Guest Blog by Tracey Cohen. Originally published on The Art of Autism
“For as long as I can remember, my greatest loves, which is when I am most at peace, are running, especially outdoors, helping others and just giving back to our world if even in the smallest of ways. It was during my service as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer in 2003 that I ‘fell’ into writing, a process that partially occurs during my run. My effort to bring more awareness to the needs of the developing country I served has progressed in ways I never dreamed, including two books, numerous articles and frequent speaking opportunities all of which allow me to help and connect with others in ways never deemed possible. Fueled by the courage I muster on my run, it is my honor and privilege to inspire, educate and entertain in the challenging world we live.” – Tracey Cohen Six-Word Lessons on Female Asperger Syndrome and Six-Word Lessons on the Sport of Running
Guest blog by Ashley Taylor of DisabledParents.org
Parents with autism spectrum disorder face so many challenges. They may have to overcome their sensory overstimulation in order to keep up with household chores or their children. People they encounter might place the burden of stigma on the parent as they misunderstand autism disorder. However, many parents find that their autism actually has some benefits. They have insight and are more empathetic toward their children when they struggle with emotions. Or they find that while they are caring for their kids they are able to “hyperfocus” on the little ones. The point is, parents with autism have struggles and strengths just like any other parent.
To make life easier, many parents with autism spectrum disorder find that modifying the home in certain ways makes it easier to move around and get things done.
Replace the Floors - If you have carpets, replacing them with hardwood, tile or concrete is a safe bet. Not only are they easier to keep clean, but they also reduce the risk of slips and falls for both children and parents. They are also less likely to sustain damage from unruly kids because they are strong and durable. Finally, hard surface floors contribute to better indoor air quality, which means less irritating allergens and triggering odors for parents with sensory processing issues.
Install Smart Lighting - Parents with autism may have a lighting system that fits their needs now, but those needs may change with kids. Smart lighting systems have many benefits for homeowners. They allow you to turn lights on and off remotely, which can save money on electricity when you forget to turn the lamp off before heading out the door. They can also make your home more secure as lights going on and off are a clear indicator to burglars that the house is occupied and therefore shouldn’t be targeted.
Smart light bulbs also tend to live longer, which is better for the environment. But for parents with sensory issues, smart lighting means so much more than saving money on electricity and light bulbs -- it gives these parents control over the visual stimuli within their environment. Smart lighting systems make it easy to go from natural light to sensory mood lighting that calms and soothes.
Make Bathrooms Safer - The bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house. The high humidity and slick surfaces are perfect for slips and falls. It’s easy to forget about the water temperature and end up scalding yourself. Furthermore, getting up and down to bathe or use the toilet becomes more and more difficult as we age. To make the bathroom safer for kids and adults alike:
Parents with autism face many struggles, but their disorder can also give them special insight that helps them raise healthy and happy children. To make life simpler, it helps to modify the home in certain ways to create a safe and comforting atmosphere. Hard surface floors are safer and easier to maintain, but they also keep the indoor air quality purer for less irritation. Smart lighting systems are an investment, but they save money and make it easier to create sensory mood lighting. Finally, the bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house. Adding grab bars, a walk-in tub, and anti-scald valves can keep bathtime fun and safe.
Ashley Taylor, DisabledParents.org
Guest Blog by Caryl Anne Crowne of Aveanna Healthcare
Learning that your child is autistic can be a blessing. Answers to behavioral issues are finally apparent and steps that need to be taken are revealed. However, this is just the beginning of a long road to travel, not just for parents, but for siblings. Understanding this condition and how it should be managed affects an entire family.
Children have a limited ability to understand actions that are not similar to theirs. The age of a sibling should be taken into consideration instead of grouping different ages together. Single out the age categories and take it slow. According to Jean Piaget, developmental psychologist, there are 4 stages of cognitive development according to age. Below we will look at three of these stages and how to handle the conversations by age.
Children under the age of 7 are unable to process certain information due to inability of in-depth logical thinking. Using examples of their experiences works best in sharing why their brother or sister is different. Stress that it is no one’s fault, that there is nothing to fear and that they may not be able to talk to you right away.
Ages 7 to 11 are when logic begins to emerge as a form of thought process. Experiences are still stubbornly linked in their minds so using a combination of experiences and logic should be used. Watch carefully to their reactions to know which way is the most acceptable. Explain that their autistic brother or sister has to try very hard to learn, but they can help by showing them things and playing with them. However, your child should know that their autistic sibling is not their responsibility. Always get mom or dad if they become aggressive.
Kids over the age of 12 are inclined to think like adults and do not have to have a previous experience to grasp knowledge. They will be more inclined to understand events of their autistic brother or sister when the facts are explained. You can go into more detail with this age group by explaining that autism is a problem in the brain that happens before birth. Stress that other people may not understand, but you can help to provide answers.
Stress Around Friends
Emotions can run high with siblings of an autistic family member. Begin teaching your children early that others with no experience may never completely understand and that is okay. Encourage siblings to share any embarrassing moments and how to handle these moments.
Forming Family Relationships
Autistic children require a lot of special care. The other children may see this as special treatment and get disgruntled. Your explanation of providing extra time may not be accepted at first, but including everyone as a family will soon change that. Also plan time with each one of your children to let them know that they are valued by you.
Acceptance of an autistic sibling into a family takes time and patience. By reinforcing their condition time and time again, autism can be physically and emotionally welcomed by siblings. Communication is key in bringing the right attitude to siblings in regard to an autistic child. It is not unusual for parents to feel responsible for adding this burden onto siblings. When a sibling reaches the age of reasoning, share your thoughts and praise them for the amount of help that they have offered. Autism is an issue for the entire family to share.
Caryl Anne Crowne is a media specialist and contributing author for the Aveanna Healthcare Blog. She regularly produces content for a variety of pediatric therapy blogs covering topics such as autism, speech therapy and general medical solutions.
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.
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.