How We Help: Navigating Children Who Are Non-Verbal

Diagnosis autism! The diagnosis itself is is certainly a sliding scale. Your child may face varying challenges and varying degrees of those challenges depending where they land on the spectrum. We understand the difficulty of wrapping your head around the shock, especially when it pertains to someone you love! Coupled with acceptance of the diagnosis is an added layer …children who are non-verbal.

Merriam-Webster defines non-verbal behavior as communication “involving minimal use of spoken language”. One common misconception about non-verbal communication is that the person is deaf. A majority of children with autism can understand those who are verbally communicating with them, but have difficulty mirroring what they think and feel in a spoken way. There is no clear-cut formula to “cure” non-verbal tendencies, but that is where we come in. We offer a list of techniques and strategies to help teachers and parents communicate with their non-verbal kiddos in a way they understand and can mirror the communication.

Cayer Behavioral Group offers the following resources to teachers and parents who love and educate those who are non-verbal.

  • Tools to learn: Sign Language. Sign Language is a wonderful way for kids who are non-verbal to communicate their wants and needs. We provide parents and teachers with resources to learn the basics of sign-language so they and the students can communicate.

  • Tools to teach: Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices. AAC devices include flashcards, tablets, or computers to convey thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Pictures, interactive games, and voice help children with autism overcome barriers. These devices can rapidly increase the child’s brain stimulation by using pictures, interactive games and voice to make communication easier and fun for everyone involved! Cayer Behavioral Group assists teachers with the use of these devices and how to implement them into the child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

  • Tools to implement: The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). PECS gives children who are non-verbal the opportunity to communicate using a series of pictures. Children, adolescents and adults using PECS are taught to approach another person and give them a picture of a desired item in exchange for that item. This way, the “speaker” appropriately and effectively initiates communication.

  • Apps: There are many apps available to parents and educators. The primary objective across these tools is to increase reciprocal communication between kids living with autism and those who aren’t. A few apps available to children with autism are:

  1. Bag Game: This game is a spin-off of 20 questions, but with pictures instead! It is perfect for social skills and playing with peers because each individual playing chooses  their own level of difficulty. Verbal description, auditory memory, and question-asking are a few of the many skills that this app can help improve.
  2. Learn with Rufus: This app uses a child-friendly character to teach emotion words, facial expressions associated with emotions! Using this app can help someone who communicates non-verbally to appropriately convey their emotions through expressions and understand others’ non-verbal communication.
  3. Articulation Station: Just as it’s titled, this app assists with articulation. Images are used to represent target words. Kids can practice words, phrases, sentences, and stories all in one place!
  4. Grid Player: This app allows users to create sentences and hear them spoken. Each “grid” contains a sentence starter (adjective, noun, verb, etc).  “Grids” are also animated with pictures. The animation paired with the written word allows the child or adult using the app to recognize the action or item they want to communicate, place them in contextual order, and hear it played out loud!
  5. Baby Sign and Learn: Please don’t be fooled by “baby” in the title of this app. It is fun for all ages! The app provides images that correlate with Sign Language. Then, a character in the game demonstrates the sign for that particular image. It provides a fun and easy way to learn with your non-verbal loved ones!

Verbal communication is always the primary goal as it is and will be the most preferred method of communication worldwide. However, all is definitely not lost if your little one with autism best communicates through sign, an augmentative communication device or PECS. Hang in there parents! Dreaming new dreams and finding your new normal is often an uphill battle but keep in mind: “normal” is nothing but a dryer setting. You got this! #autismawarenesseveryday

 

Homework and Task Strategies

Having a child sit down and focus on homework after a long day at school can be an uphill battle. Kids with autism often have more problems at homework time than their peers. Please, have no fear. Cayer Behavioral Group is here to help you and your child get through homework scotch-free!

Before starting, make sure the homework assignment is understood by your child. Having clear instructions outlined (in tiny steps) may make a world of difference when they are trying to understand the purpose of their homework. Also, make sure the homework is in step with your child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Don’t be afraid to refer to your child’s IEP for help when communicating with the teacher and the overall immediate goal.

Next, place your child in an environment where they can succeed. Establish a designated homework-spot and time for you and your child, or even the whole family! This way, everyone in the household is aware: it is time to focus and distractions and interruptions are very limited. This way, you and your child can focus on what’s important–their success!

Last but not least, motivate and reinforce your child’s accomplishments, no matter how big or small! And, don’t be afraid of taking breaks. If a five minute task is taking ten to fifteen minutes, thank them for focusing and give them a little, well deserved, breather. Thanking them for focusing or completing a series of problems and allowing them to walk away from the task at hand will make a massive difference in your child’s motivation and mentality about homework. If your child sees their efforts are noticed and appreciated, homework time is bound to be more enjoyable!

Homework time may not always be smooth sailing, but Cayer Behavioral Group hopes these tips lighten the load! Remember, you are never alone and everyone involved wants to see your child succeed! #autismawarenesseveryday

 

How to Handle Bullying as a Parent

          A parent hearing their child  has been bullied is often the beginning of an all too common nightmare. Pair this with the unending uncertainty associated with their child being on the spectrum the double whammy is nothing short of a kick in the gut. According to Dr. Sameer Hinduja there are a few key ideas which may help open the door to communication and future problem solving. At Cayer Behavioral Group, we take bullying and the physical and emotional safety of our clients and families very seriously. If you would like any additional information on bullying or cyberbullying, we encourage you to visit Dr. Hinduja’s website, LinkedIn and The Cyberbullying Research Center for more information.

    1. Make sure you stay very, very calm – The child may not be able to fully comprehend what is happening to them. As a parent, teacher, or friend, make sure your emotions are collected
    2. Give them time and space – Avoid crowding them!
    3. Provide reassurance – Let them know that they didn’t deserve what happened to them, and that you are here to help them. Do this repeatedly if needed!
    4. Be aware of their personal preferences – Make sure they are comfortable in the area before you need their full attention.
    5. Sequentially explain what is happening – Let them know why you are sitting down with them, what happened to them, and that you will be asking them some important questions.
    6. Ask questions – But, keep them simple! Provide no more than TWO options at a time, so they don’t get confused or overwhelmed.
    7. Be sensitive to their reactions – If they become frustrated, try redirecting their attention to something that you know they enjoy. Once they have reinforcement from a preferred outlet, they may be more likely to comply.
    8. Provide them with helpful strategies to cope – Get your child involved in something that makes them feel empowered or less isolated. Drawing, playing with friends, and being active are all ways to help your child excel.

          Having your child be a victim of bullying is the last thing a parent wants to hear, especially if they are on the spectrum.  As always, Cayer Behavioral Group is here to help. We hope that with the right mindset and resources, you and your child may be able to effectively cope and transcend in the face of bullying! #autismawarenesseveryday

 

Managing Bedtimes and New Routines

Bedtime.

For some parents, it’s a seemingly harmless word that nevertheless can strike fear into hearts.

Some children seem to gain a special kind of hyper and defiant energy when told to prepare for bed. As the first day of school approaches, getting children to bed for a solid night’s sleep is critical, but the amount of sleep needed varies by age. The National Sleep Foundation recommends for preschool children (11-13 hrs), school age children (10 -11 hrs) and for adolescents (9 ¼ hrs). Daytime sleepiness can result in hyperactivity, inattentiveness and aggression. Having energy during the school day can make a monumental difference.

First things first: take a deep breath. You can do this!

For children with Autism, sleep problems are very common. The two most prevalent challenges are difficulty falling asleep and repeated awakenings throughout the night. Some medications may have a detrimental impact on a child being able to fall asleep or stay asleep. Before putting your child on any new medications, ask your doctor about possible nighttime side effects. If you are currently dealing with these issues, ask your doctor if it may be because of medication.

Start your school year off by establishing a bedtime routine both you and your child can depend on.

  1. Exercise during the day can make it easier for a child to fall asleep. Try to avoid any intensive physical activities close to bedtime, which can have the opposite effect.
  2. Avoid caffeine close to bedtime. Be aware of any beverages your child is consuming which could be harboring caffeine, including tea, soda, and chocolate.
  3. Your child’s sleep environment is critical. It should be calm, dark, and cool. Be aware of any possible toys or distractions in the environment.
  4. Create a predictable routine. Perhaps a bath, listening to music, or reading a book. The use of electronic devices immediately before bedtime can make it more difficult to fall asleep.
  5. Teach your child to fall asleep alone. For many parents, this can be the most difficult challenge, as you want to comfort a distressed child. Stay with your child before bedtime but leave before they fall asleep. If needed, only return to their room for reassurances, and leave shortly thereafter.

This bedtime routine can be a special time for you and your child to unwind, relax, and bond. It won’t always go perfectly, of course, but don’t let temporary discouragement keep you from getting back on track. Now, let’s get to sleeping!

 

References

Autism Speaks

Tips for Meeting New Teachers

          A strong parent-teacher relationship is always important. When you have a child with Autism, it is essential. Consistent parent-teacher communication can make a tremendous difference in your child’s learning and progress. As always, Cayer Behavioral Group is here to take a little bit of that weight of your shoulders and answer all your questions!

          To work toward a positive relationship with your child’s teacher, schedule a one-on-one appointment with them. That way you will be able to specifically talk about your child’s needs and what is expected of them.

          Before going to the meeting, have a list of questions prepared. There’s no such thing as too many questions! Some questions you can ask include:

  1. What is my child expected to learn this year?
  2. How will this be evaluated?
  3. How will my child’s progress be monitored?
  4. What is the best way for us to stay in contact?
  5. What types of tests and evaluations will my child have to take this year?
  6. Is my child participating in class activities?
  7. How are my child’s social skills?
  8. Does my child seem happy at school?
  9. Have you noticed any unusual behaviors?
  10. Do you think my child is reaching his/her potential?
  11. What can I do at home to help support his/her academic progress?

          Remember, don’t be afraid to continue to ask questions if you don’t understand something. Teachers understand that some things are hard to comprehend, and and it is their job to help.

          Throughout the meeting, be yourself! You and the teacher both want the very best for your child. After the meeting, talk with your child and give them an appropriate overview of what was discussed. Ideally, everyone involved should have a clear understanding.

          Don’t forget that you are not the first person to want specific information regarding their child’s education. Everyone involved wants to see your child succeed, and with a strong relationship with your child and their teacher, anything is possible!

 

Supplies to Buy on Tax Free Weekend

          This weekend, August 4th-6th, 2017, is Florida’s Annual Tax Free Weekend! Knowing what to buy for your child diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may sometimes be a tall order! Cayer Behavioral Group is here to keep it simple!

Here are a few products that you may get some great use of:

Those marked with an asterisk (*) qualify for tax-free benefits!

  1. Markers, printer paper, notebook paper, pencils, pens*
    • Great to have for crafts and having extras for kids is never too much!
  2. 7-pocket file organizers*
    • Can be used to organize all of your students’ or child’s Individualized Education Programs (IEP).
  3. Construction paper*
    • Perfect for labeling and crafts!
  4. Notebooks, drawing pads, and journals
    • Great way for kids to keep up with their own notes and drawings while teaching personal responsibility!
  5. Personal white boards and Expo markers*
    • Great for individual instruction and practicing, reusable, and easy clean-up!
  6. Contact Paper-Clear Adhesive Roll*
    • Can be used to wrap around books to help prevent tears, and water damage.
  7. iPads or personal tablets*
    • Wonderful for increased communication and can offer many apps and programs to stimulate creativity!
  8. Large dry-erase wall calendar*
    • Perfect for keeping up with your and your kid’s busy schedule and is reusable for many months and years to come!
  9. Bean bag chairs
    • Great for a spacious room to add dynamic seating and personal space for kids or yourself!
  10. Brain-Break Cards
    • Offer fantastic and varying ways to either calm, focus, or energize kids! Noise-Reducing headphones*
  11.  Noise-Reducing headphones*
    • Helps students focus on the task at hand, and reduces external distractions
  12. Soothing Sands Sand Box
    • Sand often gives kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder awesome sensory input.  And hey, who doesn’t love sand?
  13. Pencil Grips*
    • Helps kids gently place fingers in the proper position for gripping, so they can master fine motor and handwriting skills!
  14. DNA Ball
    • A great tactile, fidget, and visual toy!
  15. Chewable Pencil Toppers
    • Helps kids with oral motor sensory needs and helps them maintain focus while writing!

          Shopping for school does not have to be a hassle! Here at Cayer Behavioral Group, we want to make getting ready for the new school year as easy and fun-filled as possible for the families and communities we serve! For more information on Tax Free Weekend, visit the Florida Department of Revenue’s website. Cheers to an awesome school year. Happy shopping!

#autismawarenesseveryday #cbg

Splash Pals Adapted Aquatics: Fun for the End of the Summer!

Families, come dive into “Splash Pals” with us here at Cayer Behavioral Group!

      Summer may be coming to an end, but there is still plenty of time to have some fun in the sun! Splash Pals Adapted Aquatics allows kids with physical and developmental disabilities and their families to enjoy swimming in a safe and supportive environment!

      Splash Pals Adapted Aquatics is excited to announce their new chapter serving individuals with disabilities in Tallahassee and surrounding communities! Splash Pals was originally started in 2013 by a group of healthcare students at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL and is focused on implementing aquatic activity programs for children, teens, and adults with various physical and developmental disabilities.

      This summer, the Splash Pals chapter at Florida State University opened!  They have partnered with the Capital Regional Family Health and Fitness Center to hold events. Splash Pals aims to improve the quality of life for not only the children but also their parents and caregivers, the students, and the community. Splash Pals at FSU has gotten off to a great start by providing social interaction, swimming, exercise, and play to numerous individuals with disabilities.

Want to find out more information about the “Splash Pals” program?  

Visit www.SplashPals.com today to find helpful information!