One in 68 Children has Autism

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A New Perspective

December 23, 2013 2:28 pm Published by

This is a wonderful holiday read. Enjoy!

Happy Holidays!

Taken from www.autismafter16.com, written by Liane Kupferberg Carter.

Silence is Golden

Every year at Thanksgiving, there comes a moment after dinner when I need to escape.

I should say up front that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I revel in it. But no matter how much fun we are having, no matter how full my heart is with good will and satisfaction and joy, I reach a point when everything becomes too much. An aural assault. I feel an overpowering urge to step outside into the November night air.

Each year I make the same excuse to myself –I just need to shake out the crumbs from the tablecloth—and step onto the front porch. The blast of cold air on my face is bracing. Reviving. Sound falls away and the world goes silent.

This year, as I took in great gulps of wintry cold air, it struck me: This is how Mickey must feel, when he reaches the tipping point of sensory overload and says, “I’ve had enough.”

When Mickey was 8 and Jonathan 13, we flew to Arizona for our niece’s bat mitzvah. Mickey fidgeted but managed to sit through the religious service, even singing along to familiar songs. At the end of the ceremony, we moved across the hall into the banquet room. We slammed up against a wall of thrumming music and flashing lights. Mickey flung himself to the floor and clutched his hands over his ears. People stared. Then they stepped over him.

Embarrassed, I tried to coax him up. He wouldn’t budge. “This isn’t going to work,” my husband Marc said. “I’ll go back to the hotel with him.”

“But your family is all here, I don’t want you to miss out,” I said. “You and Jonathan should stay. I’ll take Mickey back.”

We returned to our spacious, serene suite. I called room service and ordered Mickey’s favorite meal: a burger and fries. After dinner he played with his Game Boy. I read a novel. We were both perfectly happy. The truth? I don’t like loud parties either.

Having a child with these sensitivities opened a window into myself. I always hated crowded rooms. Strobe lights. Roller coasters. I thought it was a character flaw. I didn’t realize it was just the way I was wired.

Just the way he is wired.

“I’ve had enough.” He says it adamantly, often while the rest of us are still having fun. For years, I cajoled. Reasoned. Even bribed him. I wanted him to sit longer at religious services. Stay later at the party. Last through the movie.

Did I have my own agenda? Was it more about my desires than his? Or am I beating myself up too much? Mickey has always resisted anything unfamiliar, whether tasting a vegetable or trying an art class. I believe it’s my job as his parent to expose him to as many new experiences as I can. I want to open the richness of the world to him. When is it okay to push? How hard? When to pull back? It’s an intricate dance.

It has taken me a long time to understand that he doesn’t mean to be difficult or self-absorbed. He is simply advocating for what he needs. Just as I need my moments of respite and retreat, Mickey does too.

Which is a good thing. A marvelous thing, in fact.

Standing there Thanksgiving night, inhaling the cold, restorative air, I shook out more than tablecloth crumbs.

Parenting Your Child with Autism during the Holidays

December 13, 2013 2:26 pm Published by

The holiday season is magical for some, but can be hectic for a family with an autistic child. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa – whatever you celebrate, there is a lot to take in when you have a child on the spectrum. Lights, crowds, traffic, visitors, waiting in line, etc. can be particularly overwhelming, especially to children. This time of year brings the entire family out of their usual routine, and exposes them to people and places they may not be familiar with. This can create a host of problems, including increased stress levels for all involved.

Social requirements such as relatives wanting a hug and kiss, or extended holiday dinners with strange food and a lot of noise can be overwhelming for your child. Your child may not understand personal space or safety, and may run around the house or try to play with something breakable. If your child cannot communicate what he/she wants, tantrums might ensue. Relatives may think that the child is misbehaving, and may try to discipline the child, not realizing that the child really can’t help it, and that discipline is not helpful when it comes to sensory overload and high anxiety.

Now is a good time to take a deep breath and make some very specific plans that will help you get through this period. What can you do? With some preparation, planning, and information sharing, the holidays can be less stressful and more enjoyable. Here are some tips on how to prepare your friends and relatives, whom you will be visiting the next few weeks.

Like any behavior we are trying to increase, behaviors we want to see during the holidays need to be practiced and reinforced. Creating similar situations to holiday events, where your child can be reinforced, is a good start. For example, you can place a wrapped gift in front of your child and prompt him/her to wait or keep his/her hands down, and reinforce this behavior. You can reinforce your child for keeping ornaments on the tree. At the beginning of the holidays, establish these types of clear “holiday rules.” These rules tell your child about your expectations and should be positive. Use “do” statements rather than “don’t statements.” For example, “Hands down.” rather than “No, stop touching.”

Remember your child’s needs. Try not to have unrealistic expectations for your child when visitors or relatives are over. A little advanced preparation can lessen your child’s anxiety. You can help your child by trying to keep his/her usual routines, such as mealtimes and bedtimes. If you are at a relative’s house, ask if there is a quiet room where your child can retreat for a time to escape the commotion and noise.

You can also prepare by thinking of the holidays in terms of a series of activities that occur before, during, and after a certain time. Examples include cleaning the house, getting decorations out, taking photos, shopping, buying a tree, starting school vacation, taking decorations down, and writing thank you notes. Providing information in a way that your child understands is essential. For instance, mark special days on the calendar. Use picture symbols to support routines and aid in communication. Use social stories – these personalized stories can be used to incorporate what will be happening in the days ahead. Include photos of who he/she will be seeing, or the house decorated during last year’s holiday season. Play some of the music he/she may be hearing during this time of year. Some other behaviors you can work on to prepare your child are practicing unwrapping presents. Wrap a bunch of boxes up with favorite treats inside, and have him/her open them. Practice a handshake. Practice tolerating sitting at table.

Also, where will you be spending the holidays? Call or email your extended family or friends in advance, and let them know what your plans are, and what you need from them. Make decisions based on what is truly best for your child. Who will be there? Do all of the people in attendance know your child? Does everyone know what Autism Spectrum Disorder is?  Are they comfortable and familiar with your child’s special needs? Cover all your bases beforehand by writing a group email or letter to those who will be in attendance. Let them know the things that your child is uncomfortable with, but also the things they are particularly fond of.

Remember, it’s up to you. With a little advanced planning, the holiday season can be enjoyable for you and your child.


written by QSAC Director of Training, Anne Denning, MA, BCBA

ABOUT US

QSAC is a New York City and Long Island based nonprofit that supports children and adults with autism, together with their families, in achieving greater independence, realizing their future potential, and contributing to their communities in a meaningful way by offering person-centered services.

QSAC pursues this mission through direct services that provide a supportive and individualized setting for children and adults with autism to improve their communication, socialization, academic, and functional skills.