• Supporting your Child Whose Sibling has ASD

    When you’re the parent of a child with ASD, you know the impact Autism Spectrum Disorder can have on your entire family. What you may not realize is how much of a toll ASD can take on the siblings of the child with ASD. Studies indicate that siblings of children with ASD are at risk of anxiety, depression, and social difficulties. While you’re coping with the challenges facing your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, how can you support your child who does not have an ASD diagnosis?

  • Be understanding when your child has negative emotions about his or her sibling with ASD. Sometimes, a neurotypical child might be embarrassed by the behavior of a sibling with ASD, or jealous of the time and energy required from the parents. Whatever your child is feeling, honor that, and help the child to work through it.
  • Recognize that each child is unique, regardless of abilities or special needs. The child who doesn’t have ASD still needs to be recognized as a unique individual with his or her own needs, thoughts, hopes, and desires. Be mindful of your typical child’s needs, making a plan to handle difficult situations that may arise. This is especially important when ensuring that each of your children gets the academic support they need.
  • Nurture a relationship between the siblings. Sometimes it’s hard for a child to build a relationship with a sibling who has ASD. Fortunately, you can teach your children how to engage their sibling, so that the children can play together and form a bond. Most children with siblings who have ASD develop a fierce devotion and loyalty to their siblings.
  • Acknowledge that your neurotypical child may be responsible for his or her sibling later in life. It is likely that your child with ASD will outlive you and will need the support or even care of his sibling. Knowing this can be challenging to siblings trying to build their own lives, but you can help by encouraging them to form their own identities outside of the family, as well as discussing plans you have in place for your child with ASD.
  • Give each child one on one time. Your child with ASD needs to be a fully integrated member of your family, but that doesn’t mean that every activity must be shared by the whole family. Remember to give your neurotypical children regular, separate time, whether that’s one evening a week or just a few minutes each day. Make a point of celebrating each child’s achievements, and allow your children without ASD to be the central focus sometimes.

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. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896.

  • Enjoying Springtime Activities with your Child with ASD

    Easter is something fun that can be challenging for a child with ASD. If you celebrate this holiday, it’s important to take some steps to make it fun for your child and not overwhelming.

    • Manage your own expectations. Especially if you have neurotypical children as well as a child with ASD, you may have a picture in your mind for how Easter is “supposed” to be. You may need to let that go, and just let it be what works best for your family.
    • The egg hunt can be altered to be ASD friendly.
      • If you’re going to an egg hunt with other families, practice ahead of time, explaining the rules.
      • Consider an egg hunt at home, limiting the eggs to just one or two colors.
      • Look for inclusive egg hunts in your area.
      • Be prepared to leave if your child isn’t into it or becomes overwhelmed.
      • Bring whatever your child might need to feel comfortable, whether it’s headphones, sunglasses, a snack, or some comfort item from home.
    • Be prepared to navigate social interaction, with a backup plan if it’s too much. Easter functions can involve big crowds and tons of other kids. Sometimes they can be rowdy and loud, and sometimes they might involve family gatherings with people who might not respect your child’s boundaries. Have a plan in place to make your child feel safe, even If that means leaving.

    Of course, Easter isn’t the only thing going on in the spring. There are plenty of fun things to do with your children, and the key to managing spring activities is to understand and accommodate your unique child.

    • Playgrounds can provide exercise and socialization, but they can also be overwhelming. Observe the playground before you go, looking for times where the crowds aren’t heavy. Better yet, look for an inclusive playground.
    • Earth Day can be very meaningful, but it might be better to avoid festival crowds. Instead, do an Earth Day craft, plant a garden, or simply take a walk with your children.
    • Getting outdoors with your child with ASD can be great fun for both of you. Draw with sidewalk chalk, blow bubbles. Create an obstacle course in your yard, using household items like hula hoops and jump ropes, and letting your child help set it up.

    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. You can contact us through our website or by calling 805.588.8896.

  • 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. 

  • How to have a Sensory-Friendly New Year’s Eve

    New Year’s Eve is a fun and festive holiday that can be enjoyed by young and old alike. If your child has sensory processing issues or autism spectrum disorder, however, all that festivity can be problematic. The fireworks, bright lights, crowds, and loud music can be overwhelming, causing panic and anxiety for children with special needs. What’s more, your children may already be out of sorts, because of all the disruption the holiday season brings, with upended schedules and increased social interaction. Don’t worry! You can have a happy and sensory-friendly New Year’s Eve this year, just by following a few simple guidelines.  

    • Prepare in advance. Talk to your kids and make a plan together, and get everything ready to go. You might watch YouTube videos of New Year’s Eve festivities together to help you make a plan.  
    • Don’t mind the clock. If staying up until midnight is going to be disruptive, ring in the New Year at a time that works better for you! You might celebrate midnight in another time zone or plan your party for noon.  
    • Plan sensory-friendly activities. A sensory bin with confetti, streamers, party blowers, glow sticks, balloons, or whatever else your kids might enjoy can be a great addition to your New Year’s celebration. You might also make a calm-down sensory bottle, filled with water mixed with glitter or confetti.  
    • Watch a movie under a weighted blanket. Make New Year’s Eve a family movie night, snuggled up under a weighted blanket, which will provide calming deep pressure and proprioceptive sensory input. Make it even more fun by popping some popcorn.  
    • Have a family game night. Board games offer a great low-key way to ring in the New Year, and they’ll help your kids practice social skills, too.  
    • Dance the night away. If your kids need to move and wiggle around too much to last through a movie or a board game, no problem! Have a family dance party instead, dressing up if you want to and dancing to your kids’ favorite tunes.  
    • Choose hats over noisemakers. Hats are just as festive as the noisier party favors, and for extra fun, you can make it a craft activity, making or decorating them yourselves. 
    • Do the fireworks and ball drop your own way. Watch fireworks on video instead of experiencing them live, and set up a balloon or confetti drop to release after your countdown, filling a drawstring garbage bag with party streamers, ribbons and bows left over from Christmas, confetti, or balloons.  

    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. 

  • FAQs and Answers About IEPs

    When your child has autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or a related condition, he or she may need an individualized education program (IEP) in order to have a productive and positive experience at school. An IEP essentially provides a guideline for your child’s education. Here’s what you need to know about IEPs.  

    What is an IEP?  

    An IEP is an individual program developed for a child or adolescent in public school if he or she needs special accommodations, services, or support to do well. The plan outlines detailed information about your child’s current educational status, his or her strengths and areas of need states what services will be provided to support your child’s learning, and goals that will be targeted and measured to determine progress.    

    What is a SMART goal?  

    You may have heard that your child’s IEP program needs to include SMART goals. SMART is an acronym that describes goals that meet five criteria: specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented, and time-bound. In order to be useful for your child, the program that you and your team develop should have targeted goals that are clear, quantifiable, and realistic.  

    What does it mean for an IEP to be standards-based?  

    Every state has its own official academic standards that have to be met in the classroom, and since 2015, all IEPs have been required to meet those standards as well. When your IEP team is creating SMART goals for your child, they will need to be in keeping with your state’s academic standards for students at that grade level.  

    Do you have a child with ASD, a child with behavioral issues, or a child who is at risk of a developmental disorder? If you are looking for help in facing the challenges that come with these situations, look to STAR of CA. We offer a full range of ASD services to families throughout California, including Ventura County. For more information about our mental health services, call (805) 644-7827 today.  

  • Comparing Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder

    In order to obtain proper treatment and therapy for a developmental disorder, it is important to first get an accurate diagnosis and understanding of the presenting concerns. Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder has many overlapping symptoms to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), but the two conditions are different and considered distinct from each other. Here is what you need to know about the differences between these two conditions. 

    What is Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder?  

    When the American Psychiatric Association updated its definitions of ASD in 2013, they decided to define certain symptoms under the diagnosis of Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder. This disorder is characterized by difficulty using communication skills, both verbal and non-verbal. These skills may include taking turns speaking during a conversation, using non-verbal signals, or using non-literal expressions such as metaphors. Individuals who have Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder may also have trouble speaking appropriately in different social contexts, such as altering their voice tone or language style when engaging with different people in different settings. Without treatment, people who have Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder may find that they face significant challenges in their personal relationships, social interactions, and academic or career settings. 

    How does Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder differ from Autism Spectrum Disorder?  

    Individuals who have ASD often have some of the same difficulties with social interactions as individuals who have Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder. Individuals who have Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder, however, do not present with the same symptoms of restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or motor movements that are common to an ASD diagnosis. As a result, before a diagnosis of Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder can be reached, it must be considered whether the individual also displays symptoms that are unique to ASD.  

    Since 2006, STAR of CA has been offering evidence-based treatments for ASD and other related developmental disorders to families across California, including services for both adults and children. If you would like to learn more about the services we provide, you can reach us today by calling (805) 644-7827.

  • 3 Tips for Planning a Successful Play Date for Your Child with ASD

    Scheduling play dates for your children is a great way to help them work on their social skills while having fun. For parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), however, navigating a successful play date can be much more challenging. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you’re planning a play date for your child:  

    1. Put a time limit on it. 

    It’s important to remember that you want to set your child up for success and that may mean a short playdate; even as short as 30 minutes to an hour. As the parent, you know your child’s strengths and needs so keep that in mind when setting the time limit.  As your child increases their social skills, you can gradually increase the length of your playdate.   

    1. Choose the environment carefully. 

    It may be tempting to take your child to a park or a playground, but if those places are crowded, the level of sensory stimulation may be overwhelming for your child.  Try going to public places when they are less likely to be busy, and choose quieter environments such as backyards or smaller parks for your child’s play date. When picking the environment, you’ll also want to consider your child’s and their peer’s interest.  Choose an environment that is conducive to the types of activities or toys they like to play. 

    1. Give your child a way to take breaks. 

    It’s important that children with ASD are able to remove themselves from challenging environments whenever they start to feel upset. Make sure that you have a place for your child to retreat to during the play date if they begin to feel overwhelmed or anxious.  It is okay for the children to play separately for a bit if that is what they need to ensure the playdate will be a success. Children tend to get overstimulated during playdates, so it’s important to give them some time to wind down afterward. 

    Are you looking for resources to help you raise a child with ASD? STAR of CA has been assisting families in Ventura County and Southern California since we opened our doors in May 2006. We use ABA-based methods to provide individualized programs to help children with ASD and related disorders. To learn more, contact us today at (805) 644-7827.

  • Spotlight on We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym

    Play is an essential part of childhood. We Rock the Spectrum Laguna Hills believes that all children deserve the opportunity to play in a safe, inclusive environment. This gym has created a unique place where children can explore, have fun, and make memories. What makes them so special? Keep reading to learn the answer!

    What the Gym Is All About

    The indoor playground at We Rock the Spectrum is specifically designed to meet the needs of children with autism and is a place where all can play. It’s also designed to be a calming and relaxing place for parents to be. The friendly, energetic staff is constantly working to ensure that everybody has as positive an experience at the playground as possible.

    What You’ll Find

    The gym features sensory based equipment that encourages children with autism and other disabilities to master movement. The equipment you and your child will find here includes a zip line, a crash pit, a tunnel, a trampoline, a hammock swing, climbing structures, and much more! You’ll also find an arts and crafts area for children who want to take breaks and enjoy more restful activities. Children who visit this gym can work on their sensory functions while having fun!

    How We Rock the Spectrum Helps Children

    The positive, upbeat atmosphere at We Rock the Spectrum Laguna Hills is contagious! At this gym, children of all ability levels play together and encourage each other. They learn how to play appropriately, and they have a safe zone to run around and use up all their energy. Once you’ve visited the indoor playground for the first time, you won’t be able to wait for the second trip!

    Do you have a loved one who was recently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)? STAR of CA provides evidence-based treatments, therapy, and education for ASD and other mental health issues. We offer our services to Ventura and other communities throughout the state of California. Call us today at (805) 644-7827 if you have any questions for us.

  • What to Expect During Your Child’s Assessment: Your Questions Answered

    If you believe that your child may have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), your first step should be to seek out an official diagnostic evaluation. If you’re like most parents, you probably have no idea what you should anticipate from this experience. Here we answer common questions about what happens and what you can expect during an assessment:

    Who will perform the assessment?

    If you believe that your child is showing signs of ASD or a related disorder, your first step will be to schedule an appointment for your child to be evaluated by a professional. The initial evaluation is usually done by a clinical psychologist or pediatrician who has experience assessing individuals with ASD. In some cases, the evaluation may be made by a team of several specialists in different fields, such as a clinical psychologist, neurologist, and speech pathologist.

    What happens during the assessment?

    There is no single test that is used to diagnose ASD, so doing an accurate assessment requires a multifaceted approach. A comprehensive evaluation includes interviewing the parents, reviewing the child’s developmental history, and observing the child’s behavior. Moreover, assessing an individual for ASD will include vision and hearing evaluations. It may also include tests of genetic and neurological factors. A child may be observed across multiple settings, and other people who interact regularly with the child may be interviewed as well. This holistic approach helps to ensure an accurate diagnosis. The goal is not just to diagnose a condition, but to provide you with as much useful information as possible for ensuring your child’s health and happiness.

    When do I find out the results of the assessment?

    Typically, a diagnosis is not made at the time of your initial appointment. You may need to wait for the test results, and a follow-up assessment—or a referral to another specialist—may be required before a definite diagnosis can be made. If your child’s status changes during that time, or you notice any additional symptoms, contact the provider who performed the assessment as soon as possible so that this new information can be taken into account.

    STAR of CA offers a wide array of mental health services to families that are living with ASD and other issues. We take an individualized approach to every child’s needs, working to ensure that every family gets the resources they require. If you have any questions about the services we offer in and beyond the Ventura area, call (805) 644-7827.