What Are 3 Ways I Can Strengthen My Child's Emotional Intelligence?

Research suggests that people with strong emotional intelligence are more likely to succeed than those with high IQs or even relevant experience in the world of work. Emotional intelligence is also the key to positive and satisfying relationships. And kids with higher emotional intelligence tend to cooperate more. So how can we help our children get stronger in the area of emotions?

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10 steps to successful summer transitions

 Artist: Jason Jones

Artist: Jason Jones

Whatever age your child is, they can struggle with the disruption that summer brings. As the predictable routines of school come to an abrupt halt and our kids are thrown into a whole new state of affairs with totally different rules, expectations and activities, it is no wonder that they struggle in keeping it together.

Though teachers, therapists or other professionals involved in your child's care and education can go some way to easing the transition into the summer, as parents of those on the autism spectrum you are best placed to to be proactive in making sure their summer is a success. 

Here are ten tips guaranteed to make the summer easier:

Talk to this year's teacher

Your child's teacher is likely to have spent plenty of time and effort in implementing techniques to help your child learn in a way that suits them. Through work systems, pictorial communication strategies, visual timetables or other methods, your child will have learned the expectations of them that exist in the classroom, both educationally and behaviorally.

Moving from a structured environment into the free-for-all that summer can sometimes be is tough for a child on the autism spectrum. Liaising with your kid's teacher to learn about any strategies and materials used will enable you to carry these techniques into the summer, which will ease the transition for your child.

Meet next year's teacher

Though the beginning of the summer brings the largest upheaval in schedule, the end of summer can be just as tough, for different reasons. If your child is uncertain what the fall will bring when they return to school, they can become anxious and fearful about the beginning of term.

Meeting next year's teacher and preferably visiting the classroom they will sit in the next academic year before school ends can do wonders for a child's feelings of security during the summer. It will be particularly comforting to many children on the autism spectrum to have an image of the teacher and classroom to keep those memories alive during the long break.

Help your kid maintain their friendships

For most kids on the autism spectrum, friendships are not easily won and just as tricky to maintain. Keeping your child in touch with their schoolmates over the summer might not be the easiest task, but it will ease the transition back into school in the fall, as well as keeping familiar faces around during the summer.

Seeing their friends out of the usual context of the classroom and playground can be jarring, though. Inviting friends round to your home can work well once your child knows what is expected of them and what activities they can do together. Setting up clear rules and guidelines will help your child deal more effectively with any anxiety they may be feeling and enjoy their friend's company.

4. Set out a plan for the summer

A visual overview of all the summer's activities, including vacations, day trips and other planned activities can be a great help for those on the autism spectrum. Listed chronologically, preferably on a calendar, a run-down of the summer and an idea of when they will return to school will decrease anxiety and help them get a better sense of time. 

Photos of your vacation destinations are ideal as they help to ease the transition into unfamiliar environments.

5. Rearrange the wardrobe

We all know that many on the autism spectrum can attach to specific items of clothing and refuse to consider alternatives. Removing tempting favorite jumpers and woolen clothing from wardrobes and drawers and moving them into storage can prevent overheating and the health problems it causes.

6. Consider sensory sensitivities

Summer is a time that comes with a whole load of different sensory experiences. Putting on sunblock, jumping in the pool, wearing less clothes or the heat on the skin can be problematic for some on the autism spectrum.

A great time to apply sunblock without a fight can be during a favorite TV show that engrosses them. Children who find it uncomfortable wearing lighter clothes may enjoy a weighted vest. Some kids may prefer to sit in the shade or go inside for some periods of the day to avoid sensory overload.

Try to be mindful of how planned or impromptu activities can affect your child's senses. Refusal to engage in activities can sometimes be a means of protecting themselves from overstimulation.

7. Focus on bedtime routines

Lack of sleep can cause anyone to get grouchy. Try to maintain the same bedtime routines that were in effect during the school year, if you can. It might help to establish a set pattern of activities before bed e.g. bath, read, sleep, which can ease transitions into different bedtimes or unfamiliar places such as hotels.

Blacked-out curtains might be necessary in the summer months to ensure your child gets a good night's sleep, particularly if they are sensitive to light.

8. Map out the day

Particularly if your child's activities for the day are mapped out at school, consider doing the same at home. Even if your plans for the day are flexible, mapping out mealtimes between activities can be a great way to provide structure, much needed for those on the autism spectrum.

For extended periods at home, you might consider providing structured activities, workbooks or educational tasks to keep them occupied and up to speed with their academics.

9. Use social stories

Summer can be full of unfamiliar social activities. Pre-empting these by providing social stories can help your child achieve a greater degree of social success.

Home made books or comic strips that detail different social situations and the expected behaviors that apply can give your child that extra bit of understanding they need to navigate new scenarios.

10. Give your child a private space

Sometimes all the excitement and disruption in routine can just be too much. Wherever you might be, try to provide an area where your child can just chill out for a while. Whether they need to regather their composure or rebalance after overstimulation, having a private place for them to express and gather themselves can be invaluable.

Whatever the age of your child, remember that the disruption of summer can be a time of growth and development when we recognize our child’s differences and empower ourselves and our families by learning how we can embrace them

Guiding Your Child with High Functioning Autism Through the Teenage Years

 

 Bill Murray Walking on Water, Artist Jason Jones

Bill Murray Walking on Water, Artist Jason Jones

As a parent or carer of a child on the autism spectrum, these typical approaches to social life will be familiar to you:

No interest

Some with ASD will show no interest in socializing with others. When friends or family are around, they may ignore them, preferring to play or work by themselves. They may even appear irritated or frustrated when others interact with them. It's good to know, however, that interest in others usually increases over time. 

Avoidance

Many with ASD do have an interest in others and have a desire to connect and interact with them. Unfortunately, this can prove such a difficult task to navigate that the anxiety it triggers causes them to avoid others. Rather than risk humiliation and rejection, these kids simply avoid others.

Clumsy interaction

For those without anxiety, their desire to interact with others can lead to clumsy interactions. Although they want to fit in and have friends, they can't quite understand the intricacies of social interaction that are required. They may come across as boring, standoffish or even insulting. In turn, they'll be unable to read the reactions of others, such as sarcasm or criticism, which might otherwise give them clues to the behaviors of theirs that others find objectionable.

Realization

When kids with ASD get to teenage stage, they start to realize they are not quite like others. This can be a big surprise and quite a deep shock. Kids need to deal with and process this loss psychologically and may go through a stage of what is almost like grieving. 

Similar to when someone is grieving, teens on the autism spectrum tend to go through a series of stages while trying to process their loss. These stages might happen in order or your teen might dip in and out of different stages at different times.

Denial

During this stage, the teen might fight her diagnosis, insisting they are just the same as everyone else. They won't want to talk about anything ASD related and just wish that it would all go away.

Anger

Your teen may become very angry, blaming themselves, you, God or anyone else that they are not neurotypical. Their frustration might cause destructive behavior.

Bargaining

Sometimes, teens on the autism spectrum might think that they will make themselves like the other teens around them by finding a medication or miracle cure. They believe that ASD might just disappear overnight if they could only find out how.

Depression

Adolescents are already known to suffer from depression, but those on the autism spectrum dealing with the realization of their differences are dealt an extra blow. They may feel down about themselves, their situation and their ability to make friends. They might give up on social activity, unable to face their differences.

Acceptance

Eventually, teens will be able to accept themselves, even though their strengths and challenges may be different from others'. Once they've reached this stage, they will then be much more successful in working towards gaining social skills.

7 ways you can help

Making sure that we do our best to deal with difficult issues calmly, without trying to minimize or avoid painful experiences or expressions, can work wonders for our teen's development. 

If we try to jolly them along or suppress difficult feelings, we slow down ther path to acceptance and growth. Trying to understand and empathize and encourage honest talk will improve your relationship with your child in the long term and help him to accept himself as he is.

Try these tips for opening up communication and helping your teen:

Find a local support group for parents

It can be very difficult to go through parenting an ASD teen alone. Joining a group will not only give you a community that can help you through the difficult times, it may help you to improve your knowledge about what your child is going through and thus become better equipped to help them.

Listen

Though it can be tempting to change the subject and skirt round difficult issues, listening to our teen without judging, criticizing or offering our own opinion can be very powerful. When we respect our child's choice to confide in us by listening respectfully and not taking it personally, we are rewarded with more communication and a strengthened relationship. Our teen will feel more relaxed in the house as they will feel more understood and supported.

Remind them of reality

Teens have the tendency to exaggerate, due to the strength of the emotions that overwhelm them. Though we don't want to dismiss our child's feelings, we can remind them of reality if they make over-dramatic statements. For example, 'I always fail at everything,' might prompt, 'I know you feel things are difficult now, but there are lots of times you have succeeded, such as ....'

This will give your teen the confidence that you can offer them a sense of stability.

Offer counseling

Some teens would prefer to speak to someone outside their family to express their feelings. This is perfectly normal. Offer to arrange counseling for them if they feel they want someone independent to talk to.

Use their special interest

Though, in all honesty, you are probably bored to tears by now by their collections or interests that have kept them going for years, you can use these interests to help them. Finding new ways to engage her in the subject, stretch her and challenge her 

will give her a necessary confidence boost at this difficult time.

If your teen begins to spend more time working on their interest at this time, be aware that this might be their response to the difficult feelings that they are dealing with. Retreating into their collections helps them feel safe and may help them process their loss more effectively.

Talk about sex

Teens on the autism spectrum can find sexuality very difficult territory to navigate. Failure to help them in this area can meet with consequences such as pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, social exclusion or even imprisonment.

Setting out clear boundaries of what normal sexual behavior is will help your teen to steer clear of inappropriate sexual behaviors. Talking freely about sex and sexual feelings will let your teen know that these feelings are normal and acceptable - it is just the expression of them that they have to control. Encourage them to ask you questions regarding anything they are unsure about.

Embrace autism

Some adolescents on the autism spectrum decide to educate themselves about the particular strengths and challenges ASD brings into their lives. They may even choose to educate others through the use of leaflets, websites or conversation. Taking a pro-active approach can be extremely helpful to combat depression in teens going through the realization of their differences.

Finding networks of ASD teens, making new friends on the spectrum or getting involved in other autism-related activities can help teens to become more aware of who they are and how they can empower themselves.

 

Weathering the Storm

No group tomorrow, Tuesday the 27th because the rec center is closed in anticipation of the blizzard. Here are some great tips for helping your child to cope with the storm from one of our Kids Cooperate parents.

1. glow sticks  - Awesome for those who have rising anxiety with darkness.  It's their personal light.  They are fun. They can pick their own color.  Heck, everyone in the house could have their own color.  They actually produce more light than you would think.   Hang one around your neck and you have light everywhere you go.  They have a long life time so that helps save on batteries that parents would rather not waste in case needed for more important items.  It also cuts down on kids accidentally shining flashlights in other peoples eyes which then leads to arguing.  Over night, they make great night lights!

 

2. During power outages, it's a great time to play "camping" or what I like to call "Little House on the Prairie".  Basically, we play roughing it.  We may assign "jobs" and talk a lot about how things were done years ago.

 

3. Information without overload.  With Ben we need to walk a fine line with anxiety and weather.  The unknown really drives up that anxiety however following the news on tv or radio can drive everyone's anxiety through the roof with all the "doom and gloom" talk.  So that leaves us in a pickle.  What works with Ben is monitor how he gets his information.  Being a computer kid, he will look up the weather on radar.  It actually works fairly well.   By watching the radar he gets information that helps with the unknown but does so in a way that avoids all of the sensationalism.   He can see what is happening in the moment and when he needs to prepare himself for the scariest part but it also allows him to see that the worst parts won't last forever.  He can say ok this is going to be bad but it's only going to be bad during this set block of time.

Guide to Persuading Parents

Here are a few tips for effectively persuading parents generated by the middle school group.

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Cartography

As I was sitting in a training this morning, a particular metaphor about the Social Sensory Cognition Process came into focus for me. As parents, and educators, we work hard to help our children build maps of the social landscape around them. A map of course, is a tool that represents the relationship of things to each other, most often places. The social maps we create for our children is a reference tool for them to look to to avoid dangers that we ourselves have discovered the hard way, and to take the path we hope will lead to happiness which is sometimes but not always the one of least resistance. 

But here's the thing.

A map is useless if you can't locate yourself on it. 

That, in a nutshell is why the central focus of the processes we use in our social groups is to bring focus to the three social senses that create the possibility for authentic social connection. In other words, the work of the social sensory process is to bring the child's awareness to the space they are present in, and that of those around them. 

You can hear me talk ad nauseum about the Social Sensory Process here: http://kidscooperate.com/blog/playdhd 

Play Makes Good Neighbors

​At Kids Cooperate we are committed to a play based model because the social learning that happens during play lays the foundation for social communication and emotional regulation skills that become important for getting and keeping a job, and maintaining close healthy relationships throughout life. 

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Psyche and Soma: The Key to Intercepting a Meltdown

​What are your child's somatic stress symptoms? Have you seen their skin flush when they get upset? Their breathing become rapid and shallow? The physical signs of stress can be important signals to both you and your child to take action to remove themselves from a situation or use a relaxation strategy.​

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Building and Maintaining Friendships in Middle School

​The school year is upon us. For teens and adolescents on the Autism Spectrum, the most stressful factor besides a new routine is forming new friendships and renegotiating the terms of existing relationships after a summer break in which a lot of growth and change has occurred. Here are some conversation starters that will help you to get your teen thinking about the important factors in building and maintaining relationships with peers.

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Raising a Confident Child, Locus of Control

​As parents, a common hope for our children is that they will make good, confident decisions and think ​for themselves. Your child's perception of whether the course of their lives are controlled primarily by their own thoughts and actions, or external circumstances is referred to by developmental psychologists as "locus of control".

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5 Tips for a Calm Start to the School Year

The first day of school brings as much stress and anxiety as it does excitement and anticipation. Stress effects the body and mind, making it impossible to react quickly and appropriately to all of the new stimulation and challenges of the new school year. As one of the participants in my social skills groups put it, "I'm in a knot! I'm a knot on an edge!". 

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5 Anger Management Tools for Teenagers on the Autism Spectrum

As my friend and co-host of the Therapy and Rockets podcast says, we all get angry. As adults we get frustrated with our kids, and they get frustrated and angry with us, their friends and themselves. Short of finding inner peace, the best thing to do is to help your teenager identify a few strategies that work, and practice them when emotional tension is low so that they become second nature.

Here are five tools that Nathan recommends from his own work as a teen crisis counselor: 

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