Guest blog by Kathleen Carter of EducatorLabs.org
When your child’s on the autism spectrum, safety becomes your number one priority. Backyards are wonderful spaces to enjoy nature, get the wiggles out, explore, and de-stress. They also facilitate activities that improve gross and fine motor skills, problem-solving and thinking skills, and social, communication, and language skills.
Make your backyard safe and accessible
Because autistic behaviours may include elopement and an inability to recognize and properly react to environmental dangers, take these steps to ensure your child’s safety.
Sensory activities and other fun outside games
Looking for something fun and engaging for your child? Experts recommend the following activities for their therapeutic value—and they’re all DIY-friendly, too.
Autism Speaks has a list of 10 fun sensory play ideas that include creating a tray of brightly-colored beads, polka dot slime, a spider web walk, and balloon paint stamping. Check out other ideas here.
Pool safety for kids
According to the Pool Safely national public education campaign, drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children between the ages of one and four. If you own a pool, there are a variety of things you can do to secure it from curious kids—and animals!
The natural classroom provides a wonderful, therapeutic environment for non-neurotypical kids. Once you’ve taken precautions to secure your backyard’s function and accessibility and made sure outdoor play is safe and fun, it’s time to invite your child to explore and engage with his world.
By Trevor Pacelli
Autistic movie reviewer Trevor Pacelli makes some interesting points about the son in the movie being on the autism spectrum, and offers some great lessons to think about. Read more . . .
Guest blog by Paul Denikin of Dad Knows DIY
For children on the autism spectrum, their home is an important place for respite. It’s the one place above all others that should provide them with a sense of safety and peace. However, for their parents this can be more challenging than a trip to the store for a safety gate and some cabinet locks.
Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder, is unique to every child. While one child may be triggered by noise, another may be stimulated by color. So finding ways to make your home perfect for your child will take time and careful consideration.
To bolster your efforts at creating the best environment for your child, we’ve found three measures that benefit every child on the spectrum.
1. Consider A Service Dog
A service dog can be specifically trained and certified to help care for an autistic child. They can attend doctor visits, family outings, school functions and any event where a child might otherwise feel stress, not to mention, a a snuggly friend in the home setting.
A service dog can help a child in a number of ways:
2. Make Space For A Sensory-Friendly Bedroom
An autistic child needs at least one room in the house where everything is perfectly suited to their needs, typically a bedroom. Consider these things in your sensory-friendly space:
3. Create An Attitudinal Environment
It’s important to evaluate the level of calm in your home. Are one or both parents stressed? Are siblings frustrated? Are you working hard to provide an environment that’s calm, comforting and has a strong sense of security?
Like most children, children with autism will follow the lead of the attitude that is predominating their environment. But with autistic children, environments permeated with stress will lead to some negative symptoms, such as decreased listening, less eye contact, more oppositional behavior and more unhappiness.
Take some important steps to make sure you’re helping your child thrive at home:
Happiness in the home starts with happy parents.
It would be so much easier if we could see through the eyes of our child to know their needs, but we can’t. What we can do is take proper care to test and try things that do and don’t work, so that over time they’ll have the perfect safe space. Let go of perfect, and have fun with your child creating their unique space.
Paul Denikin, Dad Knows DIY
By Patty Pacelli
While watching for strengths, be aware of subject areas or tasks that are challenging or difficult for your child. Keep them in mind when envisioning the future, but consider how a challenge at home could be a strength in the workplace. Trevor was hypersensitive about being on time, which caused conflicts with the family occasionally, but it became a strength when he had his first job.
Learn more about strengths and challenges that could translate to the workplace in my book, Six-Word Lessons for Autism-Friendly Workplaces.
By Trevor Pacelli
You may relate to the countless individuals in the world who misunderstand autism. Well today, I will give you an easy parallel to autism: Mutants. Yes, the mutants in the X-Men universe share similarities to autism.
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Lesson #12: They May Have Very Obsessive Interests.
Each of the X-Men are abnormally strong at one skill; Logan/Wolverine possesses physical strength and endurance as well as claws used for fighting, while Professor X has phenomenal mind-bending powers. Likewise, somebody with autism could have a “freakish” advanced skill, including math, memorization, art, or anything else.
Six-Word Lessons for Autism Friendly Workplaces, Lesson #84: Autistic Employees Can Be Literal Thinkers.
In Logan, the border patrol wanted to take advantage of the mutants’ skills to become future weapons. While an autistic scenario looks a little different, abnormal traits still leave individuals on the spectrum as easily susceptible to being used by someone else. For example, others I knew in high school took advantage of my autism by mocking my ridiculous mentality to sound funny for their friends.
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Lesson #29: Will Kids Make Fun of Him?
Due to differences, these mutants get outcast by society, mistreated by everyone except their own companions. In the real world of kids, it leads to bullying. In the world of adults, it leads to discrimination.
Six-Word Lessons on Growing up Autistic, Lesson #23: Some Actually Prefer to be Alone.
In this movie, Logan seems clueless about what it means to be a father, partner, and hero. The same goes to the little girl he partners with, who knows nothing about how the world works. Many autistic individuals hold such a social barrier between themselves and the world, preferring to stay cooped up at home.
Six-Word Lessons for Autism Friendly Workplaces, Lesson #31: Discrimination Can Surface in Various Forms.
Remember those times when somebody labeled as “retarded” was sent to live in a mental clinic, sometimes for life? It parallels the mutants in Logan who were forced to grow up in a hospital in order to become weapons. Except in the real-life scenario, the mentally handicapped were at one point sent to live in asylums.
I realize these scenarios feel like a bit of a stretch, but below the surface level, some superhero movies in fact develop complex social commentaries.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see reviewed, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
By Patty Pacelli
Human beings were made to work, and adults with autism are no different. Employment leads to a better mood, higher self-esteem, and improved physical health. It allows autistic adults to further develop their skills and understanding. Our son Trevor liked being around people and enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment at his jobs.
This is why it's important to instill the idea of working in autistic children as early as possible by expecting them to do chores around the house and outdoors, including them in volunteer work and asking them to clean and take care of their own room and bathroom or other space. As they get into middle school and high school, talk to them about what kind of job they might want when they grow up, and encourage their ideas, even if they seem unrealistic to you at the time.
Our son has gone through some challenges with having jobs and finding new jobs, but we have continued to encourage and support him, and have not given up. Keep researching and networking and doing volunteer work while job-hunting.
For more about the workplace and people with autism, see my book, Six-Word Lessons for Autism-Friendly Workplaces. I wish you the best in finding work for yourself or the autistic adult in your life.
By Lucy Wyndham, freelance writer
Neurodiversity is the idea that the neurological differences behind autism, ADHD, and many other intellectual disabilities are the result of normal variations in the human genomes and not pathologies to be cured. Autistic individuals have long found it difficult to find employment, but as the concept of neurodiversity is beginning to take root, companies have begun to recognize the benefit of hiring neurodiverse talent.
1 in 68 people has been identified on the autism spectrum in the United States. Despite the fact that it is often associated with higher than average intelligence and traits such as the ability to focus, passion, honesty, and attention to detail, individuals with autism are often seen as unemployable due to their problems with social skills.
Thanks to increased pressure to innovate, however, companies are finding that accommodations in their hiring and onboarding processes can result in significant growth for their organizations. Indeed, these new hiring initiatives are less about inclusion and more about their impact on the bottom line. In fact, two giant multinationals that have specifically created neurodiverse hiring initiatives and reported generating significant innovations as a result--in one example, innovations led to a $40 million savings.
Higher productivity, better problem solving, and more creative innovation doesn’t have to be limited to just a handful of companies. In fact, other organizations can learn from their examples and adopt one or both of the following changes to increase neurodiversity in their workforces.
1. Change the Hiring Process
Traditional hiring processes rely heavily on the interview, which is skewed towards extroverts and people with high levels of emotional intelligence. While it’s not uncommon to find autistic candidates with one or more high-level degrees in the application pools, these candidates tend to do very poorly in interviews, as they often struggle with things like eye contact and conversation tangents.
Instead of the interview, companies might consider adopting a different kind of application process. In its pilot program designed to hire people with Asperger’s, Ernst & Young ditches the interview and uses informal settings and tasks (building a robot) to assess candidates.
2. Provide Support Across the Board
If the company's’ goal is to drive results, creating support teams to assist neurodiverse candidates through the hiring and onboarding processes (and beyond) is important. Companies can often work with nonprofit or government agencies (such as the Arc) to provide social skills training and make minor workplace accommodations (such as providing headphones to limit auditory overstimulation). Additionally, commercial landlords are responsible for accessibility in their properties, which ensures that those with special needs can move around comfortably within the building. It is up to employers as tenants to ensure that these regulations are up to standard.
It’s also important to engage managers and coworkers, who benefit from up front communication about accommodations needed by neurodiverse new hires, and who find themselves needing to manage for the individual, instead of managing compliance to a set of rigid standards.
Finding and accommodating neurodiverse talent might require operational changes, but its benefits far outstrip its costs. Organizations that want to actively recruit and hire employees with autism can make tremendous progress by changing how they hire and providing support across the board to coworkers and managers, as well as the employees themselves.
Northwest Center of Seattle recently hired Trevor Pacelli, a young adult on the autism spectrum, and one of his duties is to write blog posts for the company. In this post, he has written about his experiences with his past jobs and the varying degrees of inclusion in those workplaces.
Northwest Center is a nonprofit company that " . . . was founded in 1965 by parents who refused to institutionalize their children with developmental disabilities or accept the prevailing notion that their children couldn't be taught. Banding together to form Northwest Center, they hired their own teachers to develop education programs targeted to special needs children." (NWCenter.org) Their mission is "to promote the growth, development and independence of people with disabilities through programs of education, rehabilitation, and work opportunity."
Trevor is thankful and excited to be working for Northwest Center.
Inspiration for Life with Autism
This blog has a variety of articles about people living life with autism, and topics and ideas that can help in the journey. Guest bloggers are welcome. Inspired by Trevor, a young adult film critic, photographer and college graduate on the autism spectrum.