• Review of Pixar’s ‘Float’

    Rubio created the film out of his own experience, drawing on his real-life relationship with his son, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The diagnosis was difficult for Rubio to process, and his wife suggested he use his art to work through it and express what he felt. In his new film, he was able to do exactly that, and the result is a piece with universal appeal, but a special significance for those living with ASD.

    If you haven’t seen “Float,” be aware that there are spoilers ahead. In the film, a father learns that his young son can defy gravity and float through the air. Because of the responses of others, he tries to hide this ability, first keeping his son indoors, then trying to weigh him down with rocks and a tether. At one point these measures prove futile, and his son flies around a playground, eliciting disapproving and even fearful reactions from other people. His father catches him, they struggle, and in the movie’s only line of dialogue, he yells at his son, “Why can’t you be normal?” The son shuts down and cries; realizing what he’s done, the father holds the child and begins to swing with him, eventually launching him into the air and celebrating his ability.

    For many people with ASD, the message is a welcome step towards understanding. One adult with ASD put it this way, “I applaud Mr. Rubio for bringing this story to life and giving a platform for us to discuss autism and acceptance on a national scale.” Another person stated, “In a world where sometimes people are given a bit more fear and a bit less encouragement, I really appreciated the message this film shares.”

    Subtle but powerful, the ending centers on the son’s ability and the father’s joy, without turning the focus back to the onlookers. Perhaps that’s the biggest takeaway: it’s more important to embrace a child’s unique qualities than to worry about fitting in with the crowd.

    If your child has been diagnosed with ASD, STAR of CA is here to offer support. 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. We love what we do, and are devoted to improving lives through focused, caring services. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896.

  • Preparing your Child with ASD for School Environments

    Getting ready to start school is exciting, but it can also be stressful, especially if your child has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)For children with ASD, school can pose challenges, whether related to cognitive processing delays, sensory perception issues, or social skills deficits. Here, we offer some helpful tips to prepare both you and your child for school success  

  • Establish routines ahead of time. Because children with ASD often have difficulty adjusting to changes in their schedules, it’s best not to spring these changes on your child. Instead, well before the school year, institute routines and schedules he or she is likely to encounter when school begins. Establish the right sleeping and eating schedule well before the first day of school, and endeavor to introduce your child to activities that are likely in a school setting.  
  • Become familiar with the school and staff. With and without your child, visit the school and speak to the teachers, administrators, and support staff. When you go alone, you can outline your child’s needs and goals while familiarizing yourself with the educators who will be playing a major role in your child’s learning experience. Taking your child to school ahead of time can help make the first day less intimidating, as can finding ways to expose him or her to different social settings before school starts, particularly opportunities for interaction with peers. 
  • Gather information, and share it. Have your child thoroughly assessed, and use this detailed information to help develop his or her IEP. Speak to the teachers about your child’s needs, and how to most effectively interact with your child. If your child will be in an integrated classroom, as the teacher to speak to the class about ASD so that the other children will have a better understanding.  
  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Talk about school, tell stories from your school days, look at photos of your child’s school, and read social stories that will help your child understand what to expect. Buy new clothes and school supplies in advance of that first day, so that your child can practice using them before school starts. Go to the school just to walk around or play on the playground, to help make your child more comfortable with all that school entails. 
  • Prepare yourself as well. Try not to be stressed about it, and talk to other parents so that you can feel less alone. Stay involved at the school, volunteering at school events and paying attention to what’s going on at school.  

If your child has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, STAR of CA is here to offer support. 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. We love what we do, and are devoted to improving lives through focused, caring services. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896. 

  • Nonverbal Ways to Connect with Your Child with Autism

    When a child is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, parents can often be overwhelmed. This diagnosis can be frightening, because you may not be sure how to help your child cope with this lifelong condition. Fortunately, there are many different treatment options available to help both you and your child face the challenges that ASD can bring, so that you can help your child learn, grow, and thrive. One of the challenges you’ll face is in connecting with your child with ASD, but with some practice, you’ll learn how to communicate effectively, often without saying a word.

    • Pay attention to your child’s nonverbal cues. By noticing his or her facial expressions, gestures, and sounds, you’ll gain an understanding of when your child is tired, hungry, or wants something. The important thing for you, as a parent, is to be observant and aware.
    • Look for the motivation behind the behavior. When people are misunderstood or ignored, they feel upset. Children with ASD are no different, and they may throw tantrums as a way to communicate their frustration and get your attention when their nonverbal signals are being ignored.
    • Have fun with your child. When your child has ASD, your schedule can become full of therapeutic activities, and lacking in downtime and fun. Remember, your child with special needs is still a child, and play is an important part of every child’s learning experience. Plan playtime when your child is most alert and awake, and find ways to make your child smile, laugh, and interact. Even if you’re not doing something educational or therapeutic, your child will reap the benefits of unpressured time with you. You’ll benefit as well, from the enjoyment of your child’s company.
    • Be aware of sensory sensitivities. Often, children with ASD are hypersensitive to sensory stimuli: light, sound, touch, taste, and smell. On the other hand, some children with ASD are under-sensitive to those same things. Pay attention to your child’s reactions to sights, sounds, smells, movements, and sensations, and you’ll learn a lot about what triggers a negative or positive response. When you learn what your child finds stressful or uncomfortable, as well as what he or she finds calming and enjoyable, you’ll find it easier to create successful experiences and prevent difficult situations.

    If your child has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, STAR of CA is here to offer support. 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. We love what we do, and are devoted to improving lives through focused, caring services. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896.

  • Introducing your child with ASD to a New Sibling

    Bringing home a new baby is exciting, but when older siblings are involved, it’s also a bit of a challenge. For children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, it can be even more challengingHow do you prepare your child with ASD for the presence of a new little brother or sister? Every child with ASD is different, but some principles remain the same.  

    • Prepare your child earlyChildren with ASD often struggle with change, so prepare your child as soon as possible for all of the changes a baby will bring into the household. If Mom is pregnant, talk about that, using clear language. If any major changes need to be made- switching rooms, perhaps- these should be made early on, to minimize the number of disruptions that occur all at once.  
    • Be as honest as you can. Introduce the concept of “baby” and let your child know that this is a new family member to love. However, don’t paint too rosy a picture. Answer your child’s questions honestly, explaining that some things will change when the baby arrives. Explain that babies can’t feed themselves, are up at night, cry, and need people to change their diapers. Especially for children with ASD who are especially sensitive to sensory stimuli, knowing what’s coming is important.  
    • Use pictures and stories. Draw pictures together of families with babies, show your child photos of babies, or use social stories to help your child understand what to expect. You might take the child to a playground to observe babies, or introduce him or her to a friend’s baby. You know your own child’s capabilities, and how best to help the child understand.  
    • Involve your older child. Giving your child a sense of ownership of the new sibling will help make the transition easier. Make sure to teach concepts like “fragile” and “gentle” so that your child is not inadvertently too rough with the new baby. 
    • Maintain normalcy as much as possible. Establish something special you do regularly with your older child, like a bedtime story, and continue doing this after the baby is born. Keep the daily routine as consistent as possible after the baby arrives.  
    • Be prepared for pushbackUnderstand that not every feeling your child has about the new baby will be positiveThere will always be ups and downs in a family. Be patient with your child with ASD, and make sure you have a support system in place to help you manage once you bring the baby home. 

    If your child has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, STAR of CA is here to offer support. 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. We love what we do, and are devoted to improving lives through focused, caring services. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896. 

  • Helping your Child with ASD Adapt to New Places

    As a parent, you’re probably excited about exposing your child to new experiences and new places. If you’re parenting a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), however, it can be tricky. Children with ASD tend to be resistant to change because it makes them feel anxious. The world can seem unpredictable, but when things stay the same, it can make them feel like they have a little bit more control. It’s understandable, then, that new places can be overwhelming. How can you help your child with ASD adapt?  

    • Maintain as much consistency as possible. Having your child’s favorite toys on hand and keeping daily routines the same can make it easier for your child to adjust to a new place. Children with ASD find “sameness” comforting, so making things seem familiar can keep the new place from feeling frightening or confusing. 
    • Prepare your child in advance. Talk about the upcoming change, using visual aids and stories to help him or her understand what to expect. Preview what’s coming by telling a story about what your child might expect, show pictures of the new place, or visit in advance, if possible. Knowing what to expect will help your child deal with the unfamiliar more effectively.   
    • Countdown, to help ease into it. Whether you’re visiting a new place on vacation, moving into a new home, or enrolling your child in a new school, you can make the transition easier by creating a visual countdown that helps your child prepare.  
    • Offer choices and reward flexibility. Whenever there’s a chance to present a choice, do it. This will help involve your child in what you’re doing and give the child a sense of control. On a regular basis, reward flexible behaviors, even if they’re small. Praise your child and give additional positive reinforcement, drawing attention to the desired behavior and congratulating the child on being able to “go with the flow.” Doing this even for small things will make the transition easier when the change is a big one.  
    • Be patientRecognize that there may be a meltdown from time to time, and decide in advance how you’ll deescalate it. Prepare a calm down routine ahead of time, so that your child will know how to self-soothe. Children with ASD can benefit from a sequence that includes things like taking a certain number of deep breaths with their eyes closed, rubbing their hands together, and hugging their bodies. Having this predictable sequence ready will be calming during an unfamiliar experience.  

    If your child has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, STAR of CA is here to offer support. 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. We love what we do, and are devoted to improving lives through focused, caring services. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896. 

  • Benefits of Applied Behavioral Therapy

    If you’re the parent of a child who has recently been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), you’re probably looking for anything that will help your child. You may feel overwhelmed by the diagnosis, and that’s ok. In fact, there are many different therapies that may help your child, and one of the most beneficial is Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy (ABA).

    What is ABA? Used since the 1960s in treating young children with ASD and related disorders, this evidence-based best practice treatment has evolved over the years. ABA uses customized Behavior Intervention Plans to make gradual, systematic changes in the consequences of behaviors. In this way, socially positive behaviors are encouraged, while socially detrimental behaviors are discouraged. Using ABA, therapists are able to help children develop not only basic skills like looking, listening, and imitating but also more complex skills like reading and carrying on a conversation.

    ABA looks at how behavior works, and applies that understanding to real-world situations. Treatment plans are developed based on individual needs, and for children with ASD, this can help them reach goals in communication and language, social skills, self-care, play, motor skills, and learning and academics. Using ABA for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder is beneficial for many reasons.

    • It works. While many other therapies are available to children with ASD, there’s more scientific evidence supporting the use of ABA than any other treatment.
    • It gives children with ASD the opportunity to make friends. The social skills that many children with ASD are lacking can be taught using ABA, allowing children to interact with others successfully and make friends.
    • It provides children with the skills they need to live real-world lives. Something as simple as toileting skills is crucial for daily function in society. ABA can help children with ASD learn basic skills and much more.
    • It helps parents to parent more effectively. ABA can teach parents how to interact with their children, while also teaching the children how to interact with others. Parenting a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder is not easy, but ABA can help you be a better parent.
    • It sets the bar higher for children with ASD. Some children lose their ASD diagnosis after ABA therapy. Applied Behavioral Analysis is beneficial because it shows parents and children what those children are capable of accomplishing. When expectations are raised, children achieve more. Behaviors that were thought impossible before the start of therapy may suddenly be within the child’s grasp, leading to the confidence that makes even higher goals possible.

    If your child has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, STAR of CA is here to offer support. 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. We love what we do, and are devoted to improving lives through focused, caring services. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896.

  • What Is Autism?

    If your child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, you may be feeling a mixture of emotions. It’s not uncommon for parents to feel panic, fear, distress, or confusion, or a combination of more than one of these emotions. The important thing for you to do now is to educate yourself. Knowing the facts about autism will help you understand your child’s condition so that you can find the resources you need to help your child thrive.

    What is autism? It’s a broad range of conditions, which in 2013 were grouped together under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). People with ASD experience challenges with social skills, repetitive or stereotypical behavior, speech, and nonverbal communication. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that autism affects about one in fifty-nine children in the United States. Indicators of autism are typically evident by age two or three. In some cases, associated developmental delays can appear even earlier, and it can be diagnosed in children as young as 18 months. Research indicates that early intervention is a key factor in positive outcomes later in life for individuals with ASD.

    There are many subtypes to ASD, and most are influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. Each person with ASD is unique and has a different set of strengths and challenges, and people with ASD can range in functioning in terms of how they learn, think, and solve problems. Some people with ASD need significant support in their daily lives. Other people, on the other hand, need less support and may even be able to live entirely independently.

    There are many factors that can influence the development of autistic spectrum disorder. The condition is often accompanied by sensory sensitivities and may include comorbid medical issues that include gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, seizures, or sleep disorders. People with ASD also have a higher likelihood of encountering mental health challenges like anxiety, depression, and attention issues.

    A diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder can be unnerving, but you are not alone. As you learn more about the condition, you’ll be able to better understand your child and you’ll find support and resources to help your child thrive. Like everyone else, each child with ASD has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, and as you learn more you’ll be able to build on your child’s strengths and find targeted interventions to address his or her weaknesses.

    If your child has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, STAR of CA is here to offer support. 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. We love what we do, and are devoted to improving lives through focused, caring services. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.644.7827.

  • Helping Your Child with Autism Thrive

    If your child has recently been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), you may be worried, wondering what will happen next.  While ASD is not something that people grow out of, there are many treatments and therapies that can help your child build skills and overcome developmental challenges. Assistance is available, from free government services to in-home behavioral therapy to school-based programs, and you can find ways to help your child learn, grow, and thrive. Be proactive about your child’s treatment, seeking help as soon as you suspect there’s an issue. Early intervention is important in successful treatment of autism. Learn as much as you can, not just about autism, but about your child, and learn to appreciate your child’s individuality and the things that make him or her unique. Then, employ these tips to help your child thrive:

    • Provide consistent structure. Know what your child’s teachers and therapists are doing, so that you can create a sense of continuity at home, helping your child transfer techniques from one environment to another. Keep your child’s schedule highly-structured, and try to minimize disruptions to the routine. Be consistent in dealing with challenging behavior, and offer positive reinforcement for good behavior.
    • Connect with your child nonverbally. Your voice, touch, and body language are all important, and by learning your child’s nonverbal cues, you’ll be better able to communicate. Be observant, and you’ll be able to pick up on your child’s cues and what they indicate. Look for the motivation behind challenging behaviors, and you’ll be better at managing them. Remember that your child with ASD is still a child, and make sure you’re finding time to have fun together. Be aware of your child’s sensory sensitivities, understanding that some children with ASD are hypersensitive to sensory stimuli, while others are under-sensitive. By understanding your child’s responses, you’ll be better able to anticipate and prevent difficult situations.
    • Find a treatment plan that fits your child. A good plan will build on your child’s interests, teach tasks through simple steps, offer a predictable schedule, provide highly structured activities that actively engage your child, include regular behavior reinforcement, and involve the parents.
    • Seek support. In addition to finding support for your child, look for ASD support groups, respite care, and individual, marital, or family counseling. For your child, be aware that children with ASD are eligible for a range of free or low-cost government services, including early intervention for very young children and special education services for children over three.

    If your child has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, STAR of CA is here to offer support. 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. We love what we do, and are devoted to improving lives through focused, caring services. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896.

  • 11 Tips for New Autism Parents

    Has your child been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)? The good news is that the diagnosis offers a certain relief: you now know what’s going on. What’s next? We have a few tips.  

    1. Know that it’s ok to take breaks. Parenting a child with ASD can feel like a marathon, so take care of yourself. Read, watch TV, go to the gym, do whatever helps you check out for a bit, understanding that it’s ok to be less than productive sometimes.  
    1. Stop Googling. Don’t drive yourself crazy looking for an autism cure online, or scaring yourself with “what-ifs.” 
    1. Find support online. While the internet can be terrifying, it can also be a great place to network. ASD can make parents feel isolated, but a parent or caregiver is always awake and online somewhere in the world, and getting to know parents on social media sites can be a great source of support.   
    1. Learn to ignore advice. Expect unsolicited input, and decide how you’ll answer it.  
    1. Respect those who have gone before. Parents who have been dealing with ASD for years know more than you do, so respect their knowledge and learn from them.  
    1. Know that every technique doesn’t work for every child. Kids with ASD are unique, and just because something worked for someone else doesn’t mean it will help your child. Some therapies, medications, and cures will flop, and that’s ok.  
    1. Expect to spend money. ASD is expensive, so be prepared to ask for therapy or lessons as gifts.  
    1. Know that some people won’t give these things as gifts. Your kid will receive inappropriate toys from well-meaning people, but that’s ok. Eventually, your child might like it. If not, you can donate, re-gift, or return it for therapy money.  
    1. Be open-minded. You never know what will help your child, so be willing to try things even if they seem ridiculous.  
    1. Go out in public. Taking your kid everywhere helps teach coping skills. Acknowledging your child’s limits, take little trips and build on them. Maybe you’ll go out to buy milk, maybe you’ll go to the library. Let your child know what’s going on, but provide as much exposure to real life as you can.  
    1. Feel sorry for yourself sometimes. Give into self-pity every now and then, because this is not the life you planned. Then snap out of it, ask for support, and remember that this is your new normal, and it’s going to be ok.  

    If your child has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, STAR of CA is here to offer support. 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. We love what we do, and are devoted to improving lives through focused, caring services. You can contact us through our websiteor call 805.588.8896. 

  • How to have a Sensory-Friendly New Year’s Eve

    New Year’s Eve is a fun and festive holiday that can be enjoyed by young and old alike. If your child has sensory processing issues or autism spectrum disorder, however, all that festivity can be problematic. The fireworks, bright lights, crowds, and loud music can be overwhelming, causing panic and anxiety for children with special needs. What’s more, your children may already be out of sorts, because of all the disruption the holiday season brings, with upended schedules and increased social interaction. Don’t worry! You can have a happy and sensory-friendly New Year’s Eve this year, just by following a few simple guidelines.  

    • Prepare in advance. Talk to your kids and make a plan together, and get everything ready to go. You might watch YouTube videos of New Year’s Eve festivities together to help you make a plan.  
    • Don’t mind the clock. If staying up until midnight is going to be disruptive, ring in the New Year at a time that works better for you! You might celebrate midnight in another time zone or plan your party for noon.  
    • Plan sensory-friendly activities. A sensory bin with confetti, streamers, party blowers, glow sticks, balloons, or whatever else your kids might enjoy can be a great addition to your New Year’s celebration. You might also make a calm-down sensory bottle, filled with water mixed with glitter or confetti.  
    • Watch a movie under a weighted blanket. Make New Year’s Eve a family movie night, snuggled up under a weighted blanket, which will provide calming deep pressure and proprioceptive sensory input. Make it even more fun by popping some popcorn.  
    • Have a family game night. Board games offer a great low-key way to ring in the New Year, and they’ll help your kids practice social skills, too.  
    • Dance the night away. If your kids need to move and wiggle around too much to last through a movie or a board game, no problem! Have a family dance party instead, dressing up if you want to and dancing to your kids’ favorite tunes.  
    • Choose hats over noisemakers. Hats are just as festive as the noisier party favors, and for extra fun, you can make it a craft activity, making or decorating them yourselves. 
    • Do the fireworks and ball drop your own way. Watch fireworks on video instead of experiencing them live, and set up a balloon or confetti drop to release after your countdown, filling a drawstring garbage bag with party streamers, ribbons and bows left over from Christmas, confetti, or balloons.  

    If your child has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, STAR of CA is here to offer support. 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. We love what we do, and are devoted to improving lives through focused, caring services. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896.