Safe Activities for Children with Autism

Safe Activities for Children with Autism

Safety is a prominent concern for any parent or caregiver of every child regardless of being on the autism spectrum. There are wide variety of activities that can help children with autism learn life skills, work on socialization, and so much more, all while having fun! Children with autism enjoy a variety of activities based on their abilities, skills, and needs.

Pretend Play

While playing with blocks, dolls, puppets or trains, children can create stories that match their interests, expand their imaginations and deal with real life. Pretend play also helps children with autism develop social skills and learn motor and life skills like going to the grocery store, dentist, or vet. All Lighthouse Autism Centers have play-based therapy rooms that immerse children in imaginary play spaces as well as naturalistic play spaces. These spaces offer more motivated learning opportunities. These naturalistic play-based spaces also help with children with autism learn how to tolerate overstimulating situations by bringing familiarity and even prompt speech and language opportunities.

Pretend restaurant

Help your child with their creativity by playing restaurant with them. A lot of kids love to do this as it becomes fun imaginative play. Use play food or hand-drawn food, a notepad and pen. You can also make play money to enhance the experience. Kids will love eating at the restaurant and taking orders.

Object Sorting

Sorting is an occupational therapy activity for children with autism. Collect various items such as play foods or toy blocks and have your child sort them into categories. Kids can also sort snacks by size, color, and similarities. Work on adding and subtracting with the snacks. This helps kids with colors, shapes, basic math, counting and more.

Imitation and Mirroring

Children with autism often struggle to make eye contact. A fun way to encourage the child to do so is by asking them to imitate you and/or others. Use a mirror or a game like patty cake as you help your child develop social and language skills. Games like Simon Says or Follow the Leader can also encourage imitation and mirroring skills for children with autism. These games can help improve social skills as well as motor skills in children with autism.

Music

The rhythm, repetition and sounds of music can calm children with autism and teach them important language, communication, and rhythm skills. Share songs that rhyme, include physical actions, or incorporate daily activities like getting dressed or eating food, and provide kids with opportunities to shake maracas, bang pans and play other instruments as they make music.

Singing

Encourage children with autism to sing. This is not only very important to child development, but for children to express themselves and be creative. Learn new songs together as a family. Play some of your favorite songs from when you were growing up.

Dancing

Lighthouse Autism Center celebrates Fun Fridays with a dance party! It’s important for children with autism to be creative in their movements. Dancing is very fun and expressive and supports motor skills and socialization!

Outdoors Activities and Playgrounds

Playground visits help children with autism stay active and calm their emotions and senses. Visit a park and allow children to slide, swing and run as they play alone or with peers. Lighthouse Autism Center offers private playgrounds at all our centers for active outdoor play.

Swimming

According to the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation (ASDF), swimming provides invaluable therapy for children with autism, as well as providing improved speech, coordination, social skills, self-esteem, and cognitive processing. Enrolling your child with autism into swimming lessons can be highly beneficial! Many children with autism are drawn to water for its calming, sensory experience. However, water can present as a major safety concern. Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children and adults on the autism spectrum. According to the National Autism Association, accidental drowning accounted for approximately 90% of total U.S. reported deaths in children with an ASD under the age of 14. Furthermore, introducing your child to water in a safe way and seeking swim lessons has been proven to be highly beneficial for children with autism.

Sensory Water table

Use a water table or a small inflatable or plastic pool, a bucket, or a bathtub. Drop items into the water to have your child scoop out with a kitchen spoon or tongs. Add toys, pompoms, balls and anything else that would engage your child in this fun and sensory exploration.

Swinging

Swinging is a very therapeutic activity for children with autism! There are so many ways to use a swing for therapy. All Lighthouse Autism Centers include a swing in our play spaces.  They are versatile in that they can be used for calming and self-regulation, or just a fun, enjoyable activity! Many parents of children with autism purchase sensory swings for at home use.

Water Balloon Toss

This is a simple and fun way to play catch while getting wet and staying cool in the heat. Toss balloons into buckets and knock over objects you have set up. Smaller balloons are harder to pop, so the smaller you make some balloons for games, the longer the play can continue.

Bubble Blowing

Blowing and catching bubbles is a favorite activity at Lighthouse Autism Center! This activity helps children with sensory and joint attention difficulties.

Drawing and Coloring

Drawing helps children with autism develop fine motor skills, work through emotions and experiment with colors, textures, and shapes. Provide crayons, paints, and pencils, and let them color a picture or create their own design on a blank canvas.

Story time

Story time is another favorite at our centers. Books are a great resource to work on various skills. Ask kids questions as you read. For example, if you were reading Cinderella you could ask, how would it feel to be the main character? What are some ways her stepsisters can show her kindness? If you were reading Aladdin, you could ask, if you had a magic carpet, where would you go? This helps children with autism learn empathy and helps them with perspective taking.

To learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorder, Visit: https://lighthouseautismcenter.com/children-with-autism/

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Sensory-Friendly Tips for Children with Autism on July 4th

Navigating the Holiday with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Holidays in general can be overwhelming and overstimulating for children with autism. The 4th of July Holiday can be one of the more overstimulating holidays consisting of large social gatherings, fireworks, parades, festivals and more! Preparing for these upcoming activities is crucial.

There are various ways to ensure that the holiday is safe and memorable for children with autism. Here are a few tips for families and caregivers of children with Autism:

Prepare your child in advance

Prepare your child in advance by telling them what is going to happen at the fireworks display or celebration. Focus on the fun aspect and let your child know that you are excited for these upcoming activities. Engage your child in the excitement and get them excited! Tell them about the holiday and stories of the good food, friends, and activities.  You can read your child books about similar celebrations or show them videos online or even take them to the location beforehand to introduce and bring familiarity to the situation. Create a plan for activities including timing, location, safety, and helpful supplies. Have a plan B. It is important to understand your child’s limits.

Determine a location and create a safe space

Choose a location where your child can retreat easily, such as at home with a view of fireworks, where a quiet room is available if they need a break from the noise and lights or watch by distance from inside your vehicle. You can also create a special space for your child to make them feel more comfortable by bringing their favorite comfort items such as a pillow and blanket or a chair.  It is important that your child feels comfortable and safe and has a space to prevent overstimulation. Create an escape plan if your child becomes too overstimulated. Events like community fireworks can become hectic, fast. As the crowd’s swell, noise grows, and children on the autism spectrum become prone to meltdowns. That is why identifying an escape route to a quiet place is important.

Bring helpful supplies and favorite items

Pack a bag ahead of time with sensory toys, games, and familiar snacks. Also consider headphones for children who are sensitive to loud sounds. As we all know, fireworks can pack a lot of sensory stimulation. Sensory items and snacks can provide a crucial distraction if your child gets antsy while waiting for activities to start.

Make safety a priority

Put a strong focus on safety around fireworks. Wandering and accidents can happen at any time.  However, being in an unfamiliar environment can increase the risk.

Ask for help

Be clear with other adults around you about how they can help make the event comfortable for your child with autism. Make sure your child knows how to ask for help and how to ask for a break from the party or noise. If your child is verbal, they may only need a reminder.  However, many children on the autism spectrum do best with a visual aid. For example, provide your child with a special card to hand to you when they need a break from the stimulation.

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Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Child with Autism | SSI Benefits

How a Child with Autism Can Qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits

We take a look at the requirements for the SSI benefits for children with autism and other key information. From financial requirements to starting a claim, find out what you need to know.

A diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is not just emotionally difficult for parents; it also means they may have to make big lifestyle changes. There are many therapies and treatments to assist children with autism, but in most cases, a parent or caretaker will need to tend to the child full-time.

This need for full-time care can lead to financial turmoil in a family, especially one that relies on a two-person income to support themselves. With the loss of one income and the expense of treatments and therapies, parents are often under enormous pressure.

Many parents don’t realize that the Social Security Administration (SSA) program offers supplemental security income (SSI) to support children with disabilities. If your family qualifies, autistic child SSI benefits can be a significant relief from financial pressure.

What is the SSA Benefits Program?

The SSA offers monthly disability benefits to parents of children with disabilities. While most children with autism have no difficulty qualifying for the SSI benefits, there are some strict criteria, which we will cover in more detail below. 

How To Qualify for the SSI Benefits Program

Is autism a disability under social security? Yes, autism is considered a disability that is eligible for benefits, providing the correct requirements are met. The SSA’s Blue Book covers what conditions children with ASD must have to qualify for benefits.

To be eligible for SSI benefits, children with autism must have:

  • Deficits in social interaction
  • Deficits in verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Significantly restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.

Parents must provide medical documentation to prove that their child has all three of the above deficits.

The child must also have an extreme limitation in one of these areas, or a severe limitation in two of these areas:

  • Understanding, remembering, or using information (ability to learn, remember, and use information, follow instructions, solve problems, and use reason to make decisions)
  • Interacting with others (ability to engage in interactive play, cooperate with others, maintain friendships, handle conflicts, initiate or sustain conversation, and understand social cues)
  • Focusing on activities (ability to engage in activities at a consistent pace, avoid distractions, and complete tasks in a timely manner)
  • Adapting or managing oneself (ability to regulate emotions, control behavior, protect oneself from harm, and maintain personal hygiene).

As mentioned above, parents must provide medical documentation to prove their child’s condition.

Financial Requirements To Qualify for Benefits

Financial limitations are the top reason why children with autism are denied SSI benefits. All parents with a child with autism that is under the age of 18 must meet the relevant financial requirements to access monthly benefits.

The SSA has an income cap that cannot be exceeded if a child is to qualify for SSI benefits. This cap increases with every adult that earns a wage, as well as the number of children in the household.

To prove that they qualify, parents must provide documentation such as a W-2 form or a federal tax return for each adult that earns a wage in the household.

How Much Does a Child with Autism Get From SSI?

So, how much is a disability check for autism? 

There isn’t a simple answer to this question because every child and their parents will be treated as an individual case, and this will impact how much they receive each month.

Currently, the full benefit amount is $841 a month. However, the SSA will then apply a formula to work out how much to deduct from this once the parents’ income has been considered.

Starting a Claim

One of our biggest tips for parents is to get the claim for SSI benefits started as soon as possible. The process can take months, so it’s important to make an appointment at your local SSA office when you can.

To prepare for your appointment, read through the SSA’s Child Disability Starter Kit to find out the exact paperwork you need.

Get the Best Therapy and Treatment for Your Child

The Lighthouse Autism Center offers the highest-quality therapy in a tranquil, play-based environment. Our innovative ABA (applied behavior analysis) therapy model, Lighthouse Fusion, helps children make greater progress, faster.

Contact us to get the best for your child.

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Asperger’s Signs and Symptoms

What Are the Characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome?

In this article, we take a look at Asperger’s syndrome, and describe its most common characteristics, how it differs from other autism disorders and how to treat it.

Asperger’s syndrome can be a difficult disorder for many parents to pick up since many children display Asperger’s characteristics as a normal part of their development. So it’s understandable why childhood Asperger’s is sometimes diagnosed a little later than other brain disorders on the autism spectrum.

We’re going to take a closer look at what Asperger’s syndrome is, along with some of its signs and characteristics, how it can be treated, and more.

What is Asperger’s Syndrome?

Asperger’s syndrome is a developmental disorder that falls into the autism spectrum. It’s a more mild type of brain disorder that affects behavior and makes it difficult for a person to communicate, interact, and form relationships with others.

Are Autism & Asperger’s Different?

As mentioned, Asperger’s is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD); however, it is not the same as an autistic disorder. The disorders that fall into the ASD group include: 

  • Autistic disorder
  • Rett syndrome
  • Childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD; also known as Heller’s syndrome)
  • Asperger’s syndrome
  • Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified.

 In general, these disorders are characterized in varying degrees by:

  • Difficulties in social interaction
  • Verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Repetitive behaviors.

What are the signs of Asperger’s?

It’s important to be aware of the Asperger’s signs and characteristics and how these set it apart from other diagnoses on the spectrum. Keep in mind that it is perfectly normal for toddlers to exhibit some of these symptoms, such as repetitiveness or one-sided conversations.

These are some of the most common signs of Asperger’s to keep an eye out for:

  • Displaying unusual nonverbal communication: Asperger’s and eye contact rarely go together, so avoiding eye contact is one of the first symptoms; also a limited number of facial expressions or awkward body positions and gestures. 
  • Engaging in one-sided and long-winded conversations without noticing if the listener is paying attention or if the listener is trying to change the subject.
  • Appearing to not understand, be sensitive to, or empathize with the feelings of others.
  • Showing an intense obsession with one or two specific and narrow subjects such as the weather, snakes, basketball stats, or train schedules.
  • Difficulty “reading” other people or getting the gist of humor or sarcasm.
  • Speaking in a rigid, monotonous voice or speaking unusually fast.
  • Clumsy movement and poor coordination.

It’s worth noting that there are some characteristics of Asperger’s that should be considered strengths. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Strong ability to focus 
  • Persistence 
  • Ability to recognize patterns
  • Attention to detail.

What Causes Asperger’s?

Although the cause of Asperger’s syndrome is not yet fully understood, there is a strong belief that it has a genetic basis and runs in families.

There are also some environmental risk factors associated with an increased risk of developing autism spectrum disorders, including:

  • Older parental age
  • Low birth weight
  • Exposure to the drug valproate in utero. 

Treatment for Asperger’s

A holistic treatment program for children with Asperger’s is the best possible plan. The combination of speech therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, along with the right support and medication, will benefit your child the most.

Get the Best Treatment for Your Child

Lighthouse Autism Center provides compassionate, center-based ABA (applied behavior analysis) therapy and services for children with autism disorders. Our one-of-a-kind approach combines compassionate care with clinical excellence to give every child the best possible treatment.

Contact us for more information on how we can help your child.

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Learn About CPI Training

What Is CPI Training?

We take a look at what CPI is and why it is so beneficial for de-escalating crises for children with autism.

At Lighthouse Autism Center, safety is our priority, and we take great pride in the safety of our centers. Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI) training is one of many safety precautions implemented at all Lighthouse Autism Centers. All of our employees receive weeks of training before beginning therapy with a child and are certified in First Aid, CPR, and CPI.

We’re going to take a closer look at what CPI is, the benefits of CPI techniques, and why we use it at the Lighthouse Autism Center.

What is CPI?

CPI is a strategy used for crisis prevention for a wide variety of people, including those with autism spectrum disorders. CPI can best be described as non-violent crisis intervention training designed to teach best practices for managing difficult situations and disruptive behaviors in children with autism. Behavior therapists or Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) learn how to identify at-risk individuals and use nonverbal and verbal techniques to defuse hostile behavior. This type of training not only ensures the utmost safety of the children at our centers but also the safety of our staff.

CPI Training

The Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) is an international training organization that specializes in the safe management of disruptive and assaultive behavior. Since 1980, more than six million professionals have participated in CPI’s training, and thousands of organizations worldwide have successfully implemented CPI’s safe, non-harmful techniques and developed comprehensive crisis prevention and intervention plans. Only highly trained and certified CPI instructors are equipped to teach others CPI methods.

What is a CPI instructor?

A CPI instructor is someone who has gone through rigorous training at the CPI international training organization and has been certified as an instructor. They are taught the tools and techniques to instruct and teach others to implement CPI strategies where needed.

The Benefits of CPI at the Lighthouse Autism Center

There are a huge number of benefits when it comes to using CPI strategies. These are the most notable. 

  • Teaches staff to recognize and respond to a crisis appropriately: CPI teaches our staff imperative decision-making skills to effectively match their response to the level of risk in the crisis. They learn to focus on the least restrictive response to ensure crises are de-escalated with as little fuss as possible. They are taught how to recognize the different stages of an escalating crisis and how to use evidence-based techniques to de-escalate.
  • Safe physical intervention as a last resort: Staff are trained to respond appropriately to the level of risk. Sometimes de-escalation strategies don’t work, and the risk requires physical intervention. CPI teaches staff the best physical intervention strategies to ensure as little trauma as possible.
  • It’s fully accredited: CPI is an evidence-based training program that is also fully accredited. The training is reviewed bi-annually to ensure all interventions are up to international standards.

Why We Use CPI at Lighthouse Autism Center

While CPI is an excellent non-violent crisis intervention strategy for a wide range of people, it’s particularly effective for children with autism. People with autism have unique characteristics, and the nature of autism means that there are some special circumstances to consider when employing CPI techniques with them. 

Here are just a few of the CPI strategies we use for children with autism. 

Learn How Autism Shows Up in Individual Children

Autism shows up in every person differently, and there is no such thing as one size fits all. Our staff works closely with a child’s parents, teachers, and other adults in their lives to learn about their specific anxiety signs and triggers. For example, some children with autism can clench their fists when they are happy or excited. Others do this when they are starting to feel anxious or frustrated. How does a particular child show anxiety?

It’s important to understand what triggers every child has. Do they like to be touched? Or should touching be avoided? Do they like schedules, and if so, what kind of schedules? What are their very favorite things? What has helped calm this child down in the past? You can see the other important questions that are asked in our Tips for Parents blog post.

These types of questions allow our staff to intervene using the right type of support to avoid escalation.

Teach Communication Skills

Children with autism struggle to verbalize their needs and wants, which often leads to frustration. Our staff finds out how the child tends to communicate when they ask for things. They will also teach the child how to ask for specific things that might not be tangible.

We will figure out the best system for the child, whether that’s verbal, sign language, or something in between. Teaching children with autism these skills is an excellent way to avoid crises and escalating frustration.

Avoiding Reinforcement of Problematic Behaviors

It can be quite easy to accidentally reinforce a problematic behavior. For example, if a child throws everything off the table because they don’t want to do a particular task and you then immediately give them a break, this could be something they will use in the future to get what they want.

CPI strategies will instead call for a few more simple tasks that won’t stress the child out and then prompt the child to indicate they want a break using a productive communication skill that they have been taught.

Safely Using Holds as a Last Resort

CPI strategies only use physical interventions as the very last resort and only when the child’s behavior is posing more risk to their own safety than any physical hold does. We are taught to safely and effectively use physical interventions with children in a way that causes no harm and that also doesn’t reinforce problematic behaviors. Some children find the pressure of holds comforting and will resort to aggression if they know that they will be held as a result.

The Best Autism Treatment With Lighthouse Autism Center

At Lighthouse Autism Center, we believe that we can help every child reach their true potential with our innovative treatment approach to autism. CPI strategies are just a facet of the incredible work that our staff do throughout our centers.

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like to talk to someone about our treatments and how we can help your child.

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

Autism Signs in Infants

The Top 9 Signs Your Infant May Have Autism

We take a look at the most common autism symptoms in babies and toddlers, and the importance of getting children diagnosed as early as possible.

The signs and symptoms of autism are unique to every individual, and they vary in intensity from person to person. It’s a difficult disorder to pick up when children are young, but an early diagnosis can significantly impact a child’s quality of life and shape their development. Having an awareness of autism symptoms in babies and toddlers is critical.

Common Autism Characteristics

Although it’s specific to each individual, there are some more common autism characteristics that indicate a child could be autistic. 

1.) Lack of smiling

Children with autism often display a lack of smiling. Does your child smile back at you when you give them a warm, joyful smile? Does your child smile on their own? By the age of six months, your infant should be giving you big smiles or happy expressions.

 

2.) Rare Imitation of Social Cues

Does your child imitate the sounds and movements of others? Do they share expressions back and forth? Infrequent imitation of sounds, smiles, laughter, and facial expressions by nine months of age can be an early indicator of autism in infants.

3.) Delay in Babbling and Cooing

Missed milestones of babbling and cooing can often be a leading indicator of autism in babies. Is your child making “baby talk” and babbling or cooing? Do they do it frequently? Your baby should typically reach this milestone by 12 months.

4.) Unresponsiveness to Name

Is your baby increasingly unresponsive to their name from 6 to 12 months of age? Parents who see this in their child are often concerned it may be hearing loss and are unaware it can be a sign of autism in babies. If you see this behavior in your child, be sure to monitor the signs and consult a doctor. Knowing the signs can be the key to early intervention and getting your child the resources they need to reach better outcomes and live a more independent life in the future.

5.) Poor Eye Contact

Lack of eye contact is a very common sign in those with an autism diagnosis. Does your child make limited eye contact with you and other loved ones? Do they follow objects visually? Severe lack of eye contact as the baby grows can be an early indicator, as it is a form of communication and comprehension.

6.) Infrequently Seeking Attention

Does your child initiate cuddling or make noises to get your attention? Do they reach up toward you to be picked up? Disinterest in seeking a loved one’s attention or bonding with a caregiver is a sign your baby may eventually have difficulty relating to others, which can be a struggle for those on the autism spectrum as they grow up. 

7.) Lack of Gesturing

Does your child gesture at objects or people to communicate? Do they wave goodbye, point, or reach for things? This is a milestone that is typically reached by the time an infant is 9 or 10 months old. Lack of gesturing is a common sign in infants on the autism spectrum.

8.) Repetitive Behaviors

Repetitive behaviors are another highly recognized sign in children with autism. Does your child engage in repetitive behaviors such as stiffening their arms, hands, or legs? Do they display unusual body movements like rotating their hands on their wrists? Do they sit or stand in uncommon postures? This is a form of stimming or self-stimulatory behavior.

9.) Delayed Motor Development

Has your child experienced significant delays in motor development milestones, such as rolling over, pushing themselves up, and crawling? These could be signs of autism in newborns, but they may not be recognized as autism until much later. Early symptoms of autism in babies or toddlers often go unrecognized by parents or caregivers and are often put down as the child simply being a slow learner. 

Why It’s Important to Recognize the Signs of Autism in Infants

One of the most important things you can do for your child after birth is to learn the early signs of the autism spectrum. While most children will start to develop symptoms as newborns, many are only diagnosed when they display the common symptoms of autism in toddlers. 

Getting your child diagnosed as early as possible is the best decision you can make. Firstly, you could get peace of mind if the medical doctor tells you that what you are seeing are signs your baby is not autistic. If they do diagnose autism when your child is an infant, you’ll receive the following benefits:

  • Improved overall development: As parents, our single goal is to ensure our children’s lives are as easy and enjoyable as possible. The same goes for parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The bottom line is that infants who receive autism treatment, support, and education at appropriate ages and key developmental stages are far more likely to gain the essential social and reasoning skills needed in society.
  • Diminished distress: Imagine a child at school who can’t talk to their classmates, finds it hard to make friends, gets frustrated at not being able to communicate what they want, and is great at math but can’t articulate that. Undiagnosed autistic children become incredibly distressed in social settings; they don’t know what’s wrong with them, and parents and teachers think they are just acting out. An early diagnosis can diminish this distress hugely.
  • Early understanding and acceptance: For parents, it can be hard to understand their child and accept that they are autistic, and it certainly takes time to get used to a new way of life. Getting your child diagnosed early means that you have more time to understand and accept their disorder and to become an advocate for awareness.

The Type of Therapy to Expect at the Lighthouse Autism Center

At the Lighthouse Autism Center, we use a unique approach to ABA therapy called Lighthouse Fusion™. This is a unique  program for children on the autism spectrum fuses together ABA and speech therapy and helps children make greater progress, faster.  ABA therapy helps children with autism develop new skills, as well as improve the skills that they already have and decrease problem behaviors.

Our therapy programs are tailored to each individual child, and achievable goals are set out for the child to strive for in different areas of skill. Some skills include:

  • Communication (including speech and language skills)
  • Social skills
  • Improve attention, focus, and memory
  • Decrease problem behaviors
  • Self-care (such as showering and using the bathroom)
  • Play and leisure
  • Motor skills
  • Learning and academic skills.

ABA therapy is based on positive reinforcement, and it brings together a number of different disciplines to ensure that each child gets the greatest chance of becoming the best version of themselves.

Contact us at the Lighthouse Autism Center if you want to know more about our treatment programs, and we can create a custom therapy program for your child.

Together, we can unlock your child’s potential

How Autism Can Help You Land a Job

Working  with Autism Spectrum Disorder

DUBLIN—Some employers increasingly are viewing autism as an asset and not a deficiency in the workplace.

A Germany-based software company has been actively seeking people with autism for jobs, not because of charitable outreach but because it believes features of autism may make some individuals better at certain jobs than those without autism.

It’s a worthy initiative, according to disability experts, since 85% of adults with autism are estimated to be unemployed.

Piloted in Germany, India and Ireland, the program is also launching in four North

SAP employee Patrick Brophy, right, with his co-worker and coach David Sweeney. Ciaran Dolan for The Wall Street Journal

SAP aims to have up to 1% of its workforce—about 650 people—be employees with autism by 2020, according to Jose Velasco, head of the autism initiative at SAP in the U.S.

People with autism spectrum disorder—characterized by social deficits and repetitive behavior—tend to pay great attention to detail, which may make them well suited as software testers or debuggers, according to Mr. Velasco, who has two children with the condition.

In addition, these people bring a different perspective to the workplace, which may help with efficiency and creativity as well, he said.

“They have a very structured nature” and like nonambiguous, precise outcomes, Mr. Velasco said. “We’re looking at those strengths and looking at where those traits would be of value to the organization.”

Autistic employees at SAP take on roles such as identifying software problems, and assigning customer-service queries to members of the team for troubleshooting.

One employee works in “talent marketing,” issuing communications to employees internally. The company is looking for someone to produce videos and is considering an applicant with autism who has experience in media arts.

SAP is also considering other positions, such as writing manuals to give clients very precise instructions on how to install software.

Individuals with autism might excel at going step by step, without skipping details that others may miss, said Mr. Velasco. The business procurement process, such as getting invoices or managing the supply chain, is another area in which an individual with autism might shine, he said.

SAP isn’t the only company to have such a program. In the U.S., mortgage lenderFreddie Mac FMCC -1.12% has offered career-track internships since 2012, including in IT, finance and research.

The lender hired its first full-time employee from the program in January, according to a Freddie Mac spokeswoman. In IT, the company has found that interns often perform well in testing and data-modeling jobs that require great attention to detail and focus as well as a way of seeing things that might not have been anticipated by the developers.

“Harnessing the unique skills of people on the autism spectrum has the potential to strengthen our business and make us more competitive,” according to the lender’s policy.

To be sure, as with any group, people with autism have a range of interests and abilities. SAP is working with a Danish autism-focused training and consultancy firm, Specialisterne, which carefully screens and interviews the candidates to find the appropriate matches before sending them to SAP to evaluate.

Patrick Brophy, 29 years old, has a bachelor’s degree in computer science in software systems and a master’s in multimedia systems, which includes website development and editing. Mr. Brophy says he has Asperger’s, a term commonly used to describe a milder form of autism spectrum disorder.

He had been looking for full-tine work for a few years but said that in the handful of interviews he went to, he would sometimes stutter or misinterpret questions, which he felt reflected poorly on him in the interviews.

When he arrived at SAP for the screening day, however, he had the technical qualifications and he appeared to have skills to work in a corporate setting, according to Peter Brabazon, Specialisterne program manager. Mr. Brophy was hired by the quality assurance department in July, where he identifies glitches in software prior to it being issued to clients.

“Four weeks before joining, I was steadily more and more nervous,” said Mr. Brophy, who worried about his adjustment to a new environment. “Within a month, [the work] was second nature. I had found myself.”

Mr. Brophy said there have been challenges with his job, particularly when he has to revamp how he does a certain task.

From a social standpoint, he found it easy to integrate into his team, said both Mr. Brophy and David Sweeney, a colleague assigned to be his mentor.

About 1% of the population in the U.S.—or some three million people—is thought to have an autism-spectrum disorder. The latest figures issued Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that one in 68 children have been identified with an autism-spectrum disorder.

Their lifetime employment rate is extremely low even though many want to work, said disability experts. Among young adults between 21 and 25 years old, only half have ever held a paid job outside the home, according to a study published last year in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Though many people with autism go on to higher education and are qualified for employment, they may have trouble getting in the door of a workplace because of difficulties with networking or interviews, according to Wendy Harbour, executive director of the Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education, at Syracuse University.

There are a number of companies and outreach efforts that aim to hire people with autism, seeking to tailor work to their abilities.

But SAP and employers like Freddie Mac said their effort is specifically a business decision to take advantage of what they see as unique skill sets.

SAP said that individuals being considered to work there usually have had at least some higher education.

In Dublin, the candidates arrive at the company’s software design center, dubbed the “AppHaus,” which features open spaces, movable desks and whimsical furniture. They are asked to work in pairs on a task building a motorized robot. Candidates are given the instruction manual and brief instructions.

Assessors from Specialisterne look to see if the candidates listen to instructions and pick up on cues, and how they react to challenges such as how the colors of the pieces to the robot look different from the instruction manual. “I want to see how they work together and their technical skills,” said Debbie Merrigan, one of the assessors for Specialisterne.

She wants them to be meticulous, she says. If they aren’t it doesn’t mean they aren’t employable, but they may not be a good fit for working at SAP. Sometimes candidates get overwhelmed and simply leave.

After Specialisterne identifies a candidate as being a good fit, SAP then conducts further interviews, as they would with any other applicant, says Kristen Doran, a program manager in human resources at SAP Dublin. At this facility, 15 candidates were screened and interviewed in order to hire the three who are currently placed as contractors. Mr. Brophy works in the quality assurance department while the other two individuals are in the troubleshooting division.

The candidates are paid market rate and if they succeed on the job, they will be hired as full-time employees after a year, said Liam Ryan, managing director of SAP Labs Ireland.

Difficulties with social interaction and inflexibility can sometimes pose significant problems for individuals with autism, and SAP has a mentoring system and in some cases has made changes to the work schedule to accommodate these new employees. The company also conducts a month of employee-adaptation training to increase employees’ comfort level at working with the team as well as another month or more of job training.

“It’s hard to go into a corporate space if you prefer order to disorder,” says Thorkil Sonne, founder of Specialisterne. “Our biggest effort is to work with them…to define and strengthen their comfort zone,” said Mr. Sonne, who has a son with autism.

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ABA Therapy Tips for Taking Your Child with Autism to the Dentist

Taking Your Child With Autism to the Dentist

For any child, and even adults, a trip to the dentist can often be filled with anxiety, fear, and discomfort. For a child with autism especially, these feelings can be even further heightened by sensitivities to noise, smell, and touch. In order to make this experience better for both the child and family, Lighthouse Autism Center has compiled a list of ABA therapy tips to make taking your child with autism to the dentist just a little bit easier.

Below is a list of tips that are commonly used during ABA therapy that may help your child with autism during their next trip to the dentist:

Tip 1 – Prepare Your Child for the Visit

Be sure to talk about the visit for days or even weeks before it is going to happen. Show your child pictures of the dentist office and explain to them what kind of things will take place there (ie: “you will sit in a chair, a nice man or woman will ask you top open your mouth so they can look and touch your teeth. They want to make sure that your teeth are nice and healthy!”).

Tip 2 – Consider Visiting the Dentist Before Your Visit

If your dentist office will allow it, consider making one, two or however many visits it may take to get your child comfortable with the atmosphere. Show them the lobby, waiting area, and if available, even the room or seat they may use for the teeth cleaning. The more your child is exposed to the space, the more comfortable they will become.

Tip 3 – While You’re at the Dentist

Bring along a favorite toy, activity or treat so as your child is attempting and engaging in new experiences you can provide them with that item.

Tip 4 – Be Flexible

A trip to the dentist can be challenging for anyone. If your child begins to experience difficulty at the visit, or is visibly frustrated, scared or uncomfortable, understand that your child simply may not be ready or able to complete the visit that day, and that’s ok. You as a parent or caregiver know your child best!

Tip 5 – Consider Requesting A Therapist to Attend the Visit

For those children who receive aba therapy, some centers, like Lighthouse Autism Center, will send a therapist to help your family and child during the dental visit. They can serve as a helpful resource for you and your child by applying aba therapy techniques.

 

To learn more tips for parents of children with autism, visit: https://lighthouseautismcenter.com/parents-of-children-with-autism/tips/

 

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Impact of Dropping Asperger’s from the DSM-V

Asperger’s syndrome no longer listed in DSM-V

A big change is about to take place in the soon to be released Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, more commonly known as the DSM-V. Asperger’s syndrome has dropped from the manual and instead it will fall under the category of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

The name for Asperger’s Syndrome has officially changed, but many still use the term Asperger’s Syndrome when talking about their condition.

The American Psychiatric Association released a statement stating that, “The new criteria

Continue reading “Impact of Dropping Asperger’s from the DSM-V”

Children with Autism: Boys Verses Girls

Autism Spectrum Disorder: Boys Verses Girls

According to the CDC, boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls.

But does this mean that boys are more likely to have autism or does this mean that girls are just being underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed? Signs of autism in girls can be easily missed, especially in cases of high-functioning autism. The signs and characteristics displayed by children with autism is more easily recognizable with severe and problematic symptoms, often observed among boys. Therefore, boys get referred for diagnostic testing and treatment services earlier in development than girls typically do and are more often diagnosed. Autism in girls and autism in boys do not always look the same. In fact, recent research suggests that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may look quite different in girls—so different, that it can be difficult to diagnose. It may not get noticed in girls until later teen or pre-teen years, when it becomes harder for a child to “cover up” their autism-related characteristics. As the gender differences among children with autism get more closely examined, many experts are beginning to observe that girls may be better at imitating socially appropriate behaviors and have fewer behavior problems than boys. This creates a masking of autism symptoms for girls that prevent them from being referred for services.

Some of the differences in girls with autism verses boys with autism based on resent research are:

  • Boys with autism often have very repetitive and limited areas of play. Girls with autism are less repetitive and have broader areas of play.
  • Girls with autism are more likely than boys to be able to respond to non-verbal communication such as pointing or gaze following. They are also somewhat more focused and less prone to distraction.
  • While boys’ social communication issues become challenging very early in their lives, girls may be able to manage the social demands of early childhood but run into difficulties as they enter early adolescence.
  • According to the Kennedy Krieger report, Boys with ASD may tend to engage in disruptive behavior to gain objects, while girls with ASD may tend to engage in disruptive behavior to get attention.
  • Girls with autism are more likely than boys to also suffer from anxiety and/or depression.
  • While girls with autism do have perseverative interests, they are more likely to choose interests (such as TV stars or music) that appear more typical than, for example, many boys’ perseverative interests in schedules, statistics, or transportation.
  • Girls with autism are less likely to behave aggressively and more likely to be passive or withdrawn.
  • It is fairly common for girls with autism to appear socially competent as youngsters because they are “taken under the wings” of other girls who enjoy mentoring their peers. These mentors often fade out of the picture as they enter adolescence and find other interests or groups of friends.

What is autism?

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder is defined as the broad range of conditions that include challenges with communication skills, social skills, motor skills, daily living skills and more. In the most recent study performed by the CDC, 1 in every 44 children are diagnosed with autism. Furthermore, boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls.

How to Identify Signs of Autism and Evaluating Your Child

Having a child tested for autism spectrum disorder is only something that a qualified professional will be able to do. However, knowing the signs of autism can help you decide whether or not to seek further evaluation for your child. The easiest way to be able to determine if a child should have further evaluation for autism spectrum disorder is to know the signs.

Getting an early diagnosis of ASD is key for proper treatment and early intervention. With that in mind, what are the characteristics of autism?

 

 

Sources:

https://www.verywellhealth.com/differences-between-boys-and-girls-with-autism-260307

https://www.verywellhealth.com/signs-of-autism-in-girls-260304

https://www.autismspeaks.org/autism-statistics-asd

https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/family-resources-education/700childrens/2017/04/autism-spectrum-disorders-the-difference-between-boys-and-girls

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Acronyms Used With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Acronyms and What You Need to Know

Do you have a child that has recently been diagnosed with autism but do not understand all the acronyms being tossed around with autism?  Let us help you breakdown some of the most commonly used acronyms used with autism.

There are so many! Let us start with the basics:

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Autism Spectrum Disorder is defined as the broad range of conditions that include challenges with communication skills, social skills, motor skills, daily living skills and more. Autism and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are general terms used for grouping complex disorders affecting brain development. These developmental disorders are characterized in degrees by the severity of the below indicators:

  • Rett syndrome
  • Autistic disorder
  • Pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)
  • Childhood disintegrative disorder
  • Asperger syndrome

ASD can be associated with the following:

  • Social interaction difficulties
  • Language, speech, and communication difficulties
  • Behavioral and sensory difficulties
  • Intellectual disability
  • Physical health issues and difficulties in motor coordination

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a therapy based on the science of learning and behavior. ABA therapy focuses on the principles and techniques of learning theory to help increase or decrease certain behaviors. ABA therapy is a scientifically validated approach to understanding learning and behavior by looking at the function of the behavior and the environment in which it occurs. ABA Therapy principles have been applied since the early 1960s to both children and adults with various developmental diagnoses. There has since been an evolution and improvement in the therapy techniques used, but the core teaching of ABA has stayed the same and remains to be the therapy that shows the best outcomes for those with autism. Today, ABA is the only therapy endorsed by the U.S. Surgeon General as an effective treatment for autism and is endorsed by several other state and federal agencies, in addition to physicians and advocates in the autism community.

Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)

A graduate-level professional in behavior analysis who provides supervision for RBTs. BCBAs evaluate children and create personalized treatment plans.

Registered Behavior Technician (RBT)

A paraprofessional in behavior analysis who practices under the close, ongoing supervision of a BCBA. This role is also often referred to as a behavior therapist. RBTs work one-on-one with a child with autism to help them develop new skills and decrease socially significant problem behavior. RBTs receive in-depth training in behavior analysis, speech therapy, and more.

Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP)

SLPs are experts in communication. SLPs work with people of all ages, from babies to adults. SLPs treat many types of communication and swallowing problems. These include problems with:

  • Speech sounds
  • Language
  • Literacy
  • Social communication
  • Voice
  • Fluency
  • Cognitive communication
  • Feeding and swallowing

Dually Certified Clinician (BCBA/SLP)

Dually Certified Board-Certified Behavior Analyst and Speech Language Pathologist (BCBA, SLP). BCBA/SLPs are highly skilled and very rare – with only a couple hundred in the entire world, they have a master’s degree in both ABA and speech-language pathology and are certified BCBA’s and SLP’s.

Occupational Therapy (OT)

Occupational therapy is a field of healthcare that treats people who have injuries, disabilities, or other conditions, including autism. The main goal of occupational therapy for autism is to improve the patient’s quality of life. Through interventions, occupational therapists can help people with ASD gain independence.
After completing the evaluation, the occupational therapist works with the patient and family to develop an intervention plan and treatment goals. Occupational therapy interventions for autism may include:

  • Focusing on sensory integration and sensory-based strategies.
  • Emphasizing mental health and wellness.
  • Implementing emotional development and self-regulation strategies and programs.
  • Organizing peer groups, social participation, and play activities.
  • Improving self-care routines to help with daily activities such as bathing, feeding, and grooming.
  • Working on motor development.
  • Supporting an adolescent’s transition into adulthood and helping them build skills to enter the workforce.
  • Using cognitive behavioral approaches to support positive behaviors.
  • Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) Training
  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
  • Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) testing
  • Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) testing

Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) Training

CPI can best be described as nonviolent crisis intervention training designed to teach best practices for managing difficult situations and disruptive behaviors. Therapists learn how to identify at-risk individuals and use nonverbal and verbal techniques to defuse hostile behavior. This type of training not only ensures the utmost safety of the children at our centers, but also, the safety of our staff.

To learn more, visit https://www.crisisprevention.com.

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

PECS is a unique alternative/augmentative communication system developed in the USA in 1985 by Andy Bondy, PhD, and Lori Frost, MS, CCC-SLP. PECS was first implemented with pre-school students diagnosed with autism at the Delaware Autism Program. Since then, PECS has successfully been implemented worldwide with thousands of learners of all ages who have various cognitive, physical and communication challenges. The primary goal of PECS is to teach functional communication.

Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS)

This is an activity-based assessment administered by trained clinicians to evaluate communication skills, social interaction, and imaginative use of materials in individuals who are suspected to have autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS)

This is 15-item observation-based rating scale designed to accurately differentiate children with autism from those with developmental delays without features of autism.

Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (MCHAT)

This is a parent-report screening tool to assess the risk for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In approximately 10 minutes, parents can complete the 20 questions and receive an autism risk assessment for their child.

 

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What is Stimming and Why Does my Child with Autism Stim?

What is stimming?

Stimming or self-stimulating behavior includes the repetitive actions of twirling or spinning, hand-flapping, head-banging and many other complex body movements. It also includes the repetitive use of an object, such as flicking a rubber band, twirling a piece of string, or repetitive activities involving the senses (such as repeatedly feeling a particular texture). Stimming is often one of the most outwardly signs in Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Some of the classic forms of stimming by a child with autism include:

  • Staring at objects — especially anything with lights or movement
  • Gazing off into space
  • Blinking repeatedly
  • Looking out of the corner of their eyes
  • Flipping lights on and off repeatedly
  • Random humming, shrieking, or making other vocal noises
  • Finger snapping, tapping or putting hands over their ears.
  • Tapping on ears or objects
  • Covering and uncovering ears
  • Tasting or licking — including thumb sucking, finger sucking, or tasting something one wouldn’t normally taste
  • Unusual or inappropriate smelling or sniffing

What are Repetitive Behaviors?

Scientists categorize repetitive behaviors into two groups. So-called ‘lower-order’ repetitive behaviors are movements such as hand-flapping, fidgeting with objects or body rocking, and vocalizations such as grunting or repeating certain phrases. ‘Higher-order’ repetitive behaviors include autism traits such as routines and rituals, insistence on sameness and intense interests. Repetitive behaviors are among the first signs of autism to emerge in toddlerhood. They are seen in people across the autism spectrum. They tend to be more pronounced in those with lower cognitive ability, however, repetitive behaviors have been recognized as part of autism since the condition was first described.

Why do children with autism resort to stimming?

Although the activities used for stimming varies from child to child, the reasons behind it may be the same:

  • For enjoyment
  • To mask the unoccupied mind and fill the void when bored
  • An attempt to gain sensory input, such as rocking may be a way to stimulate the balance (vestibular) system; hand-flapping may provide visual stimulation
  • An attempt to reduce sensory input, such as focusing on one sound may reduce the impact of a loud, distressing environment; this may particularly be seen in social situations
  • Repetitive motions can allow children with autism to keep focused, and clear their head of distractions
  • To deal with stress and anxiety when feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or uncomfortable
  • Self-regulation and a way to express needs and feelings

Should you be concerned or prevent your child from stimming?

Although stimming can be viewed as disruptive and socially unacceptable, stimming is often very enjoyable and is a way to reduce stress. If the actions of stimming are deemed safe, it should not be stopped or reduced. There may be times that your child will function better if they are allowed to stim. However, in some instances stimming can sometimes be deemed as unsafe.

Sometimes, intense or constant repetitive behaviors prevent children with autism from engaging in important activities, such as learning in school. Occasionally, they can result in harm to others or self-harm, such as when a person repeatedly bangs his head against a wall.

If the behavior restricts the child’s opportunities, causes distress or discomfort, impacts on learning, causes difficulties, or is in some way unsafe, they may need support to stop or modify the behavior, or reduce their reliance on it.

 

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