16 05, 2018

Help Me! I am Stuck! Combatting Learned Helplessness in Autism

Help Me! I am Stuck! Combatting Learned Helplessness in Autism I know I go on and on about it. I need to – our students and children REQUIRE us to remove the bubble wrap so they can GROW. If you missed the Bubble Wrap blog be sure to go back and check it out here. Every single adult with autism that I know tells me that the key to their success is that that were taught to push through fear (with a lot of support) and to wrestle with struggle. One thing is certain – those individuals with autism who have thrived learned how to resist learned helplessness and navigate challenges with support. They weren’t sheltered from the pain of disappointment, discomfort and failure. It is entirely reasonable that people who live with autism would be susceptible to a believing that they are incapable of success in areas of their

25 04, 2018

Please Remove the Bubble Wrap: Building Success in Children with Autism

Please Remove the Bubble Wrap: Building Success in Children with Autism Dear Parents, I have something I need to tell you. I don’t want to hurt your feelings, because I know that you do what you do, out of love for me. Your intentions are good. But, to be super honest – you are hurting me. Remember when you asked me if I wanted to join the bowling club? I said NO. When you asked if I would just try yoga class for kids, I refused? You offered to have me try T golf, dance, T ball, soccer, art class, gymnastics – all of which I declined? Then there was the day you told me that if I wanted a treat from the store I would need to go in and purchase it myself. Remember I freaked out. I was so angry with you. The truth is that when I

4 04, 2018

I’ll do it! Building Success Habits in Children with Autism

I’ll do it!  Building Success Habits in Children with Autism Kids with autism can contribute.  They need to contribute. It’s up to us, the adults in their lives to take the lead, set the standard, teach the skills and provide the supports needed to be successful. Let’s be honest - it takes effort, time and patience on our part. It’s often easier to do a task ourselves. But, we rob a kid of so much when we do! Our kids with autism can feel helpless - somehow broken because they need a lot of care and help. We owe it to them to offer balance – opportunities to be ‘givers’ because they are all capable of contributing.  There is a whole lot of value in the expectation of completed chores: Teaches how to persist and finish something that isn’t that fun Teaches how to follow a schedule and checklist Teaches

21 03, 2018

You Want Me To Do WHAT???

  Building Success Habits in Children with Autism Exhausted. Tired of the fight. Sick of explaining and listening to the barrage of excuses. Was I asking was impossible? Ever feel like it just isn’t worth the effort to get a kid to complete a chore? Particularly a child with autism? If so, you aren’t alone. The truth is that if we want children to grow up to be as self-sufficient, responsible and self-confident we have to start expecting them to contribute to the family, classroom and community when they are young. Even those with autism. Especially those with autism. An autism diagnosis does not preclude our kids and students from doing their part to maintain a house or a classroom. Everyone has a role to play. Each person contributes. Temple Grandin herself is a strong advocate of chores and responsibilities for children and teens with autism. She warns that parents

20 02, 2018

How do I get my child with autism to participate in activities outside of school if he or she doesn’t want to?

  How do I get my child with autism to participate in activities outside of school if he or she doesn’t want to?   The last email incited a whole range of comments and questions. Be sure to go back and check it out if you haven’t already! The most common question I received was: How do I get my child with autism to participate in activities outside of school if he or she doesn’t want to?  First of all, a blog can only touch on the answer to this question. The information below is meant to spark reflection, discussion and hopefully the motivation to make necessary changes. Autism, by its very nature, often imposes a dislike for anything new, unknown and unfamiliar. The autistic brain is wired for sameness and it struggles to think flexibly and to see alternatives. So, it isn’t that your child is somehow odd because he

19 02, 2018

The Language of Autism

What are they talking about? Navigating Autism Education Meetings I could tell something was wrong. My husband, Ivars, was typically very involved in discussions that pertained to our son. He was not afraid to ask questions of the professionals who knew autism far better than we did. We were so new to this diagnosis. Driving home from the meeting at school my husband was unusually quiet. In my head I created a whole host of paranoid thoughts about what was going on in his mind. Maybe he couldn’t handle the pressure of raising a son with autism? Perhaps, he was angry with something I had said – or not said. After what seemed like an eternity, he blurted out: “I have no clue what you people were talking about!” Unsure as to what he meant, I pushed for more information. “I come to these meetings Jenn and I feel so

31 01, 2018

This post might sting a bit…

“Mother knew that she had to “stretch” and lovingly push me just outside of my comfort zone so I could develop to my fullest.” These are wise words spoken by Temple Grandin, autism advocate, animal science professor and best-selling author. Like Temple, with every fibre of my being I believe that having autism, or any special need for that matter, does not mean less expectations. In fact, it might mean more. What is the reality for many children who live with autism? Too many parents, unintentionally, ‘sell out’ kids with autism. I know. That was harsh. But, to be fair, unless we name what is not working, we cannot do better. We love our kids. We want the best for them. That is precisely why it is imperative that we pull the band aid off - even if it hurts -  and identify what we might be doing that is

17 01, 2018

Moving Beyond “I can’t do it”

I can’t. I won’t try. We’ve all heard these words at some point. Feeling helpless and incapable is a very real problem that arises for our kids with autism (and those without it as well). Why does having autism seem to lead to learned helplessness? Part of the answer is uncomfortable for those of us who parent, educate or work with these children. Quite frankly, we tend to feed those helpless feelings. We allow anxiety, tears, and emotional drama to convince us to take over and get the job done when the child struggles to do a task. If we are not intentionally and consistently counteracting the child’s dependence with our words and actions, then we are promoting the dependence and powerlessness. Children with autism, even those with severe autism, are capable of SO MUCH MORE than we often give them credit for. Time and again I hear parents and

14 12, 2017

7 Keys to Help Students with Autism Cope with the Holiday Season at School

The weeks before Christmas are a tidal wave transition for folks with autism – and for many of us, quite frankly. Almost nothing remains the same: reduced daylight hours, TV shows are pre-empted for holiday specials, and daily classroom routines are interrupted by assemblies, play practice, and sing alongs. Blinking lights and shiny decorations change the look of classrooms and home and trees pop up in indoor spaces! All of this to offer a break in the darkness of winter – and life. And yet, it can be far too much for so many people. For those with autism, the spike in social expectations – Christmas parties, well meaning visitors popping in to say hello can be anxiety provoking. Particularly, when those visitors hug without warning and laugh a little too loud. An atmosphere of frenetic activity at school, the mall, in traffic, and at home threatens to send almost

13 11, 2017

I Am Glad I Didn’t Rescue You – My Heartfelt Letter To My Son

Dear Son, Many times throughout your childhood, you cried, screamed and made it clear that you were not happy with me. My whole body ached with the pain and my mind churned with the uncertainty of what I was doing at the time. Was I doing what was best for you? Would you be forever scarred by my pushing, encouragement, persistence and determination to help you grow, cope and be challenged? I didn’t have those answers, but my gut told me to persist in pushing and encouraging you a little bit at a time. It warned me that if I rescued you from struggle that you would not grow to be the person you could be. Your autism would swallow you whole and leave you isolated, helpless and trapped. Throughout your childhood, dad and I deliberately put you into situations that were uncomfortable for you: Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, speech