5 Helpful Tips to Make Life Easier for Autism Families

autism, tagteach, ABA, positive reinforcement

This article features helpful comments for parents of young children from Ms. Ricky Teichman, Director at The Puzzle Place, a daycare and preschool in Freehold, NJ for children with autism and other special needs.


Being a parent or guardian of kids with autism means having a different set of guidelines from that of non-autism homes. Careful decisions have to be made, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be a confident caregiver to your special-needs child. Thankfully, there are practical and proven ways to make living with autism more manageable both for you and your child.

1.  Keep in mind that consistency is key

If there is one thing that a child with autism needs, it is an established routine. For instance, if you use positive reinforcement for good behavior, make sure to use it consistently while explaining why you’re rewarding your child. A regular system will help reinforce the learning techniques from school or daycare, including communication tools. Keeping to a structured schedule for mealtimes, playtime, and bedtime can also help keep unruly behavior at bay.

2.  Talk to other autism families

You will need a support group, and where better to get it than from other people who are going through similar circumstances? You can bond with other parents or guardians at therapy, or go on social networking sites and forums online to discuss tips on how they deal with autism. While others have different methods and advice to give, you can still learn from their experience what will and won’t work for your own child. The bottom line is, there is no need to feel alone when you aren’t.

3.  Become an expert on your child’s own special needs

You will have to prepare yourself for the fact that you can (and most probably will) make mistakes in your mission as part of an autism family – and that’s okay! Kids with autism aren’t created the same, after all. The important thing is to become an expert when it comes to your own child. Learning the words, tools, medication, situations, and other factors that he or she responds well to (or which triggers disorderly behavior) will put you on the road to a more manageable, healthier home environment.

4.  Make your home accident-proof

All children thrive in safe, happy homes. Your child will need help with boundaries, so it’s your responsibility to provide verbal and visual cues to where they cannot go, or what they can’t play with. Create a zone that is accident-proof with tools like childproof locks, electrical outlet covers, safety latches, electric tape to cover exposed cords and outlets, locked drawers, light, padded furniture, and secured doors and windows. A room or area where you can keep constant supervision is a must.

5.  Shop for a daycare facility that really cares

Your child needs needs a high quality, developmentally-appropriate programming for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers with autism and related disorders. There are many daycare centers that promise a safe, supportive learning environment, yet fall short on many aspects including safety standards, child-to-caregiver ratio, and proper learning equipment. Do your research. Talk to parents of other kids with autism about the daycare facility they go to, and seek an honest assessment. Make a checklist of your must-haves, and don’t hesitate to ask the right questions to staff of potential facilities. It is your right as a parent or guardian to know who you will be entrusting your child to.

Along with patience and a lot of love, you can help build a thriving, supportive, and healthy environment for your child. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and learn some more. You have a whole lifetime of discovering together what can help them (and you!) become happier, healthier, and more responsive people.

Ricky Teichman is the Director at The Puzzle Place, a daycare and preschool in Freehold, NJ for children with Autism and related disorders. You can reach her at 732-994-PUZZ (7899) or at info@ThePuzzlePlace.org. Learn more at http://thepuzzleplace.org/.



TAGteacher tale: Skill and faith – shaping behavior in a child with autism

scribblesBy Joan Orr MSc

There are two things that a TAGteacher needs to be successful. These are skill in applying the technology and faith in the technology. The skill comes from having a good understanding of the principles underlying the science of behavior, having a good understanding of the principles of TAGteach and lots of tagging practice. The faith comes from experience and seeing it work again and again and just knowing that it works.

Denise Blackman posted a story to the TAGteach Yahoo group that gives a perfect illustration of the combination of skill and faith resulting in a successful outcome.

Here is Denise’s post (reposted with permission):

I don’t normally post, but I had a fun experience today and want to share it.

I work as a consultant to a preschool program for children with autism. Yesterday we were discussing one of the kids, “Robert”, an almost 4-year-old boy who does not currently speak, make eye contact, imitate, play with others, or follow most directions.

One of the many things “Robert” is working on is writing. His writing goal is to draw a vertical line. Unfortunately he wasn’t making any progress on the goal. Rather than trying to copy the line, he just scribbled on the paper. We decided to try TAGteach with him.

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How to have an autism-friendly vacation

Crowne Plaza Tampa Autism Friendly VacationBy Connie Hammer

Wouldn’t you like a vacation? Have you thought about it but decided it would be:

1) almost impossible to do with an ASD child who doesn’t like change
2) too much work overall
3) too expensive.

Why not begin 2014 with a different mindset?  Erase all of those excuses from your mind and start thinking positive because it IS all very possible.

Thanks to my friend and colleague, Alan Day, of ASD Vacations and his special promotion, parents of children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder can have a practice vacation that is affordable. That’s right – I said a ‘PRACTICE Vacation’.

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Autism & Applied Behavior Analysis: 10 ABA myths debunked

By Brenda Kosky Deskin

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) has been around for years, helping people of all ages on the Autism Spectrum learn and thrive. Some, however, frown upon its use with autistic individuals but I suspect that those who don’t like ABA might not know what ABA really is and is not. I hope that by clearing up some widely held misconceptions about this evidence-based intervention for Autism, that more individuals will embrace ABA as their treatment of choice for their students and loved ones on the Autism Spectrum.

1) Myth: ABA is not effective

FACT: Of all treatments associated with Autism, ABA is the one that has the most peer-reviewed scientific research behind it to support its efficacy. If you would like to learn more about the importance of evidence-based practice with respect to Autism, The Association For Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT) features an excellent article on its website about this very topic.

2) Myth: ABA is punishing and unpleasant

FACT: While it is most unfortunate that some of the pioneers of ABA back in the late ’50s used physical punishment in their teaching procedures, today’s ABA programs depend primarily on praise and preferred items as a means of rewarding a learner for a job well done. Technically speaking, a “punishment” in the world of ABA today would be considered using the word “no” or sometimes if necessary, perhaps withdrawing a preferred object. Even these punishments procedures are used rarely and only when absolutely necessary in any of the quality programs of which I am aware. Certainly any physical or verbal punishers that are abusive in nature should not be tolerated nor considered acceptable. In fact, the importance of using methodologies that focus on reinforcement rather than punishment are written right into the Code of Ethics of the Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB).

As I state often, a good ABA program is a fun ABA program. My son, Michael, is very fond of his ABA therapists and has a great time with them. His therapy program includes visits to the book store, walks in the forest, swimming, go-karting and countless other activities that he enjoys. A talented and knowledgeable ABA therapist takes an activity his or her learner likes and turns it into a teaching opportunity that his learner will enjoy.

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Learning “Sculpts” Brain Connection

Kids doing craftsBy Susan Orloff OTR/L/FAOTA

Spontaneous brain activity formerly thought to be “white noise” measurably changes after a person learns a new task, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of Chieti, Italy, [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106:17558-17563].

Scientists also report that the degree of change reflects how well subjects have learned to perform the task.

“Recent studies have shown that in the absence of any overt behavior, and even during sleep or anesthesia, the brain’s spontaneous activity is not random, but organized in patterns of correlated activity that occur in anatomically and functionally connected regions,” stated senior author Maurizio Corbetta, MD, Norman J. Stupp Professor of Neurology. “The reasons behind the spontaneous activity patterns remain mysterious, but we have now shown that learning causes small changes in those patterns, and that these changes are behaviorally important.”

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The Lunchbox

By Cassandra Webb

This is the lunch box to end all lunch boxes.

I can’t take full credit, I did spot the original by Easy Peasy Organics.

lunch boxThe plastic storage bead or tackle boxes can be picked up from stores and online for anything from $2.50 to the $10 I paid.

They aren’t much bigger than a normal lunch box, a little wider and a little skinnier. I went one step further and added the little fish stickers. So when my son eats the food he can find the fish underneath.

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Autism, behavior and our children

lorrie 4 (2)

We are pleased to present this Guest Post from Lorrie Servati, autism mom and creator of the blog Nathan’s Voice.

Autism is a disorder that affects 1 in 88 children, 1 in 54 boys and a child is diagnosed every 20 minutes. Autism impairs the development of a child’s social behavior and communication, which means he or she will need the support of the people who love them. It is a journey that definitely is nothing like you would have ever imagined.

My child has had a very difficult time when it comes to interacting with others. It is hard for him to accept that anyone else might have anything important to talk about. He has had plenty of problems at school, making or keeping friends, and he has probably created an imaginary friend to make up for the lack of having any real friends. My child’s teachers and I have been coaching him on how to listen to his friends, to try to remember something about what each of them likes, and talk more with his friends about their favorite things. He has made wonderful progress over the past four years and, with daily encouragement, he continues to make an effort.

Another area that children with autism have trouble with is making eye contact with anyone. Our son would become extremely frustrated when we asked him to look at us, when we were talking to him. He would lash out at anyone who would try to console him, then, he would run out of the room screaming at the top of his lungs. It was very aggravating to watch my child as he struggled to communicate his wants and needs. During that particular time, he was overly obsessed with a red savings card from a local pharmacy and he would dig through my purse to find it. I creatively used it to help him focus on conversations, in school and on good behavior. He has improved remarkably and since graduated from that little red savings card to the intriguing world of collecting Pokemon trading cards. He eventually began to ask us for a trip to the store so he could have another package of Pokemon cards, in exchange for learning to self-regulate his behavior. It’s an amazing feeling to realize the child that was diagnosed with autism has been replaced with an older, much more mature version.

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Fatigue and wellbeing in mothers of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

Stress and health concept - woman in pain from a headacheBy Lee Wilkinson PhD, CCBT, NCSP
Reprinted with permission from BestPracticeAutism.com

Parents are often overwhelmed by the challenges presented by a child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Studies indicate that the demands placed on parents caring for a child with autism contribute to a higher overall incidence of parental stress, depression, and anxiety and adversely affects family functioning and marital relationships compared with parents of children with other intellectual, developmental, or physical disabilities. Mothers of children with ASD, in particular, appear to face unique challenges that potentially have an impact on their health and wellbeing.

Parents of children with ASD are increasingly involved in the provision of early intervention and learning activities to promote positive outcomes for their children. However, several studies have documented that parental stress as well as a lack of time and energy are barriers to providing early intervention activities. Because autism impairs social relatedness and adaptive functioning, parent stress can decrease helpful psychological processes and directly influence the parent or caregiver’s ability to support the child with disabilities. Consequently, understanding factors, such as lack of energy or fatigue that may limit the capacity of the parent to assist in promoting their child’s development is critical for this group.


A study published in the journal Autism examined the extent to which parents experience fatigue and its relationship to other aspects of wellbeing and parenting. Fifty mothers of children ages 2-5 years with ASD participated in the study and completed questionnaires assessing level of fatigue, parenting self-efficacy (belief about the ability to parent successfully), children’s behavioral and emotional problems, sleep quality, parent support needs, and overall physical activity. The study found that compared with mothers of typically developing children, mothers of children with ASD reported significantly higher fatigue, with overall scores in the moderate range. Factors associated with high levels of fatigue were poor maternal sleep quality, a high need for social support and poor quality of physical activity. Fatigue was also significantly related to other aspects of wellbeing, including stress, anxiety and depression, and lower parenting efficacy and satisfaction.

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