• Tips for Teaching Children with ASD to Swim

    Swimming is an important skill for every child, but for children with ASD, it’s especially crucial. Water can hold a special fascination for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and this can be dangerous when a child is also prone to wandering. This makes accidental drowning a very real threat. Reducing the risk of drowning, however, is not only possible but also rewarding. When kids with ASD learn to swim, it can bring them more confidence, joy, and coordination, while strengthening their bodies and lowering their anxiety. Here, we offer some tips for making that happen.  

    Whether you’re teaching your child on your own or looking for a class, these guidelines are important in teaching a child with ASD: 

    • Be clear and direct. Don’t use slang, but keep all of your instructions clear and literal. This will ensure that the child understands exactly what to do.  
    • Stay consistent. When skills are repetitively practiced, it will help your child to learn more easily.  
    • Proceed slowly. Rather than bouncing from one thing to the next, which can be confusing, take the time to slowly and deliberately introduce changes and transitions.  
    • Celebrate often. Every triumph is a cause for celebration, even if it’s just touching the tip of the nose to the water. Make a big deal out of each accomplishment, to encourage your child.  
    • Keep it fun. Children need time to explore the water, under close supervision. Especially if your child is attending many different therapy sessions and doctors’ appointments, swimming lessons can be a welcome and refreshing break from routine.  
    • Address fears and behaviors. For a child with ASD, swimming lessons need to be about more than just kicking, breathing, and strokes. It’s important to acknowledge fears, helping the child to relax and trust you. Letting the child know you’re in it together is a powerful tool for helping him or her overcome fear and move forward to learn how to swim.  

    You may be comfortable using this advice to teach your child to swim, or you may want to find an experienced swimming instructor. You can find facilities that offer special needs swim lessons by doing a little bit of research. Look for a swim school that’s a member of the United States Swim School Association, which trains instructors to teach swimmers with special abilities. The National Autism Association’s website has a list of YMCA locations with Special Needs Swimming Instruction, and Safe Splash Swim School has locations across the country, so you are likely to find one near you. You might also find a good swim school for kids with ASD by speaking to an occupational therapist or someone at your local pool.  

    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. 

  • Understanding Your Child’s Rights in the Classroom

    Individuals who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and similar conditions have certain educational rights and responsibilities, and it’s important for them—and their parents—to understand what those are. If you are the parent of a child with ASD, it’s time to learn what special education services are available and how to determine eligibility.  

    What kind of education could my child be eligible to receive?  

    By federal law, a child has the right to a free education that is suitable for his or her unique learning needs. For children who have ASD, this means that they may be eligible for special education services that make it easier for them to navigate the classroom environment and get the most out of their education. For instance, your child may be eligible for: 

    • ABA therapy 
    • Speech therapy 
    • Physical therapy 
    • Extended school year services to ensure that his or her development continues on schedule during summer and holiday breaks.  

    Is my child eligible for special education services? 

    If your child has ASD or a related learning or attention disorder, school officials must first determine if your child’s disability is covered. Then, they must decide if the learning impairment is severe enough to warrant special education services. Here’s what these steps entail: 

    • The educational evaluation: You, your child’s teacher, or another concerned party can request an educational evaluation from the school. With parental permission, a team of professionals—often including the school psychologist—will conduct assessments and review his or her school records.  The results of the assessment will determine whether your child has any of the 13 disabilities covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). 
    • Determining eligibility: If the educational evaluation reveals that your child has a qualifying disability, the school must then decide whether he or she needs special education services. If so, the next step is to create an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Be aware that the school may decide that your child’s disability doesn’t inhibit classroom learning to a significant enough extent to warrant special education. 

    If you are looking for the up-to-date ASD resources your child needs, it’s time to get in touch with STAR of CA. We offer education and treatment for families who are confronting the challenges of ASD in the Ventura area. If you have any questions about the mental health services we offer, call (805) 644-7827 today.  

  • How Does Natural Environment Teaching Work?

    Natural environment teaching is an approach to teaching children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that focuses on their daily surroundings. Think about the environments your child sees and explores on a daily basis: home, school, daycare. These places are the context in which your child’s learning takes place and his or her development happens. Natural environment teaching uses these surroundings to teach important skills, often through the creation of specific learning opportunities for your child. Ultimately, your child should be able to independently use the skills he or she learns in each of these environments.  

    At STAR of CA, we offer a fully integrated approach to providing the education and resources families affected by ASD need. Our team offers a wide array of services, from ABA therapy to family support. If you’re in need of ASD services in the Ventura area, you can reach us by calling (805) 644-7827 today 

  • Dealing with ASD-Related Sleep Problems

    For children who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), getting a good night’s sleep is essential for learning new skills during the daytime. Unfortunately, over half of the children with autism have one or more chronic sleep problems. This video offers some helpful tips for parents of children with ASD who are trying to instill good sleep habits.  

    STAR of CA offers a range of helpful resources for individuals who have specialized needs, including ASD. Our friendly staff will be happy to answer your questions about ASD and other developmental disorders. If you are looking for mental health services in Ventura or the surrounding areas, call us today at (805) 644-7827 for more information.  

  • 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 

  • What Parents Need to Know about Pivotal Response Therapy

    Pivotal response therapy (PRT) is an empirically supported comprehensive behavioral treatment for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that focuses on pivotal areas of a person’s development, rather than treating individual behaviors one at timeFirst developed in the 1970s, PRT is now widely used as an intervention treatment for children with ASD and related disorders. Here are the answers to some common questions parents have about PRT.  

    What does pivotal response therapy target?  

    PRT is intended to address pivotal areas of development, including a child’s motivation, responses to multiple cues, the child monitoring his/her own behavior, and the ability to initiate interactions with other people. By targeting these important areas, PRT results in improvements in other social, communicative, and behavioral areas that are not specifically targeted. PRT utilizes motivational strategies to increase child engagement in learning such as child choice, task variation, interspersing already learned tasks with new tasks, reinforcing the child for reasonable attempts, and using direct and natural reinforcers.  With PRT the child plays an essential role in determining the activities and objects that will be used in treatment.  The goal of the therapy is to utilize the motivational strategies to engage the child in learning and provide positive reinforcement to increase skill development.  

    Who can provide pivotal response therapy?  

    PRT can be provided to a child by a number of different specialists, including behavior analysts, behavior technicians under the direction of a behavior analyst, psychologists, teachers, instructional assistants, and speech and language therapists.  Because PRT is a naturalistic intervention, meaning it is done in the child’s natural environment, parents themselves can also learn to apply PRT within their family’s everyday routine. Parents can create learning opportunities at home that will help to reinforce the skill development that is being taught during therapy sessions. 

    Is pivotal response therapy right for my child? 
    Every child’s needs are different, so an individualized approach should be taken to providing treatment to any child who has ASD. However, it’s possible that PRT could be an effective therapy for your child. PRT has proven to be especially helpful in encouraging children to develop stronger social and verbal communication skills.  Additionally, it’s been shown to be effective in teaching play and academic skills and decreasing disruptive/self-stimulatory behaviors. 

    STAR of CA offers a wide range of servicesincluding individualized therapy, for children who have ASD and other developmental disorders. We use evidence-based treatments, and we are continually working to improve and expand our services. Our team has been serving Ventura and nearby communities since we opened our doors in May 2006.  We provide services to San Jose,  To learn more about our behavioral intervention services, call (805) 644-7827 today. 

  • The ABCs of DTT

    Discrete trial teaching (DTT) is an approach to teaching skills that works by breaking them down into the smallest component possible.  Skills are taught as discrete behaviors and then linked together to create a larger behavior. If you have a child who has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), then you may want to become familiar with how DTT works.  

    In very simplistic terms, the parent or therapist presents an SD (cue) i.e., “show me blue”.  The child is then expected to respond to the cue (hopefully [as in the scenario above] by selecting blue).  The parent or therapist then provides a consequence to the behavior i.e., redirection (try again) if they select the incorrect answer) or verbal praise i.e., that’s right, nice job if they choose the correct answer.  For example, if the child carries out the request, then the parent or therapist can provide positive reinforcement to encourage that response in the future.  

    If you’re looking for evidence-based ASD therapy in the greater Ventura area, call STAR of CA today. Our compassionate and caring team will be happy to provide you and your family with the integrated, up-to-date ASD services you need. You can reach us at (805) 644-7827 

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

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

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

  • Exploring the Three Severity Levels of Autism

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

    Level 1 “Requiring Support” 

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

    Level 2 “Requiring Substantial Support” 

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

    Level 3 “Requiring Very Substantial Support” 

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

    If you’re looking for the support you and your loved ones need to live with ASD, it’s time to reach out to STAR of CAWe offer a wide array of essential behavioral and psychological services to individuals and families. If you have any questions about our services, feel free to contact us today at (805) 644-7827