autismmumsdads

Archive for the ‘Social Communication’ Category

Hello Everyone.

I would just like to thank you all for supporting the guest bloggers whilst i was away. I will be resuming my written blogs some time this week so thank you for your patience.

In the meantime i have opened a new page on Facebook to coincide with World Autism Awareness Day – here is the link http://www.facebook.com/AutismMumsandDads PLEASE ‘Like’ my page and help to raise more, much needed Awareness.

Feel free to share what you have done for World Autism Awareness Day below 🙂

L x

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I really wanted to share with you all the fact that yesterday I was informed that my 3 and a half year old Autistic Son, who is non-verbal will be discharged from the Speech & Language Therapy Department, after NO therapy.

The reasons why haven’t been disclosed but i will be demanding answers as to why his speech therapist – and I use that term loosely, deems his speech and language satisfactory enough to not be pursuing any type of speech therapy.

Since A was diagnosed last July, we where told he had been put on the waiting list for Speech Therapy & due to his diagnosis he was a ‘priority case’ & we would hear back from them soon, this was the same time I was promised visual symbols to be sent through the post – needless to say I’m still waiting – wow their printer must be slow!

My son has a speech disorder due to his autism & early intervention is absolutely crucial to his future development. He is way behind in his speech and language when compared to his peers & this can only add to his already present communication impairments.

I have a strange feeling, I’ll be told its down to lack of funding in our area – its disgraceful, and its not just happening to me. It seems ‘professionals’ don’t care unless its happening to them – and why would they? They aren’t the ones with a 3 year old son who is going to mainstream school in September with one spontaneous word in his vocabulary – and they bang on about giving our children the best start.

I have been lied to over and over again, why do we have to fight for everything for our children? Don’t we put up with enough already?

Many children with an ASD are delayed in their use of language and shy away from using speech. Therefore other methods of communication need to be established before speech and language will follow – is it too much to ask for some help or guidance as to what these methods are?

Why does nobody care?

Why is there a lack of funding for crucial interventions to be present for those children that need it to live their lives the best way possible?

I’m not the only one who is angry, upset and feeling let down. I have lots of friends – fellow Autism parents who are being let down with therapies or having to wait years for a diagnosis whilst their children are being labelled as ‘naughty’ its about time people stood up and became more aware and its about time people started caring for the lives of our children – they would if it was theirs!

Sorry for the rant but I had to get it out of my system, I and many others fight endlessly for our children and support is so important.

I’d also like to mention that I’ve had some wonderful support from friends on twitter who have given me some great advice – where would we be without people like this?

Any comments please feel free to leave them below.

L x

In yesterdays post I wrote about limited interests and the effect it can have on both parent & child.
A, really struggles with the concept of sharing and taking turns, what’s his is his & what’s mine is his also.

One of the main impairments of Autism social interaction – which will always be with A but it can improve. A doesn’t play with other children properly, he will approach them spontaneously but usually ‘hugs’ them for sensory integration or acts inappropriately or to others ‘oddly’ If they approach them he either doesn’t notice or pushes them when they get to close to him – he can’t socialise appropriately as he doesn’t know how to & such situations can cause him to have a sensory overload.

We have tried many times to aid his social interaction by teaching him to share & take turns, needless to say we’ve had very little success. He gets frustrated, often aggressive & at times very upset – that’s why he prefers to play alone, its on his terms, its uncomplicated & less overwhelming.

Every ASD person share problems related to social skills, some more severe than others;

Conversational skills (Greeting somebody, joining a conversation, verbal turn-taking, listening skills, talking about a particular topic, awareness of personal space, ending a conversation.)

Play skills (observational skills, joining play, turn-taking, sharing, compromising, coping with ‘no’, coping with losing, reciprocal play, ending play.)

Understanding emotions (reading facial expressions, reading body language, voice quality – intonation, pitch, speed, awareness of own body language, having a large emotional vocabulary, anger management and self-regulation skills)

Friendship skills (Just like many of the above but also things like knowing what a friend is, and being able to choose appropriate friends, recognise true friends from false friends, develop the ability to share a friend, deal with peer pressure.)

All of the above are vital skills when developing relationships, most of them come natural to you and me but to a person with Autism they take longer to develop as they have to be taught & it can be very isolating for them.

So I thought I would share with you another method I was taught at Early Bird, People Games.

A people game is an interaction routine which involves adult & child taking turns, communicating and enjoying themselves.

The game should be SHORT. (A song or tickling)

Get your childs ATTENTION – try to look & sound interesting, be on their level.

Play the game REGULARLY, always in the same way so rules are easily learnt.

ENCOURAGEMENT to join in, begin taking turns – this could take a while to grasp but stick with it. (Stop if your child is getting to distressed)

HELP them to understand when its their turn by slowing down waiting, and exaggerating your voice or actions at that part of the routine.

TRY making up your own song that relates to the child, replacing a word in a nursery rhyme with their name for example.

Choice of people game will depend on your childs awareness of other people, his/her interests and where they are development wise.

IDEAS FOR GAMES

For a child who has a short attention span who is reluctant to sit still…

Rough & tumble
Running up and down the room

For a child who can respond non-verbally…

A song with actions

For a child with some words…

Again a song, but stop and wait for them to fill in the missing word, don’t wait to long but give them a chance to respond.

A child with more language

Songs – Old MacDonald, Wheels on the bus – Songs that give your child opportunity to join in or use their own words on request, example: the animal or the horn. Give your child enough time to process and wait for them to join in on request – if they don’t respond after you’ve joined in – just carry on & try again

Games should be

Short
Fun
Repetitive
Small steps
Turn taking opportunities
Motivating

The aim is to encourage social interaction & communication & taking turns but its important not to expect too much to soon, it could take a while before your child grasps the idea.

Any other suggestions for games or any comments please share as always.

L x

I’ve spoken about limited interests before and how much of an effect it can have on your child and yourself, trying to keep up with a child who can’t be occupied, is climbing furniture, running up and down the room, rocking back and forth, hand flapping….A child that just doesn’t respond to you, doesn’t look when their name is called – it can be frustrating, exhausting and emotionally draining.

I used to spend each day wondering why A didn’t want to play with toys, didn’t want to play a game with me, didn’t want to even look at me or have me anywhere near him at times – some days I’d think he hated me, other days id wonder what i was doing wrong or I’d be so tired from chasing him around the house, moving things he wasnt allowed to touch and lifting him down from the furniture that I didn’t have time to think.

When I went on the National Autistic Society Early Birds Course – this was the first time I realised I wasnt alone. I was opening up about how hard I was finding coping with A’s wandering & constant need for distraction and occupying, for once I didn’t feel like a failure.

I learnt that children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders tend to prefer toys such as shape and colour matching, jigsaw puzzles and construction materials. It’s also a good thing to encourage physical activity, because it doesn’t involve any need for imagination or understanding of language, its free-play, usually your child is in control and so its more enjoyable. It’s also been proven to help reduce problem behaviours through distraction and focus on an activity, also improving some key skills such as co-ordination.

Here is a list of toys and games that have proved popular with ASD Children

  • Bubbles – These can also help with the early stages of speech through making sounds: ‘Pop’ < “Can you pop the bubbles?” – Fun and learning at the same time.
  • Torches/Disco Balls – A, is fascinated by lights, he gets really excited and is a great way of calming stressful situations.
  • Shape Sorters – A short but focused activity, also helps hand-eye co-ordination.
  • Jigsaws
  • Duplo, Lego.
  • Marble runs – can be stimulating to watch
  • Trains
  • Drawing, colouring, paints, crafts.
  • Dvds – great for distraction if you have a portable dvd and for occupying should you want a 5 minute break 🙂

Books are also a great hit with lots of children –

  • Board books are great to buy as less likely to be damaged.
  • Books with flaps keep a child’s attention and build anticipation.
  • Books made of fabric and different textures can be great for sensory needs.

Toys for outdoors and physical activity

  • Trampoline – in my case great instead of buying a new sofa, also great to burn off excess energy and FUN!
  • Slide – Great for your little climbers, if they can’t climb the furniture, give them an alternative – we used to have a great big slide in our living room!
  • Swing – Great for children who like to rock.
  • Sandpit or water table – again great for sensory play

Computers and Computer games are fascinating to children with Autism and can be a great way of getting them focused on something.

Its important to set rules/boundaries from the beginning though.

  • ipad’s – Although expensive they facilitate communication and aid in learning. The iPad, like other computers, is an effective tool for many on the autism spectrum. Its flexibility and portability offer some additional advantages, over laptops or PCs. The touch screen and layout make the iPad more accessible for children with coordination or learning difficulties; these children may find sliding and tapping easier than either typing or writing. Moreover, the iPad can be easily carried, and thus is helpful for calming and focusing children who are on the go – would really help in stressful situations as a distraction tool such as going out to places.
  • Nintendo DS.

Software recommended for those with Autistic Spectrum Disorders are as follows

  • Character software
  • Factual software such as Microsoft’s Magic School Bus or the online encyclopedia Encarta
  • Software to develop vocabulary such as the Talking animated alphabet (Sherston: www.sherston.com)
  • Software for young children such as Make it happen: jump ahead toddler (Knowledge Adventure)

I hope some of these suggestions can be helpful to others – tomorrow I’ll be blogging about people games to aid interaction and communication as well as sharing and taking turns.

If anyone has any other toy or software suggestions that their child has really enjoyed please share by commenting below.

L x

For todays blog post, i wanted to share with you a small video that was presented to me at my first session of the Early Birds course – Run by the National Autistic Society to help those who had a recently diagnosed pre-school child.

Its informative and for me, was very emotional to watch.

Made using real life drawings from people with Autism, and using narration from those that are able to express their memories and feelings, this short film was produced as part of Channel 4’s Autism Awareness campaign back in 1992 – so it is an old bit of footage but definitely worth the watch if you are touched by Autism or would like to gain more understanding.

It is 11 minutes long but i ask kindly that you do take the time to watch it & continue in helping to raise Awareness of Autistic Spectrum Disorders.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPR2H4Zd8bI

Thank you.

As always please comment – if you want to.

L x

Establishing some sort of communication is especially important for me with my son as he is non-verbal. As parents we all learn to ‘know’ what different sounds/cries mean, dirty nappy, hungry, thirsty, but as time goes on and your child gets older, you rely on their speech a lot more than you’d probably realise, at meal-times, when going out, to know how they are feeling, if they had a good day at nursery or school & most importantly when they are hurt or upset.

Its so difficult and often frustrating that i cant just ask A a question, how was your day? What do you want to eat? I must admit over time its got better – he now brings me his cup if hes thirsty or looks for biscuits or crisps should he be hungry. Its harder when we are out and he gets upset though – as i can only guess whats bothering him.

Because he is ASD, like most with Autism he is a good visual learner. By using visual supports he does understand a lot better and in time hopefully he will be able to communicate with me more effectively.

Visual supports can also be used with ASD people that can speak and also those who have yet to develop speech – like my A. They can really help with with both understanding and expression because unlike speech, visual supports are not fleeting and can be left where they are visable to both prompt and reassure.

When i went on the Early Birds course and through other professionals i have acquired quite a lot of information regarding visual supports and wanted to share that with others.

Visual Supports come in lots of different forms and should be chosen to suit the individuals needs and of course their level of understanding.

A great starter is objects with those who are at quite an early developmental level as pictures/symbols may be to difficult for them to understand or make any sense of.

Examples of using objects would be:

•Coat – to show that they are going out

•A plate/or fork – to symbolise that it is time for a meal

•A nappy – to symbolise changing time

Then once an understanding has been established, you can move onto photographs, for example;

•Photograph of nursery/school – to symbolise its time for nursery/school

•A photograph of the supermarket – to symbolise a shopping trip

Again once an understanding has been established you can move onto symbols.

Labelling pictures/symbols can also help your child to understand that all things have names, once your child has begun to associate the symbol with a particular place ot object, an identical symbol can be shown as an instruction to get something or go somewhere. Its really important to use symbols that mean something to your child, and to wait for definite guarantee of understanding before introducing more symbols as to not over stimulate your child.

We began to use objects of reference and still do now – we’ve had great success and A is much more relaxed and his anxieties have lessened as he now understands what we expect of him once hes shown a certain object, such as his nappy to get changed or his t-shirt to get dressed. We went through a very diffcult time of changing and dressing A, he would scream and put up a fight it was really hard and i just didnt know what to do – my portage worker suggested using a distraction or objects of reference – we did both and it worked – hardly had any problems since.

Requesting has also been and still is a challenge for A, we are looking into a system called PECS which stands for Picture Exchange Communication Symbols.

Children can be taught to exchange symbols for a desired object in the same way that we would teach a typically developing child to ask for things that they want – children can learn to associate the spoken word with a desired object and its symbol to use the basic skills of communication. PECS can be very effective if introduced correctly – and there are lots of success stories of children developing verbal communication after several months of use.

So what are PECS?

•PECS stands for picture Exchange Communication System

•PECS teaches children to EXCHANGE a symbol for something they like and want

•PECS teaches children to initiate interaction

•PECS can be rapidly required

•PECS uses symbols/pictures/objects

•PECS teaches children to express their need to be more independent

•PECS can help to reduce behaviour problems

•PECS supports and facilitates the development of spoken language

To find out how to actively develop PECS as a communication system you must do the correct research in order for it to work.

Please click on the link for more info

http://www.pecs.org.uk

I have spent hours and hours making my own symbols for A, in order to make a visual timetable to provide more structure and understanding to A’s day, and also in the hope this will help him settle into school. I also intend on using these symbols to develop the PECS system.

I will upload some pictures of my symbols asap.

Its really easy to make symbols, although time-consuming. I have found symbols via

http://www.do2learn.com

and i have downloaded trials from

http://www.mayer-johnson.com/boardmaker-software/

Its a 30 day trial which gives you full access to their vast collection of symbols, these widely used in my area and very good (pictures as stated before are on their way)

If anyone has any other links to websites they have got symbols from please share in the comments box below. Also any experiences you’d like to share about communication with your child or if you have used/use the system PECS please comment.

L x

As with many parents reading this blog post I don’t think any of us can deny that we have spent hundreds, if not thousands of pounds on all sorts of different toys for our children.

Me & A’s Dad have done just that, & 99% of them are still brand new…

A has never shown much interest, if any in toys before, I really crave that moment when he can ask me for something inparticular, instead of me picking what I think he will like, wrapping it up and then with excitement watching him open it. He may look for a few seconds then its never touched again.

A, has no imagination.

Just stop for a moment to think what that’s like…
We all say to someone ‘Imagine doing……’ ‘Imagine having…….’
Without realising we imagine every day.
Its impossible for someone who can imagine to imagine not being able to imagine. (Very confusing)

The development of play in children who are Autistic is likely to be delayed due to the fact they lack in areas such as social imagination and flexibility of thought.

A is more likely to want to play with an object by chewing it or throwing it around rather than engaging in play with his peers, as its too over stimulating, resulting in most Autistic children prefering solitary play.

A used to line up toys, (and tins!) And instead of playing with toy cars he would be sat there spinning the wheels, this is because of his desire for sameness – predictability.

I’ve read that pretend play may be slow to develop or may develop in a repetitive way – one of the examples of this with A is how he ‘acts out’ certain scenes from his favourite cartoons or films just as they are happening.

Instead of playing doctors & nurses or cops and robbers, because he is Autistic he focuses more on the finer detail of things rather than the ‘bigger picture’ as that would be too much information for him to process & so he enjoys activities such as jigsaws, shapes, and matching & posting & loves numbers!

He really struggles with social play – its almost non-existent, he gets very frustrated when it comes to sharing and turn taking & this is something we have worked on for at least 12 months with little progress – I was told these skills need teaching sytematically and group games usually need adult support, which is where his 1-1 at nursery will encourage him. These skills, although important are very stressful due to lack of understanding and so they need very careful planning so that your child can keep relaxed.

A loves computer games (MARIO) and this is because its repetitive, he knows what will happen, there’s no surprises – but these often like with A become obsessions and even though sometimes its a relief for your child to have an interest its important such activities have rules & time limits should you feel they are too much.

A, like all Autistic children needs to be taught how to play rather than learning through play.

When he was put onto the Pathway in our area, which is the assessment route for Autism, he was assigned a Portage worker who came to our house each week and taught A to play, with bubbles, books, shape sorters, jigsaws, big space blankets and lots of other things – she found out over time what he enjoyed the most and helped us to enjoy games with A and to enable him to at least let us play alongside him or help him to complete a jigsaw.

She also set about starting A to learn how to share & take turns, he hated this at first & it often resulted in a meltdown but then the portage worker would sit with me and we would think of different strategies to help him – this was often by letting him take lead – he loves to be in control.

A would much rather we chased him or bounced him up & down or played rough and tumble – which is great for his sensory needs.

Its upsetting that we can’t play with him like we would other children of the same age group but as long as A is happy & enjoying doing his own thing as long as we encourage him to play with others and develop playing skills which will be great for his social interaction then we won’t go far wrong.

We’ve stopped buying toys we ‘think’ he’ll like, I used to think we hadn’t bought him enough if we hadn’t filled the whole living room.

Now we don’t spend hundreds at christmas & birthdays we just buy things we are CERTAIN he will love which is usually books, toys with lights or sound and of course Mario stuff.

As always please share your experiences with play and your childs favourite toys.

L x


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