Children with Autism Are More Likely to Elope/Wander

Staying true to some of the challenges faced with autism, one of the biggest concerns is elopement. Elopement is when a child with autism wanders or runs away. It is one of the most terrifying moments for a parent, to realize your child is not within your sight.

There are many new devices and trackers that assist families in keeping track of their child, regardless of where they may wander from, whether it is a grocery store, home, school, etc.

Last year, we shared a story with a local TV station about a child who elopes very frequently and has recently gotten a service dog to assist in his safety. Thankfully, since this time last year, their fundraising goals have been met, but I am sure there are others that need this type of support.

AngelSense has made a GPS tracker to help keep kids safe. You can find out more here. There is also a bluetooth bracelet made in Birmingham, AL by Kulture City. More information about Kulture City’s program lifeBOKS is available here. Other low tech products families use include bracelets with family contact information, temporary tattoes, and shoe laces with contact information. Behavioral therapy can be instrumental in these situations to help understand what the purpose of wandering is and then, how to change this behavior.

A Different Perspective on Autism Awareness Month

As April began, I was filled with anxiety, excitement, and eagerness to start and complete all the things I wanted to do. When April 2 came, I read a few blogs parents of children with autism posted. I have to say, a few stuck with me that I wanted to share, regardless of if you, as the reader, are a parent or professional, in the autism world. The one today may seem a bit harsh as you begin to read it, but I think by the end, you will see her perspective.

Kim Stagliano is raising three young ladies with autism spectrum disorders, between the ages of 15-21. She talks about the reality of autism that is mostly not mentioned in the feel-good stories that are reported most of the time that point to autism breakthroughs or special things individuals with autism can do. As the author of “All I can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa,” she talks about life raising her three daughters. I have this book and am looking forward to reading it cover to cover in the near future.

The best advice Kim gives in her article is to make a difference in someone’s life who has autism…whether that is inviting a child to a play date, birthday party, volunteering your time or energy to help at a local center that works with children with autism, or being a friend to a parent who has a child with autism…there are no little jobs in the autism field. Each and every one make a difference.

Autism Signs to Look For…

JAC is approached a lot to help the community in the greater Jackson area and throughout Mississippi know what to look for in an autism spectrum disorder. Because autism does not always present itself the same way and is purely diagnosed behaviorally, it can be a hard and messy thing to diagnose. We currently do not diagnose autism, but occasionally provide consultations to families who suspect their child may have autism.

It is important to have a professional observe your child and interview you if you think your child may be on the autism spectrum.

Here is an important information sheet that provides helpful insight into autism.

JAC_Autism Spectrum Disorders Information Sheet_April 14


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

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!

New Intervention Service Being Offered through Jackson Autism Center

I am very excited to share a new opportunity that is in the works for 2013! It is geared towards children who are 3-6 years old and are being homeschooled, are not yet in a preschool program, or thrive with small group intervention for learning. Other children may be considered if deemed appropriate. This program, “Stay and Play,” is two days a week for two hours and consists of typical school activities such as circle time, one-on-one work, small group work, social play skills, and snack. It is developed for a small group learning environment, with a maximum of 2-3 children per group. Children participating will be learning new academic, social/personal, and fine motor skills through thematic units. “Stay and Play” meets the sensory needs of children with special needs as well as academic and social/personal needs. This program is offered on a first-come, first-serve basis so please inquire if you are interested. Children participating will be required to complete an academic evaluation through Jackson Autism Center.

More information is available here: Jackson Autism Center Stay and Play March to May 2013.

Five Ways to Prepare for the Thanksgiving Meal

Thanksgiving generally revolves around food for neurotypical individuals. So what about kids with disabilities who may be picky eaters, be on special diets, or have trouble knowing when they are full? Thanksgiving can be a stressful day for parents of kids with disabilities when you add in all of these factors. How can you be better prepared? Here are 5 different ways to practice and prepare for Thanksgiving to make it a family-filled, fun day.

#5 Begin by visiting the library and reading about different types of fruits and vegetables. If you are not ready for a trip to the library with your child, try and go on your own and bring books home about Thanksgiving, fruits and vegetables, gardens, etc. Talk about fruits and vegetables by color, size (big/little), shape (circle/oval), as well as taste (sweet/bitter/crunchy) and texture (bumpy/smooth).

#4 Take opportunities to play with food- real or pretend food. You can pretend to go grocery shopping, prepare and make a dish, eat, or play in other ways- cut it open and pick out the seeds, use paint and paint with fruits/vegetables, and cook with it. Incorporate something he likes with something he doesn’t like- like apple pie for a child who likes pastries or banana pudding for a child who likes pudding. Be creative and think outside the box. If your child is on a special diet, practice making Thanksgiving items beforehand to judge how your child reacts to them so that you can perfect them before the big day. Eating Right Ontario has a great list of suggestions that vary from exercise with your child to recipes and other ways to play with food.

#3 Play with virtual food. Whether you have access to an ipad or not, there are lots of different computer games and applications that center around food. Spend some time playing some of these games to see what fruits and vegetables your child already knows and which he doesn’t.  For younger kids, games that work on sorting or picking fruits can be simple and enjoyable- play together and use this as a time to talk about the food as you play. For older kids or kids who are reading, check out this word search.

#2 Introduce a few new fruits and vegetables a week. This will depend on your personal preferences and wishes for what you would like to accomplish by Thanksgiving. Having fruits and vegetables in the house is a start. Next, allow your child to see you cutting and preparing the food and of course, eating it. Encourage tasting or even touching, smelling, or licking the fruits and vegetables. If you have a child who has difficulties knowing when he is full, give him small amounts and help him stop before eating too much. Allowing your child to get up and do a preferred activity after eating may help motivate him to stop before overeating.

#1 Hopefully, all of your hard work will pay off today and your child will have a few new choices to eat for Thanksgiving. Prepare them the same way your child liked them originally- don’t try anything new today unless you see some interest. Play it safe. You can provide other foods that your child typically eats as well.

Take time before Thanksgiving to make sure that your family or friends understand your child’s difficulties. This can help avoid additional stress on Thanksgiving day if they understand beforehand that your child is not being rude by not trying their turkey or pumpkin pie. The more you can educate others on your child and his needs, the better off you will be- and less stressed out. Waiting until the day of to discuss your child’s needs may add additional stress and misunderstood.

If you had success using any of these strategies with your child, let me know!