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I know you may not want to hear it be we are approaching the end of the school term and the long holidays. Many parents of children with autism often face this time with a range of emotions – relief and anxiety. Relief that there is an end in sight for the daily school & daycare routine. Anxiety when you think about how you will be keeping your child occupied over the holiday period.
Start planning for the holidays now (while you have the time and energy!)
Here are three ideas/strategies to help you cope with what’s to come:
- Create a visual holiday routine/schedule
For someone who struggles to differentiate between the days of the week, it is essential to establish a routine for a child with autism. By establishing a routine, you will be able to offer a sense of control and structure. It will also be much easier to transition to the back to school routine once the school term starts again next year too.
When a child is anxious about what is going to happen it will often come through in their behaviour. For example, I have seen children ask repeatedly for swimming throughout the day as they do not have an idea what they will be going next. Obviously, it’s a rare parent and child who is not going to be stressed by this behaviour (in the child’s case note being able to go swimming on demand). And yet, this behaviour may be avoidable.
With a visual schedule, children can see what is expected of them and what they can expect to do next. From a therapy perspective I would encourage you to think about including some time to practice the skills that they have mastered during therapy sessions too.
Your therapy team can help you work out how to create a visual schedule so please let them know if you’d like this help. Putting one in place now (even when it may not be as needed) is a nice way to transition into the holidays too.
- Let’s keep learning!
Learning does not end when the school term ends. When therapy stops (e.g. at the end of term) we often see a decline in skills acquisition and maintenance over the long holiday period. Being out of routine and not having therapy can lead to lots of stimming time and not enough skills practice.
Apart from keeping up with regular therapy sessions, I recommend my parents to spend time generalising the skills that their children have mastered within sessions. Holiday time can be spent expanding their skill sets and to exposing them to new stimuli. For example, teaching children to tact zoo animals when you make a visit to the local Perth Zoo or teaching them to tact car colours while playing “I spy” on the road.
- Have some down time
Being a parent is hard work. Therefore, it is very important to look after yourself during the holidays. Be it spending some alone time by the beach or even taking a short 5 minutes break to sit and sip on a hot cup of coffee before it gets cold. Do it. Because you deserve it. And remember, happy parents usually make for happy children too!
Holidays don’t have to be stressful!
In actual fact, holidays can be a lot of fun. Start thinking about how you will set up your days, particularly once you get past Christmas.
Please talk with your Program Managers about the activities that you could do to help generalise the skills that your child has learned during their therapy sessions. While the office will be shut from the 22nd December through to the 7th January, most of the team will be on board through-out the rest of January. We usually have a bit more flex during the holidays so increasing therapy sessions is also an option.
Assistant Program Manager (ABACAS)
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I was a school last term observing a young client of mine during recess when an education assistant came up to me and asked whether “8 years old” was too late for an autism assessment.
As some of you will know, I will see children and families at the Centre for autism assessments. I often get asked this question. The good news is that it is is never too late for an autism assessment. Children, adolescents and adults can be seen for assessment at any time. Research compels us though to advocate for early assessment as this usually leads to early intervention. It also gives us a chance to talk to families of children who don’t receive a diagnosis about next steps and supports.
An assessment can happen at any age. The advice that I give to families though is that if you intend to seek an assessment it’s best to time your assessment before the child turns 12 years of age. Aside from an easier assessment process, it also allows time to plan for issues such as transition to high school.
Whenever a parent decides to request an assessment keep in mind that parents play an active part in the process. You know your child better than anyone else and the assessment team will want to partner with you in understanding your child strengths and weaknesses.
Referrals for assessment usually start with seeing a paediatrician. Your GP will need to refer you to either the appropriate government service or a private paediatrician. Wait-lists will vary according to the age of the child – which is another reason not to leave assessments too late!
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Ever wonder why your child, who you know is so clever, might be struggling in school or to pay attention to others? They might need to work on a set of skills called “Learning to Learn”! Learning to Learn skills are the foundation skills a child needs before they can learn effectively in places like a classroom or in therapy sessions.
ABA can help children to achieve these skills by breaking them down into small, achievable parts, and scaffolding them into a whole skill set for your child. Skills like sitting on your bottom with still feet, making eye contact with a teacher, and waiting for a peer to finish speaking before asking a question are all a part of this group. Without some of these skills, children are not able to experience the full benefits from their daily experiences.
Because ABA is always focused on being applied, generalised and effective, we can work with your child 1:1 or provide training and interventions to teachers or carers who can support learning these skills in the context they need to be used.
If you have a child who might benefit from these skills, or are a professional who would like to learn how to foster them please contact Jenny Lin, Program Manager on 9274 7062.
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Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) is a set of principles that explains how behaviour works and how learning takes place. Over the past 70 years, the field of applied behaviour analysis has been testing out many techniques and methods to make sure interventions are effective and to eliminate treatments that are harmful to the children and may interfere with learning.
As a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA), the principles of ABA I find myself using everyday are (1) finding out the functions of behaviour (the “ABC”), and (2) task analysis.
Finding out the function of a behaviour is the first step to create an intervention. And by knowing the function, it makes it so much easier to understand the causes of the behaviour.
Task analysis, also known as chaining, is a process of breaking a skill down into smaller and more manageable components. We teach the skills from the smaller components, such as putting on a shirt, slowly build up to a bigger picture, like completing a morning routine. And even within the smallest component, like putting on a shirt, we can deconstruct the skills into even smaller and more precise steps to teach and to master.
Do you know what’s behind your child’s intervention? Ask your therapist this week! If you have questions about ABA, please email Jenny Lin, Program Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org
Autism Awareness Month is a month to ask questions and to understand what autism is. And I’m here to answer your questions!
Read more on ABA for Autism at:
Jenny Lin, Program Manager, ABACAS
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ABACAS started the School Readiness Program in the second half of 2017. The School Readiness Program is designed to have 45 minutes of 1:1 session running individualized ABA programs and 45 minutes of Social/Group session. The Social/Group session simulates Circle Time and Free play time at a regular Kindy. Our program focuses on small group free play and facilitated play to increase social interaction (initiating play, asking for help, sharing, requesting an item, taking turn, etc.), following instructions (compliance training), and transitioning between play and work (Circle Time).
Our first class of graduates completed their program on 25th January, 2018 (see the photo below). The small group of children who graduated will continue with their 1:1 sessions but will be transitioning to full time kindergarten this year!
We are not only so proud to see our children blossoming into more independent individuals, we are even more exciting to see them forming friendships with their peers in the same group.
We are currently taking children ages 3-4 to participate in the 2018 School Readiness Program! Please contact Program Manager Jenny Lin at 9274 0330 for further information!