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Winter Activities for Your Child with Autism

Winter in Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan can last anywhere from October to April, and is often unpredictable, cold, and filled with snow. For parents, finding winter activities for your child with autism can be a challenging. While the snow can be a fun and welcome activity for children, other times, the bitter cold can prevent children from playing outside. So, how do we keep children and children with autism busy during the cold winter months?

Outdoor Activities

When the temperature is a lovely 35 degrees (which is quite warm in this area during the winter months!) and there is a fresh blanket of snow, here are just a few activities to try with your child with autism.

  • Build a snowman – this can be a wonderful activity that your child can do independently or as a family. Consider building a replica of a favorite character or naming your snowman. Be sure to always explain that a snowman is only temporary and will melt when it gets warmer!
  • Sledding – get your child active by finding a park (be sure to find a safe space!) where your child can enjoy a trip sledding down a hill. A favorite past-time of most, this is sure to be something your child with autism will enjoy as well. Consider getting a sled big enough for two people so your child can sled with the assistance of an adult.
  • Frozen Water Balloons – fill balloons with different color water (just add food coloring!) to make a fun and beautiful display in your yard. Fill the balloons with water and place them outside. Within a few hours you should have a beautiful display of frozen water.
Indoor Activities

When the weather turns bitter cold or there are several inches of snow on the ground, you may find your child’s school closed and a house full of children. Here are a few ideas to keep your child with autism (and all of your children!) occupied when they are stuck inside:

  • Pajama Day – consider letting your child have a lazy day in pajamas. Make them their favorite breakfast and let them watch a favorite movie or TV show. Make a fort with pillows and blankets and let your children enjoy a cozy day inside.
  • Mall Visit – If the kids (and you!) are itching to get out of the house, take a trip to the mall. Make a game of walking around the mall to get some steps in and energy out. If you are able, let your child pick out a new toy or item once you have done so many trips around the mall.
  • Movie Day – this can be done at a local theater or at home. If you want to get out of the house, take advantage of discounted matinee prices and take the kids to see a favorite movie. Pop some popcorn at home and bring that jumbo size purse to provide some affordable snacks at the theater.

For children with autism, on days when school or an ABA therapy center is closed, be sure to do your best to keep a routine and follow through on skills and activities they are working on at home. ABA is meant to be consistent and intensive, and can only be successful if parents do their best to practice many of the same ABA skills that your child does at their ABA center at home.

For more information about autism, the signs of autism, ABA therapy and ABA centers, contact our Family Outreach Coordinator at 574-387-4313.

Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese Visits Newest Center in Elkhart, IN

Mayor Visits Elkhart ABA Center
Elkhart Mayor meets student at Elkhart’s newest ABA center.

On Wednesday, September 25, 2019, Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese visited Lighthouse Autism Center’s newest center in Elkhart, IN. Mayor Neese met with founder and Executive Director, Gregg Maggioli, to learn more about Lighthouse and the ABA services being offered to the Elkhart community, as well as the 30 additional
jobs that will be created through the opening of the new center. Following their meeting, Mayor Neese toured the center, visiting therapy rooms, the playroom, and group therapy spaces. The Mayor also had the opportunity to meet some of the kiddos who attend Lighthouse Autism Center in Elkhart and provided them with a small token to commemorate his visit.

Lighthouse Autism Center in Elkhart is currently enrolling. To learn more or schedule a tour of the new center, contact our Family Outreach Coordinator at outreach@lighthouseautismcenter.com or 574-387-4313.

Shining Examples – Vance

Vance has been attending Lighthouse Autism Center in Warsaw for just under a year and has made incredible progress in his time at the center. When Vance first came to Lighthouse, he had no communication skills and struggled with many daily living skills such as brushing his teeth and feeding himself. Clinical Director of the Warsaw center, Nicole Smoker, said, “it has been so inspiring to see how much progress Vance has made in such a short time.” Fast forward ten months and Vance can now use a PECS system to communicate his wants and needs. He can also brush his teeth independently and even will go to the dentist for a cleaning without any behaviors. Vance has also made huge progress with feeding himself. When he first started, he would only eat with his fingers and refused to eat off of a plate or bowl. Now, Vance eats independently using utensils as well as serving ware. When asked about Vance’s experience with Lighthouse, his mom said “Lighthouse has been the answer to so many prayers for our family. Vance has grown and progressed in ways unimaginable in the short time we’ve been apart of the Lighthouse family! We went from being non-verbal to vocal manding for everything. Behaviors have minimized and affection has blossomed! All things as parents we’ve always wanted for him! The love and support from the staff as well as knowing my child is loved beyond measure, even when away from home, are so comforting. We are so thankful to have Lighthouse as part of Vance’s success and accomplishments.”

Clinical Corner – How a Visual Test Can Help Screen for Autism

A Dartmouth-led research team has identified a non-verbal,
neural marker of autism. This marker shows that individuals with
autism are slower to dampen neural activity in response to visual
signals in the brain. This first-of-its kind marker was found to be
independent of intelligence and offers an objective way to potentially diagnose autism in the future. The results are published in Current Biology. “Autism is hard to screen for in children, when the first signs are present. A trained clinician may be able to detect autism at 18-months or even younger; yet, the average age of a diagnosis of autism in the U.S. is about four years old,” explains lead author Caroline Robertson, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth, and director of the Dartmouth Autism Research Initiative. “We need objective, non-invasive screening tools that don’t depend on assessing a child’s behavior. One of the big goals of the field is to develop objective neural markers of autism that can work with non-verbal individuals. This neural marker is just that,” she added. The research revealed that neural data could be used to predict whether or not an individual had autism with 87 percent accuracy. The findings were striking and tracked with clinical measures of autism: participants with a higher level of autism had a slower rate of binocular rivalry, where the brain was slower in switching from one image to the next. The research offers new promise for the way autism is diagnosed. “This visual test may be a non-verbal marker of autism in adults. Our next steps are to learn whether this test could potentially be used to detect autism in pre-verbal children and nonverbal adults and develop it into a screening tool for the condition. In the meantime, this result
gives us new insight into the brain in autism, showing that visual regions of the brain are affected,” says Robertson.

To read the full article from Science Daily, visit https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/08/190815113730.htm

Heart of the Matter – Denny and Ronnie Maggioli Retire

Most people might not know that my parents, Denny and Ronnie
Maggioli, have had a huge impact on the success of Lighthouse Autism Center, going all the way back to the very beginning, when our first center opened in 2012. When we opened our first center, my family and I lived in Carmel, Indiana and I commuted back and forth for nearly two years. During the week, I lived with my parents and traveled home to Carmel on the weekends. Not only did my parents welcome their grown son back into their home, but they have played a huge role in the design of each center. With an eye for interior design, my mom has picked paint colors to be used inside the centers, creating a bright and warm, and most importantly, non-clinical feel for the children who attend the centers. My Dad has worked as a dedicated handyman, carpenter, painter and fixer of all things for each of our centers since 2012. Simply said, Lighthouse Autism Center would not be what it is today without the time and love put into each center by my parents. As they officially announce their retirement, we could not be more thankful for their impact not only on the centers, but on each of the kiddos who have attended Lighthouse. Thank you for your tremendous work and dedication to Lighthouse Autism Center – we could not have done it without you!