Q&A with Dr. Jed Baker, Autism Expert

 

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On Friday, November 4, Dr. Jed Baker will lead a daylong conference that touches on two very important topics for families and caregivers: managing frustration and anxiety and teaching social skills. Dr. Baker graciously shared some insights and previewed his talk in a Q&A recently.

 

Why is it important for caregivers to think about managing their frustration and anxiety levels when interacting or working with their child or student?

We fight fire with water. To respond intelligently and with understanding to a challenging situation requires us to manage our own emotions as caregivers. Our own reactivity can hijack our better judgment and escalate the problem rather than resolve the issue.

Everyone experiences anxiety and frustration. How does the experience differ for those on the autism spectrum?

Social perception, sensory, language, and learning issues can make many situations more confusing, unexpected, and frustrating to those with autism. Difficulty transcending the moment can make a temporary problem, like not getting to play a videogame, seem like a life-threatening crisis.

You provide concrete strategies that address anxiety and frustration in caregivers and children with autism spectrum disorder. Can you provide a preview of one example?

Preventing frustration depends on understanding how an individual perceives a difficult situation. For example, not getting to do a desired activity can seem like an unbearable issue. Providing a timer or visual schedule can help an individual know he will get what he wants, allowing him to wait more calmly.

As another example, anxiety about confusing classwork can make kids feel ashamed and afraid to try. Learning how to undo the shame of asking for help and disentangling it from judgments about intelligence can free students to more calmly approach challenging work in an effort to grow.

The conference also addresses social skills, including skill acquisition and motivation to use social skills. What’s the difference?

Acquisition strategies refer to ways to teach skills. We need to pick strategies that match an individual’s language ability. Teaching a skill does not ensure the individual wants to learn or use the skill. Motivation refers to “what’s in it for the individual” to learn and use the skill. Sometimes we use external rewards like favored activities or objects as rewards for using a social skill. Yet more importantly for motivating socializing are natural rewards like wanting a friend or making the interaction so much fun the individual wants to interact.

The social skills portion of the day also spends time focusing on peer interactions, creating acceptance, and reducing bullying. Why are these three things so important?

Socializing is a two-way street. We cannot try just to get those with ASD to fit in but also to get others to reach out. And all students have a right to a safe and accepting environment. One key to anti-bullying is to empower the peer community to police itself with upstanding peers.

Want to learn more? Join us on November 4 in Raleigh. To learn more about the conference and register, click here. The ASNC Bookstore will also be at the event with Dr. Baker’s numerous books. Register soon; the early bird price is valid through midnight October 16.

Make 2016-17 Your Child’s Best School Year Yet

Elementary school children writing in class

It’s almost here again – back-to-school time! Are you ready? Or does the mere thought of a new school year make you anxious? The Autism Society of North Carolina wants to partner with you and your child for a successful school year.

Please take advantage of the resources we offer.

IEP-Toolkit-webToolkits: We have many easy-to-use, accessible toolkits to guide you through challenging times. Several are on school-related topics: The IEP, Behavior & the IEP, and Bullying. All of these free toolkits can be read online or downloaded and printed: http://bit.ly/ASNCtoolkits

Autism Resource Specialists: We have 17 Autism Resource Specialists across the state, standing by to consult with you. They are all parents of children or adults with autism themselves, so they have firsthand knowledge and a unique understanding of what you’re going through. They strive to empower families to be the best advocates for their children. Find the Autism Resource Specialist serving your area: http://bit.ly/AutismResourceSpecialists

Podcasts: Several of our Autism Resource Specialists got together for a back-to-school discussion. Listen in with our podcast titled “Back to School: What You Need to Know and Do for a Successful Start!” You can check out the complete list of available podcasts here: http://www.autismsociety-nc.org/podcasts

Workshops: Our Autism Resource Specialists also share their expertise through workshops, both in-person and online. Some upcoming webinars are IEP Basics: Frequently Asked Questions, IEP Notebook: Taming the Paper Monster, and Preparing for College Starts at Home. We also have many workshops in various locations; find the complete schedule here: http://bit.ly/ASNCWorkshopCalendar

backtoschool Coupon_0816_web2ASNC Bookstore: If you are looking for books and videos, our bookstore is the place to go. The ASNC Bookstore is the most convenient place to find the very best autism resources, with over 600 titles. Bookstore staff members are always willing to share recommendations on particular topics. And until Aug. 31, we have a 20% off sale with code BTSS2016! Browse online: www.autismbookstore.com

Chapters & Support Groups: ASNC has more than 50 Chapters and Support Groups around the state. Chapters provide a place where you can receive encouragement from families facing similar challenges and share experiences, information, and resources. Find one near you: http://bit.ly/ASNCChapters

Our blog: Of course, you already know about our blog because you are reading it right now. But have you subscribed? You don’t want to miss the educational posts from our Autism Resource Specialists or Clinical staff. One recent education-related post was College Options for Students with ASD. Use the search box at the top right to look for posts on particular topics.

Stay connected: Last but not least, connect with us! Sign up to receive our monthly email newsletters and the twice-yearly Spectrum magazine at http://bit.ly/ASNCStayInformed. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook. We are constantly sharing helpful information, and we don’t want you to miss any of it.

Still have questions? Please contact us so that we can help you find the help you need:

800-442-2762 (NC only)
919-743-0204
Autism Society of North Carolina
505 Oberlin Road, Suite 230
Raleigh, NC 27605
info@autismsociety-nc.org

 

College Options for Students with ASD

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This article was contributed by Nancy Nestor, an Autism Resource Specialist in the Charlotte region, an autism mom, and a former teacher.

This is the time of year when many high school students and their families are thinking about the next steps in their lives – touring colleges, taking the SAT or ACT, and starting college applications. It can be anxiety-inducing as well as exciting. For students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), there may be some special considerations. We will go over these, as well as potential supports and resources.

 

Is your child ready to live independently?

If you are contemplating sending your teen off to college, the Guardianship Capacity Questionnaire is useful to assess readiness for the independence that adulthood brings. The form, which you can find at www.nccourts.org/forms/Documents/846.pdf, asks questions about the person’s ability to independently use language and communicate, take care of their nutritional needs, maintain good hygiene and health, stay safe, live by themselves or in a group, seek and maintain employment, handle finances, and self-advocate. Completing the form will help you know what to work on this year with your teen.

 

College in a traditional program

Once someone graduates from high school with a diploma or an Occupational Course of Study Diploma, they can continue on to college, if that is a reasonable choice for them and they have the grades to support college admission. College students with ASD can still receive academic supports if they meet the following conditions:

  1. They have a current medical diagnosis of autism.
  2. They contact the Office of Student Disability at their college or university to share that they have a disability.

Education in the public school system must be free and appropriate. According to the US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, colleges and universities are not required to provide FAPE, free and appropriate public education; however, they must provide appropriate academic adjustments to avoid discrimination against a student on the basis of their disability. Also, if a college or university provides housing to nondisabled students, the same or comparable housing must be accessible to those with disabilities at a location that is convenient and with the same cost.

Although the education is no longer free, a college or university cannot charge extra for providing academic adjustments or for participation in its programs or activities. Once the office of student disability has been notified and given the appropriate information, staff members can work with the student to determine the necessary academic adjustments. Just as with an IEP, the adjustments will be individualized to the student’s needs. In the college setting, academic adjustments include: “auxiliary aids and services, as well as modifications to academic requirements as necessary to ensure equal educational opportunity. Examples of adjustments are: arranging for priority registration; reducing a course load; substituting one course for another, providing note takers, recording devices, sign language interpreters, extended time for testing, and, if telephones are provided in dorm rooms, a TTY in your dorm room; and equipping school computers with screen-reading, voice recognition, or other adaptive software or hardware.”

Also, the Office for Civil Rights states that “In providing an academic adjustment, your postsecondary school is not required to lower or substantially modify essential requirements. For example, although your school may be required to provide extended testing time, it is not required to change the substantive content of the test. In addition, your postsecondary school does not have to make adjustments that would fundamentally alter the nature of a service, program, or activity, or that would result in an undue financial or administrative burden. Finally, your postsecondary school does not have to provide personal attendants, individually prescribed devices, readers for personal use or study, or other devices or services of a personal nature, such as tutoring and typing.”

To learn more about students’ rights, go to http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/transition.html.

 

College Through a Comprehensive Transition Program

Students who are graduating with a Certificate of Attendance or an Occupational Course of Study Diploma may be appropriate candidates for one of the Comprehensive Transition Programs. The “Think College” website, www.thinkcollege.net, lists  a variety of two -and four-year programs that are housed in universities, colleges, community colleges, and technical schools across the state.

They offer a variety choices for students, including on-campus, fully inclusive housing with the ability to take regular classes as an audit, partial inclusion in various settings, or living/working within a self-contained group. In some of the programs, the students will receive a certificate for course completion, but a few allow students to work toward a degree.

Because of the success of Comprehensive Transition Programs, many community colleges are strengthening their compensatory education programs to include supports for students on the autism spectrum. Compensatory education classes are inexpensive and sometimes free. If moving away from home is not yet an option, it would be wise to research community college options near your home to see whether they could provide reasonable supports. Many students enroll at the community college level to gain skills they will need for higher level classes and also to get basic requirements out of the way for their major at a university level.

 

Applying for Scholarships and Grants

Although there are no autism-specific scholarships available for North Carolina residents at this time, students with autism are free to compete for scholarships. Be sure to check several sources, such as your school guidance counselor, local organizations, parents’ employers, and the state. Many colleges and universities also offer scholarships.

Given the academic struggles that often accompany autism, many students do not have the grade-point average or the community involvement to be considered for scholarships. In cases like this, they can apply for federal and state grants. Before students can apply for these funds, they must fill out a FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid at https://fafsa.ed.gov/.

To learn more about financial aid, go to www.collegescholarships.org/grants/disabilities.htm. When looking into a Comprehensive Transition Program, be especially careful because some programs do accept Pell Grants, but not federal student loans.

If a young adult has Innovations waiver funds, at least one NC program can use the funds toward education. Beyond Academics, a CTP Program at UNCG, is a state-accredited service provider and can work with any Managed Care Organization (MCO) in the state. Although Innovations funds cannot be used for class tuition and books, they can be used for supplemental support as required in their Individual Support Plan, which has been approved by their MCO.

 

Learn more

Upcoming workshops

  • Preparing for College Starts at Home: Webinar online on Tuesday, Sept. 13. Register now
  • Considering College? Prepare, Plan, Succeed!: Workshop in Raleigh on Tuesday, Sept. 27. Register now

Contact an Autism Resource Specialist near you.

Find books on autism and college, employment, and transitions in the ASNC Bookstore. Two we especially like are Life After High School and Smile & Succeed for Teens.

 

Nancy Nestor can be reached at nnestor@autismsociety-nc.org or 704-894-9678.

Big Sister Takes Lessons to Heart

Sydney and Charlie Ramey

 

Sydney Ramey has learned many things from her younger brother, Charlie, like how to be patient and responsible. Sydney is 17 and Charlie, who has autism, is 14.

Sydney says she also has learned from Charlie that “sometimes it’s best just to throw away your cares and laugh till it hurts.”

That’s not all she’s throwing because of her brother’s inspiration. Sydney is a rising senior at Ravenscroft School in Raleigh, where she is the pitcher on the softball team. This spring, she created a fundraiser called Strikeout Autism, in which she sought pledges for each strike she threw. She ended the season with 764 strikes and 43 strikeouts and raised $2,082.40, which she donated to the Autism Society of North Carolina and Charlie’s school, Just Right Academy.

Sydney’s family has a history of supporting ASNC. In 2009, they helped organize a fundraiser with the Carolina Mudcats baseball team in Zebulon, which raised more than $4,000. Their company, Creative Business Interiors Inc., has also served as sponsors for the Triangle Run/Walk for Autism and provided thousands of dollars’ worth of furniture for ASNC’s offices.

“It was important for me to help the ASNC and my brother’s school, because I’ve seen them both touch lives. From early on in my life, I’ve heard and seen what ASNC does for autistic people and their families and I wanted to be a part of that,” Sydney said. Just Right Academy has “an exceptional staff and bright, wonderful students. It makes me glad to hear what my brother and his friends conquer each day when they go to school.”

“I’ve learned so much just by watching him grow and experience the world,” Sydney said. “Autistic people don’t have to be coddled because what they do and accomplish every day makes them stronger than most people. They deserve our respect and to be treated like everyone else.”

In many ways, Charlie is just like everyone else, Sydney said.

“Like any little brother, he likes to play tricks on me. When we go to the beach, he walks around the pool with his water gun and squirts people (mainly my dad and I). Charlie also loves the water, so we spend a lot of time at the lake, where we swim, ride on the boat, and go tubing.”

Charlie is also very creative and enjoys drawing and creating videos on his iPad, Sydney said. “Charlie has a very infectious sense of humor, so we spend a lot of time watching funny videos and joking around.”

Being Charlie’s sister has influenced Sydney in a positive way.

“Because of my brother, I enjoy volunteering at places like The Autism Society, Just Right Academy, and Special Olympics,” Sydney said. “I like to think that by having Charlie as my brother, I have become a better, stronger person. For this I am truly blessed.”

ASNC is honored to be the recipient of Sydney’s generosity and creativity! If you would like to learn more about how to create your own fundraiser for ASNC, click here.

 

Learning Through Seeing

This article was contributed by Kathleen Dolbee, a parent and ASNC Autism Resource Specialist for Western North Carolina.

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Available in the ASNC Bookstore at http://www.autismbookstore.com

No two minds are exactly alike; each has its own way of learning. What works well for one person may not work as well for another.

For example, some people grasp and remember ideas better when they see pictures or diagrams. Others prefer the written word or the spoken word better still, maybe a combination of these. Children with autism learn in a variety of ways; most are visual learners with an exceptional eye for detail. Jennifer Savner and Brenda Smith Myles, authors of “Making Visual Supports Work in the Home and Community,” make this point: “research has shown that for many children with ASD, one way of learning – learning through seeing – is superior.”

Parents of children with limited language are often eager to use visuals, wanting desperately to find a way to teach their child the power of communication. As users of the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) have proven, often a visual becomes the springboard for verbal communication.

But what about the verbal child? Parents of highly verbal children sometimes resist the use of visuals, presuming that because their child can talk, it means that he can communicate. That may be true on a stress-free day or when attempting to teach simple concepts. But stress-free days are few and far between, and as children get older, academic and social concepts become more complex.

Be honest. Do you find that you are having to repeat yourself over and over again? Are you feeling frustrated? Do you sense that your child is frustrated? Savner and Myles note: “The tricky thing … is that your child usually will not say to you, ‘I do not understand. Please give me a visual.’” Yet his behavior may be sending that message loud and clear. Does your child tantrum? Is your child truly independent in daily living skills or is he or she dependent on constant verbal prompting? Does your child ignore your verbal reminders? Does your child have difficulty getting started or completing all the necessary steps of a particular task?

If you and/or your child are frustrated by a communication disconnect, please consider introducing visuals into your daily routine. Even highly verbal children benefit when sequenced routines and abstract concepts are made easier to grasp through the use of visuals. In addition, when children’s independence increases, so does their self-esteem.

If the thought of creating visuals leaves you feeling overwhelmed or discouraged, Savner and Miles suggest starting small, creating just one visual support to see how it works, and then progressing from there.

If you need help, connect with other parents or contact the ASNC Resource Specialist in your community. We’re here to help.

Kathleen Dolbee can be reached at kdolbee@autismsociety-nc.org or 828-236-1547.

Making Visual Supports Work in the Home and Community” is available in the Autism Society of North Carolina Bookstore, your one-stop shop for quality autism resources. Buy from us and support ASNC’s mission!

A New Year: Time to Plan

This article was contributed by Jan Combs, an ASNC Autism Resource Specialist and mom to a son with autism.

new year start

Happy New Year to everyone!

Whew! I love the holidays. It’s a time to look back at the past year and gratefully reflect on all the blessings in our lives. When the flurry of activities is over, it’s a wonderful time to slow down and reconnect with friends and family.

As the last of the holiday decorations and trimmings are returned to the attic, let me encourage you to spend some time looking forward: looking at those key areas, making goals, and getting organized. For some, school is half over. For others, you may be looking to bridge that gap between home and community. A new year brings the opportunity for a fresh start, a time to make new resolutions.

Long ago, my husband and I would set aside a weekend to plan our next year’s goals, marking off blocks on our calendars for special times. Since the kids came along – and the usual work, health, and life issues – we now attempt to grab whatever few precious minutes we can to pray together and talk about what we want to accomplish as a family.

Since my youngest son, Daniel, was diagnosed with autism in 1995 at 3-1/2 years old, our family goals have certainly changed. Our joint efforts at communication and planning have become much more essential. These efforts have not always happened as often and in the manner I would prefer. Indeed, it has not always been easy. But it is always well worth every attempt to help focus us on the needs of the family and on each individual. Let me tell you, planned “spontaneity” takes quite a lot of effort! Yet I have found that the time spent educating myself, planning as best I could, and preparing as thoroughly as possible before a crisis has all been far easier than those days of putting out “fires” from lack of preparation and hoping for the best.

Here, then, are my Top Ten “Things I Wish I had Known to Plan for When My Child was Younger”:

1. Teach your child

  1. How to use a schedule: Many studies have shown that using schedules can produce a dramatic decrease in negative behaviors for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
  2. Resiliency and adaptability: Talk with your child about when you encountered setbacks or disappointments or things did not go as planned. Model how best to handle these situations. Use social stories or scripts, e.g. “Go with the flow,” or “This is difficult, but I can make it.”
  3. “Please” and “thank you”: These simple, almost magical, words are the gateway into polite society. The reality of human nature is that folks are more willing to do something for someone and go the extra mile if their efforts are noticed and appreciated. An important, but often overlooked, fact: your child will grow up and become an adult, and adulthood will last far longer than childhood. Basic good manners are an important people skill set that strongly determine how your child will get along with and be perceived by others.
  4. Personal responsibility:
    1. Assign chores appropriate for your child’s developmental age.
    2. Let children know they are helping the family – and that it’s important.
    3. Provide opportunities for your child to experience the satisfaction of accomplishment.

2. Evaluate needs

The manner in which services and resources are provided or funded are constantly changing in this state. It can be difficult at times to determine which services are the most appropriate for your child.

  1. Just know you will never have all the information before you have to make certain choices for your child.
  2. Make the best decision possible with the information you have at hand. Then move forward.
  3. Don’t feel guilty if things don’t work perfectly. There are no perfect programs/services that will address all of your family and child’s needs. Your child’s needs are unique; there is no single expert to consult with who will have all of the answers for your child’s future.
  4. Learn to be confident in your skills as parent/teacher/advocate for your child:
    1. Be confident when dealing with confrontation
    2. Be assertive rather than aggressive
    3. Especially learn the art of negotiating
  5. Learn how the process/procedures/rules work as best you can: Stay informed and keep up with any updates. The Autism Society of North Carolina (ASNC) can help:
    1. Check out our website, www.autismsociety-nc.org, for information, toolkits, and contact information. See our calendar for upcoming trainings, workshops, webinars, and events
    2. We offer a free email newsletter, a twice-yearly magazine, and email alerts. We are also on social media. Learn more here.
    3. If you need more resources or information about an issue, contact your local Autism Resource Specialist.
    4. Check out our Navigating Services workshop; see the workshop schedule here.
    5. Educate yourself about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and share your knowledge with others.
    6. Tell our legislators how ASD affects your child and family. Click here to learn where to start.

3. Plan for summer camp

  1. Consider Camp Royall. Our application process for Summer Camp is open from mid-January to mid-February. We also have year-round events for individuals and families.
  2. Summer Camps/Recreational and Leisure Activities: Consider options and start planning soon. Registration usually opens in early spring; popular programs tend to fill up quickly.

4. Check in with your managed-care organization (MCO)

  1. Have you been in contact with your MCO yet? They are the gateway to many services if your child is deemed qualified.
  2. Do they have your correct contact information? If your child qualified and previously was signed up for the NC Innovation waiver wait list, then verify (annually) that your child is still listed. When slots open up for the NC Innovation waiver – and your child has been waiting, perhaps for years – it’s important to make sure the MCO has your most current contact information.

 5. For school-age children

  1. For young children: Work on skills needed for entering preschool or kindergarten.
  2. Student with an IEP: How does your child’s progress line up with listed IEP goals? Any changes needed? Any added support needed? Need help? If so, please give one of the Autism Resource Specialists a call – we are available to parents across the state in every county. We also have an IEP Toolkit.
    1. Evaluate whether you need additional IEP meetings to address your concerns.
    2. Be sure to prepare for the upcoming IEP annual meeting. Consider scheduling before the end of May/early June to have enough time for additional IEP meetings, if needed, before school staff leave at the end of the term.
  3. Child with an EOG:
    1. If anxious, teach and practice calming strategies.
    2. Teach test strategies.
  4. Transition planning can start as early as age 14.
    1. Transition planning should be more than checking boxes on a checklist. For more information, click here.
    2. Include your child as much as possible.
    3. Work with your IEP team to bring in experts before graduation and plan for life after high school.
    4. Whether your child graduates at age 18 or 22, check out graduation requirements. Is your child on track to complete all of them in the required time?
    5. For parents: Where are you on the “letting go” scale?
      1. Independence for your child, at whatever level it can be accomplished, is healthy and desired.
      2. Are you ready for what all this means for your child maturing into adulthood?
      3. Consider financial management, residential options, employment, independent living skills, and educational opportunities: Does your child have the tools, skills, and ability to be successful in these areas? If not, what necessary supports and services does your child need?
  5. High school and after: Does your child need job skills?
    1. Let me suggest Project SEE through the ARC of Wake County. It is a supported employment opportunity for high school students with special needs.
    2. Don’t have such a program in your area? Look for other opportunities to build experience and skills with internships and volunteer opportunities. Plan for and get ahead of the summer crush of applications.
    3. Consider our JobTIPS program.
    4. Consider asking someone you trust to step up and be a mentor for your child.
      1. Employment Supports Services available: See our website for more information.

6. Write a Letter of Intent and plan for the future

  1. No matter how old your child is, do you have a will? A special needs trust? Have you made those very necessary and important preparations for the future?
  2. Once your child turns 18 in NC, he/she is recognized as an adult, legally competent to make all their life decisions.
    1. Guardianship is not appropriate for everyone. If needed, you can begin the guardianship process when your child reaches the age of 17-1/2 years. When is it necessary? Who needs it? Check our schedule for upcoming workshops.
    2. Determine whether guardianship, or an alternative to guardianship, may be the best fit for your child.
    3. This can be a tough decision and an emotional one, for some. Remember first to assess realistically your child’s understanding, ability, strengths, and challenges. Factor in the possibility that (at some future date) you might not be around to provide support and assistance. Educate yourself on available options and decide what is best for your child.
  3. Whether you have a minor child or one about to enter adulthood, a letter of intent is essential:
    1. It is not a legal document, but can be written in such a way as to smooth the transition for the continuation of care for your child in case of tragedy or if you are no longer able to care for your child.
    2. A letter of intent can be written (or you can fill out a downloaded template) that may cover essential areas for your child:
      1. Daily schedule
      2. Strengths and challenges
      3. Medical issues
      4. Dietary issues (if any)
      5. Describe what you would like to continue for your child: holiday traditions? Family connections?
      6. Your future vision for your child, and much more
    3. Be sure to update your letter of intent, either annually or when your family situation changes because of divorce, adoption, financial changes, etc. Update and address changes as your child matures to adjust for changing levels of skill and function.

7. Assess safety

  1. Talk/model/practice with your child.
  2. Make it appropriate as per their understanding and developmental age.
  3. Calling 911: Teach your child when it is appropriate (and when not) to call.
    1. Teach your child not to hang up after they have called 911 until instructed by the operator to do so. Even if you dial 911 accidentally, if you hang up and the operator cannot contact you back immediately, then a police officer will be sent out to check on you. Stay on the line long enough to confirm the mistake and that you are not having an emergency.
    2. Post near your phone, or in an assigned spot, your home address and detailed instructions for calling 911.
  4. Fire protection and train and bus safety programs are also important: My son takes a martial arts class. During one of his class warm-up exercises last year, his instructor requested the students to drop and roll. Only one student knew how to comply. My son was not that student. My shock was all the greater because we had – I thought – fully “discussed” the concept of “Stop, drop, and roll.” He could easily answer the question, “Daniel, what do you do if you catch fire?” He still could answer verbally – he just couldn’t physically do it when it mattered. Lesson learned: make sure to reinforce your instructions. Do not assume. First explain in appropriate details, but be sure to model it and practice, practice, practice.
  5. Don’t forget to consider these other safety concerns:
    1. ID theft
    2. Computer/Internet/social media
    3. Sex education:
      1. Teach actual names of body parts.
      2. Discuss good touch vs. bad touch.
      3. Discuss appropriate social behaviors.
      4. Discuss to whom it is appropriate to disclose personal or family matters as well as when and to whom it is not appropriate.
      5. What values do you wish to pass on to your child? If you don’t discuss, others will.
      6. Help your child understand it is okay to say NO – and loudly – to someone who is not appropriate with them, wherever they may be. Practice this. Let them know it is okay to make a scene, when necessary, if they feel threatened.
      7. Discuss how – and to whom – to report an incident of abuse.
    4. Planning for vacation/trips. See our training department for tips for travel on planes, etc.
    5. See the ASNC Bookstore for resources: A wide range of topics including puberty, dating, relationships, and much more are addressed.

8. Don’t worry about doing only big gestures.

Take time to thank those in your child’s life for help or care.

9. Take time for yourself!

Avoid burnout! If you have those negative self-thoughts – I haven’t done X, my child can’t do Y ­– stop It! Give yourself a pat on the back – you’ve come this far.

  1. Try to maintain heathy habits: Get exercise, wholesome nutrition, and adequate rest.
  2. Seek out and engage in activities that are meaningful, provide fun or relaxation, or help you to de-stress.

10. Take time to breathe; enjoy your child.

Search for the positive things in the moment. Yes, there may be some trying days when your only prayer of gratitude is, “Thank you God for the sun and stars”. Yet, if you maintain a focus on your blessings, and try to stay mindful of the “big picture,” it can have a dramatic impact on your attitude and approach.

  1. Focus on what your child can do, not what’s missing.
    Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people. – Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers)
  2. Celebrate those “baby steps,” whether learning a new skill or demonstrating an ability now that has taken weeks, months – or even years – to learn.
  3. It has been said that you can’t always control your environment and circumstances – but you can control your response to it.

The most important advice one can give is to enjoy the journey. Live your life – it’s not just about surviving, or going from one long list of “must dos” to another. You’ve heard it said that this journey we are on is a marathon, not a sprint. This is true. But life is what you make of it, all along the way.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. – Winston Churchill

Jan Combs can be reached at jcombs@autismsociety-nc.org or 919-865-5081.