Get Ready for Summer Camp!

autism resources, social skills autism

Like it or not summer is right around the corner… and the age old question is lurking in the back of your mind: “What are we going to do this summer?” Kids are off school, therapy schedules may have relaxed… allowing you some extra time to plan something special for your child. What about summer camp?

At the thought of summer camp, my heart rate picks up a tick and my blood pressure rises… How could my child possibly exist with our my expert parental care? Breathe… Once logical thought resumes… I realize this might a wonderful opportunity for my child, who is now 9 years to try out summer camp. I, personally, have fond memories of camp as a child…but what about kids with special needs – are there camps (near me & don’t cost a millions $$$) that successfully manage children with behavior and emotional challenges such as autism or Aspergers?

The American Camp Association (www.acacamps.org/) suggests you consider many things when choosing a summer camp for your child, including:

  1. Location
  2. Cost
  3. Accreditation – such as by ACA “American Camp Association”
  4. Activities
  5. Length of Time – Day Camp, Overnight
  6. Size
  7. Extra Accommodations – training of staff, etc.

Talking to other parents, and the internet are great places to start when looking for a camp for your child. Once you narrow down your options, plan a visit and talk to other experienced campers and their families. This will give some more good data to make and informed decision.

I found a camp that allowed first time campers do different versions of a week long typical camp. They offered a Mini Camp, for a shorter period of time, or a You and Me Camp, where parents could spend the weekend with their camper and then phase out their departure.

As to funding, Autism Speaks offers many autism resource where you can find grants to support your child’s time at camp: https://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/grants.

Once you have weighed all your options and finally make decision. You will then begin the process of preparing your child for camp. Along with a visit to camp this is opportunity to talk about what he/she will need to pack, what activities they will be doing, and how to best interact with counselor and other campers

Camp is a wonderful time to work on social skills because the campers are together for such concentrated time together. Hopefully with the right preparation and supports from camp staff you child will get some good practice and success to build their social confidence!

Watching some videos/movies about camp can help too:

Berestain Bears – Go To Camp

Camp Fred the Movie (silly take on camp for older kids)

Howcast (this one has some good info and other you might want to fast forward over)

http://www.howcast.com/videos/190581-How-to-Survive-Summer-Camp

Teaching Social Interaction Skills to Teen Girls with ASD

For most children, navigating the teen years and the complex and sometimes frustrating social situations of daily life can be particularly difficult. For teens with with ASD, it can be particularly stressful.

The teenage years are a time when being social is the “number 1” priority for kids, particularly for girls. But for kids who have acute social challenges, these years can often be the most difficult, confusing time in their lives.

Teenage girls often have very complex relationships with each other, often competitive and contentious as well as fiercely loyal and supportive. Since most children with ASD don’t pick up on social cues or understand social rules, it’s important to find a way to teach these things in a way in which they can understand.

ASD children don’t have the same intuition as other children and they can find themselves in situations they don’t understand without knowing how to react. Having the awareness of these complicated interactions with their peers and how to handle them when they occur is an important milestone in your little girl’s transition into the teen years.

A very effective way to begin to teach your child is with short videos and movies. These present the correct and sometimes the wrong way to act in a particular situation. Kids tend to enjoy watching videos, and since children with autism are often visual learners, it is really helpful in showing your child how to react properly in any situation.

School Rules! allows parents and teachers to tailor video sequences to match each child’s individual skill level

Our Social Skill Builder video modeling software, School Rules!, presents children of cognitive age 8-18 real-life video scenarios covering those parts of school life that are not part of academic programming. The videos illustrate various social situations your teenage girl might encounter, ranging from understanding the importance of friendship, to staying calm when angry, dealing with bullying, popularity, phone etiquette, and even how to deal with last minute class schedule changes.

Armed with these tools, you can help your child find her way in what is often a very confusing time for all girls, and in a way that will offer comfort and guidance for years to come.

Summer Fun – Activities for Children with ASD

Summer is just around the corner and its time to start thinking about what activities you can plan to keep your child engaged and interested during the Summer months.

Taking advantage of the weather can provide an excellent opportunity to explore together. Go on a nature walk and collect the things that appeal to you and your surroundings. Talking about what you find, enjoying the quiet spaces, and a picnic lunch can have a great effect on your child. Reading outside, perhaps books about nature, in a quiet space can also be very calming.

Summer will bring time for free play and sports, and an opportunity for children to keep practicing their interactions with other kids in on the playground and in team games. Our Social Skill Builder My School Day App can help reinforce appropriate behaviors on the fields and in playground games. You can pause the video on teachable moments, capture it on you iPhone or iPad, and reinforce the lessons later.

For children on the autism spectrum, the opportunity to explore color, shape, and sensory experiences can stimulate attention and foster calm. Collecting and organizing materials for a craft project can make the entire experience a teachable moment. The Academic Skills portion of the My School Day App can also be used to help accomplish this task, reinforcing skills your child will need once the school year resumes.

Reading to your child is also an essential tool for broadening their vocabulary. During the quiet evening hours, visit the library and involve your child in story time, which teaches them the words they need to communicate effectively.

On days when the weather is not as cooperative, AMC Entertainment offers special movie screenings for families with autistic children. The lights remain on, the volume is child-friendly, and your child can get up, move around and talk without upsetting other movie goers.

This is also a great opportunity for families to meet and siblings of children with Autism to get to know other children as well. Our Social Skills software can help reinforce basic manners and peer interactions in these social situations.

Teaching Inference and Prediction to Children with ASD

The ability to infer or to draw conclusions given partial information is a cornerstone of our reasoning process. Predicting the outcome of peer behavior in social situations as well as inferring conclusions based on clues within social interactions can be very difficult for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Most children with ASD tend to be very concrete and literal thinkers, which means that teaching abstract concepts needs to be done in a concrete way, this is typically accomplished through the use of visual aids.

Social Skill Builder Software Teaches Children the “Rules” of Social Communication

Research has demonstrated that teaching social skills, including inference and prediction, is one of the most effective treatments for children with ASD and helps them to succeed in their personal and academic lives. Social Skill Builder has developed a curriculum of researched based, evidence-driven software programs that teach key social thinking, language, and behavior critical to everyday living for children with ASD.

Social Skill Builder Interactive Video Sequences Imitate Real Life Social Scenarios Where Children Commonly Interact with Peers

Social Skill Builder products, My School Day, School Rules and You are a Social Detective, use technology to stop the live action video and allow the child with ASD to dissect the scenario at the teachable moment when an inference would typically occur. This allows the individual with autism see what “clues” lead to the guess/inference. The Social Skill Builder software does this by asking the child to click on the paused picture to identify context, body or facial cues or to select thoughts, feelings or words to add to the social scene to make the story complete.

The difference between a prediction, which is the discussion of a future event based on the “natural course of things”, and an inference, which is a theory based on evidence and clues can be very difficult to discern for children with ASD. In order to develop successful social skills these concepts must be introduced in very clear ways that the child can understand with visual examples.

Guessing, implying, hinting, suggesting, and reasoning are just a few of the mental processes in which we draw inference. Learning to correctly interpret different cues and accurately assess social situations so that children can determine how to best respond can be a challenging skill to teach without the appropriate aid. Our social skill software solutions, My School Day, School Rules and You are a Social Detective, demonstrates examples with interactive videos that show situations that teach critical social thinking and model behavior which are critical so everyday living.

Working with our Social Skill Builder software in conjunction with other therapy can help reinforce very abstract concepts, such as inference and prediction, and make them a natural progression in your child’s continued development.

Let’s Go Outside … Playground Tip for Your Child with Autism

Now that Spring has arrived, its time to get our kids outside, enjoying the warmth we’ve been without for so long. Play is fundamental, not optional, but for children on the Autism spectrum, time on the playground presents a different set of considerations.

Children with Autism enjoy running and exploring, and unfortunately, when outdoors the propensity for wandering can cause tremendous stress on parents, often causing avoidance of activities that are away from home. The most important element in a playground you can visit with your child is finding one that is completely enclosed by a fence. There should be only one way in and one way out of the playground, preferably with a gate that closes.

Finding a playground that has a wide path around all of the play equipment is also very important because this allows your child to understand the dynamics of the playground from a safe distance, away from the children that might crowd around the equipment. There should also be plenty of space for your child to run and exert energy.

The Social Skill Builder CD My School Day and iTunes My School Day App can help your child understand appropriate social behavior on the playground. The video segments visually present scenarios of interactions and problem solving as it pertains to outdoors playtime.

The aesthetic characteristics of the playground should be considered as well. Finding a playground with muted colors, where the line of sight has been considered, (can you see “through” the equipment such as rope climbers, monkey bars, etc) is ideal for you to be able to keep track of your child. Also, pleasing landscape is important since it can be very calming for children.

Also, playgrounds with plenty of equipment that allows for movement: spinning, swaying, rocking and jumping are preferable, as well as playgrounds that provide a cozy place for your child to retreat, away from the action when a brief rest is required.

Outdoor playtime is essential for your child’s continued healthy development, and finding a way to do it so that you can both enjoy your time together is essential for the continued well-being of your family.

Using Visual Aids to Teach Autistic Children About Team Sports

All children benefit from a healthy amount of physical activity, gaining concrete physical benefits like agility, improvement in muscle strength, coordination and flexibility, as well as life expectancy. For children with ASD, additional benefits can include an improvement in their quality of life and a measurable boost to their self-esteem.

According to George Frey, an associate profession at Indiana University, kids with autism need exercise for both its fitness and therapeutic benefits. He advises that, “Rigorous exercise such as running and swimming can have a calming effect on children with autism.”

Prior to starting any consistent exercise regimen with your child, whether its individual or a team sport, its important to meet with your family doctor and/or pediatric physical or occupational therapist to have your child evaluated to find out which sports or physical activity would be the best fit for your child’s personality and physical abilities.

For some kids with sensory issues, communication challenges, or difficulties with social skills, team sports can be challenging. Autistic children, even those who are considered low functioning, can excel at sports like swimming, martial arts, golf, bowling, tennis, running, skiing and surfing – sports that don’t entail having to read social cues or figure out for example, when to pass the ball.

Social Skill Builder recommends using visual aids when teaching your child about sports

Our Social Skill Builder software offers visual examples that can help children with ASD navigate through interactions they can encounter on the playing field. The scenarios depicted in the Social Skill Builder videos can help children with emotional or behavioral challenges understand the dynamics of playing sports as a team.

 

Social Skill Builder can assist in teaching non-verbal cues

Choosing the right option for your child may depend on your child’s ability and desire to interact with others. Children with autism are usually unable to imitate others; merely telling them to follow what the other children are doing on the team is not enough. Providing physical and visual help as you proceed with the game is the best path to success.

For example, autistic children are very visual, and the use of visual aids when teaching your autistic child about a sport may help them begin to understand the non-verbal cues which can be critical to any sport that is played on a team. As autistic children have difficulties understanding body language, you can teach them for example, how to tell whether a teammate is about to pass them the ball, when they look at a teammate they understand what the teammate is expecting. The Social Skill Builder software, especially the My School Day CD, can help towards this goal as it addresses playground games, team dynamics, and the basics of good sportsmanship.

Sports help the rate of social inclusion for children with autism and special needs and can help children experience a taste of what it feels like to be a part of a team instead of win and the personal satisfaction that goes with it.

Teaching Children with Autism How to Enjoy Jokes and Idioms

Understanding-Idioms

St. Patrick’s Day approaches and so continues the decades-long tradition of the St. Patrick’s Day pinch if you’re not wearing green. We all remember a time or two when our arms stung from forgetting to wear St. Patrick’s green. While harmless on the whole, for children with autism it can be hard to understand the difference between a harmless prank and something that can physically harm another child.

Humor is important to your child’s social development

Humor is important for children because being able to tell jokes and laugh with others helps them interact and make friends. Unfortunately, children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) tell significantly fewer jokes than their typical peers. Not being able to understand humor, or inspire laughter in others can negatively affect the development of peer relationships and social participation. In ASD children, this could lead to a further deterioration of social skills and interpersonal relationships.

Studies have found that using jokes or teaching humor and laughter to children diagnosed with autism can improve social skills and relationships with peers.

Children with autism and special needs, particularly those with social or communication delays, may need more direct instruction in the skill of joke telling and the understanding of idioms. Because children may not make the connections needed to sometimes understand the abstract language that can make a joke funny, it is important to use visual tools and concrete examples to demonstrate how jokes and idioms are constructed.

The My School Day CD and My School Day App have a whole category dedicated to understanding the difference between laughing AT someone versus laughing WITH someone. In this selection we discuss teasing versus enjoying a joke together.

Simple strategies to expand your child’s sense of humor

Its important to experiment with positive and appropriate jokes, trying them out at home and perhaps even memorizing a few that are appropriate to tell in social environments.

  1. Look into visual humor: Use cartoons, comic books and slapstick comedy to demonstrate what is considered funny, making sure to remind them that the images shown are unrealistic and should not be duplicated.
  2. Memorize one or two jokes: Knock-Knock jokes are great place to start. The examples should always include the differences between a good-natured joke and doing something that can hurt someone’s feelings.
  3. Teach idioms: Gradually expose your child to idioms and explain their meaning. Use tools such as videos or flashcards to help them develop a better understanding of these complex statements.
  4. Train your child to seek clarification when they are confused. Idioms are ambiguous and often leave children with ASD confused or accepting the statement as fact yet denying the possibility.
  5. Practice, practice, practice: For children with autism humor is an ever evolving and developing skill. Have fun developing your child’s sense of humor; a family that laughs together, has less stress and grows together in amazing ways.

Making an effort to add humor to daily activities, giving your child the opportunity to recognize the funny in the every day will allow him or her to practice and develop a more sophisticated sense of humor in time.

As children get older, the ability to see and understand humor is increasingly important. Children with a sense of humor are better liked by their peers, and have more friends, higher self-esteem, and a more positive outlook on life. Perhaps most importantly, they can be more tolerant of others, and are better equipped to handle situations at school and the inevitable teasing and bullying that often accompanies childhood.

Development of Social Skills in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

By Jennifer Jacobs, M.S., CCC-SLP

For many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), succeeding academically at school is an achievement they work long and hard for. Sometimes, however, this intent focus on academic competence can lead parents and educators to overlook critical social skill development. This is most apparent on the playground and other places at school where large amounts of unstructured time leave children with ASD to sink or swim in a complex social environment.

Over the last twenty years, much research has indicated that social impairment is a common feature of ASD, and a common misperception is that these children lack interest in relating to others. Kids with ASD do not choose to alienate themselves – they are simply missing skills that are essential for developing meaningful peer relationships. You may have noticed some of these common social deficits:

  • Opening and closing a conversation
  • Initiating peer interaction and joining play
  • Decoding facial expressions and body language
  • Observing and mimicking appropriate social behavior in specific situations
  • Predicting and understanding the emotions and reactions of others

If you stop and think about it, these are not easy concepts, and in fact, most children succeed socially at recess or in the locker room because they’ve acquired these skills automatically through repeated exposure to real-life scenarios. Children with ASD, however, don’t have that ability. In fact, it is notoriously difficult for these children to acquire social skills that come to many of us naturally. In order to master social skills, children with ASD must be taught them explicitly, and have the opportunity to practice them again and again and again. This last point is a key one, because many children with ASD don’t master social skills simply because the adults in their lives arbitrarily decide that a certain number of trials should be sufficient and give up on the effort too soon.

It’s critical, however, that caregivers and educators make a concerted effort to teach social skills to children with ASD despite the challenges. Otherwise, they may find it impossible to interact with peers one-to-one, or in an informal group. Instead of eagerly anticipating unstructured play periods like other children, they might dread them. Over time, they might become anxious and depressed, and might purposefully avoid the very social situations in which they need to become competent. They’ll carry their deficits into adulthood and may spend their lives feeling lonely and rejected.

That desire to belong that propels most people to learn whatever it takes to fit in is not something that’s necessarily implicit in children with ASD. For some, this type of “social sense” may never be fully achieved. But in order for a child with ASD to grow into a well-adjusted adult, he must learn basic social functioning, even if he never gets to the point of emotional relatedness. Social skills are the entryway to all relationships that involve two or more people, from friend/friend and teacher/student to boss/employee and salesperson/customer.

For this reason, it’s unfortunate that social skills acquisition is not automatically included as part of most children’s school curriculum. However, with our guidance and persistence and the right training program, even the most emotionally challenged children can master effective peer interaction at every stage of the game, from the moments just before class starts and conversation in the lunchroom to locker room changing sessions and afternoon recess.

Teaching Social Skills

Social skills or “pragmatics” are a vital part of living and functioning in our world today. Many children with developmental disabilities, such as Autism Spectrum Disorders, Down’s Syndrome, hearing impairment, and others have problems learning the complex understanding of social interaction.

Parents, educators, and therapists are challenged to teach these children the “unspoken” rules of social behavior. Usually children pick up these skills through experience and learn from interactions. Children with disabilities sometimes lack the understanding to learn from their life experiences and have more difficulty with social skills. In order for these special children to learn critical life skills, essential to living, they have to be taught.

So how do we teach social skills?

Many parents, educators and therapists have difficulty instructing children on social skills. It is different than teaching the ABCs or naming colors. There are so many components that make the task overwhelming! Language skills are broken into several parts, including syntax (the rules of language – verbs, nouns, etc.), semantics (the meaning behind language – vocabulary), and pragmatics (the social use of language). Without each part functioning, you cannot be a successful and complete communicator.

The role of social stories

The concept of the social story makes great sense when teaching social skills to children. The speech pathologists at Social Skill Builder have found that social stories provide simple, concrete examples of appropriate and inappropriate behavior within a social context. Children are able to target certain emotions, relations, and behaviors in a controlled teaching environment. The only problem is that social stories don’t always motivate the child. Pictures in books cannot relate all the components of social relationships or situations, such as body language, facial expressions and movement throughout an interaction. Something more dynamic is needed.

The role of social story in video

Through concrete trials, the speech pathologists at Social Skill Builder have found that videos of social interactions seem to provide a more dynamic alternative to stories in books. Children are motivated to watch television and attend to the real-life interaction seen on the screen. Educators can point out key elements found in appropriate interactions and provide an accurate model for functioning. The only problem is that the child can sometimes become distracted, because there is nothing required of him/her but to watch. Something more interactive is needed.

The role of social story videos embedded in an interactive computer program

Finally the speech pathologists at Social Skill Builder have developed the concept of combining social stories and live video into a computer program. Social Skill Builder programs use real-life video and require the child to watch and interact in order to obtain understanding in the discovery of social skills. The child is drawn to the video sequence (and of course the computer!) and then asked to respond in a game-like atmosphere to appropriate social behaviors. The child then gets a positive or negative response to motivate and teach the skills targeted. The child is excited by not only watching the interaction, but then responding and engaging in the situation himself/herself.

Carrying over skills learned in the program

It is vital that skills taught in the computer programs are carried over into real-life situations. After playing “My School Day” on the computer, for example, teachers can get a group together and practice waiting in line or interacting on the playground. The therapist, educator, or parent must use the computer program as a stepping stone to carry over skills into the natural environment. The program provides a dynamic interactive tool, but then the skills must be practiced and used in real situations.

Review of My School Day CD from All4MyChild

 

    Find out more about the My School Day CD on our Products Page           

 

Thanks to All4MyChild for reviewing our My School Day CD. Their comments include, “We are thrilled with this product and are looking forward to many more opportunities to explore and use this valuable teaching tool.”  

The goal was to eliminate pushing to be first in line. Zeroing in on pushing to be first in line, the therapist reviewed the Lining Up video sequence with the class. As we all know, this is a desire of many kids, but usually they naturally develop flexibility around the understanding that we cannot ALWAYS be first. They watched the videos, talked about them, and practiced lining up. The observed and practiced skill was reinforced by explaining that pushing in line meant less time to play, and the kids were motivated to line up correctly.

Check out All4MyChild’s full blog to see how Social Skill Builder’s My School Day CD and video modeling helped to finally achieve this social goal!  http://all4mychild.com/blog/?p=912

 

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