Tag Archives: Autism

how will the paramedics know my child…has autism, can’t talk, has severe allergies, has a serious illness?

how will the paramedics know

When you have a kiddo with autism, one who’s nonverbal or one who doesn’t have fluent language, it can be really scary at times. One of those situations I worry about occasionally is what would happen if we were in a car accident and Justin and I were hurt. What if we were so incapacitated we couldn’t tell the paramedics that Jeremiah has autism, he can’t speak, he can’t follow their directions?

Not something we want to think about, but it’s best to be prepared.

So, when I came across these medical seat belt covers, I was thrilled. The first ones I saw were homemade, which you can definitely do, with a sort of nylon fabric and a permanent marker. If you’re not the best sewer (pointing finger at myself), I found a website where they sell them. It’s in the UK, but you can pay with a US credit card, no problem. (Don’t laugh, I didn’t know.)

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You can find them here at Doe Doe’s Bibs and Beyond, or on her Facebook page

You can customize them for anything you want; conditions, illnesses, allergies. So cool. Please share this with others, as I know there are many families who are concerned about this issue and would love a solution like this. Thanks!

The administrator for the Doe Doe’s Bibs and Beyond Facebook page is very sweet and will answer your questions quickly. She’s getting swamped though, so be patient.

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You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, this may need to be done on the web version. You can also “like” my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

Nonverbal Autistic Children Have Something to Say

Nonverbal Autistic Children Have Something to Say

(This post can also be applied to nonverbal adults. In this article I refer to my son, Jeremiah. He’s six-years-old, has autism, and can’t speak, however he can make limited sounds.)

We talk for them, we assume what they want. We don’t listen to the their nonverbal cues, we move on without concern for the nonverbal child’s desires or needs. But every person desires something in life, they have immediate needs and future plans, and for the person who can’t talk, those aspirations are largely ignored.

So, how do we know what our nonverbal child wants? We watch and we listen very carefully. Many of us parents of autistic kids spend our lives studying and listening. We study autism, we pour over articles and books. Some study treatments and therapies, and look for the most knowledgeable professionals. We listen to parents of autistic kids, and some of us listen to autistic adults. Hopefully when it comes to our children we’re doing the same, hopefully we’re listening to them.

We must carefully watch our kiddos who can’t communicate well, listening for what they’re doing in the back of the house, which cupboard are they getting into (or maybe yours all have locks ;)). What do they play with most? If they’re staring intently at something, what is it and why are they doing it? Once when I was at Jeremiah’s school, he was dancing in circles and staring at the floor. One of his paras chuckled and asked him what he was doing, as if he were being funny. I noticed there was a purpose to what Jeremiah was doing, he was staring at his reflection on the tile floor.  I’m learning to always watch, always ponder, and most of the time I ask him what he’s doing, just as the aid did.

If our child doesn’t talk, how do we know what they’re interested in? If we’re lucky and our child is interested in balls, it’s the ball they pick up the most. What do they do with it? Do they throw it, kick it, roll it? What’s your child’s favorite color? Look at what they’re most interested in, what color is it? Is it a red car? A black motorcycle? A doll wearing pink? For many of you, your child has interests in odd things, maybe a yard sprinkler or kitchen spatula, is it shiny or dull in color?

When some autism parents are asked what their child’s favorite movie is, they respond, “I don’t know, he likes several movies.” But what are his reactions to the movies he watches? Jeremiah claps like crazy when he watches Madagascar, it seems to be his favorite, but he may choose other movies to watch. He likes them, but they aren’t his favorite.

When our children do voice (or maybe with a noise made with their body, like clapping) it’s important for us to recognize it. If Jeremiah is clapping while the Lemurs on Madagascar are cheering, I talk to him about it. “Do you love this part?” “Are you cheering with them?” I also give him words, “Are you clapping because you’re happy?”
how to help your nonverbal child feel heardWe also pay close attention to connection made in every day life. Every time we used to drive past a certain point on the highway, Jeremiah would start bawling. It didn’t take too long for my perceptible husband, Justin, to realize it was because we drove by Burger King without getting a drink or french fries. Whoops.

Jeremiah loves his schedule, just like your kiddo right? 😉 When we turn to go down the street that passes his school at a time when he’s not supposed to be in school, he wails, a siren wail. His way of saying, “What are you doing? I’m NOT going to school, this is not a school day. I know because I know what time it is and I didn’t got to school today peeps.” He loves school, he does awesome there and walks right in when it’s TIME to go to school, but when it’s not, he would much rather be at home or with his family. Just another connection.

Jeremiah has ways of saying, “Heck no!” If he’s in his room and we ask him if he wants to go outside with us and he doesn’t, he’ll slam his door. When you don’t have words, how else are you going to say “no”? Slam that door! He also has verbal sounds that mean yes and no, however they aren’t quite as clear or consistent, but they do exist. If your child can make any noises, they probably do too. They also have facial expressions to express what they want or don’t want. But you have to really study your child to understand those facial and verbal cues that aren’t so obvious.

Jeremiah sometimes has an “uh huh” sound for “thank you” when I give him something he wants. I say “thank you” for him and tell him “You’re welcome.” His “thank you” sound is very similar to his “yes” sound, but we can usually tell what he’s trying to communicate given the surrounding circumstances.

It’s important to treat your child as a person who has opinions. 

Ask your child questions. “Do you like the truck?” If they’re looking at a picture of someone swimming, ask them, “Do you like to swim?” If your confident your child enjoys swimming, you can say, “You love to swim!” Jeremiah responds well when we say this, and if we’re making plans to swim that week, we can tell him. This is a great way to move beyond PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) to have conversations with your child about the past and the future.

Recently we went on a special needs ski trip with our son’s school. As my husband walked by one of the kids (a nonverbal child), he began conversing with her parents. The dad made a comment about the ski instructor (who works with special needs kids) talking to his daughter as if she’d respond, but he said she wouldn’t respond because she couldn’t.

I think the ski instructor had it right though. He may not have known she couldn’t talk, but he probably figured out fairly quickly through her behavior that she couldn’t speak. The ski instructor may have been talking to this girl the way he was because he wanted her to feel normal, he wanted her to know she has opinions, wants, and needs and he was interested. No matter that she couldn’t tell him.

Nonverbal people want to be treated like everyone else.

In the book Neuro Tribes, Silberman talks about his time spent with Craig and Shannon, Leo’s parents. Leo has autism and his parents are amazing at learning what Leo’s cues are, what his sounds mean, and how they’re connected to his feelings. Here’s an excerpt from Neuro Tribes,

“Some days, Leo hardly says anything at all, though no one could accuse him of being unexpressive. He has his own versatile lexicon of nonverbal sounds, song fragments, and catchphrases that he uses to communicate with the people he knows and trusts. When Leo is happy, he bursts out in riffs of scat singing, making up little melodies as he goes. When he’s basically content but feeling restless, he makes a sound like tikka, tikka, tikka. If he’s more anxious than that, he makes a sound like Jimmy Durante: “Atch-cha-cha!” A sudden burst of happiness can inspire Leo to whirl his arms around and gallop in circles shouting, “Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!” When he’s tired, he makes a soft keening noise. And when Leo is hungry, he just sobs his heart out. After visiting an aquarium in Seattle with his family, he added the chirps of a beluga whale to his repertoire of echolalia (the term of art for the way that autistic people sample the speech they hear around them and repurpose it for their own use).”

Wow, when I read about Leo, I know I have a ton of investigating to do with Jeremiah. I have a gazillion more connections to make between his actions and sounds and how he’s feeling.

But isn’t the story about Leo amazing? Autistic kids, or any child who has special needs just want to be treated like everyone else. Isn’t that what we all want? We don’t want to be thought of as less-than, like we don’t have opinions or needs. Like we’re hungry only when everyone else is ready to eat, and if we’re cranky it must mean we’re just tired. Maybe we don’t feel good, maybe we’re having a bad day. We want someone to care. Ask your child how their day was at school, how they feel about the weather, if they played with any friends at school. Talk to them, they’ll appreciate it.

Don’t forget to check out this article I linked to in this post, it will give you a whole new wonderful way to communicate with your child: Give Your Autistic Child Ways to “Talk” About the Past
You may also be interested in the article: So Many Things I’d Say If Only I Were Able

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, this may need to be done on the web version. You can also “like” my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

what to communicate with your child’s teacher: Autism in the classroom

I thought the recap below would be beneficial, and for many this is new. I hope you find this helpful. You can also check out Rainbow Kids for my article on Transitioning the Special Needs Student to Another Class or School. Even if you’ve already begun a new school year, there’s some information within the article which will still be advantageous. Have a GREAT school year!

lovin' adoptin'

communicate with your childs teacher
School is starting soon. I think I just heard YIPEEES!!! from several of you. 🙂 Autism parents might be a tad more excited than the average parent for their child to go back to school after summer break, as that routine and consistency can make a night and day difference for our children.

I don’t know about your child, but most children with Autism are constantly changing. Our son, Jeremiah, gains skills, loses skills, says a word and then we’ll never hear it again, he’s regularly in flux. It’s hard enough to keep up with him at home, but then add school, progress, and regressions and

it can resemble one big spider web.

There’s a solution that greatly helps us traverse that spider web with agility, and helps everyone dive into a new school year with an exceptional start. What can you do to keep positive momentum going at school?

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give your autistic child ways to “talk” about the past

give your autistic chlid a way to talk about the past
*Even if your child doesn’t have autism I encourage you to keep reading if you would like ways to reach your child in a deeper way.

Occasionally we are given gems of knowledge that I love to pass on to those who are raising children with autism. One such gem came from Michael Emmons*, who works with our kid’s school on including special needs children in the general classroom.

Emmons was at our home observing Jeremiah so he could make recommendations to the school about communication goals. While here, he noticed Jeremiah’s family photo books sitting on the coffee table, and said, “It’s great to have pictures so Jeremiah has a way to ‘talk’ about the past.”

At the time, I saw this as a novel idea, but since then it has grown into something more than I expected. It shouldn’t have been such a cutting edge concept for me, I mean it seems so simple when you really think about it. Give children who can’t communicate a way to ‘talk’ about the past, but it was something I hadn’t thought of. I was simply thinking present and future tense and that’s where it ended. Very unfair to Jeremiah.

Typical kids (meaning kids who can communicate, whether verbally, through sign language, or an augmented communication system) get to talk about the past and relate it to the present and future all the time. I like to put it in perspective with examples so we can really grasp how it is for our children who can’t communicate, or who can’t communicate well.

A child may want to talk about:
Their grandparents last visit and what they want to do next time.
The weather.
The scar they got when they fell off their bike.
They want to visit their cousins again.
They want to go to Disney Land.
How the hill you drive over every day reminds them of the ride at Disney Land.
What they do during school.
Who their best friends are.

I could go on and on, as always, but you get the idea. There’s obviously so much to talk about, and our children can’t or have difficulty doing so.

After Emmons was here I noticed Jeremiah flipping between two photos in his picture book that his Grandma made for him. One was of him sledding and one was of him swimming. He would stare at these pictures intently, and I talked about them, but beyond what I would’ve normally. Before Emmons shared this with me, I would have said, “You went sledding, that was fun,” but this time I added, “Do you like sledding? Maybe it will snow enough this weekend and we can go sledding.”

Jeremiah’s smile stretched across his face when I said this, and I felt like Emmons had helped us delve even deeper into Jeremiah’s world.
photo books help the autistic child talk about past and future

We were able to go sledding a couple weeks ago. Afterwards, Jeremiah was looking through the photo book again and paused at the one of him sledding. I talked about how he had fun sledding, and he grinned from ear to ear, that “Yeah, I know what you mean,” look.

In the past weeks, Justin and I had also been working on getting swim lessons on the schedule. When Jeremiah looked at the photo of him swimming with his Grandpa, I was finally able to tell him we were going to go to swim lessons. He smiled when I told him the first time, but when I was able to say, “We’re going swimming tonight. We have swim lessons tonight,” oh my gosh! He was jumping. clapping, and thrilled! I love it!

It just wrecks me when people don’t think those with autism can understand, that they don’t have feelings.This false belief is so far from the truth. Our children deserve so much more, for us to realize they have desires like every other child.

As Emmons pointed out to us, photo books are a great way to engage in conversation with your autistic child. You can do something as simple as putting pictures in slip-pocket photo books, or you can make photo books at WalMart.com or picaboo.com. Adding words to describe what’s happening can help your child develop language, as it associates what’s happening in the photo with words.

I really hope this helps you in your adventures in autism, I can’t tell you what an exceptional jewel this is. It has the possibility of unlocking a treasure trove in your child, making those connections is priceless.
*Names changed to protect privacy.


Take a look at the CONTENTS page for more posts on autism, adoption, and foster care.

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. You can also “like” my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

the best sensory toys (part 1)

the best senosry toys part 1
Does your child jump incessantly? Get irritated quickly? Chew on anything? Bite? Stim (flapping hands, waving hand in front of face) constantly? Hit themselves or others often? Spin? Bang his head? These behaviors could be indicative of sensory issues.

Based on one study, around 78 percent of children with autism have Sensory Processing Disorder, as well as many children who’ve been neglected and abused. Besides replicating what your Occupational Therapist (if you have one) does with your child, you can incorporate sensory toys that will help your child’s intense sensory needs.

We’ve found that meeting Jeremiah’s sensory needs solves most of the behaviors we struggle with. When his sensory needs are met, he’s usually calm and happy. We’ve been on quite an adventure trying to find the right sensory toys to help Jeremiah, so I thought a post (now it’s turned in to two) on what’s helped us would be something you might appreciate.

Trial and error is a large part of how you will help your child with their sensory issues, but this post is meant to help give you some direction on what to do and what to buy for your child.

Some of these items are expensive, some aren’t, you can be creative to find cheaper solutions, or ones you can make at home. I’ll begin with ones that have helped Jeremiah the most.

*For items that my child is going to put in his mouth (which I understand for most of your children, it’s EVERYTHING), I like to buy items that are nontoxic.

1) Swing. We can’t live without it. The swing is like our bread of life – okay, the swing and one other thing which I will mention next. Not only does Jeremiah have a swing in our yard, but we put one in his room. One summer he’d been swinging consistently in our backyard, and I was in fear of what life would be like come winter, literally fearful! I knew how much it helped him and the anxiety he felt when he couldn’t swing. Justin said, “Let’s put a swing in his room.” It was hard for me to accept the idea at first. It sounded like I was spoiling Jeremiah, plus he has a sister and that wouldn’t be fair.
But the truths are 1) Jeremiah needs the swing to function, and any way we can help him we should. 2) Our daughter, Payton, gets to do a lot of things Jeremiah can’t. I’ve had to accept that life isn’t fair (I’ve been complaining that it isn’t since I uttered my first words, just ask my parents). Yeah, life stinks sometimes.
Also, when we go on day trips, we always find a playset with swings, it makes Jeremiah happier, Payton has fun too, and we all benefit.

2) Doodle Pad. The second most important item in our bag-o-tricks. We spendX2539-doodle-pro-travel-d-1 WAY too much money on a Christmas tree doodle pad. It was one of his first, and the only kind he’ll use. He doesn’t go anywhere without it, and for years it was constantly in his hands, but in the past months he’s been found many times without it. His dependency on the doodle pad is diminishing significantly. It has helped calm him and gives his busy hands something to do. Plus, I love it because you can practice taking turns with it – you draw, then your child draws, it helps develop writing skills (as this can be hard to establish in autistic children), and you can work on letters, numbers, words, shapes, etc. with it. A great multipurpose tool.

3) Trampoline. Another tool we depend heavily on. This, along 0068706404688_Bwith swinging gives Jeremiah the intense sensory input he desperately needs. We have the one pictured on the left outside and one similar to the picture on the right (a small one with a handle) we can use inside. We bought the one in the photo on the left from SAMS and I highly recommend it, it’s the safest trampoline I’ve seen. When  I searched for this AAAAAmZciUkAAAAAAWcgzQphoto on the SAMS Club website I found this trampoline with a swing attached (two in one!). With the incorporation of the swing in Jeremiah’s room, and the ability to go outside for trampoline time this winter, we haven’t utilized the indoor trampoline this season.

4) Slinky Chewy. When Jeremiah is chewing on his clothes or other items, or nullis frustrated, we often use this. At first we had to give it to him and encourage him to chew on it, and he wouldn’t wear it around his neck. Now he will use it when he wants to (we still offer it to him when he doesn’t choose it first) and he will even put it on his neck. With the larger one he stretches it over his body.

5) Blankets for nesting. I didn’t come up with this term, I heard another autism parent use it and I liked it, so here it is. Jeremiah will gather his smaller soft blankets and lug them around the house. Normally he brings them out to the couch and snuggles under them (head and all). It’s something he likes doing and makes him comfortable.

6) Lights. We purchased the wand pictured on the left at Target in the bins at the 691-lu_2front of the store, but I can’t find them on Target’s website. I found them online as “Spike Wand”. You need to get to know your child to determine if this is something they like. Some kids will like this and some kids won’t, Jeremiah only likes them at certain times. When it comes to using lights, there are several options. You don’t have to purchase something from a specialty store to achieve the desired result here.

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spinning light

Jeremiah likes the balls with lights inside, especially the rubber wand with a ball at the end, when you hit it on something multi-colored lights flicker. He has a dinosaur that has a light in it’s mouth, when he pinches the tail, the mouth opens and the light turns on. He was a fan of the spinning light wand for a long time. He also really likes this dog that shines lights on the ceiling. He doesn’t look at the ceiling, but likes looking at the stars changing colors.
Jeremiah with pet night light

Also check out part two in the series: The Best Sensory Toys (part 2)

For more posts on autism, be sure to check out the CONTENTS page.

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, this can be done on the web version. You can also “like” my page on Facebook and follow me on Twitter and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

they can hear you

can a person with Autism hear and understand?
I’m sharing this wonderful post by Jess at Diary of a Mom because what she says is essential to being an Autism parent. We must realize this as we move forward. We must make what she says part of our every move, our every word.

Just as Jess states, I’m also so thankful for those who’ve taught me lessons about Autism that I would never have learned if they hadn’t come into my life. For me, those voices who’ve changed my outlook on Autism aren’t just the Autistic adults, but also Jess (Diary of a Mom) and Ariane at Emma’s Hope Book. I hope you take the time to read what they have to say. It’s so important for our children’s futures.

a diary of a mom

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{image is a photo of me at a podium, speaking into a microphone at an Autism Speaks walk kickoff in 2010.}

Yesterday, I read a post that was written a couple of months ago, but just made its way to my screen. It was written by a woman who goes by Amythest on her tumblr, Neurowonderful. She describes herself as an artist, writer, public speaker, advocate, and activist who writes about autism and disability.

In the post, she describes a painful interaction with the father of an autistic young man at a recent Autism Speaks Walk in Vancouver. She and a number of other autistic activists had set up a table at the walk in hopes of educating walkers about some of the harm that the organization does in their name.

The post, poignant and important throughout, became excruciating to read here ..

The worst part of all of this is…

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special needs: how kids accept one another

special needs how kids accept one another_2

Photo courtesy of Knightsbridge Photography

You can listen to a recording of this post by scrolling to the end.
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Gotta love kids right? Since having a son with Autism, I’ve seen a whole new side of children I hadn’t seen before. I’ve worked with kids for years, I’ve been a teacher and a nanny, and only since watching kids and how they interact with Jeremiah did I gain a whole new perspective.

Kids accept each other, despite what obstacles stand in the way.

What obstacles might that be? Well, Jeremiah can’t talk, he doesn’t play with other kids (he’s only beginning to parallel play, meaning play next to other kids, not with them), he doesn’t usually smile at other kids, he doesn’t share what he’s playing with, and I will reiterate that first point again, he doesn’t talk. I feel that point is so important because our society in general doesn’t easily make friends with people who don’t talk, but not only doesn’t Jeremiah talk, he can’t communicate.

You would think even in a child’s world commonalities and similar interests would bring two kids together and they would want to be friends. This isn’t so with Jeremiah and his little friends. Jeremiah is usually in his own world, he’s slowly breaking free from it, but he doesn’t engage with these other children who consider him their friend.

Two years ago, when Jeremiah was three, he started preschool. A girl named Zoe quickly became his best friend. Zoe even called him her boyfriend. Jeremiah had no clue which is the most adorable part. Okay, there are more adorable parts. Zoe is a sweet girl, a tiny little thing, so cute, has leg braces, and uses a pint-sized wheel chair. Love her. And, she loves Jeremiah, they’re now in their third year of preschool together. I think it’s a lifelong friendship, maybe they’ll even get married. 😉 That’s just a little of the Mommy of a child with Autism hoping for the future.

The other day when I picked Jeremiah up from school, a boy in his class said good-bye to Jeremiah, then proceeded to tell me, “I know Jeremiah.” I was thrilled. This boy “knows” my son, my son who doesn’t talk, or reciprocate relationships. Well, he does reciprocate a little, he likes sitting by Miss Zoe in circle-time.
When special needs students are included

My brother-in-law, Rob, once said, “Kids and dogs.” This was after Jeremiah let him hold him during a time in Jeremiah’s life when only mom, dad, and Grandmas and Grandpas could hold him. We told Rob we couldn’t believe Jeremiah went to him, and then he made that statement, meaning that kids and dogs know people, they have intuition for who someone is.

These kids know Jeremiah and the sweet spirit he has. They like him for who he is, even if he can’t communicate, play swords, or if he eats the play dough. They accept him. They’re learning through being in class with special needs children that we are all unique and different in some way, and acceptance is part of everyday life.

No, not all kids give Jeremiah attention, but then not all kids are friends and get along with everyone, neither do adults. However, I’ve been surprised and pleased each time a child is aware of Jeremiah, says “Hi” to him, or tells me they like him. What joy it gives me to know that kids like my son, who happens to have Autism. Many of them will grow up with him, go through school with him, and hopefully stand by him if he’s ever bullied. I’m very grateful to these kids, kids who are only doing what is natural, before the rest of the world and it’s judgements get in the way.

Another example of this acceptance is in the picture at the top of this post. It’s Jeremiah and his sister. She’s now an amazing special needs advocate, compassionate with those who have special needs, and is in tune to their needs. I write more about her and her relationship with her brother in the post, Hurting Children CAN Develop Empathy.

Does your child with special needs have friends? Does this surprise you?

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, this can be done on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.