Thursday, May 22, 2014

Teaching Tools for Autism

When my son was first diagnosed and we began our journey learning to help him over come the challenges of autism, one of the earliest messages we heard (and heard often) was that we didn't have to buy the exact commercial products in order to help him. We could make our own weighted vest or lap pad. We could create our own pictos instead of buying expensive sets from the companies that specialized in alternative communication.

More than a decade later, we still try to create whatever we need at home rather than to pay the hefty price tag for supplies from a company that targets special needs populations. It saves us paying grossly inflated prices, and often it means we can have an item within a day or even a few hours, rather than waiting for an order to be processed and the item shipped from a great distance.

We are gearing up to teach the Bug how to fold laundry, and so we are going to make ourselves a DIY shirt folding board out of cardboard and duct tape. While we may decide we'd like to have a more durable, plastic board in future, for now we want to just give this tool a trial.

I also like that by making our own shirt board we can customize the size to best suit his needs. We can also have several different boards - either in different sizes, or just multiple board so we can demonstrate or the other kids can fold along with the Bug - for the same cost. The cardboard is free, and there's more than enough tape on the roll to do a couple of boards.

In a similar vein, I've been taking advantage of teachable moments to create little lessons for the Bug. We have turned a number of his keen interests - like the rides at the carnival or an upcoming birthday party - into folders on Proloquo2Go. I've used these opportunities to do all manner of teaching - from showing him the ins and outs of the program or how to create his own buttons, to modelling conversational phrases he might find useful. Most recently I caught him singing a Bruno Mars song and turned that into a living skills lesson.

So how about you? Do you have any DIY teaching tools for your autistic child or student?

Crayon graphic courtesy of PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay - public domain

Friday, May 6, 2011

V is for Vest

Deep Pressure Vest
Many people with autism also experience sensory integration problems. You may notice that your son wears long sleeved shirts and pants, even in the warmest weather. Or perhaps your daughter can't tolerate seams in socks, or tags in any of her clothes. Some kids run around constantly, jump, climb, hang upside down, or purposely bump into things. Others will squeeze their eyes shut tightly if the room is too bright, or cover their ears to block out certain sounds.

Sensory integration disorder (also called sensory processing disorder) can co-exist with autism spectrum disorders, and has also been seen in people with ADHD. It can be diagnosed by an occupational therapist (OT) who will know lots of strategies for dealing with it. One of the strategies we used with our son for many years was a deep pressure vest, as seen in the photo at right. I have written an article that gives more information on our experience with the pressure vest, and how it differs from a weighted vest. I hope you'll check it out.

It looks like all the hard work is finally paying off, and our son will soon be saying goodbye to his pressure vest forever. Right now we are conducting a trial at school, so his OT can evaluate whether he can manage without it. We had already stopped using it at home some time ago. And his use of the vest at school was reduced a fair bit too. Assuming the trial goes well, he won't use it at all anymore.

This is one of those moments we reach as parents of special needs kids, that we thought for a long time we would never see. It helps to see the progress, especially when in other areas we still struggle. We are always growing together, and looking back on the years we relied heavily on the vest to help our son deal with sensory input I feel great today. A step at a time, we're moving forward!

I'm blogging my way from Z to A in May!
You can find my "W" post at Parenting in the 21st Century.

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