Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
With the Near Year upon us families need to make a list of what they would like to accomplish this year for their child(ren) on the Autism Spectrum. This long school holiday break is a reminder that another break will be coming up in the spring.
Spring Break - Make those plans now on what you will be doing during the spring, where you might want to go, if tutoring will be needed since the yearly State tests are done in May after we return from the spring break. This might be the time to look into summer camps and see what is available and visit these locations during the break. We are planning to visit Sea World again this spring break and hopefully check out the San Diego Zoo as well
Field Trips - When school resumes make a point of inquiring to the office and/or teachers on what they have planned for the rest of the school year for field trips. How many will there be, what months will they take place, any other classes going on the trip and what type of theme are they looking into. Try to get as much information in the beginning as possible so you can prepare your child for the trip, research the location and destination online and try to get the day off to accompany the class on the Field Trip.
Income Tax Refund - plan as a family what the money will be utilized for. Remember that as spring approaches you need to have summer plans in place. Now is the time to secure funding for a camp or put aside some of the income tax refund for the summer session. You might even be using this refund to pay off last year's summer vacation or camp session.
Summer School - will your child be attending a summer school session, wll they be attending another school that will be providing the summer schooling? These issues need to be discussed early in the year to determine where the child on the Autism Spectrum will be attending their summer break. Extended School Year - ESY
IEP - Start going over the goals in the current IEP and visit the school one day to observe how your child is doing. Sit in on a therapy session and contact each therapist for some feedback to find out if the child has met current goals and if any assessments are in the works for the coming IEP.
School Placement - Will your child be attending the same school or are they moving into another grade that is not taught at the current school. My son Nicholas is in the eighth grade using California Virtual Academy, and most likely will be doing the same for high school. Matthew is in seventh grade and having the ITP this year. I am already planning on visiting High Schools in this New Year.
A few years ago at the triennial IEP for Matthew it was suggested that therapists, teachers and aides create a book with tips and feedback on a student before that student moves to another school. We lucked out that for the three previous years it was the same speech, occupational and adaptive PE therapists at the school. This year they have yet to be assigned an SLP.
I would suggest all parents get a notebook and give this to the various therapists who work with your child at the current school and ask them to enter some data on your child that would benefit their next Therapist. This could include a sensory diet that is being utilized, how they have progressed over the years that the Therapist has been working and what they recall from the early days working with the child.
Autism Awareness Month is April - start purchasing some items that promote Autism Awareness now for handing out to the professionals that work with children on the Autism Spectrum. Adorn your vehicles with bumper stickers, purchase pens that have a message about autism on them, notepads, jewelry and shirts for the parents and children. I have several t-shirts for Matthew to wear and the camp gives a shirt every year that Nicholas wears when we go out as a family to the Zoo and for our trip to Sea World. I have purchased many shirts for myself to wear that mention Autism in the front and back. Many inquire about autism upon reading my shirts.
With winter now here although Los Angeles is having warm weather - I recently purchased a long sleeve autism shirt from National Autism Association for Matthew that is really nice. It states on the back - " I have: Beautiful eyes. A goofy sense of humor. Lots of hugs to give. Autism. www.nationalautism.org." This is a gray shirt with the writing in blue.
Respite - Start the New Year by looking for a reliable respite worker. Someone who has experience with autism and actually knows what it is. Some States offer agencies that provide someone with Respite, but don't hold your breath waiting for this person. The pay rate is below ten dollars in most areas and the workers are basically people off the street who filled out an application and passed some tests. This is a good start, but just because someone also has kids does not make them a respite worker for children on the Autism Spectrum. I have had people call me and tell me their kids are wild and crazy too. This is not a person that will enter my home anytime to watch my kids. My respite is working out at the gym when kids are in school. Rules for a Respite Worker.
Our history over the years is equal to glorified babysitters with no relevant experience working with autism. It has been 1.5 years since I requested respite through the Regional Center and I have spoken to several on the phone, but none that I would want in my house on any regular basis to deal with my kids so I can take a break. I would suggest utilizing www.craigslist.org in your area and do a search for autism to see what you may find through this venue, although it will be more expensive per hour, you will find someone with experience. This is how we found a helper to go to accompany us to Sea World last year. A previous experience with another respite agency brought us 8 different workers over a two month period.
Therapies - Research and look into other therapies for your child. This could be behavioral, play based or speech and language. It all depends on the age of your child and their developmental level. Check out students at the local college for volunteers to help out with your home programs. Also try contacting other families that may have older siblings. I would prefer someone that lives with a child on the Autism Spectrum or has lived with a sibling in the past and can share their trials and tribulations to offer a new perspective.
Reading - Start a subscription to a new autism related magazine, check out some books at the library and try to read a new book every month.
Support Group - Try joining a few online groups and a physical one in your city. Meetup.com has autism sites in all major cities that meet up once a week or monthly. Look into sibling groups for your other children. Join a National Autism Organization and become involved locally. Sign up for a Family Friend volunteer. community sites
Sports, clubs - Research the various sporting activities that are coming up this year and see if any of your children are interested in joining or just observing. Depending on the age there is girl scouts, boy scouts, special olympics, soccer, basketball and baseball. Maybe your child wants to learn to play a musical instrument. You can check into lessons at first at a location where you do not need to purchase the instrument at first and see if the interest lasts. If your child enjoys art try a boys and girls club or a saturday art club at a recreational center.
Try something new - This can be learning to swim for the child or riding a bike. There are videos you can purchase to help you teach this technique to the child on the Autism Spectrum. This could be a family ritual where every Saturday everyone goes to the YMCA and takes part in a new activity. Arts and crafts, sports and swimming take place at these locations. I would like both my sons to learn to swim since they have never officially learned to do so. When they were younger they did have their occupational therapy in the pool at the Hospital and they use a small wading pool at the summer camp. There are indoor pools open year round you can sign up with.
At one point a few years ago we purchased a bike for Nicholas to learn. Since we live in a major city where every block has dogs behind fences barking at every kid going by on a skateboard or bicycle this did not pan out. Everyone was too scared to try this on the street or sidewalk, so we stayed indoors and used the bike inside. I have nice photos of both boys sitting on the bike since we kept it in the kitchen so no one would steal it. We eventually sold it on ebay. A few times we ventured out into the front yard and used the small sidewalk. Matthew really enjoyed sitting on the bike, but that was the extent of it.
I am hopeful that we will be attempting ice skating at a rink in the coming weeks and if that does not fair there is a roller skating rink nearby that we will visit. Bowling is an activity that Nicholas enjoys, but Matthew is not interested in. I would like Nicholas to learn Karate at some point and he wants to start working out with weights. With the income tax return we are going to look into a membership at 24 hour fitness for Nicholas.
Allowance - If the child is already receiving one make plans for an increase in the beginning of the year or their birthday month. Nicholas and I have discussed this recently, and will be implementing an allowance starting the first of the New Year. We read over an article in the January 2006 issue of Good Housekeeping - Money Lessons to teach your kids and found a useful site online at moneyinstructor.com. Kids and Money
Safety - This includes changing batteries and buying additional smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and carbon monoxide detectors for your home. Check your windows and screens and doorlocks to make sure they are all in working order for the New Year. Take a photo of each child, date it and include their height and weight. Keep these in your wallet or purse in case of emergencies. Look into getting a medical alert bracelet if they are on medication. Safety In the Home and resources.
Behavior Support Planning
Social Skills Assessment
Educational Autism Tips for Families 71 page resourceful ebook for families entering the school system with a recent autism diagnosis. Find out what issues take place over the course of a school day and meet these challenges head on.