Apr 01

April Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness Month. Please enjoy this video from a young lady who has autism.  It is a beautiful message!

Permanent link to this article: http://nonstopautism.com/2016/04/01/april-autism-awareness-month/

Jun 17

New Shoes and Autism

old shoesThis is a picture of my son’s shoes.  He has high functioning autism.  You will notice that they are all white.  He has insisted on all white shoes since he was in third grade.  Taking him shoe shopping was OK as long as the store had shoes that were all white.  The last time we took him they did not have all white shoes so he wouldn’t get any of the shoes (we went to 3 different stores and no white shoes).  Because he needed new shoes (the insides are pretty worn down) we bought a nice pair of black shoes for him and they have been sitting in the closet in the box for several months because he would rather wear his all white shoes.

Shoe shopping in my family is a big challenge when we take our children who are on the autism spectrum.  There are two things that work against us.  First, individuals with autism like familiarity and change is hard.  My son really wants the all white shoes because it is what he is used too.  He doesn’t want to have a change that puts him out of his comfort zone.  The second thing that is hard is that there are so many choices!  My daughter really struggled with this.  We would try to help by giving her only three pairs of shoes she could choose between.  However, even this was difficult for her and we could be standing there trying on shoes over and over again until she made a choice.

My husband and I did figure out that as long as we knew our children’s shoe size, then we could just go to the store and pick out a pair and give them to our children.  No tantrums, no standing around for a long time and no need to go to three different stores to find the pair our children would be happy with.  However, this tactic became problematic when our children switched from children’s sizes to adult sizes.  They had to go with us to get sized. This happened to my daughter when she was in the fifth grade. We took her to the store, figured out her size and she settled on a pair of shoes.  Unfortunately, the pair she liked was not in her size.  Since she had picked what she wanted, she was not going to switch to a different pair of shoes.  We tried to reason with her but she didn’t understand that we couldn’t get her those shoes because they were too small.  She began to scream at the top of her lungs. She wanted those shoes and she wasn’t going to leave unless she got them.  I quickly picked out a different pair that was in her size that she had kind of liked while my husband picked her up so that we could quickly pay and leave.  We proceeded to the cashier while the entire store stared at us.  If you have a child that is on the autism spectrum that tantrums in public, you know how embarrassing it is when everyone is staring at you and you worry that they are also judging you as a parent.  She was very dumbfounded when I gave her my daughter’s old shoes and asked her to please dispose of them for us (if I threw them out at home I knew she would dig into the garbage until she found them and then run away from the house).  The next day she refused to put her shoes on to go to school.  So, I took her in the car to school and brought her shoes.  I explained the situation to the teacher and thank goodness for the teacher’s aide because she got my daughter to wear her shoes with the promise of making them cute with glitter (why hadn’t I thought of that!).  After that experience we went back to buying her shoes for her and bringing them home to give to her.

As for my son, last night he informed me that the backs of his shoes had broken and the piece of plastic had cut his heel so he decided he would try wearing the black pair.  Yay!  Here’s hoping that he will like either black or white shoes next time we have to buy shoes for him.

Tips I have figured out when you have children with autism who struggle with shoe shopping:

1.  Avoid Wal-mart for shoes.  I think that the tall ceilings and and bigness of the store puts kids with autism in a sensory defensive mode.  My children have had more tantrums there than any other store, but that story is for another post.

2.  If you know your child’s size and what they like, buy the shoes without them there and bring the shoes home.

3.  Help eliminate choices by choosing three pairs for them to select from.  Make sure that the pairs are in your child’s size.

4.  Pre-teach your child before going into the store.  Explain the steps and if you have paper and pencil, draw them out so you have it as a reference (ie 1. get foot sized 2. mom will pick three shoes 3. try shoes on 4. pick one pair 5. pay for shoes and leave).

5.  If you have a girl who like glitter or sparkles, you might want to offer this as a choice to decorate shoes if there isn’t a good selection of shoes (which tends to happen when girls go from children sizes to women sizes).

Permanent link to this article: http://nonstopautism.com/2015/06/17/new-shoes-and-autism/

May 10

Mother’s Day gift From Son with Autism

First I want to say happy Mother’s Day to everyone!  I wanted to share a story about one of my sons who has autism.  He is high functioning and usually goes about his day thinking and talking about his interests which include math theories, physics laws and computer games.  He knows a lot more about these things than I do, but I listen because I remember when he used to be non-verbal and I would wish that he could talk.  He used to be aggressive but now he is very sweet and never wants to hurt anyone.  He is almost 17 now and in the process of getting a driver’s license.  When I think about the growth he has had over these years it makes me tear up because I remember when I used to wonder what life was going to be like for him with having autism and the challenges he would face.

OPistachio-Muffinn past Mother’s days he usually forgot to even say anything, but would say happy Mother’s Day when reminded and then go back to what he was doing.  Today he was the first of my children to tell me happy Mother’s day.  He  went to an early church meeting that had refreshments.  When I picked him up he brought me a pistachio muffin.  Unfortunately, I have Celiac’s disease and so I can’t have anything with wheat which means I can’t eat the muffin.  But even though I cannot eat that muffin, what he told me makes this the best muffin I have ever had.  He excitedly said, “Mom, I saw the pistachio muffin and remembered that you like pistachios, so I got one for you.”  If you have a child who is on the autism spectrum, then you will understand just how amazing this statement is.  My son who usually thinks about himself and his wants, remembered something that I liked and thought about me.  Instead of getting a muffin for himself, he brought me a muffin instead.  This is truly a case where its the thought that counts.

Permanent link to this article: http://nonstopautism.com/2015/05/10/mothers-day-gift-from-son-with-autism/

Mar 26

Swimming Lessons for Children with Autism

This is information that Safe Splash Swim School sent me.  If you live in the Utah there is a possibility of a scholarship to help offset the cost.  This would be a great opportunity if you have a child with autism and need some extra help teaching him or her how to swim.  Safe Splash Swim School is located in California, Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Texas and Utah.

The following was a message from a representative from the swim school.

“Scholarsafe splashships available Through Autism Speaks Foundation

We are excited to again partner with the Autism Speaks Foundation to offer swimming scholarships to teach all students water safety skills for life!

We will be offering scholarships to students in our Salt Lake and Sandy Utah locations for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Scholarships are for financially disadvantaged families.
Come see us at www.safesplash.com!”

Permanent link to this article: http://nonstopautism.com/2015/03/26/swimming-lessons-for-children-with-autism/

Mar 18

Autism and the Literal Moments

One of the challenges of individuals who have an autism spectrum disorder is with figurative language. For example, when my daughter was 6 she had long straight hair that would easily tangle.  One morning I was trying to help her brush her hair and I told her that she had a lot of rats in her hair.  She freaked out as she thought there were literally “rats” living in her hair.  I explained to her that it was just a saying because a rat’s nest is messy and when hair is all tangled, it looks like a rats nest so people will say that there are rats living there.  However, they really aren’t and that her hair is just in knots.  This seemed to help her but then a few days later she came to me and asked me to help her get the knots out of her hair.  She had one particularly bad knot and I told her that I couldn’t seem to the the knot out.  She then said, “Well, then it must be doubled knotted.”

Bored little girl L 1With having three children on the autism spectrum I had to learn to be careful of how I phrased things.  Even years later I still find my kids occasionally taking something literally.  I let one of my sons know he could have a couple of grapes, so he took 2.  My daughter went to a friends house and I told her to come home at 6:30.  We got home about 6:40 and she was’t home.  I went over to the house she was asked and was upset that she didn’t follow directions.  She informed me that she had in fact followed directions by saying, “I came home at 6:30 and you weren’t home so I went back.”  I realized I had neglected to tell her to come home at 6:30 and stay home.

Here are some other sayings that have caused my children problems:

1.  1, 2, 3 eyes on me.  (Please, please if you are a teacher do not use this phrase.  My children have struggled with this because they don’t want to rip out their eyes to put on the teacher.)

2.  You are such a hard worker!  (As one student told me, “No, I am not, I am soft, see!” as he poked his belly)

3.  All four on the floor – in other words put all chair legs on the floor.  (My students told that there were four on the floor, 2 chair legs and their 2 legs.  So, be more specific, all four chair legs on the floor!)

4.  You are in deep trouble! (you are better off stating what the consequence is so that they don’t think they are going to put in a deep hole)

5.  I have a frog in my throat (you might get puzzled looks on this one…. Or they may want to see the frog!)

The list could go on and on.  So, how do you help?  The biggest problem that my children seemed to have was to first understand that there could be multiple meanings for things.  Once they had a picture of what one thing was, that was the only thing it could be, especially if it is a more abstract word.  Try to point out multiple meanings of words as you use them.  For example with hard.  Yes, it means that a physical thing may be hard, but doing a task can be hard too.  It is easy to bend a soft piece of fabric, but hard to bend a hard piece of wood.  Do this with various words and over time it will be easier for them to accept that there can be multiple meanings for words.

Also, work on idioms, similes and metaphors.  You can’t possible teach all of them, but if you can at least get the most commonly used ones taught it will help.  With my students I take it one step farther and we talk about how to figure out what something figurative means.  For example, if it is raining cats and dogs, the picture in their head may be literal cats and dogs.  But I then say, “isn’t that a silly picture?  Does that make sense?  Then have them try to figure out what the comparison is.  If a cat or dog fell on your head, how would it feel?  It would hurt because it would be a hard fall.  So, if the rain is falling like cats and dogs, then it means it is raining hard.  I hope that makes sense.  It isn’t an easy process and I spent  many years with my children helping them but they usually can figure things out now.

My final bit of advice, if you have told your child something and they either look puzzled or not following the directions that you said, think about what you said and ask your child what they think you said.  You might find out that there is a literal moment going on.


Permanent link to this article: http://nonstopautism.com/2015/03/18/autism-and-the-literal-moments/

Feb 20

T-stools Help With Attention While Sitting

Throughout tt stool linkhe years I have had a number of students who not only had autism, but also had ADHD.  They really struggled to be able to sit still and pay attention to their work.  The OT I was working with suggested a T-stool.  She had made a few by putting together two pieces of wood that looked like a T.  The idea is that the child sits on it and because it only has one leg, they have to work on balancing as they sit (which helps build your core while preventing slouching).  Because the body has to then focus on balancing, the child would be able to sit still more and focus more attention on school work.  I wasn’t sure that it would work, but I did try it with one of my students.  He ended up loving it and it helped him to be able to focus attention while completing his work.  You can buy them on amazon but they cost about $50 each.  It is pretty easy to make one and it much cheaper!  Click on the picture to learn how to build a T-stool.  It can be hard to find crutches to use, so I would suggest looking into buying a piece of pvc pipe and rubber leg tip to use as the leg.  Also, if you don’t have the ability to make the seat a circle, then a rectangle will work just fine.


Permanent link to this article: http://nonstopautism.com/2015/02/20/t-stools-help-with-attention-while-sitting/

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