Identifying Cold and Flu Symptoms in Non-Verbal Children with ASD

Keep your disinfectant close, and your tissues closer, because cold and flu season is due to stick around until May 2018, #boo!

While the flu is miserable for everyone, it has proven to be worse for those on the spectrum. According to the CDC, “Children of any age with neurologic conditions are more likely than other children to become very sick if they get the flu,” because of many reasons… some complicated and others simple. In light of this scary fact please keep in mind these pointers which may assist in an earlier flu diagnosis for friends who are developmentally disabled and specifically non-verbal.  These pointers may seem obvious to our seasoned mama’s, however for those of you who are new to the land of developmental disabilities, we’re hopeful they will lead you to the doctor’s office quickly, which ultimately will provide your child and your family well deserved respite from the dreaded influenza.

  • Notable changes in your child’s behavior. If you see your little one acting out by kicking, hitting, or biting (others or themselves) more than usual, they may be communicating they are not feeling well. You above anyone else know your child and the way they typically act on a day-to-day basis. If something seems off, don’t hesitate to contact your pediatrician as soon as possible! Don’t forget, always bring your notes to the doctor. All too often care takers become overwhelmed while at the pediatrician and certain events or behavioral anecdotes are overlooked. Having notes can be extremely helpful!
  • Watch what they are eating and changes in their appetite. If you notice any unusual changes in your child’s eating habits, this may be a cue they are trying to relay they are not feeling well! It may be helpful to keep a spiral in the kitchen and document what your feeding your little one, the time of the feeding and your child’s response. If you see something strange going on, reach out to your doctor!
  • Hydration is key! Has your child’s liquid intake increased or decreased? Your child’s age gauges the amount of liquid they should (ideally) receive on a daily basis. If there is a marked change this is a sure sign something is off. Dehydration and overhydration is also apparent in your child’s output. If their urine or bowl movement production has changed please contact your pediatrician.

Last, if your pediatrician questions your concerns, don’t give up! You are your child’s greatest advocate. As a reminder, please reach out to Cayer Behavioral Group at (850) 320-6555 for any concerns you may have! We are here to help you fight the terrible cold and flu season and hope this week’s information helps you and your little ones!

School Safety 101! A Starting Point for Children with Special Needs

Just seven weeks into 2018, there have been eight shootings at US schools that have resulted in injury or death.

In light of the unthinkable tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Cayer Behavioral Group would like to take a moment to discuss conversation points for parents to have with their child’s teacher regarding their school/classroom safety plan. For those of us who live, breathe, walk and LOVE a child on the spectrum, it is especially important to have an open and honest conversation covering the who, what, where and when of safety.

Conversation starters:

  1. How will the school communicate with me in a crisis situation?
  2. Is there a crisis hotline?
  3. What is the role of the teacher in the crisis? Will he or she remove my child from the classroom, or do they engage in “lock down” procedures? If they remove my child from the classroom, where do they go? If the policy is to “lock down” the classroom what does that procedure look like and how often is it practiced?
  4. What other school personnel will be responsible for my child with special needs?
  5. My child is on medication. How is the medication transported in a crisis situation?
  6. Has my child had access to community helpers (police, fire and emergency responder men and women) in a non-crisis environment?
  7. Will my child have an identifier on his or her clothing?

We are hopeful you will utilize the following 7 talking points to begin a necessary conversation with your child’s teacher. It’s unfortunate our world causes us to pause and react to thoughtless violence. At times like this we must remember there is more good in the world than bad. At times like this we must remember we are our child’s protector. Cayer Behavioral Group is hopeful you will find peace in the following quote:

“You protect what you love.” – Jenna Ryan

Cayer Behavioral Group will continue to protect your child and we are exceptionally grateful for the opportunity to work with your sweet kids in our fantastic community. For more information on Cayer Behavioral Group please visit our website at www.cayerbehavioral.com or contact the office at 850.320.6555.

Krista Cayer, MA, BCBA

CEO and Founder, Cayer Behavioral Group

 2331 Hansen Court

Tallahassee, FL 32301

850.320.6555.

Communicating Love on the Spectrum

“Love is expressed in many ways, and as nice as the words are to hear, they are unnecessary to express true love.” –Lauren Casper

It’s no secret people with autism communicate differently than those who are neurotypical. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember this applies to their love language too. Though we may want to hug, squeeze and smother our special little ones with kisses, it is important to keep in mind this might not always be the best way to express love to a child on the spectrum. Additionally, just because your little one doesn’t always want to hug, squeeze or shower YOU with kisses, doesn’t mean they don’t love and appreciate you just as much! They just communicate their love in a different way. In celebration of Valentine’s Day, we’re going to discuss how to detect the other ways (verbal and nonverbal) children with autism are expressing their love for you, as well as how to best express your love for a little one on the spectrum.

According to an article published by SpringBrook Behavioral Health about Adapting Love Languages to Meet the Needs of Kids with ASDthere are five languages of love: physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, and gifts. As a parent, it’s your duty to decipher what love language(s) your child prefers and to reciprocate your love by imitating these languages and meeting them where they feel comfortable. Do they gift you their drawings, sit near you on the couch, or suggest a favorite shared activity? These are all ways your child is expressing their love for you without explicitly saying it, you may just need to look a little deeper to discover them.

A more proactive tip this article suggests is to give your child some love language options and closely observe which ones they choose. For example, when it comes to play time you might ask if they would rather horseplay (physical touch), help you cook dinner (acts of service), or participate in a favorite shared activity (quality time)? Their response will be indicative of their preferred love language and might help you to more clearly identify their next gesture of love.

For severely impaired children, the combination of sensory sensitivities, lack of joint attention skills and poor communication may make it especially difficult for you to pick up on expressions of love. But don’t be mistaken—they do feel love. Whether it’s evident in the tone of their vocalization, the squeeze in their grasp, the sniffing of your hair, or just their tolerance of you beside them, it is important to understand detecting their love takes more than just listening with your ears! Regardless of how troubled or overwhelmed your child may feel, there are sensory avenues that comfort and sooth them, and it is your job to identify them through trial and error, patience, and practice.

So, the next time you may feel frustrated that your child is not making eye contact with you, take a moment to realize they may just be trying to listen—really listen. The next time they close their eyes and lean on your shoulder, draw you something, repeat lyrics to a song you like, or choose you to accompany them for a specific activity, know this is their unique way of showing you they love you.

We love our children at Cayer Behavioral Group, and we know you do too. On behalf of our team here at CBG, we wish you a happy and love-filled Valentine’s Day!

As always, please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns you may have. CBG is just a phone call or email away.

#CommunicatingLove #AutismAwarenessEveryDay #CayerBehavioralGroup #WeCayer #HappyValentinesDay

Autism and Technology with Guest Bryan Gibson, Owner and Principal Consultant from i2xsolutions.

Who hasn’t had concerns about the children we love and today’s technology?

Technology is a major part of our children’s socialization, education and realization of what we call life.  Whether we like it or not, technology is here to stay!

Today’s blog features a special guest, Bryan Gibson. Bryan functions as the Cayer Behavioral Groups Virtual CIO and has been working with CBG for 5 years. He is also the Owner and Principal Consultant of i2xsolutions, a local Tallahassee tech company. Bryan has an in-depth understanding of technology, which is helpful when discussing safely navigating our everyday tech-world.  Bryan recently spent a few minutes with us providing insight into different devices, avoiding app pitfalls and pairing positive parenting with screen time.

  1. As a parent, what are a few devices you feel are worthy of an investment?

Bryan recommends the use of tablets for children, especially those who are on the spectrum. As you know, we all strive to find outlets where our children are able to express themselves while learning.  Tablets can prove useful for children who are verbal or non-verbal.  The mobility found in tablets allows parents to teach their children whether they are at school, home, or with their BCBA’s. By using these devices, your child is able to use his/her senses and visualize different things happening within the device. Here are some tablets available for you and your children: the iPad, Microsoft Surface, Samsung tablet, Amazon Fire for Kids tablet, Leapfrog, and the Nabi tablet.

  1. How should parents monitor their children on the apps and the devices they use on a daily basis?      

The safety of our children on tablets and applications is something we should all view as most important. Bryan explained on all devices, tablet or PC, there are family security suites. This suite is an application that monitors what your children are doing and places that data into a “cloud” so you, the parent, can see what they are up to. From the cloud, a parent can authorize the use of various applications. Bryan highly recommends using the family suite if you are considering letting your children run solo on a device as this is one of the only ways you will be able to fully monitor their internet habits.  The suite acts as a parental monitor and can be found in general settings in any device. Using the family suite puts parents in the driver seat, seeing first-hand the who, what, when and where of their child’s virtual activity.

  1. How can you tell if the app you are downloading is “real” and will be useful for children?

Yes, there are apps out there that can prove to be phony. Parents must engage in due diligence to ensure they’re not downloading dangerous material. The primary key is educating yourself on the app before you purchase. Make sure the app has a lot of reviews (not only by the developer, the developer’s mom and a few of her book-club friends). And, check other online platforms to see if it was useful to other parents. According to Bryan, and this is unfortunate, there really is no true way to know if the app is legit until you install and open. Bryan suggests monitoring the download and opening of the application in real time. If it looks fishy, immediately delete the app. His advice to tackling this real-world problem is to do what we have always done as parents, investigate everything before making any purchases. And, do not shy away from a hard “no” when it comes to purchasing an application which doesn’t pass the smell test.

  1. Is it worth it to pay for the apps?

Bryan 100% recommends paying for any and all apps you or your children are downloading. Free version of applications tend to have off topic “pop up” ads. One click and your children could be on a completely different site, possibly a dangerous site.  If your children have a history of wandering the internet please make sure they are using apps verified and paid for you, by you.

  1. Would you recommend children have their own device?

Bryan recommends having a family device for your children to use. He suggests giving your children their own device is if it is locked down to the point where they could only access what you are wanting them to see and hear. While there are some devices made for everyone to use, they do make children specific tablets, such as the Leapfrog, Amazon Fire for Kids, and Nabi tablet. On the Nabi tablet, Bryan explained how it has different modes the parents can “lock” down and remain fairly secure. These modes include children modes but also “daddy” and “mommy” modes. Through these different modes, parents can review their child’s history and if necessary tweak their level of “locked” security.

Lastly, Bryan recommends sticking to a schedule outlining when your children can have access to these devices, as too much access is never good. In 2016,  The American Academy of Pediatrics published new guidelines that all parents should take into consideration when deciding on the amount of screen time for their children. The AAP recommends children from the ages of 2 to 5 have one hour of screen time a day while children older than 6 have limited use of screen time per day. The latter guideline is nebulous at best. Essentially, the less screen time, the better!  Further the AAP recommend parents sit with their children while they are on the devices and explain the different visuals they are seeing. If you are interested in creating a media plan for you and your family, check out the AAP Media Plan at https://www.healthychildren.org/English/media/Pages/default.aspx.

An important piece to draw from this post is, “devices do not take away the need for parent involvement, in fact, they reinforce the need for parents.” Devices are excellent catalysts for communication, learning and exploring. Not an absolute replacement for the irreplaceable parent/ child teachable moments.  Please remember to reach out to Cayer Behavioral Group  at (850) 320-6555 or your BCBA for more information on this subject! We are glad to help you and your children benefit from using these devices and becoming familiar with assistive technology! We also want to thank Bryan for taking the time to sit with us and give us some new insights about the realm of technology!!

#AutismAwarenessEveryDay #WeCayer #AutismandTechnology #AssistiveTechnology

Happy Black History Month!

Acclaimed African-American poet, storyteller, and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou, once said, “It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”

Maya Angelou

Every February we reflect on the many notable contributions and achievements of African-Americans throughout our nation’s history. Today, Cayer Behavioral Group would like to divert your attention to a conversation that has been pushed aside all too often: the recognition and celebration of people of color within the autism community.

It is said that autism rates among African-Americans are the same as rates among whites. Yet African-American children are often diagnosed with autism at an older age than white children, causing them to miss out on potential years of valuable treatment. Additionally, resources are extremely limited, if any, in primarily African-American and low-income communities.

Fortunately, there are organizations like The Color of Autism and The Answer Inc. who have committed themselves to serving this cause, and work hard to assist and educate African-American families with children on the spectrum.

In honor of Black History Month and the celebration of people of color within the autism community, we’d like to take the opportunity to remind you of something The Autism Pastor Dr. Lamar Hardwick said in a beautiful written article about disabilities and diversity:

“Diversity is beautiful, diversity is needed, and diversity is what will make our society stronger.”

Happy Black History Month!

With love,

Cayer Behavioral Group

#BlackHistoryMonth #AutismAwarenessEveryDay #CayerBehavioralGroup

#WeCayer