Practical Tips for Parents
Ilana Hoffer Skoff, co-founder of Milestones Autism Resources, wrote an article for Your Teen Magazine Online. Ilana’s daughter has autism —as do one percent of all children in the United States between the ages of three and 17—and wrote about what she thinks parents of typical teenagers should know and what parents of teens with autism should know. Review these tips on how to take care of yourself.
Tips for General Outings
Going out for even the simplest excursions can be challenging, but with a little planning ahead, they can be enjoyable for everyone.
Most importantly, you need to determine which activities that are priorities for your family, whether it’s eating out in restaurants, going to parks, attending religious services, or maybe shopping at the mall.
Compile your list of favorite restaurants, local recreation centers, playgrounds, or events within your religious community. By building routines around your community with this list of favorites, your child and your family won’t feel isolated.
Also, look for outings that would be a particularly good fit for your child. Fewer people, a quieter activity, or catering to a particular interest of hers might help her adapt more readily.
How can I prepare my child before we leave the house?
- Review the routine with your child before your outing.
- Talk about what your child should and should not do (e.g. “You need to stay in this part of the park.” “You should not make loud noises while in the restaurant.”).
- Role play the activity with your child while at home, so you can model what your expectations are.
- Use social stories whenever applicable to prepare your child for a new experience.
- Use a visual (written or pictorial) list of steps the child can expect. This list can also include sample language for the child to use.
- Bring any items such as sunglasses, a hat, or earplugs that may help your child if he has sensory needs.
How can I prepare other people before my child’s outing or activity?
- If you plan to involve your child in community events, social groups or extracurricular activities, present your child’s diagnosis or your child’s challenges (as well as their strengths) up front, either at registration or to the person in charge of the event.
- Alert the instructor or leader of any specific activities your child might have difficulty with or react to negatively. Give them tips on how to help your child through stumbling blocks.
What can I do while we are out and about?
- Be prepared with favorite activities and snacks (if permissible) for doctors’ offices or anywhere else you might have a wait.
- Give your child an activity when you are on an errand (e.g. checking off the grocery list as you shop).
- Praise your child for her positive behavior.
- Continue to refer your child to appropriate social stories or visuals as necessary throughout the outing.
What if my child has a meltdown or tantrum in public?
- If your child has meltdowns or is rude to someone in public, you have a few different options. You may need to experiment to determine what works best for your family.
- If your older child has been rude, it would be a good lesson to bring your child over to apologize to the offended party. This reminds her there are consequences for our actions.
- If your child is younger and is being disruptive or rude, you might share with the offended persons that your child has special needs and you apologize for her inappropriate behavior or her rudeness.
- Sometimes, you do not have the ability to stop and speak to people your child has offended, especially if they are mid-tantrum! Some people carry cards with them to distribute as they remove their child from the situation. The cards could say something as simple as “I apologize for my child’s behavior. She has special needs.” Or, they could indicate that your child has autism, if you wish to divulge that information. Here are some sample cards.
- Remove yourselves from the situation as swiftly as possible to a quiet place where your child can calm down.
- Consult other families, to see what has worked for them, or talk to professional members of your team. They may have suggestions on how to handle your child’s outbursts.
How to Address Inappropriate Behavior in Children with ASD
- First, rule out any potential medical reasons for his behavior. If there is no medical explanation, you can proceed with other avenues to correct inappropriate behaviors.
- Get a professional Functional Behavioral Assessment with a behavioral consultant. They can help you create a behavior plan.
- An Antecedent Behavior Consequence (ABC) Chart offers chances to note the setting, time and frequency behaviors occur, what happened just before the behavior, a description of the behavior itself, and the consequence of the behavior. It can help determine why a behavior occurs, and is a good tool for recording behaviors and information. If you consult a behavioral consultant, this is often the first thing they will use to assess your child.
- Find other parents who may have dealt with the same or similar behaviors. They can offer support and perhaps suggest how to solve your problem.
- Prioritize and deal with behaviors that interfere most with a child’s learning or the learning of others around him.
- Find socially acceptable replacements, such as manipulating a squeeze ball instead of flapping, or saying “This is fun!” instead of squealing.
- Introduce a timer into your child’s routine. Use a visual timer to signal the end of a task and the beginning of either a break request or the next task.
- Be proactive and make a plan to prevent inappropriate behavior before it can occur. Social stories may be appropriate here.
- Redirect the child engaged in inappropriate behavior (or ignore attention-seeking behavior) and immediately reward positive behavior.
- Go back to something easier if he appears frustrated, then return to the targeted task when he calms down. Provide more supports.
- Teach children trying to escape a task to request a break instead. Shape the behavior and try to have them come back and finish the task (even if it is for a short time), then prompt the break request.
How do I help my child with ASD find a job?
Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) can have meaningful and enjoyable employment opportunities. There are many types of employment for people with disabilities and the choice of a vocational path should be based on the abilities, functionality, interests and needs of the individual.
Vocational Planning should begin by the time the child enters high school and should be addressed in the Future Planning Statement and related goals in the teen’s IEP, (Individualized Education Program). Click here to see how vocational goals can be included in IEPs.
Identifying and working towards appropriate employment goals can occur at any stage of adulthood. If employment goals were not addressed or achieved during the transition to adulthood, consumers and their families should continue to seek assistance from local and state agencies that help people with disabilities attain meaningful and valuable work options.
There are two primary agencies that serve people with disabilities relating to employment services.
1) Ohio Rehabilitation Service Commission (OOD) is a federally mandated agency that exists in every state, sometimes by different names, that helps people with disabilities seek and maintain competitive employment. RSC can help you prepare and plan for long-term competitive or customized employment goals.
For more information on Vocational Rehabilitation Services in your state, go online to www.google.com and search “Vocational Rehabilitation” and your state.
2) Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD)is the statewide agency responsible for overseeing supports and services for individuals with developmental disabilities. Services provided by the DODD are given within the county of residence of the individual with a disability. DODD offers long-term, wrap-around services for individuals with developmental disabilities that include assistance with competitive, supported or sheltered employment.
In other states, services for people with developmental disabilities might be housed in other state departments. For more information about the Department of Developmental Disabilities in your state go to www.google.com and search “Department of Developmental Disabilities” and your state of residence.
There are also agencies that help individuals without disabilities seek employment that youth and adults with ASD can seek out for assistance as well. You can learn more about a Cleveland employment agency that assists Clevelanders to find employment by visiting http://www.employmentconnection.us/
For more information on federal laws and resources, please visit the United States Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP).
The National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center offers a comprehensive website. Their “Students and Families” section has lots of free resources about effective transition planning from high school to adulthood, interactive websites about transition planning, and some suggestions on employment and post-secondary options.