Kaylene from Autistic Mama shares her insights and expertise with us today about her expereince with meeting her son’s occupational therapist.
The first time I met my son’s occupational therapist, my life changed.
During his evaluation, he happily played in the kinetic sand box while his therapist and I chatted about his behaviors, his habits, and even his birth history.
“He’s not a bad kid… He’s not a brat… I swear, there’s just something going on… He doesn’t understand… It’s like he can’t handle things like other kids can…”
I explained this to her, like I’d been explaining to therapists, pediatricians, and evaluators for years… But no one believed me. Everyone said I should just “make him” eat and “make him” talk.
“Kaylene”, she said… “Your son is not a bad kid. He doesn’t have control over this. There’s something in his brain that means he perceives the world differently… This isn’t his fault, and this isn’t your fault.”
Let me tell you, I sobbed. And sobbed. And sobbed some more.
For the first time ever, someone believed me. Someone believed that my son was good. Someone knew this wasn’t his fault.
That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship… One that helped me learn the ins and outs of my son’s autism diagnosis, and eventually even helped me learn about my own autism as a twenty-something mother.
But out of all of the conversations, all of the therapy sessions, and all of the knowledge shared, there was one lesson from our OT that changed our outlook and our lives.
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One Lesson From Our OT That Changed Our Outlook and Our Lives
I Didn’t Want an Autism Diagnosis
See, I knew there was something going on with my son.
He had extreme language delays, his sensory needs were off the charts, and he was severely lacking in social skills.
But initially? I didn’t want an autism diagnosis.
When his therapists brought it up, I actually told them I’d rather not see the neurodevelopmental pediatrician they mentioned because I didn’t want him diagnosed officially.
Why? It wasn’t because I didn’t want him to be autistic. We were already convinced he was.
I didn’t want the autism diagnosis to follow him and change the way people see him.
And more than that… I didn’t want the goals and the progress we’d been making so far in therapy to just go away.
“Autism is DE-Scriptive, Not PRE-Scriptive”
Our OT said one powerful thing to me, that changed everything.
“Autism is DE-scrptive, not PRE-scriptive”
She told me, an autism diagnosis tells us more about how his brain works and how we can best help him.
It tells us more about where he’s at now.
You know what it won’t tell us? What he’ll do in the future.
Some people with autism drive, others don’t. Some don’t speak verbally, others are public speakers.
An autism diagnosis describes him, it doesn’t prescribe his future.
Changing My Outlook on Autism
Immediately, her explanation changed my outlook on autism.
It wasn’t something to avoid or be feared, but something that could be used to better understand and help my son.
And even more than that… Autism became something to be embraced.
It wasn’t this big scary monster that stole my child. It was a part of who he always had been.
My son was exactly the same child before and after the autism diagnosis.
Autism simply gave us a word to describe who he is, communicate his needs more clearly, and get the support that he needs.
My son’s autism diagnosis gave us a community of people like him. It has given us such a huge part of our identity, and a way to advocate for ourselves.
And that is something to be embraced. To be celebrated.
But how do you make that vital shift? How do you stop seeing autism as a negative thing and start actually embracing all that autism means for your child’s life?
In my book, Embracing Autism, I cover the keys to understanding, accepting, and embracing your child’s autism diagnosis… One step at a time.
With chapters covering things like understanding and handling meltdowns, finding your autism tribe, and focusing on the positives, plus over 10 Autistic Advocate Highlights showing you exactly what type of a future is possible for your autistic child, Embracing Autism will encourage you every step of the way on your autism journey.
Water safety is a huge safety concern especially during the summer months where kids are more exposed to pools, lakes, and the beach. When researching about water safety for kids with autism, I found out that drowning is the leading cause of death for kids with autism. Drowning is such a concern because children with autism can wander off and they may be drawn to water areas.
This is why teaching water safety skills are so IMPORTANT!!
Water safety skills are important for all children to learn, but this is vital for children with autism in order to help keep them safe.
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Swimming lessons are a must to help children learn to be safe around the water. Try to find swim instructors and programs that offer swim lessons specifically for children with autism. The National Autism Association offers a comprehensive list by city and state of YMCA’s that offer swim lessons for children with special needs.
How to help your child feel more comfortable with swimming lessons and the water:
Help them ease into the swimming program by letting them take a tour of the pool/environment before the lessons. Let them explore the area and get used to the sights, smells, and sounds that they may encounter. Create a positive atmosphere by talking about the pool and how fun the experience will be for the child.
Find a way to introduce the water to the child before the lessons begin. This could be by letting them watch videos of swimming lessons on YouTube, introduce water play with toys during bath time, or get a mini pool with very shallow water and let them play in there.
If the child is super fearful of the water, they may need an extended amount of time to desensitize to the water. If the child cannot swim, try to find a swim vest or flotation device that child can wear to help keep them safe.
Teach the skills in a way that the child will understand. Try to create an atmosphere with minimal distractions and repeat the concepts as often as necessary for the child to understand. Be patient.
Try using a visual schedule during a swimming lesson to help them understand what they will be learning and help with transitions between the activities. This can also help to ease anxiety and frustration to help make a more successful swimming lesson. Try taking pictures of the actual pool environment to help them better understand the environment and to help with transitions.
Create a sensory-friendly environment for the child. Do they need to wear a specific type of swimsuit, wear goggles, ear plugs, or nose plugs? Check out the KU Sensory Enhanced Aquatics program with a video showing how to help make teaching water skills for children with autism successful!
Pool Safely has some great tools and videos to help explain water safety for children.
Austrailia’s Royal Life Saving Society has created a kids zone dedicated to teaching kids about water safety in fun interactive ways!
Kickboards: these can help your child stay afloat while they practice kicking their legs.
Goggles: these can be helpful if your child is bothered by getting water in their eyes.
Ear protection: These can be helpful to help keep water from getting into the ears, but also to help minimize the sound.
Water Noodles: Noodles are another fun way to use a flotation device to help child float and learn to kick their legs.
Help Stop Wandering
Set up the environment for success by putting bells, chimes on doors to help let you know if they open. Put locks on doors and put high chain link locks as well out of reach of kids. Secure the pool area with a fence, cover, and alarms. Install a fence/gate with an alarm around a home pool. Let your neighbors know you are worried about your child wandering and that your child has autism. Encourage them to always keep their pool fence secured and aks if you can contact them if your child ever wanders.
Always stay near your child when around the water. Do not let them out of your sight. An accident can happen super quick, and you can be right there to help stop it from happening.
Teach your child about the dangers of water. Talk to them about water safety through a social story or social video.
The National Autism Association provides a comprehensive safety guide with the Big Red Safety Toolkit for parents to help keep them safe around water.
We hope you find these water safety tips and reousces helpful for you and your loved one. We want to make the water safe for all children! Let us know if you have any more safety tips you would like us to add!
Life Skills Summer Activities
Summer vacation can be a great time to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of the school year, but it can also bring about some added stress of going away from the typical routine. Some teens may do well without structure, but some may still need some structure throughout their day as well. As a family, we are always finding ways that we can continue to work on building life skills with everyday activities.
The summer months can be a great way to explore new activities that you may not have the time to do during the school year. These can be great activities to help engage your teen in new and fun experiences, but also help them learn new life skills as well. Just because it is the summer, does not mean they have to stop learning.
We decided to help create a list of summer learning activities that you can do with your teen this summer to help them gain independence with life skills!
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- Understanding what an emergency is and how and when to call 911
- Memorize their home address, how to verbalize it and how to write/type it out
- Memorize their phone number
- Internet safety rule to help keep them safe on social media
- How to be safe crossing the street and in parking lots
- Kitchen Safety with knives
- Kitchen Safety with fires
- Kitchen Safety with the stove and microwave
- How to navigate their local community (how to read road signs, how they could get back home if they were lost)
- How to talk to strangers/neighbors if they are in trouble or need help
- Who to call if they need help
- What to do if there was a fire in the house
- What to do if a stranger is at the door of the house
- How to identify “safe people” (such as police officers, fire-fighters, or friends)
- Understanding potential hazards with household products and chemicals
- Safety around pets and animals
- Understanding basic first aid skills
- How to stay safe in the home and not wander
- Pool safety skills (teaching them how to swim)
The National Autism Association has created a free Safety Toolkit for resources on how to help prevent wandering. Check that out here!
They have also created a Big Red Safety Box that is available to families in need to help keep their child with autism safe and to help prevent wandering. Click here to see if this is something that will help keep your child safe!
- Using manners when talking/socializing with others
- developing relationships with others
- conversational skills
- small talk
- how to ask questions
- how to ask for help
- how to say sorry
- understanding personal space
- Check out our post of over 50+ Social Skills for teens!
- Teaching personal hygiene skills
- washing face
- brushing hair
- brushing teeth
- Understanding the importance of personal hygiene skills
- Working on dressing skills and understanding what type of clothes to wear in different weather situations
- Setting up good sleep habits and bedroom routine
- how to care for their bodies
- Check out our personal hygiene skills Ebook to help you teach these skills!
- Laundry skills
- sorting clothes
- folding laundry
- putting clothes away in the right area
- loading the washing machine and how to turn it on
- loading the dryer and how to turn it on
- safety with laundry products and how much to use when doing laundry
- Cooking skills
- simple recipes to follow to make meals
- using a microwave
- safety when using a stove
- how to store food in the kitchen
- how to read labels
- how to read a recipe and gather the supplies
- how to make a grocery list
- Cleaning skills
- how to make the bed
- how to wipe off the counter
- how to clean up a spill
- taking out the trash
- sorting for recycling
- Taking care of pets
- feeding pets
- cleaning pets
- taking pets for a walk
- Basic home repair skills or who to call for repairs
- how to take care of their things and know where they are located
- Money Skills
- creating a budget
- manage checking account, savings account, or write a check
- how to pay with dollar bills
- how to pay with debit/credit cards
- how to save money
- how to navigate stores to make purchases
- how to create a list of items they need to purchase
- how to purchase your items at the check out lane
- navigating parking lots safely
- how to read community signs
- Ask for directions
- able to use an app or electronic device for directions
Sensory Fun Activities
Looking for a checklist of skills to help your teen learn as they transition to adulthood?
Coping Strategies are techniques that teens can use to help them when they are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, angry, or frustrated to help them feel more calm and relaxed. It is important to help teach teens how to deal with their emotions and feelings and help them find appropriate strategies to help them deal with these emotions. The teenage years can bring about new experiences which can then possibly lead to new stresses and feelings of overwhelm. Check out some of our free resources to help your teen learn how to cope with these feelings and emotions.
How to Help Teens Deal with Emotions
The teenage years can be stressful for most teens. They are trying to figure out who they are as a person and learning new things about themselves. The demands placed on them at school are getting harder. Learning to deal with all of this newness can bring about more emotions. Talking to them about these new situations and helping them come up with coping strategies that work for them can help them learn how to deal with their emotions. Use some of the free resources below to help you get started.
Free Coping Strategies Resources for Teens
Mindfulness Strategies Workbook created by Carol Miller- The Middle School Counselor at Teachers Pay Teachers
Free Coping Strategies Notebook by Pathways 2 Success at Teachers Pay Teachers
Free Anger Worksheets by Pathways 2 Success at Teachers Pay Teachers
30 Days of Coping Strategies Challenge by Pathways 2 Success at Teachers Pay Teachers
Coping Strategies Worksheets by Plum Tree
Social Stories include:
When I make a mistake Social Story
When I get a bad grade Social Story
When I feel Frustrated Social Story
Free Resources to Teach Boys about Puberty
Puberty can be a difficult topic to discuss, but it is a very important concept for teens and adolescents to understand why and how their bodies are changing. Teaching teens with autism about puberty and how their body is changing can add increased stress and anxiety for them. They may have a harder time understanding what is going on with their body. We need to help explain to them the physical, emotional, and social changes of what to expect when entering adolescence.
As a family, we know how vital this topic is to learn and discuss with your teen to help them stay safe as well! We wanted to provide you with Free teaching lessons and activities to help make this process a little easier for you. We have compiled resources for teaching boys about puberty. We are also working on a post about how to teach girls about puberty as well.
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Free Resources Teaching about Puberty for Boys
We hope that these resources can be helpful in your journey to help teach your teen about puberty and the changes that occur in their body. Please let us know which one was your favorite resource in the comments below!
Additional Resources you may enjoy to help teach about puberty to boys
The Body Book For Boys