Top 25 Autism-Friendly Holiday Events in Central Texas in 2018

There are plenty of autism-friendly businesses and events in Central Texas for families in the special needs community. Action Behavior Centers’ team has compiled a list of the top 25 organizations and events to enjoy this holiday season, all of which accommodate children of all developmental levels and provide fun for the entire family.

Organizations

As awareness for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) continues to increase, more and more businesses are accommodating the special needs community with sensory-friendly events and environments. For longtime residents of the Central Texas area, new residents, or visitors, below are a list of companies that go above and beyond to welcome children of all abilities.

Movie Outings

Some children on the Autism Spectrum may find traditional movie theater environments to be challenging due to the loud noises, lighting, and crowds. These theaters offer a flexible viewing environment so that children with special needs are as comfortable as possible. Families can head out to enjoy the holiday classics and new movie releases in a fun, safe space. 

AMC offers a family-friendly sensory film program every second and fourth Saturday of each month. Enjoy a movie the whole family will love with the lights turned up and the volume turned down, as well as the freedom to move around and sing along.

The Alamo Drafthouse always encourages guests to avoid showing up late and using personal devices during a film. However, the theater designated special times for movie goers in need of a sensory-friendly environment. “Alamo for All” events are offered at all Austin locations, where the lights are turned up and the sound is lowered. Children are free to talk and move around as much as they need and are able to use all necessary adaptive technology. Alamo for All is offered every Tuesday before 2pm.

Museums & Exhibits

Museums and exhibits are a great way for children with autism to interact with peers, experience new things, and learn.

The Thinkery Children’s Museum hosts sensory-friendly hours with an interactive experience catered to those with ASD. The Thinkery understands that large crowds and an abundance of stimuli can be overwhelming, so there are limited ticket sales for the sensory-friendly events to reduce crowds and overstimulation. The Thinkery Children’s Museum works hard to ensure every child feels at home when they enter their doors. In fact, the museum has even created its very own Sensory Friendly Pre-Visit Guide.

For children that learn best with hands-on experiences and limited crowds, the Austin Aquarium is a great place to encounter wildlife up close.  The staff at the Austin Aquarium strives to make every visit worthwhile, which is why they encourage those of all abilities to interact with and ask questions about the animals. The aquarium not only houses aquatic life, but also other animals like birds and snakes.

Places to Play

Mt. Playmore gives children and families of all abilities the opportunity to experience the largest indoor playscape in Central Texas! With less stimuli and music from the arcade area turned completely off, children with sensory sensitivities can enjoy the playscape without getting overstimulated. Quiet hours are offered on the third Saturday of every month from 9 am – 10 am.

On the first Saturday of each month, Jump Street opens its doors an hour and a half early for children and families with special needs. This sensory-friendly time is open to all ages, and parents are welcome to participate as well. The fun doesn’t have to stop there – families are welcome to stay after special hours when the doors officially open to the public at 10am. Cost ranges from $4 – $8 depending on the child’s age.

We Rock the Spectrum’s indoor playground caters specifically to individuals with autism but is inclusive to children of all abilities. The playground includes a fine motor arts and crafts area, as well as sensory-based toys and a variety of suspended swings. We Rock the Spectrum is committed to providing a safe, enjoyable environment for all kids.

Music and Visual Arts

Zach Theatre hosts certain shows that cater specifically to those with autism. The theatre accommodates a special needs audience by adjusting the lighting and sound, as well as providing spaced seating to ensure families have enough personal space to enjoy the show.  During the shows, Zach Theatre allows guests to move around freely, take breaks, and talk if needed. Prior to the show, Zach Theatre provides families with detailed information outlining what to expect upon arrival.

Joshua’s Stage, a performance center, supports children with a wide range of special needs, ages 3 to 18 years old. Joshua’s Stage works hard to foster creativity by providing a variety of classes, workshops, camps, performances, and theater arts exhibits. The center also teaches dance, digital photography, and even film making.

Buda Library has partnered with My Munchkin Music to offer free music classes for families who have children with autism, ages 5 and under. The class is designed to develop communication skills between children and their families, as well as spontaneous peer interaction. My Munchkin Music class also works on developing fine and gross motor skills through play with music. Classes are held on the first Saturday of each month.

Places to Stay

At the Wyndham Garden Hotel in Austin, there are special hotel rooms designed specifically for families who have children with autism. Families can feel extra safe knowing that the hotel’s ‘Thoughtful Rooms’ are free of toxins and chemical cleaners. Each room is also stocked full of games, special snacks, and safety features, like door alarms that will sound if the door is being opened. When making arrangements through the hotel, families will be sent a story book of what the hotel looks like and what to expect upon arrival.

Top 14 Fun Holiday Events in 2018 in Central Texas 

Little Maker Workshop

When: Every Wednesday and Saturday, starting November 21, from 11:00am-11:30am

Where: The DoSeum

2800 Broadway

San Antonio, Texas 78209

Drop in at the DoSeum and enjoy the museum’s Little Maker Workshop. The workshop includes tinkering with stimuli as well as giving children the space they need to be as creative or process oriented as they need. This is a time for kids of all abilities to explore their creative sides.

Santa’s Ranch

When: November 2nd – December 30th

Where: New Braunfels, TX

Just south of Austin on I-35 in New Braunfels, experience over 1 million lights and 100 animations at Santa’s Ranch, a drive-through light show. This event is perfect for kids on the Spectrum who enjoy viewing colorful lights from the familiarity of their family’s own car.

Turkey Camp

When: November 19-21 (Monday-Wednesday), 9:00am-12:00pm

Where: We Rock the Spectrum

Turkey Camp is a fun, sensory-friendly, event with Thanksgiving themed crafts. We Rock the Spectrum will provide snacks, games, and social skills activities for children ages 3-12. Pre-registration is required and has sold out in the past, so sign up quickly!

Ice Skating

When: November 24th – January 15th

Where: Whole Foods on South Lamar

Enjoy ice-skating on top of the original Whole Foods near downtown Austin. The rink is small and easy to manage with little ones. Soft lights line the rink with holiday music provided by a local radio station. This easy-to-navigate space is ideal for families looking for an outing without the risk of overly large crowds or overwhelming environments. The rink will be open daily this winter season, beginning November 24th through January 15th.

Christmas at the Mayborn Museum Complex

When: Thursday November 29, 4:30pm -7:30pm

Where: Mayborn Museum Complex Center – Waco, TX

Come enjoy holiday festivities at the Mayborn on Baylor University Campus. Kids will be able to view a fun train display presented by the Central Texas Area Model Railroaders. Children will also have the opportunity to participate in tinkering with a Makey Makey Christmas tree and holiday themed circuit blocks.

Santa in the Garden

When: Saturday December 1st, 10:00am – 2:00pm

Where: Zilker Botanical Garden

Skip the long, loud lines at the mall and come meet Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Zilker Botanical Gardens. Kids and families can enjoy the relaxed atmosphere while also taking in the beauty of the gardens at Zilker.

Sensitive Santa

When: December 2, 9:00am-11:00am

Where: Rolling Oaks Mall

6909 N Loop 1604 East, San Antonio, TX, 78247

Rolling Oaks Mall in San Antonio offers an annual sensitive Santa experience for children with Autism. It’s a great opportunity for children and families to experience a Santa meet and greet without the added chaos of crowds. There will also be sensory activities provided for extra entertainment.

Caring Santa

When: Sunday December 2nd

Where: Barton Creek Square & Lakeline Mall

A typical ‘meet and greet’ with Santa at the mall might be overwhelming or overstimulating for children with ASD. Instead, families in the special needs community can enjoy The Caring Santa on December 2nd. This event is free with a private photo experience secluded from the main crowds, so the experience remains relatively quiet and lowkey.

Magik Theatre

When: December 8, 10:30am

Where: 420 South Alamo, San Antonio, TX, 78205

The Magik Theatre will offer a sensory friendly performance of Mr. Popper’s Penguins for guests with ASD and other cognitive disabilities. The theater lights will turn the lights up and the sound volume down so children with sensory sensitivities can enjoy the show.  Families are free to walk around during the performance as well. Admission is $10.

Special Needs Christmas Party

When: Saturday December 8th, 3:00pm-5:00pm

Where: YMCA 6800 Harvey Dr. – Waco, TX

Hosted by Mothers of Autistic Children, the YMCA will be providing a free Christmas party for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other special needs. There will be peer play and games to work on social interactions, as well as food, drinks, and crafts. Santa will also be there there for a meet and greet opportunity!

Casey’s Christmas: Special Needs Holiday Party

When: Saturday December 8th, 2:00pm – 4:00pm

Where: Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas

4900 Mueller Boulevard Austin, TX 78723

Come to Casey’s Christmas holiday party on December 8th and enjoy a fun afternoon with a sensory story time, santa meet and greet, crafts, and much more. Casey’s Circle organization is looking to improve the quality of life for medically complex children by providing social events for children of all abilities that is fun for the entire family.

A Special Starry Night

When: Saturday December 8, 6:00pm-9:00pm

Where: South Waco Recreation Center

The Waco Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities and the Heart of Texas Autism Network will be hosting an event for children of all abilities. Families can expect dancing, music, and social groups. This event is free, but it’s encouraged to bring a canned good as a donation.

Austin Trail of Lights

When: December 10th – 23rd

Where: Zilker Park – Austin, TX

Visit the Trail of Lights and take a spin under the Zilker Tree! The Austin Trail of Lights offers an interactive area for kids, photo opportunities, a visit with Santa, delicious food, and more. With long and wide trails that spread out the people and noise, it is an ideal seasonal event for children on the spectrum who enjoy colorful lights and holiday music.

Little Texans at the Bullock Texas State History Museum

When: December 13, 2018 10:00am-11:00am

Where: Bullock Texas State History Museum – Austin, TX

Enjoy an interactive experience for young children ages two to five at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Children are invited to enjoy the museum’s hands-on program that incorporates play and tactile learning. The program is free for members and standard exhibit admission for non-members.

Autism-Friendly Holiday Event Calendars for 2018: 

 

For the Top 18 Autism-Friendly Organizations in Houston, view our article here.

Top 50 Online ABA Master’s Programs and Certificates in 2018

There is a recent and growing need for qualified professionals in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA therapy, the leading treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), helps children on the Spectrum improve in many areas of development, including communication, social skills, and day-to-day living skills.

The ABA field is led by Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) who are responsible for creating all of the individualized treatment plans and supervising one-on-one therapy sessions with Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs).

For students seeking a career as a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), below are the top 50 colleges (in no particular order) that offer fully web-based ABA or autism-related programs in the United States.

Auburn University

Auburn University’s distinguished degrees and teacher certification programs, such as the Graduate Certificate in Intervention for Students with Autism and Developmental Disabilities, have earned Auburn University a spot in the top 25 percent of all Schools of Education in the United States, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Arizona State University

Arizona State University provides their students with a variety of education programs, including those in the special education field. ASU offers programs like the BACB-approved graduate certificate in ABA, as well as a M.Ed program with an emphasis in ABA. These programs equip graduates to feel comfortable with a diverse range of client populations.

Northern Arizona University

Northern Arizona University solidified a spot on our list by offering its Positive Behavior Support, Graduate Certificate program to aspiring BCBAs.  This 100% electronic program allows students to engage in group work that involves communicating via video chat with classmates during real-time situations.

The University Of Arizona

The University of Arizona has a fast-track web-based BCBA course sequence for Behavior Analysts who are looking to make a quicker transition into the field. The program can be finished in a short time of 16 months, allowing students to work through the program while actively holding a job.

The University of Arkansas

The University of Arkansas offers a flexible learning environment for the Master’s in Special Education with Graduate Certificates in both Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). The ABA program’s recognized faculty is one of the most noteworthy factors of their online program.

Brandman University

Brandman University offers a remote based Master’s in Special Education program with an emphasis in ABA. The university provides students with the tools they need complete the course in accelerated eight week sessions. BU also facilitates bi-weekly webinars for students to participate in trainings and communicate with other students and instructors.

California State University

California State University offers a BACB-accredited program for BCBA candidates through their ABA Certificate of Advanced Study. CSU also helps students by staying flexible with through their quick-paced program and lower financial costs.  

National University

National University’s Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis is recognized for equipping students with the ability to offer behavior management techniques and strategies in a variety of settings, including schools, hospitals, mental health agencies, businesses, and group homes.

University of Colorado

The University of Colorado has a known history of accommodating the needs of students who are already in the workforce. The University of Colorado’s 100% electronic Applied Behavior Analysis course sequences help best prepare students to sit for the national Board Certified Behavioral Analyst exam.

University of Northern Colorado

The University of Northern Colorado’s BACB-verified online courses are available for those seeking a career in ABA. UNC’s flexible program permits students to complete their BCBA course sequence simultaneously with a master’s degree. The expert faculty and impressive UNC resources exemplify the university’s dedication to its web-based program.  

Western Connecticut State University

Western Connecticut State University is an institution dedicated to higher standards of education and research. WCSU provides high-quality behavior analytic instruction to practitioners, earning its online ABA program a spot on this list.

Florida Institute of Technology

Florida Institute of Technology offers students much more flexibility than the average ABA program with the opportunity to enroll in FIT’s online program multiple times throughout the year – the new course sequences for the program start every three months. This allows students interested in a BCBA certification, particularly those who are already in the workforce, to plan enrollment around their busy lives.

Nova Southeastern University

Nova Southeastern University operates through the Southern Regional Education Board’s Electronic Campus, which facilitates an advanced coursework program to help students qualify for BCBA certification while they work. The flexible learning program  makes it easy for students to access all resources and materials needed to complete all courses 100% electronically.

University of West Florida

The University of West Florida stands out for their remote flexibility, offering five different start dates per year. This allows students to kick off the program at their utmost convenience. UWF offers a BACB-Accredited program for BCBA candidates, with an optional Master of Arts in Exceptional Student Education.  

Chicago School of Professional Psychology

Chicago School of Professional Psychology makes it extremely simple for students to access their computer-based work through a program called Global Student Dashboard. Global Student Dashboard allows students to access their assignments and interact with fellow peers in the class, as well as the professor.

Southern Illinois University

Southern Illinois University’s BACB-approved course sequence is comprised of a total of 18 credit-hours, which can be completed entirely online. SIU’s program effectively prepares students who already hold a master’s degree or higher, in an approved field of study, to earn their BCBA credentials.

Ball State University

Ball State University offers a BACB-Accredited program for BCBA candidates with its Master of Arts with an emphasis in Autism. BSU was the first university in the state of Indiana to offer online ABA Master’s programs. This program is perfect for people seeking employment with children or adults with Autism.

Purdue University Global

Purdue University Global gives students the option of zero on-campus requirements and many different start dates, allowing them to begin an ABA program when it’s most convenient. Each student is offered personalized support by career services, an online library, and many social networking communities to keep in touch with classmates and stay up-to-date on new trends in the ABA field as a whole.

University of Kansas

Impressively, the University of Kansas is the second most research-productive university in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis. KU offers a Master of Arts or a Doctorate of Philosophy in behavioral psychology, which are BACB-accredited programs for aspiring BCBAs.

Nicholls State University

Nicholls State requires students to complete a field-based research seminar, which demonstrates firsthand how to work with and evaluate student learning environments. NSU offers computer-based programs for its M.Ed of Curriculum and Instruction, High Incidence Disabilities with an ABA option.

University of Southern Maine

University of Southern Maine offers a BACB-accredited ABA program through their Master of Science in Educational Psychology. USM’s program is known for its flexibility, with the program being 100% electronic so students are able to attend classes and complete coursework remotely.

Endicott College

Endicott College offers a diverse array of options for students seeking a career in ABA. All of Endicott’s programs are 100% electronic and do not have a residency requirement. The 36-credit online program makes it easier for those who are already working professionals to earn their degree. They also offer a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio, enabling faculty members to really focus on their students.

Northeastern University

The BCBA exam pass rate for Northern University is at an extremely high rate of 83 percent, recieving world-wide recognition and attention. Northeastern University offers a flexible learning environment that is BACB-Accredited for BCBA candidates.

University of Wisconsin Whitewater

The University of Wisconsin Whitewater offers an online ABA graduate certificate that can be taken as a post graduate program, or may be applied toward a Master’s in Special Education. The university’s dedication to online learning is evident through their thorough and challenging modules that concentrate on evidence-based interventions.

West Virginia University

West Virginia University, one of the top 100 public universities in the U.S. according to U.S. News and World Report, offers a BCBA Course Sequence for post-graduate students or for students earning a graduate degree. WVU allows students in these programs to engage in live sessions through the university’s web-based learning platform.

University of Texas at Austin

With the growing need for ABA therapy in Texas, UT Austin is helping to foster new generations of BCBA supervisors with its online program that emphasizes ABA and Special Education. UT Austin also made it easy to enroll in their certificate program by not requiring any entrance exams.

Texas A&M University

A&M’s Department of Educational Psychology, also known as EPSY, has one of the nation’s largest outputs of special and bilingual education teachers in the state of Texas. The university offers up to 21 practicums each semester for students participating in online ABA courses.

Simmons College

With Simmons College’s online courses, students are able to earn their degrees in as short as 19 months with class sizes as small as 15 students. Simmons’ flexible learning environment has also proved to earn a BCBA exam pass rate of 83%, which is impressively the same rate of on-campus students

Drexel University

Drexel University’s ABA courses include traditional coursework, research, and some hands-on experience. Students also have the opportunity to accumulate their practicum hours required in order to sit for the national exam.

Cairn University

For those looking for a biblically-centered learning environment, Cairn University provides just that. Cairn University’s Online MS in Special Education (ABA) was the first Christian university program worldwide that was verified to meet the eligibility requirements to take the BCBA exam. Cairn also offers a 50% tuition discount for educators working in Christian schools.

St. Cloud State University

St. Cloud State University is one of the most affordable web-based ABA programs, with tuition as low as $12,000 for out-of-state applicants. The university offers students the opportunity to learn from PhD-level instructors. Not only is St. Cloud affordable, it is also ranked by the U.S. News and World Report as 35th in top public schools. Admission into the ABA program requires a bachelor’s degree and a minimum GPA of 2.75.

University Of Southern Maine

Another very affordable online program, the University of Southern Maine offers a rigorous ABA track to prepare students for the BCBA exam. Their programs include a Master of Science in Educational Psychology with a concentration in Applied Behavioral Analysis, as well as a Certificate in Applied Behavioral Analysis.

University of Massachusetts Lowell

The University of Massachusetts Lowell offers courses taught by world-wide expert behavior analysts who work at some of the most renowned autism treatment and research facilities. Such experienced faculty ensures a highly credible learning experience for students.

Michigan State University

Michigan State University’s Graduate Certificate Program in Applied Behavior Analysis equips students with the skills and knowledge needed to design, implement, and supervise ABA therapy sessions. MSU has provided post-secondary education for 60+ years and is one of the leading universities in the United States.

Capella University

Capella University provides students with several remote learning opportunities. This includes the university’s Masters of Science in Psychology with ABA specialization, which meets all of the requirements in order to sit for the BCBA exam. Some benefits of participating in Capella’s program include access to their career center for post-graduate job opportunities, as well as employer, association, and military discounts.

Southeast Missouri State University

Southeast Missouri State is a recognized leader for their online education programs. SMSU’s Masters of Arts in ABA is a 100% web-based program that allows students to complete their supervision through the required fieldwork.

Webster University

Webster University is known for its distinguished faculty and globally-minded curriculum. The university does an outstanding job at preparing students for practicing behavior analysis in different scenarios such as schools, residential centers, and community agencies.

Montana State University

Montana State University offers a Master of Science in Special Education Advanced Studies with an ABA emphasis. Graduates of this remote learning program have a high rate of employment and job offers. MSU also serves students with faculty who have a wide range of experience in the Special Education field, including those with their BCBA certification.

Arcadia University

With a 10:1 student-to-faculty ratio, Arcadia faculty members are able to give students a highly individualized educational experience. This 36-credit online program gives students the option to choose elective coursework that focuses on ASD, as well as emotional and behavioral disorders.

Kaplan University

Kaplan University, which was acquired by Purdue University to create Purdue University Global, now offers more than 180 remote-based programs. With Kaplan’s program, students will develop the skills they need to cultivate effective intervention strategies for their future clientele. Kaplan also offers multiple start dates that allow flexibility for those seeking higher education while still working.

Pennsylvania State University

Students are able to choose from three different focus areas when earning their online degree at Penn State. The focus areas include Academic and Behavioral Supports, Applied Behavioral Analysis, or Autism. Full time students are able to finish the program in about one year, while part time students are able to complete it in two years.

Central Methodist University

CMU’s online ABA program provides students with the opportunity to gain knowledge in behavior assessment, behavior change procedures, research and data analysis methods, and verbal behavioral analysis. Through CMU’s computer-based program, students will be prepared to sit for the national Board Certified Behavioral Analyst exam.

Ashford University

Ashford University Makes it easy for those balancing work, school, and life by offering one course at a time that lasts 5 weeks. Ashford also makes it easy for transferring students, allowing up to 90 transfer credits. Some courses include Applied Behavioral Sciences, as well as statistics for the behavioral and social sciences.

University of North Texas

With enrollment offered every term, UNT’s BACB-approved program provides students with top notch courses like Techniques in Applied Behavioral Analysis and Ethical Issues in the Science and Practice of Behavior Analysis. UNT also offers 24/7 access to their online courses.

Oregon Institute of Technology

Oregon Tech’s Applied Psychology Program highlights core curriculum such as Developmental, Abnormal, Social, Cognitive, and Behavior Modification. Through Oregon Tech’s web-based program, students will meet the American Psychological Association Standards.

Troy University

Troy University’s courses provide students with the ability to earn a bachelor’s in psychology with no on-campus requirements, while also minoring in Applied Behavior Analysis. Those participating in Troy’s courses have the option to participate in the classroom, online, or a combination of the two.

St. Joseph’s College

St. Joseph’s College’s online courses are made up of 29 credit hours that include courses like advanced research methods in autism and assessment of Autism Spectrum Disorder. St. Joseph also offers an optional 6 credit supervised practicum for students who are eager to gain additional experience.

Pepperdine University

Pepperdine’s School of Education and Psychology offers an online Master of Science program for students interested in becoming a BCBA. The online courses allows students to prepare for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst exam and become Behavior Analysts. Although these courses are online, students will receive the same curriculum and experience as students taking courses on campus. The online program offers students easy access online course work, face-to-face classes via webchat, and local clinical experiences.

University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati makes it easy for students to earn their Behavior Analysis Graduate Certificate with their 100% web-based program. Students can earn their certificate in as little as 1-2 years, while the masters program can be completed in 20 months.

Want to share this distinguishing badge on your website? Use the code in the box below:

Action Behavior Centers

Autism Spectrum Disorder: Sensory Resource Guide

What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behavior in both boys and girls. The signs of ASD often include delays in social interactions, repetitive or self-injurious behaviors, and sensory sensitivities.  Many individuals with ASD also struggle with verbal or non-verbal communication.

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory Processing Disorder, or SPD, describes a brain condition characterized by individuals having trouble organizing and responding to information delivered through the senses. For instance, certain noises, sights, textures, tastes, and smells might cause a “sensory overload.”

Signs of Sensory Processing Disorder

  • Stimulation from loud noises or overactive scenery
  • Intolerance to textures or favoring certain textures over others
  • Food aversions
  • Extreme responses to colors
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills
  • Easily distracted or has trouble focusing on a single task
  • Withdrawal from light
  • Dislike for teeth-brushing, nail cutting, hair washing
  • Fearful of crowds
  • Child is is unaware of of being touched or bumped unless done with extreme force
  • Difficulties calming oneself

Articles and Scientific Research on SPD and Autism

  1. In Chantal Sicile-Kira’s article, What is Sensory Processing Disorder and How is is Related to Autism?, Chantal defines SPD and the relationship between SPD and ASD. She also discusses the day-to-day struggles that many people with Sensory Processing Disorder deal with on a regular basis.

  2. A recent study conducted at the University of California San Francisco explains some of the notable differences between SPD and Autism Spectrum Disorder. While there are some overlaps between the two, the study outlines how the brain wiring is different in those with ASD than those with Sensory Processing Disorder.

  3. A research study done in 2009 delves into the social and emotional aspects associated with Sensory Processing Disorder. Researchers found those with SPD experience higher levels of anxiety, depression, and social withdrawal than those without SPD.

  4. A study conducted over the last decade explains the psychological and behavioral differences between those on the autism spectrum and those with Sensory Processing Disorder. The researchers compare and contrast the striking similarities between the two disorders, as well as the features which make them two separate disorders.

Types of SPD

There are three kinds of Sensory Processing Disorders: over-responsive, under-responsive, and seeking/craving.

  1. Over-Responsive SPD:

It’s common for individuals with over-responsive SPD to feel a constant overload of information, which leads to experiencing some senses too intensely. Children with over-responsive SPD tend to become overstimulated and hypersensitive to sensory input, while a typical sensory system would not be affected in such a way. With a sensitive sensory system, a child can often be fearful of, bothered by, or completely avoidant of certain types of sensory experiences such as texture, noise, lighting, taste, and smell. This kind of sensory sensitivity is seen in many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

2. Under Responsive SPD:

In contrast to those with over responsive SPD, under-responsive SPD is when the sensory system doesn’t detect and respond to certain stimuli in the way a sensory system would typically react. Children with under-responsive SPD may often appear withdrawn or uninterested in engaging with others. They tend to not respond to pain or extreme temperatures in the way one might typically respond.

3. Seeking/Craving SPD:

The third kind of SPD is seeking/craving, which occurs when the sensory system drives an individual to constantly seek out sensory stimulation in many different forms. This can look like touching, bouncing, moving, jumping – however they can gain the sensory input they are seeking.

8 Sensory Toys and Activities Recommended by Autism Experts

Each child with Autism Spectrum Disorder and SPD may have unique preferences on toys and activities that accommodate sensory issues. Below are some toys that Action Behavior Centersexperienced team of Board Certified Behavioral Analysts (BCBAs) recommend for children with autism and sensory issues.

For tactile activities:

1. Kinetic sand

2. DIY Slime

3. Water bead

4. Play-Doh

5. Shaving cream

For visual activities:

6. Blowing bubbles

7. Surfloor

8. DIY glitter jar


The Main Neurological Differences Between SPD and ASD

Although there are many features of Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder that go hand-in-hand, it’s important to note the fundamental differences between the two.

  • In a study that evaluated 16 boys with SPD, 15 boys with ASD, and 23 typically developing boys, researchers found that children with SPD, but not autism, displayed impairments in the parts of the brain that link visual, auditory, and tactile sensory processing systems.

  • Both Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder involve deficiencies regarding basic sensory information, but only children with ASD have been shown to lack connections in the brain related to processing facial emotion and memory.

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disorder, while Sensory Processing Disorder affects the nervous system.

  • A recent study at the University of California San Francisco has found that “children with sensory processing disorders have decreased structural brain connections in specific sensory regions different than those in autism, further establishing SPD as a clinically important neurodevelopmental disorder.”

Statistics and National Resources

  • A research study done in 2009 by members of the Sensory Processing Disorder Scientific Work Group indicates that 1 in 6 children experience sensory symptoms.

  • As high as 95% of children on the autism spectrum reportedly experience sensory difficulties according, to a study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders in 2007.

  • Autism is about 4.5 more common in males – data shows that 1 in 42 boys have autism compared to 1 in 189 girls.

  • According to Sensory Processing in Autism: A Review of Neurophysiologic Findings, it is highly common for children on the autism spectrum to display “atypical behavioral responses to sensory information. Over 96% of children with ASD report hyper and hypo-sensitivities in multiple domains.”
  1. STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder

  2. University of California San Francisco – UCSF Autism and SPD Study

  3. National Autism Resources – Sensory Toys

  4. CDC – Autism

  5. CDC – Autism Treatment

  6. WebMD – Sensory Processing Disorder

  7. Sensory Processing in Children With and Without Autism

  8. Sensory Processing and Behavioral Responsiveness

  9. National Institutes of Mental Health: Autism Spectrum Disorder

  10. NIMH: Autism Fact Sheet
  11. SPD Checklist
  12. PubMed: Autism Spectrum Disorder

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

 

RELATED:

18 Autism-Friendly Things to Do in Houston

18 Autism-Friendly Things to Do in Houston

Having difficulty with big crowds, loud sounds, and transitioning to new places goes hand-in-hand with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). As such, planning sensory-friendly family outings is a must for those in the special needs community.

In Houston, families with children on the Autism Spectrum have a generous selection of autism-friendly events and activities to do with their little ones. Below are some of the most autism-friendly businesses in the Greater Houston area.

  1. Space Center Houston

Space Center Houston is a prominent science learning center and the official visitor center of NASA Johnson Space Center. In 2017, Space Center Houston debuted its Sensory Friendly Evening to better accommodate families in the special needs community. The center invites those with special needs to explore the facility in a reduced sensory environment, with special Pop-Up Science Labs manned by instructors trained to accommodate guests with sensory sensitivities.

  1. The Hobby Center

The Hobby Center, a performing arts theater in downtown Houston, presents autism-friendly performances to accommodate guests with sensory issues. With shows like the Lion King and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes, families can enjoy the broadway classics with special adjustments to lights and sounds, a supportive audience environment, and designated quiet areas.

  1. Children’s Museum of Houston

The Children’s Museum of Houston hosts Sensory Friendly Days throughout the year. Before guests arrive, museum staff members make sure to turn down lights and limit extra sounds and distracting motions. Guests can check out weighted lap pads, sunglasses for overstimulating lights, and ear defenders for overstimulating sounds. The museum also adds extra safety visuals and designated quiet rooms.

  1. Houston Museum of Natural Science

The Houston Museum of Natural Science has special Sensory Friendly Days, but also accommodates special needs guests on the daily with its sensory backpacks. The sensory backpacks can be checked out at Museum Services and include sunglasses, ear defenders, stuffed animals, and other tools to ease overstimulation.

  1. We Rock the Spectrum

We Rock the Spectrum Gym has several locations in downtown Houston, Katy, The Woodlands, Sugar Land and more. Tailored for children with special needs, We Rock the Spectrum gym includes suspended equipment with swings, a zip line, trampoline, climbing structures, fine motor arts and crafts areas, and sensory-based toys. We Rock the Spectrum’s mission is to create a place where kids of all development levels can grow and play together.

  1. AMC Theatres

With three locations in Houston, AMC Theatres hosts multiple sensory friendly film showings per month. AMC teamed up with the Autism Society to put on these events. During sensory friendly films, the lights are turned up, the sound is turned down, and guests are welcome to get up, walk around, dance, or sing.

  1. Main Street Theater

Main Street Theater in Houston hosts Sensory-Friendly performances, sign language interpretations, and special audio-assisted shows to make sure no child is left out. During the Sensory-Friendly performances, lighting and sound levels are set at more comfortable levels, tablets and smart phones may be used with headphones, fidget toys are welcome, and disability-trained staff provide any assistance as needed. Some of the Sensory-Friendly shows include A Charlie Brown Christmas, Holes, and Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.

  1. Sky High Sports

Back in August of 2016, Sky High Sports Trampoline Park in Houston debuted its “Special Needs Jump Time” for every Tuesday of the week. Founder of Sky High, Jerry Raymond, is father to a son on the Spectrum. He saw firsthand how jump sessions helped his son develop motor skills, balance, and social skills. Each Tuesday, Sky High Sports dims the lights and reduces distractions to give special needs guests a sensory-friendly experience.

  1. Chuck E. Cheese

Chuck E. Cheese has seven locations in Houston. To accommodate guests with autism and special sensory needs, Chuck E. Cheese designates the first Sunday of each month to families in the special needs community. During Sensory Sensitive Sundays, the venues are ensured to be less crowded with less noise, turned down music, and some visits from Chuck E. himself.

  1. Spectrum Fusion

Spectrum Fusion is a non-profit organization in Houston that offers unique opportunities for individuals on the autism spectrum to “contribute to society in a way that suits their personal and particular styles.” Spectrum Fusion is comprised of business experts, entrepreneurs, therapists and health care professionals who generate innovative solutions and possibilities for adults with autism to use their skills, interests, and strengths in career opportunities.

  1. iFly

iFly, with two locations in Houston, has All Abilities Night, which is custom designed for those with developmental and physical challenges. Each flyer is assisted by specially trained Flight Instructors. Everyone in the special needs community is welcome to attend and partake in the sensational experience.

  1. George Ranch Historical Park

This April (which also happens to be Autism Awareness month!), George Ranch Historical Park will kick off its first-ever annual Sensory-Friendly Day. The all-day event will include quiet corners throughout the park, noise-cancelling headphones, colored glasses, and sensory kits. The sensory kits are equipped with weighted lap pads, stress balls, fidget spinners, lavender lotion, crayons, coloring books, and picture books.

  1. Houston Ballet

The Houston Ballet offers Autism-Friendly performances which are modified for audience members with neurological differences. The events are staffed by trained volunteers who help ensure a smooth, positive experience for all.

  1. Houston Special Olympics

The Special Olympics team of Greater Houston has tons of recreational activities for children on the spectrum to get involved in. From local track meets and flag football competitions to volleyball and bowling tournaments, there’s something for everyone. The full calendar of events can be seen here.

  1. The Health Museum of Houston

The John P. McGovern Museum of Health and Medical Science (the Health Museum for short) has a number of fascinating health and body exhibits for museum-goers to enjoy. On April 12th, the Health Museum will be hosting a lecture by Veronica Butler of the Music Therapy Center of Houston to demonstrate the positive uses of music therapy for those on the autism spectrum. Anyone can register for the event here.

  1. Little League Challenger Division

The Little League Challenger Division invites all individuals ages 4 to 18 with physical and/or intellectual challenges to come play a game of baseball. Games typically run for about 1 or 2 innings (about an hour long) and are assisted by “Buddies.” Buddies are often peer athletes participating in Little League Baseball or Softball, and they help out with batting, base running, and defense only as needed.

  1. All-Star Martial Arts

Located in Cypress, Texas, All-Star Martial Arts teaches traditional TaeKwonDo and self-defense in a safe, family-friendly environment. The center prides itself in providing kids with important life lessons in addition to martial arts: self-confidence, discipline, concentration, and respect. All-Star Martial Arts offers a Samurai Program for individuals with a range of physical and developmental delays, including autism.

  1. Sailing Angels

Sailing Angels is a non-profit organization based in the Greater Houston area that enables children with developmental and physical delays to experience the joys of sailing. Children learn knot-tying, navigation, and piloting throughout the excursion. The adventure concludes with the child steering the boat while wearing the Captain’s hat, and then earning a large medallion. The service is free and has a 100% safety record!

To check out some autism-friendly businesses in Austin, Texas, visit this page.

Catalyst: How We Track Your Child’s Success in ABA Therapy

Catalyst ABA therapy data collection graphs

Parents love hearing snippets of daily successes from their child’s Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapist at the end of the day. As important as these more casual reports are, it’s also essential to have concrete data being collected throughout the therapy day.

ABA therapy’s main mission is to help children with Autism Spectrum Disorder overcome developmental delays. At Action Behavior Centers, our therapy teams work with Catalyst – the most advanced data collection system used by ABA professionals.

Before starting ABA therapy, each child is thoroughly assessed by our Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs), mastered-level behavioral health practitioners. The BCBAs then create treatment plans with a variety of therapy goals based on the specific strengths and deficits seen during the child’s initial assessment.

The goal of each ABA therapy day is to work through therapy goals and master new skills. These skills might be in areas like speech, nonverbal communication, social skills, or day-to-day living tasks. ABA therapy also helps reduce problematic behaviors, like temper tantrums, aggressive behaviors, and self-injurious behaviors.

This is where Catalyst comes in.

Catalyst offers a platform for BCBAs and the therapists on their team – Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) – to track a child’s success with each therapy goal throughout the day. Catalyst is equipped to track skill acquisition data, behavior reduction data, and specific progress notes for each child.

What’s more, Catalyst generates customized graphs with each child’s therapy data. Clinical staff can tailor their graphs in real-time, adding child-specific annotations across 20 different dimensions of recorded data.

The utility of the Catalyst program is evident in the fact that it was created by BCBAs themselves. Doctors Coby and Janet Lund dreamt up the data collection program back in 2010 after not being able to find a similar resource for themselves. They then teamed up with software engineer Chris Cooken to make Catalyst a reality.

Catalyst was designed to make the processes of summarizing, graphing, and reporting much easier and quicker. The program cuts down on the time needed for data collection, allowing clinical personnel to spend more time and efforts making ABA therapy sessions the best they can be.

More time for quality therapy means better results for the kids, which, at the end of the day, is the most important part of all.

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

<p style=”text-align:center”><a href=”http://www.actionbehavior.com/”><img src=”http://www.actionbehavior.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/ASD-Blogs-Button3.png” alt=”Action Behavior Centers” /></a></p>

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