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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Encouraging Eye Contact

How to encourage your autistic child to make eye contact?

Encouraging eye contact to your autistic child is important to enable him to communicate happy eye contact -1312654_640properly. It is an essential element for social communication and interaction. Whenever we interact with a person, we always look at the person’s eye. This symbolizes respect and also enables the person to know that you fully understood what is being communicated to you.

My son, John doesn’t look at my eyes whenever I am talking to him instead he always looks at my mouth. Although I am encouraging him to make eye contact, he simply could not do it. His speech and language therapist in primary school gave me a list of activities that I could use to teach him at home.

The following activities have been proven effective to encourage eye contact to John:

  1. I look for small toys that John enjoys playing with (small cars, a set of cards, pieces of puzzles and Lego blocks). Holding all the toys on my lap I ask him, “John, which toy do you want?” I showed the toy, one by one then brings it closer to my eyes. This will allow him to look at my eyes. If he looks at my eyes, I will give him the toy then take another one. I will repeat this until he appears to be getting bored. I won’t continue if I feel that he is totally getting bored. The play should be fun and interesting to both of us for social interaction to be successful.
  2. I play with John and copy whatever he is doing with his toys, the actions, which he is using, and the sounds he is making. This will make him feel that I am interested in what he is playing thereby allowing him to make eye contact with me. He will look at what I am doing and also look if I am still copying him.
  3. I build a play routine with John where we do the same thing every time. After he learns the routine, I could change a small part of it or just wait and don’t do the next step. He then approached me and said, “Come on, what’s next”. I also tried to do the opposite like make a toy car drive upwards or backward, read a book backward and put pieces of puzzles in my pocket. He looked at my face and laughed at me.
  4. Snack time is another wonderful time to make eye contact with John. I place a variety of snacks in a bowl (pieces of fruits like grapes, apple, pears and banana slices). By repeating the activity that we did in no.1, I will hold each fruit close to my eyes and ask him, “John, do you want some fruit?” If he looks at my eyes, I will say, “Oh, you want some fruit ” and I will give him the fruit. If he does not look at my eyes, I will bring the fruit close to my eyes while asking him, “What fruit do you want?”
  5. Another technique that I utilized with John to encourage him to make eye contact before I give him a toy or food that he wants is the direct approach. I ask John to “look at my eyes” or “where are my eyes” to encourage him to look at me before I give the food or toy that he wants. This technique is less successful because it is not as natural for John and I. It also builds up a situation where John could get used to me to say, “look…” and learns to make eye contact only when given that specific verbal prompt. Overall this technique is the most unsuccessful for long-term improvement and sometimes might create anxiety to John, for I am telling him to do something, he may not be comfortable to do.

All these activities will encourage your child to make eye contact. It works for my son; it might work for your child too! Once you established his eye contact, it is time to teach him how to learn and follow his visual schedule. This will be my topic in my next post.

If you are planning to buy some toys that you could use during your play activities with your child, the following toys are highly recommended.

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If you have any questions or anything you would want to clarify on how to encourage your autistic child to make eye contact, please feel free to leave your comments below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Sincerely,

Adel 🙂

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 🙂

Social Stories And Autism

What are Social Stories?

Social Stories are brief descriptions of a particular situation, event or activity that helps social stories -147292_640your child with autism to know what to expect in that particular situation and the reason why it happened. It will help him to understand its cause and effect thus improving the way he communicates and interacts with people around him.

Affiliate Disclaimer “This post contains affiliate links and I’ll earn a small commission if you shop through them. This is how we help to make money so we can continue to bring you amazing content”

You can make your own social stories or buy a book or DVD’s of your choice to help your child develop an understanding of what to expect in certain situations.

There are four types of Social Stories and these are the following:

A. Descriptive Social Story

This is a type of social story that is objective, truthful and states a fact. It tells briefly what the situation is, where the situation occurs, who is involved, how and why things are happening.

My son, John learned a lot from this type of a social story because he was able to tell me what I was trying to ask him and predict what will happen next.

As an example, I asked him by pointing to myself,  I am your mom. I always take care of you, dress you up and feed you (  show pictures or use gestures to illustrate). You need to listen ( point to the ear or show a picture) whenever I am calling your name ( point to him or his picture) because I am your mom (point to self).

As you could notice, I underlined the keywords that my son needs to know for him to predict what I am trying to say. You could change the underlined words with a blank space as your child progress in his learning.

B. Perspective Social Story

This is a type of social story that tells what someone is thinking or feeling. It can include opinions, beliefs, health, motivation, feelings, and thoughts. It used to refer to other people and not the child with ASD.

I utilized people’s emotions when I taught this to John.  

As an example, I told him that if he will not _________ ( point to ear), I, his mom won’t be ___________ (point to sad face) and if he will__________(pointing to ear again),  I, his mom will be_______(point to happy face).

A social story about what his teacher does in school.

Your _________(show a picture of a teacher) is the one_________( show a picture of books and class ) you  (point to him)  in ________ (show picture of school). You need to _________( point to ear) to her or she might get_________( point to angry face).

As you could notice, I utilized a blank space to let John think of what to say in response to my question. Partial sentences encourage a person with ASD to make guesses regarding the next step in a situation, the response of another individual or his own response. You could use this in all types of social stories.

C. Affirmative Social Story

This is a type of social story that expresses a commonly shared value or opinion. Usually follows a descriptive, perspective or directive sentence. You can tell stories all about following rules that are applicable both at home and at school.

I made a social story on taking turns in the playground to John.

As an example, I told him that if he is in the _________(show picture of playground) and would like to play on the __________(show picture of slide or swing), he needs to _________( show a picture of a child waiting for his turn or a stop sign  by using your hand). This emphasizes the importance of taking turns which are the safe thing to do according to playground rules.

D. Control Social Story

This is a type of social story which is written or created by the child himself.  This is used to identify strategies the child will use to recall information.

This is the story that I utilized to ask John to tell me a particular thing that will remind him that it’s time to go to sleep ( hand gesture of sleep or point to bed)  and a thing that will remind him to eat his dinner (hand gesture of eating or point to dinner table). 

He showed me his toy teddy bear as a sign that he wants to sleep and pointed to his tummy as a sign that he is hungry.

Summary

In summary,  Social Stories are processes and products that improve social understanding of children with autistic spectrum disorders and those who work on their behalf (parents and teachers).

As a process, authors must consider information and events through the eyes of the person with ASD.

As a product, a Social story is defined by specific characteristics that transcribe social information into text, pictures, and titles that are significant for children with ASD.

Social stories help my son to understand the cause and effect of a particular situation, event or activity. It helps him improve the way he communicates and interacts with the people around him.

I sincerely hope these insights have helped in some way, and welcome your questions should there be any.

Adel 🙂

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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 Visual Schedule

How to use a Visual Schedule through PECS

Visual schedule through PECS (Picture Exchange System)  is the next step once you have established eye contact with your autistic child.

PECS  is a system where you can utilise pictures to provide information which allows your child to communicate by exchanging pictures of an item that they need or a certain activity that they want to accomplish.

A visual schedule or a picture schedule is a method of utilising pictures to guide your child in his whole day routine, an activity routine or to offer your child with a choice of activities. Some activities may coincide with his activities in school.

The visual schedule can be followed from top to bottom, or from left to right. The direction will depend on where the visual schedule is going to be placed, or if it needs to be moved around or if one format works better for your child.

I utilised the horizontal schedule, which is from left to right for my son, John because this has helped him to understand better the next thing that he will do a certain activity.

The guide below is an example of a visual routine activity that I made for John to follow.


visual schedule


The example above taught John how to wash his hands properly. You can utilise this to your child by posting one as a guide near the tap in your bathroom and the other one as a PECS activity that your child can learn with you.

As you begin the activity, direct your child’s attention to the picture. It will also be helpful to show the object or take your child to the pictured item to help him understand what the picture represents.

This is what I did for John.  As he completes an activity, I encouraged him to pull off the activity picture and post it in a “finished” box. I then used an envelope for this. This has helped him understand when a single activity is finished and prompts him to look for what will happen next. I point out the next activity and encourage him to tell me what is next. I also use a prompt to guide John to his schedule. In this instance, I utilise his name with his photo on it.

I was able to successfully implement PECS to John because it has decreased his challenging behaviours, which have helped him increase his attention and concentration to a number of different activities. He has become more independent in his routine and has helped him understand his environment and routine. On my next post, I will discuss how to improve your child’s concentration.

Listed below are some useful websites for symbols and pictures that you could use as resources:

www.widgit.com

www.pecs.org.uk

www.keefamily.org/pec/pecs.htm

Hope you find this topic about utilising visual schedules through PECS 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,

Adel 🙂

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