Light it Up Blue, Mississippi! April 2, 2013

April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day. Buildings and houses will “light it up blue” to increase autism awareness throughout the world. Mississippi has its own facebook page for families to share how they will support “Light It Up Blue.” I am proud to say that the University of Southern Mississippi will light buildings blue in honor of World Autism Awareness Day.

As we learn more about autism and see increases in rates of autism, it is more important than ever to share with the world about autism and increase autism education. For parents who struggle in the grocery store, toilet training their child, or even communicating with their child, we will Light It Up Blue! Help educate people who think these children are behaving badly.

You can help by buying blue light bulbs at Home Depot or Lowe’s. Many people put a blue light on their porch for April 2. Another way you can help support this special day is visiting Autism Speaks and purchasing a shirt or other promotional products, donating, or helping spread the word.

I am ready for April! I have already ordered and received this year’s stash of Light It Up Blue shirts as well as a few past shirts. I hope to see your posts on facebook about how you shared in autism awareness day April 2, 2013.


Hopes and Dreams with Autism in 2013

Happy New Year! A new year brings lots of remembering and reviewing a previous year and making resolutions for the year to come. For teachers, therapists, and parents working with kids with autism, the resolutions we make look a lot different than they look for typically developing children. Instead of making a resolution to start a dance class, make all A’s, or win the soccer tournament, we may be considering the following goals- complete toilet training, eat five new foods, make a friend, or complete the state testing without any huge meltdowns. Opposite ends of the spectrum? I think so…

As we look to this wonderful gift of 2013, we should open our minds and hearts to all that “our” children can become. Maybe my fatal flaw is optimism, but I always dream big and hope high for the kids I work with- and it hasn’t served me wrong. I have seen kids accomplish monumental tasks due in part (I feel) to  the hope and faith I place in them. Dream big as we start this year and watch our kids impress and surpass our goals!

As for Jackson Autism Center, I am going to make my own list of hopes and dreams for JAC as we welcome 2013. Not only will I be continuing one-on-one intervention, but small social skills groups will be starting soon for kids and teenagers/adults. I can’t wait to see what this year will bring!

We have a Christmas List – Now…Writing a Letter to Santa

So, you have made a list of possible toys and things your child wants Santa to bring. It’s time to write that letter and mail it off! But, before you do that- does your child know who Santa is? Has school been talking about Santa? What about at home? If you haven’t been talking the big man up…it’s time to start now. Watch movies about Santa, play games on the computer, ipad, etc. that introduce Santa, sing songs about Santa, and anything else that helps your child begin to understand that Santa is the guy that brings presents on Christmas.

There are lots of different writing needs among children with disabilities and how you choose to write your letter should be decided before you start. Choose the letter writing technique that will make your child work a little, but not frustrate him/her. This should be a fun experience, without tears or meltdowns. You may choose to let the letter to Santa take a few days or maybe even a week. Some kids do not have a long attention span and it is almost torture to try and do everything in one day…so spread it out to meet the needs of your child.

Some of the different writing techniques you may choose include:

Having an adult write some of the parts and let the child “fill in” other parts with pictures or words (leave plenty of room)
Make a “rough draft” and then allow your child to write or type the letter by themselves.
Allow your child to cut/paste or write prepared sentences into the letter.
Allow your child to form their own letter after looking at sample letters.

If you are uncertain which approach to take, talk to your child’s teacher and/or therapists. See how he/she usually writes or types at school and whether they use all capital letters or a mix of capital and lowercase letters.

So what should go in the letter? I like to use the traditional sentences you would usually see in a letter to Santa, such as “I have been good/bad this year. I will leave cookies and milk for you.” along with important information such as name and age and what you want for Christmas. Here is a letter from a few years ago:

Letter to Santa

With this child, I used picture choices throughout the letter not only to allow choice, but to also ease the frustration of writing a letter. You can have sentences written on strips that the student could copy or you can also let your child/student sound out words. This is very specific to the needs of the child you are working with. As he wrote each sentence, he would choose the picture he wanted and glue it on. If he chose the wrong age, I would correct him and allow him to get the correct age. However, I allowed each child to select if they had been “good” or “bad.” Since being good or bad is more abstract, it is okay to let them choose whichever they like. Then, we talked about leaving milk and cookies out for Santa. Next, allow your child/student to choose the toys he/she wants for Christmas. Lastly, have him or her sign their name in whatever manner works. You may want to make a copy of the letter to keep before mailing it to the North Pole. Decorate your envelope and make a special trip to the post office to mail your letter to Santa.

As I mentioned earlier, part of the magic of writing a letter to Santa and understanding about Santa bringing presents is to make sure you talk to your child/student about it. Remind them that Santa brings gifts to good boys and girls. Reading books and watching movies about Santa may help too. Even on Christmas day, remind your child which gifts are from Santa. Each year, you will enjoy seeing your child’s understanding—and lists grow!