Ways to teach young children with Autism

Here is a picture of approaches that anyone can teach to young children, not just with Autism:

Temple Grandin’s Presentation in December 2019 for Faces 4 Autism.

These approaches should be taught very early on in an individual’s life, especially for a child living with Autism. No matter who you are, a parent, professional, educator, etc., anyone can teach with these approaches to children. I understand from a professional perspective about why we do not say the word, “NO”, that often. I learned that the word, “NO”, serves as a positive punishment, which means reducing undesirable behavior. It is absolutely normal that we do say that word, so I encourage everyone to give instructions, that way we can explain to the student/child the reason behind the behavior. For example, if the individual is doing their homework as told to, use that as a teachable moment to explain to them that since they are doing their homework right away, they will have more free time later. Do not forget to praise them too! On the other hand, if they are not doing their homework right away, explain to them that they won’t have as much free time later if they do not do their homework right away. Clear instructions and teachable moments can help any individual develop.

Parents, Educators, and any professional working with an individual living with Autism, simple and clear instructions should be told when needed to to the individual. Most importantly, please be patient and kind to an individual living with Autism. We want to communicate and work with you, just give us a little time to respond and take action. Encourage us to communicate with you through motivation and reinforcement. Most importantly, your behavior matters as much as the individual’s behavior, so be aware of yourself and observe their behaviors.

My Top 5 about being a woman living with Autism

National Autism Day (Thursday, April 2nd, 2020)

Autism is an neuro-developmental disability diagnosed more in boys than girls. When it comes to being a woman and living with Autism, it can be an interesting life. These are my 5 top when it comes to be a woman living with Autism.

  1. I have to work harder than most people. If you read my blog story about my early years, my Autism was more severe as a little kid. I barely knew had to do things myself or even communicate. I was taught everything that everyone else knows naturally. Today, I have improved tremendously, but I know I still will always have to work harder than most because of how my brain functions. For instance, it always took me so much longer to complete homework assignments and exams at school than anyone else. Plus, I have a whole method of studying, which forces me to process longer than I feel I should. My point is that my brain functions differently than everyone else’s.
  2. I do not like to wear tight or scratchy clothing. I do not like clothing that makes me feel itchy, such as shirts with tags or the fabric on shirts. I do not like to wear tight pants. Although, I will wear jeans, but they cannot be so tight! In my elementary and middle school years, I wore sweatpants a lot because sweatpants felt comfortable to me. I still do but not once in a while I wear them out when I know I believe its fine to. Otherwise,
  3. My facial expressions tell a lot about me. People can easily tell if I am bad at hiding information just by my facial expressions. I will not do something that forces me to feel pressured or down; This will only make me feel upset and angry. Communication of any kind is important, including nonverbal behavior.
  4. It was never easy for me to ask for help at first. When it comes to challenging situations, I never knew in the beginning how to ask for help. I was taught this concept a lot. Throughout my school years, I was told I should ask for help if I was struggling with something or needed anything. As the years gone by, I am now considered as an self-advocate. One of the things about being a self-advocate is knowing when to reach out for help when needed. It is important to learn this concept to get through in life.
  5. I am super focused on what I love to do. Individuals living with Autism are super focused on what they love to do, and it’s based on special interests for majority. For example, I knew I always loved the education field. I used to play with stuffed animals and pretended they were my own students. I have in my basement a classroom set up and played school. Today, I work with elementary school students living with Autism as a Paraprofessional. I am a living proof of working in the classroom! Every time I am in the classroom, I forget what is going on outside of the classroom. I am focused on teaching my students to the best of their abilities with the teacher of the classroom and keeping them smiling.

I am thankful to be who I am. Living with Autism has taught me so much and I am still learning more in my life. I believe that you will educated more about living with Autism, and what it is like for a lot of women living on the Autism Spectrum. This is only just one story that you may have heard/read, but there are a lot more women out there living with Autism too.

Skills and Talents

Temple Grandin’s presentation for Faces 4 Autism in December 2019.

Just like everyone else in the world, individuals living with Autism have their own skills and talents. These skills and talents can be very helpful to turn into careers. For example, anyone who loves drawing can go into many art careers: Art Teacher, Graphic Designer, Interior Designer, etc. As I have mentioned in my last blog story, “Different Kinds of Thinkers”, our thinking processes are developed in early childhood and so many careers today use one or more kinds of thinking processes. Thus, people can develop many skills and talents too from them and can be useful in the world. Our thinking processes helps us realize our skills and talents, and it is really important to recognize them throughout our lives.

Growing up, I knew I enjoyed school a lot. Even though it was difficult for me to communicate, I always enjoyed learning something new. Later on, I developed many good friendships with people I am still friends with today. You know who you are! My experiences throughout my education taught me I would always be a life-long learner. In high school, I discovered more of my passion to help students with Autism and other disabilities. I volunteered a couple days a week in a program for students with Autism and other disabilities for half of my high school years. In college, I did field work in regular and special education classrooms. From there, I am in my career today: working in a classroom full of elementary school students with Autism as a Paraprofessional. I even have discussions with some of my friends who I have been friends with for a long time, and they work in a similar field as me. My patience, perseverance, hardwork, kindhearted, and dedication reflects anywhere and everywhere I go, no matter what. Anyone can learn to recognize their own skills, talents, strengths, and weaknesses. In all, experiences matter to develop on everything about ourselves.

Parents, Educators, and other professionals who help individuals living with Autism, having special electives in our schools, (examples: Art, Music, Cooking, Woodshop, Computer Coding, etc.) are valuable to be successful in the future. These electives teaches an individual to develop hobbies and activities, and encourages to use them in their lives everyday, from career to it being part of themselves. Plus, encourage about extracurricular activities in school and out of school. Parents, please get your child involved in the house and/or even community. I did a lot myself throughout my school years, such as doing taekwondo in elementary and middle school years, to volunteering for students with disabilities in high school. I gained interests, passion, and developed dedication for what I love to do today. Skills and talents come throughout our lives and can always be developed.

Different Kinds of Thinkers

The world is full of various thinkers. This applies to individuals living with Autism too.

There are various kinds of thinkers:

Temple Grandin’s presentation for Faces 4 Autism back in December 2019.

Our minds have various kinds of thinking processes. The following types of thinking processes that make us these kinds of thinkers are: Visual, Pattern, Verbal, and Auditory. People could be just Visual thinkers, be Visual and Pattern thinkers, any other combination of thinking processes, or just one of the other kinds of thinking processes . For instance, Temple Grandin is a photo realistic thinker who loves to invent and design through drawings. Her mind is possess of this kind of thinking since she was a little girl. On the other hand, there are individuals living with Autism who are Verbal and Auditory thinkers. In all, anyone can be just one type of thinker or can have multiple types of thinking processes.

Parents, educators, and other professionals who help individuals living with Autism, you will notice that individuals living with Autism can possess a unique mind. Our mind’s thinking processes are developed early on in childhood years, just like anyone else. The world needs all kinds of these minds to solve problems and make the world more peaceful.

Transportation and Traveling skills

Visual board about various kinds of transportation and steps for traveling.

Whether learning to drive or take any other kind of transportation, such as a bus or plane, understanding the different kinds of transportation is extremely important to navigate in the world. It also demonstrates the importance of knowing the following: using maps and GPS, such as Google GPS. I use Google’s GPS all the time to get to new places, such as the school where I work. Google’s GPS is so visual and guided that it can help those who are visual learners to learn to get to any location. Everyone has to be able to listen and follow directions to get to where you need to get to. Punctuality and time management are important to understand, so please know that it is important to know when to get to one place to another, like to work or a community service/event.

Individuals living with Autism like structure, especially using step by step directions. Step by step directions is how the majority of individuals living with Autism process information. I learned that if I see landmarks (objects), this helps me towards getting to my next place and towards the end of my driving route, which is my school I work in. For example, seeing a church means I will be turning left soon and that I am about five to ten minutes to being at work. Understanding and being aware of when and how to get to places is important, so teach as much as the individual can learn to process on their own. The visual board picture above demonstrates to individuals can learn about their environment while on the road, whether in the car or even on the bus. They will see all of these pictures anywhere they travel.

Overall, individuals learn and become more aware of their environment as they learn, so getting involved in the community is valuable. The right kind of support is necessary to learn about various kinds of transportation and travel skills, in order to reach as much independence for the individual as possible. Any kind of accommodations and modifications should be used of course, based on the individual. With the support of educators and families, the right kind of push is necessary to teach individuals living with Autism kinds of transportation and traveling skills.

Driving

January 20th, 2015: The day I passed my road test and got my driver’s license!

I first learned about driving through my high school’s driver’s education class. I had to get my permit through my driver education class. I studied everything I learned from the class and took my written test about driving. I aced that test and I got my permit! I knew the facts and information when it comes to driving, but the real lessons of driving were way more difficult to me than I thought. I was determined though because I knew I always wanted to be able to drive.

I had to go through the 6 hours of driving lessons, since it’s required in the state of New Jersey. I first learned to drive through a driving school. I was not an easy student to teach. I recall driving on the opposite side of traffic on the road at first when I was learning. Also, I struggled with merging from one side of the same side of traffic on the road to the adjacent side of the road. Plus, I had a hard time with judging distances of incoming traffic when making turns. On the other hand, I was good with the following: stopping at stops, waiting long enough at stops signs, turning on red when safe to, and following traffic light rules. It was important to me for my school-driving instructor to be as patient with me as possible.

After that, I practiced driving a lot with my parents, especially with my dad most of the time. My parents taught me that driving is like riding a bicycle. I had to start off driving in my community and make my way out into the road. My community was good for me about practicing turns, parallel parking with cones and on sides of the streets, making all kinds of turns, and judging incoming cars. I will never forget the day of my surprise birthday party and my dad made me drive in a really bad thunderstorm to get pizza; I did not know at the time my friends were throwing a surprise birthday party for me.

When the day of my road test came, I was excited and really nervous at the same time. The good news was that I started off driving on the road first, and then made my way inside to do the parallel parking portion of the test. I was fortunate to had a really nice testing instructor that just talked with my calmly and chatted with me about themselves. Because of the really nice testing instructor that I had, along with my improved driving skills, I passed my road test!!! I will never forget how excited my dad was when I called him over the phone to tell him I passed my road test; He screamed in happiness over the phone, talking with the rest of my family at home about it. I was so proud and happy that I earned my driver’s license. My parents provided me with the right push to learn to drive.

Ever since, I drive myself anywhere that I want and/or need to go to, as well as driving my family. I have been driving for a few years now and it has been amazing! I am a cautious driver, making sure of my surroundings of my environment when driving. Parents, educators, and to individuals living with Autism, please encourage and discuss about learning to drive and/or learning about other kinds of transportation. It is part of being an independent individual. Remember to provide the right kind of push necessary for the individual, so think what is best for them to learn and comprehend.

Autism and Medications

There is no exact cause for an individual to be diagnosed with Autism. Also, there is no cure for Autism. Autism is lifelong. Not only that, there is no direct medication for Autism either.

Medications for individuals living with Autism are used to treat co-occurring issues: OCD, Anxiety, Depression, Seizures, and other medical health issues. Signs and symptoms of Autism can interrelate with other issues. For instance, Temple Grandin, who is a well-known woman living with Autism, has been taking medication for her anxiety for over 20 years, and she has shared in various books about how her anxiety medication has saved her life; She experienced anxiety due to her sensory issues, so she knew she needed medication to help reduce it. Medications serves its purpose to help individuals living with Autism reduce issues, such as anxiety.

Individuals living with Autism, families, and educators needs to understand and be aware about the purpose of the medication and the side effects of an medication before taking them. Educational and behavioral interventions should still be used while taking medication. Please make sure to consult with a doctor before taking any medication.

Services and Therapies for individuals living with Autism

When I was very young and lived in Brooklyn, NY, I received early intervention services and various kinds therapies. I had them every single day, seven days a week! Plus, I still had some therapies throughout my education in NJ. I would not be where I am today if my parents did not get me the therapies and services that I needed. The following below are the different types of services and therapies for individuals living with Autism:

Early Intervention Services: services and supports that are provided based on the individual’s disability.

Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy: therapy that helps individuals learn which behaviors are helpful and behaviors that are harmful or affect learning. Can be adapted to meet the needs of each unique person. Provided in many different locations – at home, at school, and in the community. It teaches skills that are useful in everyday life, and can involve one-to-one teaching or group instruction. Different kinds of reinforcements and consequences are implemented to teach behaviors that are helpful.

Occupational Therapy: Helps individuals work on various skills: cognitive, physical, social, and motor. usually involves half-hour to one-hour sessions. The number of sessions per week is based on individual needs. In the sessions, they focus on play skills, learning strategies, and self-care. It can also help to manage sensory issues.

Speech Therapy: addresses challenges with language and communication. It does help all levels of communication: from verbal to nonverbal to social. The goal is to help the individual communicate in more useful and functional ways.

Physical Therapy: activities and exercises that build motor skills and improve strength, posture, and balance. It helps the individual gain and build muscle control.

Music Therapy: helps improve skills in various areas: communication, social skills, sensory issues, behavior, cognition, perceptual/motor skills, and self-reliance or self-determination. Music experiences are connected with the particular individual to help the individual develop personal connections and build trust.

Art Therapy: helps with sensory simulation, develop interpersonal/social skills, relieve feelings of anxiety and stress, develop creativity, increase self-esteem, develop motor skills, and develop sense of self.

The main goal of all of these services and therapies is for the individual to gain their own independent life. It is personalized to the needs of the individual.

Classroom placements in Education

Levels of classroom placements: home-bound/hospital, residential school, private school, separate (special education) school, public school separate (special education) classroom, special education resource room, regular classroom with special education services & instruction, regular classroom with consultation, and regular classroom.

When my family and I moved to New Jersey, I was three years old at the time. One of the biggest reasons that we moved from Brooklyn, NY to New Jersey was because of me; There were not much services and therapies left that the state could offer me after I reached that age. After some thinking and research, my parents thought it was best for me to attend a specialized school. I attended Children’s Center of Monmouth County, a specialized school for students with Autism and multiple disabilities. It is located in Neptune, NJ. When I was in 2nd grade, the child study team at Children’s Center felt that I progressed so much that they believed I was ready to be put into my town’s school district. My parents weren’t sure at first, but they could tell I was ready to move on.

In 3rd grade, I was placed in my town’s school district and attended a public school: Frank J. Dugan Elementary school. I started out in special education class for math and reading, and in a general classroom with supplementary instruction and services for science and social studies. I shared about my elementary school years in a separate blog story called, “Being a new kid”, so you may check out that story to read more about my experiences in being in my town’s school district.

In 6th grade, which was when I was in middle school, I was in all resource classrooms. By the end of my middle school years, I was placed in all general education classrooms with supplementary instruction and services, except for science, which I still was in a resource classroom for. In high school, I was mainstreaming in all my classes. My last year of high school was when I had one class in which I no longer had any special education support, which was for Math. For instance, I was one of the two students in my Math class that got exempt from the final at the end of the school year, due to my academic success in that class. You can read more about my middle school experiences and my high school experiences in these separate blog stories: “Middle School Years” and “High School Years”. Overall, I progressed in my education over the years and developed a lot.

It is really important for educators, child study teams, and parents to pay attention to how the individual is doing in their education and carefully consider the specific program characteristics that will help the individual make the most of academic and social opportunities. I felt that my town’s school district was amazing for providing me the most opportunities, both academically and socially; my teachers and peers helped me grow in so many ways, from learning new strategies to learn about each subject to creating and maintaining friendships. Everyone has to consider the following when it comes to classroom placement: from classroom environment itself, to instructional procedures in the classroom, and to staff training and development about Autism. It takes a village to impact an individual, so everyone has to work together to learn the best kind of education for that individual.

High Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s Syndrome?

High Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s Syndrome are part about living with Autism. They have their similarities and differences. After reading this blog story, you will be able to understand more about different behaviors and skills in individuals with Autism throughout the spectrum.

High Functioning Autism (HFA) is an individual living with Autism who progressed with language and skills. Also, these individuals display emotional sensitivity, have fixation on particular subjects or ideas, could have diverse or very low vocabulary (depending on intellectual level of individual), social difficulties, and have sensory sensitivities. Individuals with high-functioning autism usually present symptoms not originally associated with autism, but most likely can. It is important to educate the wide range of behaviors and skills associated with Autism Spectrum.

Asperger’s Syndrome is an individual living with Autism who developed normally with language, but struggles with kinds of behaviors and skills. They have trouble with social skills and have a lot of interest in specific topics. Although, there are certain skills/behaviors that they do not struggle with and can far exceed with them than most people, like cognitive skills. For those diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome get diagnosed later on in life, due to normal development in early childhood.

Here are more distinctions between High Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s Syndrome in this photo:

To all living with Autism and to all who know an individual living with Autism, any kind of therapies, sports, and other extra-curricular activities that the individual could be involved in will help increase various skills and abilities. Anyone on the Autism Spectrum can excel in life. Do not give up on us!