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“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

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

 

For a parent of a child with Autism, fun and playtime can be stressful to consider; it may be difficult to think of activities to keep a child with Autism engaged in a fun and safe way.

Crafts, songs and games will help with fine motor movements and can help the child stay focused, associate words with objects to improve language and numerical skills, and improve social interaction with others (from taking turns to playing imaginative games).

 

Crafts provide sensory experiences that can stimulate attention and foster calm, and crafts involving the alphabet, matching and sensory bottles/areas are especially effective. Alphabet letters and blocks help develop word recognition and expand sight word knowledge by physically building sight words. You can get creative with materials too – try using blocks, magnets and puzzle pieces as well as paper.

 

Matching activities could include matching colors on two objects that are different in size or appearance or creating your own sorter. Take a sippy cup and poke holes into the top. Color around the holes with different colors and give your child color-coordinated pipe cleaners to match to each hole. Another way to facilitate matching is cutting a symmetrical picture in half so your child can practice matching halves.

 

A fun activity for a child with Autism is creating “calm down bottles” filled with water, glitter and glue (and sealed with glue at the top to prevent leaking). Another engaging sensory activity is adding texture to everyday toys. Whether it’s a plastic egg, a plastic ball or even a piece of paper, adding texture with fuzzy sticks, buttons, pompoms and more will greatly aid stimulation. Plus, all you need is glue and the items!

 

Songs help engage a child because of the singsong nature and repetition. You can find on the internet for days of the week, months of the year, planets in order and so on, but you can also make up a song for daily tasks like going to the bathroom or getting dressed. These songs can include physical movement like jumping or skipping, which creates harder activities for the child to promote independence.

baby-song-sleep

Games like I Spy or guessing games help expand descriptions but also develop focus to note these expanded descriptions. I Spy allows an object to be described as much as possible and allows the child to process all of the given clues before coming to a solution. I Spy strengthens the use of the sense of sight because the more descriptive the clue is, the easier it is to conclude. Guessing games aid sensory stimulation because the child can close his or her eyes and touch or hold an item to figure out what it is. For nonverbal children, you can provide pictures of objects and allow them to select which object they had. This teaches children they need to use more than just sight to get the correct answer – they can use touch, smell and maybe even taste or hearing!

The most important thing with these activities is to keep the child physically engaged with hands-on activities; inappropriate behaviors usually begin with disengagement. The options are endless; have fun!