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ABA Therapy Tips for 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 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.

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.

Siblings of Children with Autism

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Children with autism experience social delays, trouble communicating and various other developmental delays that can cause a family to experience extra stress and hardship. This can be particularly hard for siblings who may not understand that their brother and sister has autism and that may cause them to act, communicate or express themselves differently.

Below is a list of items a child who has a sibling with autism may experience. While some of them may be unavoidable, it is important parents are aware of these challenges and work to make sure extra care is not only taken for a child with autism but their siblings as well.

Challenges Siblings May Experience

1.) Sibling Rivalry – it is natural to see rivalry’s develop between children in one household. Siblings may fight over toys, attention, or anything to feel like they are “first” or have “won.” This experience can particularly be heightened for a sibling for a child with autism who may be competing for their parents attention.

2.) Feeling Left Out – children with autism require extra care, time and attention from parents. This can leave other siblings feeling left out or not important. Parents should take extra care to make sure other siblings feel loved and cared for. This could take the form of picking an activity to do together each week or going on a special outing with each sibling every month.

3.) Extra Responsibility – siblings may feel like they have to pick up extra work around the house that their parents do not have time for due to the extra work of caring for a child with autism. While there is nothing wrong with siblings pitching in to help the entire family unit, be sure children aren’t taking on too much extra responsibility (or responsibilities that are inappropriate for their age).

4.) Feeling of Rejection – children may want to have a close relationship with their brother or sister with autism that may not be possible. Children with autism often struggle with touch (like hugging) or with social skills (like being able to express joy, sadness, etc…) which can make it challenging to develop a sibling bond or relationship. Be sure to educate fellow siblings that children with autism do not express needs, wants or emotions in the same way as them and that these things may take different forms depending on the child.

Communication and Autism: Using Visual Language

What is Visual Language?

Research tells us that children with autism are able to better communicate their wants and needs through images rather than words. With this knowledge, many autism therapy providers have started creating learning programs and software that focus on allowing children with autism to communicate with familiar and consistent images. This helps increase their understanding of basic communication and more easily communicate their wants, needs and emotions.  This “visual language” method of learning has proven incredibly successful in helping children with autism develop communication skills.

Using Visual Language to Communicate with Children Who Have Autism

Communication can be a major problem for families. It accounts for an estimated 60% of all family-related stress experienced on a daily basis. It is also the main reason that some children are slower to develop their social skills. By using visual communication tactics, families and autism therapy providers can give the child the tools they need to communicate their needs effectively. Once the child has these skills, it often alleviates many problems for families.

So, what are some of the visual communication techniques your child with autism can use?

1.) Dry Erase Board – The child can use a piece of paper or dry erase board to draw objects that symbolize their wants and needs.

2.) Picture Exchange Communication Systems (PECS) – this is when a child has several pre-made (and often laminated) cards with images that communicate everything from needing to go to the bathroom to requesting a snack and telling someone how they are feeling. The parent can than react or provide the item to fulfill the need they are expressing.

3.) Tablet – children can use communication software downloaded to a tablet such as an ipad and use the system similar to a PECS system. This allows children to select images that express their wants and needs in a way that a parent or adult can understand.

To learn more about visual communication and your child with autism, contact Lighthouse Autism Center at 574-387-4313.

The Importance of Parental Involvement

At Lighthouse Autism Center, we believe in a team approach to helping your child reach their fullest potential. While every member of the team (parents, caregivers, therapists, educators, doctors, advocates) play a part in your child’s success, a parents role is arguable the most important.

Support Starts from the Beginning

While the causes of autism are still unknown, it is important to start looking for the signs of autism early. Studies have shown that catching the signs of autism early in a child’s life can lead to better outcomes. Some of these early signs include missing various developmental milestones, no babbling, no eye contact, no response to name, lack of expression (happy, smiling). If you suspect that your child may be exhibiting the signs of autism, it is important you contact your healthcare provider to determine if your child has autism.

Support Through Therapy 

Once a child receives an autism diagnosis, it is crucial that parents and caregivers seek appropriate therapy services for their child, which may include, ABA therapy, Speech therapy, Occupational therapy, or a combination of these and other therapies.

Specifically, ABA therapy is the only therapy recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General for the treatment of autism. With individualized treatment plans designed by Board Certified Behavior Analysts and the work of a trained Registered Behavior Technician, we sees children achieve great outcomes through this type of therapy.

Therapy At Home

It is equally important that parents work to implement the same skills their child is working on in therapy at home. For example, if a child works on using utensils as part of a therapy program, but parents do not work with the child to use utensils at home, that child may learn they only have to use utensils when they go to therapy, but not at home. Consistency and follow through are key to a child’s success and that requires the commitment and work of parents and caregivers to follow through at home.

Lighthouse Autism Center

For parents and children at Lighthouse Autism Center, our Board Certified Behavior Analysts provide parent training’s and will often go into a child’s home to assist parents. We want to make sure that parents have the tools and knowledge to follow through at home and help their child achieve their highest potential.

 

To learn more about Lighthouse Autism Center, call 574-387-4313.