Sunday, November 29, 2009

Autism and The Job

My daughter has had a job with Burger King for 3 or 4 years now. She started out doing job training there in high school. She was not paid for it then. Even with the characteristics of autism they hired her during the summer and kept her on.

I thought it was due to the job coach from the school. She really was a good job coach. She really got it about people with autism being able to work. It was not her. She was good but it was not her.

I realized after high school that it was the store manager. The store manager was wonderful. When we did not have the job coach it was the store manager that made it work.

We tried to expand my daughter’s schedule to 5 days a week since she was out of high school. It did not work. The store manager still did not get rid of her. She just put Dominoe back on the two days a week she was accustomed to.

Dominoe cleaned the dining room and the bathrooms. She went in at the same time both days and got off roughly at the same time.

Well the manager retired. The new manager was young but I hoped. It did not work. After the second time that I know of that they tried to let Dominoe go, God forgive me I just let it happen. I could have disagreed and even maybe convinced them that she was not the only person responsible for the problem, but why?

The first thing that happened was the new manager wanted to change the time that Dominoe came in. Of course you know how well that went over with someone who has autism who is so used to structure and rules.

Then she wanted to let Dominoe go because the store was not making as much money. One of the other employees took up for Dominoe.

In the end the new manager took her off the schedule one day and the next weekend because they failed an inspection. Supposedly they gave her time off, because Dominoe filled the disinfectant with water. There are two staff who check after Dominoe, but I was just tired of it. They said they were not putting her back on schedule.

Dominoe cried but I told her there was another job out there for her.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

My Child with Aspergers

Aspergers is much harder to understand than Autism in many ways. My child with Aspergers is so much harder for people to understand. She talks like other children. People don’t see the way she acts or speaks rudely to other children and adults as part of her disability. It is though.

Typically Aspergers is a disability that is not diagnosed until later as a child is a teenager. Because of this there is the probability that there will be a lot of misunderstanding before the diagnosis. There is also a lot of opportunity for bullying in this type of situation. Some children feel justified in bullying a child with Aspergers because they can be so unpleasant. Other children do not understand that these children do not understand.

Some of the things to watch out with this disorder are social confusion, fixation with a specific subject, problems with change or transitions, and difficulty understanding other people’s motivations. Many of these are the same problems a person with Autism can have. Because someone with Aspergers have better control than someone with Autism you might not even realized they are fixated on a subject.

Some of the same techniques that are used with a child with autistic behaviors can be adapted for the child with Aspergers. Many times I thing of these two disorders the same because they are considered part of Autism Spectrum Disorders.

In some ways one is easier than the other. One is more noticeable and sometimes easier to get help for. One speaks more and is easier to reason with. On the other had that one argues more. Life with Autism and Aspergers is definitely interesting.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lotion and Autism

As I have mentioned before I actually have two daughters on the Autism Spectrum. The second daughter has Aspergers. Some times I still miss things with her.

She has been complaining about paper cuts over the past few days. When I would had her a paper she would fuss about not getting cut. I finally focused on it in the car this morning. I offered her some lotion. She said no. In her typical one word way of talking. Like a good mommy I explained that the reason she was getting paper cuts might be because her skin was so dry. Again in that typical autistic fashion she grunted no.

I had to think about it for a few minutes. Finally I thought about the smell and asked her if it was the smell of the lotion. Smells really bother this child. Does that happen with any of you who have children with autism? Finally she grunted yes.

This one took some fast thinking as we were getting close to school. Finally I came up with the idea of putting odorless chap stick on my hand and then rubbing her hands with them. Did I mention she also can not stand greasy things on her hands? Any way she finally agreed.

I have not had any complaints of paper cuts since then. At least one problem solved.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I Think My Child Has Autism: What Do I Do

If I just learned my child had Autism there are two things I would start to work on immediately. The first is getting a good evaluation. Even if your child is young. The second thins I would do is start working on early intervention services right away. I would do this no matter what any one else thought.

A good evaluation is sometimes hard to get. Typically parents take their child to the pediatrician. There are many pediatricians that still will tell parents to wait. My suggestion is to trust your gut. Although doctors are more and more taking parents seriously trust your gut. Try another doctor.

You can also contact your local Parent Training and Information Center or your local Autism Society and ask. Although they will not tell you which doctor to go to they can give you a list of local or some what local doctors. Keep asking and looking until you are satisfied. I am heart broken when I bump into parents who have known there was some type of problem for years and did not get answers.

If you think your child has autism or any delay and is three or younger start looking for help at the same time. You should call your state’ public health system or Mental Retardation/ Developmental Disabilities System. As much as I hate the term Mental Retardation, it is a specific medical term that will get the attention of medical personnel. They can hook you up with your state’s Early Intervention system. It is called different things but keep looking and asking.

They will do their own evaluation and start needed therapies. Even if you are wrong and your child is just a slow starter they will be able to help. Insurance or Medicaid can help pay for this. Remember look for free or inexpensive services first.

If your child is over three call the education system in your area. They can do a free evaluation. It is a process but keep at it. If they provide services they can do it free of charge.

Time is of the essence. Get any therapies your child qualifies for as quickly as possible. Be as diligent as you can about getting them there or being available. There is much, much research behind the theory that children with autism or any other disability will benefit from early help.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Four Basic Rules of Social Engagement for Children with Autism

Children with Autism have little ability to navigate social situations but with a little work and reinforcement they can learn some basic rules. Social manipulation is even harder so should be avoided at all costs. Children with autism do not have to be the same as typical children. And I would not want my child to be like a typical child. She would lose qualities that I love about her. Anyway Four Basic Rules:

1. Keep your promises or do not make a promise. Do not promise if you can not do it or even if you are not sure you can do it. If the promise is to keep a secret do it. The only time to break a promise is if someone is going to die. Then you must tell.

2. You may not think anyone is uglier than you, dumber than you, or anything like that. You may not guess why someone is doing something and hold it against them. Even if you know you must stay away from the situation. You may not make fun of someone.

3. Be thankful for everything you get. Someone worked hard for the money or stuff you get. People go out of their way to do favors for you. Repay your favors many times over.

4. Do not make trouble. Do your work. Once again keep your promises. Do what you do well. Do not break the law or the rules. Other people may follow you

Yes I realize all these rules are easier said than taught. We automatically do it with typical children. We just have to take a more direct approach with children with autism.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Autism and Social Skills Accounting

Stephen Covey talks about a model that may be helpful to parents of children with autism. The model involves imagining that social interactions are like deposits into and with drawls from a bank.

It is of course not as easy as just talking about deposits. We also need to talk about the deposits being what happens when a child does something that the other person sees as a benefit. The important part here is that the other person has to see it as a benefit whether the child with autism does or not.

Deposits can be large or small. Ideally we want to teach our child to make the largest possible deposit with the smallest effort so as not to wear them out. There are many ways to make the most of a deposit.

Some deposits are just large because they are a huge help. A huge help for a child may be help studying for and passing a test. Small help for a child might be holding a door.

Some deposits are large because you were not expected to help. A good description of this might start with the explanation that it is expected that your mother or father will help. It may not be expected that a child help another student. Therefore the deposit is considered larger or worth more.

Also it is important whether someone asks your child for help or your child volunteers. A child who volunteers to help will get a larger deposit. This is an important technique to explain to your child with autism as it will encourage your child to look for ways to help.

An important idea to talk about is something that has nothing to do with the size of the deposit. It is where you start in this process. If the child with autism starts making with drawls with a typical child, that child will expect your child to continue to make with drawls. Of course the opposite happens. If your child starts by making deposits then the typical child expects deposits.

So now, what is our child going to do with these deposits? Deposits might be used as a way for our child to get out of activities and still be friendly. Sometimes we as parents may not even know how the deposits are being used by our child, but just by the nature of autism they will get used!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Good Grief! Dominoe, Autism, and Money

We finally have had to come up with some limits in the Dominoe buying clothes saga. She wants to buy clothes EVERY day. Then she tantrums when I say no. With her little autistic self!

Anyway know she can only buy clothes once a week.

She wants me to get a ‘card’ for her now. Oy veh! I’m going to have to think about this….

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Social Skills Training for Children with Autism Part 2

Social Skills Training for Children With Autism

Once again it is up to parents to implement social skills training for children with autism. In the first part of this series we learned the three stages of acquiring some level of friendships. In this part of the series we will look at a term called Social Accounting.

Social Accounting is done by typical adults on an unconscious basis. Because children with autism do not pick up the social skills naturally we have to in some way quantify what many of us do automatically. Some of us even employ Social Accounting openly. We all know the office person who has a list of who contributes to parties and birthdays and who does not. Ideally there should be four steps in the Social Accounting process for children with autism.

The first step is to give free chances to every new child our child is trying to get the attention of. The thoughtful process is to give that child a certain amount of time say two weeks or a month to get to know our child. During this time we need to talk to our child about giving the other child free chances to try to get to know them. Your child should ignore gossip. In the process of getting to know your child other children are going to say or do things your child might assume is hurtful. During this free chances stage your child will assume these things are a mistake or a misunderstanding.

The next step is for your child to help the child in question in some way. An alternative is for your child to give the child in question something such as a small toy or snack.

Third you want your child to start using one of the two or three skills they have developed to start carving out a place among the other children. Teach your child to use their skill to make the others happy.

Finally your child with autism must not worry about the other children giving him favors. At this point your child will be a ‘good will ambassador’ to other children. Your child also needs to be careful to spread his help around evenly to other children. You and your child need to look for skills they are so proficient in that it will not take your child a lot of time to help. The goal is to make progress in your social skills training. .

Friday, November 6, 2009

Social Skills Training for Chilren with Autism Part 1

Unfortunately one the things parents will find themselves doing is trying to teach their child social skills. Remember this is the same child who sees the world in black and white. It is possible, but parents need to remember that the trick is to use those quirks of autism to their benefit.

One of the ways to use the quirks of autism to your benefit when raising a child with autism is to teach them rules. If you can teach them a rule which will ‘fit’ into their black and white version of the world you can have some measure of success. Initially you will need to teach 3 stages of meeting people and becoming some level of friends with people.

The first stage is the “Do I want to know this person?” stage. Adults have learned over years that making a good first impression is critical. This is not always the case in social skills training for children with autism. Your child may be able to make a good first impression and then not be able to keep the impression up through the other stages. Initially we should teach our children not to make a bad first impression.

The third stage is the stage that children try to figure out how the other person might be useful to them. This can be a conscious or unconscious process. As parents we need to get over the feeling that this process is self serving or calculating. Our children need us to teach them in black and white terms that they can understand. The child with autism will spend their time better cultivating a variety of skills that maybe helpful. Preferably with your help they can cultivate two or three areas they really like.

The third stage is the stage our children actually form the different levels of friendships. We need to teach our children that typical children will form closed groups. We should make every effort to teach our child with autism to stay away from becoming a member of a group. Our children should do their best to remain friendly enough with all of the groups to be able to get regular invitations to join them in an activity but not become a member.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dietary Considerations and Communication for the Person with Autism

Surprisingly one of the things parents tell me may help a person with autism is monitoring and adapting their diet. Of course not all people with Autism will benefit from restricting some foods but the possibilities are worth looking into.

The explanation is that some foods turn into opioid peptides when digested. These opioid peptides then can cause problems with normal brain functions. This is especially significant when you look at research showing 70-80% of people with autism have very high levels of this substance in their urine.

Cow’s milk and other milk products have casein in them. Casein is one of the foods that change into opioid peptides when digested. Casein is also added into other products so be sure to check the labels! Wheat and grains have gluten in them.

Once again gluten is one of those foods that seem to give people with autism problems. This includes breads, pastas, some snacks, and the list goes on. It also takes a long time for gluten to completely work out of a person’s system. You should plan on trying it at least 6 months before you will be sure you are seeing improvements.

Although we did not use it, some families have started to use gluten and/or casein free diets. Some families have done it with the entire family and have noticed improvements in all of them. Parents, including Jenny McCarthy, have described improved eye contact, less stomach problems, less anxiety, clearer speech, and improved behavior.

One of my children takes medication for behavior problems associated with people who have autism. Although we do not like a lot of medication it was important to controlling some of her aggressive behaviors. I continually review the reasons she is taking a medication. It is also important to our family to look at whether it is working or is still working. Over the years some of the side effects have been more of a problem than what the medication was supposed to help. That was a whole different conversation with her doctor. Just like gluten free or casein free diets, medication is not the answer for everyone.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Introducing Applied Behavioral Analysis for People with Autism

One of the treatment options for people with Autism is Applied Behavioral Analysis or ABA. I know parents who have paid for ABA therapy and spend time doing ABA therapy with their child. They seem to be quite satisfied that their child has been taught to be compliant in the process.

ABA is based on some of the same beliefs as Positive Behavior Supports. The theory is that desirable behaviors can be increased with rewards or in the case of ABA with our reactions. And the reverse undesirable behaviors can be reduced by rewards or reactions.

The behaviors which ABA concentrates on are literacy, educational skills, social skills, communication skills, and daily living skills. The daily living skills includes motor skills, food preparation, personal care, cleaning, time, money, and work skills. ABA uses an individual approach developed for each child. Each skill is taught in very small steps, like dressing might start with putting on socks. ABA is typically done by therapists or trainers and by parents. It is at least a 40 hour week.

Some people are opposed to ABA because they believe it teaches children to respond like a robot. But as I said parents who I know who have learned and taught ABA love it. Another problem with ABA is that because it is so time intensive it tends to cost a lot. Some parents have found tips to help with this problem but even then there are costs involved.

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