• 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. 

  • Parenting Styles to Avoid When Raising a Child With Autism

    Raising a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder involves many challenges, because your child may not often communicate, play, or behave like their neurotypical peers. Sometimes, these behaviors can confuse or overwhelm parents, but parents can bring out strengths and abilities you may not even have realized your child possessed. It doesn’t always come naturally, though, and there are certain parenting styles you’ll need to consider avoiding especially when parenting a child with ASD. 

    • Helicopter parenting can stunt a child’s development. This is true for any child, but it’s especially important not to constantly hover over children with ASD because when you do, you prevent them from achieving independence and self-determination. It’s important to allow your child to experience the challenge of trying new things, enjoy success, learn from others, and learn from failure. If your child presents with behaviors that pose a safety risk however, then close supervision or safety precautions are often warranted.  
    • Competitive parenting can affect both you and your child negatively. When you feel like you’re competing with other parents, it can cause you to develop a feeling that your child and your parenting are not up to par. When you feel this way, it may impact you and your child’s self-image. 
    • Free-range parenting is inappropriate for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Children with ASD need higher levels of focused parental engagement, with parents who help them learn how to socialize, converse, pretend, ask questions, investigate the world, and build other important skills.  
    • Perfectionist parenting creates unrealistic expectations. Some children might thrive under “tiger” parenting, but those children do not often have ASD. While it’s important to have high ideals for your child, it’s also crucial that you don’t set your sights on goals that will only frustrate and upset both of you. 
    • Permissive parenting can cause serious problems in the long run. While you shouldn’t set your expectations too high, you also need to make sure you don’t set the bar too low. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder need to experience the feeling of confidence that comes with accomplishment.  
    • Frenetic parenting can overwhelm your childSchool, therapy, and other activities are important in helping your child learn and grow, but too much packed into the schedule can leave no room for practicing new skills and interacting with others. Children with ASD are still children and need time to play and rest. When you’re scheduling activities, make sure to work in some calm, unfocused parent and child 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 805.644.7827. 

  • How to Make the Christmas Season Bright and Sensory Friendly

    The holidays can be hectic under the best of circumstances, but if you have a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, you may be facing them with a sense of dread. This busy time of year, with all its sights, sounds, smells, and crowds can be absolutely overwhelming. How can you make the Christmas season merry and bright, while keeping it sensoryfriendly? 

    • For a child with ASD, the holidays can be a time of sensory overload. The mall can be overwhelming, even for neurotypical people, so do your best to avoid taking your child there if it’s not absolutely necessary. Shop online, find a sitter, or ask someone to pick a few things up for you. Look for “sensory-friendly” Santas and other low-key holiday options, and if you’re heading to a big holiday event, have a plan B in place just in case it’s too much for your child.  
    • Another issue with holidays is that they disrupt the normal routine. Consider carefully before you commit to things that will put a crimp in the schedule, and try to keep things as normal as possible. If you’re traveling, make sure to bring along your child’s favorite things, and try to stick to the regular routine in regard to things like mealtimes and bedtimes if you can. When you do choose to attend a special event, practice behaviors ahead of time so your child knows what to expect. Don’t be afraid to say no to things that you don’t believe will be in the best interest of your child. 
    • Visiting with unfamiliar friends and family members can be stressful for a child with ASD. Make a plan ahead of time, and anticipate which gatherings and traditions will be stressful for your child. Be polite but firm, and explain your child’s needs to family members, so that they can understand how best to help you, but bring your own necessities and have a plan in place to escape to a quiet room or another location if things become overwhelming.  
    • Have a plan in place for managing your own holidaysKeep things simple, and establish traditions that will be fun for everyone in your family. Don’t set unrealistic expectations, but try to stay low key when you can, while still considering the needs and desires of your other children and family members. Take care of yourself, too, and create the kind of holiday season that you’ll remember fondly in years to come.  

    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. 

     

  • Holiday Tips for Children with ASD

    For many people, the holiday season is a joyous and eagerly anticipated time of year. For families of people with autism spectrum disorders, it can also be a time of disrupted schedules, broken routines, and other challenges. How can families lessen the holiday stress and make this time of year more enjoyable? We’ve got some ideas, garnered from input given by the Autism Society, the Indiana Resource Center for Autism, Easter Seals Crossroads, the Sonya Ansari Center for Autism at Logan, and the Indiana Autism Leadership Network.  

    • Be prepared. Think about your child’s individual needs, and how much preparation is appropriate. If he or she suffers anxiety over upcoming events, you may need to consider how far in advance you reveal certain happenings. Use a calendar to mark the dates of different holiday events, creating a social story to explain what will happen at each event. Prepare yourself for the holidays too, realizing that you may be the recipient of unsolicited advice. Understanding that this advice will probably be well-meaning, practice saying “I’ll think about that” with a smile.  
    • Consider your decorations carefullyFor some children with ASD, decorations can be disruptive. To ready your child for the changes you plan to make to the house, it may be helpful to look at photos from previous holidays. It might also help to engage your child in the process of decorating, involving him or her in shopping for or putting up decorations. Once your decorations are in place, make sure you have direct, specific rules about what can and cannot be touched, and that you are consistent in enforcing the rules.  
    • Ring in the holidays gradually. Some children with ASD have trouble with changes in their environment. If that’s the case for your child, it may be best to decorate the house gradually, keeping the child as engaged in the process as possible. Creating a calendar detailing what will be done each day can also be beneficial.  
    • Limit obsessing over gifts. A child with ASD may obsess over a particular desired item, and if that’s the case, it can be helpful to set limits. Be specific about the number of times the gift can be mentioned, perhaps giving the child five chips or tokens, and explaining that he or she can exchange one token for a designated length of time spent discussing the gift. You can also offer to write the gift down on a wish list. Be clear with your intentions, and if you are not going to purchase the gift, explain that, too.  
    • Empower by teaching self-management. Teach your child how to get support when a situation becomes overwhelming. If you’re having visitors, for instance, create a safe space so that the child can exit the event if he or she is feeling overwhelmed. Encouraging this kind of self-management is empowering, and will serve your child into adulthood. If your child is not at that level of self-management, work together ahead of time on a signal or cue that will indicate anxiety, so that you can prompt your child to use the safe space. You might even want to practice using this space in a calm manner ahead of time.  
    • Bring a touch of home on your holiday travels. Take along your child’s favorite foods, books, and toys when you travel for the holidays because this can help to alleviate stressful situations. Before the trip, discuss what will happen on the trip, using social stories to rehearse scenarios like boarding a plane, and preparing the child for situations like delayed travel.  
    • Use a photo album to prepare for visiting familyShow your child photos of relatives and guests you will see during the holidays, speaking briefly about each person. Then allow your child unrestricted access to these photos during the holidays.  
    • Practice and use roleplay to prepare for gift exchanges and other traditionsRehearse scenarios like giving gifts, taking turns opening gifts, receiving gifts, and responding to an unwanted gift. You might also find it helpful to practice religious rituals your child will encounter during the holidays.  
    • Prepare your extended family with appropriate strategies. Help your family members understand the person in your family with ASD, letting them know whether hugs are appropriate, and other factors that can facilitate smooth interactions during the holiday season. Coach them on strategies for minimizing behavioral issues.  
    • Keep the sleeping and eating routines steady. If your child is on a special diet, have food available that he or she can eat. Be careful about sugar consumption, and try to keep the sleep and meal routines as close to normal as possible.  
    • Understand your loved one with ASD. Think about his or her individual needs, and know how much sensory input can be tolerated. Consider your child’s level of anxiety, and how to prepare for situations that may arise. Avoid stressful situations when possible, and be sensitive to your child’s need for a quiet place to regroup.  

    Knowing how to prepare can help you have an enjoyable holiday season, and knowing where to find the right resources can help you overcome the challenges of 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. 

  • 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. 

  • 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.  

  • Ideas for Making Travel Less Stressful for Your Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder

    Family vacations can be delightful. For parents of children who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), however, they can also be stressful. Fortunately, there are strategies you can adopt to make travel an enjoyable experience for you and your child. Here are some tips to get you started:  

    Keep your child’s routine as consistent as possible.  

    One of the main reasons why children with ASD have difficulty with travel is the disruption to their usual schedule. While it’s impossible to avoid some changes in routine while traveling, you should try to keep your child’s day as familiar as possible. Meals, naps, and bedtime should all continue to happen at the same time of day. It’s also a good idea to bring along favorite toys and other objects that will help to maintain a sense of familiarity for your child.  

    Plan your schedule ahead of time.  

    While you may not be able to predict everything you do during your vacation, making a general schedule for each day can help you anticipate any potential issues that might arise for your child. You might even want to put together an easy-to-follow schedule for your child, with illustrations. This can help him or her get ready for each step of the day before it happens.  

    Call ahead to make special arrangements.  

    Keep in mind that many of the places you’ll be visiting on your trip may be able to make special accommodations for children with ASD. For instance, hotels, airports, and even restaurants may all be willing to make changes to accommodate your child’s unique needs. It’s a good idea to make these preparations before your trip, so that you aren’t rushing to make important arrangements at the last minute.  

    When you are looking for help in navigating the difficulties that come with an ASD diagnosis, you can always turn to STAR of CA. Our services are individualized to meet the needs of each family we work with. For integrated, evidence-based treatments in the Ventura area, contact us today at (805) 644-7827 

  • How to Become a Smart Consumer of ASD Interventions

    If you are a parent of a child who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), you have undoubtedly heard about some of the many different therapies that are available for your child. Unfortunately, not all of these therapies work or have evidence supporting their effectiveness. If you inadvertently select a therapy that is ineffective, this can come at a significant cost to your time and resources—and with no discernable benefit to your child.  

    Fortunately, it’s possible to distinguish helpful treatments from treatments that are of little or no value, or that may even be harmful. If you are wondering whether a particular treatment for ASD would actually be beneficial for your child, these are some of the questions you should ask yourself:  

    Does it promise to cure ASD?  

    When it comes to ASD treatments, this is probably the single most significant red flag. There is currently no known cure for ASD, so any treatment that promises to cure it is making a false claim.  

    Is it an evidence-based treatment?  

    There are two types of treatments for ASD: those that are based on evidence, and those that are not. How can you tell which treatments are evidence-based? Let’s take a look—these are some of the qualities of an evidence-based treatment:  

    • The treatment has been tested more than once.  
    • The tests showed demonstrable improvement after use of the treatment.  
    • The tests used a representative sample of the population.  
    • The sample sizes were sufficiently large to make the tests useful.  

    If an ASD treatment meets all of these standards, it may be a worthwhile treatment for your child. It’s important to keep in mind that different treatments work better for different individuals, so a therapy that works well for one child’s needs will not necessarily work for another child. Reputable non-profit online resources, such as the National Autism Center, offers reliable information about evidence-based treatments (http://www.nationalautismcenter.org/) for ASD.  

    STAR of CA uses evidence-based treatments to help children with a wide range of different developmental issues, including ASD. We are dedicated to providing the best possible services for the families we serve. If you have any questions about our services, call (805) 644-7827 today.  

  • Vacation Planning Tips for Families Living with ASD

    From a day at the beach to a cross-country road trip, summer is virtually synonymous with vacations. For families with children who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), however, vacations can present some unique challenges. How can you make sure that vacations remain fun and non-stressful for your entire family? Here are some tips that may help:  

    Choose your destination carefully.  

    When you’re planning a vacation, make sure to consider your child’s personality and needs. Some children may delight in a trip to Disneyland, while others may prefer less crowded places such as parks or the beach. Whatever your destination is, be sure to give your child plenty of time during each day to calm down in a quiet environment like a hotel room.  

    Start preparing early.  

    Children with ASD are often upset by changes in schedule, so you should sit down with your child as soon as possible to talk about your vacation: where you will be going, what you will be doing, and how long you will be there. It may help to draw pictures of your trip or to show your child photos and videos of your destination online.  

    Make a schedule for the trip.  

    It’s important to sit down and draw up a rough schedule for each day of your vacation before you leave. If you have a daily routine for your child, it will be comforting for them and help them enjoy the trip more. This may be as simple as having a snack at a certain time of day, having an afternoon nap at the same time every day, or watching a favorite video on YouTube before bed.  

    When your family is in need of resources for living with ASD, you can turn to STAR of CA for the help you need. We have been providing Ventura County residents with state-of-the-art ASD services for more than a decade, and we have recently expanded our services to cover a wider area. If you have any questions for our team, please call us today at (805) 644-7827.  

  • Tips for Seeking Out Social Support

    If you have a child who has recently been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it’s not uncommon to feel alone. That’s why finding sources of support around you can be so valuable. You might want to seek out family therapy services that will help you and your family adjust to the new challenges that come with an ASD diagnosis. There are also therapy services available for existing issues you or a family member might have that may be exacerbated by a diagnosis of ASD, such as anxiety or depression. You might also want to look for support groups where you can meet and talk with other parents of children who have ASD. Finding appropriate support can be extremely helpful for getting through the first few challenging months after an ASD diagnosis.  

    When you’re looking for ASD help in or near Ventura County, it’s time to turn to STAR of CA. Our experienced team of mental health experts will be happy to help you find the resources you need. For more information, call (805) 644-7827.