Posts Tagged ‘ Autism inspiration ’

Prompting Conversation And Communication With An Autistic Child

Thursday, August 28th, 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, has been working with a speech therapist for the last six years – ever since his autism diagnosis. At the time he was diagnosed, he had no language or communication skills. Recently, Norrin saw a picture of me that prompted him to ask me 5 appropriate questions in a row. I was beyond excited! Since then, I’ve been finding ways to build on his conversation skills.

Linda M. Reinert, speech language pathologist and author of Talking Is Hard for Me! Encouraging Communication in Children with Speech-Language Difficulties, encourages parents, teachers and caregivers to “expect communication.”

Tempting as it might be, stop trying to read the child’s mind. Consider what the next level of communication might be and expect that…expect the child to respond in a way that just a bit more difficult than [his or] her current means of communication.

I always try to keep that in mind when I talk to Norrin. He’s been much more expressive and so now I expect a little more each time we talk.

Here are my 6 simple rules for prompting conversation with my son:

Set the mood. Make sure your child is relaxed and ready to talk. Turn off all distractions so they can focus on you. And give yourself at least 10 – 15 minutes to commit to giving them your full attention. Go for a walk in the neighborhood and talk about what you see. Sit at the table while they are having an afternoon snack. I like talking to Norrin right before bed. He’s had his bath, he’s winding down and open to talking.

Keep it simple and specific. Don’t go into a whole monologue and/or fire off a bunch of questions. Use simple language and ask them one specific question at a time.

Follow up. Conversations are all about the follow up question. Build your conversation based on the answers your child provides.

Be patient and wait for response. Some kids need a few minutes to digest the question and think about the answer. So wait a minute or two.

Repeat and/or rephrase the question. If you’ve asked a question and too much time has passed. Ask again. If you have to ask a third time, rephrase the question. If they need help, provide two choices or use pictures and have them point.

Look for inspiration. There is inspiration everywhere. Show them a picture of something fun you did together and ask your child about it. Sometimes I’ll point out something as we’re walking around the neighborhood and ask him to tell me about the specific object.

It really doesn’t matter what you talk to your child about. The important thing is to take the time to talk to your child and get them into a back and forth dialogue. And with each conversation, always expect a little bit more.

And from my other blog:

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

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A New Bike Built For Kids With Special Needs

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

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

Jyrobike is the World’s First Auto Balance Bicycle that features a patented Control Hub in the front wheel that uses gyroscopic technology to keep riders upright, even when they tip or wobble.

Riding a bike has not come easily for my son, Norrin. After he was diagnosed with autism, we learned that he didn’t have the strength or the coordination to pedal. For years we’ve worked with therapists trying to build up Norrin’s muscle strength and teaching him how to balance. We’ve bought tricycles, big wheels and even scooters – hoping Norrin would be able to master one. Eventually Norrin learned to pedal but he still lacked the focus, tired easily and had difficulty maintaining balance.

Last spring, we bought Norrin his first real bike. And while he showed an interest in riding it, he still needed a lot of work. Even with the training wheels he still had trouble with balance and had difficulty turning. Now that bike is too small and we’re wondering whether or not we should buy another. Norrin will still need training wheels and it may be years before he learns to balance independently.

That’s when I heard about the kickstarter campaign for Jyrobike I knew I had to share it! It’s the ideal solution for kids like mine. “Jyrobike is built on the core principle that bikes become inherently stable at higher speeds because the faster the wheels spin, the more balanced it becomes.” While originally designed for 3 – 8 year olds, “one of [the company's] stretch goal rewards will be very popular with parents of older children.” There are also plans to launch an adult product.

Jyrobike will change the lives of so many families with special needs, especially kids with autism. It allows children to learn to ride a bicycle with confidence and a sense of security. It will provide the physical activity they need to maintain their health and it’s a social activity that can be shared with family and friends. Bike riding is a skill that can lead to a more independent life.

To learn more about Jyrobike visit http://www.jyrobike.com.

Catch up with last week’s post: How Not To Handle a Public Meltdown

And from my other blog:

 

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A Teen With Autism Speaks At Graduation: Extreme Inspiration

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

It’s an achievement and honor for any student to speak at their school graduation. But for Dillan Barmache, 14, it was an opportunity to let people to know he has a voice.

Dillan has autism, and is non-verbal. He used an iPad and a letter-board to address the graduating class of Hale Charter Academy in Woodland Hills, California, rapidly choosing letters to form sentences. He got a standing ovation from classmates, parents and teachers—along with a social media one from special needs parents like me. This gives me so much hope for my son, Max, who has cerebral palsy and who uses the Proloquo2Go speech app as his main form of communication. Next year Dillan starts high school; he’ll take general education classes, and might study psychology, per KABC news.

I love not just that Dillan did this, but that the school welcomed it. My dream is for more schools, programs, workplaces and the world in general to have this open-mindedness toward people with special needs. As Dillan’s mom, Tami, said, “We all want to share who we are, we all want to share our thoughts and ideas and questions and worries, and I think every individual has that right.”

The full speech:

“When I examine each day, it’s just incredible how a student, an autistic one, could ever feel a part of a class of future academics. Education is a better institution when all students have opportunity, plus a chance to take an idea and see the lessons within. With your mind, no one can place limits on where an idea can take you. Living without a voice creates almost no way to be heard, but there are people who refuse to think in a box. Open your mind in high school. You will learn to think about different ideas, and examine new findings. Always look inside other peoples experience in order to gain another perspective outside of books. Only then are we able to start opening our eyes to the amazing things around us. I so believe that there is so much more each one of us can do for other people, causes, and fields of study. I know too that the thought of high school is daunting, and also exciting. We will be challenged to think for ourselves as we live each day out. Part of education is showing what we have learned, so then tests measure our ability to learn, and are necessary. However, another measure of learning often seems based on insight and guidance. Insight is a guide that separates our knowledge into what we are taught and what we are capable of doing. Take a chance to experience your education in a meaningful way, and think outside the box, into yourselves. Insight always leads to truths that an individual either chooses to accept or not. Always consider looking to your own insight and seeking another viewpoint. We are the reality of our thinking life and are capable of so much if we just open our minds.”

From my other blog:

The kindness a neighbor did for my son that I will never forget

The Supreme Court ditches the term “mental retardation”

The best gifts to give a baby in the NICU

 

Image source: KABC video screen-grab

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Father and Son Bonding When Your Son Has Autism

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

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

When Norrin was first diagnosed with autism, my husband, Joseph, had a difficult time. Like many fathers of sons, Joseph imagined little league, football games or teaching him how to drive. Neither of us imagined, therapists, disability or special education. Those first few weeks/months/years we wondered if Norrin would ever speak or grow up to be independent. And I know Joseph worried about what kind of relationship they would have. If they would ever have that father-son bond.

Norrin started baseball again this year. This time, he’s on a team and is required to play each week. Last week was Norrin’s second game and Joseph was Norrin’s “buddy.” Norrin hit his first single! Seeing the look of pride on Joseph’s face, reminded me of how their relationship has evolved over the years and how Joseph has learned to bond with Norrin.

4 Ways My Husband Bonds With Our Autistic Son

Comic Books & Cartoons. Joseph is a major comic book fan. So much so that we named Norrin after a comic book character! While I spend my bedtimes reading Norrin my childhood favorites, Joseph reads books featuring his favorite comic book heroes. Joseph gets into character by changing his voice and Norrin loves listening! They also spend time watching cartoons like Super Hero Squad and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Norrin doesn’t quite understand the complex story lines but he likes the action and he now recognizes all the major characters.

Music. When Norrin was a baby, Joseph would rock Norrin to sleep listening to calming music like James Taylor and Bob Denver. Joseph is always introducing new music to Norrin. Some music Norrin likes – for the longest time, Norrin would only listen to “Get off of my cloud” by The Rolling Stones. And some he doesn’t – when he doesn’t, Norrin sticks his fingers in his ears and says, “Too loud, Dad. Lower the volume.” Like everything else, finding the right music is about trial and error.

Video Games. Joseph’s like a big kid when it comes to playing video games. And his love of video games was something Joseph wanted to enjoy with Norrin. Video games have helped Norrin in so many ways but mostly it’s been a critical piece of their bonding time.

Sports. There was a time when Norrin didn’t have the strength to throw or catch a ball. It took years of occupational therapy for him to learn. Norrin still struggles with his movements for many things, and he gets easily frustrated. But Joseph gets him to keep trying.

At first Norrin wasn’t interested in playing baseball. But Joseph broke the basics of baseball down. He began teaching Norrin how to catch the ball in his glove. Then how to throw the ball. Norrin loves playing catch and often asks to go outside and play. No matter how tired Joseph is, when Norrin asks – they’ll go outside and throw the ball around.

When I see Joseph and Norrin together I feel really lucky. Bonding with Norrin hasn’t always come easily but Joseph works really hard at finding ways to connect with Norrin. And seeing them interact together, watching their bond grow is a beautiful thing.

Catch up with last weeks post: A Tough Love Moment in Autism Parenting 

 

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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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