Posts Tagged ‘ Lisa Quinones Fontanez ’

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 Think Fun] 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 Think Fun 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?

And from my other blog:

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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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Broccoli Sprouts and Autism: The Latest Study

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

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

Over the years, I’ve heard about many autism studies and theories. Some have made me laugh out loud,  others I completely agree with. But it seems as if every other week there is some new study. It’s getting tough to keep up.

This week’s latest study is all about broccoli sprouts and how it can help modify behaviors in autistic individuals. Well not broccoli sprouts exactly but Sulforaphane, the extract derived from broccoli sprouts. Sulforphane is also suggested to have an “anti-cancer effect.”

The study involved 40 boys and young men, ages 13 to 27, with moderate to severe autism. Of these, 29 were randomly selected to receive the supplement (50 to 150 µmol depending on weight). The others received a look-alike placebo, or “dummy” capsule. Neither the researchers nor the participants and their families knew who received the actual treatment until after the trial concluded. (Autism Speaks)

Over the 18 week study, nearly half responded to treatment.  ”Most of these individuals began showing improvements during the first four weeks and continued to improve during the rest of the treatment.” However it’s important to note that during the study, two individuals taking the Sulforaphane had seizures. While they had a history of seizures, it is unclear whether or not Sulforaphane caused them to have one during the trial.

When I shared this study on my Facebook page, I made a joke about it. Because by the headline it seemed a bit out there (and I hadn’t read the research). But one mom asked whether or not I would try it. Honestly, I don’t know. If it were a vitamin supplement – maybe. Someday. I’d need to see more research first. (I’m still trying to decide if I want to start Norrin  on medication for his ADHD.)

One thing that has me on the fence, is that Sulforaphane is known for cancer prevention and treatment. And I think it perpetuates the idea that autism is a disease in need of a cure. I am not interested in a cure for my kid.

I think these autism studies give parents false hope, because there are parents willing to try anything and everything to “fix” their kid. When they try something that works for some kids and not theirs, those feelings of loss and guilt return. I know because I’ve been there.

Research has shown that children who receive early intervention services will show significant improvement. Yet so many children go undiagnosed by three years old especially among minorities.

Autistic kids need more resources. Parents need more support especially as their children grow older. That is where I would like to see research money spent – on providing the resources and support our kids need to learn, thrive and live full lives.

How do you feel about this latest study?

And from my other blog:

Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective
Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective
Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective

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Autism and Birthdays: 5 Ways Elf on the Shelf Can Help

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

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

We adopted “Elfie” two Christmas’ ago. Our Elf on the Shelf really helped Norrin understand the magic of Christmas. Norrin knows it’s September and he’s already started giving me his Christmas list. I love that Elf on the Shelf has been a part of his understanding of the holiday season.

When I heard about Elf on the Shelf: A Birthday Tradition – I knew it was something I wanted to do with Norrin.

Tomorrow is actually my birthday. When I was talking to Norrin about it he immediately started reciting his birthday wish list. I explained to him that on my birthday, I get presents – not him.

Norrin will be nine in January and birthdays have always been tricky for us. We haven’t had a birthday party since he turned three. It’s easier to celebrate in school. And January is always a hard month to plan for since the weather in New York can be unpredictable. But we still want his birthday to be special and build anticipation to the day. I know Elf on the Shelf: A Birthday Tradition will help!

Now I know some parents are hesitant about Elf on the Shelf and feel the Pinterest pressure. But Birthday Elf is super easy and fun.

The Elf on the Shelf®: A Birthday Tradition tells the little-known story of how Santa’s finest helpers celebrate birthdays at the North Pole—and how you can invite your scout elf to share that tradition with YOU! Each kit includes special instructions for inviting your scout elf for a birthday visit, and a festive birthday outfit for your scout elf to slip into before the big day! Also available—the Birthday Countdown & Game and the Birthday Chair Decoration Kit.

5 ways Elf on the Shelf: A Birthday Tradition Can Help Your Child With Autism Feel the Birthday Magic

Build Anticipation. Unlike the holiday season, your Elf appears only on the day of your child’s birthday. You can use the Birthday Countdown & Game (or any other calendar) to count down the days until your child’s birthday and their Elf arrives. It gives kids something extra to look forward to.

Understand Birthdays. Many kids – including my own – have difficulty understanding that everyone has their own birthday. If you have more than one child in the home, the Elf – along with the Birthday Countdown & Game – can be your family’s way of distinguishing birthdays.

Sparks Imagination. Imaginative play doesn’t come naturally to Norrin. But he is getting so much better! Still birthdays can be such an abstract concept for him to understand.  We’ll read the book, talk about Elfee and birthdays. It all helps to connect the dots.

Communication & Storytelling. While counting down, talk about the days of week, talk about the months and other family member birthdays. Talk about your pregnancy and how excited you were the days leading up to your child’s birth. Talk to them about the day they were born – even if you think they won’t understand. Let them hear the story.

Feel Special on Their Day. I love the idea of the Birthday Chair Decorating Kit along with the Elf because it really makes a kid feel special. We don’t have big birthday parties for Norrin and I’m not the mom to go crazy with decorations. The Birthday Chair Decorating Kit is easy and fun. It’ll be nice that we can do something a little extra to celebrate.    

Catch up with last week’s post: Prompting Conversation and Communication With An Autistic Child

And from my other blog:

 

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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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