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Posts Tagged ‘Autism Awareness Month’

Having fun with your child with autism is absolutely essential.  It’s a key to your emotional health, and to the relationship you’re building both with your autistic child and with your typically developing children.  Perhaps just as importantly, when you see your child with autism outside of the classroom or therapist’s office, you may just discover that (1) he or she has some talents you never noticed before and (2) your child with autism is actually a lot of fun to be with

Each Sunday in April we’ll featuring a guest post from Lisa Jo Rudy, the author of Get Out, Explore and Have Fun: How Families of Children with Autism and Asperger Syndrome Can Get the Most out of Community Activities.   She was the the About.com Guide to Autism for five years, and is now an inclusion consultant for community organizations and  museums, a writer for autismafter16.com, and (of course) the mom of Tom Cook, age 15, diagnosed with PDD-NOS.  Find her at www.authenticinclusion.org or at www.lisajorudy.com.

Meet a Critter

My son’s first word was “cat.”  His best buddy to this day is his cat Dot, and his favorite recreational activity is bird watching.  Tom is not at all unusual among people with autism: many, in fact, are more comfortable with animals than with people.

Perhaps the best known example of an autistic adult with a strong connection to animals is Temple Grandin, who is a leader in the humane management of cattle.  But your child need not be a Ph.D. scientist to enjoy connecting with animals of all kinds.

If your child with autism is an animal fan, what’s the best way to help him pursue his interest in the community? A few possibilities include:

  • Horseback riding.  Hippotherapy or plain old riding lessons can open all kinds of doors for children with autism.  Riding builds physical strength and balance, communication skills, and even social skills when riding is done in a group setting or as part of an equestrian team.  Some people with autism become so engaged with their horse and stable that they volunteer and work for their local stable owner.
  • Bird Watching.  Alone or in a group, birdwatchers exercise their powers of observation, enjoy the natural world, and become part of a worldwide interest group.  In the long run, bird watching can even lead toward a career as a naturalist, nature educator, conservationist or scientist.
  • Animal Rescue Work.  The ASPCA and other animal rescue organizations are always looking for volunteer help. Children with autism can spend time with rescue animals, helping to socialize them or otherwise providing support to the rescue organization.
  • Visiting Zoos, Aquariums and Nature Centers.  While it can sometimes be tough to take a child with autism to a zoo or aquarium due to crowds and smells, nature centers are wide open and much less congested.  Some kids, though (like my son) are so motivated by their interest in the animals that they’re able and willing to overlook crowds, heat and smells to spend time with their favorite critter.
  • Animal Shows.  Whether you’re watching elegant Lippizaner horses from Vienna or local livestock, it can be fascinating to spend time at an animal or pet show. Kids with autism may not be able to spend a great deal of time at a show, due to sensory or behavior issues, so starting with low-cost options is probably the best choice.
  • Pet Stores.  Every mall has a pet store, and every pet store has at least a few adorable critters to observe.  Sometimes, pet store owners will even allow visitors to take a puppy into a small room where it’s possible to interact without risk to dog or child.

Whatever your child’s level of verbal ability or behavior, don’t pass by the possibilities provided by animals.  Non-verbal children are as capable as anyone of establishing a positive relationship with an animal . Your child may well surprise you with her compassion, connection and willingness to build a relationship with a non-human friend.

 

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Having fun with your child with autism is absolutely essential.  It’s a key to your emotional health, and to the relationship you’re building both with your autistic child and with your typically developing children.  Perhaps just as importantly, when you see your child with autism outside of the classroom or therapist’s office, you may just discover that (1) he or she has some talents you never noticed before and (2) your child with autism is actually a lot of fun to be with

Each Sunday in April we’ll featuring a guest post from Lisa Jo Rudy, the author of Get Out, Explore and Have Fun: How Families of Children with Autism and Asperger Syndrome Can Get the Most out of Community Activities.   She was the the About.com Guide to Autism for five years, and is now an inclusion consultant for community organizations and  museums, a writer for autismafter16.com, and (of course) the mom of Tom Cook, age 15, diagnosed with PDD-NOS.  Find her at www.authenticinclusion.org or at www.lisajorudy.com.

Take a Hike!

With so much on your plate, it can be hard to find the time or inclination to take your child with autism on a simple walk in the woods, a visit to a pond, or a trip to the beach.  Yet people with autism are often very much attracted to a connected with the natural world.  And, because there are few social or physical demands made by chirping birds, rippling brooks or cool green forests, you may find that your child calms down, relaxes, and enjoys himself.  You may just find that you do the same.

Start by choosing a nearby destination that is likely to be uncrowded and undemanding.  Before you go, take a trip on your own with a camera or video camera in hand, and create a preview of your plan.  Ideally, choose a location with a water attraction: a pond, lake, brook, river or beach.

Choose a day that’s not physically challenging (terribly hot, cold, or wet), and tell your child about your plan.  Show her your preview images or video, and discuss how long you’ll be out (no more than a couple of hours), what you’ll see and do, what snacks you’ll bring along, what you might see along the way, and so forth.

Then, get out and start enjoying.

Pay close attention to your child’s demeanor, her likes and dislikes, and her preferences.  Does she enjoy walking briskly for long distances, or get tired easily?  Is he bothered by bugs, or oblivious to them?  Is the woods a good choice, or would your child be happier in a meadow, a city park, or another type of natural setting?

What does your child notice?  Our son happens to be very interested in birds, and can spend a good deal of time watching birds on ponds, in marshes, and near harbors.  To make the experience more interesting and fun for all of us (his parents, sister, and family friends), we now go for nature walks and bring along binoculars and a field guide to birds of New England.

If there is water in your area, spend some time there.  Try skipping stones, or experimenting together by tossing in different types of objects (stones, pine cones, acorns, wood chips).  Is your child following your lead?  Can you follow his?


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Having fun with your child with autism is absolutely essential.  It’s a key to your emotional health, and to the relationship you’re building both with your autistic child and with your typically developing children.  Perhaps just as importantly, when you see your child with autism outside of the classroom or therapist’s office, you may just discover that (1) he or she has some talents you never noticed before and (2) your child with autism is actually a lot of fun to be with

Each Sunday in April we’ll featuring a guest post from Lisa Jo Rudy, the author of Get Out, Explore and Have Fun: How Families of Children with Autism and Asperger Syndrome Can Get the Most out of Community Activities.   She was the the About.com Guide to Autism for five years, and is now an inclusion consultant for community organizations and  museums, a writer for autismafter16.com, and (of course) the mom of Tom Cook, age 15, diagnosed with PDD-NOS.  Find her at www.authenticinclusion.org or at www.lisajorudy.com.

Get Splashy

You may feel it’s tough to enjoy sports with your autistic family member, but perhaps you haven’t considered swimming.  Kids with autism often enjoy water – and swimming may come very naturally.  The great thing about swimming is that it’s very versatile.  It’s easy to swim as a family – but it’s also possible to swim as part of a team, in a pool, lake or ocean, with other kids or on your own.

If you’re thinking about pool swimming, I can highly recommend the YMCA.  Most Y’s have pools, and most Y pools are intended for recreational swimming (meaning they’re warm enough to be comfortable).   Y’s offer daily passes, so you can give it a try without committing a fortune.  Many Y’s also offer special times for family swim, and even for special needs swim.  If your child turns out to be a natural swimmer, Y’s are always willing to include special needs kids in their lessons and teams.  If you enjoy swimming as a family, Y’s also offer financial aid so that you can join and come whenever and for as long as you like.

Start off shallow and easy: in the kiddie pool or in a pool where she can easily stand.  Make as few demands as possible; just enjoy floating around and having fun together.  If your child shows an interest, you can consider lessons or provide lessons yourself.   Of course it’s very important that your child build enough water skills to stay afloat – but excellent stroke skills and the ability to dive aren’t critically important.  If your child is really interested in going further with swimming, individual or group lessons may be in order. And if your child turns out to be a great swimmer, swim teams are a terrific option.

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Awareness of autism is no longer enough. We need to take action everyday in April. Click here to get a full size version of the  calender of to dos to take action for autism.

Follow all of ASF’s Autism Action Month Activities on Pinterest here where we’ll be pinning the to dos daily.

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