Games & Toys

Parade recently put out an article identifying top six toy picks for children with autism. They asked two experts to provide their thoughts on toys that can help autistic children learn and development much-needed skills, such as play and social interaction. Here’s what their list looked like:

Caves & Claws

  1. Board Games – The experts note that simple games can help teach skills like following directions, and they also involve social interaction. They recommend games where players work together as a team, such as Caves & Claws and Sleeping Grump.
  2. Sports Equipment – For younger kids, these experts suggested a simple ball could do the trick because it creates an opportunity for social play, communication and eye contact. For older kids, they suggest a skateboard, which can be a tool for social activity since kids get together at skate parks and skate in groups.
  3. Musical Instruments – For smaller children, a musical toy like a whistle could be used in an imitation game- you play a tune and have your child repeat it. For older children, playing an instrument could be a good for peer interaction, as the experts note.
  4. Construction Sets – The experts say toys like Legos are good to help children learn to follow directions in order to build objects.
  5. Tool Kits – They say that even a general toolbox with a hammer and nails can help build fine motor skills and a sense of accomplishment.
  6. Books – Books have many benefits, one of them, as noted by the experts, is a chance to teach socially appropriate behavior for younger children. Some of the books they call out are Me First and Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink.

Check out the full article here.

Would love your input as well – any toys or games you’ve found to be particularly helpful? Share them with us.

Lynsey, Community Manager

Wise Words by Pat Philpot

This was written by Pat Philpot on his Facebook page…nuff said!

Keyper had yet another stellar day at school. I love what his teacher did today. Combined Keyper’s love of the iPad, with a few pictures of the other kids in the class and something that each kid likes. For example one of the boys likes cars. So she wrote the boys name on the paper and that he likes cars. So each kid had their name and what they like on a separate sheet of paper. Then, she would scroll through the pictures and have Keyper select the correct identity. What a simple, yet brilliant way to help Keyper not only learn names, but something about each person…..

“Rockstar” ( teachers nick name) was surprised that he learned them all in one day. I was not surprised.

I also love listening to the teacher/instructors talk about how amazed they are at K as they are learning more about him. Laura & I just smile because we know how brilliant he is.

Also, and for me this was the best part of his day……when they returned from recess, Keyper announced as he came in the door, ” I made a friend”!

His name is Ahmen, ( not sure of spelling) and he likes to ski.

On the drive home, he asked if Ahmen could come over and play sometime?

BAM!!!

Seriously peeps, I need to take a short break and celebrate, dance, sing my song. I am sending out to the Universe my appreciation & Gratitude for these amazing triumphs & experiences. Be back in a few.

Wow, better. I was getting a little misty eyed there.

I used to think that I would give just about anything to wake up and find that miraculously, in the night, a miracle happened & my beautiful autistically inclined boy had recovered. Then one day I realized being “on the spectrum”, or having Autism is an important part of who Keyper is. I don’t want it to define him, but it is indeed part of his beautiful makeup & components.

Just like his infectious smile, his brown hair, his amazing vocabulary and ability to read faster than anyone i know, I would not want to change any part of who he is.

As I came into this awareness and let go of the resistance that at some level he needed to be different, or recovered, or normal, or better, or more flexible so we could do things as “other” families do etc, he began to let go too of his resistance.

The more at ease I become, the more I celebrate who he is, the more dancing I do, the more singing I do, the more I let go of old beliefs, the more I seek for the good & the happy, the bigger I make the itty bitty little things that are so easy to take for granted, the better and better life becomes. And the better and the better life becomes the more of what I want starts showing up. It is the Law of Attraction in action… ( I use the terms of dancing and singing metaphorically, I mean, I do dance and sing and boy do I celebrate, but it is about just different ways of showing joy, there are a million ways to show joy and appreciation ) The more I am in the moment, that is when life begins to flow. And it is flowing down stream right now like never before.

For me, Autism is an opportunity set before me to be an expression of unconditional love at its best. It is a beautiful opportunity for personal growth and awareness. It is an opportunity to experience something I never would have willingly chosen, yet I can easily say, Autism has been the road less taken and it has made all the difference.

It is with the greatest gratitude, appreciation and love, that I Thank YOU Mr ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) for this amazing experience.

WOW,

BAM

Top Apps for Autistic Children

Your iPhone or iPad may just be the most coveted item in your household—according to your children, at least. Some of the apps out there can be both fun and educational—as well as shown to help those with autism. With so many apps out there, we’ve sifted through to find the ones that have been recognized:

The Huffington Post calls out six ‘awesome’ apps, a few of them include:

Go Go Games

  • Go Go Games is designed to help children with ASD learn to quickly notice multiple features of objects in the world around them.
  • Hidden Curriculum for Kids uses real-life situations to spur conversations about the “unwritten social rules” that we encounter every day that may cause confusion and anxiety.
  • Speech with Milo: Interactive Storybook was created as a speech therapy tool for children that features an interactive storybook and the ability to record your own story.

While The Stir identified five other apps in its ‘best apps for autistic children’ piece. One of them is Dr. Panda-Teach Me!, which helps children with skills like counting, memory, and colors. Another one is Talking Larry, which helps develop language skills and features a talking bird friend.

Also, while we’re on the subject of apps, in honor of Autism Awareness Month, Kindergarten.com has made all of their apps free—which includes a collection of apps focused on speech and language, self-care skills and receptive and expressive identification.

Which apps do you use and recommend?

Lynsey, Community Manager

Chili’s Act of Kindness Goes A Long Way

Sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference. Case in point – there’s a great story circulating on the web about a young girl’s experience at a Midvale, Utah Chili’s restaurant, shared by her sister, Anna MacLeane, on Facebook. Anna took her sister, Arianna, a 7-year-old with autism, to Chili’s to get her favorite – a cheeseburger. When her cheeseburger arrived, Arianna didn’t want to eat it. When Anna asked her why, Arianna replied “It’s broken. I need another one that’s fixed.” Then it occurred to Anna that it was “broken” because it was cut in half. Although it was the restaurant’s intention to make it easier to eat by cutting it in half, this threw things out of order for Arianna.

Arianna at Chili's

When their waitress came to check on them, Arianna explained the situation and asked for another cheeseburger. Their waitress, Lauren, was sweet and played along, saying to Arianna, “I brought you a broken cheeseburger?! You know what, I’ll have them cook you a new one!” Then the manager came over and did the same thing, which made things a lot easier. Arianna was very happy when her new “fixed” cheeseburger arrived – so much so, that she gave it a big kiss – which Anna was able to snap a picture of.

This simple act of compassion and kindness that Anna and Arianna received should be a great lesson. For Anna and Arianna, that broken cheeseburger could have impacted the rest of their day – but, instead, it turned into a really amazing experience. I hope to hear more stories like this one.

Click here to view Anna’s full Facebook story.

Lynsey, Community Manager

DSM-5 – Changes to Diagnosing Autism

The American Psychiatric Association is in the process of finalizing its latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)—which will be known as DSM-5. The goal of developing DSM-5, according to the APA, is to produce an DSM-5 Manual of Mental Disordersevidence-based manual that is useful to clinicians in helping them accurately and consistently diagnose certain disorders, including autism.

Although DSM-5 will not be released until May, you may have heard about some of the revisions being made to the manual as it has already faced some attention, both positive and negative. The revisions to DSM-5 may have a significant impact on how the diagnosis of autism is made, and what, moving forward, is considered part of the autism spectrum. As I have gathered, some of the primary changes will include:

  • Instead of having the separate diagnoses of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, and PDD-NOS, they will now all fall under the larger umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
  • Under the new criteria, people with ASD must show symptoms from early childhood, even if those symptoms are not recognized until later. This change is supposed to encourage earlier diagnosis of ASD but also allow for the diagnosis of people whose symptoms may not be fully recognized until later (such as school-aged).
  • Previously, symptoms were divided into three categories—deficits in social interaction, deficits in communication, and repetitive and restricted behaviors and interests. In DSM-5, they combined the first two categories, so there are now only two—communication/social deficits, and restricted, repetitive behaviors and interests. And you have to have a certain specified amount of symptoms in those categories to be diagnosed with autism. The reason behind combining those categories is because symptoms in those categories almost always appear together.

The changes have been met with a bit of controversy, some of it surrounding the concern of some those with a diagnosis of Asperger’s or PDD-NOS not being able to retain an ASD diagnosis under the new guidelines. Or, for others, not having a classification beyond the umbrella ASD. The APA notes, however, that ‘the revised diagnosis represents a new, more accurate, and medically and scientifically useful way of diagnosing individuals with autism-related disorders.’

To learn more about DSM-5, click here.

Lynsey, Community Manager

AUTISM TODAY – KEY STATS

We’re happy to be back here with you sharing stories of hope and inspiration and the latest news for us in the autism community. Since it’s been a little while, we thought we’d do a quick ‘snapshot’ of some of the latest stats as they’ve changed a bit in the last year or two.

Here’s where we are today:

  • According to estimates from the CDC, 1 in 88 children have been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
  • The CDC goes on to note that the above stat is a 23% increase since their last report in 2009, and a 78% increase since their first report in 2007.
  • ASDs are almost 5 times more common in boys than girls.
  • We still don’t know what causes autism. However, genes have now been identified as playing a larger role, with other potential factors being environmental exposures or certain features of brain structure.
  • Vaccines, particularly the MMR vaccine (often given around 12-15 months of age), have been a hotly debated topic with autism—with concerns around vaccines being a potential cause of autism.  However, recent studies have found no link between the MMR vaccine and autism—and the original study published in The Lancet (1998) that triggered this concern was retracted in 2010.
  • The CDC says more children are being diagnosed at earlier ages—a growing number (18%) of them by age 3. Still, most children are not diagnosed until after they reach age 4.
  • Autism diagnosis is about to change. In May, the fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) will be published—presenting new criteria for diagnosing autism. Additionally Asperger syndrome and PDD-NOS will go away and new categories are going to be introduced.

We’ll soon be doing a deeper dive into the changes we’ll see with DSM-5—which will greatly impact the future of autism diagnosis, as well as some people who are currently part of the spectrum—so check back with us on that soon.

 

 

 

 

In case you haven’t heard, April is Autism Awareness Month!

It’s Autism Awareness Month – time to learn more statistics, read about the advances in treatment, Keep Calm and turn your Facebook page blue!

So if the world is listening just a little bit more than usual, it’s also an opportunity for parents to tell their stories – because for them, autism is a 24/7/365 experience.

Meet a dear friend of mine, Marci, pictured with her son Ethan.  Ethan’s story is similar to many – he’s “on the spectrum,” and his quirky behavior eventually made it impossible for him to stay in “normal” school.  So instead of believing her son was “broken,” Marci did what many parents are doing today, she found a place that was able to accept Ethan just the way she saw him – not broken.  Just different.

Marci and her sonThe name of this amazing school is CDC – Child Development Center – located at the University of California Irvine.  It’s part of the Division of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics in the UC Irvine School of Medicine.  Reading through their web site, it may seem like the CDC is still a laboratory of sorts…

After a tour, I realized CDC is so much more!  CDC provides a nurturing environment for 60 kids – ages 5 to 12, all but 5 are boys – who were all asked to leave “normal” school because of their behavioral problems.  Without any medications (the kids have to come off meds to attend), CDC provides these kids with a supportive and nurturing environment, allowing them the space to develop positive self-esteem – in effect, to believe they are NORMAL!  I watched as these “badly behaved kids” participated in class, laughed, and socialized!  Instead of shoving these square kids into a round hole, CDC just became a square.  Not a novel concept, but really the most effective way to work with our kids.

Because of their success, parents are clamoring to get their kids into the CDC.  So Marci is doing what moms do – she’s raising money to make that possible.  At the event I attended, she raised $40,000 towards purchasing new modular buildings that are being delivered and set up this month, allowing the school to expand to 6th grade.  Her vision is to find a way to build a larger school, eventually allowing CDC to work with kids K-12.  Marci believes that will happen – and so do I.  Ethan, and all of our normal kids, deserve that chance.

Hugs,

Jen

WELCOME BACK!

Welcome back to Kyle’s Treehouse!  As you can see, we’ve made a few changes to our

website – in effect, we’ve ‘done some growing up!’  When we first launched the original site, Kyle was just 12 years old.  At that time, he had just graduated from his Son-Rise Program®, he was well into his homeschooling program, and after finishing another round of evaluations, we were told by his doctors that Kyle no longer showed signs of autism.  It was a pretty big year.

Since then, I’ve learned a lot about the ups and downs kids with autism (or in Kyle’s case, kids coming off the spectrum) experience as they mature into teenagers and adults.  As a parent, it can be a lonely planet where many have ventured but few talk about.  When Kyle thinks about his own journey and what he’s accomplished at the ripe old age of 20, Kyle likes to quotes this ancient Chinese proverb that says, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.”

Today, Kyle is in his second year of college where he studies fashion design and lives on campus, he has a drivers license, and deals with all the “typical” events that occur in a young man’s life.  As his mom, it’s been an amazing experience to watch Kyle come such a long way and into his own.  We continue to marvel at his courage to take the next steps in life, even if he might “fall down.”  He now knows what to do.

Because of Kyle’s changes, we decided it was time for the web site to reflect that change as well.  Don’t worry – we kept the essence of Kyle’s Treehouse – so you can still find helpful information about all the treatment options available today.  I decided it was time to give parents a place to tell their kids’ stories – because Kyle’s generation of kids on the spectrum are doing some really cools things out in the world.  On the new Kyle’s Treehouse, you will find blogs written by me and soon, written by you!   But mostly, we will continue to spread the message of hope in a effort to inspire parents in their journey with kids on the spectrum.

Again, welcome back to Kyle’s Treehouse!  We’re glad you stopped by.

Hugs,

Jenifer