Monthly Archives: August 2014

Helping Special Needs Kids Make Friends

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ichael Campbell plays baseball and soccer, hangs out with his friends, enjoys video games – and is like any other 14-year-old-boy. His mom, Carol, didn’t think his life would ever be this way after he was diagnosed at 7 with Asperger’s Syndrome.

“We were told he probably wouldn’t have friendships. It’s the exact opposite. He has friends. He gets invited out with them,” says Campbell of Berkley, Michigan. “We let Mike be Mike and we help foster the friendships just like any other parent would.”

Here’s a look at what parents can do to help their children with special needs do just that.

Pals are important
“It is human nature to want friends,” says Stephanie Harlan, director of the Autism Connections at the Judson Center in Royal Oak. “Humans need to be with other people, share their emotions and interact.”

But children with special needs have more obstacles to overcome. Especially those with autism and Asperger’s, who lack some of the interaction skills. If not addressed, this can impact their entire lives.

“The rates of depression are high among those with autism and Asperger’s. They are often teased because they are by themselves,” Harlan explains. “If the kids can have one other friend with them, the chance that they are picked on drops astronomically.”

Peer friendships allow children to bond with individuals other than family members, adds Linda Bull, therapist, founder and co-owner of the Mental Fitness Center in Rochester, who specializes in children and adolescents with special needs.

“Children are often more likely to model peer behavior,” she says, “and it can be a positive experience for a child who may be shy or introverted to develop.”

Finding friendship
Campbell of Berkley browsed the web and stumbled on the Judson Center. She enrolled Michael in its one-on-one program and playgroups.

“He’s going to have to learn to get along in this world,” Campbell says, and the Judson Center is known for the social experience it can provide kids with special needs.

Harlan also found plenty of books that provide insight into helping kids with special needs develop the skills they need.

“It’s really important that parents understand how their kid’s personality works,” Harlan adds. This can help parents identify their child’s interests and find others who like similar things –video games, card games, movies, music – and help them share and communicate about those common interests.

Harlan says that while the ultimate goal for kids who come to Judson is freeform interaction, it works best to start with a structured program and offer activities to do together and choose peers for them to interact with.

Schools sometimes offer that environment, too. Bull says districts can provide info about options for kids with special needs and friendships, including peer pal programs, Boy and Girl Scout troops and sport teams. She says many ancillary centers offer social skills groups and assistance, too.

Develop skills
Kids who come to the Judson Center are assessed to determine what level of engagement they have. Counselors take concepts and break them down into simple steps and repeat them to enforce the appropriate behavior.

“We work with them and gradually introduce peers into the relationship,” Harlan says. Peer pals – kids without special needs at the same developmental level – serve as examples. These pals work on taking turns by playing games and activities that build a foundation. Harlan says the kids often form a bond and end up being friends outside of the sessions.

“We teach them life skills that don’t come naturally,” Harlan says. “They can go back to their schools and home and apply the skills. The program is also teaching the parents how to encourage their child to make friends and maintain relationships.”

Role of parents
It’s key that parents stay involved – and tuned in – to ensure their kids are developing the needed skills – and that the friendships are healthy. Plus, kids sometimes need a little encouragement, especially if they have special needs.

“Sometimes Mike needs more encouragement,” Campbell says. When he says he doesn’t want to try something, she encourages him to participate and if he doesn’t like it, he doesn’t have to continue.

Bull says it’s important for parents to know their kids, from likes to dislikes and their emotions, and determine what situations they’re comfortable in.

“They may need extra exposure to children their own age, such as play dates or trips to the library,” Bull says. “They may need social stories to teach sharing and visuals to remind them not to hit or spit. Providing this support is crucial for these children, but being mindful and maintaining perspective can be just as important.”

Keep lessons going
It’s also the parent’s responsibility to help kids identify when the relationship isn’t working – maybe due to the nature of the activities, or for other reasons.

“Some kids with special needs don’t recognize when they are being teased or other kids are taking advantage of them,” Harlan says. She encourages parents to help the child spot the cues for an unhealthy relationship.

When her son doesn’t mesh with another child, Campbell doesn’t blame herself or Michael. She just explains not all people get along, and it’s time to move on.

Harlan says sometimes the friendships will fade away, and that’s OK.

“As you grow older, your interests are going to change. Some of the kids will continue to stay friends,” she says. “The friendships they had teach them the foundational skills for developing more.”

http://www.metroparent.com/Metro-Parent/February-2011/Helping-Special-Needs-Kids-Make-Friends/

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Beating the Back to School Blues for Kids with Special Needs

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There isn’t a kid in the world who hasn’t occasionally wanted to skip school. But children who struggle with learning can grow to dread school so much, that every day becomes a battle to get them there.

Brandy Stephenson* has had days that her 10-year-old son Keith* simply refused to get on the bus. Though he is compassionate, loving, funny and creative, he has severe mood disorders, oppositional defiant disorder and ADHD. And “if he doesn’t want to do something, there’s no way in the world I can make him,” says Brandy, who adopted Keith as an infant. He’ll crawl under tables, climb up trees, even bolt out of the house and run off. Rather than get into a screaming match, or even worse, a physical altercation, “I’ve learned I must lay the groundwork so that he’ll want to go to school,” the Southwest mom says. That means first working closely with the school district to find the right program for Keith. “I’m not afraid to switch teachers, or even schools, if I feel his needs are not being met.” He’s currently in a smaller special-education class that he likes, with a staff that understands him and his outbursts. But being 2 years behind in social and academic skills still makes things “extremely challenging,” Brandy says. “I have to be a cheerleader for him every single day. It’s all about accentuating the positive, rather than dwelling on the negative.”

– See more at: http://www.abilitypath.org/areas-of-development/learning–schools/learning-and-teaching-styles/articles/back-to-school-blues.html#sthash.aj7LdeDX.dpuf

8 Back-to-School Tips for Special Needs Students

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Many kids aren’t really excited to head back to school after their summertime freedom, but for special needs students, the transition from home to school can be extra rocky. There are a few things you can do now to help make the new beginning more exciting and less stressful.

“Anything you can do to make something a routine before it has to become a routine, eases the transition,” says Terri Mauro, author of About.com’s guide to special needs and founder of the Mothers with Attitude blog. “And whatever you can do to keep structure to your days will help.”

And if you hired a special needs nanny or sitter to watch your child in the afternoon, ask her advice. She probably has lots of experience getting kids with special needs through the back-to-school chaos.

Provide Summertime Structure
Start summer days early and give kids something to anticipate, says Mauro. Tell them breakfast will be followed by a trip to the park or to the museum or the free movies or wherever you plan to go. If you’re going to be home that day, map out what the day will look like: playing a game or doing an art project.

Associate School with Fun
Visit the school as often as possible. Weekly visits to the playground — even if just to have a quiet lunch — help your child become familiar with the surroundings. Meeting a friend there is even better. As the school year approaches, call ahead and ask if you can meet the principal and the teacher and walk around the classroom before school starts. Not all schools encourage this, but it never hurts to ask. If your child has any kind of sensory processing issues, introduce new clothes (even the new backpack) into the wardrobe in late summer, so they have time to adjust.

Work Behind the Scenes for a Good First Week
“If your child takes the bus, don’t expect it to magically show up,” says Mauro. Call to make sure everything you expect to be in place is ready. The last thing you want is to have your child ready to go and a no-show bus. “It can really set your kid back a week or two,” she says. Contact the school nurse ahead of time to make sure all medications and care plans are in place, too.

Easy Anxiety with Familiar Faces
If your child is nervous about the coming school year, familiar faces are welcome when school begins. If staff agrees, take photos of teachers, principals, aides and nurses, (alone or with your child) and of the classrooms, the gym, the cafeteria and the office, suggests Alisa Dror, head of the Pinnacle school (a part of the Greenwich Education Group), in Stamford, Conn. “Make a little photo book,” she recommends.

Map Out the Day
Ask the teacher about what will happen when your child arrives at school, so you can talk about what to expect. These social stories can give students the tools they need when faced with something unplanned. Let them know feeling jittery is okay, but tell them who they can talk to.

Examine the IEP
“Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) are one of the biggest issues to look at,” says Jennifer Sommerness, an independent educational consultant and founder of Welcome Spoken Here. “Make sure it is a working IEP, with the right wording and levels of performance.” Gear each item to your child’s needs and abilities. Parents can be active and valued team members, says Sommerness, and can make sure the document conveys information they want everyone to see. “If it is only based on what a student can’t do, it squashes creativity across the board,” she says. A good IEP is positively worded and strength-based.

Share the Joy
Balance the official IEP with a “meet and greet sheet” that you and your child can create, suggests Dror. Include things like “what I am good at,” “what bothers me,” “what keeps me motivated” and any other pertinent facts. “It just makes it a little more personal,” says Dror. “And it also gives some proactive strategies teachers can have in place.”

Have Fun
Summer is all about fun, so keep the fun going well into the fall. When you’re shopping for back-to-school supplies, pick up some new educational toys that are geared towards special needs students. For example, toys from companies like Fun and Function help kids at all levels play and develop new skills.

Next summer, get an early jump start. Dror suggests seeing if your child qualifies for any extended school year services during the summer so your child doesn’t regress.

https://www.care.com/a/8-back-to-school-tips-for-special-needs-students-1307040307

Easing the Back-to-School Transition for Kids with Special Needs

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As the lazy days of summer draw to a close, mothers everywhere begin preparing themselves and their children to head back to school. For moms of special needs children, the emotions can be more intense and the preparations more involved.

Most parents of kids with special needs start planning for the school year during the spring IEP meetings when goals are set for the upcoming year. With luck, you’ll be introduced to your child’s new teacher at that meeting, as well as other staff members. Sometimes circumstances change, however, and the teacher you loved winds up in a different district come September. That’s why you shouldn’t consider the spring IEP meeting the final word. But that’s just the first step.

“I request an informal ‘staffing’ with the teachers and team before the school year begins to which all are invited,” says Gloria Perez-Walker, whose 11-year-old son, Aiden has autism.

She explains that with children who have a hard time with transitions, visiting the school prior to the start of the academic year is critical. Perez-Walker writes up a one-page document with her son’s likes and dislikes, an abridged version of their family history, and key points from Aidan’s IEP. “Not all of his new school staff will have read it,” she explains. But this way, “the entire new team of teachers, admins, and even the janitorial staff, know us and our son.”

Veteran teacher Nicole Eredics agrees with this approach. Parents should definitely meet the teacher ahead of time and tour the new classroom. “If your child is new to the school, ask if you can see the rest of the building. Don’t forget to check out the playground!” says Eredics, who has spent more than 15 years as an elementary school teacher in inclusive classroom settings and also has two children of her own with special needs.

Back-to-school season is a time of transition, but it doesn’t have to be a time of tantrums and meltdowns if you plan ahead carefully. Here are 10 things you can to do today to help prepare your special needs child for going back to school:

Make a Transition Book
Take a camera to these meetings and take pictures of everything you can and use them to create a transition book. “This is a book about your child’s new teacher and class. Look at the book regularly to help your child become familiar with the new environment,” Eredics says.

Learn the New Routine
Ask the teacher to go over the daily classroom routine so that you can review it with your child. Create social stories and review them often so that your child knows what to expect when school starts.

Take Charge
Of course for children with special needs, back to school doesn’t necessarily mean heading back to a building. Renee Cole has a 7-year-old son who is a former micro-preemie with multiple medical issues. His needs mean that school – like other needed services – comes to him at home. Even so, she says, it’s critical for parents to remember that no one at school knows your child better than you do. “Be involved!” she advises. Cole starts each school year by making it clear that she is ultimately in charge of her child’s wellbeing, and that she welcomes input and opinions from his teachers and other service providers. (Be an Advocate for your Child’s Needs.)

Prep Slowly
It’s also important to remember that kids will pick up on your stress, so make sure you have all your necessary supplies early. “I like to have everything ready a full week before school starts — clothes, supplies, meeting the teacher, as well as have the bedtime routine down. It usually makes for smoother adjustment from summer schedule to school schedule again,” says Deborah Arrona, a Pasadena, Texas, mother to Aria, who has cerebral palsy, cortical visual impairment, and other special needs.

Keep Your IEP Available
Because Arrona is moving this year, her daughter will be in a new district and Arrona has taken copies of Aria’s IEP to the new school so that it can be distributed to everyone well in advance of the start of the year. “This way they have the whole summer to get to know my daughter on paper and be ready to meet her in person,” she says.

Snap Photos for Social Stories
You can have one for your morning routine at home, one about going to school, and one for situations your child may encounter at school, such as eating lunch in the cafeteria. Take pictures with your digital camera or cell phone, develop them directly into a book at a local drugstore, and then narrate them with your child again and again.

Make Digital Copies of Your IEP and Other Paperwork
You’re going to have to send multiple copies of these documents to various professionals throughout the year, and it’s very handy to have them available via email. Stop by an office supply store and have them make you a digital copy as well as an extra hard copy to have on hand.

Schedule Your Well-Child Check up
Don’t wait until the school nurse calls to say she doesn’t have your child’s updated records. Schedule your child’s appointment as early as possible – and when you schedule the appointment, let them know you need immunization and other records for school.

Talk to Your Child
So often, adults know what’s going to happen, but they forget to share this critical information with kids. Sit down with your child, and talk about what he can expect. The first twenty (or two hundred!) times you say, “You’re going to a new school!” you may be greeted with a firm “No!” – but eventually the message will sink in.

Prepare a One-Page Guide to Your Child
Write up a brief, one-page document that covers your child at a glance. Note any food allergies or medical needs the school should know about, things that are likely to set your child off, and things that will calm him down, as well as emergency contact information.

https://www.care.com/a/easing-the-back-to-school-transition-for-kids-with-special-needs-1107061631

How a Boy with Special Needs Inspired his Team

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After seeing Ellen Seidman’s article, “A teen with disabilities makes the football team” on her Blog Love That Max, I knew that MATT was a documentary I could not miss. I immediately grabbed my laptop and pressed play. After a few minutes, it was obvious that Matt was special, and not just because of the obstacles he has overcome, but because of the lasting effect that he has on everyone around him. His peers not only accept him for who he is, but they genuinely look up to him, respect him, and are inspired by him. And after seeing his story, so am I.

About Matthew
Matthew Tapia was born three months premature, weighing only a pound and a half. Doctors told his parents that he had a 5% chance of surviving, but he did. They said he would never walk, but he ran. They said he may not speak, but he is holding his own in interviews and pursuing a degree in sports broadcasting. The story of Matthew Tapia is not that he “survived,” it is that he is thriving.

Matt the Football Player
Heading into his senior year at Santa Monica High School, Matt approached the football coach and asked to play. This coach took a chance and gave Matt the opportunity to play, just like any other boy. He practiced everyday with the team. They accepted him and rallied around him, not out of pity, but because (according to senior Christian Winter), “he makes everything more fun.”

Though Matt did not become a starter in his year on the SMHS football team, he was able to play in two games on a team that made it to the second round of playoffs. He walked away from his season with a lot more than a few minutes on the football field. He walked away with a team of brothers, confidence, and another story of how he has overcome so much more than most could even imagine.

After seeing Ellen Seidman’s article, “A teen with disabilities makes the football team” on her Blog Love That Max, I knew that MATT was a documentary I could not miss. I immediately grabbed my laptop and pressed play. After a few minutes, it was obvious that Matt was special, and not just because of the obstacles he has overcome, but because of the lasting effect that he has on everyone around him. His peers not only accept him for who he is, but they genuinely look up to him, respect him, and are inspired by him. And after seeing his story, so am I.
About Matthew
Matthew Tapia was born three months premature, weighing only a pound and a half. Doctors told his parents that he had a 5% chance of surviving, but he did. They said he would never walk, but he ran. They said he may not speak, but he is holding his own in interviews and pursuing a degree in sports broadcasting. The story of Matthew Tapia is not that he “survived,” it is that he is thriving.
Matt the Football Player
Heading into his senior year at Santa Monica High School, Matt approached the football coach and asked to play. This coach took a chance and gave Matt the opportunity to play, just like any other boy. He practiced everyday with the team. They accepted him and rallied around him, not out of pity, but because (according to senior Christian Winter), “he makes everything more fun.”
Though Matt did not become a starter in his year on the SMHS football team, he was able to play in two games on a team that made it to the second round of playoffs. He walked away from his season with a lot more than a few minutes on the football field. He walked away with a team of brothers, confidence, and another story of how he has overcome so much more than most could even imagine.

Watch the video about Matthew: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMogvjXWXWc

http://www.friendshipcircle.org/blog/2014/05/30/how-a-boy-with-special-needs-inspired-his-team/

Auditory Processing Disorders: By Age Group

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What You Should Know About Auditory Processing Disorders
Auditory processing disorders are often referred to as central auditory processing disorders (CAPD);
Auditory processing disorders can occur without any kind of hearing loss;
Auditory processing disorders affect how the brain perceives and processes what the ear hears;
Like all learning disabilities, auditory processing disorders can be a lifelong challenge;
Many of the difficulties that are experienced by people with auditory processing disorders are also common to people with attention deficit disorders;
Auditory processing disorders may run in families;
Auditory processing disorders can affect a person’s ability to interact socially;
There are different types of auditory processing disorders, each affecting different aspects of auditory information processing—see “Auditory Processing Disorders” for more information.
Auditory Processing Disorders at Different Ages
Many people experience problems with learning and behavior from time to time, but if a person consistently displays difficulties with these tasks over time, testing for auditory processing disorders by trained professionals should be considered.

Early Childhood
Common difficulties include
Learning to speak;
Understanding spoken language;
Separating meaningful sounds from background noise;
Remembering stories or songs;
Staying focused on a person’s voice;
Unusual sensitivity to noise;
Confusing similar sounding words;
Difficulty in understanding speech.
Accommodation and modification strategies
Keep directions simple—only tell your child one step at a time;
Give directions both orally and visually—show your child what you mean;
Speak slowly—especially when your child is hearing information for the first time;
Maintain eye contact while speaking;
Limit background noise when teaching new information or giving directions;
Provide specific opportunities to practice skills that build vocabulary, rhyming, segmenting and blending words.
School-Age Children
Common difficulties include
Remembering and following spoken directions;
Remembering people’s names;
Sounding out new words;
Seeming to ignore others when engrossed in a non-speaking activity;
Understanding people who speak quickly;
Finding the right words to use when talking.
Accommodation and modification strategies
Combine oral teaching with visual aids;
Ask that teachers and others make it physically, visually or audibly clear when they are about to begin something important so that nothing is missed;
Have a note-taking buddy who will make sure that information was understood;
Request seating close to teacher;
Have child repeat back information or instructions to build comprehension skills and make sure messages are understood correctly.
Teenagers and Adults
Common difficulties inlcude
Talks louder than necessary;
Remembering a list or sequence;
Often needs words or sentences repeated;
Poor ability to memorize information learned by listening;
Interprets words too literally;
Hearing clearly in noisy environments.
Accommodation and modification strategies
Find or request a quiet work space away from others.
Request written material when you attend oral presentations.
Ask for directions to be given one at a time, as you go through each step.
Take notes or use a tape recorder when getting any new information, even little things.

http://ncld.org/types-learning-disabilities/adhd-related-issues/auditory-processing-disorders/auditory-processing-disorder-by-age-group

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The Five Secrets to Being A Special Education Teacher And Still Love Your Job

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The job of a special education teacher is not an easy one, and additional pressures from budget cuts, new school initiatives, and professional development can be overwhelming. One of our favorite special education teachers, Tim Villegas, shares how he manages to stay positive and connected to kids and families.
——————
Do you want to know the secrets to working in Special Education and still love your job? Read on…
If you are reading this… it probably means that there is still hope for you. Perhaps you are young and not yet jaded by the persistent thumb of the public education system pressed firmly on your back. Perhaps you are an optimist, who tries to see the silver lining in everything. Or perhaps you have already figured out the secrets to working in a job that has little pay, little respect, and little support. Here my five secrets to being a special education teacher who still absolutely loves it.

1. Understand that it is not about YOU.
We did not enter into a career in education to become millionaires… In fact, the only people that are really making money in this industry are the test makers (I don’t know that for sure…just venting a little). So… if you did not do it for the money… why are you a special education teacher? I know it was not JUST because teachers have the summer off! How many of us work Extended School Year (ESY), plan and dream about the following school year during the summer?
We do what we do because we love to work with kids. We do what we do because we enjoy people (or at least I hope we do). When we realize that it is not really about US… it’s about what we can do for other people, our kiddos, our paraprofessionals, our co-teachers, and fellow staff… we can let go of trying to make our situation perfect for us. Being a teacher is a collaborative profession… which brings me to the next secret.

2. Realize you are not alone.
There are approximately 3.9 million teachers (including public and private) in the United States. Whether they are special education teachers or not… each one of them has a stake in education as a whole and has an interest in making it better. It can be easy to feel isolated especially if you are special education teacher in a small district. Perhaps you feel alienated by the school staff. You are a vital part of your school community, even if you don’t think you are. Know that there are thousands of teachers… just like you… who are struggling to do the same thing.

3. Develop your Personal Learning Network (PLN).
Are you on Facebook? No? Go get an account… I can wait…
Are you on Twitter? No? Really? Okay… I can spare a minute…
Are you on Linkedin? Okay… now this may take some time.
These three social media outlets are VITAL to establishing your leaning community. I understand that this requires you to be somewhat tech savvy… but guess what, folks. Technology is a huge part of the shift in education. If we do not get on board with technology, we are going to be left out in the dust. For more information on how to manage your digital life, you can check out my previous post —>> here.
The big point here is to connect with people who are interested in the same things and then read, watch, and do.

4. Have high expectations for yourself and your students.
Nothing irks me more than hearing a teacher say, “Tthey are never going to get anything out of that!” or “So-and-so should have never been placed in (insert LRE placement here)…they should have been in (insert more restrictive placement) all along!”
Have some respect for your students that they can learn and will learn when given the correct supports. It is too easy to place the blame on someone else for why a student is in your classroom. Believe that you CAN teach any student! You are a special education teacher for a reason… you want to help realize a student’s potential. If you don’t know how to do it… there are ways to figure it out. Don’t give up on your student or yourself. You will become a better person and a better teacher for it. Where there is a will, there is a way.

5. Make friends with General Education Teachers and then collaborate with them.
Okay… this is really the silver bullet. If you are Special Education Teacher and you sit alone in your classroom during your lunch and planning period…. you are missing out on the richness of developing relationships within the school community. Once I opened up myself to know and befriend other teachers who did not teach my kiddos… I saw a whole other world. Sometimes it is easy to segregate ourselves from our school staff, and then, when we don’t feel included or are not invited to things, we point the finger at them.
Something that has transformed my teaching is to collaborate with general education teachers on lessons that my class and their class can do together. This way…,it is not just about integrating special needs students and typical students…,it is about designing lessons so that EVERYONE can participate and get something meaningful out of it. No longer can we use the excuse… “Well… they won’t get anything out if this.” They WILL because we can set it up for our kids to be successful.
If we apply these secrets to our education practice… I promise you will love your job. In fact… you may even want to start a blog to write about it. It happened to me.

http://nichcy.org/five-secrets-to-being-a-sped-teacher

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So Many Special Needs Vacation Spots. Who knew?

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Still up for a summer vacation?

Next Step For Special Needs

Best Special Needs Vacation Spots
Anyone who has organized a trip for the whole family knows how much time and effort it takes. But if you’re the parent of a special needs child, you can pretty much double or triple that figure. So much preparation is required that getting out of the house, reaching your destination successfully and still managing to have a good time could be considered a small miracle. Nevertheless, families do it every day — and have the time of their lives, over and over again.

It’s important to have a system, call ahead and expect the unexpected. But it also helps to choose a destination that “gets it.” Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, public buildings have been equipped with ramps, elevators and restrooms that accommodate people in wheelchairs. But when it comes to the serious business of having fun, vacation destinations…

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Chewing and Autism

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Chewing is a common behavior in special needs children, especially those with autism or ADHD. Children with sensory issues often feel compelled to chew on paper, clothes, or other objects.

Sensory processing disorder is a condition often linked to autism, ADHD, and other special needs. The term refers to the difficulty intaking and understanding sensory information from outside stimuli. Some children might feel over or under stimulated. Children with autism might chew because they like the sensation they get from the behavior.

Many parents of children with sensory issues are concerned about the constant chewing because it tears up clothing and other objects, and chewing certain objects can cause tooth or health problems.

One of the first things to do is to give your child something else to chew. Chewy tubes and other toys designed for child chewing (not teething toys or those designed for infants) provide your child with the sensory input they want but prevents them from chewing things you don’t want them to. Some parents choose to give their children mints or gum, but too much sugar can further tooth decay, and gum can be messy.

A method to prevent chewing is to give your child oral stimulation that does not involve chewing but still gives oral sensations. Blowing through a straw, blowing bubbles, making noises, and making faces in a mirror are examples of oral activities. Encourage other activities that require the use of the mouth but cannot be done at the same time as chewing; such activities include singing, talking, reading a book out loud, or painting with a paintbrush in the mouth.

Encourage your child to gradually participate in activities other than chewing. Take a short “break” from chewing by allowing your child to engage in another activity he likes, such as swinging. Make sure your child knows he cannot use his chew toy during the swinging activity, but he will get the toy back at the end of the swinging time. This trick will prevent a tantrum, but you can also gradually increase the amount of time your child goes without his chew toy.

As a child gets older, finding discreet chew toys might be necessary. Chew necklaces are popular alternatives to chewy tubes that are more age appropriate and discreet.

http://www.specialneeds.com/products-and-services/autism/chewing-and-autism

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Play is Therapy and Therapy is Play

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Play is a cornerstone of development for all children. Consider the cognitive engagement when children are working on a puzzle, or the motor skills and coordination involved in playing catch with a ball, or the socialization skills required in playing a game. Through play, children expand skill sets related to:

Communication
Critical Thinking
Emotional Expression
Creativity
Socialization
Fine/Gross Motor Skills
It is through play that many children are able to learn daily skills and functions while participating in an activity that is merely fun for them.

Unfortunately, play is not always easy for a child with special needs as the cognitive or physical challenges they face often prevent them from playing with traditional toys. Parents, clinicians, and educators have struggled to find toys that are appropriate for children with special needs. Their options have been limited to using traditional toys as best they can or trying to find adapted toys, which are traditional toys modified to make them more appropriate. Adapted toys are typically very expensive and as a result, children with special needs have not been able to experience the joy and developmental benefits from toys in the same manner as other children. With the rapidly growing numbers of children the special needs, the need for better designed and creative toys has become critically important.

PlayAbility Toys was founded to fill this need and has been creating unique toys and games for over ten years. Our products are designed with input from parents, teachers, therapists, child life specialists, and educational psychologists. Our philosophy has always been to make the toy or game “fun first” but to also make sure we have added effective therapeutic qualities to the toys to provide an enhanced play experience. Whether it’s our multi-sensory plush toys like “Buddy Dog”, or our light weight “Rib-it-Ball”, which features easy to grab, multi-sensory ribs, our toys provide an engaging experience for all ability levels. Using unique toys specifically designed for children with special needs helps captivate the child’s attention, motivates them to play longer, and enriches their perception of themselves and the play experience.

Designing special toys only solves part of the problem. We also recognize the financial hardships often involved with caring for a child with special needs and we strive to keep our products affordable. Our goal is to not only create wonderful toys but to make it possible for all parents to be able to buy them for their children. This not only allows children to have more play opportunities but also allows parents to use the same toys that therapists are using in clinical settings.

This continuation of play and therapy into the home environment amplifies the play opportunities and the developmental benefits provided to the child. We have also developed recommended “lesson plans” and activities demonstrating how to best utilize our toys allowing parents the ability to provide a more structured “play time” but in a fun and creative way.

So play is therapy and therapy is play! Improved play experiences foster multiple developmental benefits and enhance the child’s quality of life. Finding appropriate toys has been a major challenge for parents and others providing services to children with special needs. At PlayAbility Toys, we focus on the special needs community and strive to design quality products that support the families, clinicians, and educators who are devoted to helping these special children.

http://www.specialneeds.com/activities/general-special-needs/play-therapy-and-therapy-play

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