Is Your Family Ready for a Vacation?

vacation picImage courtesy of arztsamui / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

With Spring Break fast approaching and summer thankfully just around the corner, many families are getting their maps out to decide where to plan their vacations.

My son has autism spectrum disorder and we must make good choices when planning things to do on vacation.  He does so much better when he has a schedule that shows what is happening for the day.  Gone are the days that we can just hop in the car and wherever we stop is where we will stay.

One vacation we went hiking in Colorado and my son was so stressed because all he could see was a trail that seemed to go on forever.  In fact that’s what he said, “We are going to be walking for days.”  I was so surprised by all the resistance and complaining.   He was very worried about how long we would be walking.  The scenery was absolutely beautiful but for him he was not interested in the scenery only how long he would be on the trail.  So I began setting time limits on our hikes and he seemed more comfortable when he knew that it would come to an end after a certain amount of time.  Many children on the spectrum need a clear beginning and an end to tasks.  To them the task seems to last forever and that becomes their focus.

I decided to create a picture schedule to reduce my son’s anxiety.  He was using picture schedules at school and therapy so it seemed appropriate to try it for vacation.  My husband and I sat down and talked about some of the things we wanted to do and I found pictures on the internet that represented those activities.

picture schedule

I created a schedule board by using a small dry erase board but a sheet of computer paper would work also.  I invested in a laminator to help preserve my pictures but you can pick up a roll of clear shipping tape and that would work just as well.  You just want to make the pictures sturdy enough to withstand being removed from the schedule board.  I used Velcro circles to stick the pictures to the schedule.  The schedule board worked well and my son enjoyed putting on the pictures and planning our day.

Our family typically takes trips that are closer to nature because my son has many sensory issues and we have found that staying in a cabin makes him more comfortable.  We always try new activities on vacation just to expose our children to different things but we are prepared to make changes if our son with autism reacts negatively.

Families with special need children have more to think about when planning a vacation, but that should not deter you from spending time with your family.  So many travel destinations have become more aware of those with special needs and are providing special accommodations to ensure that you can have wonderful memories with your family.

Tuesday’s Thoughts for 2/25/2014

Tuesday’s Thoughts is an opportunity for you to share a great story about your child.  There are so many challenges on a daily basis but there are also great accomplishments.

If you have an inspirational story to share please click  “Contact” and write your story.  Each Tuesday I will select amazing stories to post.

 

Point to Happy: For Children on the Autism Spectrum

Point To HappyImage courtesy of Workman Publishing

When I was researching books for children on the autism spectrum, I discovered Point to Happy:   For Children on the Autism Spectrum.  This book was created by a grandmother, Miriam Smith, who was looking for a book for her grandson who was on the autism spectrum.  To her surprise there were no books specifically for children with autism.  She collaborated with her daughters Afton Fraser and Margo Smithwick and created this wonderful tool for parents to share with their children.

When I received the book, I was pleasantly surprised by its size which could easily sit in a child’s lap.  The pages are thick and sturdy which is helpful for little fingers to turn.  The book includes an attached pointer that can be used to identify the pictures.  The beautiful photographs fill the pages and are simple with no distracting backgrounds, which can be a problem for many children on the autism spectrum.

The book covers many issues that challenge children on the spectrum such as emotions, sensory, common objects and daily tasks.  My son enjoyed the book and identified each picture as he touched the page with the pointer.

I would highly recommend Point to Happy:  For Children on the Autism Spectrum.  It is a great tool for parents to help their children communicate in a fun way.

Can Homeschool Really Be an Option?

homeschoolImage courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Homeschooling is definitely a personal choice and it takes a lot of time and commitment to your child.  Some people choose to homeschool based on their faith, but others like me found it as an alternative to the deficiencies in the public school system.

I was put in the difficult decision to homeschool because my son, who is on the autism spectrum, was not receiving the appropriate services and the school district refused to accept his autism diagnosis.  Homeschool was never even a thought until I had to choose between the school system and my son.  My son won!

I only homeschooled for a year until we fought the school and was able to get our son into a private school for special need children paid by the district.  I learned so much about my son in that year’s time, something I would have never known if he continued at the public school.  He became a better person by learning at home.  At the public school his self-esteem was plummeting due to the pressure to perform academically when he just couldn’t.  He would come out of school every day saying he was a bad boy.  I knew at that point that homeschool was our only option.

Homeschooling is no longer unusual, there was a time when it was frowned upon and people thought those that were homeschooled were losing out on socialization.  This has been shown to be false by many studies and in fact most children that are homeschooled have better grades due to the one-on-one attention.

If you have an interest in homeschooling, the first step is to research your state and find out what is required such as documentation.  Next is to research curriculum and choose what is best for your child’s ability.  I found that purchasing different subjects based on the grade level my son was at not necessarily what grade he was in based on his age worked best for him.  For example he was delayed in all subjects so even though he was in first grade he was performing mostly at a preschool level.  I could not expect him to do the first grade assignments until he mastered preschool and kindergarten.

One of my biggest mistakes of homeschooling was trying to replicate a typical school day.  This did not work and it was frustrating for both of us.  I found new ways of learning such as incorporating his interests or his toys and took a lot of sensory breaks to get through the day.  The best advice given to me was to have fun and enjoy spending time with my son and once I started doing that I could see that has was learning and becoming more confident.

Tuesday’s Thoughts for 2/18/2014

Tuesday’s Thoughts is an opportunity for you to share a great story about your child.  There are so many challenges on a daily basis but there are also great accomplishments.

If you have an inspirational story to share please click  “Contact” and write your story.  Each Tuesday I will select amazing stories to post.

I always enjoy spending time with my two sons, but I especially enjoy when I can spend some quality time with each one separately.

My oldest son, Nolan, who is on the autism spectrum, attends a private school for special need children.  And my other son, Joshua,  attends a public school. Sometimes the boys have different days off due to their school schedule.  This tends to create a little tension when Joshua knows his brother will be home all day while he has to go to school.  But it all seems to work out especially during the summer when Nolan has school and Joshua does not.

Nolan really enjoys our time together too.  He always says to me, “It’s just me and you Mommy; it’s just me and you!”  I have learned to appreciate these little compliments for what they are and enjoy the time we have to together.

The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder

!cid_E5D4045E-8DD9-4AF4-A0CF-9E94E0056F34@home Image courtesy of Carol Stock Kranowitz

 

Preschool was such a time of emotional turmoil.  Not only did I have to watch my first-born son run off into a new world of independence, but I had to worry about how much independence he could tolerate.  He had developmental delays in many areas and all the terms and suggestions that the teachers and therapists were throwing at me were overwhelming to say the least.  But one person, an occupational therapist, changed our lives forever.  She said that my son had Sensory Processing Disorder and she suggested reading a book, The Out-of-Sync Child:  Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder.  I was very reluctant. . . my son didn’t have any disorders.  I bought the book and absorbed every word and realized that my son did have Sensory Processing Disorder.

The Out-of-Sync Child:  Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder by Carol Stock Kranowitz, is a well-written book that explains what Sensory Processing Disorder is and how it affects many children in different ways.  I liked that there were examples of how a neurotypical child would react to a situation compared to a child with Sensory Processing Disorder.  There were clear explanations of the senses and I learned that there are actually more senses than hearing, vision, taste, smell and touch.  The vestibular and proprioceptive senses were new to me but I learned that they were a large part of my son’s challenges.

The book discusses the three categories of Sensory Processing Disorder which include: Sensory Modulation Disorder, Sensory Discrimination Disorder and Sensory-Based Motor Disorder.  I learned that my son was a sensory seeker which falls under the Sensory Modulation Disorder category.  He needed to bounce, spin and just move all the time.  I never understood how he could spin so much until I read the book and learned that his body craved that sensation.

The book also discusses different types of therapy and the role an occupational therapist may have with a child that shows symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder.  My son has been going to an occupational therapist for nearly five years.  Therapy has been a great outlet for him to satisfy his sensory needs which in turn has improved his behavior.

I would highly recommend The Out-of-Sync Child:  Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder to any parent that has concerns with their child’s behaviors or suspects that their child may be reacting inappropriately to daily activities.

For more information you can visit www.out-of-sync-child.com to view all of Carol Stock Kranowitz’s books.

Tuesday’s Thoughts for 2/11/2014

Tuesday’s Thoughts is an opportunity for you to share a great story about your child.  There are so many challenges on a daily basis but there are also great accomplishments.

If you have an inspirational story to share please click on the “Contact” and write your story.  Each Tuesday I will select amazing stories to post.

Our family decided to attend a new church.  We really wanted our kids involved with the church but waited until we felt they were mature enough to handle sitting and listening for a long period of time.

This particular church had skylights all over the ceiling.  You could not see out of them but it let in some natural light.  My son was very interested in them but he didn’t know what they were and he asked me about them.  I told him that they were skylights kind of like what we had at home.  He looked up at the ceiling, paused for a moment and then said, “Oh….it’s so God can see us in the church.”

Artificial Food Dye Debate

candy image Image courtesy of Lobster20 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When I was a child, I remember enjoying multi-colored cereals and candies. My mother never withheld food due to the colors that were placed in them. Now fast forward to me as a mother and learning that my 4-year-old son (at the time) was extremely sensitive to food colors, especially Red #40. I never dreamt that I would spend my time at the grocery store reading every ingredient and learning how many products are filled with artificial food dyes. I was shocked to learn that blue food dye is in white marshmallows and Red # 40 is in biscuits.

In preschool my son’s teacher was using colored candies as a reward for him to use the bathroom. It never occurred to me that those little candies would cause my son’s behavior to go into overload. I was doing a lot of research on four year olds and behavior issues and artificial food dyes popped up. I told the teacher to stop giving my son the candy and I was surprised how his behaviors changed.

There is a lot of debate whether food dyes cause hyperactivity in children. There have been studies in Europe that suggest that artificial food dyes do cause hyperactivity. Since the study, Europe has required products containing artificial food dyes to have a warning label placed on their products.

Many U.S. companies that export their products to Europe have since changed their artificial food dyes to natural food dyes to avoid having a warning label put on their products. These same U.S. companies have kept the artificial food dyes in the products that we consume.

The FDA claims that there is no causal relationship between artificial food dyes and hyperactivity in children. It is unfortunate that the FDA has not considered the harmful effects of artificial food dyes.

I have two children and both of them are affected by artificial food dyes and I know many families that have children that also respond negatively to artificial food dyes. The only solution for parents who are concerned about food dyes is to become well-informed about the products they are purchasing and find a good grocery store that offers organic or natural alternatives.

Great reviews are coming!

Because this is a new blog I am working hard to line up some great products to review. Please keep checking back often for more information.

Giveaways are coming soon!

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