Announcing my Kindle ebook “Raising an Amazing Child with Autism”

Raising an Amazing Child with Autism ebook coverI’m proud to announce the publishing of my ebook with Kindle Direct Publishing, on Amazon. I wrote this book to share my stories and advice on raising my son diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, a type of high-functioning autism. As the parent of a child with special needs, I laughed and cried and felt a kinship with parents who told their stories. Having a special-needs child is an emotional roller coaster. You must give up your pre-conceived dreams of who your child will be, and learn to set new goals for them, for yourself and for your family. You will experience great pride, and heart-felt devastation. You may feel alone, shunned by friends, and classroom parents who won’t understand. Your child may be bullied, and left out of play dates and playground games. But your journey can be exhilarating and satisfying too. If you’re lucky, you’ll find others who love and accept your child, and understand your experience. You may find your child has strengths and talents you never imagined. You life will be enriched by the experiences in store for you. I hope these stories and ideas encourage you when raising your amazing child with autism!

Raising an Amazing Child with Autism, Stories & Advice from an SLP Mom was published this week by Kindle for e-readers. Stop by the Kindle store and read a few free pages from the start of my book. You don’t need a Kindle device to read ebooks. Kindle has a free app download for your laptop computer, so you can read Kindle ebooks on any Mac, PC, Tablet or phone!

The collection of 39 stories of our son, and our family, focus on:

  • Therapy Tips & Ideas
  • Diagnosis
  • School & Advocacy
  • Family & Personal Life
  • Adolescence & Beyond

I’m hoping this ebook will make a difference for some families today in need of a trusted parent & friend’s advice on raising a child with autism. My Kindle ebook Raising an Amazing Child with Autism, Stories & Advice from an SLP Mom is $4.99 on Kindle.

All stories in my book were previously published on my blog.

Siblings & Autism Spectrum

siblings

My child with autism has a typically-developing older sister.  She’s fairly quirky, (a story for another time) but gets along well with others, and hasn’t the challenges her brother has. During the early years of our family, our daughter often had to wait to have her needs met.  Family resources went to her brother first.  She learned to be patient and take care of herself, while we gave time and attention to our son. She did, however, share her hurt feelings when there was a shift during a particular time of upheaval. This was when our son got moved to a new school.  She noticed that I didn’t come in to volunteer in her classroom like I had done before.  My focus on him left her wanting and hurting. Many families report that siblings of children with autism often experience feelings of neglect.

If you see signs of your child’s siblings hurting, there are some ideas to support them:

  • Information  – Share children’s books on autism with siblings.  Have discussions.  They need to have some information too.
  • Let them speak their mind  – They may say things that surprise you, but when they feel heard and valued, that will lead to positive feelings and behavior.
  • Special time   –  Make a point to have special time with each sibling.  Get a sitter if needed.  It doesn’t have to be a big block of time.  Just connect with them.
  • Strive to be fair  – Everyone in the house can participate at the level of their ability.  Families working together will create unity.
  • Have fun  – Enjoy things when you can.  Under stress, it can be hard to see the good things that may be happening around you, but I encourage you to look for that.  Enjoy your children, because they grow up too fast.
  • Support Groups – You may find a Sibling Support Group to be helpful.  See if there are any in your area.

When our daughter was in high school, there was a boy in her class who had a lot of difficulty.  He blurted out frequently, his social skills were poor, and he had much trouble getting along with students and teachers.  My daughter described to me how the other students teased him, or excluded him from activities.  When I asked how she treated him, she said she couldn’t be mean to him, because he was just like her brother, only older.  It was then that I realized the years of living with a sibling with autism provided the unexpected benefit of helping her to develop tenderness toward those with disabilities.  This is one of my daughter’s best qualities.

Kids and Social Skills

kids social skills

kids social skills

I was recently asked by a friend what would help her son develop his social skills.  We talked for a bit and here are the ideas I shared:

  • Vocabulary – To begin a dialogue on social skills your kid needs to know and use words like feeling, thinking, expectation, intention, reaction, meltdown, repair? All these vocabulary words, and more, will be needed if you are going to talk about interactions with people.
  • Enlist their cooperation by using a team approach.  Be a coach or mentor to help them improve their social interactions.
  • Social interaction autopsy – Take the time to take apart the event and look at what went wrong. Social interactions happen quickly, and your child can miss things that seem obvious to you. (Remember you are older, more mature and more experienced. Your child is not, yet.)  Tell him what you observed. Can your kid see in other situations when he offends someone?  Help him to look at, and remember, this when someone offends him.  If he doesn’t see his behavior having an affect on others, yet, try this in reverse. Help him to identify when he feels bad, or good, with another’s behavior.  Discuss it and give your child time to think about it.
  • Practice – set up the situation and have him practice new skills. If he gets a gift that is awful, he can practice saying “This is thoughtful of you.  Thank you for giving me a gift,” instead of saying whatever he thinks without regard to the other’s feelings.
  • Learning social skills takes time. Be patient. Everyone learns at their own pace. As long as he’s moving forward, this is success. It may seems like it’s taking a long time, just keep trying.  You’ll be glad you did.

Many social thinking resources are available.  I like Ted Baker’s and Michelle Garcia Winner’s books and materials.

Also it’s probably better to talk side-by-side, both you and your child facing the same way. This approach gives the nonverbal message of acceptance and cooperation.  Do this by taking a walk, driving in a car, or sitting side by side.

 

 

 

High-Functioning Autism and Social Skills

Children and adults with autism vary greatly in their strengths and challenges, but most persons with autism have difficulty with social skills.  Frequently referred to as “mind-blindedness”, they have trouble knowing what others might be thinking.  A person with high-functioning autism (sometimes referred to as Aspergers), may act oddly, hurt other’s feelings, or ask inappropriate questions without knowing it.

Students with high-functioning autism share symptoms with others diagnosed with autism, but their strengths allow them to function fairly well in school or at work.  They do not usually have delayed language development; they often have average to above average intelligence; and usually are passionate about one or two specific topics.  They don’t do “small talk” well, and often have trouble understanding the non-verbal aspects of communication such as eye contact, facial expressions and body language.  They want to be involved with others, but lack the social skills of how to go about it.

facial expressionsBut social skills can be taught, and learning them can make a big difference for children and adults with autism.  social skills gamesA speech/language pathologist can teach specific skills like understanding facial expressions and body language, self-monitoring, and how to be part of a group.  Lessons involve recognizing indirect language (like hints or implied information) and learning to make guesses.  Students may also learn about understanding and interpreting emotions, understanding intentions and how to solve problems.

For more information regarding teaching social skills for children or adults with high-functioning autism, visit Michelle Garcia Winner’s social thinking program.

See another post using ideas from Michelle Garcia Winner’s social thinking program here.

Read about why it’s difficult living with an Aspergers person here.

Click the Autism link above for more stories and ideas about autism.

Originally posted 4/22/12.

“The Friend Ship” – Music CD for Autism

The Friend Ship music CD autismI am so excited to tell you about a new music CD for kids.  It’s called The Friend Ship and it contains 9 fun and catchy songs to “encourage social communication and emotional regulation in young children”.  It was created by speech language pathologist Erica Bland of California.  The songs include ideas like turn-taking, following a schedule, how to join in a play group, using words to connect to others, tools for staying calm and much more.  My favorite song is These Are My Feelings, which reinforces the idea that we can tell a person’s feelings by looking at their face.  And not just their face, but specifically where to look such as eyes, eye brows and mouth.

Many of you know I love Michelle Garcia Winner’s social thinking program, and I love The Friend Ship CD of songs too, because it uses many ideas from social thinking.  I worked several years with groups of children for early intervention (age 18 months to 3).  This CD is just perfect for kids in early intervention.  Kids who are diagnosed on the autism spectrum, kids with sensory integration difficulties and kids who have developmental delays would all benefit from learning and singing these terrific songs.

Lastly I myself have a son on the autism spectrum.  As a parent, I look for tools that would support him at home and school.  This CD is the kind of tool parents should play at home or in their car.  Car rides are a perfect time to learn new songs and have fun doing it!  The CD is only $9.95 and comes with a lyrics sheet, as well as a helpful booklet of companion activities for parents and teachers.  For more info and to order, contact Erica at The Friend Ship.

 

 

 

Rules Change with Age – Social Thinking

How rules change with age Social ThinkingStudents with Aspergers, a type of high functioning autism, are very logical thinkers. I find my son (diagnosed with Aspergers) is not a flexible thinker. It’s hard for him to remember that rules change as we age. For example a child who is in the first grade may react to a joke by laughing hysterically and falling on the floor. By the time a child is in the 4th grade, he is expected to only laugh (it can be loud, but not hysterical) and he shouldn’t fall on the floor. Rules change as we age and often this is not explained explicitly to students with social thinking difficulties.  It is a hidden social rule and most students know this information intuitively.

This month I took a Parenting with Love and Logic class hosted at the Shire House.  I learned many good ideas for communicating with my college-age son, and providing logical but loving consequences in our home. But parents of special needs students have a particular problem that parents with typically developing students don’t have.  We have been solving most problems for our kids throughout their lives.  As my son grows up, I need to break that habit and allow him to solve more and more of his own problems.  Problem-solving is a skill he needs to develop.

This week I began to make that change.  I had this conversation with him (a suggestion from my Love and Logic teacher):

“Son,  I need to apologize.  I have been a bad mother. Most of your life, when you had a problem to solve, I stepped in and solved it for you.  I took away something very important.  I took away the opportunity for you to solve your own problems. I’ve decided I won’t do that any more.  From now on, I’m going to stay out of your problems.  You will be solving your own problems from now on.”

To my surprise, he was glad to hear it and was looking forward to solving his own problems now that he was attending college.

Next I provided him with my Parental Green Sheet for College just to be clear that our expectations of him have changed since he left high school (remember “rules change with age”).   Since he was reviewing the green sheets (class syllabus and rules) for his college classes, it fit right in.  It covers the particular topics that were relevant to our son’s college experience. On the green sheet I wrote

  1. you will be solving your own problems now
  2. we won’t nag you to do your homework
  3. we won’t interfere by contacting your teachers
  4. we understand some kids fail college classes and we won’t interfere there either.

See my Parental Green Sheet for College here.

Thanks again for reading and I hope these ideas are helpful.  Please read other posts on our parenting experience by clicking on the Autism/Aspergers tab above.

 

 

Using the Pause to Help Communication

anticipatory pauseWhen a child is a late-talker, what can you do to help?

As a parent or care-giver – Stop talking!  Many families with late talkers (children who are not putting two words together by age 2) have others in the home that do all the talking.  Maybe there are older siblings, maybe grandparents, certainly mothers (we are usually big talkers!)

But how can a child develop language and speech if he never gets to have his turn?

By using an Anticipatory Pause you are helping your child develop his or her communication. Here’s how to do it right:

  • Step 1 – speak to your child (make a statement or ask a question)
  • Step 2 – Wait silently.  Do not repeat!  Watch your child for his or her response.
  • Step 3 – If your child does not respond, give a short cue. It could be a short version of what you just said.  Or it could be a non-verbal cue like a point, gesture or facial expression.
  • Step 4 – Wait again silently.

Each time you interact with your child, you will give him pause time in which he can respond.  Do not rush!  That pause may need to be longer than you want, but long enough for your child to “process” what he/she hears and come up with a response.  Think of your interaction with your child as a partnership.  You initiate and he/she responds.  When you keep going, and do not give a pause, your child will have a harder time saying his/her part.

Example:

Parent: “Do you want a cracker or a cookie? (pause)

Child:  looks but no pointing and no verbal response

Parent: Cracker … or…  cookie? (pause)

Child: points to cookie

Parent: Cookie! (pause)

Child: smiles

Parent:  Tell me “cookie” (pause)

Child: Cookie

Parent: gives child the cookie

(Hooray – that is successful communication!)

 

Here’s what real parents have to say about the Anticipatory Pause:   “We have been putting into practice the anticipatory pause and it has made such an amazing difference already.  If we just wait and give (our son) time, he seems to respond.  The other night, I told him to take off his shorts as he was getting ready for the shower.   At first, he said no and just stood there.  So, I just looked at him and waited … still he did nothing.  Then, I motioned to his shorts non verbally… and then he proceeded to try and take them off by himself.  It was great. We have seen him respond  almost every time once we give that anticipatory pause.”

 

 

 

Parent Resources – Newly Diagnosed Autism

Autism Resources for ParentsHave you received a new diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder for your child?  Do you suspect your child might have autism?  Need some resources to get started on helping your child?  Try these links for information on helping your child develop.

The Hanan Center
The Help Guide with ideas for helping your child develop, and intervention (therapies) in the U.S.
Article on augmentative and alternative communication devices for helping children

Autism Red Flags

Autism Red FlagsWhen a family comes to see me about their child’s development,  there are specific things I look for. Here are some of the things that raise red flags for me with a young child’s development.

The most important tool in getting an accurate opinion of a child’s issues: A face-to-face meeting with a professional who has experience working with children with developmental disabilities.  Parents can describe a child’s behavior, but nothing replaces observing a child.  A professional observes behavior, and sees more accurately than any checklist can tell.

The second thing we want is a parent report.  Professionals look for some common autism red flags that parents tell us about:

  • delay in language development, or precocious language development or reading ability
  • lack of, or unusual, eye contact
  • flat affect (limited facial expressions or a vacant look)
  • unusual body posturing, such as finger-flicking, twirling or walking on his tiptoes
  • adherence to strict routines and difficulties when routines change
  • sensory overload – sensitivity to loud noises, textures, tastes or smells
  • restricted diet, or only preferring to eat a few favorite foods
  • lacking spontaneous cuddling or “connecting” with others (parents describe this as the child being very content to play alone)
  • poor ability to ‘read’ others – not understanding other’s non-verbal body language, facial expressions or sarcasm
  • unable to modulate behavior for different situations (loud in places he is expected to be quiet, reads a book at a party rather than plays with the other children)
  • incorrect use of toys or disorganized play (walking on toys on the floor rather than playing with them, filling a teapot with blocks and shaking it rather than pretending a tea party and “pouring” tea)
  • echolalia, the spontaneous or delayed repeating of exact sentences heard in his environment (many parents report a child repeats liner.s from a movie or TV show)
  • over-focus on a special interest, for example – gemstones, train schedules, or having to watch only one particular kid’s movie (parents might describe this as an “obsession”)
  • seems to not respond to sounds in the environment, or respond when his name is called
  • not showing another something by pointing (like at an airplane in the sky)
  • not following (visually) when a parent points to something across the room or across the yard
  • not showing things by bringing them to adults (not to get help, but just to share)

Not every child will have every reg flag, but a group of several of them indicate that a child is developing in an unusual way.   Intervention will benefit a child with these sort of delays. Typical interventions include speech therapy, occupational therapy, social skills groups, early intervention playgroups/preschool  and parent education.

If you are a parent concerned with your child’s development, please contact a professional in you area.  If needed, your child will benefit from intervention, and the sooner the bette

Updating My Gratitude

Updating My GratitudeMy Grateful List is posted above my desk.  I wrote it in September 2013. It was the start of my son’s senior year in high school.  See my post Developing Gratitude.

This week my son donned a cap and gown and walked across stage to receive his diploma. It was a day of joy, gratitude and, I must say, relief.

Raising a child with autism takes a special kind of strength.  I can’t say I had this strength when I started this journey, but I have developed it over the years.  More important than this is the way my son developed, and how grateful I am for the blessings in my life today.

Here’s my updated Grateful List:

  • Husband has a good job and we have money to pay our bills.
  • Son graduated high school and is registered for community college in the fall.
  • Daughter graduated college and is writing the great American novel.
  • We have food, clothing, a home to live in, and in a safe neighborhood.
  • We have our health, such a blessing!
  • God loves us and we have an amazing church family.

If you need ideas on how to develop gratitude please see my earlier post here.