• Understanding Asperger’s 

    How much do you know about Asperger’s? Asperger’s is a mild form of Autism Spectrum Disorderand some experts believe it’s present in at least one in every 250 people. Many historical figures, like Mozart, Einstein, Marie Curie, and Thomas Jefferson, have shown symptoms of Asperger’s, and yet the condition is not something that most people really understand. Recently, Josephine Mele, whose grandson has Asperger’s, came up with an ingenious way to help people understand Asperger’s, using this ABC guide.  

    • A: Aloof. Kids with Asperger’s are often perceived as aloof, when in fact, it’s just that they lack social skills. They’re not always good with abstract concepts, so they’re better at games with step-by-step rules.  
    • BBehavior. Sometimes people perceive children with Asperger’s or another type of Autism Spectrum Disorder as having behavioral problems, but it’s actually a medical problem.  
    • C: Conversation. Conversations can be awkward for a child with Asperger’ because they don’t understand small talk. Instead, they use talking simply to share information. 
    • D: Different. A child with Asperger’s typically becomes aware of his or her differences from other kids at around age 7.  
    • E: Eye contact. Children with Asperger’s tend to avoid eye contact, even as infants. They may have trouble concentrating on what someone is saying if they are looking into a person’s eyes.  
    • F: Favorite subjects. A child with Asperger’s will want to talk about every detail of a favorite topic, whether or not the other person is interested.  
    • G: Groups. Groups are often a problem for kids with Asperger’s because they have an unusually strong sense of hearing. Overwhelmed by the noise level of a large group, they may act out.  
    • H: Hyperactive. Hyperactivity is a common symptom of Asperger’s. 
    • I: Impulsive. Because of an inability to see things from another person’s perspective, kids with Asperger’s often display impulsive behavior that can be embarrassing for parents in public.  
    • J: Jokes. Kids with Asperger’s tend to absorb information literally, so they often have trouble with pretend play or jokes.  
    • K: Kindergarten. Kindergarten can be challenging for a child with Asperger’s because everything is new, unfamiliar, and confusing.  
    • L: Listening. Kids who have Asperger’s can be good at listening, even if they don’t seem to be paying attention. When they’re not interested in the topic, though, they may not listen. 
    • M: Motor skills. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder tend to have difficulty with muscle control, which impedes their motor skills.  
    • N: Naïve. Because kids with Asperger’s are honest, with good intentions, and expect others to be the same, they’re often the target of practical jokers and bullies. They take things at face value and believe things without question.  
    • O: Order. Kids with Asperger’s function better when everything is in the same place all the time: order is important. 
    • P: Patience. Like other kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder, children with Asperger’s lack patience when they need something, but have a lot of patience with babies, animals, older people, and people with special needs.  
    • Q: Questions. Lacking a social filter, kids with Asperger’s may ask questions at inappropriate times and don’t respond when told to stop.  
    • R: Routine. Routines are absolutely necessary, and kids with Asperger’s may have trouble coping with changes to the schedule or rules. 
    • S: Sitting. Sitting still can be difficult with Asperger’s, because cramping, twitching muscles can pose a physical problem. 
    • T: Tantrums. Tantrums thrown by a child with Asperger’ can be out of control, and often seem to lack cause.  
    • U: Understanding. Kids with Asperger’require extra understanding because they learn differently than other children.  
    • V: Voice. Children with Asperger’s may have trouble reading aloud, because their voices often sound like they lack intonation or emotion, and each word is spoken as stand-alone information rather than part of a story. 
    • W: Weight. Full-length body contact, perhaps from a heavy blanket or a strong hug, can calm down an overactive brain. 
    • X: X-ray. Doctors are using x-rays and brain scans to gather more information on Asperger’sThis is how they know that the brain of someone with Asperger’s works differently than a neurotypical brain.  
    • Y: Young. The younger a child can be diagnosed with Asperger’s, the sooner he or she can get the help needed to be successful. That’s why all children should be screened for developmental delays at 18 and 24 months old.  
    • Z: Zone. Children with Asperger’s can get so deeply involved in what they’re doing that it’s often hard to get them out of the zone and help them focus on something else. Setting a time limit, requiring breaks, and giving a warning may help.  

    Learning about Asperger’s and Autism Spectrum Disorder is the first step towards understanding and being able to help a child with ASD navigate the world. 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.

  • Sesame Street Character Speaks Volumes About Life on the Spectrum 

    Autism Spectrum Disorder affects 1 in 68 kids in the United States, and yet for children with ASD, it can often be challenging to find themselves reflected in our culture. In an exciting move, long-running children’s show, Sesame Street, has taken a step to remedy that. Julia, a sweet little girl who loves the show’s theme song, “Sunny Days,” has just been introduced as the first Muppet with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  

    Sesame Street has been on since 1969, and it still has a powerful effect on children. What makes the program so unique is that it’s created as a realistic place that resembles what children actually experience in the world. Though the Muppets themselves are fantastical characters, their experiences mirror reality in a way that children can appreciate and understand. Through these relatable characters, Sesame Street has tackled issues like death, hunger, incarcerated parents, and even HIV, helping children understand the world around them even as they’re learning their ABC’s and 1,2,3’s.  

    The idea for a character with ASD originated in the late 1990s with Leslie Kimmelman, then an editor at Sesame Magazine. Her young son, Greg, had Autism Spectrum Disorder and seemed to really connect with the Sesame Street characters and content, singing along with the songs and developing a fascination with Elmo. Kimmelman discovered that there were other parents on staff whose children had ASD, and they began discussing the possibility of giving the children an opportunity to see a reflection of themselves on the show. What’s more, they thought, a character with ASD would give other children a chance to better understand the disorder as well.  

    The challenge of creating such a character had to do with ASD itself. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are an extremely diverse group, ranging from children who are chatty but socially unaware to children who do not speak and have significant sensory issues. Some people with ASD need support for the most basic needs, while others are simply differently-abled, rather than disabled. How could a Sesame Street character navigate the landscape of ASD, offering an accurate representation when the defining characteristics are so wide-ranging? 

    To tackle this project, Sesame Street consulted with educators, psychologists, and activists. Starting in 2010, their creative teams worked with experts on ASD, Sesame staff visited schools and clinics, and Leslie Kimmelman was asked to write a storybook in which a character with ASD was featured. Once they decided that the character would be a girl, Kimmelman named her Julia, after her older daughter, and her book, We’re Amazing, 1,2,3introduced Julia to the world in 2015.  

    The central theme behind Sesame Street’s approach to ASD is that it doesn’t define a person. Understanding that it’s human nature to define people by what makes them different from us, Sesame’s response is the concept, “See Amazing in All Children.” Just as Big Bird is not defined by his feathers and Oscar’s worth is not determined by his trashcan, Julia has her own unique personality, in which ASD is merely a factor.  

    Bringing Julia to life is a team of artists, writers, actors, puppeteers, and others who often draw on their own lives for inspiration. The puppeteer has a son with ASD, the designer has a friend with ASD, and the person with ASD in the scriptwriter’s life is her older brother. Their experiences in life inform their work and help make Julia a fully realized character. Their goals include clarifying and destigmatizing Autism Spectrum Disorder for viewers.  

    Julia’s on-air debut happened this past April, during Autism Awareness Month, on an episode in which she creates a vivid, precise painting and plays tag with the other kids on Sesame Street. Along the way she behaves in ways that confuse Big Bird, failing to respond when he says hello, for example, flapping her arms when she’s excited, and jumping up and down while playing tag. Abby Cadabby, another popular character on the show, acts as Julia’s champion and Big Bird’s guide, explaining that Julia has ASD and “just does things a little differently, in a Julia sort of way.” 

    The response to this new character has been overwhelmingly positive. Parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder feel that their kids are being validated by seeing a character with whom they can relate, and people with ASD are responding with letters and emails expressing excitement over seeing a reflection of themselves on Sesame Street. The Georgetown Center for Child and Human Development, studying the impact of Sesame Street’s autism initiative’s website, stated that the site can help “reduce biases and stigma, increase acceptance and inclusion, and empower ASD with knowledge and positive information about themselves.” Those are worthy goals, and certainly challenging, but with the help of Julia, Sesame Street is well on the way to helping bring positive change to societal attitudes about children with ASD.  

    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.  

  • A Guide to Helping Children with Special Needs Change Schools

    With a new school year right around the corner, most parents are focused on back-to-school shopping. However, as the parent of a special-needs child, you have more on your mind than merely stocking up on binders and mechanical pencils.  

    As you well know, children and teenagers with Autism Spectrum Disorder, learning disabilities, sensory issues, and other special needs have a more difficult time adjusting to changes than typically developing kids. So if you moved over the summer, or your child is transitioning from pre-K to elementary school or elementary to middle school, joining a new class could be especially stressful this year. Here’s a guide to help your child with special needs change schools successfully. 

    • Communicate: The more information you can give your child about their new school, the better. Be open about answering your child’s questions and letting them know what to expect. 
    • Focus on the positives: Reassure your child that while change makes people nervous, a new setting has lots of positives, such as getting to have fun and meet new peopleAsk family members, friends, and therapists to share examples of times they went through a scary change and how it all turned out great in the end. 
    • Tour the school: Contact the school to find out if your child can walk the halls, have a guided tour, or even get to meet their teachers before school starts. If a tour isn’t possible, you can at least visit the school and walk the grounds to get your child familiar with the location. 
    • Arrange playdates: Ask the school about other special-needs kids in your child’s class so you can contact their parents. Find out if any are interested in getting together before school starts. This gives your child a chance to make friends with classmates so they have few friendly faces to look for on the first day of school. 
    • Read school transition books with your child: Engaging titles that give young special-needs children more confidence about attending a new school include Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate; Yoko and My Kindergarten by Rosemary Wells; and I am Too Absolutely Small for Kindergarten by Lauren Childs. For soon-to-be middle schoolers, try Invisible Inkling by Emily Jenkins or The Detention Club by David Yoo. 
    • Inform teachers, staff, and therapists about your child: Write up a concise, one- to two-page letter outlining your child’s strengths, weaknesses, sensory issues, preferred reinforcersand dietary restrictions, if any. This gives school staff an important head’s up about your child’s special needs and opens up a channel of communication.  

    Feel free to modify the tips in this guide to match your child’s age, challenges, and capabilities. The compassionate team at STAR of CA can help! Our behavioral and psychological services for people with ASD in Ventura, CA can help your child more confidently tackle the upcoming school year. To learn more about our individualized programs, please contact us at 805.588.8896. 

  • Helpful Apps for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder

    Mobile apps available on smartphones and tablets have transformed the way kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder learn and communicate. They give parents, teachers, and therapists additional options for teaching children who develop at a different pace than their peers. Here are the apps we find most helpful for pre-K and kindergarten children with ASD. 

    Starfall ABCs 

    This app teaches the alphabet by helping young learners sound out letters. Children are delighted by the sights, sounds, and ability to interact with the brightly colored letters on the screen. 

    Download Starfall ABCs for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play. 

    Starfall Learn to Read 

    Once children master their letters and the sounds they make, it’s time to start reading! This app helps children grasp the relationship between the spoken and written language while having fun with Zac the Rat, Peg the Hen, and other friendly characters. 

    Download Starfall Learn to Read for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play. 

    The Monster at the End of This Book 

    This storybook app from Sesame Street is bright, playful, and laugh-out-loud funny! It features notes for parents trying to help kids overcome their fears, along with tips to make reading the story more interactive. 

    Download The Monster at the End of This Book for $4.99 from the Apple App Store or $3.99 from Google Play. 

    Autism Emotion 

    One challenge of Autism Spectrum Disorder is the limited ability to recognize facial expressions and emotions. This app uses music and slideshows to depict what different feelings look like and why different situations make people feel a certain way. 

    Download Autism Emotion for free from the Apple App Store. 

    Pop Math 

    This app is a fun way for kids to practice basic math skills. Bubbles with numbers and simple equations float on illustrated backgrounds. The player pops the correct bubbles to move on to the next level! 

    Download Pop Math for $1.99 from the Apple App Store or $.99 from Google Play. 

    Toca Boca 

    The Toca Boca universe grants kids access to open-ended, gender-neutral games ranging from Toca Kitchen Sushi to Toca Mystery House to Toca Life: Hospital. The interactive app offers appealing characters and roleplaying opportunities. 

    Check out the Toca Boca library with apps available for both Apple and Android devices. 

    Agnitus Kids: Learn Math & ABC 

    Agnitus provides a range of educational games that teach fine motor skills, letters, numbers, math, memory, and recognition. The app was designed by teachers who follow the common core curriculum 

    Download Agnitus Kids: Learn Math & ABC for free from the Apple App Store. 

    At STAR of CA, we believe in taking advantage of all available resources to help your child learn and grow. In addition to trying out these educational apps, we invite you to check out our behavioral and psychological services for people with ASD in Ventura, CA. We can help you create a personalized program to meet your child and family’s needs. To learn more about us, please contact us at 805.588.8896. 

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder Myths

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 59 US children sits somewhere along the autism spectrum. Despite how relatively common this condition is, it remains quite misunderstood by the general public. One reason is because it took the better part of a century for researchers and behaviorists to even understand what Autism Spectrum Disorder is—and what it isn’t. If your child was recently diagnosed with ASD, make sure you can distinguish the myths from the truth. 

    Myth: Kids with ASD are not interested in having friends. 

    Some parents with newly diagnosed children may say, “But my son can’t be on the autism spectrum—he’s interested in other kids.” However, the defining characteristic of ASD isn’t a lack of motivation to socialize—it’s a lack of skills needed to socialize appropriately.    

    In fact, many children on the spectrum desperately want to make friends, but they don’t know how. They may not know how to respond to a peer showing them a new toy or how to initiate a game of tag with a peer effectively; it may look a little awkward.  They may end up being socially isolated as they get older, but not by choice. With repeated unsuccessful attempts at socializing and making connections, they may stop trying.  This is a critical myth to understand as the parent of a child with ASD. 

    Myth: Every person with ASD is a savant. 

    While precision, attention to detail, and impressive technological skills are common among people with Autism Spectrum Disorder, genuine “autistic savants,” like Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man, are rare. According to Advanced Proficiency and Exceptional Ability in Second Languages, only about one in a million people have savant syndrome, and about 30 to 50 percent of these individuals are also diagnosed with ASD. Still, there’s no doubt that people on the autism spectrum see the world differently, which can grant unique skills, talents, and passions if honed correctly. 

    Myth: Vaccines cause Autism Spectrum Disorder. 

    This myth surfaced in 1998 when a doctor named Andrew Wakefield published a flawed study linking the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism. Celebrity moms, such as Jenny McCarthy, openly blamed vaccines for their children’s autism, further perpetuating the myth. 

    However, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphiaseveral studies disprove the notion that the MMR vaccine is linked to ASD. Here are some examples: 

    • 1999 study of 498 children with ASD: There is no difference in the prevalence and age at diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder in vaccinated and unvaccinated children. 
    • Seven-year study from 1991 to 1998 of over 535,000 children: The risk of autism is the same between vaccinated and unvaccinated children. 
    • Three studies ranging from 1977 to 1995: If one identical twin is diagnosed with ASD, the other is as well 92 percent of the time. The rate is only 10 percent when the twins are fraternal, demonstrating that ASD is genetic and not linked to vaccines. 
    • Comprehensive review of ASD and family home movies compiled in 2006: Children exhibit subtle symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder before reaching one year of age, and therefore, prior to receiving the MMR vaccine. 

    Myth: “Fad” treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorder are effective. 

    Various diets, vitamins, and a heavy metal-removing process called chelation have all been touted as potential treatments for ASD. Howeverto date, these methods have no scientific backing. The best way to treat Autism Spectrum Disorder is with behavioral intervention designed to teach children social and communication skills that help them access their needs, build meaningful relationships, and improve their quality of life 

    STAR of CA in Ventura, CA offers the behavioral and psychological services you’re seeking for your child. We can develop an individualized program to facilitate your child’s unique learning style. To learn more about our evidence-based treatments, please contact us at 805.588.8896. 

  • Sleep Problems among Children on the Spectrum 

    Many of us have trouble falling asleep but for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, sleep can be especially problematic. Falling asleep is often difficult, and so is staying asleep once they finally nod off. Here, we look at the causes, consequences, and solutions for sleep problems in children with ASD.  

    • Sleep problems are more common in children with ASD than in other children. In fact, while only about 10 to 16 percent of children in the general population have trouble sleeping, the percentage jumps to anywhere between 44 and 86 percent for children with ASD. 
    • People with ASD tend to have a wide range of sleep problems. They may suffer from insomnia, taking about 11 minutes longer than typical people to fall asleep, and they may also wake up frequently throughout the night. Some people with Autism Spectrum Disorder also have sleep apnea, which causes them to stop breathing at different times throughout the night. Another reason may be due to having less restorative sleep than most people.  For individuals with ASD about 15 percent of their sleeping time is spent in the rapid eye movement (REM) stage, a time of learning and retaining memories, whereas most neurotypical people spend about 23 percent of their sleeping time in REM.  
    • Evidence indicates that this lack of sleep can have significant consequences. Too little good sleep may make certain issues worse.  Children who lack sleep have more severe repetitive behaviors and more difficulty in making friends than other people on the spectrum.  Moreover, they are more likely to score lower on intelligence tests. One study found that children with autism who have sleep difficulties are more hyperactive and easily distracted than those who sleep well. However, it is unclear whether these issues stem from poor sleep, contribute to it or both.   
    • There are different reasons a person with ASD would have trouble sleeping. Often, they have additional conditions that contribute to the problem of disrupted sleep, including gastrointestinal issues, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or anxiety. They might also be taking medications that can negatively affect sleep. Additionally, a 2015 study suggests that individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder are twice as likely as typical people to carry mutations in their genes that govern the sleep-wake cycle.   
    • Traditional sleep studies aren’t always appropriate for people with ASD. Polysomnography is the most common sleep test, performed in a lab using sensors and wires to track brain waves, eye, and limb movement, and breathing patterns. This kind of study is not always practical for those with ASD, as such a research group has brought equipment into the homes of people with ASD to try and solve the problem. Sleep can also be tracked through actigraphy, which records movements throughout the night using a wristwatch-like device, or researchers can interview families and ask for sleep diaries.  
    • There are some solutions that may help your child sleep better. Sometimes, it can be as simple as establishing a better, more consistent bedtime routine, or changing the temperature or lighting of the bedroom. Sticking to a regular schedule is also important. The United States Food and Drug Administration has not approved insomnia medications for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, but melatonin supplements may be a good option in some cases.  This option can be discussed with your doctor. For serious sleep issues like sleep apnea, your doctor might recommend a nighttime breathing device or, rarely, surgery.  

    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.  

  • Top Ten Books for Kids with ASD 

    Reading to children is a joyful experience and one that sets them up for lifelong learning. One of the best things about books is that we see ourselves reflected in them, and that can be not just informative but also truly delightful, especially for a child. It’s even more important for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder because reading about autistic characters can help them face challenges like relating to others, understanding emotions, and making and keeping friends. The right book may even help a child with ASD find his or her place in the world, offering comfort and understanding. If you love a child with ASD, try some of the books on this list and see if you can find the perfect match.  

    1. All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome, by Kathy HoopmannThis book offers fun photographs of cats and kittens, along with a humorous look at the ups and downs of raising a child with ASD. Drawing parallels between children with ASD and household cats, the book touches on things like sensitive hearing, picky eating habits, and a dislike of being touched. This book is best for ages 7 and up.  
    1. All My Stripes: A Story for Children with Autism, by Shaina Rudolph and Danielle Royer: Written for children ages 5-8, this book is about Zane the zebra, who develops an understanding of his ASD and how it actually makes him special.  
    1. Andy and His Yellow Frisbee, by Mary Thompson: Directed at readers age 5-8, this book is about a boy named Andy, his protective older sister Rosie, and Rosie’s explanation of ASD to a new girl at school.  
    1. The Asperger Children’s Toolkit, by Francis Musgrave: This book for ages 6-12 is directed at children with ASD, focuses on positive behavior, and is written in easy to understand language  
    1. The Asperkid’s (Secret) Book of Social Rules: The Handbook of Not-so-obvious Social Guidelines for Tweens and Teens with Asperger Syndrome, by Jennifer Cook O’Toole: A must for older kids with ASD, ages 10-17, this bestselling book written by an author with Asperger Syndrome raising three children with Asperger’s, offers illustrations and humor along with easy-to-understand explanations of important social rules.  
    1. Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes, by Jennifer ElderWritten for kids 8-12, this book tells of historical figures who were probably on the autism spectrum, including Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, Lewis Carroll, Andy Warhol, and more.  
    1. Autism Is…? By Ymkje Wideman-van der Laan: This book, written for children ages 5-8, offers easy-to-understand, child-friendly answers, as a child named Logan hears his grandmother’s explanation of the facts about ASD. It’s part of a series aimed at young children on the spectrum, which includes books like, “Feelings Are…?” and “Danger Is…?” as well as a range of other topics. 
    1. Tacos Anyone? / ¿Alguien quiere tacos” by Marvie Ellis: Children aged 4-7, along with their parents and siblings,  will appreciate this bilingual book about a boy trying to relate to his younger brother, who has ASD.  
    1. The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (and Their Parents) by Elizabeth Verdick and Elizabeth Reeve, M.D.: Directed at adolescents age 8 and up, this guide offers straightforward answers to questions and problems kids with ASD might have.  
    1. How to Be Human: Diary of an Autistic Girl, by Florida Frenz: Written by a teenager with ASD, this memoir is both powerful and informative. Aimed at kids ages 7-12, it’s often used in classrooms.  

    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.  

  • Tips for Teaching Children with ASD to Swim

    Swimming is an important skill for every child, but for children with ASD, it’s especially crucial. Water can hold a special fascination for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and this can be dangerous when a child is also prone to wandering. This makes accidental drowning a very real threat. Reducing the risk of drowning, however, is not only possible but also rewarding. When kids with ASD learn to swim, it can bring them more confidence, joy, and coordination, while strengthening their bodies and lowering their anxiety. Here, we offer some tips for making that happen.  

    Whether you’re teaching your child on your own or looking for a class, these guidelines are important in teaching a child with ASD: 

    • Be clear and direct. Don’t use slang, but keep all of your instructions clear and literal. This will ensure that the child understands exactly what to do.  
    • Stay consistent. When skills are repetitively practiced, it will help your child to learn more easily.  
    • Proceed slowly. Rather than bouncing from one thing to the next, which can be confusing, take the time to slowly and deliberately introduce changes and transitions.  
    • Celebrate often. Every triumph is a cause for celebration, even if it’s just touching the tip of the nose to the water. Make a big deal out of each accomplishment, to encourage your child.  
    • Keep it fun. Children need time to explore the water, under close supervision. Especially if your child is attending many different therapy sessions and doctors’ appointments, swimming lessons can be a welcome and refreshing break from routine.  
    • Address fears and behaviors. For a child with ASD, swimming lessons need to be about more than just kicking, breathing, and strokes. It’s important to acknowledge fears, helping the child to relax and trust you. Letting the child know you’re in it together is a powerful tool for helping him or her overcome fear and move forward to learn how to swim.  

    You may be comfortable using this advice to teach your child to swim, or you may want to find an experienced swimming instructor. You can find facilities that offer special needs swim lessons by doing a little bit of research. Look for a swim school that’s a member of the United States Swim School Association, which trains instructors to teach swimmers with special abilities. The National Autism Association’s website has a list of YMCA locations with Special Needs Swimming Instruction, and Safe Splash Swim School has locations across the country, so you are likely to find one near you. You might also find a good swim school for kids with ASD by speaking to an occupational therapist or someone at your local pool.  

    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.  

  • Local Sensory-Friendly Summer Activities

    Summer is here, and it’s a great time for fun activities with the kids. For children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, finding the right fit can sometimes be challenging, but there’s plenty of fun to be had. Check out this list for some great ideas! 

    • Enjoy a sensory-friendly morning at a museum. The first Sunday of each month, from 9-10 a.m., the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum offers special activities for kids on the spectrum, with a designated quiet space inside the classroom. You can also enjoy quiet times at this museum after 2 p.m. each day. The San Diego Natural History Museum offers ASD mornings, in which little ones can explore the museum an hour early with fewer people, more room, and more sensory-friendly exhibits. This event occurs on the second Sunday of each month, and you’ll need to call ahead and reserve your spot.  
    • Check out Shane’s Inspiration/Inclusion Matters for playgrounds and fun eventsShane’s Inspiration has created universally accessible playgrounds around the world, with several here in California, built for fun and inclusive play. One fun event they sponsor is My PlayClub, which offers face painting, arts and crafts, and snacks, giving families with children of all abilities a great opportunity to spend a fun morning at the park.  
    • Zip Zop Zap gives kids with ASD a chance to try improv. With fun opportunities like the Teen Improv and Social Skills group, this organization offers specially designed programs to help kids develop social and emotional skills and connect with each other, in a guided atmosphere. This can help with social goals like self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision making, and relationship skills.  
    • Ability First offers fun events for families. On July 1st, the organization will debut a new event, AbilityFEST, celebrating diversity and inclusion and featuring activities like an adaptive rock-climbing wall and carnival-inspired games. This event is free and open to the public.  
    • Sensory-friendly nights at PlayWerx are fun for families. Every second Thursday from 6-8 p.m., kids with ASD and their families can meet, hang out, jump, climb and play. There’s even a snack bar available, as well as tables for parents so they can sit and chat while they watch their kids play.  
    • The La Mesa Library offers a fun Sensory Playtime with STEAM. Libraries are already a wonderful place to hang out on a hot summer day, but on the first Sunday of each month, La Mesa makes it even better.  This tactile event, held at 11 a.m., allows kids to touch, play, engage, and even make noise.  
    • Engage with horses, with some equine therapy. Interacting with animals is beneficial for kids with ASD, and learning to ride a horse helps them develop balance and hand-eye coordination. In Rancho Santa Fe, check out the Helen Woodward Animal Center, or if you’re in La Mesa, try Partners Therapeutic Horsemanship 
    • Make a splash at a monthly Family Pool PartyThis free family fun event features a saltwater pool at the perfect temperature, with pizza, drinks, and lifeguards. It’s held the second Friday of the month from 6-8 p.m. by the San Diego Autism Society and Aqua Pros, at the Boys & Girls Club indoor pool.  

    There are many more fun and sensory-friendly events in the area, from movies to gymnastics to imaginative play to fun in nature, so take the time this summer to look around for opportunities for quality time. 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. 

  • Understanding Your Child’s Rights in the Classroom

    Individuals who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and similar conditions have certain educational rights and responsibilities, and it’s important for them—and their parents—to understand what those are. If you are the parent of a child with ASD, it’s time to learn what special education services are available and how to determine eligibility.  

    What kind of education could my child be eligible to receive?  

    By federal law, a child has the right to a free education that is suitable for his or her unique learning needs. For children who have ASD, this means that they may be eligible for special education services that make it easier for them to navigate the classroom environment and get the most out of their education. For instance, your child may be eligible for: 

    • ABA therapy 
    • Speech therapy 
    • Physical therapy 
    • Extended school year services to ensure that his or her development continues on schedule during summer and holiday breaks.  

    Is my child eligible for special education services? 

    If your child has ASD or a related learning or attention disorder, school officials must first determine if your child’s disability is covered. Then, they must decide if the learning impairment is severe enough to warrant special education services. Here’s what these steps entail: 

    • The educational evaluation: You, your child’s teacher, or another concerned party can request an educational evaluation from the school. With parental permission, a team of professionals—often including the school psychologist—will conduct assessments and review his or her school records.  The results of the assessment will determine whether your child has any of the 13 disabilities covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). 
    • Determining eligibility: If the educational evaluation reveals that your child has a qualifying disability, the school must then decide whether he or she needs special education services. If so, the next step is to create an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Be aware that the school may decide that your child’s disability doesn’t inhibit classroom learning to a significant enough extent to warrant special education. 

    If you are looking for the up-to-date ASD resources your child needs, it’s time to get in touch with STAR of CA. We offer education and treatment for families who are confronting the challenges of ASD in the Ventura area. If you have any questions about the mental health services we offer, call (805) 644-7827 today.