Archive for the ‘ Special Needs Parenting ’ Category

5 Tips for Traveling By Plane with Your Special Needs Child

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs  over at Atypical Familia.

In a few weeks, we’ll be on our way to the Most Magical Place on Earth. It will be Norrin’s second time on an air plane. Unlike the first time taking a plane together, I am not nervous. The first time we flew, I was frantic even though I prepped for months. But there was no need to worry. Norrin really surprised me and I was so proud of him.

Traveling with special needs children requires careful planning. If your child has never been on a plane and you’re thinking of planning a vacation – here are some tips that can help.

Prepare. Even if you don’t have any immediate plans for a trip, start talking about planes and pointing them out to your kids. Talk about the kind of places or family/friends you can visit by taking a plane. Many kids with autism and other special needs, require social stories to help them through new experiences or teach everyday skills. Carol Gray has written two books that may help: My Social Stories Book and The New Social Story Book

There’s also a really cool app by Avril Webster called Off We Go: Going on a Plane. The app prepares special needs children and also includes “some of the typical sounds that they would hear during their journey.” The Going on a Plane app is $3.99 and compatible with iPad, iPhone or iPod touch.

Do Your Homework. Think about the airlines and airports you’ve traveled with in the past – which ones gave you the best experience? If you have friends that have traveled with their special needs children – ask for suggestions. Call airlines and see what accommodations can be made for your special needs child before making your final decision.

Another thing to consider is the duration of the flight. If your child has never flown before, don’t book a 5 hour plane ride or one with multiple layovers. Keeping it under 3 hours is probably ideal.

Pack Light (if you can). Traveling by plane requires a lot of waiting and long lines. If you can manage to do carry-on luggage only – go for it! That way you avoid the checking in your bag line and waiting to claim your bag after.

Prepare some more. You want to keep your kid occupied for a significant amount of time so a bag of goodies is a must! Load up the iPad or tablet with new apps or buy a new toy or activity book for the ride. Bring candy or a special treat for your child to enjoy. And don’t forget to pack any other special items like noise-cancelling headphones or favorite comfort item, pillow or blankie. It could be the thing that prevents a meltdown.

And Speaking of Meltdowns. A mom wrote to me and expressed concern about her child having a meltdown on the plane. “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best” as the saying goes. If a meltdown occurs, deal with it the best way you can and forget about if people stare – just focus on your child. If you anticipate a meltdown prior to boarding the plane – talk to the flight attendants. They want to ensure you have a pleasant experience, so do not be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

From my other blog:

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Best Kept Secret: When Kids With Autism Grow Up And Age Out

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs  over at Atypical Familia.

My son, Norrin, is eight years old and I try my best to focus on where he is now rather than worry about the future. But if it’s one thing I’ve learned about motherhood is that the years fly by. Eventually Norrin will age out and the special education “safety net” will be lifted. I feel lucky that Norrin’s school goes up to 21 years old but then what? Will he be able to get a job or live independently? Will he have the tools to face the world as an autistic young man?

Those are the questions the critically acclaimed documentary, Best Kept Secret tackles.

At JFK High School, located in the midst of a run-down area in Newark, New Jersey’s largest city, administrators answer the phone by saying, “You’ve reached John F. Kennedy High School, Newark’s Best Kept Secret.” And indeed, it is. JFK is a school for all types of students with special education needs, ranging from those on the autism spectrum to those with multiple disabilities.

Janet Mino has taught her class of six young autistic men for 4 years. They must graduate from JFK in the spring of 2012. The clock is ticking to find them a place in the adult world – a job or rare placement in a recreational center – so they do not end up where their predecessors have, sitting at home, institutionalized, or on the streets.

Last night I had the opportunity to hear Janet Mino speak at an autism parents support group. I was inspired by her devotion and wished that there were more educators with her mindset. One of the things she said that really resonated with me was about communication. Everyone can communicate, even if they are non-verbal – their behaviors are how they communicate. We have to take the time and figure out what they are trying to say. A tough love kind of teacher, Mino strives to teach her students to live without being prompt dependent, urging parents and caregivers to do the same. “It’s a harsh world. We must prepare our kids to face it.”

It’s autism awareness month and magazines and media share the stories of children with autism. Like any other kid, children with autism grow up. Services and resources are critical at every age but as autistic individuals grow up, the resources and services dwindle down; options are extremely limited. Those are the stories that need to be heard too.  In a interview with Kpana Kpoto, Mino advises, “Even after 21, still find ways to build them up. They need support. Plan early.  In order for parents to plan early, we need to be prepared and know what to plan for. Best Kept Secret sheds light on the things parents need to know. It’s a must see for any parent or caregiver of an autistic child and for teachers wanting to better communicate with their special needs students.

Have you seen Best Kept Secret yet? If not, it’s available for download on iTunes (for personal use) and on the Academic Video Store (for educational use).

From my other blog:

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Youngest Kindergarteners More Likely To Be Held Back, Says A New Study

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Here’s news that may influence parents’ decision on when to enroll their tots in kindergarten: The youngest kindergarteners are about five times more likely than the oldest students to be held back, says a new study from The University of Missouri. And retention could have an impact on a child. Says study author Francis Huang, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Missouri University College of Education,”Requiring children to repeat a grade…can affect children’s self-esteem and their ability to adjust in the future.”

The study also found that children who were shorter were more likely to be held back a year than taller peers with the same classroom difficulties. Kids with higher attentiveness, task persistence and eagerness to learn were less likely to repeat a grade.

While many parents opt to enroll their kids in kindergarten as soon as they can to avoid paying for another year of daycare expenses, if your tot is on the younger side then you may have to be more proactive about making sure his or her’s needs are met in the classroom. “Since older kindergarteners can have as much as 20 percent more life experience than their younger classmates, teachers need to meet students where they are developmentally and adjust instructions based on a student’s ability,” says Huang. “Studies have shown that only a small number of teachers modify classroom instruction to deal with a diverse set of students.”

From my other blog: 

On giving in to your kid’s quirks

7 ways to encourage play for kids with special needs

How to respond when people ask what’s “wrong” with your child

 

Photo of girls in kindergarten class via Shutterstock

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How Autism Moms Parent Differently

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Moms who have kids with autism are less likely to set rules than other parents, says a study published in the March issue of the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. These moms more frequently rely on positive reinforcement, encouraging good behavior rather than focusing on the bad.

Researchers asked 1000 mothers of kids ages 6 to 18 in Belgium and the Netherlands to complete a questionnaire about parenting tactics; 552 of them had a child with autism. Moms of kids with autism were more likely to adjust their approach to suit their children’s needs. They were also less controlling than other parents—yet more involved in problem-solving for their kids.

The results may come as no surprise to autism moms or to mothers of kids with other special needs. My son, Max, has cerebral palsy, and I’ve had to experiment to find the right discipline tactics. For years, Max didn’t yet cognitively understand a lot, and so threatening a punishment had no effect. Often the best approaches I found was to praise him for behaving well. When he said “No” instead of screeching in frustration, for example, I’d say “That’s great that you are using your words!” (Positive parenting also works well on feisty “typical” 9-year-olds who may or may not be my daughter.) What’s also worked for us in terms of setting rules is having a reward system in place. Max knows that if he finishes his homework, he is allowed to watch one YouTube video of fire trucks, one of his fascinations. Fellow blogger Lisa Quinones-Fontanez of Autism Wonderland finds it helpful to have a list of house rules (including “Walk nicely—no running” and “Listen to Mommy and Daddy”) that she can point to and go over with her son.

Recently, when Max refused to stop stomping his legs against the floor as he watched TV—a habit he developed months ago that showed no signs of abating—I decided to let him deal with the consequences. One framed photo had already fallen off the wall and broken, as a result. Then it happened again. This time, Max wailed for a long time.  ”I’m sorry!” he said, again and again. And you know what? He’s stopped stomping.

Parenting and disciplining kids with special needs has its special challenges. And yet, in many ways, it’s like parenting any kid: You have to adapt your approach to suit your child.

From my other blog:

The question I shouldn’t have asked about my child with special needs

7 ways to encourage play for kids with special needs

On giving in to your kid’s quirks

Photo of boy sitting in field via Shutterstock

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When People Do Favors For Kids With Special Needs

Friday, February 21st, 2014

You may have seen the viral video by now: Five-year-old Daniel of Ojai, California, has autism, and loves to watch the Monday morning garbage pickup. Driver Manuel Sanchez decided to buy him a toy truck. It turned out to be one he’d already owned, but had gotten broken.

Videos like these make the country sigh a collective “Awwww….” Sanchez definitely went above and beyond. But the truth, as parents of children with special needs know, is that it’s common for people to do kindnesses for our kids—both ones in their lives and strangers, too. This weekend, our family boarded a crowded train and Max desperately wanted the corner seat, which was already occupied. Sitting in a nook feels safe and comforting to him. The man noticed Max whimpering, stood up and sat elsewhere. Max gave him a huge “Thank you!”

I could go on and on about the kindnesses people have shown Max over the years. The guy at Cold Stone Creamery who always lets Max have his kid-size scoop in a gigantic cup, because that’s how Max likes it. The airport staffer at Miami International who whisked us through an endless security line as Max was freaking out. The puppeteer who noticed that Max was standing in back of the auditorium, because he was too scared to come up front, and gave him a private show after the crowd had gone.

The pity stares, I can live without. But these small gestures and favors are so welcome. They make life happier and easier for Max—and, in turn, for me as a parent. And they’re comforting, too. Raising a child with special needs can be isolating. Sometimes people glare at us when Max is having a meltdown because they don’t know he has special needs. Strangers who care make me feel that I’m not in this alone.

From my other blog:

7 ways to encourage play for kids with special needs (plus a Melissa & Doug discount)

 

Image: Screen grab/Autism Speaks video

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