We Help People And Families Affected By Autism

4 Tips for Drivers with ASD to Get Comfortable Before They Hit the Road, by Reese Eskridge

Drivers with ASD like to have every detail in place in accordance with their personal preferences. They want to change things precisely like the climate control and the radio. These changes allow for comfort and, therefore, enjoyment while driving.

However, one thing to note is that the drivers may have trouble changing these things while they drive. The best thing to do is to make adjustments before the car rolls.

Here is a brief list of suggestions for the ASD driver to feel comfortable in their vehicle in order for them to focus only on the road while driving:

  1. Take any items out of pockets and find places for them in the car so that they are secure, but safely out of the driver’s way;
  2. Always wear a seatbelt, no matter what! Make sure that the driver adjusts the strap so that it is not painful or itchy;
  3. Purchase a solar shield that specifically fits the car and use the air conditioning during the hot days. Not anybody, especially an ASD driver who has sensory hypersensitivity, could bear to sit in a car with an excessively hot interior. During the warmer weather, use a solar shield and crank up the air conditioning to eliminate stifling heat; then drive when the inside cools down. The opposites apply to cold weather.
  4. Study the car and determine where all of the switches and buttons are so that the driver can quickly adjust while driving. It always helps to know where to find all of the specific gizmos in a car so that the driver can push the buttons without looking at them for more than a split second. Further, such features on the dashboard particularly intrigue ASD drivers, considering that they always feel compelled to know EVERY detail about their vehicle. Simply allow the driver to examine the car’s interior and to experiment with all of the various gizmos.
    These constitute four of many things that certainly ensure driver comfort. The note to drivers is to identify what offers comfort and what does not and to always feel comfortable behind the wheel.
The Montessori Way to Mental Preparedness and Independence, by Cory Gilden

The Montessori Way to Mental Preparedness and Independence, by Cory Gilden

Parents of children with autism do such an incredible job of holding their children’s hands through tough therapy sessions, emotional outbursts, and visits to medical specialists that parents sometimes forget to let go.

To remind me to give my son the space he needs to develop independence, I think of a simple quote from Italian physician, philosopher, and educator Maria Montessori: “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”

Montessori worked and conducted research in institutions for children with intellectual disabilities in the late 1800s and advocated on their behalf for specialized care and instruction. She developed the Montessori philosophy of education that empowers children to advance their development with teachers working as guides to assist the process.

Many parents of children with autism are already experts with common Montessori principles, such as emphasizing sensory play in education, focusing on one skill at a time, and demonstrating a skill step by step instead of merely explaining it.

Other ideas are harder to master, such as observing what a child does when he or she encounters a problem, waiting to see if other children will help before jumping in, and knowing when to help and when to step back.

Independence does not develop magically overnight—for either the child or the parents; it requires a lot of practice as well as mental preparedness. If the first time a family experiences independence is when the young adult with autism is moving into his or her own apartment, the experience is sure to be unsettling for everyone. But if parents encourage small independent experiences while the child is growing up, then both the parents and the child will be better prepared when facing bigger life adjustments and taking steps toward independence.

Following some Montessori teachings while the child is still young may help. For more about the Montessori method, visit http://www.montessori.edu/method.html.

Sun contributor Cory Gilden is the parent of a son on the spectrum, an autism advocate, and dedicated member of Autism Delaware’s newsletter committee as well as a doctoral student-research assistant in the University of Delaware’s National Leadership Consortium on Developmental Disabilities.

This text was edited for consistency of language and message and appears in the January–March 2018 issue of the Autism Delaware quarterly newsletter, The Sun.

Tracking Your Child’s Progress Toward Self-Determination, by Jen Nardo

Tracking Your Child’s Progress Toward Self-Determination, by Jen Nardo

When our babies are first put into our arms, we feel a deep responsibility for their safety and for meeting their every need to thrive.

As they grow, we get excited with each milestone: They are picking up cereal—and they are getting it in their mouths! They are sitting up!

When our children are developmentally delayed, we parents have to help them with each emerging skill longer than we would help our neurotypical kids. Maybe a child needs physical therapy to strengthen core muscles before he is able to sit up. Maybe the motor planning needed to crawl takes months of practice before we see any results. Or maybe hours of practice are needed for one new verbalization.

As my son who lives with autism, Jake grew and developed at his own pace, and I grew comfortable doing more for him than I did for my older neurotypical son, Frankie, when he was the same age. As soon as Frankie learned to tie his shoes, I let him take over that task. At a typical age, he also learned to cut his own food and make a meal for himself, and he understood the concept of money and purchases. I eagerly facilitated his independence in these areas as well.

At 19, Jake can tie his shoes, cut his own food, work the microwave, and make small purchases. But do I always let him?

Over the last few years, I have been trying to back off as much as possible. I backed off when Jake learned to navigate the playground on his own. And I backed off when he could dress himself. On the other hand, I found that meal-making goes faster and easier if I do it without Jake. But how does Jake benefit from my doing it for him? I realize that I need to back off from this, too, so Jake will become more independent. So, what’s the holdup?

Breaking my routine—and the assumption that faster, easier, cleaner is better—is an important step toward my son’s success as an adult. Involving him in day-to-day household management gives him a lot of confidence and a huge smile of pride. If it takes longer for him to complete a new task or the kitchen gets messier than usual during meal preparation—so be it! I just won’t let my child’s skills regress because doing the task myself is faster, easier, and cleaner.

I’ve learned a few other things, too. For example, having a young child on the spectrum necessitates more time in our daily schedule for teaching him how to do things like work zippers and buttons.

As your child ages, let him or her walk ahead of you to the bus stop as long as it’s safe. And find chores around the house that will build your child’s confidence. The job may not be done well today, but one day it will.

In a restaurant, ordering a beverage or meal is a good first step toward self-determination—as long as you have your child’s back, of course. And be sure to talk to your child’s educational team about the skills he or she is showing at school. I was so surprised to learn what Jake was doing at school that he would not do at home!

When Jake was little, I used to say that my job, as mom, was to make sure that he is always living his life to the best of his ability. The best way to do this, I’ve learned, is to back off and let Jake learn to do for himself. But now that I think about it, don’t we all learn better this way?

Sun contributor Jen Nardo is a parent mentor and long-time Autism Delaware™ volunteer as well as a dedicated member of Autism Delaware’s newsletter committee.

This text was edited for consistency of language and message and appears in the January–March 2018 issue of the Autism Delaware quarterly newsletter, The Sun.

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