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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.

Follow us on Facebook for more great content: https://www.facebook.com/LighthouseAutismCenter

 

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.

A child on an indoor swing with a therapist.

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.

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.

Autism Awareness Month

Infographic: Autism Awareness Month

We take a look at Autism Awareness Month, what it is about, when it was started and how everyone can do their bit to raise awareness about autism.

This amazing infographic was given to Lighthouse by Andy Mohr Toyota. The infographic shows the importance of Autism Awareness Month and how to #LightItUpBlue!

autism awareness month infographic

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is defined by the Autism Society of America as “a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others.”

The autism spectrum includes a range of conditions affecting social skills, behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication. It is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum disorder” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. The disorders found within the ASD spectrum include:

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

Signs and symptoms are usually noticeable in early childhood and emerge between 24 and 36 months of age. One of the most important things you can do for your child is to learn the early signs of autism in children and infants. It is important that you are familiar with typical developmental milestones your child should be reaching as well. 

Some of the most common signs of ASD in children are:

  • ​​Not responding to their name 
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Getting very upset if they do not like a certain taste, smell, or sound
  • Repetitive movements and phrases
  • One-sided conversations without needing a response.

Of course, ASD is unique in every person, and no two people have the exact same symptoms. 

Children with ASD also tend to excel at particular things and have above-average intelligence. Some of the things that they might excel at include music, academics, and visual skills. Roughly 40% of those diagnosed with autism have above-average intellectual abilities. 

Inclusion and acceptance of autism spectrum disorders are just as important as educating the community and bringing awareness to autism. So when is Autism Awareness Month? Let’s find out below.

Autism Awareness Month

Want to learn more facts about autism? 

  • In 1972, the Autism Society launched the first annual National Autistic Children’s week, but it wasn’t until 2007 that the official Autism Awareness Day was declared to fall on April 2nd by the United Nations General Assembly. 
  • Although Autism Awareness Day still officially falls on April 2nd, most countries recognize the month of April as Autism Awareness Month. 

How People Can Raise Awareness About Autism

It is wonderful to have a month to raise awareness about autism, and it’s an incredibly busy time for organizations and individuals. However, we don’t believe that autism awareness should be limited to a single month – it’s something that should happen every day.

If you would like to raise awareness about autism, here are some of the things that you can do:

  • Educate yourself: Awareness starts at home, and you should do everything that you can to understand more about autism and how it affects people.
  • Attend local events: There are ongoing autism awareness events throughout the year. Go to these events, take your friends and family and even volunteer if you have the time.
  • Stand up for others: If you see someone with autism being bullied or hear someone talking negatively about them, it’s time to stand up and let them know that it’s not okay.
  • Set a positive example: It’s important that you show others how to treat people with autism. Always act with kindness and help those with autism, and you will become a positive role model for others.

Methods of Inclusion and Acceptance

One of the biggest issues that people with ASD face is the feeling that they are not included and accepted. This could be for children in school or an adult at work. 

It’s easy to help people with autism feel more included. Keep an open mind and an open heart when interacting with autistic people. Invite them into your circles and to events (even when you know they will decline) and encourage others to treat people with autism with kindness and care. 

You can also become more involved by calling or writing to local legislators, state representatives, and other leaders about proposed legislation that could impact those with autism. Be aware of how new policies affect access to things like services, research, insurance, and more. Speak up and encourage others to do the same.

Contact us at Lighthouse Autism Center for more information about Autism Awareness Month and how you can help.

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.