Decreased Time on Electronics, Increased Usage of Imagination

Decreased Time on Electronics, Increased Usage of Imagination

Times have changed since we were kids. Nowadays kids have access to any type of electronic, phones, video games, tablets, computers, etc. We are seeing increase in negative behavior from our kids and studies are clearly showing an increase in negative behavior with increased time on electronics.

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One of my clinicians brought up the idea that kids do not seem to have imaginary friends anymore like many of us did as children; their imaginary friends tend to be named Siri and Alexa. But our kids also do not imaginative play much anymore either. So as parents, how do we handle this situation?

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I encourage all of my families that I serve at our clinic to have tight restraints on electronics. Here are some tips:

  • Keep all electronics password safe that only the adults in the home have access to, this way in order for your child to play on an electronic, they must first ask you
  • Set timers on the electronic device or elsewhere that allows the it to shut off after a certain period of time, such as 30 minutes
  • Give positive incentives for getting off electronics calmly or for reducing their amount of time on them
  • Require certain things be done first before any electronic time, such as chores, homework, or spending time as a family
  • Require children to be on electronics in open area of home, such as living room, and not hiding in their bedroom behind a closed door
  • Have one day a week be “electronic free day” at home; encourage your child to play outside, read, play with TOYS!
  • End any and all electronic time at least 30-60 minutes before bedtime; this helps with transition to bed as well as begins to prepare the brain for sleep

By reducing the amount of time a child (or adult) is on electronics, you are allowing them the opportunity to learn through play, reading, etc. The brain is not overstimulated anymore, and can rest and do what it is designed to do.

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At first you may have some difficulty with change in home policy for electronic use; but eventually you should see improved behavior from your child. Give you child the opportunity to allow their brain to be energized by natural play and imagination!

By Jen Edwards, LMHC

Jen@BeautifulAutism.com

http://www.BeautifulAutism.com

Autism: Going to Bed Alone

Autism: Going to Bed Alone

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I recently heard somewhere at a training I went to that nearly 80% of individuals with Autism struggle with sleep in some capacity. I feel the parents of my client’s pain when the walk into my office looking like they only got a few hours of sleep the night before, as likely I also only got that much in my home! One common complaint I often hear is the child will not sleep in his/her own bed. I smile and nod, knowing all too well how the scenario looks each evening.

It is 8:00, the hour you dread because you know the fight is coming, and yet your body aches and screams for it because it is exhausted and needs sleep. You get your child ready for bed… teeth are brushed, pajamas are on, story is read. Then the whining and crying begins, all because they do not want to be alone, or they cannot go to sleep without touching some other person. At 11:00 you and the child are still awake, it feels like a nightmare, and you finally give in and just snuggle up to your child for some attempt at a few good hours of sleep, only to be kicked throughout the night and woken at 5:00 to the happy smile of your child ready for the bright day ahead.

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Yep, this is our story too. There are some nights that are successful for our son to go to bed alone. But this is a battle that even at 8 years old we still have to fight. Here are some thoughts we have learned over the years and some that clients have tried with success!

  • Ask your child’s doctor about using something to help your child fall asleep, such as Melatonin. This is a simple, inexpensive over the counter natural product you can find at any pharmacy.
  • Sleep with the bedroom doors open throughout the house until your child relaxes enough to sleep through the night.
  • Try creating a “brave shelf” in the bedroom. Put things on it that help give confidence to your child, such as superheroes, awards, treats, favorite toys, pictures, etc.
  • Let your child have toys, blankets, books, or anything else to help keep him/her in bed. If he/she ends up playing for a while, consider this better to the alternative! If you need to put the child to bed earlier because of the playing, then do so.Are-your-kids-going-to-bed-too-late
  • Practice going to bed throughout the day. Use a social story, pictures, etc. to help the child understand what is going to happen.
  • If your child is currently sleeping in your bed, take baby steps back to his/her bed. It might look something like sleeping on the floor for a few nights, then moving into the hallway, then further down the hallway, and finally into the bedroom.
  • If your child is struggling because he/she needs to touch someone, try having him/her sleep in a small sleeping bag under a quilt. This will give the impression of feeling secure.
  • Give rewards for any accomplishment, but be careful to not overdo the awards. For example, if your child sleeps all night in the bedroom alone, give a reward such as a treat or an extra privilege. But then the expectation is now set higher, so to earn another reward he/she might need to sleep a whole week alone.
  • Find appropriate times to work on this skill. Working on this when school begins might not be the best option. Working on it during the summer or school break is a better option.
  • Try having a pet sleep with him/her.pet
  • Have your child sleep with a weighted blanket; this has proven very successful. In the summer months, use a fan to help with staying cool.
  • Some families have had success with having white noise in the room. This can be a fan, noise machines (you can find these reasonably priced on Amazon), or music.

Going to bed alone is tough on little guys, especially with Autism. But I encourage you to fight the battle and stay strong. Find the supports you need and pounce on any encouragement you find!

Jen Edwards, LMHCA

jen@BeautifulAutism.com

425-387-3872

Sensory Friendly Films at AMC theaters

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Taking my son to the theater is an awful experience, which is sad for us since we very much enjoy watching movies. It is simply too loud, dark, and overwhelming.

Here is a link for AMC theaters and a program they offer for sensory friendly movies at their theaters. https://www.amctheatres.com/programs/sensory-friendly-films

They are beginning to offer not just kid-friendly movies, but even movies for adults, which is great for all you adults that want to see more grown up movies, such as James Bond 007! They are even doing Star Wars in December!

So enjoy going to the movies! Get your popcorn, drink, and treat and relax with your family!!

Jen Edwards

http://www.beautifulautism.com

jen@beautifulautism.com

Autism and School Conferences: 5 Things for Teachers to Remember

Autism and School Conferences: 5 Things for Teachers to Remember

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We dread conference time. As parents of a child with Autism, going to conferences and IEP meetings is just not a happy experience for us. The school staff is generally great and a blessing to our son and his needs. But unlike so many families, we do not get to hear glowing remarks and we often leave feeling once again defeated.
As a teacher, I tried hard to send positive emails to the families of students with disabilities. This helped with a positive relationship and it also encouraged the parents as well as the students. Thus I have put together some simple things teachers can do to help these families during conference time.
1) Begin with sending an email out ahead of time to the parents with some positives, but also, if needed, some things that you will be going over during the conference so parents can begin preparing themselves.

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2) Keep in mind these parents have a lot on their plate already and are dealing with special circumstances with their child. There is no need to tell and explain all the negative things unless they are truly necessary. And if you question what is necessary to talk about, then speak with the special education teacher in your building or your principal.
3) Find and give any and all positive remarks. Even if it is small things like the student was able to sit through circle time without rolling around on the floor. These are big things for families. Keep a list if that helps to remind you of things. And use your paras to help with this too.
4) Assure the parents that you will continue to do all you can to work with their child. Assure them you are not giving up on their child. Though as teachers we may not say we are giving up, it can often feel this way to parents when they hear so many negative things. Keep smiling and show your love and care.

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5) Follow up afterwards a couple days later with an email or note home just to check in with parents. If appropriate, give your thoughts on how the conference went. But more importantly, make the parents feel appreciated.
Parents always want what is best for their child. They want to help their child succeed in school and be supportive of their child. However, if they walk away feeling defeated, this will often transfer onto the child. Keep a strong and positive communication with these families. They will greatly appreciate it!
Teachers are amazing and often do such wonderful work! They work endless hours and do their best to meet each child’s individual need. Their work is hard and often under-appreciated. But anyone who works day in and out to do whatever they can for students with special needs is golden and your work does not go unnoticed by those who care and need it. Bless all of you and thank you for your hard work and dedication!

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Jen Edwards, MA Counselor and Behavior Therapist
jen@BeautifulAutism.com
425-387-3872

Autism in the New School Year

Autism in the New School Year

A friend of mine recently told me, “You said August and September were going to be difficult months; you were right.” The new school year is always a challenge for kids on the Spectrum. New schools, new teachers, new rules, new classmates, new schedules and routines. Generally it takes 6-8 weeks for kids to acclimate to the new year and feel settled.

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How Can I Make This Better?

Try to predict how your child is going to react to certain things; plan ahead. For example, if I know my son is having a change in his school schedule (such as an assembly), I need to explain the day before and the morning of to remind him and answer any questions. One nice thing about Autism is it is generally predictable once you know and understand your child. We are able to predict how our son will handle certain things and can then prepare accordingly.

Now certainly we are not always 100% accurate, and often he surprises us with handling things well, or on occasion not well. But being prepared and thinking ahead has made our lives SOO much easier.

Keep in Communication

Talk often to your child’s teachers and workers. I probably email my son’s Special Education team at least 3 times a week. I email his teacher a couple times a week. I want to know what is going on and how things are going for him. I am proactive in following through with his behavior at school and finding links to problems.

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Talk often to any therapists your child has, especially right before a session so they know what is going on and how to work with them.

And of course, talk with your kiddo! Find out what is bothering them. Ask them how YOU can help them. Talk about your expectations. Be supportive of your child and communicate daily your love!

The Challenging Behavior- DAILY!

Like I always say, keep calm. Fight the battles that are worth fighting. You will need to find the balance between what is worth focusing on and what behaviors you can ignore. This is not easy and often stressful. On the one hand, you do not want your child getting away with everything, but you want some peace in your home as well.

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Try to find the links between the challenging behaviors. Many times there are no links to be found; sometimes you find links in the most peculiar places! Use a lot of positive rewards. For example, when my son comes home with no sad faces on his behavior chart, he will get a “good boy treat” and often Mommy partakes in a “good mommy treat” too!

Use any close family and friends to help you! Find someone you can safely “vent” to and avoid venting in front of your child. We all need to be able to talk openly at times about our struggles. If you do not have that safe person, I encourage you to find someone quickly! You might want to have someone that you can talk with on the phone or face-to-face versus texting/email, etc. Pastors, social workers, and counselors are some examples of safe people if you do not have family or friends.

Final Thoughts

Hang in there! Hopefully by the holidays your child is more calm and confident in his/her situation. Then they get the nice holiday break and have to start all over again come January!

Use picture schedules or written schedules when necessary and helpful. Find other tools that will help your child succeed.

Remember, you are called to be parents/workers with this beautiful child, and you will become qualified!

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Autism and Terrible Behavior

The Terrible Behaviors

                My heart broke this week.  Why is he acting out so much?  My son’s behavior was horrible this week.  I cried, I got angry, I thought endlessly, and I prayed.  There seemed to be no common thread to this problem.  The school could not figure out why the physical aggression was so intense.  He was hitting other students for no reason and throwing chairs.  Really?  Is this MY son?

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Take a Breath… Be Calm

                We can analyze the situation all we want until we go stir crazy.  We can email teachers and demand answers.  We can talk to other people and get feedback.  The main thing to keep in mind: Our reaction can make or break the situation.  Overreaction can be devastating and under reaction can prolong the situation.  So where is that fine line of boundaries?

                It would be so nice if we had a manual that came with the delivery of our children.  Chapter 5: How to Handle Physical Aggression at 5 Years Old.  But we do not get manuals; we only get advice from past experiences.  So we take advice and sometimes it is great and often it is not applicable to the situation.  And we continue to search for the boundaries.

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                First, stay calm.  Look over the whole situation, take notes, and talk openly with trusted people who will listen and not offer advice right away.  Stay in constant communication with teachers, therapists, and other individuals working with your child.  Look for common threads in both positive and negative behaviors.  Talk with your child and try to get reasons and understanding from his/her perspective.  But I warn you, be gentle and patient while talking with your child; do not raise your voice or threaten with demands and punishment.  Try to understand your child while you listen to him/her.  Explain it is safe to open up to you.  Remember, you want answers- you are not there to get answers for punishment and discipline.  You want to help your child succeed!

Finding Answers, Then What?

                When you get some answers, even if they do not make sense, communicate with the other individuals involved with your child.  Together you can all begin to put the pieces together.  Continue to stay calm and understanding of your child.  Forgive your child and tell your child you still love him/her.  Follow through with communication.  Continue seeking knowledge and understanding while getting help for the problematic behaviors.

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Possible Reasons for Disruptive Behavior

                Here are some possible explanations for difficult behavior:

Too much stimulation

Changes in routine

Illness or pain

Not enough sleep

Confusion about something

Emotional imbalance

Unable to cope with anxiety

Disappointment

                Remember, every child is different.  Your child’s difficult behavior may be related to something not on this list.  These are just common ones I often see in Autism (and typically developing children too).

                Please share with me any other thoughts or things your child struggles with.  If you find yourself at a loss of what to do, seek help through myself or another professional.  Meanwhile, hang in there fellow parents and professionals!  I understand your struggles and frustrations.

                After all the emotional struggles this last week with my son, we took him to the dentist only to discover his six year molars were pushing through.  No wonder he has been deregulated!  So now we are working on helping him to communicate with us when he is in pain somewhere so we can help him. And afterwards, we had some “alternative medicine” at Cold Stone!

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                Sometimes it feels like we move one step forward and then suddenly two steps back with our children on the Spectrum.  Keep staying calm and searching for answers.  Overall you are moving in the forward direction in his/her life.  It may not always seem like it, but hang in there!

Contact Information

Jen Edwards

jen@voyagescounseling.com

720-258-6392