Interactive learning games

Jackie’s Tips: Sports Can Be Therapy April 23, 2012

I am an ABA therapist and I could literally go on for days how much ABA can help your child, but I am here to tell you,  sports can be a form of therapy as well.

As I sit here watching my son warm up for his soccer game, I think how far he has come, and I attribute a big portion of that to sports.  My husband and I originally decided to enroll him in soccer as a social opportunity and a way to get some exercise.  It was that , sure, but it turned into so much more.

Just a few things that sports can do for your child:

Give her a subject to talk about that other kids can relate to

Give Dad something that he can get involved in

A way to get out of the house on a schedule

A way to meet other parents (for you)

A way to meet new friends that aren’t from school

Improve coordination

Improve self-confidence

Improve social skills

Because of all these benefits, I always recommend to the families that I work with to enroll their kids in a sport of some kind.  Gymnastics, soccer, basketball, swimming, wrestling, running… anything active,  really.  It doesn’t matter what sport, just something that your child enjoys that isn’t too complicated and too hard to get to.  It’s  a bonus if you enjoy it or used to play it too.  If something that you think would fit just right doesn’t, don’t be afraid to switch.  A lot of places will give you an introductory class so you can test it out.  Don’t give up on the first try. Sometimes kids have to try a few sports before they find “the one”. (A note for those of you that have boys: Ask anyone who has spent any time at all teaching boys and they will tell you they are inherently different than girls in just about every way.  They need to be moving practically all the time and keeping them doing this naturally keeps what we perceive as negative behavior down.)

Find a good coach that will be patient with your child.  If there isn’t one, volunteer yourself.  My husband had some of the greatest times coaching my son’s team and even waited in line to call from  Iraq in the middle of the night to find out how they did in a game because he had to leave before the season was over. Get your kiddo out there and  I bet you will see all these benefits and many more I haven’t even named. It’s worth it!



New Stuff in the Behavioral World…Solving Food Packers April 21, 2012

I read an interesting article in the newest Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. It talked about kids that hold food in their mouth for an excessively long time before swallowing, called “packing”.  I know a LOT of kids that do this, including two of my own who had speech problems.   Whether it is a difficult consistency Imageor texture for the child, or they just don’t like trying new things probably depends on the situation and the kid you are dealing with.  What we need here is the solution.  In feeding clinics, they have  a solution of redistributing the food or scooping out and reissuing the food, which you can imagine, is not really practical in a busy parent’s life.  What they came up with in more practical terms is giving them a liquid or a more preferred food in alternate bites, called a “chaser”.  Mary Poppins knew long ago, “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down”, and this worked for these kids.  Foods that they would consistently  pack they were able to swallow when they were given with something that the parents knew they would not hold in their mouth- a “preferred” food.  It turned these little chipmunks into happy eaters.  If your little one has problems with this, try it!


“Using A Chaser to Decrease Packing in Children with Feeding Disorders”  Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis Spring 2012


How Are You Doing? From the Front…. April 20, 2012

There are as many unique problems as there are kids with autism out there.  As you have heard, our numbers are climbing.  Let’s take a fun one.  Bad words. This  is  super fun because while typical kids know they are supposed to be sneaky and say them while grown ups are not around, our kiddos like to try their hands when we have people over for dinner who will be overly shocked to hear a four letter word from a four year old’s mouth.

What to do while Aunt Sylvia is staring you down while Tyler is shouting the F-bomb at the top of his lungs?

Don’t make a huge production out of it.  Remove him from the situation as quickly as possible with as little fanfare as possible.  A lecture on the inappropriateness of the word will probably be lost, and if it pulled you away from the dinner and got eyes back on him-a great bonus.  A calm, “That is an inappropriate word.  We do not say that,” and deposit him somewhere where he is safe and can not be seen or heard easily is best.   Go back to what you were doing before the interruption.  Don’t worry if Aunt Sylvia doesn’t agree.  She has no idea……


You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: My Life of Worry April 19, 2012

When I was pregnant with my third son,  I got a wonderful 3D ultrasound that showed me his fingers and toes and  his four chambered heart and even his cute little smile.  Since I was of Advanced Maternal Age (they handed me a cane at the OB clinic because I was 36) I got all kinds of genetic screening that told me he only had 1/10,000 chance  of any number of things.

What they couldn’t tell me is about autism-the one thing I really wanted to know about.  I had worked with and heard about numerous families that have multiple children on the spectrum, so I knew there had to be some kind of genetic component, but I also knew there was no way to test for it.  All I could do is wait.  I worried, and I worried a lot.  That’s the thing about autism.  When your baby is born, it’s not immediately apparent.  Your wait isn’t over.  Your worry and watchful waiting continues.   It’s not an easy wait, but I have learned the hard way-Don’t worry until you know what you are worrying about.  You will waste away your precious pregnancy and your baby’s first year.  What you worry about probably won’t happen anyway.  It  will probably be something you wouldn’t have dreamed up in a million years, like numerous anaphylactic food allergies.  (A different  post all together) Enjoy every moment with your little one.  You will be glad you did, no matter what happens…..




Show Me the Science…..Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments for Autism April 18, 2012

When looking at treatments, it’s important to concentrate on your resources.

Think about what is limited.  Your money and your time.  Even Brad and Angelina have a limit on those. (Time anyway…)  If we go chasing every exploratory treatment, it is possible some of our   TIME…our   most precious resource for our child while his brain is developing,  is wasted.  Go for what’s proven.  If you have a little extra money and time, you can try other things that won’t cause harm.

Let’s look at  something that we hear a lot about lately-hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatments, or HBOT.

An ABC News article, “Hyperbaric Autism Treatment Shows Possible Promise” in March 2009 , mentions several times that no credible scientific studies have yet shown that this an effective treatment for autism.  They were waiting on academic groups that don’t have a financial investment in seeing it work.  Forward to a November 2011 article, “Questions, risks surround hyperbaric chamber treatments for autistic children”.  The article states New Jersey is one of the three states where HBOT  is most often used. It is still the same story 3 years later.  Waiting on studies.  Anecdotal evidence.  Insurance isn’t covering. Parents paying huge sums of money.  Again, supporters say it will not hurt your child.  So,   this goes under the category of go ahead and do it if you have the extra time and cash,   IF  you already have him enrolled in scientifically proven treatments.


“A search for appropriate treatment must be paired with the knowledge that all treatment approaches are not equal;”   Autism Society Website.


Behavioral Mumbo Jumbo….Terms defined in real language

Reinforcement is a word I use a lot.  What exactly does it mean? This is the technical definition straight from the ABA bible:  (By ABA bible, I mean Applied Behavior Analysis, 2nd Edition, by Cooper, Heron, and Heward)

Reinforcement occurs when a stimulus change immediately follows a response and increases the future frequency of that type of behavior in similar conditions.

Don’t tune me out here.

What exactly does that mean?

I will tell you….what we think may look like a punishment MAY be motivating for your child.  Yelling at him MAY increase a bad  behavior!!!  Giving him candy may not increase a good behavior.  Look out for that.  Example….I used to have a client that would not put his coat on.  Mom would yell. This kiddo got a kick out of seeing his mom yell and get upset.   It got so he looked forward to leaving so he could NOT put on his coat so he could get all that good attention! In other words, make sure what you are using for a reinforcer is truly increasing the good stuff.  If the skittles aren’t making the coat go on,  they aren’t a reinforcer!



%d bloggers like this: