• 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. 

  • The National Survey of Children’s Health’s Insights into Autism Spectrum Disorder

    While children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) do require therapy to help them with their developmental challenges, it’s important to make sure that their other healthcare needs are being taken care of as well. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. According to a recent study, as many as one-fifth of all the children who have ASD in the U.S. are not getting all of their healthcare needs met. Here is a closer look at the study’s findings.   

    Children with ASD are more likely to have additional health issues.  

    According to the study, children who have ASD are more likely than other children to have other conditions, including anxiety, depression, epilepsy, and sleep disorders. This increases the challenges faced by these children and their families, since treating co-occurring—and often related—conditions will be more complex. This makes children with ASD more vulnerable to having unmet healthcare needs.  

    Children with unmet healthcare needs share a number of circumstances.  

    The study also found that children with ASD whose healthcare needs were not being met tended to have a few factors in common. For example, they often did not have health insurance, were growing up in difficult circumstances, such as with exposure to domestic violence, and had parents facing financial problems, such as unemployment.  

    Supporting families is essential to supporting the needs of children.  

    The study concluded that children are most likely to have their healthcare needs met when their families are able to care for them appropriately. As such, providing support to families who are facing personal or financial hardships is indispensable to ensuring that children with ASD get the help and treatment they need.  

    When you’re looking for comprehensive therapy options for ASD, STAR of CA can help. We make a wide range of evidence-based treatments available to individuals and families in and around the Ventura area. We have been proudly serving the community since we first opened in May of 2006. If you have any questions, call us at (805) 644-7827.  

  • A Brief Overview of the Verbal Behavior Approach

    The verbal behavior approach is a type of applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy that focuses on improving language. The purpose of the therapy is to assist individuals who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in developing better language skills by breaking verbal output down into specific subtypesThere are four sub-types of words that the verbal behavior approach focuses on: 

    • Mand, which is a verbal request. 
    • Tact, which is an observation or label. 
    • Intraverbal, which is a response. 
    • Echoic, which is a repetition of another word or phrase. 

    This approach is often used in conjunction with other ABA treatments as part of a comprehensive treatment program. 

    At STAR of CA, we specialize in providing the best services available for children who have ASD and other developmental disorders. We can develop an individualized program for your child that targets his or her particular needs. When you need behavioral health services in Ventura, call (805) 644-7827. 

  • The Developmental Levels of Play

    Developing age-appropriate play skills is important for every child’s growth, as it provides the necessary skills for social interaction. There are several distinct levels of play that most children experience as they grow. As a child develops, the will progress from playing by themselves to playing alongside other children, to tentatively sharing toys with other children, to engaging in cooperative and imaginative play with others and finally to engaging in rule-based play with others. For parents of children who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it’s particularly important to supervise a child’s development closely and take note if your child is not advancing past certain stages.  

    For the most up-to-date treatments and therapies for ASD, individuals in the Ventura area should get in touch with STAR of CA. We offer a wide range of services targeted toward the needs of families who are dealing with the challenges of ASD and related disorders. If you have any questions for our team, you can always reach us at (805) 644-7827.

  • Who Should Be Screened for ASD?

    If you are concerned that your child may have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), your first step should be to obtain a professional screening as soon as possible. But you might not be certain precisely how to determine whether or not your child displays any of the symptoms of the disorder. If any of the following things are true of your child, you may want to consider scheduling a screening.  

    Your child is missing important developmental milestones.  

    As they develop, children tend to hit certain milestones at certain ages. By the time of their first birthday, children should be able to gesture and babble; by 16 months, single words should emerge; by their second birthday, they should be able to use simple phrases on their own. Additionally, by 12 months, your child should often seek your attention and to share their experiences with you by pointing out items of interest in their environment or looking to you as a means of identifying how they should respond to a novel situation (e.g. social referencing). If your child misses any of these milestones, they may need a screening for ASD.  
    Your child is regressing after reaching milestones.  

    If your child is having difficulty using certain language or social skills after already achieving them, it’s a definite warning sign. For example, if your child seems to be having difficulty using words or gestures to express him or herself after being able to do so previously, you should consider having an ASD screening in addition to a medical screening.  

    Your child has a sibling who has ASD.  

    If your child has a sibling with ASD or another developmental disorder, it’s important to watch carefully for any warning signs of ASD. If you notice any similar symptoms arise at any stage of development, you may want to have your child screened by a professional for ASD.  

    If you are searching for the right resources to help you and your family support your child with ASD, let STAR of CA be your guide. We have been serving areas across California for more than a decade, and we are continually working to expand and improve the behavioral and psychological services we offer. For more information, call us today at (805) 644-7827. 

  • Why Are Rates of ASD Rising?

    In recent years, the number of new diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has increased drastically. Why exactly is this happening? As this video explains, this trend may not mean that actual instances of ASD are on the rise. Instead, the answer may simply be that we are getting better at identifying ASD and other developmental disorders.  

    If you have a child who has ASD or a related disorder, it’s time to get in touch with the team at STAR of CA. For the past decade and longer, we have been helping individuals and families in Ventura find the right services for their needs. To learn more about the wide array of support services we offer, call us today at (805) 644-7827.

  • Transitioning to Adulthood with ASD

    While the challenges of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may begin in childhood, they do not end there. In many ways, the difficulties expand with the onset of adulthood. Many individuals need daily care for their condition, and many parents of children with ASD find themselves worrying about the future. As this video explains, while there are resources in place to help children with the condition, resources for adults with ASD are increasingly scarce.  

    If you have a loved one who has ASD, STAR of CA can help. We provide Ventura and the surrounding areas with services geared toward the needs of individuals who have ASD and other developmental disabilities. To learn more, call (805) 644-7827.

  • How Can Puberty Affect Kids with ASD?

    Raising children who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be a challenge for any parent, but the challenges escalate when a child reaches puberty. As adulthood looms on the horizon, parents may grow increasingly concerned about finding the best options for helping their child make that transition. In this video from PBS NewsHour, you’ll be introduced to Alexander Brown, a 14-year-old who has nonverbal ASD, and his mother, who discusses what it is like to have a child with ASD as he goes through puberty. 

    STAR of CA has been providing individuals and families with essential support for living with ASD since we first opened in 2006. Visit us at our website to learn more about the wide array of services we offer in Ventura County and be sure to call (805) 644-7827 with your questions.

  • What is Nonverbal ASD? 

    Nonverbal ASD is a term that is commonly used to refer to people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who have never learned to speak more than a handful of words. It is not considered an official diagnosis, and people with nonverbal ASD vary considerably in their verbal skills. Some of those individuals can use individual words but cannot use them in long sentences, while others simply “echo” words and sentences they have heard without appearing to understand them. Still, other people with nonverbal ASD can write or use sign language but are not able to communicate vocally. As many as one-third of all individuals with ASD may fall into the nonverbal category.  

    Since 2006, STAR of CA has been using modern, evidence-based treatments to provide Ventura County families with support for ASD and other developmental disabilities. If you would like to learn more about our mental health services, give us a call today at (805) 644-7827.