Apr 29, 2011

Payback Time

Last night dear hubby and I attended Hunter's performance at ISU's Performing Arts Center.  Hunter auditioned and was accepted last September to be a part of ISU's Children's Choir.  He loves  to sing, but he does not want anyone to hear him. He has a great little voice and I hope someday his confidence will develop.  It's been a rough year trying to get him to stay on task. He doesn't seem to learn from his mistakes like NT's do. When you struggle with activities of daily living, it makes everything else seem monumental, which is why I am so proud of Hunter for sticking with choir.  (I can't tell you how many times he wanted to quit due to anxiety, and how many tears were shed!)  

For me, this is payback time.  

Dear Hubby enjoyed perusing the choir program which contained different languages in song, which he thoroughly enjoyed.  In fact, I don't even think he looked up from the program.  "This is in Latin," he would say.  Then, a few minutes later, "This is in German",  followed by, "This is in French".  He was very much absorbed in the details and losing sight of the big picture.  I'm used to this by now. He's always oohing or awing or whispering. It's like I have my own personal commentary man next to me. I ignore it usually, but I am reminded of it and have to silence him when other people are bothered by it.  Ha ha.  Silence!  :)  Silencio!


Apr 22, 2011

Water Safety and Autism Spectrum Disorders

 I am on a lot of social networking sites, hooked up with other families that are dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental disabilities.  I am sickened when I see yet another article or news story dealing with a tragedy in the water.  I personally don't know how to swim, so water has always been scary for me.  Our little children with ASD's don't know danger...so we need to teach them water safety and skills-especially as we head into warmer weather.  The following is a great article from the Autism Asperger's Digest. 


Water Safety:  The Ultimate Life Skill

By James Ball, BCBA-D
Excerpt reprinted with permission from Autism Asperger’s Digest, July/August 2010 issue. www.AutismDigest.com

According to the National Autism Association, drowning is the #1 cause of injury-related deaths in children with an autism spectrum disorder. In 2005, 14 children with ASD died from drowning, when these children wandered off and were attracted to the water. Children with ASD do not fear “death” the way we do. At early ages, they do not understand the finality of death nor are they afraid of those things that could cause death, like water.

We know:
-          Kids drown without a sound.
-          It takes approximately one inch of water to drown in – a frightening statistic.
-          90% of drowning deaths occur while the child is being supervised.

Therefore, it is critical that, right from the very beginning when our kids are young, we teach them water safety and how to swim. Learning this lesson too late can be tragic and heartbreaking.

Teaching Water Safety and Swimming

Sensory Issues

A significant proportion of kids with an ASD have sensory issues, which complicates how we teach them to swim. The old-fashioned way our parents did it (throw you in and see what happens) just doesn’t float. (Yup, that’s what my father did, and I’m lucky I made it!) Kids with an ASD may need to ease into the pool and get used to the water before they are able to enjoy the experience enough for concrete lessons to start. Others may love the pressure they get from the water and just jump right in, not cognizant of drowning as a danger. It’s important we make the experience enjoyable from the start. From there you can teach them what they need to do once in the water.

Teach Swimming

The same teaching strategies that make kids with an ASD successful in the classroom will also make the child a successful swimmer.
-          Minimal Distractions
Make every attempt to minimize distraction while the child is in the water. If there are a lot of people in the pool turn the child around, so she can’t see what is going on at the other end of the pool. Also, pool areas echo, so be prepared if the child has any vocal “stims” and try to redirect the child back to the swimming. Or schedule lessons on off times, when less people are present, or, if needed, do private lessons.
-          Use of Visuals
Use pictures to show the child the steps involved in swimming. Combing the visual with your explanation will give him multiple ways of understanding the sequence of steps and your expectations. Laminate the pictures and bring them in the pool. You may also want to show the child a video of swimming prior to getting in the pool. Video modeling is a great way to teach new skills. If you can’t find a pre-packaged teaching video, create one of your own using a neurotypical sibling or friend as the “actor.”
-          Consistency
Whatever approach you decide to use (there are tons of examples on the web) make sure you use it consistently every time. Spectrum children learn through repetition, and lots of it!
-          Task Analyze
Break down the steps to swimming and teach each one until the child can do the skill with little or no guidance. Do not overwhelm the child with too much information all at one time. Just putting his face in the water may be a huge accomplishment in and of itself!

Teach Water Safety

Swimming and water safety are not synonymous. They are different skills and should be addressed differently. All children, whether or not they ever want to put their little toe in the water, should be taught water safety skills. And the #1 rule is this: unless an adult is present, the child should never go into any body of water, be it a kiddie or adult pool, a fountain, a stream, a pond or lake, or the ocean. They need to be taught this very specifically and concretely.

The more able child:  Many children on the autism spectrum are highly rule driven (sometimes to a fault). In this instance it is a great thing! Make specific rules around water.
-          You do not go near water without an adult with you. You may even make it more specific, adding distance to the water, how near the adult should be (i.e., an arm’s length away, in visual sight, holding your hand, etc.) and/or citing specific people, like Mommy/Daddy/Grandpa).

After the rule is established, practice it. Don’t assume the rule on paper makes complete sense to the child in a real life situation. Take the child around water and see what happens. You want to know if there are loopholes in your thinking and make necessary adjustments in your teaching. Each time the child follows the rule, heap on the praise and reinforcement.

The less able child:  We still use rules for the less able child, but we may break them down more concretely and use more visuals to teach them. For instance, the rule might be something like this: “You do not go into the water without a familiar adult holding your hand.” Have the child take your hand, walk to the pool and jump in with you. Every other time the child is around a stream, pool of any sort, lake or ocean, have her take your hand, walk to the water and go in together. Again, reinforce the child when he follows the rule and does what is expected. 

Water is an awesome sensory experience for children with an ASD. It can foster language, social skills, and fine/gross motor development. It can also be a place where tragedy can strike at any moment. Remember, enjoy the water, but also respect it. Teach your child what to do around water and how to be safe. Then go out and have a wonderful summer!

Find more information about swim instruction at one of these websites.
American Red Cross. www.redcross.org
Swim Lessons.com. www.swimlessons.com

A Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Jim has been working in the field of autism for 20+ years helping children, teens and adults with ASD. An author and requested national speaker, Jim runs JB Autism Consulting Services, working with schools to find success in designing programs for students with autism/Asperger’s. Learn more at www.jbautismconsulting.com.

Copyright © Autism Asperger’s Digest. All Rights Reserved. www.AutismDigest.com

Apr 12, 2011

THE WAY I SEE IT, our experience with Temple Grandin

We were able to attend a dinner with Dr Temple Grandin at Idaho State University several weeks ago.  It was fun to watch people watch her.  They were mesmerized by her.  No, it wasn't her movie star good looks, but her ability to be there in the moment and not really be there.  

People casually glanced in her direction throughout the meal.  Some went up to meet her and ask for autographs and pictures.  She was very good about it, and probably so very used to it by now. 

I felt as if we were all staring at an animal in a cage, all scared to approach her.  One paparazzi (or paparazzo?) took pictures (I guess there is only one in Idaho) but only when Temple allowed.  She made it known when you could take a photo and when you couldn't, because of her sensory issues.

 After our meal concluded I got up the nerve to ask Temple for an autograph.  I brought with me some of her books that I already had. Bill sat next to her and I quickly took some pictures. 

At one point, Temple asked Bill, "So what do you do?"  It caught Bill by surprise and he was more nervous than I was, and all he could say was, "I don't know what I do."   

There was no reaction from Temple and I had wondered if she even heard him. 

I wanted so bad to just spill my guts right then and there and tell her about Bill, about him being diagnosed with Asperger's at age 35 and then having it changed to PDD-NOS at age 40. 

I wanted to tell her about our three boys that are also on the spectrum and our daughter who is supposedly neurotypical.

  I wanted to tell her that Bill is a good guy and all he needs is a good mentor and employer that understands and is willing to work with him. 

There was so much to say, but her eyes glossed over and she had that far away look, and I knew the moment was gone. 

Here are some pictures:  ( I am allergic to cameras, so no photo of me)

Temple's latest book is wonderful! I learn something new with each book she writes. 

She gets down to the REAL issues of autism, the ones parents, teachers, and individuals on the spectrum face every day. Temple offers helpful do’s and dont's, practical strategies, and try-it-now tips, all based on her “insider” perspective and a great deal of research.

These are just some of the specific topics Temple delves into:

  • How and Why People with Autism Think Differently
  • Economical Early Intervention Programs that Work
  • How Sensory Sensitivities Affect Learning
  • Behaviors Caused by a Disability vs. Just Bad Behaviors
  • Teaching People with Autism to Live in an Unpredictable World
  • Alternative Medicine vs. Conventional Medicine
  • Employment Ideas for Adults with Autism
  • And many more!
This revised and expanded edition contains revisions based on the most current autism research, as well as 14 additional articles including:
  • The Role of Genetics and Environmental Factors in Causing Autism
  • Understanding the Mind of a Nonverbal Person with Autism
  • Finding Mentors and Appropriate Colleges
  • And many more!
  • Click here for more info 



Ernie and Oscar learn they like different things-great for kids on the Spectrum!