We are super excited to be able to offer our first ever summer day camps! They are set up to allow 2 preschool weeks and 2 school age weeks of Monday through Thursday 9 am to 12 pm noon with lots of activities, arts/crafts, sensory experiences, and small groups and teacher to child ratios! This is an awesome experience you won’t want to miss! The preschool class will consist of 4 preschool age children with 2 adults who have lots of experience with children with autism and similar special needs and the school age class will consist of 6 school age children with 2 adults! Sign up while there is space available!
Summer is coming and parents are looking for things to do! How can I keep my child interested and engaged for the rest of the summer?” If you are one of those parents, I hope this list helps you find something fun to do!
5. Stay cool indoors! Try going bowling- it’s a great activity that not only allows you to interact with your child plus many of the newer bowling alleys have a computer screen that shows silly scenes after you bowl which may catch your child’s attention and even motivate them to bowl again! It usually isn’t too crowded during the day and you might even save a few bucks. Put the bumpers up and if your child doesn’t have great fine motor skills, teach them to granny bowl (put between their legs and roll). The fan by the bowling balls that cools your hands may also be a sensory bonus.
Take turns bowling and move as quickly or slowly as your child prefers! I have even had kids who wanted to take my turn and their turn. We turned it into a great game and cheered each other on. It’s not about who wins or loses- it’s how you play the game…
4. Buy sidewalk chalk with the 3-D glasses. This is a great opportunity to draw pictures, write letters or words, make a hopscotch board, etc. The 3-D glasses just add more fun. Some ways to engage your child: take turns, ask questions about what color they want, get them to tell you what to draw or what color to use, and even “erase” the scene with water and watch it dry in the sun.
3. Another great summer activity is going to the movies. In the Jackson area, Tinseltown and Malco (maybe United Artists too) have weekday showings in the morning at a special summer price. It may be busy, but this is a good time to try going to a movie and not feeling self-conscious about your child being too loud or not sitting still. There are all ages at these showings and everyone is typically friendly. AND, if you have to leave early, it’s much cheaper than usual admissions, so you can always build up a child’s tolerance of the movie theatre while you are not paying full price.
2. A way to incorporate reading with fun in the summer is to set up a tent in the house or in the backyard and get cozy with books. Camping items are great for kids with autism- and add a lot of sensory fun too. You can use flashlights, glow bracelets, and sleeping bags. Step it up a notch and include a little fishing game with the magnet poles and circular moving pond, fishing hats, books about wildlife and camping, and stuffed animals that live in the forest. These toys allow you to interact with your child in ways that may not have occurred on your usual summer schedule. Of course, no camping trip is complete without a special snack like s’mores- and they can be made gluten-free as well. Happy camping!
1. One of the programs that I think is widely overlooked in the summer is the local library reading program. The Jackson Hinds Library System has an awesome summer reading program that not only gets your child reading or you reading with your child, but also plans lots of activities for the kids- almost daily! Activities are free to anyone and with lots of libraries, there are lots of special things going on usually including “The Snake Man,” a real helicopter, plus lots more! This is a great way for your child to not only be included, but be exposed to new and interesting things.
These are just a few things that stick out in my mind from the many summers that I have taken children with autism into the community. I hope you will try some of these activities and find them as enjoyable as I have. If you try any of the above activities or have any topics you would like discussed in news and updates, please let me know what you think by completing the contact form. Happy summer!
Another book repost…not about autism, but an in-depth look at a family whose daughter uses a Speech Generating Device to speak. Schuyler is now a teenager and I still love to read her dad’s blog and see what she is up to! She now uses an ipad to communicate. If you have a child that is non-vocal currently or does not use speech to communicate, speech generating devices are opening doors for these kiddos! It’s so exciting to see kids learn how to communicate!
I recently read a book, “Schuyler’s Monster” about a father’s experiences with his daughter, Schuyler, and her disability. Robert Rummel-Hudson refers to his daughter’s disability as a “monster” throughout the book that left her unable to communicate verbally. His honesty regarding what he went through before, during, and after diagnosis offers real understanding for professionals and may allow parents to feel understood or not alone. Although some parents and professionals may not like his opinion about disabilities or religion, I found the book to be inspiring and full of hope. Schuyler’s parents never give up on helping her have her own voice through a speech generating device. “Schuyler’s Monster” is a book for all individuals who work with kids who have disabilities.
And if the book leaves you wondering what is going on now for Schuyler, you can read Robert’s blog to find out more!
As we reach the end of Autism Awareness month, I want to help us focus on all aspects of autism and the reality of autism for families. I found this post from two years ago and thought it was a special one to share. A Mississippi mom shares her journal and letters to her daughter with autism in her book. It’s a great read and I highly recommend it!
I wanted to share an amazing mom’s journey with her daughter who has autism. After I met Bri in December of 2013, I poured over this book, devouring it within two or three days, amidst Christmas company, Santa, and the busiest time of the year. If you are new to autism or have a child on the spectrum, this books will help you realize you are not alone. If you are a professional or are in school to become a professional in the field, this book will give you insight into a family’s life with autism. Thank you, Sgt. Mom for sharing your journal and journey!
As summer nears, more families may be planning not only vacations, but possibly Mickey themed vacations. A family who recently left on their Disney vacation shared a website they found very helpful when planning to go to the Disney parks. Autism at the Parks is a website of a family who moved to Florida in 2007 and visits the parks nearly every weekend. It is full of helpful information! As a personal Disney lover and frequent visitor, some of the things I recommend are:
- Visiting in non-peak times. Even if you go in the summer, try to go later in the day or the evening when people are headed back in or are tired. Evenings are typically less busy than day time and less hot!
- Utilizing the baby care centers which are also set up to assist kids with special needs. There is only one per Disney park and it is usually at the front, so don’t wait until full meltdown mode to try and find one! They are cool, relaxing, quiet, and a great place to rest from the parks.
- Don’t pack the schedule! Make sure and have down time, pool time, and follow the child’s lead. If he/she wants to ride Dumbo over and over and the lines aren’t long, go for it. If he loves Nemo and music? Do the Nemo musical at Animal Kingdom. There’s something for everyone!
- Take advantage of the Disability program Disney has. Plus fast passes! You can book fast passes 90 days out if you stay on property and approximately 30 days in advance if staying off-site. These really make the lines shorter. The new disability program allows one “fast pass” type ride at a time.
- Do fun things out of the parks! The mini-golf and Chip & Dale’s Campfire Sing-Along and Movie are truly fun. There’s a movie somewhere every night on property and it’s free for resort stayers.
- Prepare beforehand as much as possible! Watch youtube videos of parades, rides, and look at pictures of the things they will see. Even making a social story about the Disney trip can be helpful and relieve anxiety or stress.
- Keep expectations low for each day. What are three things you want to do each day? If you do those three, count the day a success. After all, it’s quality vs. quantity and quality wins. If they want to ride the train over and over or watch the Electric parade every night, enjoy those special moments. It will be a vacation to remember!
This is an old article written back in 2013 that I thought was a great reshare for this time of year!
With it being “IEP season,” a great question comes to mind: should my child repeat a grade in school? There are many schools of thought about this subject matter. I will share a variety of reasons an IEP committee, which includes the parents, may decide that it is a good idea to repeat a child in a grade in school. I will also share a variety of reasons an IEP committee may decide it is not in the child’s best interest to repeat a grade. This decision is considered an IEP committee decision and parents have equal rights to share their feelings and thoughts regarding this matter. No one knows the child as well as mom and dad.
Sometimes, a child may repeat a grade because he/she is socially immature and needs extra time to mature. This is a common practice in younger grades for typical children as well as children with disabilities. By giving a child an extra year, more practice, and younger peers, the results may work really well for the child. No teacher or principal can ever know 100%, but they try to make their best judgement based on experience and knowledge of the child.
Another reason a child with a disability may repeat a grade is to gain essential academic skills that he/she may have missed for whatever reason during the academic school year. Although children can not stay in each grade two years, there may be some years that they need more time to gain the foundational skills they need to continue to progress alongside their peers. Kids with disabilities may not always be able to gain as many skills as typical children throughout the school year, but it is important that they gain the foundational skills that will be built on year after year.
Sometimes, a child whose disability impacts them moderately may benefit from repeating a grade in order to be included in general education activities more than they would be if they moved to the next grade level. Inclusion in the general class is important for building social skills, relationships, increasing academic opportunities, being a part of a group, and many, many more reasons. For this reason, it may be decided that a child repeat a grade merely to be able to be appropriately included in general education more. As children progress to higher elementary grades, children with disabilities tend to spend less time in general education because the materials become increasingly difficult.
The above are a few reasons why a child may be held back from moving forward. So what are some reasons that a child may move forward and not repeat a grade?
One reason to decide not to repeat is merely to keep a child with their peers. It is difficult sometimes for kids with disabilities to form friendships and when a child repeats a grade, they start all over with building relationships. As we know with kids who have autism, they already have a difficult time building these relationships and if we hold them back, they end up having to start over the next school year. This can be detrimental for some students. Kids not only have built friendships in their current grade, but they have also more than likely built support systems. Support systems are typical kids who assist them in a variety of ways, such as with following directions or advocate for them when they need a break or are having trouble communicating. Support systems are not built overnight and once they are in place can be helpful to a child with a disability.
Another reason to progress a child depends on the child’s attributes. Is he/she already a foot taller than everyone and bigger? By holding him/her back, does he/she stand out in the crowd? If so, this may not be a good time to repeat. All children should feel comfortable with their peers.
The IEP committee should determine which of the following items pertains to the child and make the best decision based on the individual child and situation. Sometimes, there may be extenuating circumstances that require a team to consider other reasons to repeat a child in a grade. However, decisions should not be based on overcrowding at a school, convenience, or fear of moving forward. Remember to keep the “I” in IEP. If you feel uncertain about the decision, you can always request more time to decide or another IEP meeting. Ask your teacher to explain why they feel either way and share your thoughts and feelings. If it is appropriate, ask the child what he/she thinks and have him/her in the meeting.
These are just a few personal thoughts regarding repeating a grade. It is important to keep in mind that the IEP committee comes together to make decisions for one individual child. As long as that child is the focus, decisions should be made that will be in the best interest of the child.
Here are five more apps that are sure to please!
- Toca Boca Kitchen & Kitchen 2– These are awesome for a variety of ages and goals! From simply requesting which character and telling them to “cook” or “eat” to making complex sentences or directions about what to cook, how to cook something, etc. Always a big hit!
- Daniel Tiger Day/Night– This app is fun because it visually shows a picture schedule of the things Daniel needs to do to get ready for his day or ready for bed. There are special things in the app to work on buiding imaginary play skills too.
- Feelings with Milo– This one is also great for a variety of kids- from simply choosing an emotion to writing a journal about which feeling you are feeling and why. It makes an emotion train that gets longer each time you use it!
- Spin & Speak– This app provides an opportunity to work on skills from feelings to answering questions to more complex questions about getting lost, explaining what makes you mad/sad, and problem solving skills- all while you move through the game board. First, you “spin” and then you “speak” and answer your question.
- Touch Math– By adding touch points to numbers, this app gives kids a multi-sensory experience for learning numbers and giving an understanding to “how many is 2?” After learning the touch points, kids can use them to add, subtract, multiply, and divide- and they are also able to be faded in some cases/with some kids.
This is our second year to Bounce for Autism at Premier Tumble and Cheer! We are overjoyed at this special time to let the kids be kids, adults mingle, and be in a relaxed environment. Tickets are $10 per child and the Bounce for Autism will be Sat. April 30 from 10 am to 12 pm. Light refreshments will be available for sale.
While you are at PTC, check out the variety of classes they offer INCLUDING a class for kids with special needs! This is a new class that began this spring and is doing amazing things!
Purchase tickets in advance here.
This is an oldie, but a goodie…last spring I had the joy and honor of telling the story about why I opened and run Jackson Autism Center. I love that I’m able to work with a variety of ages, stages, and abilities. I love offering hope when it may seem futile. And I love “never taking for granted those moments…whether they be small or large”
Recently, Dr. Rebecca Mullican along with one of her clients, had the joy to share their stories with the Aha Moment presented by Mutual of Omaha. Dr. Mullican shared about opening Jackson Autism Center while her client, Sabrina, shared about her daughter with autism and finding Jackson Autism Center.
Dr. Mullican’s AHA moment- the object Dr. Mullican is holding in her hand at the beginning is a flying pig. This flying pig is special to her because a few of her students’ parents gave it to her as an end of the year present to symbolize that she helped teach their child things that they didn’t think would happen “until pigs fly.” Guess what? Pigs fly every day at Jackson Autism Center!
This is Sabrina, whose daughter attends JAC. She is making progress every day and it’s so exciting to see what she will say or do next! Even on a hard day, she can push through to show her potential
Toilet training for a child with autism can be challenging! Here are a few tips to help this be a smooth transition.
#5 Allow your child to stay naked while focusing on toilet training at home. This makes it easier to get to the toilet and eliminate in it. As your child becomes more proficient, begin adding clothes back. Staying near the toilet is also a good idea in case an accident starts to happen, you can quickly move to the toilet.
#4 Have the child help change clothes. Part of learning to use the toilet is undressing and dressing oneself. When a child has an accident, it is a natural consequence to have to take off wet clothes, use a washcloth or baby wipe to clean up, and put fresh, dry clothes on. While some children may be in different places of learning how to dress or undress themselves, you as the parent or teacher can always choose one clothes item at a time to focus on the child putting on and taking off. Once they are more comfortable with that item, add another item.
#3 Have the child help clean up accidents. This is important because it helps the child become more independent and also take responsibility for making a mess. This doesn’t mean that you have to fuss at the child about the accident- it just means letting the child know they are wet/dirty and need to help clean up.
#2 Ditch the pull-up! Pull-ups do not teach anything about the sensation of being wet or wetting yourself. I think it sends a very confusing message to kids- why would you want to stop what you are doing to go to the bathroom if you don’t have to. Having an accident and feeling all wet and yucky may help a child make that connection and not want to feel that way again.
#1 You don’t have to wait until your child can acknowledge the need to use the bathroom…in that case, some of us may be waiting a very long time. Acknowledging the need to use the bathroom is important, but it shouldn’t stop a parent and/or teacher from beginning the toilet training process. For some, it may take a very long time to request going to the bathroom and for others, they might not ever request. Is it always necessary to request to use the bathroom? I don’t think so- when we are at work, we don’t have to ask permission to use the bathroom. At home, we don’t ask permission to go; we just go to the bathroom. For some individuals, they may just GO to the bathroom when they need to go. If a child learns to go into a bathroom to use it, we can always work on requesting permission as they become more fluent in going when they need to or we can accommodate the child in the fact that they may not ask when they go to the bathroom.
My favorite toilet training app is Potty Time. This app uses American Sign Language and a catchy little tune to teach about using the bathroom. And your child might just get addicted to “calling Rachel” when he or she has a success!
If you are getting frustrated or not having much luck on your own, it may be time to get some help. Jackson Autism Center works with children on toilet training privately. We have found the greatest successes with individuals we work with on a regular basis because there is an established relationship with the child, but we work with anyone needing help. Complete a contact form to find out about the next toilet training opportunities.