• How Games can Help Children with Autism

    For children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), communication and social interaction can be challenging. It can be difficult to make friends because kids with ASD often find it hard to read social cues. Now, therapists are beginning to use fantasy role-playing games (RPGs) to help these young people engage with others, building social skills, confidence, and other skills. Dungeons and Dragons is one example of a game being successfully used for this purpose, but there are other RPGs out there that provide similar benefits. Why are these games so helpful?

    • They’re collaborative. To effectively work with party members, players collaborate and create strategies. This helps develop communication skills, and triumphing together as a party strengthens bonds, increasing trust between players. It’s easy to see how the skills developed in these collaborations can be useful in real life.
    • They provide the opportunity to develop decision-making skills. People with ASD often struggle with making decisions, but an RPG provides structure to help them learn to do this. There are character traits and backstories to choose, and players must make choices about their actions. Because this is an environment with no consequences in the real world, it takes the pressure off achieving a successful outcome. Players learn that decisions don’t necessarily have a set outcome but can result in a variety of conclusions.
    • They’re transformative, allowing players to “become” someone else. These games are escapist, and players can base their character or their character’s ideals on themselves or make them the exact opposite. It’s a safe space to try on new identities and observe what happens.
    • The games involve rules and consequences. These games have rules and structure built in, and the actions and decisions players make can result in different consequences.
    • They’re interactive, giving kids opportunities to make friends and build social skills. These aren’t games that you can easily play on your own. Getting into character and interacting with other players can build confidence, increase social skills, and help start conversations. Along the way, friendships form as players connect with like-minded people.
    • They require imagination, creativity, and flexibility. RPGs involve fantasy, and because they’re not video games, they require visualization. Players get to imagine whole worlds and civilizations, including fight scenes, cities, monsters, and fantastic creatures. They also have to be flexible, because the games require improvisation when a decision doesn’t have the intended result.
    • There’s no right or wrong way to play. People with ASD often fear failure, so the highly personalized gameplay in an RPG

    If your child has been diagnosed with ASD, STAR of CA is here to offer support, not just by keeping you informed of opportunities for fun with your kids, but also with 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.

  • Portrayal of ASD characters in TV and Film

    It’s natural for people to want to see others like them reflected in television and film. For people with ASD, the characters they see onscreen often serve a dual purpose, not just providing representation but also increasing awareness. As these characters increase in number, though, the stereotypes often increase with the awareness. This makes ASD character portrayals a hot button topic, with disagreement even among those in the ASD community about whether or not they’re beneficial.

  • One problem often cited is the feeling that these characters serve as stereotypical punchlines. The show “Atypical”, for instance, is sometimes lauded for addressing the difficulties faced by teenagers with ASD, but faces criticism for playing ASD for laughs, and not having people with ASD on the writing staff. Another stereotypical portrayal is Sheldon on “The Big Bang Theory”, a scientific genius with Asperger syndrome-like tendencies.
  • On the other hand, ASD is often portrayed too optimistically. In the movie “Rain Man”, Dustin Hoffman played a savant who could memorize half the names in the phone book in one reading. Similarly, “The Good Doctor” centers around a surgical resident who struggles with social skills, yet is a brilliant doctor. This perpetuates the idea that people with ASD are super-powered geniuses, when in fact people with ASD range from those with a genius-level IQ to those with intellectual disability.
  • Misunderstanding of ASD is often reflected in the creation of these characters. People with ASD tend to be portrayed as socially clueless, interested in geeky things like computer technology, math, or science, with odd ways of speaking or behaving, discomfort in social situations, impeccable ethics, and poor fashion sense. While some of these characteristics are shared by some people with ASD, the truth is that these portrayals do not sufficiently reflect ASD, particularly because people with these disorders are all unique individuals.
  • Still, there are some shining examples of realistic portrayals. For his character in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”, Leonardo DiCaprio observed teenagers with ASD and other learning disabilities. Filmmaker Janel Grillo, who has a child with ASD, has written, produced, and directed “Fly Away” and “Jack of the Red Hearts”, which have won acclaim for their authenticity. Claire Danes, too, played real-life Doctor Temple Grandin authentically and accurately, bringing awareness to the achievements of this accomplished scientist and respected ASD advocate.
  • There are some benefits to the portrayals of people with ASD onscreen. They raise awareness and empathy, normalize neurodiversity, create conversations that promote understanding, and provide new opportunities for people 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Conditions that Commonly Accompany Autism Spectrum Disorder

    People with Autism Spectrum Disorder face many challenges, not just from ASD, but also from conditions that often accompany it. Varying from one person to the next, these co-occurring conditions can have an impact on the timing of an ASD diagnosis, or can exacerbate symptoms. Since more than half of people with ASD have four or more accompanying conditions, it’s important to understand how some of the more common ones interact with ASD.  

    Conditions that coincide with Autism Spectrum Disorder typically fall into one of four categories: medical problems, developmental diagnoses, mental-health conditions, and genetic conditions. Examples of medical issues include epilepsy, gastrointestinal problems, or sleep disorders, while genetic conditions may include things like tuberous sclerosis complex and fragile X syndrome. Developmental diagnoses like language delay or an intellectual disability are common, as are mental-health conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

    The occurrence of these conditions is hard to estimate, largely because of differences in diagnostic criteria and the diversity of people who have ASD. A child with a mood disorder, for instance, may not be accurately diagnosed if he or she does not speak. What’s more, presenting concerns like anxiety can look different in people with ASD than they do in those who are neurotypical. To try and overcome difficulties in diagnosis, researchers are looking for innovative solutions, like an autism-specific depression-screening questionnaire.  

    It’s important that we take a closer look at these co-occurring conditions because they can have a direct impact on a person’s well-being. If we could reach a better understanding of these conditions, we could improve the quality of life for people with ASD. Sometimes, resolving one of these accompanying conditions may even ease the symptoms of ASD. For instance, when sleep or gastrointestinal problems are resolved, the result is often improved mood and a decrease in the severity of challenging behaviors.  

    Unfortunately, the conditions that accompany ASD may complicate the Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis. That’s because there can be overlap between the traits of ASD and the symptoms of a co-occurring condition. Sometimes, the relationship between these conditions and ASD is complicated and multifaceted. Through further studying these conditions and their connections to Autism Spectrum Disorder, researchers are hoping to come to a better understanding of how the conditions relate and how to help people with ASD live better lives. 

    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.  

  • Learn What Adults with ASD Wish You Knew in this Video Clip

    Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, is one of the most common developmental disorders in the world. It’s also one of the most widely misunderstood. There are numerous misconceptions about ASD, especially as it manifests in adults. For example, many people wonder if they should behave differently if they know that a person has ASD. In this video, adults with ASD share some things that they wish more people understood about the condition.  

    At STAR of CA, our team uses evidence-based treatments to provide much-needed help for families who are dealing with the challenges of an ASD diagnosis. If you are in search of resources for ASD and other developmental disorders in the Ventura area, you can reach us today at (805) 644-7827 

  • Exploring the Three Severity Levels of Autism

    As you probably already know, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) varies significantly from person to person. As its name suggeststhe condition exists on a spectrum, and a person who has ASD may require little to no therapy, moderate therapy, or extensive therapy. To help determine what the best approach is for providing assistance to someone with ASD, an individual with a diagnosis often gets designated with one of three severity levels. These levels offer guidance on the amount of support a person with the condition may require 

    Level 1 “Requiring Support” 

    Individuals who receive a diagnostic designation of Level 1 require a minor to moderate amount of support. For example, these individuals may be conversational but have trouble initiating social interactions or may exhibit unsuccessful responses to social overtures from othersThese individuals may also have difficulties with organization or switching between activities to an extent that interferes with their daily functioning.  

    Level 2 “Requiring Substantial Support” 

    Individuals designated with a Level 2 severity are considered to need a substantial amount of support. For instance, these individuals might manifest clear restricted or repetitive behaviors, and their social interactions may be highly limited to certain interests or may be marked with deficits in both verbal and nonverbal communication skills. They may have difficulty in adapting to changes in their routine, and they might show obvious distress in response to changes.  

    Level 3 “Requiring Very Substantial Support” 

    Individuals who receive a Level 3 severity designation require an intensive level of supportThese individuals usually have very limited social and communication skills, and they may be extremely agitated by changes to their schedule or a new environment. These individuals generally require extensive therapy and supervision 

    If you’re looking for the support you and your loved ones need to live with ASD, it’s time to reach out to STAR of CAWe offer a wide array of essential behavioral and psychological services to individuals and families. If you have any questions about our services, feel free to contact 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.

  • Do We Know What Causes Autism?

    Despite the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), there is no universally accepted consensus on what causes the condition. But while a single cause has not been identified, there are risk factors that appear to increase the likelihood of developing ASD. Some of the major risk factors for the condition include having a family history of ASD, having parents of advanced age, experiencing birth complications such as low birth weight, and being born of a pregnancy that takes place within a year of another pregnancy. There is no known link between childhood vaccinations and ASD.  

    If you are looking for ASD resources in Ventura, it’s time to get in touch with STAR of CA. We offer family support services, children’s behavioral services, and other services targeted toward the needs of families that are dealing with the challenges that can accompany an ASD diagnosis. If you have any questions, contact us today at (805) 644-7827.