Written by: Belinda Worley MS-SLP-CCC
Since 1998, I have had the opportunity to work with children on the autism spectrum. It has been a huge blessing to be able to serve children in many diﬀerent settings including home intervention, private practice and school settings. As a therapist we are in need of a vast amount of skills in our toolbox to serve a variety of children with a variety of abilities. Each child and family come to us with unique needs, and it is a honor to be a part of that family’s journey.
I find that in my current private practice, I pull on past therapy sessions to help me when treating children now. While I continue to challenge myself to stay on top of the latest in therapy techniques, no amount of training could have prepared me for the journey that began in 2005.
On December 16, 2005 Emma Kate Worley was born. There is nothing like the moment when they lay your baby in your arms for the very first time. The amount of love when I locked eyes with this bundle of joy cannot even be put into words. My heart and soul truly exploded with adoration for this small baby. I remember thinking, “No matter what life brings I am here for you sweet girl”.
When bringing Emma home from the hospital, Daddy drove while I set in the backseat standing guard over my infant in the car seat. I had already, at 2 days old, become Momma Bear ready for the fight. Quickly that sweet little bundle become the most fussy baby I had ever seen. No amount of comfort helped console her and hard days turned into hard months. By 6 months of age, she was showing signs of developmental delays and by her first birthday I knew something was very diﬀerent.
Several other friends had children the same age as our Emma Kate. Our children were together often and my girl did things very diﬀerent than they did. The simplest of skills were so diﬃcult as well as having extreme sensory issues and virtually no sleep routine. Her communication skills were severely delayed and not functional. She truly did not profit from play experiences. She was a huge toe-walker and paced throughout the day. She was most happy when swinging or playing alone. Routines and rituals controlled our world and our daily living. Raising children is not a job for the weak and mild, but my husband and I knew we were working so much harder than our friends.
At 2 and 1/2 our fears were confirmed that indeed Emma Kate was on the autism spectrum. On our way home from the hospital I called every therapist I knew to get her enrolled in as much therapy as possible. She had already started therapy by 15 months, but I wanted more. She needed more. Autism was not going to stop us. Autism was not going to define my child or her abilities and so our planned journey took a major detour. Autism is not something you plan for, but as parents we quickly learned to get on board for the new journey and bumpy ride.
Through our journey we have learned that we are way stronger than we knew humanly possible. I had the absolute honor to join the Summit team in 2017 to travel and train others on working with children across the spectrum. My presentation is based on the following objectives:
- Recognize the primary characteristics and patterns of development in infants and toddlers who have or are at risk for developing autism spectrum
- Identify the various treatments and resources available to children with autism spectrum disorders as presented by very young children.
- Implement sensory integration strategies through problem solving to improve visual, auditory and motor
- Utilize therapy ideas and strategies that help children with autism spectrum disorders through: communication & language, behavior, daily living, social skills and education.
- Select practical inexpensive items that can be used in a therapy session to help engage the young child with
- Reinforce family support and daily living strategies that will carry over in the school, home and community.
During my presentation both live and now, I am thrilled to announce it is online too, we cover resources. I explain to the therapists, educators, and families that attend that we all have a tool box of resources we use when working with children with a diagnosis of autism. What works for one child may not ever work for another, but gosh if it worked for that one particular child then that tool is an absolute gift to treasure and share with our fellow therapists and educators. I often times challenge my participants to make a list of the resources that I share. At my last seminar I made a list of my top 50 resources that I share during the presentation. Please know that if you every attend my workshop live or online, I share many more than 50, but it is my hope by sharing with you today, you may indeed give Autism Across The Spectrum, presented by Belinda Worley, a try for your next continuing education opportunity.
My Top 50 Resources
1. Tools To Grow OT
2. Cari Ebert Seminars
17. www.freespirit.com Feeling In A Jar
18. How Can I Calm Down – Teachers Pay Teachers
19. Calming Strategy Choices – Teachers Pay Teachers
20. My Moods My Choices Flipbook
21. National Autism Resources
22. Move Your Body Fun Deck – Super Duper Publications
23. Scooter Board Fun Deck – Super Duper Publications
24. Upper Body and Core Strength Fun Deck – Super Duper Pub
25. Therapy Ball Activities Fun Deck – Super Duper Publications
26. Alphabet Movement Cards – Pinterest
27. Understanding Your Child’s Sensory Signals by Angie Voss
28. Yoga for Classrooms by Lisa Flynn
30. Autism Speaks
31. Fat Brain Toys
32. Beyond Play
33. Different Roads
36. Talk Tools
37. Constructive Playthings
38. Fun and Function
39. Flag House
40. Speech Corner
41. Finding Kansas By Aaron Likens
42. Social Story Packet – Teachers Pay Teachers
43. The Speech Buzz – Teachers Pay Teachers
44. Autismade Tasks Cool Classroom – Teachers Pay Teachers
45. Its Time To Go To School – Teachers Pay Teachers
46. Today is Different – Teachers Pay Teachers
47. Teaching Personal Space – Teachers Pay Teachers
48. House Rules – Teachers Pay Teachers
49. Mrs Bell’s Banda – Daily Living Social Stories – Teachers Pay Teachers
50. The Survival Guide for Kids With Autism Spectrum Disorders
by Elizabeth Verdick and Elizabeth Reeve
51. 1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children With Autism or Asperger’s by Ellen Notbohm and Veronica Zysk
Ok, it’s your lucky day! I gave you 51 resources. I could not stop. I hope if we ever have the opportunity to meet, you would have to purchase a huge wagon to hold all of the tools and resources, because a toolbox would truly not be big enough. Until that day comes, remember there are no cures today for Autism Spectrum Disorders but early diagnosis and interventions are a child’s best hope for reaching his or her full potential. When we work together we can help our clients meet goals and improve in all areas of development. When serving children with Autism, we should focus on, but should not be limited to:
– Attention to important elements in the environment
– Imitation of actions and speech
– Understanding what is being said
– Communicating wants and needs appropriately
– Appropriate toy play
– Social interaction
Unfortunately, there is no one formula of therapy or techniques that equal guaranteed success. What is available depends on your area. Each parent, therapist and school district must do their research and seek out opportunities to help the child with autism improve to their maximum potential.
Overall autism is a heck of a wild and bumpy ride and just like the seasons change so do our children with an autism diagnosis. Growing up in the Midwest, we just never know what the weather will be. We have days of beautiful weather and likewise sometimes our weather is miserable. Being a parent of a child with autism is oh so similar. Mom and Dad you better hold on real tight, just like the changing weather in the Midwest it could indeed get wild, crazy and a few tears will fall. Remember that excellent communication between parents, therapists and teachers working together closely is the key to continued progress. When raising children on the spectrum we must remember these strategies.
– Pick your battles – only insist on what you can back up!
– Keep your requests or questions simple.
– Always give concrete instructions.
– Offer choices that at acceptable to you.
– What’s in it for the child?
– Make sure ALL family, therapists, friends and support systems are all on the same page when working with a child with Autism.
– Ask for help from your support network.
KEY POINTS….When interacting with children with Autism…
1. Stay Calm
2. Use Simple Language
3. Speak Slowly and Clearly
4. Explain What You Are Doing
5. Do NOT Physically Stop Self-Stimulating Behavior
6. Rephrase as Necessary
7. Give Visual Cues as Needed and DO NOT Demand Eye Contact
8. Be Specific and Avoid Figurative Language
9. Remember Each Person is Unique and May Act or React Differently, so ALWAYS Provide Love and Support.
10. Remember YOU got this! YOU will make a difference!
So to all of those in the trenches with me, the month of April is for you. Happy Autism Awareness is for you…to all who have ever heard the words your child has autism, to those with the child who would not sleep, who would not eat, who would not talk, who watched other children achieve the simplest of milestones, to those who searched for the latest and greatest in therapy techniques, to those who watched their child struggle with huge sensory issues, to those who worried about the financial side of raising a child with autism, to those trapped in the craziest of obsessions, to the parents who had to work so hard on their own marriage because the special needs journey is no joke, to the Mom who pushed her child on a swing for hours at a time, to the one trapped in a world of constant anxiety and fear of change and the unknown…this month is for YOU.
The hard work pays oﬀ in a very BIG way. The child diagnosed at 2 is not the end of your journey. Your daily prayers will be answered even bigger than you can imagine. One day you will look in the eyes of your child and admit that wow she is going to be ok. She will indeed be just fine. She was made for an exact purpose. Hold on tight because it will be a roller coaster of emotions, but one day you will look back and the truth is you would have not changed a thing. You are braver, stronger, and blessed beyond measure because of a child with Autism. Happy Autism Awareness Month to all of you Momma Bears and Daddies too!
To register for Belinda’s live or online course, “Autism: Across the Spectrum,” click here!