• Fun Activities for Fall

    Fun Activities for Fall

    Fall is such a great time of year. Cooler days, nights bordering on brisk, cozy sweaters, and comfort foods are the hallmarks of the season. It’s also the perfect time to have some fun with your kids! We’ve got a few suggestions.

    • Go for roll. Rolling down a hill is great fun, and a great way to build large motor coordination and vestibular orientation. If your child seems put-off by the idea, sliding down a grassy hill on a cardboard square is just as fun.
    • Make the most of the fall leaves. Grab a couple of rakes and let kids rake them into piles, then jump in the piles to enjoy the satisfying crunch and earthy smell. After they’re worn out from the jumping, they can rake the leaves again and bag them. Raking, bagging, and dragging the bags down the driveway build muscle tone, improve circulation, instill a healthy work ethic, and promote life skills.
    • Go exploring. Take a hike, packing a snack and plenty of water. Or take it further into the woods and camp out overnight. Fall is perfect for camping and cooking over a campfire! It’s also a great time to explore fall activities. Hit the pumpkin patch, go apple picking, or take the kids on a hayride. There’s so much to experience this season.
    • Have fun in your own back yard. Or front yard, or sidewalk, or driveway- there are plenty of ways to have fall fun at home! Draw with sidewalk chalk, make homemade apple stamps, or create an outdoor obstacle course. Carve pumpkins, giving your kids the sensory experience of digging out the guts. Another fun thing to do is create a treasure hunt for your kids. Give them a list of seasonal items to find: a pinecone, a stick, a red leaf, and so on. When they collect all the treasures, discuss about what makes each item special.
    • Taste the season. Roast marshmallows and make s’mores, enjoying the flavors, scents, and ooey-gooey texture. Baking seasonal treats together is a fun and educational activity. Let your kids measure, pour, stir, and perhaps crack an egg! It can get messy, but the treat will be its own reward and your children will have built meaningful skills.
    • Make a sensory box. Fall has a wealth of wonderful sensory items. Mini pumpkins, bumpy gourds, dried corn on the cob, corn husks, popping corn kernels, and beans will have your child scooping, pouring, grabbing, and enjoying the textures and colors while developing motor skills.

    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.

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder Through Life

    Many people think of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as a disorder of childhood, but it’s actually a lifelong condition. It’s important to know, however, that while early childhood intervention can be extremely helpful, ongoing support is necessary to help people with ASD thrive throughout their lives. Like all people, people with ASD go through many significant changes in their lives. For a high quality of life, people with ASD need a firm foundation in childhood, but also ongoing support that meets their needs.

    • In early childhood, identification is important. Children can demonstrate behaviors associated with ASD as young as 18 months old, and if parents are paying attention to these symptoms, they can get an early diagnosis. Early diagnosis allows parents, therapists, and other specialists to start treatments early, which can reduce lifetime care costs by about two-thirds.
    • The next step is to build a solid foundation. During childhood and adolescence, parents and caregivers should work to help kids build life skills. You’ll want to help your child build communication skills, use a visual calendar to teach transitions between activities, and encourage self-advocacy and how to ask for things when he or she needs them. Working on self-care skills is an important step towards becoming independent, but in addition to knowing how to care for his or her own personal hygiene, your child should be learning to do household chores at an age appropriate level. As kids get older, they need to learn things like money management and safety in the community, and by the time they’re teenagers, they should be working on vocational skills. Another thing to consider when helping a child with ASD is leisure activities. Kids with ASD often have hyper-focused interests, and you can sometimes use these interests to engage them in community activities like team sports, music groups, and more.
    • Adults with ASD still need access to services and support. The goal should be maximized independence and the highest quality of life, and for many, this means employment and living in the community. It’s vital for people with autism spectrum disorder to know how to self-advocate, and it’s important for them to have support to help them live lives of happiness and dignity.
    • Each person with ASD is unique. Because of this, the experiences of each person and family are different. There are some consistent themes and issues, but it’s important to find the right support to help each individual succeed and thrive.

    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.

  • Summer Activities for Children

  • Anxiety during a difficult time

    It’s hard to imagine that there’s a person who hasn’t suffered some anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Anxiety does serve a purpose: it’s meant to protect us from threats by preparing us to respond to a crisis. It becomes a problem when we feel paralyzed by the need for assurance that we’re safe. Some people can tolerate discomfort and manage their anxiety, while others may be having trouble coping.

    How do you know if anxiety has become a problem for you? The answer is different for everyone. It’s normal to be anxious when life has dramatically changed, and our health and welfare are both threatened. It’s reasonable to be anxious about that, and anxiety can bring symptoms like chronic worry, restlessness, insomnia, feelings of dread, tense muscles, irritability, and a fight response. You might feel sad or hopeless, or panicky and overwhelmed. Consider this: trying to figure out if your anxiety is a problem can actually make you feel more anxious. The best approach is to prioritize taking care of yourself and your mental health, being open to the idea of asking for help if you need it. Here are some thoughts on how to do that:

    • Limit your exposure to stressful information. Yes, it’s prudent to keep abreast of the facts regarding the pandemic. However, staying too plugged in will almost certainly result in heightened anxiety. Get your information from trustworthy sources, setting boundaries as to exactly how much information you consume. If this means disconnecting from social media, it may be worth the peace of mind.
    • Focus on what you can control. Certain things are within your control, like sticking to the recommended preventative measures. You might also prepare an emergency kit and stock your pantry with shelf-stable foods. Do these things calmly, making sure not to let yourself spiral into panic.
    • Give your anxiety 15 minutes, then set it aside. Write down your worries, taking the full 15 minutes, and then go do something else. You might try guided meditation to quiet your mind. Remember, you don’t have to act on your anxieties, and sometimes the very act of writing them down can help you release them.
    • Stay connected to other people. This may take some creativity, but it’s important to avoid the isolation that can result in even more anxiety.
    • Seek the help of a professional if you need it. It’s surprisingly easy to get help from a therapist these days. Many mental health professionals are offering telehealth visits, preventing the anxiety that comes with having to physically go to an appointment.

    STAR of CA is here to offer support for people with special needs, providing important support services for adults, children, and families. 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.

  • 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.