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Helping Parents of Children with Autism Better Engage and Communicate with Their Children
– Move from a deficits based to a differences based approach to interaction
– Describe the unique interpersonal needs of people with autism spectrum disorders
– Identify characteristics necessary to form secure attachments
– List at least 5 practices that caregivers and teachers can use to improve connection with children on the autism spectrum.

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Think of a time
– You were totally overstimulated (Laguardia, wedding)
– You were exposed to high levels of sensory input (concert, cologne, O2B)
– You had something wrong, but couldn’t seem to explain it (Car, computer, overwhelmed but don’t know why…)

– Did you feel safe-
– What was your mood-
– How was your concentration-
– What were your thoughts-

Secure Attachment/Connection
– Helps people feel safe and loved.
– Requirements (CRAVES)
– Consistency in routines and expectations
– Responsiveness (mirror and soothing)
– Knowing child’s distress triggers and cues
– Providing early intervention
– Accommodating the child’s learning style & environmental preferences
– Attention
– Praise the positive / UPR
– Validation of feelings, thoughts and needs
– Empathy
– Solutions: Identify ways to prevent and mitigate distress

Special Needs
– Language and speech
– Slow speech development or not talking at all
– Trouble or inability to start a conversation (or to keep it going)
– Constant repetition of certain words or phrases
– Difficulty expressing (communicating) one’s desires or needs
– Failing to understand humor and taking things too literally
– Using single words when communicating
– Failing to understand simple questions or sentences or slow processing

Special Needs
– Social Interactions
– Failing to understand and respect other people’s personal space
– Difficulty understanding other people’s gestures, body language, reactions, and feelings
– Not responding to one’s name being called
– Lack of desire to interact with other people
– Difficulty making friends with kids of the same age
– Avoiding eye contact
– Not enjoying situations and events that kids usually love
– Not showing interest in other people’s interests

Special Needs
– Behavior
– Repetitive movements (stimming)
– Being obsessively interested in one area or topic
– Playing with toys in a repetitive way (for example, lining the blocks all the time instead of building with them)
– Insisting on a certain familiar routine or order
– Unusual sensory manifestations (like sniffing toys or people)
– Being hypersensitive to certain textures, sounds, or light
– Being sensitive to touch and reacting negatively to it

– Focus on the positive. Praise what is good. Be specific. Praise not only behaviors, but also who they are.
– Use positive discipline and redirection (Tearing paper)
– Stay consistent and on schedule
– Have routines to ease transitions (vibrating notifications)
– Take your child with you during everyday activities
– Select playmates with similar language and physical skills.
– Invite only one or two friends at a time at first, and have a zero-tolerance policy for hitting, pushing and yelling.
– Encourage your child to play, and reward good behaviors often and immediately.
– Role play or use Comic Strip Conversations to help the child learn the social rules that others learn more naturally. Bubbles representing a conversation can bump into or overlap one another to illustrate “interrupting” and “thought” bubbles can show others' thoughts during conversation

Skills for ASD & ADHD
– Structure and routine
– Stay organized—Everything has a place
– Clocks, timers and transitions
– Simplify the schedule
– Have clear expectations and rules (Visual guides)
– Create a sanctuary place
– Encourage movement (fidgets, stability balls)
– Ensure adequate, quality sleep (Sensory issues)
– Ensure regular, healthy nutrition (even with picky eaters)
– Maintain a positive attitude

Skills for ASD & ADHD
– Role-play various social scenarios with your child. Trade roles often and try to make it fun.
– Choose your battles and be willing to make compromises
– Make a list of everything that is positive, valuable, and unique about your child. Trust that your child can learn, change, mature, and succeed. Reaffirm this trust on a daily basis as you prepare for your day
Enhancing Connection
– Children on the spectrum do not necessarily provide the responses that trigger parent’s innate impulses to care for them.
– Some children initially don’t respond much at all, others have responses that we don’t understand, and many respond differently every time the parent approaches.
– Unexpected response styles create confusion and a sense of inadequacy in many parents.
– Remember that although children may not respond in the way expected, they are still responding.
– Become a detective, discover clues to triggers for children’s behaviors
– Use backward chaining
– Remember that their behavior is functional in some way
Enhancing Connectedness
– Joining children in their world requires caregivers to imitate and follow.
– Don’t make demands or ask him to perform (i.e., “What color is this-” or “What does a cow say-”)
– Don’t direct the play.
– Talk about what you and the child are doing without asking too many questions (i.e., “Boy, these designs in the carpet are really interesting” or “You really like the sound of that block banging on the table.” “It makes me really happy when you share with me.”).
– Don’t be afraid to add to the play with your own creations in the hope that your child will someday become interested in you, too.

Enhancing Connectedness
– If the child has limited awareness of others, create situations in the play to get the child to notice you. If he is building with blocks, you might build a complimentary section or ask him to help you do the same thing.
– Label children’s feelings so they can start developing an emotional vocabulary and reduce frustration
– Let children develop their special capabilities and keep your expectations in check
– Use scaffolding (Going to the grocery)
– Endure a little suffering with your children so they can grow
Enhancing Connectedness
– Many children with special needs have problems with sequencing and/or processing auditory and/or verbal information. It is important to learn about your child’s different ways of learning.
– Visual, auditory, kinesthetic
– Reflective, active
– Many children with autism take longer for to register an interaction and decide how to respond. Learn to wait for your child’s response before repeating yourself. (Autism Support Network)

Enhancing Connectedness
– They don’t pay attention to what I’m saying
– Always use their name at the beginning so that they know you are talking to them.
– Make sure they are paying attention before you ask a question or give an instruction.
– Use their special interest, or the activity they are currently doing, to engage them.
– “I can see you are having fun playing in the sandbox. We have to leave the park in 5 minutes.”
– “You are making such good choices today. I know it has been very stimulating. I bet you will be happy to get home to pet Suzie.”
Enhancing Connectedness
– They find it hard to process what I say
– They may find it difficult to filter out the less important information which can lead to ‘overload’ and no further information can be processed.
– Pay attention to the other sources of internal and external input
– Say less and say it slowly.
– Pause between sentences/requests to give the person time to process what you’ve said, and think of a response.
– Don’t use too many questions.
– Use less non-verbal communication (e.g. eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, body language) when a person is showing signs of anxiety.
– Use visual supports (e.g. pictures, timetables)
Enhancing Connectedness
– They struggle with open ended questions
– Keep questions short.
– Ask only the most necessary questions.
– Structure your questions to offer options or choices.
– Be specific. For example, ask “Did you enjoy your lunch-” and “What did you learn in math today-” rather than “How was your day-”
– They don’t ask for help. Give them a visual help card to use.
Enhancing Connectedness
– They are disinterested in others (and me):
– Get involved in groups that foster positive peer relationships and social skills development
– Get interested in their interests
– They takes things literally: Avoid using irony, sarcasm, figurative language, etc.
– They may ask a lot of questions and paraphrase to ensure understanding. Be patient.

Enhancing Connectedness
– They takes things literally: Avoid using irony, sarcasm, figurative language, etc.
– They may ask a lot of questions and paraphrase to ensure understanding. Be patient.
– They tend to be frank, honest and matter of fact. Some people may interpret this as blunt or rude. They don’t intend to be rude.
– Instead of making a facial expression you expect the person with autism to read and respond to, tell the individual, in a matter-of-fact but helpful way, that his choice of words or actions was not appropriate, and guide him to a better expression.

Enhancing Connectedness
– They react badly when I say no
– They may be confused about why you said no.
– If it’s an activity that they can do later on that day or week, try showing this in a timetable (No park today)
– If it’s a safety issue, look at ways of explaining danger and safety. (No playing hide and seek in the store)
– If you are saying ‘no' because they are behaving inappropriately a calm reaction with redirection may help to decrease this behavior in time. (No ice cream after the park)
– If it is something you have allowed before, explain the reason why it is no longer okay. (Candy)
– Set clear boundaries and explain why and where it is acceptable and not acceptable to behave in certain ways.

Enhancing Connectedness
– They hit me if they don’t want to do something I ask
– Keep a log to identify what is triggering or maintaining the behavior.
– Include antecedents: Sleep, nutrition, time of day, stressors, is this a regular or unique experience-, what else might have happened that added to his stimulation/distress- What are the benefits of hitting-
– “Clean your bedroom”

Enhancing Connectedness
– They hit me if they don’t want to do something I ask
– Keep a log to identify what is triggering or maintaining the behavior.
– Include antecedents: Sleep, nutrition, time of day, stressors
– “Clean your bedroom”
– Help them identify what they are feeling and offer other ways of expressing ‘no’ or ‘stop’
– “Calm down couch” (Reframe)
– Stability ball
– Thinking putty
– Drawing corner
– Dragon breather or harmonica
– Belly breathing

Reducing Tantrums
– Punishing autism-driven behaviors won’t extinguish them.
– Understanding what is driving the behavior and the early warning signs will help you and the person with autism cope or adapt.
– Distress signals
– Motivation for the behavior
– Sensory input: Sights, sounds, smells, exhaustion.
– Overstimulation can lead to behavioral issues out of self-preservation
– Under and overstimulation can both lead to stimming behaviors
– Reinforce positive behaviors in the moment
Reducing Tantrums
– Portable Toolkit
– Timer for transitions
– We will be in the store for 20 minutes
– We are leaving in 5 minutes
– Schedule or activity book
– Sunglasses
– Weighted lap-pad or shawl
– Noise cancelling headphones
– Crunchy snack
– Unscented hand wipes or handkerchief

– A fidget toy (spinner, paper, tennis ball, ink pen, playdough, sand or liquid timer, something that vibrates, stuffed animal or small blanket)
– Scented hand lotion, spritz, atomizer or sachet (essential oils mandarin, lavender, cedarwood, frankincense)
– Tablet (Tetris)

Parenting Styles that Do Not Work
– Helicopter Parenting: Unable to learn by observation, children with autism must learn through direct instruction and by actually doing. Helicopter parents do it for them
– Free-Range Parenting: Children with autism need regular, focused parental engagement. They need your help to actively learn to pretend, socialize, and investigate the world. Without another person to help them build these critical skills, children with autism can become increasingly withdrawn and self-focused
– Frenetic Parenting: Some parents frantically search for engaging therapies and activities, but when children have too many appointments and obligations they have no opportunity to practice what they’ve learned. Consider setting aside a few hours a day of calm, unfocused parent-and-child time each week.
– Consistency: Rules, routines, reactions
– Responsiveness: To individual needs and preferences
– Attention: For being lovable and positive behaviors
– Validation: Of their thoughts, feelings and way of being in the world
– Empathy: For how their sensory and neurological differences impact them emotionally, cognitively, interpersonally, physically
– Solutions:
– To help them become more mindful and mitigate or prevent triggers for unwanted behaviors.
– To help them develop the skills needed to engage with a neurotypical world.
Other Resources
– 10 Tips on How to Communicate with Autistic People