Improving Concentration

How to improve your autistic child’s concentration

Improving your autistic child’s concentration is the next step after you have established his visual schedule.

Concentration is the intense attention used in learning a task, and the ability to ignore other distractions in the environment.

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To improve your autistic child’s concentration, you need to follow these simple steps:

  1. Eliminate distractions. I make sure that I put away anything that will distract my son’s attention before we start an activity.
  2. Ensure eye contact when giving instructions. I always maintain eye contact to John to enable him to simulate what I’m doing. This should be consistent for him to continue maintaining his eye contact.
  3. Break instructions into simple steps and don’t give too many at one given time. I always give brief instructions to John when we are doing an activity so he could understand what I am saying.  I use a visual aid for support.
  4. Talk to your child in a soft, calm voice. John doesn’t want loud noises, so when I talk to him I make sure that my voice is not loud for him to hear and doesn’t sound restricted and firm.
  5. Make the activity as motivating as possible. I’m trying to encourage John all the time when we are doing an activity by breaking it into achievable steps then allowing John to have a short rest period between each step. I use a reward sticker for every step he has accomplished. This will further encourage him to concentrate and complete the whole tasks.
  6. Alternate active activities with sitting and concentration skills. If John and I have a playtime activity in the park, I alternate this with an activity that requires concentration at home. I used PECS in our home activity.
  7. Once we established an activity, we moved alternately between difficult and easy tasks. I utilised a visual schedule to keep John on task. It is a reminder for what steps of the task are required and for how long he needs to concentrate.
  8. Use verbal prompts or touch prompts to gain attention. I always do this to John so he won’t lose focus.
  9. Find activities that your child will really enjoy and mixed these with the not so legobrick-685015_640enjoyable. Enjoyment of a task will lead to motivation to stick with it longer. John enjoys playing lego and playdough. These are also good in improving his fine motor skill development.
  10. Have a series of tasks set out and move in an orderly fashion from one to the next. Be prepared to quickly move from one task onto the next if behaviour problems arise from the task being too difficult or easy. I make sure that John doesn’t get bored with any activity that we are doing.
  11. Involve yourself with your child’s game or task at hand and keep him at this puzzles-lyrics-884879_640activity as long as you can without him becoming negative or losing concentration. I always go for an activity that will help John to further develop his concentration. I used lego and floor puzzles for this play activity.
  12. Poor attention may be related to difficulty in completing a task. I always try to make sure to start an activity that is easy to follow before going to the hard ones which John will need more help in concentrating.

By following these simple steps your child’s concentration on a task will improve thus allowing him to do a task, which he will enjoy doing independently.

Using a reward program by giving tangible rewards and utilising positive reinforcements through giving lots of praises to a particular task done is a helpful way of motivating your child to concentrate on a particular task at hand. I will be discussing this further in my next post.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to leave your comments below and will try to come back to you as soon as I can.

Sincerely,

Adel 🙂

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Music Has A Calming Power In Reducing Meltdown

Music has a calming power in reducing meltdown for autistic children. It helps them to music therapy cd-158817_640relax whenever they are having a bad day.

My son,  John loves music. When he was little, he used to dance when he hears an upbeat music but he can’t tolerate high-pitched sounds or loud noise. He used to cover his ears with his hands and screamed when he hears them. His sensory problems bring this about. When overloaded with sounds he always resorts to “meltdown”.

He has a habit of banging his head on the wall or on the floor so; I always have to hold him tight and put pressure on his arms to protect him from hurting himself. I always have to close our door and windows to minimize the noise from outside as well as decrease the intensity of our light, which might aggravate his meltdown.

His behavior made me feel anxious and helpless because I don’t know how to calm him down. So, I did constant research about the methods to calm autistic children and found out that a soft relaxing music might lessen the intensity of his meltdown because of his heightened sensory problems.

By letting my son listened to Indigo Ocean Dreams (Indigo Dreamsand electronic pop music,  I was able to make him relax.

I even bought him a Skullcandy Hesh 2.0 Over-Ear Headphones – Navy/Red Paul Frank that he could just listen to the music without any background noise.

His behavior has improved and has less meltdown. His speech and communication skills also improved and his concentration and attention skills have marked improvement as well. I could easily call his attention and encourage him to have eye contact with me.

Music Therapy

Music therapy is a method used to help children on the autistic spectrum. It is provided by a musical therapist, which involves the use of music and musical instruments to stimulate and relax autistic children thereby resulting in positive changes.

Benefits to autistic children

  • Develop listening
  • Encourage voluntary play
  • Enhance communication
  • Toughen muscles and improve motor coordination
  • Help children to trust and build bonding relationships
  • Improve concentration and attention
  • Provide a medium for self-expression
  • Enhance language development through songs and turn-taking
  • Stimulates imagination and creativity

Hope you find this topic about the calming power of music in reducing meltdown useful. If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to comment below and I will try to answer it as soon as I can.

Sincerely yours, 

Adel 🙂

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Understanding Sensory Processing Issues In Children With Autism

What are Sensory Processing Issues?

sensory processing issuesSensory Processing Issues are one of the issues experienced by children on the autistic spectrum. They find it difficult to process details in their brain. They might be over-sensitive or under-sensitive in receiving information in their brain that even a single task seems difficult for them to accomplish.

What are the Causes of Sensory Processing Issues?

The precise causes of sensory processing issues are yet to be established but recent studies show that genetics might be one of the possible causes. On a 2006 study of twins, they found that hypersensitivity to light and sound may have a strong genetic influence. They respond strongly to stimuli like a stroke on the hand or a loud sound. With the use of brain-imaging techniques, they detected that there are certain areas of the brain that may affect how sensory information is processed.

What are the Symptoms of Sensory Processing Issues?

The symptoms of Sensory Processing Issues could be categorised into either hypersensitivity (over- sensitive) or hypersensitive (under-sensitive).

Hypersensitive children have a strong response to loud noises or sounds. They don’t want to be touched even if they know the person who touched them. They are afraid of crowds and don’t want to play on playground equipment because of the constant fear that they might fall or bump into things. These could cause them extreme anxiety when they grow old if not treated early.

Hyposensitive children are not sensitive to their surroundings. They have an increased tolerance to pain. They are sensory seeking and have a strong urge to touch people or things even when it is not necessary.

Some children with sensory processing issues may manifest both signs of hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity. My son is a typical child who experienced both hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity reactions to certain stimuli. Meltdowns, for instance, may occur if a child goes to an unfamiliar environment. These meltdowns could be quite overwhelming to both parent and child because it might cause a problem in controlling behaviour once it started.

Children who are hypersensitive on the other hand may find themselves constantly running away from the environment that is too stimulating to them. They find pleasure by “Stimming” which is a self-stimulating behaviour or a form of repetitive behaviour that they do in order to provide themselves sensory input.

Examples of these behaviours are jumping, running, tiptoeing, hand flapping, scratching, spinning objects, listening to the same song or noise, sniffing objects or people, chewing on things, repeating words or “echolalia”.

How can you help your child deal with their Sensory Processing Issues?

You can help your child deal with their Sensory Processing Issues by consulting your child’s Paediatrician, for a comprehensive assessment. She might then refer your child to a Specialist for developmental screening. In order to expedite the process, you must ensure that you are ready by taking notes of your child’s behavioural problems, when it all started and what measures you have undertaken at home to help calm your child.

An Occupational Therapist could provide sensory integration therapy to your child through play sessions where both you and your child could participate in.

Ways on How You Can Help Your Child with their Sensory Processing Issues at Home

Hypersensitivity

Reduce Sound Overload

Loud unexpected noises, overlapping voices and high-pitched frequency sounds may cause auditory issues. Speak softly if you have a loud voice. Buy headphones designed to remove background noise. The one below could be extremely helpful in calming your child thus helping him to engage with you.

Reduce Visual Overload

Bright and Fluorescent light, particular colours, patterns and contrasts or a combination of these things can all cause various overload. This is known as Irlen Syndrome. Coloured lens or filters can help some ASD children to process problematic visual experience. Ask your local Optometrist to conduct a Colorimetric test to your child for your child to be tested and fitted with a coloured lens. To help you have a rough assessment of how different coloured light affects behaviour, try buying a LED colour changing light bulb like the one below.

Provide Plenty of Rest

Children should have enough sleep at night and plenty of rest during the day in a quiet and darkened room to lessen their hypersensitivity issues because of tiredness.

Hyposensitivity

Children who experience hyposensitivity should experience deep sensory input at regular intervals during the day to help them feel good about themselves and to prevent them experiencing loss of their sense of self when they grow up to become an adult. Squeeze vests and regular short sessions on a trampoline several times a day would help them experience deep sensory sensations. Some ASD children find the sensation of water very helpful. Having regular baths provide light pressure on their bodies thus help them to feel relax. Swimming provides them with the benefit of a physical exercise because their bodies are in constant motion. This also has a calming effect that would help them with their hyposensitivity issues.

Summary

Understanding Sensory Processing Issues are vital for children with Autism. Hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity are the two sensory issues that needed to be addressed and treated early so that the child won’t suffer from extreme anxiety until they reached adulthood.

Useful Links and Resources:

https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/sensory-processing-issues/understanding-sensory-processing-issues

http://www.webmd.com/children/sensory-processing-disorder#2-3

https://aspectsofaspergers.wordpress.com/2011/01/01/strategies-for-dealing-with-sensory-overload/

www.autism.org.uk/sensory

Hope you find this article useful.  I love to hear from you.  If you have any questions or perhaps suggestions on your child’s sensory processing experience, please do share them by leaving your comments below.

Adel 🙂

iPad Applications Help My Autistic Child Talk

iPad Applications Help My Autistic Child Talk

Since its introduction in 2010, many parents with autistic children overcome their struggles in helping their child to talk.

An Ipad is easy to use. Besides being compact, it is handy and has a touch screen keyboard which I found beneficial to my son who has speech and fine motor problems.

Autistic children are visual learners and the iPad is an excellent way of helping them to learn visually.  There are Autism iPad applications which you can download for free in iTunes. These could help your child develop his speech and language, social communication and lessen his behavioral and sensory issues.

The first thing I taught my son was to teach him different emotions of people. I downloaded this free iPad application, Autism iHelp – Emotions by John Talavera from ITunes. He enjoyed this application so much because it did not only taught him to differentiate different emotions through a variety of facial expressions but it was fun and interactive as well. He was able to learn easily all the different emotions and was able to apply what he learned in a real life social setting. This application is highly recommended for non-verbal autistic children.

When he was able to concentrate and learn the different emotions, I taught him how to develop his speech and language through this free IPad application from Tom Taps Speak – AAC for Kids by Seer Technologies, Inc.  He found this easy to use because it helped him chose the words that he wanted to say through pictures. He was able to express what he wanted to say without resorting to meltdown.

He developed his speech gradually and by the time he learned how to communicate, I taught him how to understand words and instructions through this free application from Autism iHelp – Comprehension by John Talavera.  The combined images and words helped my son understand simple instructions. He found this fun and enjoyable.

Another iPad application that my son enjoyed in order to build his language concept was Autism iHelp – Language Concepts by John Talavera   The images and words made it easy for my son to understand the questions being asked. It was interactive and easy to use. 

Whenever my son has a meltdown because of sensory overload, I always give him Sensory Magma by Sensory Apps Ltd. This IPad application used magma images that have a slow moving lava effects that change its color.  My son found this soothing and relaxing combined with music that he loved to listen to. There are free music apps that you can download from iTunes like Free Music – Unlimited Music Player & Songs Album by Weihe Mo  Try it! 

If you want to try some more  Autism iPad  Applications, I highly recommended these resources. You have to pay for some of them but if you think it could benefit your child, you can also download them.

So, there you are! I gave you all the essential Autism IPad applications that my son used when he was little and also some of the additional applications that I think would be handy for your child as well.

Just a reminder that some of these IPad applications could be addictive to your child so it is best to have a scheduled time for you and your child for learning activities. This should be fun and enjoyable for both you and your child.

What are you waiting for? If your child doesn’t have an iPad yet, I recommend you to buy him one.
Come on, please click this to buy him one, NOW! 

I hope you find this topic beneficial to your child. If you have any questions, clarifications or suggestions, please leave it in the comments section below and I will come back to you as soon as I can.

Adel 🙂

Benefits Of Art Therapy

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Art Therapy

Art Therapy has a lot of benefits for children with autism. It brings joy in expressing their ideas and teaches them how to be creative.  

My son enjoys doing all sorts of art in school from cutting, pasting, coloring, painting, molding, and sketching. These help him develop his fine motors skills by strengthening his hand muscles. It also teaches him to think and organize his ideas through creative thinking.

Art therapy is an effective method of expressing a child’s feeling through images and colors which couldn’t be expressed through words.  It develops communication and interaction through teaching emotions. John loves to draw pictures of children all the time. I asked him why he always likes to draw them and he answered, ” I feel happy when I draw them. They are my classmates.”

The first drawing  below is John’s drawing when their class went to Southend for their school’s summer trip. The children have happy faces which mean that they all enjoyed the trip and enjoyed each other’s company.

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Fig. 1 John’s drawing of his school trip to Southend

This second drawing is a drawing that he did in his Playscheme Club. He was asked by his play support worker to draw anything that he likes to draw (freestyle). He drew three erupted volcanoes  surrounded by happy children.  I asked him why he drew it? He said, ” I love to see the colors that come out of a volcano. The bright red and orange. I felt my son’s happiness being with his friends and that he enjoyed their company.

According to Color Psychology, bright red or scarlet indicates enthusiasm and love of life while orange means optimism that radiates warmth and happiness and gives us strength in difficult times. I can see and feel that my son is a friendly, enthusiastic and happy person  who finds strength by being with someone or with the company of his friends.

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Fig.2 John’s freestyle drawing

Art Therapy helps a child with autism to stay calm by refocusing his attention through his drawing. When John is overwhelmed by the things around him, he tends to get nervous. This could be too exhausting for him. He enjoys drawing, coloring and painting because it helps him diverts his attention to the things around him. It is a good therapy for his sensory issues.

Below are some of my son’s artwork that he did in his Art class made from tiles and chalk (Fig.3) and ceramics ( Fig.4).

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Fig.3 John’s tiles and chalk artwork
Fig.4 John's ceramic art
Fig.4 John’s ceramic artwork

Art therapy is a form of recreational activity that will keep your child busy for a period of time. It will help him to concentrate on completing a particular task which will help in improving his concentration and attention skills. If you want to know more about the benefits of art therapy to your child with autism, you could click on this

So there you are! These are all the benefits of Art therapy. It is now time for you to help your child to start making his own creations. Try  tracing your hands and color it with different colors to create a pattern.  Use primary colors of red, blue, green and yellow. This will help your child to recognize the primary colors. It is fun, interactive and a great time to bond with your child.

You can also make handprints using primary watercolor paint.  Allow him to touch the colors and create his own hand-printed patterns. Try it and let him enjoy!

If you have any questions or suggestions on the Benefits of Art therapy to your child with autism, please feel free to leave your comments below and I will try my best to respond as  soon as I can. 

Adel 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

How swimming benefits an autistic child

Swimming benefits an autistic child in many ways.

It is summer time, here in the UK!  A good way to spend the holiday is to go out and swimswimming benefits girl-1296326_640 on the beach or at a nearby pool.

John likes water play very much. When he was little, he took swimming lessons because it is not only a good recreational activity but a vital life-saving skill as well. It has been beneficial for him since then because it gave him the confidence to be on the water and be safe. He is now aware if it is safe to swim because he could tell whether the water is deep or shallow. This is important because, in the United States, accidental drowning alone accounts for approximately 90% cause of death in children with ASD under the age of 14. (Courtesy of National Autism Association)

Swimming is a good exercise for the muscles and has a relaxing therapeutic effect. The water has a calming effect on the body through the gentle, rhythmic and repetitive motion that it gives. John’s behavioral issues have lessened since he started taking swimming lessons. He has calmed down a bit and is least likely  to flap his hands whenever he gets excited.

Swimming develops motor coordination and balance because the water supports and allow them to move freely. John’s awkward movement has improved and is less likely to accidentally bump into things that will hurt him.

Swimming enhances sensory integration, cognitive skills and improves concentration through processing simple but clear instructions e.g. jump, hold on, deep breathe, move hands and feet, splash water with hands and feet, watch me float etc. John’s listening and attention skills have improved through clear, simple and brief instructions made by his swimming instructor.

Swimming provides a good example of a parallel play that is fun and enjoyable in a less crowded and comfortable environment. John’s self-esteem has improved and is less anxious every time he is in a new environment.

Swimming provides an excellent time for emotional bonding for parent and child thereby allowing good language and communication skills to take place. It also allows an opportunity for your child to interact with other children, teachers, and other adults. John’s ability to interact and communicate with other people has improved significantly.

Swimming Lessons

If you are thinking of letting your child go for swimming lessons, you could always tell if your child is ready if he likes to play with water so often every time he takes a bath.

Does your child like to dip himself in the bath of water? If you take him to the beach does he like to go near the water and dip his feet? These are signs that he is ready to take swimming lessons.

So, if you think he is ready, the next step is to find and enroll your child in a good swimming program, which is specially designed for your child with autism. You can search for your local newspaper ads or inquire at your local civic center or borough.

This video is an example of a special swimming lesson designed for an autistic child in Nottinghamshire. If this child can do it, your child can do it as well.

If you have found a good swimming program for your child, you are now ready to buy the essential things that are needed for him to take  the lessons. You can consider buying him the following:

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So that’s it!  Your child is ready to go and take that first plunge into the water! Every child is different and learns on his own time. He will achieve his goals through constant practice and should not be rushed to do a particular activity when they are not ready to do so. Swimming should be fun and an enjoyable experience!

I  hope you find this post useful. If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to leave your comments below.

Sincerely yours, 

Adel 🙂
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Using A Reward Program

What is the purpose of a reward program? 

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reward program

Using a reward program for your autistic child at home is a way of giving your child extra support which is targeted on specific behaviors. This will encourage him to try again if he did not meet his target.

 Giving praises or positive reinforcements towards a good behavior will also encourage your child with autism to concentrate and follow every instruction you will give him towards a particular task.

Having a system that works for you and your child will help your child to concentrate and follow consistently the task at hand.

 Rewards program not only helps achieve this but it is also good in modifying the behavior of your child with autism.

This has helped my son, John in performing a specific task at home and also has helped him think about his behavior.

How to use a reward program at home

  1. Choose a particular behavior you would like your child to change. You need to talk about this with your child to make sure that it is clear to him what target behavior that he needs to change. For example, I told my son that I don’t like him always screaming when he is asking for something or does not like something. I use a visual aid to add support on what I am asking him to do. I showed him a picture of a child screaming and put my thumbs down as a gesture of saying “no”. I even showed him a picture of an X mark as a symbol of “no”.
  2. Try to make sure that it is a target that your child will likely to succeed at. Success will give your child a reason to carry on behaving well, but failure can just be a reason to give up trying. Change targets once your child has achieved the first one or if you find that it’s too difficult to achieve. I make sure that the target behavior that I set for John is achievable so that he may not get upset and give up easily.
  3. Before you begin, take some time to discuss with your child what rewards he would like to earn. Agree a few smaller rewards and one special one. I utilized John’s toys e.g. Lego, puzzles, play dough, small cars as a prize for behaving well. I will let him choose which toy he wanted to play as a prize. I told him that if he will continue to behave well, he would get a special prize. This special prize may be a trip to the park or a cinema.
  4. Using a reward chart as a record for every good behavior may be helpful but this needs consistency in order to be successful. Every good behavior accomplished could be marked in a sticker chart. The more sticker your child sees, the more he will be encouraged to continue doing an activity that you will ask him to do. If you want to avail a free printable sticker chart, please click this.

In summary,  reward programs are a good way to help your child concentrate and maintain a good behavior in doing a specific task at home. These should be reinforced by constant praising for good behavior. For example, if John wants something, he won’t scream in order to catch my attention instead he will point to me or say the word for the thing that he wants me to get. I will acknowledge his good behavior by saying to him, “Well done for not screaming”.

By doing this, you are giving your child the greatest reward that he should receive which is your constant love and support for him.

Positive reinforcement by acknowledging good behaviors is a good way of helping your child to maintain positive behaviors thereby allowing him to concentrate on every task that you ask him to do.

On my next post, I will be writing about the ways you could help your child improve his fine motor skills.

If you have any comments, suggestions or clarifications on how to use a reward program at home, please feel free to leave your comments below and I will try to answer back as soon as I can.

Sincerely,

Adel 🙂

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