Many performance companies are changing the perception of live theater for children with ASD, making it more inviting and comfortable for them. Continue reading
A superstore in England is being hailed for implementing ‘quiet hour” – times where the store encourages silence for autistic shoppers to be able to shop comfortably. Continue reading
An autistic child is afraid of letters, but loves drawing faces.
So Patrick Allred, a registered behavior technician who works with the Utah Autism Academy, used to help him learn. Drawing faces on each letter helped him get over his anxiety about letters, said Allred, “With these letters, he was able to learn the alphabet because they were nice to him, they weren’t scary.”
Art, and how it can help children with autism, was the topic of an art talk Tuesday evening at the Woodbury Art Museum, where three professionals who utilize art therapy talked about how children who have difficulties vocalizing needs can learn to use art to communicate.
Allred has involved students in projects where they will draw what they’re afraid of, or will listen to music and draw how the music made them feel. He shared with a small audience how a child learned to draw faces with different expressions and emotions, and would mimic each face as he drew it.
Jenny Elizabeth, an artist who has used art therapy to help children, spoke on how art can be used to help with trauma. She has witnessed that some art mediums are seen as safer than others, like watercolors, which can evoke more emotion than pencils.
“You can tell a lot about where a person is and what they need to work on if you look at the media they’re using and what they are drawing,” Elizabeth said.
George Cepull, a professional artist who volunteers as an art instructor at local elementary schools, is known to his students as “Mr. Cepull, the man with the robot leg.” When he enters classrooms, he dresses so the students can see his prosthetic leg.
“I am something different to them, and I think that helps them adapt to the real world,” Cepull said.
He teaches the children that everything is made up of shapes, and making a picture is like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. At the end of his lessons, he projects their drawings onto a screen.
“I think this is a way they can feel good about themselves and see what they can do,” Cepull said. “They can see their art on the wall.”
Todd Turner and his brother Paul decided to start a nonprofit called Team GUTS that offers fitness classes, strength training, and sports camps for children and adults with special needs. Continue reading
Interactions with animals, particularly dogs, have shown to be incredibly beneficial for children on the autism spectrum. Continue reading
John was having a difficult time trying to communicate and demonstrated a tendency to act rather aggressively. However, this all changed once he discovered his passion towards painting. Continue reading
Eashana Subramanian, a 12-year-old girl, has developed a new mobile application after noticing the challenges her autistic sister faces on a day to day basis at school. Eashana had been observing her sister Meghana’s behavior and noticed how important routines were to her. Every morning, Meghana wakes up and goes to brush her teeth, comb her hair, dress up, and get ready for school. Eashana realized that when something changed in the structure of her sister’s routine, she would have a hard time following the new pattern.
Eashana saw how her parents struggled to assign the appropriate tasks to Meghana since they had a difficult time keeping up with what was going on at school. It didn’t take long for Eashana to connect the dots together and realize that there was a communication gap between the teachers and her parents. She decided to take matter into her own hands and create a handy app called AutBuddy in order to bridge the distance. “I look at all these problems and said this had to be solved somehow or made easier for my parents. So I thought of AutBuddy that could have features to fix the problems — not fix but help,” explains Eashana.
The purpose of AutBuddy is to help children on the autism spectrum carry out their routines at home and school in a stable and organized manner. Eashana developed it along with the help of some of her middle school friends in Derwood, Maryland. One of the main functions of the app is its ability to allow the parents to communicate with the teachers in real time so that they don’t get left behind when it comes to lessons and assigned homework duties. The app is also customizable and is personalized to each children’s needs according to their level on the autism spectrum.
AutBuddy’s development originated at the Adventure in Science Club which is a Maryland-based nonprofit group that promotes science, technology, engineering, and math education. The team of developers include nine other students as well as an advisor and a special education teacher. The group received $20,000 thanks to the 2016 Verizon App Challenge. The next step for the team has them working with members of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where the app will move into production. AutBuddy will be ready to launch on June 1st through Google Play and we couldn’t be more excited for its release!
For additional information, please visit:ABC News
By Edgar Catasus
Parents of a child on the autism spectrum understand the importance and difficulty of keeping their child engaged with the world around them. Kurt Janicki, the father of an autistic child, was struggling with his son’s tendency to disconnect and drift away from the present moment. Mr. Janicki was looking for ways to get his son to interact with his surroundings and he couldn’t have imagined an answer to his dreams would come in the sport of wrestling. The unexpected life-changing event took place when his son, Erik Janicki, was watching the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament. It was right in that moment that he realized he wanted to participate in his high school’s wrestling program. Ever since, Erik has been connected to the world thanks to his passionate interest in the sport.
“If you let him, his world would close in on him. If you don’t keep him connected to the world around him, he would close in on himself in a heartbeat, and he would continue to do that.”, said Mr. Janicki. The ease in which Erik retreats back into his shell is what has made his discovery of wrestling that much more significant. He’s now known to be “Coach Erik” within his teammates and his involvement in the sport has given him an opportunity to better himself. As one of the coaches, Erik’s responsibilities include helping the head coach run practices and delivering motivational speeches to the team before their scheduled meets.
Erik’s father participated in the same high school’s wrestling program back in the 1980’s and he was able to reach the Middlesex County Wrestling Tournament. “The thing about wrestling – you know how personal and emotional it can be – and Erik watches the journey that each one of these young men takes. He connects with them, and he’s emotionally invested in it”, explained Kurt Janicki. He was pleased, even shocked, by the offer of South River head coach Bobby Young to integrate Erik into the team by making him a coach. He thought his son was going to be on the sidelines and was gratifyingly surprised to see he truly was going to form an integral part of the experience.
Erik’s parents look forward to a future where he can continue to thrive and grow as a person. His involvement and excitement as one of the wrestling coaches have installed a positive outlook into his transition to adulthood. They hope to continue to bring down the barrier that sometimes blocks their son from interacting independently with the world but remain optimistic. Mr. Janicki has some inspiring words of advice to other parents with children on the autism spectrum. He says, “They are wonderful gifts in your life. Don’t hide them from the world. Take time to let them teach you about yourself and about them.”
For additional information, please click here.
By Edgar Catasus
It’s crucial for any child to have a strong mother and father figure in their life. It helps them develop and acquire healthy self-esteem as well as a positive outlook on their identity. However, in many families the father isn’t as present as the mother when it comes to caregiving which in turn disrupts the child’s well-being and sense of stability. According to a recent study, it’s even more imperative for a child with autism to be able to depend on a supportive father figure who is engaged and invested in his role.
Researchers at the University of Illinois have found that when dads participate in activities with kids on autism spectrum, the child sees a noticeable improvement in their overall development and the mother is less apt to suffer from depression. Activities might include the father reading a story, playing with toys, calming the child down when they are upset, or taking them to the doctor when they feel sick. Since mothers demonstrate higher levels of stress when they take care of a child with autism, the father’s involvement becomes of special importance to the well-being of both parents.
“One of the key criteria of autism is difficulty with communication, which may explain why these children’s mothers are especially susceptible to stress and depression,” explains one of the main conductors of the study Daniel J. Laxman. Since children with autism struggle with communication, it’s essential for the father to spend time every day reading or singing songs to his child in order for the child to improve his or her vocabulary and grasp on verbal communication.
The study analyzed the development of the child at nine months, two years old, and four years old in order to get a clear picture of the benefits of a firm paternal role. The data has been quite groundbreaking since many previous researchers focused on the importance of the mother role and reduced the significance of the father. This might be due to society’s expectations of dads not playing as much of a central part in the upbringing of a child. The study dismisses such preconceived cultural norms and indicates that both parents are integral to the structure of a family.
“It’s very important that men fully understand the reasons why their support and active engagement in parenting is so critical for the family’s functioning and for the child,” states Brent A. McBride, director of the Child Development Laboratory at Illinois. However, it’s also necessary for the parents to come to an agreement over the parenting methods they will inflict on the child to not create an even more stressful environment. A mother and a father will have different perspectives and points of view when it comes to discipline but the child needs to feel a sense of harmony within the family.
For additional information, please visit: PsychCentral.
By Edgar Catasus
A recent study conducted by Vanderbilt University confirms the fact that acting is a new form of therapy for children diagnosed with autism. The study consisted in comparing children who participated in a theater program for 10 weeks to those who did not. According to the research, children who actively engaged in the program saw an improvement in their social skills including their ability to interact and behave with others as well as their communication.
The art form of acting is extremely beneficial for children with autism since not only does it involve observing and interpreting ideas, but also expressing them verbally as well as nonverbally through body language. The theater program which the children attended is called the Social Emotional Neuroscience & Endocrinology (SENSE) Theatre. This program in specific focuses on evaluating the social skills of children with autism.
The 30 children selected ranged in ages 8 all the way up to 14 and were about evenly distributed to the experimental group and the control group. Researchers found that those children participating in the acting program saw a vast improvement in their ability to remember faces due to new changes in their brain patterns. In other words, the activity of acting paved new connections and therefore new thought pattens as well.
Another benefit of participating in the program results in the children spending more time outdoors playing in groups with other children. They also were more communicative with their families at home and in their respective communities. The SENSE Theatre also introduced actors from another local university and paired them each with a child.
The peer actors were trained to provide supportive and engaging dynamic skills with their assigned child and allowed them to try out different acting methods such as improvisation or role-playing all on their own. The program finishes with a stage performance carried out by both the actor and the child. The data shows that it is possible for children with autism to improve the way they interact with the exterior world and acting seems to make those interactions smoother for them in the long run.
For additional information, please visit PsychCentral.
By Edgar Catasus