2018 Autism Travel Guide

Traveling can be a challenge in some way or another for all families – particularly so for families with a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Unfamiliar places, frequent transitions, large crowds and loud noises are just a few things parents try to avoid when planning a vacation for a child with special needs.  

To help families best prepare for vacations, we created an Autism Travel Guide, packed with travel preparation tips, road trip tips, flying tips, and the most autism-friendly vacation destinations in the United States.

6 Travel Preparation Tips

When traveling with children who have ASD, it is important to consider how each child might react in new situations. It is important to include and prepare everyone in the family so that everyone can enjoy the vacation.

  1. Role Playing.
    An effective way to help children on the spectrum feel more comfortable on a trip is to role play what the trip might look like. Role-playing in advance allows kids to understand what to expect while on the upcoming vacation rather than being entirely overwhelmed by the new experiences.
  2. Pack the right gear.
    Make sure your child has access to preferred comfort items. Some useful items to consider bringing are:
  • Noise cancelling headphones
  • Sunglasses
  • Weighted blanket
  • Sensory toys
  • Forms of identification
  • Favorite toy/blanket
  1. Create an itinerary.
    By creating an itinerary and discussing it in advance, you minimize the surprises that might occur while on vacation.
  2. Create a visual calendar.
    These vacation-prep calendars should display how long the trip will last, along with main events and activities. This is an efficient tool to help children on the spectrum truly visualize and understand what the trip will entail.
  3. Collect photos of the places you will go.
    Another helpful way to make sure children are comfortable in new surroundings is to collect photos of all vacation destinations. Grabbing photos off the Internet of hotels or accommodations, as well as any planned events and day trips, is a huge help in reducing the anxiety that children on the spectrum might feel in an unfamiliar environment.
  4. Involvement.
    Make sure to involve your child in the planning of your trip, whether it is researching your destination together or picking out a new swimsuit. The more involvement before the trip, the better!

7 Road Trip Tips

Road trips are a fun way to bond with your family and give children an opportunity to experience different places; however, they can also come with another set of challenges. With the help of the autism experts on our clinical team, we have compiled a variety of tips to help reduce some of that overwhelming road trip stress.

1. Start with small trips. Before leaving for an extended amount of time, try working your way up to a longer trip by taking a few day trips.

2. Map your route and mark off where you will stop ahead of time to avoid any surprises.

3. Assign Seating. If you have a car full of kids that tend to disagree on where to sit, try assigning seats to avoid any uncertainty, while still keeping in mind the needs of each child.

4. Snacks. Snacks are key in making sure everyone stays happy on the road. Make sure to pack plenty of snacks that you know your child likes. Also, bring along water or any other favorite drinks to keep everyone hydrated.

5. Entertainment. Most road trips tend to take up a good chunk of time, so it’s critical to have a variety of entertainment options for the ride. It’s always easy to pop in a few DVD’s, but if you are looking for something other than a movie, below is a list of items to consider packing for your road trip:

  • Coloring books
  • Playlist of songs you know your child likes to sing along to
  • Your child’s favorite books
  • iPad with some favorite games
  • Fidget spinner
  • Sensory bracelets/squeezable items
  • Card games
  • Silly puddy
  • Chewy sensory necklace
  • Stuffed animals and pillows

5. Take Frequent Breaks.  It is important to take frequent breaks for everyone involved in a road trip. Try planning your break around areas where your child can learn something new or run around to release some of that energy from sitting in the car, but more importantly, make sure there is a restroom!

6. Leave in the evening. If possible, try planning your road trip around an evening departure time – that way, most of the trip is spent with the children sleeping and limited traffic jams.

5 Flying Tips

Flying with a child on the Autism Spectrum may initially seem like a tall order, but planning ahead with these flying tips will help ensure the smoothest ride possible.

  1. Plan ahead

Call the airport prior to booking the trip to see if they provide assistance for kids with special needs. Some airports provide possible walkthroughs or special boarding accommodations.

2. Book a direct flight

Limit layovers to reduce the amount of transitions in getting on and off an airplane. This also helps dial back the amount of time spent around large crowds with loud sounds.

3. Seat selection

If possible, choose a seat closest to the front of the plane to reduce the time spent getting on and off the place. Also, consider which seating arrangement will be most comforting for your child – aisle seats offer easy bathroom breaks, middle seats can offer a seat in between two familiar faces when traveling in groups, and window seats offer spectacular views that children might enjoy.

4. Bulk row seating can offer extra space to make sure no other passengers are affected by any stimming activities. It’s also best to avoid the seats closest to the restrooms with the most passenger traffic.

5. TSA Pre-Check

Kids ages 12 and under who have a parent or guardian with TSA Pre-Check are able to accompany them through the TSA Pre-Check line. This limits the amount of undressing and helps families get through those large security lines quicker.

14 Top Autism-Friendly Vacation Destinations in the United States

It’s always challenging to pick a vacation destination that pleases all family members – especially when trying to select a place with limited crowds and an understanding staff. Below is a list of some different autism-friendly places to vacation with your family.

California

  • Shared Adventures–  Located in Santa Cruz, California, Shared Adventures offers an array of summer programs for special needs children and adults. Some of their programs include assisted kayaking, canoe rides, and scuba diving.

Colorado

  • Crested Butte Mountain Resort in the Rocky Mountains- The resort has trained staff who work with the Adaptive Sports Center. These experts have decades of experience working with children on the Autism Spectrum, allowing families to enjoy activities like skiing, snowboarding, hiking, water sports, and more.

Florida

  • Tradewinds Island Resorts in St. Petersburg Beach- Staff has been trained specifically to work with kids with special needs, and each visit is customized to the specific needs of each family.
  • Crowne Plaza in Tampa- Staff members undergo a special training to work with children with special needs, including ASD. There are many sensory friendly activities to do as a family.
  • Disney World– For some families, Disney World could be a challenging vacation destination if their child has difficulties with large crowds and noises. However, Disney World does offer a special pass for kids who have special needs – the Disney Disability Access (DAS) program. This pass allows families  to skip those long wait times via fast access lanes.

Massachusetts

  • Edaville Family Theme Park– Located in Carver, Massachusetts (about an hour outside of Boston), Edaville Family Theme Park offers an extremely inviting atmosphere for kiddos in the autism community. The railroad-themed park is equipped with a quiet room, fidget spinners, weighted blankets, and sensory toys to accommodate the needs of all guests.

New York

  • American Museum of Natural HistoryThe museum offers ‘Discovery Quad Tours’ for families with children on the autism spectrum. Tours are available on select Saturday mornings before the museum is open to the public. Registration is required, so be sure to call ahead of time.

Pennsylvania

  • Elmwood Park Zoo– In early May 2018, Elmwood Park Zoo became the first zoo in the world to become a Certified Autism Center. With trained staff, Elmwood Park Zoo has become an autism friendly destination year round as opposed to offering autism-friendly options here and there.

South Carolina

  • Surfside Beach– In 2016, Surfside Beach in South Carolina signed a proclamation to make the area the first autism-friendly travel destination. The beach offers events ranging from sensory-friendly movies to fishing lessons, as well as group events at restaurants.

Tennessee

  • Dollywood– Dollywood is dedicated to providing all guests with an enjoyable and inclusive environment. The theme park offers ride accessibility and park accessibility guides to help families plan their trips. The theme park also created a social story of what to expect when visiting, as well as a calming room to help guests get an escape from any sensory overload.

Texas

  • Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antonio, Texas- Morgan’s Wonderland is a safe waterpark that was built specifically for kids with all different kinds of special needs, including autism. The water park holds special events throughout the year starting after Memorial Day.
  • Lost Pines Spa and Resort– This resort, located in Austin, Texas, is the perfect quiet getaway for a family vacation. The resort has special accommodations for guests with special needs, and offers a variety of fun activities, including a lazy river, evening campfires, daily games, and more.

Utah

  • Splore– Located in the greater Salt Lake City area, as well as the Moab and Canyonlands area, Splore offers a wide variety of adaptive adventure programs, like canoeing, climbing, and snowshoeing. Splore also offers adaptive outdoor sports and education programs.

Virginia

  • Great Wolf Lodge– Located in Williamsburg, the Great Wolf Lodge is an inexpensive way to please everyone on the family vacation. There are tons of free sensory-friendly activities, along with plenty of food options that are sure to make everyone in the family happy. There are Great Wolf Lodge locations all over the United States in case a different location is more convenient for your family.

At the end of the day, you know your child better than anyone, so you may find that some of these tips might need to be modified. Try them out in your own way to see what works for you and your family. Most importantly, have fun!

National Resources on Autism

CDC: New Autism Data

CDC: Autism Facts

CDC: Research

CDC: Autism Spectrum Disorder

Tips for Holiday Travel

National Institutes of Mental Health: ASD

The Autism Society

Autism Society: Travel Tips

 

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18 Autism-Friendly Things to Do in Houston

2018 Autism Sleep Guide

Kid Sleeping

Sleep can be difficult at times for anyone and everyone, but individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are particularly vulnerable to having sleep issues. Both falling and staying asleep can prove troublesome for those on the spectrum.

In the recent years, researchers have been delving deeper into autism, gaining more insights about sleep’s role in ASD. The latest research findings and insights of autism experts led to the creation of our 2018 Autism Sleep Guide.

How common are sleep problems in individuals with autism?

According to a study published in the Journal of Pediatric Neurosciences, children with ASD suffer from sleep problems significantly more than typically developing children. The study found that up to 80 percent of kids with ASD experience issues with sleep, compared to just 10 to 16 percent of kids in the general population.

What kind of sleep problems?

Parent reports recorded in a review by a doctorate-level practitioner indicated that insomnia was the most common sleep issue experienced by children with ASD – 56 percent of the study sample was affected by longer-than-average time trying to fall asleep and frequently waking up throughout the night.

Sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing repeatedly starts and stops, was also commonly seen in those with autism. Sleep apnea is characterized by a lack of oxygen to the brain. This can be particularly problematic for young children during such a critical period of brain development.

REM sleep is essential for the executive brain functions associated with learning and retaining memories. Scientists have found that, on average, individuals with ASD only spend about 15 percent of their sleep-time in REM sleep. To compare, typically developing children spend about 23 percent of sleep-time in REM sleep.

What are the implications of poor sleep?

Poor sleep can take its toll on anyone. For those with autism, poor sleep can aggravate certain characteristics associated with ASD, like repetitive behaviors. This increase in repetitive behaviors can then make it more difficult to fall asleep, perpetuating the poor sleep cycle.

Children on the spectrum often struggle with meltdowns and temper tantrums as well. Tossing and turning all night can negatively impact mood and ability to regulate emotions.

Are there any treatments for autism-related sleep issues?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved certain insomnia medications for adults on the spectrum, but strong pharmaceuticals aren’t the best option for young children. Instead, research has shown that melatonin supplements can offer a safer alternative, though it’s always best to consult with a pediatrician first.

In some cases, it can be as simple as establishing a routine: implement a specific order of activities leading up to bedtime. Other factors like temperature and lighting in the bedroom can also play a role.

In conclusion, better sleep won’t cure ASD, but it can help ease the symptoms and behaviors that go hand-in-hand with autism.

 

Expert Tips for Helping a Child with Autism Get a Good Night’s Sleep:

According to research and the decades-worth of experience of our Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs), there are a number of bedtime tips worth trying out with a child on the autism spectrum.

  1. Avoid giving a child anything with caffeine or sugar before bedtime.
  2. Avoid excessive liquids in the evenings.
  3. Establish a bedtime routine with the activities that best help your child relax. Maybe it’s bath time followed by reading a book in bed and lights off at 8 p.m. Different bedtime activities may work better for different children, but it’s important to establish a routine and stick with it.
  4. Encourage relaxation with soft music, reading a book, or a back rub.
  5. At least an hour before bedtime, unplug from all stimulating activities like video games or television.
  6. Stay consistent with nap time during the day and wake time in the morning.
  7. Make sure exercise is incorporated into the child’s daily routine. The more energy is spent during the day, the easier it will be to fall asleep.
  8. Make sure room temperature and lighting are at comfortable levels.
  9. Reduce the chance of sensory distractions: get thick curtains to block out light, take care of creaky doors, and install carpeting in areas the child can hear people walking around.
  10. Talk to a pediatrician about melatonin supplements if natural nighttime remedies don’t seem to be making a difference.

 

National Resources:

 

If you found our Autism Sleep Guide useful, check out our Autism Anti-Bullying Guide.

100 Things to Know About Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2018

  1. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) represents a group of developmental disorders: autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and childhood disintegrative disorder.
  2. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 68 individuals are affected by ASD.
  3. Autism Spectrum Disorders can be diagnosed as early as 18 months to 2 years of age.
  4. Although reliable diagnoses can be given at 18 months to 2 years, the average child isn’t diagnosed with autism until 4 years of age.
  5. Scientists are discovering more innovative ways to diagnose autism. In 2017, a team of researchers were able to use brain scans and artificial intelligence to predict which 6-month old infants would go on to be diagnosed with ASD. Impressively, they performed at a 96 percent accuracy rate.
  6. No case of autism is exactly the same as another. Each person on the Spectrum is a unique individual.
  7. People of all races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic groups are affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  8. Individuals on the Autism Spectrum range from having very mild symptoms to very severe developmental delays.
  9. Autism is about 4.5 more common in males – data shows that 1 in 42 boys have autism compared to 1 in 189 girls.
  10. New Jersey has the highest rate of autism in the U.S., with 1 in 28 boys being affected.
  11. In autism terminology, milder cases of the disorder are said to be in “high functioning” individuals while more severe cases are said to be in “low functioning” individuals.
  12. Autistic disorder typically describes those who are on the “low functioning” end of the Spectrum.
  13. Individuals with autistic disorder often struggle with severe deficits in speech, communication, social skills, motor functioning, and adaptive skills.
  14. Adaptive skills are the practical, day-to-day skills needed to live independently: bathing, getting dressed, brushing teeth, feeding oneself, and more.
  15. Asperger’s syndrome typically describes those who are on the “high functioning” end of the Spectrum.
  16. Children and adults with Asperger’s syndrome commonly struggle with social interactions or restricted interests, but don’t usually have difficulties with language or cognitive development.
  17. Sometimes referred to as ‘atypical autism,’ PDD-NOS is often thought of as being in between Asperger’s syndrome and autistic disorder. It’s common for those with PDD-NOS to struggle with communication, social behavior, and repetitive movements.
  18. Childhood disintegrative disorder, also known as disintegrative psychosis, is the rarest of the Spectrum disorders. It’s characterized by severe development deficits, often in children who were developing normally but then quickly regressed between ages two and four.
  19. These disorders were all placed under the umbrella term of Autism Spectrum Disorder in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).
  20. Restrictive and repetitive behaviors are a common sign of ASD. These might include hand flapping, rocking back and forth, and fixations on certain objects.
  21. It’s common for individuals on the Spectrum to have difficulties with language or be completely nonverbal.
  22. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder might show typical language development and then quickly lose their ability to speak in words or phrases. This is called regression.
  23. Many children who are nonverbal at the age of four go on to overcome their severe language delays, according to a large study of 535 nonverbal children with autism.
  24. Children with autism often struggle with transitions. A slight change in routine can lead to meltdowns or temper tantrums.
  25. Echolalia describes a behavior involving repetition of words or phrases. It’s a common sign of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  26. Children on the Autism Spectrum often avoid eye contact.
  27. Some children with autism may engage in aggressive or self-injurious behaviors, like head banging against walls or floors when upset.
  28. Sensory sensitivities to lights, sounds, and textures are commonly seen among those with autism.
  29. Many people with autism are extremely gifted in certain areas, like mathematics, music, or art.
  30. Micah Miner, a young gymnast with autism, is a prime example of this. By the time he was nine years old, Micah competed in the gymnastics National Championship for the third time.
  31. Epilepsy is common among individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, seen in up to a third of the autism population.
  32. April is Autism Awareness Month.
  33. Back in 2007, the United Nations named April 2nd as international Autism Awareness Day.
  34. To help raise autism awareness, Autism Speaks launched the Light It Up Blue campaign.
  35. To show support for autism, landmarks like the White House, the Empire State Building, the Great Pyramid of Giza and more will light up blue on April 2nd.
  36. There’s no single cause of autism.
  37. Some of the high-risk factors for autism include genes and genetic mutations, chromosomal conditions, family factors, environmental influences, prenatal influences, and birth complications.
  38. There are treatments that can help ease the symptoms of ASD, but there is no cure for autism.
  39. Applied Behavior Analysis therapy is the leading treatment option for young children on the Spectrum.
  40. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) involves figuring out the motivation behind certain behaviors, and then applying this to reduce undesirable behaviors and increase positive ones.
  41. Decades worth of scientific research shows that ABA therapy is effective at helping children with autism make significant strides to overcome their developmental delays.
  42. One of the main techniques used in ABA is DTT (discrete trial training). Basically, DTT breaks down tasks into small components. Children build up skills by tackling each smaller component one-by-one.
  43. Another main technique used in ABA is NET (natural environment training). Children might work on many of the same goals as in DTT, but in a more natural play environment.
  44. Generalization is a common term used in ABA to describe a child’s ability to naturally implement behaviors and skillsets in a variety of settings.
  45. ABA therapy is endorsed by the U.S. Surgeon General, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the Autism Society of America.
  46. The earlier ABA therapy is started, the better the outcome. Children who start receiving ABA therapy at 2 years old make more significant changes than those who start ABA at later ages, according to research.
  47. Ole Ivar Lovaas is known as the pioneer of Applied Behavior Analysis.
  48. ABA therapy used to be seen as controversial due to aversive therapy techniques. However, nowadays, there are no aversive procedures used in ABA.
  49. ABA therapy focuses largely on positive reinforcements. ABA therapists will reinforce desirable behaviors with a child’s favorite toys, snacks, and social praise.
  50. ABA therapy is an all-encompassing approach to overcoming the deficits associated with autism. Target areas of ABA therapy include speech, nonverbal communication, social skills, play skills, adaptive skills, toilet training, food therapy, and much more.
  51. Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) are Master’s level health practitioners. They create the child-specific treatment plans implemented in ABA therapy centers.
  52. ABA therapists provide one-on-one therapy for children in ABA autism facilities.
  53. Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) are ABA therapists who have gone on to complete 40 hours of training and pass the RBT exam.
  54. Other autism therapies include speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, art therapy, and music therapy.
  55. There is currently no scientifically proven link between autism and vaccines.
  56. Individuals with autism are particularly vulnerable to being bullied. Studies have found that over 60 percent of children on the Spectrum have experienced bullying.
  57. Data shows that the most severe bullying tends to occur among children in 5th to 8th
  58. There are a number of tips recommended by autism experts to help a child on the Spectrum who is being bullied, including identifying emotions and creating bully-proofing plans. See them here.
  59. Unemployment rates are a big issue in the autism community. A report out of the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute found that a third of young adults with autism didn’t have a job or educational plans.
  60. Integrate Autism Employment Advisors is a program that helps adults on the Spectrum lock down jobs through job coaching boot camps and networking opportunities. The organization also reaches out to employers to encourage more hiring of autistic individuals.
  61. Rett’s Syndrome is often confused with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Rett’s Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that mainly affects girls, is characterized by a rapid loss of speech, coordination, and use of the hands.
  62. Research has shown that parental interactions with babies can ease the signs of autism as the baby progresses to toddler age.
  63. Temple Grandin, one of the most prominent voices in the autism community, didn’t speak until she was three and a half years old.
  64. Temple Grandin went on to become an author and speaker on autism and animal behavior, as well as a professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. Many people view her as showing the world the true potential of those on the Spectrum.
  65. Temple Grandin has inspired many with her well-known quote, “Different, Not Less.”
  66. Some other well-known people considered to be on the Spectrum include Susan Boyle, John Elder Robinson, Daryl Hannah, and Andy Warhol.
  67. Technology can be a huge help for individuals with autism who struggle with communication. There are a number of iPad apps designed to help nonverbal children communicate their wants and needs.
  68. There are also daily scheduling apps for iPads to help ease the anxiety associated with transitions.
  69. Some common autism assessments for an autism diagnosis include M-CHAT (Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers), CARS (Childhood Autism Rating Scale), ASQ (Ages and Stages Questionnaire), and ADOS-2 (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule – 2nd edition).
  70. The ADOS-2 is largely seen as the gold standard of diagnostic assessments for autism.
  71. Autism Spectrum Disorder can be diagnosed by developmental pediatricians, pediatricians, neurologists, and psychologists.
  72. Autism is becoming more included in pop culture, with shows like Atypical and The Good Doctor making their ways to Netflix and ABC.
  73. In April of 2017, Sesame Street debuted Julia: a new four-year-old character with autism. The goal was to familiarize children with the differences they might notice in their classmates who have autism – and to know that different is okay.
  74. Some people believe that autism is the result of bad parenting or child neglect. This is not the case.
  75. It’s common for children with ASD to only like eating two or three foods. Therapists can work through a slow process of introducing new textures and foods to build up to a more nutritious diet.
  76. The autism community has a strong online presence. Many parents, therapists, and individuals on the Spectrum run blogs to educate and connect with others. Check out some of the most outstanding autism blogs here.
  77. Weighted blankets can be an anxiety-reducer for some kiddos on the Spectrum. Weighted blankets provide a gentle pressure that eases the sensory issues associated with ASD.
  78. Sensory swings provide a number of benefits. They can encourage motor planning, balance, and core stability.
  79. The largest-ever study on twins and autism found that if one identical twin has autism, there is a 76 percent chance that the other identical twin will also have autism
  80. The same twins study found that same-sex fraternal twins have a 34 percent chance of both having an autism diagnosis, while opposite-sex fraternal twins share an 18 percent chance of Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  81. Autism was first described by Dr. Leo Kanner in 1943.
  82. Reporting on 11 children, Dr. Kanner’s initial observations on autism described the children as having “a powerful desire for aloneness” and “an obsessive insistence on persistent sameness.”
  83. Before Dr. Kanner’s work, autism was often confused with schizophrenia.
  84. Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disorder. The prevalence of ASD in children increased by 119.4 percent from 2000 to 2010.
  85. In 2014, researchers identified a whopping 60 genes with more than a 90 percent chance of increasing the risk for autism in a child. Previously, just 11 genes had been linked with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  86. Just last year (2017), an analysis published in Nature Neuroscience identified 18 new genes linked with autism.
  87. In September 2018, the National Institutes of Health awarded nine research grants to the Autism Centers of Excellence (ACE) program. The grants totaled nearly $100 million.
  88. The nine research grants will delve into improving autism treatments, identifying the early signs of autism by studying social interaction, how autism differs between girls and boys, and more.
  89. The Autism Science Foundation (ASF) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to further scientific research on Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  90. ASF provides funding and other resources/assistance to organizations and scientists conducting autism research.
  91. Many top colleges and universities offer degree programs in Applied Behavior Analysis. Some of the best ABA programs can be seen in this list.
  92. There are a number of books on autism that have made the New York Times Best-Seller List, including Look Me in the Eyes by John Elder Robison and The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida.
  93. Jordan Keller, a 12-year-old on the Spectrum, published a book called Jumbled Pieces: Autism. His mission is to help others understand what it’s like to grow up with autism.
  94. Insurance oftentimes covers the majority of the cost for ABA therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy.
  95. Unfortunately, in some states, Medicaid provides no coverage for ABA therapy. This leaves many families in need of autism services with little to no options.
  96. Congress passed the ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) act in 2014.
  97. Under the ABLE act, individuals with disabilities are given the opportunity to open tax-free savings accounts without risking eligibility for Social Security and other government programs.
  98. Many children sit on waitlists to see a developmental pediatrician for 9 months or more. This delays the start of therapy and can significantly hurt a child’s ability to overcome developmental deficits.
  99. Waitlists are also an issue at many ABA centers.
  100. People on the autism spectrum are extraordinary, gifted, and loving human beings!

Top 35 Autism Blogs in 2018

News, scientific research, and education on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are constantly evolving. Online autism blogs are a perfect venue for staying up-to-date on all things autism.

The online autism community continues to flourish as more parents, teachers, and autism therapists create blogs to share their experiences. Many individuals who are on the autism spectrum themselves have also taken to the Internet to share their journeys with others.

Action Behavior Centers, a chain of Texas-based therapy providers for young children on the Spectrum, actively tries to raise autism awareness and educate both local and online communities on ASD.

After spending some time over the last year connecting with people from all over the world in the autism community, the ABC team has put together a list of some of the top influencers in the online autism world (in no particular order).

Top 35 Autism Blogs in 2018: 

The Autism Dad

People often think of parent blogs being dominated by the moms out there, but Rob Gorski, father of three boys with autism and other special needs, runs one of the most honest and heartening autism blogs on our list. Rob shares his experiences – the good, the bad, and the ugly – with raising his three boys as he figures out how “to do a job that sometimes requires superhuman abilities.” With over three million website visits from readers all over the world, The Autism Dad is well-respected in the autism community.

Autism Mom

Elizabeth Barnes, mom to the Navigator (the online alias for her son who is on the autism spectrum), left her full-time travel job to make sure she could provide her son with the support he needs. Her Autism Mom blog features articles with a variety of tips, resources, and personal experiences to help others along on their own journeys with ASD.

Autism Tank

Autism Tank is a blog run by Hailey, a teacher and Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with years of experience working with kids with special needs. She posts lessons, resources, and tools to help educate others on autism and how to help kids with autism succeed.

30 Days of Autism

Leah Kelley is affected by autism in both her family life and career. As a K-12 Inclusion Resource Teacher and a mother with a son on the Autism Spectrum, she is a major advocate of autism acceptance and actively speaks at educational seminars and conferences. 30 Days of Autism offers many valuable resources, poems, and personal experiences with ASD.

Finding Cooper’s Voice

Finding Cooper’s Voice, run by Cooper’s mom, Kate Swenson, details the journey of parenting a young child with severe, nonverbal autism. Kate has a knack for creating content that truly speaks to people, with multiple viral videos and posts – one even crowning her the winner of a Jimmy Kimmel video challenge. Check out Finding Cooper’s Voice for an honest picture of what it’s like to raise a child with autism, joys and heartbreaks included.

Autism with a Side of Fries

Eileen Shaklee’s Autism with a Side of Fries blog has garnered nearly 800 followers and over two million page views. “Autism is a trip I didn’t plan on, but I sure do love my tour guide,” she writes of her son. Eileen writes with a laid-back, relatable voice (expect jokes and curse words from time to time). She keeps it real.

Just a Lil Blog

Jim Walter, one of the rarer dad bloggers out there, shares “the true life adventures of an autistic little girl, and her big sister.” Jim makes his Just a Lil Blog fun and humorous with the unique addition of creating his own Memes! Our personal favorite is The Pizza Spectrum Meme. Check them all out here.

Embracing the Spectrum

Run by husband-wife team Teresa and “The Manager,” Embracing the Spectrum covers the day-to-day achievements and struggles of those affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder. “From my perspective, a child’s diagnosis of autism does not necessitate devastating thoughts, nor does it negate a child’s potential,” Teresa writes. The blog welcomes contributions from guest bloggers to compile tips and experiences from all over.

I Love ABA

I Love ABA is a blog full of anything and everything related to Applied Behavior Analysis: tips, lesson plans, free resources, an ABA glossary, and autism red flags. Tameika Meadows, the BCBA who started the blog back in 2011, strives to share the ins and outs of ABA in a way that is “non-intimidating and simple to grasp” for anyone willing to learn.

Spectrum Mum

All the way across the pond, English blogger Catie gives readers “A Glimpse Into Our Autism” with a series of blog posts and weekly photos. Catie’s blog covers many important areas in the special needs community, from tips on plane travel and holiday trips to explaining autism to siblings. She encourages her readers to tell their own stories “because your voice is important and your story is unique.”

Friendship Circle

Friendship Circle is a non-profit organization that provides support to over 3,000 individuals with special needs. The Friendship Circle editorial team maintains its blog with the added support of guest bloggers. From therapy tips and parenting tips to expert-recommended products, books, and lessons, Friendship Circle’s blog is an all-encompassing resource for families in the special needs community.

This Outnumbered Mama

Kaylene G., homeschooling mama to three kiddos (two with special needs) and another on the way, was completely overwhelmed when her children were first diagnosed with special needs. “I held onto the words of my favorite bloggers to get me through the major transitions and to feel like I wasn’t so alone,” she writes. “That’s why I started blogging.” On This Outnumbered Mama, she blogs about parenting, special needs, and homeschooling.

Atypical Familia

Lisa Quinones-Fontanez became a prominent blogger in the autism community with her award-winning blog, AutismWonderland. In 2014, she decided to start her current blog, Atypical Familia, since she no longer felt like “Alice” lost in Autism Wonderland. Autism is still a big part of her life, and she is working on a memoir to document her experience as an autism mom in the Bronx, New York.

Faith Hope Love Autism

Lisa Reyes created the Faith Hope Love Autism blog to offer the world writing from the perspective of someone actually on the autism spectrum – her son Philip. Philip writes about his life experiences, poetry, and answers questions submitted by readers. The blog offers a wonderful firsthand perspective of an individual on the spectrum.

Embracing Imperfect

Embracing Imperfect, owned by Gina Badalaty, takes readers through the ins and outs of raising girls with autism – a disorder that is much more prominent in males. In addition to parenting tips, autism resources, and advice on coping with an autism diagnosis, Embracing Imperfect offers content on healthy eating, family travel, and tech & play.

Autism Adventures

Melissa has taught moderate to severe special education classes for years. Her blog, Autism Adventures, outlines academics, behavior basics, communication, and all of the techniques she uses to be successful in her special needs classroom. One of our favorite posts is her Calm Down Kit, which helps kiddos work through their emotions on the more frustrating days.

Autism and Oughtisms

Way over in New Zealand, Linda, mother of two sons on the autism spectrum, runs the Autism and Oughtisms blog. Her message is simple – autism parents must let go of what they “ought” to do as parents and, instead, find what works for their child. Each child on the spectrum is unique, and there’s no “one size fits all” approach to parenting.

Stories About Autism

Meet James: autism blogger, business owner, and dad to Jude and Thomas. Part of why he started his blog was to become the best parent he could be, as well as wanting to help out others in the same boat and spread autism awareness. Stories About Autism is full of honesty and cute photos – what more could you want?

Awesomism Mom

Lynne, mom to Peyton, an 18-year-old on the spectrum, loves using her blog as an outlet to connect with other autism parents. Since Peyton is 18 years old, Lynne has worked through many of the struggles that parents to newly diagnosed children have millions of questions about. Amazingly, Lynne is also launching the Awesomism Quilt Tour to help spread the world about the high unemployment rate for autistic teens and adults.

Raising Autistic Kids

Writing under the pseudonym of Kate M., San Diego-based mom started the Raising Autistic Kids blog after leaving her corporate lifestyle to have more time to raise her son. On parenting, she writes “I’ve had twelve years of practice, I’m still a rookie mom because with ASD children, the milestones don’t apply.” Raising Autistic Kids is also sustained by plenty of volunteer guest bloggers.

The Autism Vault

The Autism Vault is a wonderful resource for teachers working with students with autism. Liz, a Special Education teacher and BCBA from New York City, helps readers understand ABA and how to run a successful special education classroom. Liz believes “any special education teacher can make a difference with a little ingenuity and behavioral science.”

The Art of Autism

The Art of Autism is a space for all individuals in the autism community to connect with others through art, poetry, writing, video content, and music. The organization’s vision is to “foster independence, self-esteem and artistic expression.” The Art of Autism certainly brings a bit of color and beauty to the online autism world.

The Mom Kind

Alicia Trautwein feels her life’s purpose is to bring awareness to autism and teach neurodiversity. She enlightens her readers about ASD and neurodiversity, with the added benefit of a free autism parenting resource library. Plus, if anyone’s looking for posts on recipes, homemaking, and saving money, Alicia’s got it covered.

The Journey Through Autism

The Journey Through Autism is one of the most special autism blogs on our list since it’s actually written from the perspective of someone on the autism spectrum. Teenager Ethan Hirschberg was diagnosed with high functioning Autism at the age of two, and says his diagnosis has not kept him from reaching his goals. Ethan aspires to go to an Ivy league college and dedicate his career to being a special education attorney or BCBA.

The Sensory Spectrum

The Sensory Spectrum is the go-to place for all things related to the senses: sensory toys, books, fine and gross motor tools, auditory tools, and feeding tools. The mom behind the Sensory Spectrum, Jennifer, has two kiddos with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Exhausted from scouring the Internet for sensory resources, she decided to create an all-encompassing resource herself.

Running Through Water

Jaycee Kemp, social worker and mom of two sons with varying levels of developmental disability, maintains the Running Through Water blog. Jaycee takes her readers through the A-Zs of Autism – Coping and Haircuts to Pediatricians and Therapists. She also provides a list of personally recommended resources in the special needs community.

Full Spectrum Mama

Full Spectrum Mama is a colorful blog representing a “Colorful Family.” Full Spectrum Mama writes in a refreshingly honest style with beautiful rainbow illustrations that accompany her posts. It’s one of the most unique autism blogs on our list.

The Never-Empty Nest

Marguerite Elisofon doubles as an author and mom to Samantha, a young adult on the autism spectrum. Samantha’s diagnosis has not kept her from achieving great things – in fact, she earned a nomination for best actress at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. Marguerite publishes weekly blog posts, many of which zero in on the unique issues of adult women with autism.

Teach Love Autism

On Teach Love Autism, Jenn shares tips on creating schedules, work tasks, and anything that she’s had success with in her own classroom. She makes autism teaching products available for readers, including task cards, worksheets, and visual charts.

Bacon and Juiceboxes

Meet the “Bacon” family: Mr. Bacon (Jerry), Mrs. Bacon (Jo-Ann), Sister Bacon (Anna), and “the star of the show” – Eric. Mr. Bacon is a Police Captain and actively works to bridge the gap between police and individuals on the autism spectrum. In fact, Bacon and Juiceboxes hosts a free webinar on the 7 things first responders want people with ASD to know.

Autistic Not Weird

Chris Bonnello, also known as Captain Quirk, is a former primary school teacher turned to professional writer and speaker on autism issues. He’s on the spectrum himself, but wasn’t diagnosed with Asperger’s until the age of 25. He encourages everyone else on the spectrum to see themselves for their strengths rather than their weaknesses.

All About Boog

Amanda shares her experience of parenting “Boog,” her son who is on the autism spectrum. To those wondering what autism really means, she clarifies “It simply means he is a bright, loving, energetic little boy who happens to be on his own path when it comes to development.” She helps spread knowledge on ASD, language delays, therapies, and more.

The AWEnesty of Autism

PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) is one of the diagnoses under the Autism Spectrum umbrella. Kate’s son Ryan was diagnosed with PDD-NOS at age 6, and Kate writes, “Most days I’m in awe of autism and the hold it has over the inner workings of my son’s mind.” Her blog shares the experiences of her family’s journey through the world of autism.

Dr. Mary Barbera’s Blog

Dr. Mary Barbera, a BCBA and mother to a son with autism, is a huge advocate of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy to help children on the spectrum reach their fullest potentials. Her blog is full of valuable information about ABA therapy, with the added personal touch of video blog lessons she creates herself.

Support for Special Needs

Julia Roberts and Dawn Friedman co-founded Support for Special Needs, which produces a wide variety of content on special needs, health, relationships, food, crafts, and DIY projects. Support for Special Needs acts as a medium for exchanging “wisdom and ideas among one of the most powerful group of people we know.”

 

Blog winners – feel free to share the distinction on your blogs with the code below!

Action Behavior Centers

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Autism Anti-Bullying Guide

Facts and Statistics

Bullying can affect children, teens, and adults of all walks of life. Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), however, can be particularly vulnerable to bullying.

In fact, the Interactive Autism Network (IAN) conducted a large survey of nearly 1,200 children with ASD (ages 6 to 15), finding that an overwhelming 63 percent of the sample had experienced bullying.

Bullying occurs among children in all grade levels, but the data showed the most severe bullying tends to affect those in 5th to 8th grade.

The researchers also talked with parents about common behaviors associated with ASD to see whether certain behaviors correlated more strongly with bullying. According to the results, the behaviors most closely linked with bullying were:

  • Poor hygiene
  • Frequent meltdowns
  • Rigidly sticking to rules – i.e. enforcing adult-made rules that most other children wouldn’t
  • Inflexibility or rigidity
  • Continuing to talk about favorite topics when others are visibly bored or annoyed
  • Clumsiness

Effects of Bullying on Children with Autism

The Network of Autism Training and Technical Assistance Programs (NATTAP) published an article on bullying and students on the autism spectrum. Some of the effects of bullying detailed in the report include:

  • Lowered self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Hesitancy or refusal to attend school
  • Fear
  • Emotionally sensitive behavior
  • Changes in diet or sleeping patterns
  • Decline in academic performance
  • Isolation
  • Inability to concentrate

Expert Tips

If a parent suspects their child might be dealing with bullying at school, it can be challenging to figure out what first steps to take. The Board-Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) – Master’s level clinicians with decades of experience with children with autism –  at Action Behavior Centers have some anti-bullying tips to share.

  1. Identifying emotions

First and foremost, it’s important for children on the spectrum to identify how the actions of their peers have made them feel. Sad? Frustrated? Angry? Confused? Embarrassed?

Many children with autism struggle with emotional regulation, so a critical first step in handling bullying is to talk through whatever may have happened at school or on the playground and help children pinpoint their emotional responses.

  1. Discussing facial expressions, body language and bullying tactics

Alongside difficulty with identifying and understanding emotions, children with autism may struggle with understanding bullying or that it’s even happening to them.

First, talk about what bullying is and some of its common forms: name calling, making fun of how someone looks or talks, stealing lunch money, pushing, hitting, spitting, spreading lies and rumors about someone, and cyber bulling through text messages or the Internet.

Discuss the facial expressions and body language that commonly hint that bullying might be taking place – scornful or condescending facial expressions, pointing and laughing with other friends, or physical aggression, to name a few.

Since many children on the spectrum have social deficits, it’s valuable to help them understand the social cues that could point to bullying.

  1. Self-reporting

The next step is to encourage self-reporting. Bullying can’t be addressed if a child internalizes everything instead of telling a parent, teacher, or caregiver that something hurtful occurred.

  1. Ask for a copy of your child’s school’s bullying policy

Since bullying laws vary from state to state, schools will have different anti-bullying policies in place. Ask for a copy of the anti-bullying policies at your child’s school. An important part of this process is being aware of how your child’s school deals with bullies and the rights of children who have been victimized.

  1. Figure out where to report bullying

Bullying can’t be stopped if it goes unreported. Find out who handles bullying cases at your child’s school in case you ever need to report an incident. Getting disciplinary action from a school or a bully’s parent can deter future incidents from occurring.

  1. Create a bully-proofing plan

Talk to your child about handling bullies in a cool and collected way. Perhaps a firm “Stop doing that!” and walking towards an adult could do the trick. For a bit more discretion, coordinate with your child’s teachers and set up a private code word or gesture to signal that bullying or an uncomfortable situation is going on.

Consider designating a ‘safe adult’ or ‘safe space’ that your child can always go to at school to escape bullying.

  1. Autism awareness and acceptance

Urge parents of typically developing children to talk to their children about autism. Having a better understanding of the quirks and behaviors that come along with autism might help children better understand and accept their peers for their differences rather than poke fun or bully.

National Resources