your child. Set small goals. Perhaps you could set a ten-minute timer and reward your child with a token after every ten minutes. They can then use their tokens to ‘buy’ something before you leave the store or exchange them for a reward when you get home. 

 
Don’t forget to praise your child when they do well at the store, too. This means that they feel comfortable in their environment, or they use healthy coping mechanisms that they have learned to get through the shopping experience. It’s important to remember that this can be an extremely overwhelming experience for them, so visual praise will go a long way to creating a more positive experience for you both. 

Lighthouse Autism Center

Dealing with autism overstimulation during a shopping trip requires a combination of understanding, preparation, and supportive strategies.  

Speaking to an autism specialist can guide you on the best choices to make for your autistic child. At Lighthouse Autism Center, we have programs such as Lighthouse Fusion ABA Therapy to assist both parents and their autistic children. Our autism tools for parents can help to relieve the stress that can come with shopping. 

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Lighthouse Autism Center to Open Two New Iowa Autism Centers!

Lighthouse Autism Center is Bringing Autism Therapy Services to Marion and North Liberty, Iowa

Lighthouse Autism Center (LAC) continues to expand, now with a network of centers in now five states – quite a journey from its humble beginnings serving four families in one building to now serving hundreds of families across five states for over a decade. It is truly amazing.  Our services to the Marion and North Liberty communities include ABA therapy, our unique approach to speech therapy called Lighthouse Fusion®, autism diagnostic testing, parent training, social skills group services, pre-academic learning, and more!

Marion and North Liberty Autism Center coming, Summer of 2024

Our newest play-based ABA therapy centers in Marion and North Liberty, Iowa makes 4 children’s Lighthouse autism Center’s to open in Iowa. These new centers are slated to open in the summer of 2024. Marion Autism Center will provide autism services to 25 families and create over 35 new jobs in the area and North Liberty Autism Center will provide autism services to 30 families and create over 45 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 Marion and North Liberty, Iowa. 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 child-lead 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 speech therapy 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 provides children with greater opportunity for speech development by fusing speech therapy directly into a child’s daily programing. We invite you to learn more here 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 402-534-1486 or visit our website.

Marion Center Contact Information

3297 Armar Drive

Marion, Iowa 52302

Family Outreach Phone: 563-526-0533

North Liberty Center Contact Information

5 Lions Drive

North Liberty, Iowa 52317

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.

Sensory Items for Autism – Lighthouse Autism Center

Sensory items for Autism can have profound benefits for Autistic children, including enhancing motor skills and providing comfort and calamity. Here are some of the best sensory toys to purchase.

A Guide to Sensory Items for Autistic Children 

Welcome to this safe and informative space where you can delve into the world of sensory items for Autism. The American Psychiatric Association added sensory sensitivities to the list of symptoms that help diagnose Autism in 2013. If your child is dealing with sensory issues, you should strongly consider getting sensory toys for Autism for them to play with. Other sensory items, such as a sensory weighted blanket, can also prove to be beneficial. What are sensory toys? These toys and items are specifically designed to stimulate a child’s five senses: sound, touch, smell, taste, and sight. These could include sensory lights or different textures.  

How Do Sensory Toys Help Autism

Many Autistic children can experience sensory processing differences, which can lead to sensory sensitivities or seeking behaviors. By having these toys and noise-canceling headphones, it can help regulate sensory experiences. It provides Autistic children with the chance to control and comfort themselves in these sensory environments. Children can begin to relax, focus, and calm down in these sensory scenarios or events. These toys and items can further help develop social learning skills such as planning, negotiating, and sharing. It is important to be aware that different sensory toys can help enhance different sensory experiences and developmental skills in Autistic children. Introducing sensory items into daily life can prove to be phenomenally beneficial to your child. 

Understanding Different Types of Sensory Issues and Challenges

Autistic children can be over or under-reactive to sensory stimuli. There are two broad types of sensory challenges that Autistic children could experience, namely, hyper-sensitivity and hypo-sensitivity.  

Hypersensitivity

Hyper-sensitive children are overly responsive to stimulants. This is often referred to as “sensory overload.” Both extreme and regular stimuli, such as strong smells or bright lights, can make hyper-sensitive children feel overwhelmed.  

Hyposensitivity

Hypo-sensitive children are under-responsive to senses and stimulants. For example, a child might have a low sensitivity to pain. They could also be under-responsive to body signals that affect balance control and physical coordination. Sensory weighted blankets and strong-tasting or textured foods are great stimuli for hypo-sensitive children.  

What Are the Best Sensory Toys for Autism?

Here are 10 recommendations for what to buy an Autistic child.  

1. Sensory Balls

Parents can purchase sensory balls so that children can engage with  

multiple senses, and enhance fine and gross motor skills while providing a wonderful calming tactile experience. Rolling, squeezing, or bouncing sensory balls can help to improve grip strength and coordination. You can find sensory balls in various textures and sizes. 

2. A Weighted Blanket

Weighted blankets can be good for Autism-related anxiety. Thanks to the even distribution of weight, these unique blankets help to stimulate the production of serotonin and can reduce cortisol.  

3. Chewable Jewelry 

Autistic children can satisfy their oral sensory needs, reducing the urge to chew unsafe objects. Parents can buy chewable necklaces and bracelets that are made from safe, non-toxic silicone materials that children can safely chew on. This jewelry is made in a variety of textures, from ridges, dots, and patterns, or they can be smooth too. 

4. Fidget Spinners

You’ve most likely come across fidget spinners, as they have become quite popular in recent years. Fidget spinners are great for keeping children’s hands occupied. These small handheld devices have rotating child-friendly blades that offer visual and tactile stimulation.  

5. Kinetic Sand

This moldable, sensory play material sticks to itself but not to surfaces. Kinetic sand offers a soothing tactile experience and helps to encourage imaginative play for all children. It provides a calming sensory outlet for Autistic children. The ability to bend, mold, squish and cut these substances encourages them to explore and create freely with their hands. 

6. Noise-Canceling Headphones 

Noise-canceling headphones have been proven to be incredibly effective for Autistic children. Being overwhelmed audibly can cripple Autistic children. Noise-canceling headphones can help create a much more pleasant and quieter auditory environment. These headphones are great to have in crowded settings such as airports, malls, and classrooms. 

7. Vibrating Pillow

The smoothing motion and calm sound help to calm your child. Research also shows that vibrating sensory toys can help improve verbal initiations and responses in children. The gentle vibrations provide a comforting sensation which helps them regulate their sensory experiences. 

Lighthouse Autism Center

These sensory items can provide tactile stimulation, enhance auditory processing, and encourage motor skill development. Sensory development plays an important role in helping Autistic children. These powerful allies offer great comfort, empowerment, and a pathway to self-expression for Autistic children. Autism tools for parents are vital to support you and the unique needs of your child and family. Lighthouse Fusion ABA Therapy is amongst the programs that can enhance better outcomes for children with Autism.  

*Please refer to a licensed practitioner prior to implementing any of the above suggestions.

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Lighthouse Autism Center Staff Spotlight: Gracie

Gracie’s Lighthouse Autism Center Journey

Gracie is a Registered Behavior Technician at our Daleville center and has been with Lighthouse Autism Center since June of 2023. She graduated from Ball State University with a bachelor’s degree in childhood education. Gracie has one dog and two cats and enjoys spending time with her family, traveling with her husband and working out.

What made you decide to apply to Lighthouse?

While student teaching, I realized that I enjoyed working one-on-one with children rather than teaching a full class. When I saw the position at LAC, I was very excited to learn more!

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

My favorite part of working for Lighthouse is watching the progress that all the learners in the center have made since I have began working! Watching them grow and learn new things everyday is so great. I am so thankful for all the wonderful staff at LAC as well. They are all so supportive and caring.

How would you describe your experience working for Lighthouse?

My experience working at Lighthouse has been nothing short of amazing. It is such a rewarding job that I am thankful to be a part of.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time here?

One of my favorite memories from my time at Lighthouse is when we had our fall festival. This was my first event at the center for all of the learners and their families. It was so great to be able to watch the families be able to enjoy a fun evening full of fall activities in a safe and welcoming environment! Not to mention seeing all of the children so happy to be there with their families! 

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

Working at Lighthouse Autism Center is such a fun and rewarding job. There may be hard days here and there, but I believe it is best to stay positive and know that you are making the biggest difference in these children’s lives. 

Ready for a career where you can make a difference?

Lighthouse Autism Center Partners with South Bend Police and Fire Departments to provide Autism Training

LAC to Provide Autism Training to the City of South Bend

Police and Firefighters in the city of South Bend, Indiana will attend a new training provided by Lighthouse Autism Center in early 2024 to help them better serve individuals with autism during crisis.  The training is meant to help emergency responders with techniques for approaching and building rapport, communication, de-escalation and safety. These skills will help first responders to determine what actions to take to better communicate and to help bring an individual with autism to safety. Similar to this training, Lighthouse has provided autism training to Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital and many other community organizations and healthcare providers!

Community Education at Lighthouse Autism Center

Lighthouse Autism Center offers a community education program that works with any local community organization or healthcare provider who is looking to better understand how to support and advocate for those with autism. Sessions are led by our highly experienced team of Board Certified Behavior Analyst’s (BCBA’s) and involve information on the signs and characteristics of autism, and appropriate interactions and de-escalation techniques. These trainings are tailored to specific organizations such as first responders, police departments, medical facilities, libraries, collage healthcare programs, and more. Participants are invited to ask our clinical team about specific situations or questions, and Lighthouse offers a free autism resource kit with each presentation. This kit includes materials that may help individuals on the spectrum meet their sensory needs and aid in communication. This is just one of the ways Lighthouse is pursuing it’s mission to “positively impact individuals with autism and those that care for them,” by bringing awareness to autism, educating parents and caregivers on the signs of autism, and giving the communities we serve the tools to foster an environment of inclusivity and acceptance of neurodiversity.

Autism Friendly Certification

As part of Lighthouse’s commitment to community education, Lighthouse is also in the final stages of designing an Autism Friendly Certification program for local organizations looking to train their teams on skills and techniques for interacting with and supporting individuals with autism. This program will be free to community organizations and will include both online training modules as well as live training sessions with clinical team members.

To request an Autism Training, submit a form here: https://lighthouseautismcenter.com/request-a-training-form/

ABA and Speech Therapy at Lighthouse Autism Center

ABA Therapy principles have been applied since the early 1960s to both children and adults with various developmental diagnosis. Since then, there has been an evolution and improvement in the therapy techniques used in ABA, however, the core teaching of ABA has stayed the same. ABA is scientifically validated, and data driven and consistently shows the best outcomes for children with autism.

At Lighthouse Autism Center, we offer the highest quality ABA and speech therapy in a beautiful, play-based environment. With an innovative speech therapy model called Lighthouse Fusion®, children are making greater progress, faster, all while having fun. Children are immersed in imaginary spaces where they can naturally explore their interests, engage in sensory experiences, and practice language. Each child’s progress can be seen in smiles and laughter, because we know children learn best when they’re having fun.

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Lighthouse Autism Center Staff Spotlight: Amanda

Amanda’s Lighthouse Autism Center Journey

Amanda is a Registered Behavior Therapist Training Coordinator at our Elkhart North center and has been with Lighthouse Autism Center since February of 2021. She graduated from Goshen College with a bachelor’s degree in physical education.

What made you decide to apply to Lighthouse?

After graduating during the middle of the school year, I couldn’t find the right fit anywhere. That is when I started looking into other jobs outside of what I went to school for. I had worked with students on the spectrum in gym class throughout college. However, I had no idea what ABA Therapy was or what it looked like. It was something new and I was still wanting to learn more. I knew I wanted to keep working with kids and being able to be 1 on 1 with the kiddos is what really caught my eye.

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

The environment! Everyone is welcoming, energetic, creative, and ready to teach little minds. The relationships! Not only the relationships and the rapport you build with the kiddos you are working with from day to day and their family, but the relationships you get to create with your co-workers. You work side by side with everyone all day and as we all may know, this job comes with some tough days. Having the people you work with know what you are experiencing allows for you to have someone to talk to and feel comfortable and supported. The Progress! This is number 1 in my book. You form a connection with your kiddos, learn them well, cheer them on and see them grow each day. A lot of this growth and progress we see is done by weaving in natural learning opportunities through play. Not a bad way to “work” in my eyes.

How would you describe your experience working for Lighthouse?

Rewarding, supportive, emotional in the best way. 

Do you have a favorite memory from your time here?

While being at Lighthouse, my favorite memories are all the graduations I have been able to attend. Being with the kiddos from the first day to their last is an emotional ride, but I wouldn’t change any of it. The growth we see with the kids, and then to continue to remain in contact with families to see their success after Lighthouse will always be something I cherish. 

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

Take the leap! Come in with an open mind and ready to learn! It is such a rewarding career!

Ready for a career where you can make a difference?

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