Animal Shelter Volunteer Work for Kids and Teens with Autism: Master Social and Job Skills

Volunteering at an animal shelter is a great way for tweens, teens and young adults on the autism spectrum to practice and improve social and job skills. They also learn responsibility and a respect for animals. As visitors come into animal shelters to look at animals available for adoption, it’s the perfect place for teens to improve face-to-face communication. The experience they gain volunteering at an animal shelter molds them into more effective volunteers and prepares them for the work force.

Animal Shelter

Volunteering at an animal shelter is a fantastic opportunity, especially for teens with Aspergers. It has been widely discussed that children, teens, and adults with Aspergers form strong bonds with pets, and can greatly benefit from animal companionship.

Apart From the Crowd: Isolation in the Early Years of Diagnosis

Even before the official diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, we knew our son Sam walked apart from the crowd. His early intense interest in a subject matter, and not in his peers, was the perfect mix for oddity starting the early sociable elementary years.

Aspergers Apart from the crowd

While we, as Sam’s parents, grew to walk alongside (and later celebrate) the unique perspective Sam had on the world, it was me who was shocked to be set apart from the crowd.

Neurological stress can be the reason behind difficulties in the classroom

Using a schedule to help reduce neurological stress at school

Perhaps most relevant to the classroom, when you are stressed, you are less likely to embrace difficult tasks. On your most stressful day, you will probably put the complex tax form in the “to do” box and leave it for a better day. For our students, neurological stress can be the major underlying factor contributing to difficulties in communication, socialization, and academic performance.

Child at school

It is our essential job, as parents and educators, to respect the neurological differences and decrease that stress in creative and varied ways. From breathing techniques to visual strategies and beyond, we will strive to decrease neurological stress so that our students and children can present their best self each and every day.

A core strategy that creates an anchor for students who struggle to make sense of their day and their environment is a schedule.

Lessons learned from kids with diverse abilities

I say diverse abilities because one thing that I have learned from working and playing with children and adults with developmental disabilities is that they understand more than neuro-typical children and adults do.

Five young friends jumping outdoors smiling

You may understand if you’ve ever heard the phrase “Dance like no one is watching.” and if you crave the freedom and joy that behaving that way can bring. They live their lives like no one is watching. They may not even have the ability to sensor their thoughts. This really brings a sense of freedom and joy that no one else (I know) can truly understand.

It is the rest of the world who has a problem with what a child like this does and says.  If society could be “okay” with this, than they could be “okay” with truly BEING authentic with who they are. These “children” taught me so much about being authentic and not worrying about what other people see or think. It was years later, when I became a mother again, that I realized just how much they taught me.

**This blog is a continuation from a previous post by Katherine Goodsell, you can find it here.

Just Jump: Making the leap to plan and decide

It’s easy to worry about whether the plan for your child is the right one. Will this be the right school, therapy, or path? The problem lies in the fact that as your child grows and life changes their needs are going to change as well.

You will never truly know whether the choice you made for your child is gong to take them 10 steps forward or 5 steps back. The fear of this can be downright paralyzing to us as parents. The hard truth is that we aren’t always going to get it right. We desperately want to, but we can analyze something until someone figures out how to lasso the moon and the outcome will still be as unpredictable.

I am not saying that research or doing your due diligence isn’t necessary, because it is a crucial part of the decision making process. It’s just that after enough Google work, online chats, and talking to different professionals your head is left feeling like it is going to spin right off your neck.

How to cope with Anxiety and Fear

Q&A with Lisa Rogers

Q: Dear Lisa,

Currently my son has a fear of his pants falling down. We tried belts that he buckles too tightly. He still fears the pants will fall and the buckle gives extra sensory problems. We tried sweatpants that he ties tightly, still fearful. All day he hikes his pants up. I tried to show him the pants can’t be pulled down but this doesn’t help. He also insists on wearing underwear two sizes too big. He is 8 and diagnosed as PDD-NOS. Could you direct me to any information to help him? This fear is causing multiple meltdowns daily. I don’t know what to do.

Thank you.

-Anonymous

A: Dear Mom or Dad,

Multiple meltdowns each day can certainly take its toll on your son and your family. I understand how critical this issue is for you and will do my best to provide helpful information for you to consider.

In order to be most helpful, I do need to ask a few questions first.

Finding the ABILITY in Asperger’s

Many say that Asperger’s isn’t a disability, it’s a different ability and I completely agree. We all know that children and adults with Asperger’s bring so many unique gifts to the table.

Child with balloons

With that said, it is important as a parent that you understand and truly believe that statement. You need to take that thought and hold onto it because as a parent trying to help your child navigate this world, it isn’t always going to feel that way.

Lessons Learned: Part 2

Lessons Learned From the Kids with Diverse Abilities:

I say diverse abilities because one thing that I have learned from working and playing with children and adults with developmental disabilities is that they understand more than neuro-typical children and adults do. You may understand if you’ve ever heard the phrase “Dance like no one is watching,” and if you crave the freedom and joy that behaving that way can bring.

Silhouette, group of happy children playing on meadow, sunset, summertime

They live their lives like no one is watching. They may not even have the ability to sensor their thoughts. This really brings a sense of freedom and joy that no one else (I know) can truly understand. It is the rest of the world who has a problem with what a child like this does and says. If society could be “okay” with this, than they could be “okay” with truly BEING authentic with who they are. These children taught me so much about being authentic and not worrying about what other people see or think. It was years later, when I became a mother again, that I realized just how much they taught me.

Stuck on Skip: The Patterns of Life

My son absolutely loves letters, shapes, numbers, and colors. He can do different activities, but spends majority of his day focusing on the things that he loves most. He loves them because he understands them and they are always constant. A q is always a q, and b always comes after a. One plus one always equals two, and a triangle will always have three sides. Or in his case, his favorite shape, a dodecahedron, will always have twenty sides. A dodecawhat? Just trust me and stay with me here.

My son spends most of his day studying these things and lining them up. In fact, he lines everything up. I often even know he was in a room because of the telltale evidence he leaves behind. For example, the other day I knew he went into my bathroom because when I went in there, there was a line of tampons on the floor organized by color. He doesn’t have all the order that he needs in life so he creates it, and I’m pretty sure he would do this all day long if I would let him. Of course the one exception is that he likes the couch throw pillows on the floor and I like them lined up on the couch. Can’t figure that one out!

Happy family on meadow at summer sunset

The point is that every day I feel like we often do the same things, over and over. I often even hear the same phrases and words over and over again. For me, this is the norm, and I am happy to live it, but sometimes I can’t help but feel like his life and mine are stuck on skip. Like a record that just can’t get over that scratch, or for any youngsters out there, a DVD that is skipping back to the same part. Or for even younger folks, buying a movie on apple tv that won’t play through. Isn’t it amazing that no matter how far we advance as a society, our issues are still the same?

Anyway, every day is similar and it is a good thing in our house when we find something new to line up or perhaps even change the pattern, because that is change! In fact, my son is so creative in creating new patterns that when family was recently over we all felt like we were doing mind puzzles trying to find his reason and new pattern choice. I see it like he is leaving mini works of art all throughout the home. If you could see some of his more intricate letter designs I doubt you would describe it any other way. I often call him a letterologist  or letter ninja if there were such a thing.  

Video Modeling: Making a Video

The following is a list of tips to create and use your own video modeling tool.

  • Videos are short, usually 2-5 minutes, or even shorter
  • The student will typically watch the video 3-5 times at one session
  • The student will then practice the skill/behavior targeted in the video. The teacher might say, “Now it’s your turn, just like the video” and support the student as they attempt the skill/behavior
  • Continue to create opportunities to practice the new skill at natural and planned times throughout the day

LRvideomodeling

Ways to highlight important information:

  • Slow motion
  • Up Close- zoom in
  • Highlight single words
  • Use text
  • Use symbols
  • Use magnetic letters for titles

Remember to:

  • Title your video
  • Limit distractions
  • Highlight relevant information
  • Incorporate student drawings
  • Secure photo/video releases from parents
  • Don’t over think it…get started and then revise as needed

LRvideomodeling2

By Lisa Rogers

Click HERE to help support Lisa Rogers’ video modeling project, “The Orion Files.”