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Friday, October 2, 2009

Autism at Play

I look out at my children running with the neighborhood kids, playing, laughing, running and I smile. Until I see one of my little angels alone and off to the side. She's playing with the voices in her head. She's avoiding the world around her for the world in her mind.

So what do I do? How do I get her to play with the others?

Sometimes if I go to her and play with them all she will join in for a while. But I noticed, that after only a few minutes she starts to cry or scream. The other kids pull away. She looses the glow about her and her smile is replaced with a frown. Once she goes back to playing by herself, her smile returns and hear her laugh.

Perhaps we has adults place too much on what should be done. We follow the directions of others and make our decisions based on what everyone else does. If she is happier to play by herself, who am I to say no? Am I right to force her to play with other children when she clearly does not want to? She will interact with others when she feels to needs to. When she wants something from them or they ask her a question. Yet when the necessity for interaction is done she happily goes back to her world.

As her mother all I want is for her happiness and well being. So long as she is happy playing games with the invisible friend she has in her head, so be it. I will not try to make her into what this world dictates as normal.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What's Wrong With That Child?

When you have a child with Autism that is a question you will hear more times then you can count. Every time your child has a meltdown in a store. Each time the begin punching themselves or jabber inconsistently at a family gathering. Yep, family is not immune. Anyone who does not understand Autism and its inner workings is going to think that your child is spoiled, or that you are simply not disciplining them.

“Spoiled Brat.” I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that from family and perfect strangers. It will wear on not only your nerves but break your heart as well.

How do you stop it?


You could stop everyone that makes a rude comment and explain to them what is going on but that can take up a lot of time and get tedious after a while. There are better ways to let people know that your child is not a spoiled brat without taking up half the day to explain it.

A simple and easy way is to print up business cards with a small amount of information about Autism on them. They explain basic information and can made up quite easily. You can find some that are pre-made and are easy to print out. Since they are small you can carry them in your purse or wallet and pass them out to anyone. Even family. The more people know the more they understand.

Another way is to purchase Autism Awareness T-shirt and merchandise. There are sites that have some great stuff to help promote Autism. Simply do a google search for Autism Merchandise and you will get all the leads you need. Do not be afraid or ashamed to tell the world that your child has Autism. The fact is, silence is your enemy. You must speak out most especially when your child cannot.

Now these methods are great and fine when explaining them to adults, not so much kids. Explaining to other small children or siblings so they understand can be difficult. Being the mother of three girls this is something that hits home.

My oldest and my youngest are not Autistic. Figuring out how to explain to them why their sister was screaming for no reason was not an easy thing to figure out. They didn’t understand words like, Autism, or Mental Disability. I can tell you how I explained it to them.

I started out by telling them that their sister’s brain simply worked differently then theirs did. That she needed more time to understand things.

Children with Autism hear and take in all the information and sounds around them.

My other children didn’t understand that fact. So I had to simplify it. I told them to imagine being in a small room filled with loud music and people screaming. I asked them if they thought they would be able to hear someone whispering from the other side of that room. That, they understood. I told them that this is how their sisters feels all the time and it is why we have to teach her differently.

It really didn’t take that long for them, even at 3 years old to understand what I was telling them and to realize the truth. I know it’s hard to listen to the sneers and ugly comments. I know the frustration you can feel. It’s not easy and you are not alone. The thing to remember is that ignorance is your enemy. Inform. Educate. Explain.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Behavior in Autism

One of major problems that you will face having a child with Autism is the total lack of control of emotions, thus causing extreme outbursts. Children with Autism often cause themselves physical pain during these outbursts. Banging their head on walls, punching themselves, biting themselves and others. It can be heartbreaking and frustrating to say the least.

When you see your little angel loose all control and start head banging the wall your whole body screams out. You pull the child away and tell them no which only seems to add fuel to the fire. Then they start punching their head, slapping their arms around and sometimes even biting you.

So what do you do?

The main reason, I have found, for such behavior is a lack of communication. The child has no language to tell you that they are frustrated, or angry, or scared, or even hot or cold. So they express their needs and emotions the only way they have available. Physically.

The first step is protection. You need to protect your child from harm. I have seen parents that have gone so far as to staple large pieces of foam on the bottom of their walls to prevent the child from being hurt. A preventative measure. Not the one I chose, but it is one.

There are several choice available and using your own experience and common sense you can no doubt come up with more.

You can buy a helmet for the child to wear. However if the child has sensory issues, (the body senses are over active or under active, also known as Sensory Integration Dysfunction or SID) that can prove to not be suitable antigen to the situation.

Find a focal point for the child to gain the child’s attention. A favorite toy, a song, a movie, a picture, anything. Sometimes the most unusual things can work. My daughter used to like the sound of tin foil being crushed.

If you have to put yourself between your child’s head and the wall or their fist, do it! I stopped counting the bruises I got but it was better me then her.

You need to teach your child communication. Not necessarily speech. There are many other ways for a person to communicate. See my earlier post on PECS. Autistic’s sometimes (my daughter included) learn better through visual means then verbal. You can make a series of flash PECS and bind them together in a little flipbook. That book can then be made into a necklace or clip on for the belt. That way the child has it with them.

Put in pictures of common things and feelings. Mommy, daddy, Drink, food, Happy, sad, ect. Show them to your child and say the word, act out the emotion or point to the person. You will have to do this several times a day for many days but they will pick up on it.

Repetition is the key. The more you repeat something the more they will learn it.

There is also Sign Language. This has proven very easy for those with Autism to learn. There is a show called Signing Time. You can purchase it here. It’s an amazing show and my daughters (all of them) learned the basics signs in one sitting. For a child with autism to learn something after being shown just once, is amazing.

Once your child can communicate even the most basic of things, you will start to see a decrease in the outbursts. Experiment and try different things to calm your child during an outburst while you teach them communication.

A child with Autism can learn the same things as any other child, they just learn them differently and more difficultly. For those who still wonder, (we all do) if your child will ever talk. Will they ever hug me? Will they ever laugh and play?


With your help, love, patients and the know how, your child will learn it all and never cease to amaze you in all that they can and will do.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Emotions of Autism

When you first learn that your child has Autism you are going to go through a whirlwind of emotional states. I can attest to my own roller coaster. Listed are just a few, and I do mean only a few, there are many, many more.


“No my child is fine. She/he just likes to do her/his own thing.” No matter the excuse you give, it is just that, an excuse. In your heart, you know there is something bigger going on. You must set aside your denial. Only then can you get your child the most needed help that he/she is going to need.


Yep that old time question. Why? That you will be asking for the rest of your life. You will never get a satisfactory answer to the ultimate question; “Why my child?” So don’t even try to answer. Just accept that this is what has occurred and now you, as the parent, need to learn to live with it if your child is going to have any hope.


“Who did this?” “How did this happen?” I struggled with that question for a long time. I read every theory, of which I will go more into in another post. I examined every story. There are times even now that I sit and try and figure it all out. It took me a while to come to the conclusion that the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of it wasn’t what was most important. Helping the child was.


There it is. It will come. There will undoubtedly be other emotional states you will visit on your journey then the ones I have mentioned thus far, however, this one, is one of the most important. Only in accepting that there is something different with your child, can you begin to relearn the world around you. Because that’s exactly what you will have to do.

Raising any child is an emotional upheaval to say the least. Raising one with a disability, well, lets just say it’s not for the faint of heart or weak of spirit. You need to remember that the first step in helping your child is to help yourself. Yes I know, your child come first, as do mine, however, if you neglect your own health, mental well being and happiness, your child will suffer as well.

So remember, it’s okay to take some time for yourself. Go get your hair done. Buy a new dress. Go see a movie. Or just go for lunch alone. Quiet time. Grab them when and where you can because it’s a long, hard road, but the most rewarding one possible.

“I will show her the world through my eyes,
By learning the world in hers.” Kitty Bradford ‘Secret World’

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Daily Routines for the Autism Home

Establishing a routine at home can be difficult especially when there is more than one child in the home. In my home I have three daughters only one of which has Autism. Setting a routine was not an easy task. I felt it unfair to set the other children to the same routine as my other daughter, so…I didn’t. Instead when I wrote out the schedule and routine for my daughter with Autism I made sure to write her name at the top of the schedule with a picture of her pasted next to it so she understood it was for her as opposed to her sister as well.


Autistic children have a tenancy to respond better to visual communication as opposed to verbal. Thus pictures depicting certain actions can be a lifesaver. These pictures are better known as PECS. Picture Exchange Communication System

PECS can be essential in creating a routine. PECS can be found free online and easily printed out. Many of the ones I have in my home are self-drawn with a pen and paper.

Make a routine list. Write down each thing you want your child to do throughout the day. I have found that including the time is not always a good idea for the simple reason that you never know if you will be able to adhere to a strict time. The order of the events is what is most important. Example.

Brush teeth
Write ABC’s
Play outside

Beside each activity place a corresponding image from the PECS and paste next to the written activity. When you and your child change from one activity to another, point to the picture and say the name of the activity at the same time.

Transitioning Tasks:

It usually takes the mind of a child with Autism a couple of minutes to process new information and possibly longer. Therefore you should remind the child a couple of minutes before you change activities. A simple verbal reminder, making sure to engage eye contact may help in the ease of transitioning from one task to another.

After a while your child will be accustom to the routine you have laid out and start initiating that routine on their own. If you need to change your routine do so slowly with one activity at time making sure to allow for a proper adjustment period depending on your own child’s abilities to handle change.
You will be amazed at how a daily routine will improve the behavior of your child and reduce the outburst that Autism Children are prone to having.

Identifying Autism

Autism effects 1 in every 150 births in America today. It is a silent epidemic that has no cure. People with Autism suffer in silence until someone has the courage and love to stand up and speak for them. It is a challenging task to say the least. One that should never be taken lightly. Raising a child with Autism can be frustrating, time consuming, heartbreak and disappointing, but it can also be the most rewarding job you will ever accept. To see the small child that once sat in silence, isolated from the world finally stand up and speak, learn and grow makes all the hard work worth wild.

Autism can difficult to spot unless you know the warning signs. Each person with Autism can exhibit different signs. Below are the most common signs of Autism. Signs can appear as early as a year old. If your child exhibits these signs contact your doctor for an Autism screening. Do NOT wait. Early intervention can make a world of difference.

1. Does not respond to their name – acts as though he/she is deaf
2. Does not wave bye bye or ‘coo’ by age one
3. Does not make eye contact
4. Resists physical contact
5. Appears unaware of people and surroundings
6. Prefers to play alone and stays in his/her own world
7. Does not start talking by age one and half.
8. Looses acquired speech
9. Has uncontrollable fits of rage, sadness and other emotions (this one goes beyond the typical toddler temper tantrum – fits can often include physical abuse to himself/herself.)
10. Bangs head on wall, or physically hurts themselves for no reason
11. Seems oblivious to physical pain
12. May have abnormal speech rhythm. (i.e. robot tone, or singing voice)
13. Repeats words or phrases constantly but doesn’t understand them
14. Repetitive motion like hand waving, rocking, arm flapping ect.
15. Develops specific routines and patterns and gets upset when those routines are changed
16. Has a habit of lining up object in room, such as lining up chairs, toys, books ect.
17. Becomes unusually obsessed with moving objects; spinning car wheel, fan rotating (my daughter had to have the ceiling fan on at all times)

If you feel your child may have Autism, please do not wait. Take your child to the doctor and ask for an Autism screening. The doctor can then screen your child and refer you to the Early Intervention Program (IEP) in the county/ school district you live in.