• How Parents can Support Each Other

  • How ABA Helps Parents

    When children have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it can be challenging for parents to know how to help them succeed. One of the best ways to help a child with ASD is through applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy. Proven to improve the skills of kids with ASD and decrease problematic behaviors, ABA works best when parent training is integrated into treatment strategies. That’s because parents play an integral role in ABA therapy and can work with their children outside of the therapeutic session.

    • What is ABA therapy? Applied behavior analysis focuses on how behavior works and how it’s impacted by certain environments. It also examines the concept of learning strategies and how they apply to people with ASD. A combination of behavioral knowledge and observation is used by an ABA therapist to gain a thorough understanding of each patient’s behavioral patterns. Then the therapist is better able to customize therapeutic strategies to meet the needs of the individual patient. The objective of ABA therapy is to help people with ASD engage and positive behaviors and minimize negative behaviors. The long-term goal is to help individuals become more independent.
    • What techniques are used in ABA? ABA is not a one-size-fits-all therapy, and there are many different techniques utilized by ABA therapists to encourage positive behaviors and minimize negative ones, including:
      • Positive reinforcement like praise, a toy, or a treat, to reward individuals for appropriate behavior.
      • Discrete trial training, using brief, clear, instructions to prompt a desired response.
      • Picture exchange communication system (PCES) teaches people with ASD to communicate using pictures.
    • What is a parent’s role in this therapeutic approach? Parents are integrally involved in ABA as part of the caregiving team and when parents are involved, children learn faster. If you have a child with ASD, you’ll work with the therapists and doctors to:
      • Assess your child, identifying troublesome behaviors and providing background.
      • Develop a plan, determining how your child prefers to learn, setting goals for treatment, and identifying interventions to improve your family life.
      • Collect information, keeping track of your child’s progress and sharing that data.
    • How can parents reinforce ABA therapy? Watching your child’s sessions, you can assess your own skills and determine how to build them to help your child, considering how to incorporate the therapist’s techniques into your own style. Learning how to reinforce ABA therapy is important, because parents spend much more time with their children than the therapists do. The work of ABA seeks to improve social skills, communication, reading, fine motor skills, and more, in order to help people with ASD become more independent and successful.

    If your child has been diagnosed with ASD, STAR of CA is here to help by providing important support services. Founded in 2006, we provide behavioral and psychological services to people with ASD and related disorders in an environment that offers support for the entire family. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896.

  • Helping your Child Stay Up-to-Date Over the Summer

    Summer is a great time to relax and enjoy good weather and family time. There’s a concern though that kids may suffer from the lack of learning opportunities. Essential academic and social skills can be lost during the summer if parents don’t actively try to support their children’s continued learning. Here, we offer some tips for helping your children stay up to date over the summer while still keeping summer fun.

    • Stick to a routine. You don’t have to get up as early as you would for school, but having some structure makes it easier to transition back into the normal routine once school starts back up. Make sure you’re working some physical play or exercise into your everyday activities.
    • Play games as a family. Setting aside one night each week as “Family Game Night” helps you to connect with your kids and make memories, but it does more than that. Playing games helps kids learn critical thinking and how to strategize, as well as strengthening their reading, math, and fine motor skills.
    • Encourage their creativity. Give your kids plenty of opportunities not just to do artwork, but also to build things. Provide sidewalk chalk, finger paints, colored pencils and markers, and craft kits to help them learn new creative skills. For building fun, offer not only building toys like Legos but also help them think creatively by showing them how to build with boxes and anything else interesting you might have on hand. Challenge them to building contests.
    • Plan and grow a garden. You don’t even really need a yard to grow vegetables and flowers, because even apartment dwellers can create a container garden. Plan your garden together, researching seeds, drawing a blueprint, and sprouting seeds or transplanting young plants. Growing things is both educational and satisfying, and eating vegetables you’ve grown is a great way to teach kids about healthy eating and where our food originates.
    • Make a game of math. Invent math activities, perhaps using sidewalk chalk to create targets with numbers and challenging kids to hit the highest numbers. You could also try a sandbox game, burying objects in the sand and challenging kids to compete and see who finds the most treasure.
    • Read together. Reading to little children is fun, and reading together as your children grow is even more rewarding. Going on a long car trip? Listen to audiobooks in the car!
    • Choose educational activities. Go geocaching, explore a historical site, or cool off inside a museum. Summer adventures can promote learning and still be fun.
    • Enroll in summer programs. Public libraries, community centers, and summer camps focused on topics or activities that your child enjoys are great places to find educational summer fun and provide great opportunities to practice social skills with peers.

    If your child has been diagnosed with ASD, STAR of CA is here to help by providing important support services. Founded in 2006, we provide behavioral and psychological services to people with ASD and related disorders in an environment that offers support for the entire family. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896.

  • Childproofing the home for an ASD Child

    If you’re a parent, you know how important it is to make your home a safe haven for your child. If you’re a parent of a child with ASD, you know this can also be both a challenge and an ongoing process. However, following a few simple tips can help you keep your children safe at home.

  • Be prepared to keep evolving. Childproofing a house for a child with ASD is not a “one and done” situation. As children grow and get stronger, you’ll have to come up with creative new ways to keep them safe. When your kids figure out how to get around protective measures, it means they’re exercising their problem-solving skills. The challenge is to stay one step ahead of them.
  • Anchor everything. If you’ve got a climber, you need to tie down all of the furniture. Use furniture anchors to secure bookshelves, armoires, and dressers to the walls to prevent tipping. Be creative, finding ways to eliminate not only access to high places, but also the temptation to climb. Here’s a hack: if your child drags chairs around to get to desired heights, use Velcro to keep the chairs in place. Screw a two foot length of Velcro under the table by each chair. Then, when you finish your meal, push the chair in and wrap the Velcro around it. This should be frustrating enough to discourage interest in the chairs.
  • Prevent eloping. No, not the kind that ends in a Vegas wedding, but the scenario in which your child with ASD runs off from where you left them. Keeping kids with ASD inside can be tricky, so if you have an escape artist, consider installing alarms on your doors. Get creative about locks and other mechanisms for keeping your child indoors. Childproof your home with the usual safety measures, but go a step further, limiting access to unoccupied rooms, attic, basement, and garage.
  • Watch out for water. Children with ASD tend to be drawn to water. Be vigilant about water sources, using safety devices to keep bathroom doors and toilets locked and removing sink plugs. If you have a large body of water in the backyard (e.g., pool, hot tub), ensure access doors are always locked.
  • Use gates inside as well as outside. Baby gates are a parent’s friend, especially when that parent has a child with ASD. They can keep children off stairs, out of kitchens, and from getting into dangerous situations.
  • Create designated spaces. Sometimes, safety isn’t just about what kids aren’t allowed to do; it’s also about what they’re encouraged to do. Making special spaces for different activities and keeping a consistent routine can help keep your child with ASD calm and safe.

If your child has been diagnosed with ASD, STAR of CA is here to help by providing important support services. Founded in 2006, we provide behavioral and psychological services to people with ASD and related disorders in an environment that offers support for the entire family. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896.

  • Outdoor Socially-Distanced Summer Activities

    Summer is upon us, and even though things are finally starting to open back up, many parents are still, understandably, proceeding with caution. Are you among them? By now, most kids have gotten accustomed to social distancing, and understand that it helps them stay safe. Fortunately, we’ve got some great ideas for fun, outdoor, socially-distanced, summer activities.

    • Teach the neighborhood kids some old-school games. Kickball, Simon Says, hopscotch, and other old playground games don’t require kids to get close but do allow them to interact with each other. You can also play a dancing game in which everyone must freeze as soon as the music stops.
    • Update some old games to create something new. You’ve heard of tag, but have you heard of noodle tag? Incorporate pool noodles into your game of tag and it’s easy to social distance. Chutes and ladders is a classic board game, but what if you made it an outdoor game, drawing a giant game board with sidewalk chalk? Sidewalk chalk is also great for playing hangman or hopscotch, or drawing an obstacle course. Think outside the box to update old favorites.
    • Make something big and beautiful. Create a neighborhood mural by enlisting all of the children to draw in front of their own homes with sidewalk chalk. If sidewalk talk is becoming old hat, try sidewalk paint, made of cornstarch, water, and food coloring. You can also decorate your fence with paper flowers made by the children out of construction paper, paint, markers, and paper plates. Your kids can have fun creating these large scale art projects and it may brighten the day for people passing by.
    • Have a scavenger hunt. You can walk through your neighborhood, challenging kids to find things like a blue house or a mailbox in the shape of an animal, or make it a sensory scavenger hunt, directing kids to look for things that are rough, smooth, shiny, warm, and so on.
    • Go geocaching. With a mobile device and a free geocaching account, you can be launched into an outdoor treasure hunt that provides good family fun outside in nature. It also helps kids learn to follow instructions and use their powers of observation. The treasures you find are real objects that people have hidden, typically a trinket or souvenir.
    • Host an outdoor movie night. Social distancing this fun even is totally doable. Just set up your screen, position the chairs six feet apart, and serve individually packaged snacks. Movie theater candy, anyone? Everyone will have a blast and they may not even notice it’s socially distanced.

    Check back here often for more tips on finding fun family activities! If your child has been diagnosed with ASD, STAR of CA is here to help by providing important support services. Founded in 2006, we provide behavioral and psychological services to people with ASD and related disorders in an environment that offers support for the entire family. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896.

  • 11 Best Mental Health and Autism Spectrum Disorder Podcasts for 2021

    As a parent, guardian, or caretaker of someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder, you want to remain informed about the latest news, trends, and strategies on the subject. You also hope to prioritize your own mental health. One easy way to accomplish your goals is to listen to podcasts! Here are 11 of the best mental health and ASD podcasts for 2021.

    1. Spectrumly Speaking is a biweekly podcast geared toward women with ASD. The cohosts share personal stories, discuss autism spectrum topics, and interview some of the community’s most fascinating voices. Find it on iTunes and Stitcher.
    2. Parenting ADHD & Autism with Parenting Coach Penny Williams helps parents stop battling their kids and start empowering them instead. You’ll receive valuable training and hear words of support, hope, and encouragement. Listen here.
    3. The Self Advocate focuses on interviewing people with cognitive disabilities who advocate for themselves. Topics range from music and meditation practices to discussions about relevant holidays and events. Find it on iTunes.
    4. The Autism Helper is a daily podcast providing tips to improve the lives of people with ASD. Discussions include tips to deal with trauma, tolerate transitions, and learn remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Find it on iTunes and Stitcher.
    5. Adventures in Autism was created as a safe place for parents, siblings, and friends of people with ASD to share their experiences with others who “get it.” Listen here.
    6. Josh Has Autism is a podcast hosted by a mother living with an adult son who has Autism Spectrum Disorder. She offers insights from the frontlines, which are insightful, sometimes comedic, and always informative. Find it on iTunes and Stitcher.
    7. The Autism Dad Podcast has weekly episodes about parenting, mental health, ADHD, autism, and much more. Listeners love the no-nonsense approach the host takes when discussing these topics. Listen here.
    8. The Anxiety Podcast isn’t just about handling anxiety—it’s about moving past it. The host is intimately familiar with anxiety and panic attacks and shares how he changed his life in order to recover. Find it on iTunes.
    9. Other People’s Problems gives you the chance to sit in on usually private conversations to help demystify mental health struggles. It provides an intimate look at everything from traumatic childhoods to turbulent divorces. Listen here.
    10. The Homecoming Podcast is where psychology meets spirituality, art, and culture. The host is a licensed psychologist and ordained minister, providing a unique perspective on handling the challenges of everyday life. Find it on iTunes.
    11. The Trauma Therapist Podcast features interviews with psychologists and trauma experts. The host is a mental health professional as well. Watch it here.

    At STAR of CA, we are here to provide support, keep you informed of opportunities for your kids, and offer life-changing therapies. In addition to listening to podcasts, you may find it beneficial to participate in our integrated, evidence-based behavioral and psychological services for people with ASD. To learn more, please contact us online or call 805.588.8896.

  • Teaching Your Children Self-Care

    A child’s ability to take care of themselves is about more than just dressing and undressing, brushing their teeth, and using the restroom independently. While these skills are important for physical health and self-reliance, good emotional habits are also critical for a child’s well-being.

  • The past year has been a trying time for all of us. If your kids are struggling with the effects that COVID-19 continues to have on their daily life, a little self-care can go a long way. Here are some tips for teaching healthy emotional habits to your children.

    • Exercise daily: As little as 20 minutes of moderate daily exercise may help prevent symptoms of depression, making it an essential part of self-care. To make exercise fun, help your kids find an activity they love, such as skateboarding, biking, or playing fitness video games.
    • Minimize media usage: Excessive social media and screen time can lead to increased distress to your child, provide them with other worthwhile ways to pass their time.
    • Teach stress management: When you know a stressful event is coming up, it helps to discuss it with your children in advance. Help them understand that everyone goes through challenges and they’re not alone in facing hard times. Then, suggest ways to cope, including play time, mindfulness, and yoga.
    • Find kid-friendly self-care resources online: You’ll find many mobile apps and websites offering mindfulness activities and yoga exercises to make these self-care techniques more accessible to your children.
    • Be open about your emotions: There’s a stigma against negative emotions in our society, but it’s healthier to experience and process normal levels of anxiety, stress, and anger than to stuff these feelings down. When your children get upset, reflect and validate their emotions without trying to offer a quick fix. Don’t insist that they calm down right away before having a chance to experience the full depth of their feelings.
    • Encourage downtime every day: As with adults, children can often be over-scheduled. They may be so busy with school, clubs, and extracurricular activities that they have little to no downtime. Cancel some of your children’s obligations so they have time to spend engaged in unstructured play and to relax with the family.
    • Be a good role model: If you expect your kids to exercise every day or spend less time on their phones/devices, practice what you preach. You can also use your need for downtime as an example of how important it is to let your body and mind relax.
    • Practice self-care as a family: Get everyone on board with the concept of self-care so it’s easy to share experiences and tips with one another. Not only can this improve each person’s self-care routine, but it may also help you grow closer as a family.

    If these self-care tips aren’t enough to combat your child’s heightened anxiety, stress, and negativity, STAR of CA can help. We offer behavioral and psychological services to children, adolescents, adults, and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder. Please contact us at 805.588.8896 to find out more about our evidence-based services.

  • How COVID-19 has Affected Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

    The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Americans to stay apart for more than a year now. This has had devastating consequences on many people’s mental health. The negative impact of school closures, service disruptions, and endless at-home time has been particularly severe among children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Even so, not all of the effects have been negative. 

  • Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research (SPARK) conducted a coronavirus survey last year to learn more about how families were coping, and over 8,000 people responded. About 93 percent of the survey participants were female parents or guardians of school-age kids, 80 percent of whom were boys. The average age of the respondents’ children was 12 years old. Here’s what the survey reveals about how COVID-19 has affected children with ASD.  

    Negative Effects of COVID-19 on Children with ASD 

    • Unwanted change: Many families reported struggling with the general upheaval and chaos brought on by the pandemicChildren experienced more anxiety, emotional breakdowns, and aggression because of the numerous disruptions to their routine. 
    • School closures and service disruptions: Almost every school in the country closed at some point last year. As a result, 63 percent of parents reported decreased access to the services and therapies their children rely on. A whopping 95 percent of these families said that the service disruptions negatively impacted their child’s behavior. The most severe disruptions to ASDS-related services occurred among families with children under five years old. 
    • Lack of childcare options: Parents expressed the difficulty of juggling work while their kids were at home with limited childcare options. The lack of trained people available to provide specialized services also proved problematic at the height of the pandemic. 

    Positive Effects of COVID-19 on Children with ASD 

    • Distance learning: While some parents reported that online schooling was challenging and inconvenientmany said that the controlled setting and slower pace worked better for their kids. 
    • Extra family time: Social distancing requirements left many families with more time to spend together. This created the chance to grow relationships, pursue hobbies, and explore mindfulness activities such as meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga. 
    • Remote services and therapies: While the pandemic has limited in-person services35 percent of families said they were receiving teletherapy. About 43 percent of these families expressed moderate to significant benefits from these services. 

    There’s no doubt that this pandemic has disrupted everyone’s livesMost of us have felt stressed or overwhelmed at one time or another, which has impacted our physical, emotional, and mental healthEven so, resources remain available to help parents of children with ASD manage the ongoing challenges.  

    For instance, STAR of CA offers in-person services to anyone who can pass our fitness for service screening. Our program addresses developmental delays, behavioral problems, and other challenges associated with ASD using integrated, evidence-based practices. If you have concerns about participating in our program, please review our COVID-19 updates or contact us at 805.588.8896 for more information.

  • Easter with your ASD Child

    Are you looking forward to Easter with your kids this year? For some parents of children with ASD, the prospect is not as much fun as they might have expected before becoming parents. Traditional Easter activities may not be appropriate for, or may be overwhelming to children with ASD. Don’t worry! We’ve got some tips for making Easter with your ASD child a joyful time.

    • Build a basket based on your child. For a child with sensory difficulties, a traditional basket with plastic shredded Easter grass may not be the best option. Fortunately, you have a wide array of choices available, with buckets, soft baskets, and more, as well as paper Easter grass. Paper grass is also better for kids who put things in their mouths. Steer clear of pre-made baskets, because you know your child and will be better able to choose toys and candy that are appropriate. You might consider things like bubbles, Play-doh, or fuzzy chicks and other sensory toys. Pick snacks that will work for your child; many companies are now providing Easter treats that go beyond candy.
    • Go for ASD-appropriate outings. A family egg hunt in the back yard, for example, might be a better fit than hunting for eggs in a crowd. If you’re attending any sort of gathering, visual aids and social stories can help your child with ASD know what to expect.
    • Use Easter as a great excuse for reading books and doing fun crafts together. There are a wide variety of Easter-themed books for all ages and stages of development, including fun sticker books. Choosing a book that lends itself to pairing with a craft is fun, but there are many other ways to use your creativity at Easter, too. Make Easter cards together, dye eggs, or decorate an Easter Tree. You can also make Easter bonnets by sticking decorations on a hat or creating your own out of paper plates or you can also use paper plates to create these cute chicks, or go for these handprint chicks. You can even have sensory fun, making puffy paint Easter eggs out of shaving cream, glue, and cardboard.
    • Make some Easter Treats together. Decorate Easter cookies, make sheep cupcakes with plenty of marshmallows, or create Chow Mein Birds’ Nests or Corn Flake Birds’ Nests. Want something crunchy? Check out this recipe for Bunny Mix!

    Easter doesn’t need to be traditional to be fun and there are creative ways to incorporate the traditional!  The important thing is to do what works best for your family and your child. If your child has been diagnosed with ASD, STAR of CA is here to offer support, keeping you informed of opportunities for fun with your kids and providing important support services. Founded in 2006, we provide behavioral and psychological services to people with ASD and related disorders in a nurturing environment that offers support for the entire family. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896.

  • Cooking Activities for Children with ASD


    Cooking activities are a great way to bond with your children. If you’re the parent of a child with ASD, you may read that with some degree of skepticism. But trust us, food is fundamental to life, and when you cook with your kids you impart important life skills and connect with them in a meaningful way.

  • If your child has been diagnosed with ASD, STAR of CA is here to offer support, keeping you informed of opportunities for fun with your kids and providing important support services. Founded in 2006, we provide behavioral and psychological services to people with ASD and related disorders in a nurturing environment that offers support for the entire family. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896.