Better Hearing and Speech Month: Speaking and Listening Skills for All Ages

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May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, which involves raising awareness about communication disorders. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, communication disorders involve “an impairment in the ability to receive, send, process, and comprehend concepts of verbal, nonverbal and graphic symbol systems.” There are many different types and variations of communication disorders—and the range in severity is even more vast.

While it is likely that educators will encounter a number of students with communication disorders, it is also possible that these impairments can be misdiagnosed or go undetected altogether. Whatever the case may be, impairment or not, every student can benefit from activities and lessons that engage the class in speaking and listening. These important skills extend far beyond classroom objectives.

Skills used to present a clear and concise speech, or to comprehend written and verbal instructions, are certainly important in grade school. But speaking and listening skills are imperative to college and career-readiness. Imagine how frequently our adult lives require us to speak clearly, succinctly, or elaborately. Similarly, we inevitably spend much of our lives listening—ingesting important information, filtering out the unnecessary fluff, and responding appropriately. With such significance placed upon our abilities to communicate properly, it is necessary to begin speaking and listening skills early in the classroom.

Below are some age-appropriate activities to build students’ speaking and listening proficiency.

Preschool-friendly listening activities:

  • Use a basic tongue twister to play “telephone” as a whole class. Begin with a shorter phrase so that students can remember the whole thing. Whisper the phrase to the first person slowly and clearly, then continue the telephone around the circle until everyone has whispered it to a partner. At the end of the line, ask the final student to say the phrase. If the phrase is different from the original starting statement, discuss how it is just as important to listen during group activities. Explain how even a short statement can become confusing or jumbled if we aren’t listening closely to the speaker.
  • The traditional brain breaks can also work as fabulous listening practice. Simon Says, Red Light Green Light, and Musical Chairs are perfect for little ones that like to move around in the classroom. The movement also acts as a bit of a distraction to ensure that they really are listening while they’re up and about.
  • When reading to the class, ask students to act out the emotions that the characters are experiencing. If you are telling a spooky trick-or-treat story or an exciting adventure tale, pause at certain moments in the story to allow students to mimic the character’s behaviors or actions.

Early Elementary-aged speaking and listening activities:

  • Have students work on a Show-and-Tell project. Each student will informally present his or her object to the class or in small groups. Depending on age and ability, have students prepare a few notecards about the significance of the object. As other students are presenting, have the audience write down what each person brought for show-and-tell. Perhaps require students to ask 1-2 questions during the span of presentations. You could also create a graphic organizer asking students to categorize the items that their classmates brought in. This way, students are both asked to share aloud and listen attentively to each other.
  •  After story time or when finishing a class text, ask students to describe their favorite part in the story. Be sure to prompt them with follow-up questions such as: Why do you think that character did that? Are you happy with the way the story ended? Why or why not? How would you have reacted during the conflict in the story?
  • Create a clap-snap rhythm and ask students to replicate the sound pattern. Complicate the pattern as you go—making sure that students are both watching and listening to how the pattern is made. Remind students that listening attentively also means giving eye-contact to the speaker or “clapper.”

Late Elementary-aged speaking and listening activities:

  • Plan to watch a series of commercials as the class warm-up. Once all of the commercials have played, ask students to write down the products that were mentioned in each commercial. Were your students able to identify what the commercial was attempting to sell? Prompt a discussion about what makes a commercial successful or persuasive.  
  • Have students work in small groups to make up a creative story on the fly. One student will begin the story, then he or she passes it along to a classmate who will continue the narrative. Students must listen carefully to be sure that the story makes logical sense as it progresses around the circle.
  • Organize a game of charades in which students must act out a literary character from class texts. Students must walk, talk, and behave like their characters so that observers are able to speculate about who is playing which character. Discuss the importance of direct and indirect characterization and how authors wish to portray their characters.

Listen up! It’s time to let the fun begin for all ages and abilities.

Physical Fitness and Sports Month: Common Injuries and How to Avoid Them

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As the weather warms up, it is likely that you and your family will be spending more time outside. While spring and summer are opportune times to get the kids involved in sports and other outdoor activities, they are also the months in which sports-related injuries and visits to the ER traditionally spike. Since May is Physical Fitness and Sports Month, it only seems fitting to discuss ways to be proactive whenever possible during these accident-prone activities.

It is no surprise that USA Today declares that, based on emergency room reports, football and basketball related injuries account for more than double that of all other sports-related injuries combined. High-contact sports, while great for fostering athletes who are intense, resilient, and competitive, subsequently also yield a much more risky playing environment.There are, however, a few things that parents can keep in mind to help inform and protect children competing in a wide range of sports.

Preliminary Research

When considering school sports teams, training camps, and club teams in your area, do a little additional research. Seek information about safety seminars, preventative exercises, and strength training that may help your child recover from potential injuries, or even avoid a sports-related injury altogether.

Pain vs. Discomfort

Talk to your child-athlete about the difference between pain and discomfort. Building mental and physical toughness is a major component of competitive sports; however, playing through the pain is not always the greatest mantra to live by. Stress fractures, sprained or strained tendons, and other injuries related to overuse are completely preventable if kids learn to listen to their bodies. Often times, young athletes want to appear tough at the risk of exacerbating an injury—so, they play through the pain when they truly should not. Encourage your child to track recurring injuries and speak honestly with coaches and trainers about the extent of the pain.

Rest and Recovery

Many kids participate in multiple sports per season. The versatility is great for fostering well-rounded and well-conditioned athletes, but it is a parent’s job to recognize when a child may be getting physically or mentally burnt out. Be sure to monitor your child’s sleep and recovery time in between high-impact workouts and intense conditioning practices. Rest is key when rehabilitating an injury that needs significant recovery time. Concussions are especially concerning since a child’s brain is still developing. If your child has sustained a concussion, it is imperative that he or she fully recover before continuing with any physical activity. Studies indicate that repeat concussions sustained during childhood lead to many issues, including prolonged recovery time and a possible link to degenerative brain diseases down the road.

Hydration

Drinking plenty of fluids may sound like an obvious piece of advice, but children are more at risk of dehydration during the summer months than you may think. According to Webmd.com, “a child’s body surface area makes up a much greater proportion of his overall weight than an adult’s, which means children face a much greater risk of dehydration and heat-related illness.” Once your child has realized that he feels thirsty or has a dry mouth, he is already experiencing the first signs of dehydration. If left to continue, dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke—both of which require immediate medical care.

With a little planning, you can be proactive in protecting your child from common sports-related injuries this summer. Go team!

Screen-Free Week at Home

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The true roots of Screen-Free Week began back in 1994—a time when there were significantly fewer screens. Initiated by the Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood, the original movement was intended to encourage families to shut off the television and partake in other activities for a week. Screen-Free Week has proven to be a far more difficult challenge for today’s youth. Giving up their myriad devices cold-turkey is considerably more difficult for today’s teens and children that have grown up with technology literally at their fingertips. The average American child gets a cellphone at the age of 6…

While those opposed to the idea of Screen-Free Week argue that it polarizes traditional notions of creativity and new technology, others embrace the idea of ditching screen-time for a few days. I will reserve judgment, as I have no horse in this race—I am simply an educator who is encouraged to prepare my students for the digital world. I will, however, provide a few recent observations that may fall more on the side of those in support of Screen-Free Week.

While visiting the National Zoo this Mother’s Day, I was in awe of the number of families with small children out to enjoy a sunny afternoon at the zoo. What better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than to get outdoors, enjoy DC’s spring weather, and observe some wildlife? With such a vast park, there is plenty to see and do at the National Zoo—even several interactive exhibits. However, as zoo staff were encouraging passersby to duck into the zebra exhibit to meet with zebras up close and personal, two disinterested elementary-aged children remained parked on a nearby bench, zoned-in on their iPads.

I have no qualms about children engaging with technology—quite the contrary, in fact. Advancements in technology have greatly benefitted teachers and students in the educational realm. We’ve come a long way since chalkboards and typewriters, thankfully! However, I do believe that, as Screen-Free Week tries to encourage, screens should be monitored and limited at the parent’s discretion. For instance, Screen-Free Week does not have to be looked at as a loss of technology for seven days. Instead, perceive it as an opportunity for face-to-face interactions and creative activities for seven days.

Instead of entertaining the kids at dinner with individual iPads, bring some coloring books to the table. Ask your children if they could rename the crayon colors, what would they call them? You could even cover the table with butcher paper and have the family play word games or write silly stories. A week without the iPad at the table is not going to hurt anyone—it could actually inspire some creativity or spark interesting conversations!  

If going on a family outing to a place such as the zoo, aquarium, museum, etc., instead of bringing the selfie-stick, pack a few disposable cameras and snap away! Yes, the photos taken on a smartphone are immediately viewable, but seeing what you’ve captured on a disposable camera after the film develops is always an entertaining surprise.

While we all love our TV shows, giving up the screens for a week allows the family to get creative. When TV is not an option, we have to think outside of the box to entertain ourselves. Take an evening to play a board game, create a neighborhood scavenger hunt, or play charades—your favorite shows will be saved on the DVR after your screen-free week is up.

For Screen-Free Week, encourage your teens to set an auto-reply on their email. This way, any unread email will bounce a reply to the sender letting them know that they will get a reply in a few days. In place of email, snapchat, and text messages, practice the lost art of letter writing. Send handwritten mail to family members, neighbors, or close friends. Postcards are always a welcomed means of communication, too!

Sure, technology makes our lives significantly more convenient. But Screen-Free Week is all about reminding us that we are capable of living without these luxuries. It will be difficult, as we are part of a society that is largely dependent on our devices throughout the day. Giving up our screens for a few days may help to show us just how “wired” we are to our wireless devices.   

Screen-Free Week: Getting Old-School at School

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What began as a challenge to turn off the television for one week in 1994 is now a somewhat controversial test of willpower that takes place the first week in May. Originally initiated by the Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood, Screen-Free Week has proven to be a far more difficult challenge for today’s tech savvy youth.

But let’s be honest, it’s not just adolescents and teens who are self-proclaimed “screen addicts”—we adults are just as hooked to our devices. While those opposed to the idea of Screen-Free Week argue that it polarizes traditional notions of creativity and new technology, others embrace the idea of ditching screen-time for a few days.

Seeing as public education has more or less embraced the use of technology in the classroom, it can even be difficult to separate educators from our beloved screens. Yet, trying as it may be to unplug, old school methods can still serve a purpose in our new-age classrooms. While students may groan in aggravation or roll their eyes in boredom at the thought of abandoning classroom technology for a week, there is much to be said about the “traditional” roots of education.

Here are a few ideas and activities that may seem old-school, but which provide truly beneficial skills that may have been left by the wayside in favor of our 21st century ideas of teaching and learning.

Have students thumb through an actual dictionary

Gasp! A what?! A recent trend that I’ve noticed in the classroom is the total lack of familiarity when it comes to a tangible dictionary. Of course, students are well-versed in online tools such as Merriam-Webster.com, which is an obviously speedier method of spelling and defining words. However, a physical dictionary forces students to practice old-school methods such as sounding out words, identifying alphabetical order, and skimming.

When students are required to search a dictionary, however infrequently, a common response that always elicits a chuckle is, “That word is not in the dictionary.” I once had a 13 year-old tell me that “unusual” was not in the dictionary. When we returned to his desk, his dictionary was opened to “unn”—a clear indication that he would’ve struggled for a while to find the word. Students are so used to instantaneous responses via the click of a keyboard that they are incapable of doing the actual leg-work when necessary. Simple practice with a dictionary can help students brush up on skills involving spelling, putting words in alphabetical order, identifying parts of speech, pinpointing synonyms, etc.  

Break out the flashcards

Much like the dictionary dilemma, students may have become somewhat dependent on calculators to solve simple multiplication or division problems. Again, this is not always problematic—many higher-level math courses and math or science-related careers necessitate the use of a calculator. It is, however, problematic if students become reliant on on a calculator for every little problem. Research has proven that, even with the rise of new math curriculum methods, rote memorization of multiplication facts is still the most advantageous method.  

Logically speaking, whipping out the calculator to calculate the number of packs of burger buns to buy for a barbeque may take longer than if you simply used your times tables and mental math. No harm will come of leaving the calculators aside for a week—it could, however, help to solidify the long-forgotten times tables!

Proofread > Spellcheck

Another convenience (crutch) that many students have fallen back on is the use of spellcheck. I cannot pass judgment—as I write this sentence, I am utilizing spellcheck in the hopes that it catches anything I’ve mistyped. Just as my students do, I allow myself to trust in the fact that my mistakes will not only be identified, but corrected with the click of a button. The notorious red squiggle, as helpful as it can be, creates an unrealistic safety net. As we well know, spellcheck is not flawless, especially when it comes to reading the context of the sentences.

Shutting down the word documents and practicing the art of proofreading or peer editing on paper is a worthwhile skill that requires no screen at all. Besides the obvious skill of penmanship, handwritten work allows students to rely solely on their own mastery of the English language. When there is no spellcheck or autocorrect to fall back on, drafting, brainstorming, and editing become imperative to the writing process.
Educators may be surprised by just how well old-school methods can supplement our new technology in the classroom. Even if just for a week, abandonment of the screens may teach students to effectively hone and rely on their own knowledge and skills.    

Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month: Tips for Parents

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Spring is peak season for those of us who suffer from asthma and allergies. When sneezing, sniffling, and coughing becomes a crescendo of misery in your home, passing the tissue box may be insufficient. Over 6 million children suffer from asthma, and even more have to deal with seasonal allergies, which means that parents must be equipped to respond proactively to potential triggers.

Forty percent of children suffer from some form of allergies, but what many parents do not realize is that many of their kids’ symptoms may be alleviated by simple changes in routine. Here are a few tips:

  • When it comes to seasonal allergies, showering at night could mean the difference between sleeping tight and a restless night. Even a quick, five-minute rinse in the shower is enough to wash the pollen and other allergy-inducing particles off of the skin, hair, and eyelashes. If nightly showering does not fit into the established routine, simply washing the face can remove enough irritants to make a noticeable difference at nighttime.
  • If your child is suffering from an allergic skin reaction accompanied by swelling, itching, and irritation, a few different methods could relieve the pain without reaching into the medicine cabinet. An oat bath is known to soothe skin and alleviate redness. A cool compress applied to the irritated area will also soothe the skin. Finally, be sure to dress your child in loose or baggy clothing. Tight clothing can cause chafing and further irritate the rash.
  • Keeping a journal documenting allergy and/or asthma flare-ups helps to track your child’s triggers and outbreak trends. This information comes in handy when discussing treatment plans with your child’s doctor, as well. When keeping a journal, be sure to include the date and time of day, the activity that your child was participating in, and where your child was during the asthma attack or allergic reaction. Also, include any physical symptoms and the duration of the reaction.
  • As much as your child probably loves to cuddle up with the family pet at bedtime, pet dander can be a dangerous trigger for asthma sufferers. Be sure to keep animals out of your child’s bedroom at bedtime and wash pillowcases and bedding regularly to avoid any nighttime attacks brought on by your four-legged friends.
  • Checking the weather seems obvious, but air quality and pollen count can have a severe effect on a child’s asthma and allergy symptoms. Plan ahead for field trips, vacations and prolonged outdoor activities. Excessively hot and humid weather can potentially cause problems as well—so it is always better to be proactive, rather than reactive.  

Food allergies often require even more foresight on the part of parents. Students with severe food allergies are typically aware of which foods to avoid. Also, school nurses and teachers are made aware of the student’s severe allergy and are trained to respond to instances of anaphylaxis. However, since classrooms and lunchrooms are areas where students socialize and interact closely, they can also be dangerous places for students with food allergies. Here are some things you can do to avoid an allergy emergency:

  • If your child has severe food allergies, it is important to ask about specific seating in the cafeteria where your child can avoid the allergen.
  • It is also important to ensure that any treats or snacks provided in the classroom are free of the allergen or are substituted with “safe” snacks. Many schools encourage parents to store a classroom supply of snacks for such occasions.

Down Syndrome

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Down syndrome is a genetic condition that affects approximately 1 in 700 people. While many believe that Down syndrome is fairly rare, it is actually the most frequently occurring genetic condition, affecting almost half a million Americans. While this condition may be accompanied by moderate to severe learning disabilities, children with Down syndrome are fully capable of learning, developing, and socializing.

It is our job as educators to provide the most encouraging, supportive, and increasingly challenging classroom for any and ALL students. So, what are some important factors to consider when providing the necessary accommodations to students with Down syndrome? Below are helpful strategies and accommodations to better serve the unique needs of students with Down syndrome.

Promote a positive mindset

Children with Down syndrome are like every other young learner in that they need positive, self-esteem boosting support. It is a common misconception that people with Down syndrome do not experience the full range of emotions. This is totally false—children with Down syndrome experience frustration, sadness, and defeat when faced with failure just like everyone else. Your child with Down syndrome should be praised and recognized often. When he or she is struggling with a skill or concept, encourage the effort as opposed to the outcome—put the focus on his or her determination as opposed to the errors or missteps.

Provide ample opportunities for success

It is especially important to provide encouragement and opportunities for success in order to boost confidence and build independence. Providing additional practice is essential in order to increase self esteem when tasks are especially difficult. Another way to promote student success is to begin the day or lesson with the most difficult activities or contents first. As with all children, little ones lose steam as the day progresses. For students with Down syndrome, the early part of a day or activity is when the ability to process information is at its peak.  As patience dwindles, frustrations may grow. Thus, the best way to ensure success is to start with the most difficult tasks first, when a child’s patience is the most amenable.

Avoid disrupting the routine

As with most youngsters, students feel secure in the predictability or regularity of a consistent schedule. Following a routine and being able to see what is coming next provides comfort for children with Down syndrome. Any disruption of the daily routine could catch a child off-guard, creating stress and frustration. Whenever possible, it is important to provide your student with a heads-up if the routine is going to be interrupted. Anything from a field trip or fire drill could create anxiety. By preparing the student for the change in the schedule, you can avoid the added stress.

Allow extra time for processing and task completion

Students with Down syndrome, while fully capable of completing tasks, may require additional time to do so. Allowing time for students to process, consider, and complete tasks ensures that he or she has time to fully participate in every activity without feeling rushed or frustrated. Children with Down syndrome often struggle with short term memory. This makes it more difficult for them to recall and retain learned information. Teachers should be sure to present information in a clear and organized manner. Presenting information in order will also allow students with Down syndrome to retain sequential information more readily.

Be attentive to minor muscle limitations

Decreased muscle tone is also common in children with Down syndrome. This symptom affects multiple different skills in and out of the classroom. Fine motor skills are often affected, causing issues with gripping a pencil, writing, eating, buttoning/zipping, etc. Muscle hypotonia also causes poor posture, slow reflexes, and issues with mobility. Speech problems are also common, due to the low muscle tone in the face and jaw.   

By keeping these strategies in mind, educators can help to ensure that students with Down syndrome enjoy the same learning opportunities, and achieve the same successes, as their classroom peers.

 

Anxiety: Ways to Spot a Problem at Home

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As a parent, you have certainly experienced your share of anxiety. Whether stemming from a feeling of nervousness, worry, uncertainty, or fear, that sense of anxiousness from a lack of control is familiar to everyone at some point.

Even if you do not suffer from clinically diagnosed anxiety, it is important to recognize potential signs of an anxiety disorder in your child. The important thing to remember is that, if your child is struggling with anxiety, there are ways to manage it once diagnosed. Research suggests that 80 percent of children with clinical signs of an anxiety disorder are not getting treatment. The key, then, is awareness and the ability to spot how anxiety manifests itself in your child’s behavior.  

One thing is for sure—anxiety affects every child differently. Because anxiety is such a complex condition that is unique to each person, the symptoms vary greatly from child to child. Below are some of the more common indications that your child may be suffering from anxiety.

Avoidance

Again, everyone will experience anxiety from time to time, as it is a normal reaction to stress. However, an anxiety disorder begins to come into play when children start to exhibit avoidance behaviors. Because anxiety creates such a sense of helplessness, sufferers begin to avoid anxiety-inducing situations all together. For instance, if your child appears to be intentionally and regularly avoiding friends or activities, it may be in an effort to escape the anxiety that is produced in certain situations.

Inability to be comforted

Children with an anxiety disorder cope differently depending on each situation. One common thread is that, when anxiety strikes, the child is likely not easily comforted by a parent’s attention or coddling. This is obviously difficult for parents to understand, as your number one role is to comfort and soothe your child’s anguish. Just remember that anxiety can be an all-consuming emotional reaction to stress—one that is not eased simply with attention and hugs.  

Abnormally withdrawn

Shyness is typical in children. However, a child with an anxiety disorder is not only shy, but noticeably intimidated, withdrawn, and reluctant to engage with others. A child with anxiety may also be resistant to making eye contact, especially during one-on-one conversations. Avoiding eye contact or reluctance to speak (selective mutism) are signs that social interactions produce debilitating anxiety for your child. Social anxiety disorder affects children specifically in social situations. This may occur when a child feels uncomfortable with direct attention, large group settings, or meeting new people.

While occasional anxiety is typical and varies from child to child, it is important to know the common signs of a possibly larger problem. Statistics indicate that 1 in every 8 children will suffer from an anxiety disorder. With such a staggering number of affected children, awareness is the first line of defense when diagnosing and treating anxiety. For parents, knowing the signs and symptoms of a larger issue will mean the difference between proactively managing the condition and suffering in silence.  

 

Autism Awareness Month: In the Classroom

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April is Autism Awareness Month. Autism Spectrum Disorder may present itself in many different ways in and out of the classroom. In an effort to raise awareness and support for each and every student, it is important that educators are informed about Autism Spectrum Disorder and learn strategies to help our students feel comfortable and achieve success. With diagnostic data indicating a rising rate of almost 1 in 70 births, it is likely that this information will prove to be helpful in the classroom.

Because treating and managing a child with an autism diagnosis is often stressful and nerve-wracking for parents, it is common for parents to be more involved and hands-on in many aspects of the child’s education. Especially when transitioning into a new class or school, parents, too, will likely need some extra TLC and reassurance to ease the stress of acclimating their child into a new environment.

Plan to maintain consistent and positive communication with parents of your students with special needs. Be sure to ask parents about successful strategies that they implement at home. As much as possible, reinforce these practices in your classroom. The more consistency that your students experience, the better. Remember that, as always, parents are your biggest assets when finding ways to best serve your students.

Maintaining a stress-free environment is always the goal. However, this is especially important when considering the needs of a student with an autism diagnosis. Stress, loud noises, commotion, or unexpected changes in the routine can totally throw students for a loop. Students on the spectrum are usually most comfortable when routines are maintained and expectations are met. If you are planning a collaborative group activity, a boisterous lesson, or anything that strays drastically from the norm, consider how your student may react. Being proactive as opposed to reactive can mean the difference between a good day and a bad day for your student.

Plan assignments and activities that generate positive self-esteem and celebrate every student’s unique talents. Too often, when we hear of a diagnosis or condition, our minds jump straight to the hurdles—“such and such is more difficult for so-and-so.” Instead, consider how to highlight your student’s unique strengths and hidden talents. Student choice is the best practice as is, but be sure to keep an open mind and truly tap into the interests of your students with special needs.

Providing encouragement while maintaining your perspective is not always a simple task when dealing with a student’s strengths and weaknesses. What we consider to be supporting, praising, or reassuring may actually come across quite differently, depending on a student’s social perceptions. Some students with ASD are not comfortable with any sort of recognition or attention—giving this type of attention, no matter how positive, may cause unnecessary distress. It is also possible that constructive criticism or suggestions could be taken more negatively than intended. Thus, we must be cognizant of student sensitivities and preferences when providing praise or suggestions for improvement.  

Autism Awareness Month

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April is also Autism Awareness Month. In an effort to raise awareness about autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it is important to both spread valuable information and to debunk common misconceptions. With diagnostic data indicating a rising rate of almost 1 in 70 births, it is likely that autism will affect someone that you know. 

An autism diagnosis will affect each member of the family differently.

Because of the time, money, and stress associated with treating and managing a child with an autism diagnosis, the entire family will experience the pressure in some way.

For instance, due to lack of knowledge on the topic, or misconceptions about ASD, parents or guardians may blame themselves for somehow contributing to the disorder. It is a natural instinct for parents to feel that they must shoulder the blame, but this is simply not the case. When the condition was first recognized in the 1940s, experts in the field of psychology believed that autism was an emotional disorder brought on by “detached” or unaffectionate caregivers. Psychologists thought that the child’s inability to socially connect was primarily due to parenting styles. While these theories surrounding children on the autism spectrum have long been discarded, parents sometimes still maintain a sense of guilt or responsibility.

Naturally, other siblings in the family may feel that the parents are focused more on the child with special needs. They may feel neglected or even act out to gain attention. Similarly, it is common for children with ASD to follow very specific routines, including sleeping and eating patterns. This may mean that the family’s meals and schedules revolve primarily on the child with special needs—again creating a sense of jealousy or competition amongst the other siblings in the household.

Early diagnosis and interventions are crucial.

According to autism-society.org, “The estimated lifetime cost of caring for someone with autism ranges from $1.4-2.4 million, but this cost can be reduced by two-thirds through early diagnosis and intervention.” Resources, such as behavior specialists and different nonmedical interventions provide numerous options for families that have encountered a recent autism diagnosis. The many options available—from art, music, and animal therapy—to applied behavior analysis allow families to take multiple approaches when it comes to treatment.

An autism diagnosis should not be a roadblock to independence in adulthood.

Too often, a developmental delay or disability of any kind is seen as an obstacle—a door that is closed. What many people do not know is that autistic children, while they do not grow out of the condition, go on to become successfully independent adults. Mainstream education is simply the beginning. A large percentage of students with ASD further their education after high school, earning degrees and preparing for the workforce. More and more, colleges are providing support for students with special needs. Everything from social skills and career readiness, to life skills and job placement, are provided on campuses.

Independent living and close social relationships are also a reality for many adults with ASD. Simply put, with the right interventions and supports, families managing an autism diagnosis have a plethora of supportive resources and options to help their children thrive and succeed.

National Stress Awareness Month

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April is National Stress Awareness Month. Stress is an unfortunate aspect of our everyday lives that everyone experiences from time to time. Truth be told, even simply thinking about how stressed we are can sometimes result in even more stress. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of stress is the fact that we should expect to experience it at any age. So, how can we combat this culprit without adding to the stress? How can we stop stressing about stress? Take a look below at some tried-and-true methods of managing your day-to-day stress.

Get a healthy handle on the family’s eating and exercise routines.

Too often, our schedules are so hectic that there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything. With all of the hustle and bustle, regular exercise and healthy eating habits are left by the wayside. Instead, we may opt for the “quick-fix” dinner options and neglect the gym all together. The unhealthy food and lack of exercise will undoubtedly leave the family feeling sluggish, unmotivated, and yes—stressed. Healthy eating jumpstarts motivation and provides the body with nutritious energy. This energy then motivates us to get out and get moving. Exercise is a proven method of managing stress because it releases endorphins—the body’s natural “feel-good” chemicals. Therefore, daily cardio is not only a method of fitness and weight management, but it is also proven to greatly reduce stress.

Partake in some spring cleaning to reduce the clutter.

April is the perfect month to handle the spring cleaning that you’ve been putting off. Studies show that unkempt or messy environments can contribute to a person’s stress level.  Something as simple as reorganizing your closet can alleviate unnecessary stress and anxiety. Not only will the lack of clutter and mess make you feel better, but it will also allow your morning routine to progress a little smoother.  

Get the family outside.

Now that winter has passed and the weather is improving, it’s time to enjoy the outdoors and get some fresh air. While you may not suffer from full-blown seasonal affective disorder, we can all relate to the notion of the “winter-time blues.” In fact, recent research has shown a strong link between vitamin D deficiency and symptoms of depression. This means that sunshine, one of the body’s main sources of vitamin D, can greatly improve mood by reducing stress.

Focus on the present.

Too often we dwell on the past or future. We perseverate, replaying our thoughts over and over again. We agonize over what we could have done differently, or what we must do next time. Instead of indulging in this act of self-torment, focus only on what you can control right now. It only compounds stress when we allow ourselves to worry about things that are out of our hands. Manage what you are able, to the best of your ability, and let the rest be. Of course, this practice is much easier said than done. However, it is helpful to take a moment, take yourself off of the worry-wheel, and focus solely on what is in front of you.