It’s Autism Awareness Month, what do you know?

I wanted to spend a quick minute and give a shout out to April and Autism Awareness Month, the day is technically April 2nd but thankfully we’ve started dedicating a whole month. I have been so blessed and honored to have spent the last 6 years getting to know and support children on the spectrum and thought it fitting to share a tiny bit of what I’ve learned with you this month.

I went into the field blindly when a friend of mine was in need of some help in her center and I was in need of a life change.  When I walked in the door on my first day it’s safe to say I knew the word Autism and I knew a puzzle piece was the symbol most often associated with “it.” I was clueless!

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Here’s a crash course for those looking for a little more insight:

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is defined by the Dictionary as “a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.”

Autism Speaks says “refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences.”

Autism Society “refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences.”

But my FAVORITE is from the Autism Awareness Centre– Autism is a spectrum disorder. The symptoms and characteristics of autism can present themselves in a wide variety of combinations, from mild to severe. Although autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors, children and adults can exhibit any combination of the behaviors in any degree of severity.

There is a famous Quote:

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It is important to remember that those on the spectrum are each individuals, with different experiences- just like a snowflake, no two are the same.

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You might be surprised at what someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder faces but here’s a cool diagram to show you how complex this disorder can be…what if you had one of these? Or two? What if all of these affect your daily functions? aachart

Are you overwhelmed? Me too and I’m an outsider with just a visual to understand.

Autism presents itself in so many ways. I found this site that sums it up really well from The Help Guide.org

If you don’t have time to check it out yourself, here are the most common signs/symptoms as defined by them directly:

Social behavior and social understanding

Basic social interaction can be difficult for children with autism spectrum disorders. Symptoms may include:

  • Unusual or inappropriate body language, gestures, and facial expressions (e.g. avoiding eye contact or using facial expressions that don’t match what he or she is saying)
  • Lack of interest in other people or in sharing interests or achievements (e.g. showing you a drawing, pointing to a bird)
  • Unlikely to approach others or to pursue social interaction; comes across as aloof and detached; prefers to be alone
  • Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings, reactions, and nonverbal cues
  • Resistance to being touched
  • Difficulty or failure to make friends with children the same age

Speech and language

Many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder struggle with speech and language comprehension. Symptoms may include:

  • Delay in learning how to speak (after the age of two) or doesn’t talk at all
  • Speaking in an abnormal tone of voice, or with an odd rhythm or pitch
  • Repeating words or phrases over and over without communicative intent
  • Trouble starting a conversation or keeping it going
  • Difficulty communicating needs or desires
  • Doesn’t understand simple statements or questions
  • Taking what is said too literally, missing humor, irony, and sarcasm

Restricted behavior and play

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are often restricted, rigid, and even obsessive in their behaviors, activities, and interests. Symptoms may include:

  • Repetitive body movements (hand flapping, rocking, spinning); moving constantly
  • Obsessive attachment to unusual objects (rubber bands, keys, light switches)
  • Preoccupation with a narrow topic of interest, sometimes involving numbers or symbols (maps, license plates, sports statistics)
  • A strong need for sameness, order, and routines (e.g. lines up toys, follows a rigid schedule). Gets upset by change in their routine or environment.
  • Clumsiness, abnormal posture, or odd ways of moving
  • Fascinated by spinning objects, moving pieces, or parts of toys (e.g. spinning the wheels on a race car, instead of playing with the whole car)
  • Hyper- or hypo-reactive to sensory input (e.g. reacts badly to certain sounds or textures, seeming indifference to temperature or pain)

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When you are graced with caring for those with ASD please remember:

Sensory issues are usually happening. Sounds, touches, smells, vision are all heightened. Be sensitive to what triggers your little one. A tickle or high five may be your thing but it may have the opposite affect if you hate touches.

Reinforcement is a must, and in my opinion positive is always best! Let them know what it is they are doing right…even if you can’t cheer loudly, a thumbs up and smile can go a long way.

Allow for think time. With so many things to take in around them, sometimes it takes a minute longer for them to speak their mind or answer a question. Let them have a chance.

Give choice when they are available and make statements when not. Sometimes we can choice what to do with our time, do we want to go to the park or play a game? Other times we have a list to follow, we need to clean our room and finish our homework. Make sure it’s clear, don’t ask a question if you aren’t willing to accept the answer. Do you want to clean your room? No! Now what?

Use the “first, then” method. First we do homework, then we go to the park. First we finish our dinner, then we get dessert. Knowing what is happening, and in what order is an effect tool for planning and calming anxiety.

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This poster seems to sum up all the most important lessons I’ve learned!

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Go Blue for Autism!

 

Back to School – Let’s do Lunch (and more!)

Image result for school bus

It’s official.

School is really knocking on the door. My question is, are you ready?

If you are anything like me, these things always sneak up on me and I find myself scrambling to be prepared on time. Even more often, I’m left with a heavy heart as I brainstorm awesome ideas- after the fact.

To make back to school time one of excitement for the learning that is about to occur and the social experiences our children will encounter, we hope and pray that everything goes smoothly, everyone enjoys their first days of adjusting, and dinner around the table is met with laughter, not tears and fears (for both kids and parents).

So…

In effort to kick of the 2017-2018 school year on the right foot, I’ve cheated and used my best friend pinterest to come up with a few ways to alleviate some stress and still feel like a rock star parent/caregiver.

To start off this school year, I’ve decided to go with some ideas of how to capture the memories of those first day cuties. How often are you wishing you had spent two more minutes getting that picture instead of rushing to the car/bus?

Back to school photo sign- Chalkboard/reusable

Another chalkboard photo opportunity

 

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I’ve included some lunch making tips (for you or your “growing more independent daily” child) that aims to hit the healthy mark and gives multiple days of ideas! When the work day is too long and making lunches seems more like climbing a mountain, let these guys point you in the right direction.

Make your own school lunch

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Build a healthy lunch

You’ll also find some fun notes and affirmations you can sneak into your kiddos lunch or back pack to let them know you are thinking of them…always!

Free printable lunch notes and jokes!

Printable lunch notes

Affirmations

 

Be warned, if you enter the world of “pinning” without a timer, you may find yourself doing more pinning then living. It’s a slippery slope but full of awesome time saving, parent helping, kid loving hints and tips.

 

What’s in a name? Au pair?

Alright, I’ve given an idea of what a mother’s helper, babysitter, and nanny are in previous posts and here is the finale…Au pair!

I’ll be honest, as I have a ton of personal experience in the first three names they were easy for me to address. Au pair is a name I had to learn about. I heard the term in books and movies but it wasn’t until I began my nanny career that I was face to face with a (gasp) real live au pair. I would run into people my age, doing what seemed to be the same thing as I was but they called themselves au pairs. I found this fascinating. What the heck was the difference between them and me?? I had to find out, after all, a name means a lot to most people. What was an au pair if not a nanny?

Well, here is the long and the short of it, they are pretty much the same thing with a few very key differences. Au pair means on “par,” a “visitor” who must acquire a specialized Visa and live with a single family caring for the children of said family for one year, acting as an equal in the family. While living in the home, an au pair would typically have quite similar tasks as a nanny such as household chores, childcare, and meal prep. Some families might like an au pair to teach their children the language and culture of the visiting au pair. Au pairs often work a slightly longer week, unless also involved in an education program paired with employment.

The income of an au pair is something I don’t fully understand. From a little internet research, it seems to me, that depending on how a family obtains an au pair for employment the rates change slightly. I was seeing government stipends, agency fees, reference to “type of visa.” If any one understands this part better then I, please please share it with me!! I’m just curious, is it as confusing as it seems on google search?

My best advice is to do diligent research if you go this route. It is easy to see that if one isn’t careful, the combination of “being part of the family” whilst still being professional could get blurred for the family and au pair. To ensure everyone is happy, the best way to enter into this sort of relationship is with as much clarity of needs and expectations beginning at the first stages. I find its always easier to avoid confusion by explaining up front, often very appreciated.

 

 

What’s in a name? cont.

Today’s name is babysitter!

What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you hear “babysitter”? For me it’s a term I’ve heard nearly all my life but not because we frequently had one, with 3 older sisters I was well looked after…believe me.  I first became familiar with babysitting as a young reader who enjoyed reading the adventures of a certain club. Then my sisters started becoming babysitters. They would be gone for hours, making money then buying themselves clothes and make-up my parents wouldn’t splurge on (the ultra trendy, will be worn once but worth a months pay sort of things). That was exciting to watch, I wanted things too, but what exactly is a babysitter?

Here we go…

A babysitter tends to be young adults who are a little more independent and responsible. They are able to find their own transportation to and from jobs. They are looking for cash (immediate) and job experience/references. Often they are in school so available hours vary but lend themselves to afternoons and into early evening. With that in mind, many sitters will have homework they might want to work on with the child they are caring for as they complete their own or after children are in bed. Babysitters are responsible for well being and safety of children, regularly without adult supervision. Activities can be provided by parent or generated by sitter but usually do not require much travel outside of home/neighborhood. Babysitters might be asked to do light housekeeping (i.e. put dish into dishwasher, make snacks/dinner, pick up toys) however chores should be related to child and items used while sitter was “in charge.”

As each family unit varies greatly, it is helpful for the sitter to have very clear guidelines and expectations. Family rules, culture and routines should be followed and respected. It is up to each family to discuss and provide these to babysitter prior to leaving the house, and highly advised. What one family may find acceptable such as using cell phones, eating family food, and having friends over may be greatly frowned upon by another. As a babysitter, it is wise to ask as many questions prior to parents departure…better safe than sorry.

Shout out to all the babysitters! You all rock! You are needed, appreciated and help so many parents with sanity, marriage, and socialization…keep up the awesome work!

Local Resources

When the weekend is around the corner, I’m always looking for fun ways to pass the time. I’ve had the best luck finding event calendars, parenting tips, links to specialized care, and the latest trends through these resources:

Daily Trick of the Trade: Share! When you find an awesome resource, be sure you share it with other families…just because you stumbled onto an amazing tool doesn’t mean the parent next to you knows about it. Knowledge is power!