Posts Tagged ‘ autism ’

Board Games and Kids with Autism

Friday, December 19th, 2014

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

 

Christmas is next week and I still haven’t bought a single gift. I should probably get started on that because my son, Norrin, has a really long list. Anyway if you’re a last minute shopper like me and you have a kid (or kids) with autism on your list, you may be wondering what you should get.

Norrin is 8 and we’re really focusing on more age-appropriate play, like board games and video games. While we love video games and introducing Norrin to the latest tech for kids, board games are just as fun and important to his development.

The two major benefits of board games:

It’s cost effective. Most board games range from $10 – 25. You don’t need the internet or have to keep purchasing games to play. A board game is a one-time price.

Great for social skills. Playing a board game requires turn taking and conversation.

Here are 10 board games we play with Norrin that he loves:

Don’t Break the Ice. Always on the top of our list for gift suggestions. We’ve had this game for years and Norrin still loves it! It’s great for work on those motor planning skills.

Zingo! [by Thinkfun] I love playing Zingo with Norrin. We have Zingo! and Zingo! Sightwords. But there’s also Zingo! Spanish, Time-timing, Spanish and 1-2-3. What I love most about Zingo! and Thinkfun games are that they incorporate learning into the fun. It’s a game with a real purpose.

Candy Land. I loved playing Candy Land as a kid and I love playing it with Norrin. This game is great to teach kids about following directions.

Whac-a-Mole. We play this when we go to the arcades and it’s fun playing at home too.

Hed Bandz. We have the Disney version of this game and Norrin gets a kick out of it. I like that we can work on our WH questions.

Scrabble Jr. I have regular Scrabble nights with my friends and Norrin enjoys watching us play. We decided to buying his own board and while some of the rules of Scrabble are still a little complicated, I like that we can work on spelling.

Connect 4. Norrin loves playing Connect 4 but what he loves more is watching all the pieces fall.

Mouse Trap. We recently received this as a gift from one of Norrin’s therapists. Norrin was beyond excited about it and I’m looking forward to him teaching me how to play.

Hungry, Hungry Hippo. Another game I loved as a kid that I get to play again. Sometimes I even let Norrin win.

Social Skills by Didax – This is the only game we we do not own but it’s on our wish list! I feel like this game is made specifically for kids with autism. “Each game has players discuss the solutions to socially challenging situations. Together the group decides upon the best action encouraging all players to communicate, listen and participate in the game.”

Now that you have the game suggestions, here are a few things to keep in mind before purchasing:

  • Is it appropriate? Don’t think about the age on the box – think about the functioning level of the child.
  • Are the pieces too small? Could it be a choking hazard?
  • What can the child get out of it? I am all about toys with purpose. Whenever I buy toy, I think about the child and what they can learn/gain by playing with it.

What are your favorite board games to play with kids?

The Best Games of 2014!
The Best Games of 2014!
The Best Games of 2014!

And from my other blog:

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How Kids With Autism See Others—And Themselves: Important New Research

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

New research has revealed important information about how kids and autism read other people’s social cues—and how people with autism see themselves.

Children and adults with autism see faces differently than their peers do, reveals a study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. Scientists at the University of Montreal asked a group of 71 children and adults—including 33 with autism and 38 without—to view both photographs and computer-generated images of emotionally neutral faces, and to indicate which ones appeared most “kind.” The group with autism had mixed reactions to the photos, compared to the other group. Yet both groups performed similarly when they glanced at the synthetic image.

In a nutshell, the study indicates that people with autism gather information about faces differently than others do—it’s not a matter of making a judgment. This finding could help improve socializing and communication with people who have autism. As lead author Baudouin Forgeot d’Arc said, “Ultimately, a better understanding of how people with ASD perceive and evaulute the social environment will allow us to better interact with them.”

Another study, published in the journal PLoS One, found that when young adults with autism think about hugging or adoring someone or hating them, they think of it like somebody watching a play or reading a dictionary definition. It’s actual proof that people with autism have an altered perception of self, Carnegie Mellon University lead researcher Marcel Just, PhD, told Time magazine. His team did MRI scans on 17 young adults with autism and 17 people without it to see which areas of the brain lit up when they thought about a range of social interactions. The difference between the two groups was so significant that researchers could pinpoint whether a brain was autistic or neurotypical with 97 percent accuracy. The findings could lead to a new way of diagnosing and understanding autism, along with other psychiatric disorders.

Yet more pieces of the autism puzzle falls into place.

From my other blog:

Goodnight Moon: Special Needs Edition

Hey, Oprah, it’s not spiritual to demean people with disabilities 

Handling relatives who don’t get your kid with special needs

 

Image of girl holding puzzle pieces via Shutterstock

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13 Holiday Tips for Special Needs Parents

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

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

Another holiday season is upon us. And holidays mean family gatherings, parties, and shopping – it is sensory overload. Having a kid with autism this time of year can be challenging. But over the years it’s gotten easier for us, and I’ve learned some things along the way.

Today I’m excited to share 13 Holiday Tips for Special Needs Parents from Cara Koscinski, occupational therapist and author of  The Pocket Occupational Therapist Book Series.

Shopping

  • Allow children who are overwhelmed by sights and sounds of shopping to stay home. Allow kids to have a pajama and movie night while you’re shopping.
  • If a child must attend the shopping trip, schedule downtime or breaks for children to de-sensitize. This can be located in the car with some crunchy snacks, a weighted blanket, and some calming music.
  • Encourage children to make a list of preferred toys well in advance.  Give family lists of toys to choose from.  I even purchase the toys my children will enjoy and provide them to my local family members ahead of time.  We sometimes have a “trunk sale” and everyone chooses which give they will buy and wrap for my boys.

Family Photographs

  • Go at a time of day when children are well-rested and not hungry.  Do not rush and arrive early.
  • Write a letter or speak to the photographer ahead of time.  Most studios will schedule extra time for children who have special needs.  Request a photographer who is patient.  If possible, schedule a photographer to visit your family outside of the studio.  We have found that this may be a more affordable option than a studio because of low-overhead costs.
  • Be flexible.  Consider that “fancy” clothes are often scratchy, have tags, and may contain textures that aren’t familiar to children.  Permit the child to wear comfortable versions of colors that you’d like the family portrait to have.

Visits with Santa

  • If children do agree to see Santa, create a social story with pictures of Santa, including his beard, velvet/soft red suit, and the setting in which Santa will be located.  Go to the location prior to the visit and watch other children.  Practice, practice, practice!

Family Gatherings

  • Create a “safe-zone” to which the child can go whenever they feel overwhelmed.  Set a password or sign that your child can use to excuse himself.  Place a bean bag, calming music, a heavy blanket, and favorite hand fidget toy in the area.  Practice ahead of time.
  • Create a letter to family members prior to family gatherings to explain your child’s wonderful progress toward goals and suggestions for conversation topics. For example: “Joshua’s had a wonderful year in therapy.  He’s learned how to tie his shoes, take one turn during conversations, and how to write in cursive.  Joshua likes Angry Birds.  Here’s a link to the Angry Birds’ website if you’d like more information.  Please know that even though he’s not looking directly into your eyes, he IS listening to you and loves you!”
  • At mealtime, make sure to serve a preferred food so that children who have feeding difficulties can successfully participate.

Holiday Parties

  • Give kids a job to do so that they will have a sense of belonging and success.  Even something such as helping to create place markers for seating or setting the table can give kids a feeling of accomplishment.
  • Remember that heavy work is generally calming.  Include activities such as moving chairs, picking up and placing dirty clothes into a basket and carrying it to the laundry room, or vacuuming are great ways to encourage children to help to prepare for the party.
  • Plan an “out” or an escape plan.  Even a short visit that is successful can create memories that last a lifetime!

The Holidays are meant to be fun. Enjoy them with your family!

And from my other blog:

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The Pope Will Meet Children With Autism: Great! Here’s One Special Request

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

This Saturday, Pope Francis will make history: He will meet with autistic children and their families to raise awareness about the condition and help end the stigma. The visit will cap a week-long international conference on autism hosted by the Vatican’s health care office, reports ABC News, which is bringing together more than 650 people from 57 countries.

Even with the significant attention paid to autism in the United States, where an approximate 1 in every 68 kids is on the spectrum, there continues to be stigma. It is far worse in other countries—including in Italy, noted Dr. Stefano Vicari, head of pediatric neuropsychiatry at the Vatican-owned Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome. In some countries, children with autism and other special needs are hidden away by their families out of shame. In Bangladesh, for instance, there is a common false belief that autism and other mental disorders are caused by ill spirits.

During the visit, the Pope will deliver a speech to hundreds in the Vatican audience hall, complete with music and movement for the children. The attention this visit receives should hopefully send a worldwide message—to people of every religion—that kids and adults with autism deserve acceptance and respect.

If I were at this conference, I’d have one request for Pope Francis: To publicly encourage places of worship to welcome children with autism and other special needs. As I know from my own experience, and from that of other parents I’ve met through social media, places of worship of all denominations are not always accommodating to kids with special needs. One survey found that a third of caregivers of kids with special needs say their church does not have a Sunday school program for their children. Per another statistic, an estimated 9.6 million caregivers of kids with special needs have no services to send them to. Some places of worship aren’t even open to including kids with special needs. As I’ve said before, you’d think that churches, temples, and mosques would feel compelled to answer to a higher authority when it comes to spiritual accessibility.

Just a few words from Pope Francis could make a difference in how places of worship welcome kids with special needs. And that would surely answer a lot of special needs parents’ prayers.

Understanding Autism: Developing Social Skills
Understanding Autism: Developing Social Skills
Understanding Autism: Developing Social Skills

From my other blog:

Good Night Moon: Special Needs Edition

A cool way to describe kids with special needs

Raising kids with special needs: Why it’s good I didn’t know then what I do now

 

Image of Pope Francis kissing child via Shutterstock

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A Brief History of Autism: The Infographic

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

According to the CDC, 1 in 68 kids now have autism. The Pacific Child & Family Associates offered Parents.com the exclusive infographic below, which shows a timeline of autism spectrum disorder.

If your child, or someone you know has autism, learn more about the history of autism spectrum disorder, common myths about autism, and therapy and treatment options.

Early Signs of Autism
Early Signs of Autism
Early Signs of Autism

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