• 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.  

  • Balancing the Needs of Siblings When You Have a Child with ASD

    Of all the challenges involved in raising a child who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD), one of the most significant may be balancing that child’s needs against those of their siblings. It’s common for the siblings of children with ASD to feel jealousy over the attention the other child is getting and confusion about the nature of the disorder. Here are some tips for dealing with these common issues:  

    Explain what the condition means.  

    In an age-appropriate way, explain to your children what it means that their sibling has ASD. This will most likely be an ongoing conversation, rather than a one-time explanation. Your children will likely have questions, and it’s important to try to answer them as clearly and as honestly as possible. Your children will be more likely to feel included if you are open with them about the circumstances, and it will also help them understand how to play and interact in an appropriate way.  

    Include your child’s siblings in interventions.  

    It’s important to know that there are resources available that may help your other children work through their feelings about having a sibling with ASD. Family support services, such as a sibling support group can help your children talk to others who will understand what they are experiencing, which can help to reduce their anxiety, frustrations, or other emotions.  

    Set aside time for all your children.  

    It’s common for children to feel that siblings with ASD and other disorders are getting more attention than they are.  That’s why it’s so valuable to make sure that you are spending enough time with every member of your family. It’s a good idea to set aside special times for you and each of your children.  This can be done in a variety of ways such as every Saturday afternoon, where the two of you can go to the zoo, get ice cream, go on a bike ride, or do something else fun together. Even finding small ways to provide each child with attention can have a big impact on how valued your other children feel.  For example, spending 10 minutes before bedtime to do an activity together. 

    STAR of CA provides an integrated, holistic approach to ASD treatment, focusing on making sure that your family has access to the best resources available. We offer a wide range of mental health services for individuals and families in the Ventura County area. For more information, you can get in touch with us by calling (805) 644-7827.