With all the spooky costumes, scary decorations, eerie noises, and an explosion of sugar, Halloween can be overwhelming for any child and particularly for children with special needs.
Here are some tips for a safe and enjoyable Halloween for your child:
1. Select a costume that combines comfort and fun – Let your child practice wearing their costume at home. This gives you time to make any last minute modifications and time for your child to get used to the costume.
2. Prepare – Many children with special needs do better with a schedule or routine. Write a narrative describing what your child will do on Halloween and visually track where you will go. Read the story several times before Halloween so your child has time to get used to the plan.
3. Practice – Practice trick or treating in a familiar environment. Visit friends and family, if possible, even neighbors.
4. Review positive behavior – Review expectations, such as saying, “Trick-or-Treat!” and “Thank you” and not going inside the home.
5. Have a backup plan- In case there is melt down, consider letting siblings (that might want to go longer) go trick or treating with a friend.
6. Gradual change – If your child has difficulty with change, you may want to decorate your home gradually.
7. Remember, Halloween looks different for every child and you know your child best. Happy Halloween!
Researchers have known that there is a strong genetic component to autism but autism is also found in clusters around the country. Certain communities and states have a much higher rate than the rest of the country http://graphics.latimes.com/usmap-autism-rates-state/. Autism rates are highest in the Northeast and on the West Coast and lowest among the Southern and Plains states. For example, a child born in California is several times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than a child in Alabama, but the question is why?
The fact that clusters are found in certain geographical areas seems to imply a local, environmental cause. Looking at environmental factors is difficult because much of that information is undocumented. One would have to consider air quality, water quality, and energy resources. Several other factors to consider are income levels and ethnicity. One group of researchers compared the rate of male genital malformations with the autism rate with the suggestion that environmental toxins in the area were responsible for the malformation due to the high rate. They found the greater the amount of malformations in boys, the greater the autism rates in the area, suggesting a correlation between environmental factors and autism diagnosis. But then how does one explain the phenomenon of identical twins which have the same genetic and environmental information but one twin has autism and the other does not.
When looking at such correlations, it is important to keep in mind that correlations do not mean causation, particularly when looking at the broader pictures. For example, one cannot assume that just because alcoholism rates are high in a city with high suicide rates that one is causing the other.
The theories on causation and rise of autism rates is complex and as research continues to make strides in the treatment, diagnosis and cure for autism it is important to keep in mind that autism is multi-factorial.
You may feel frustrated right now that your child is not hitting the milestones that you see other children reaching. Will my child ever sleep through the night? Will my child ever speak? Will my child make connections with other peers? Rest assured that your child will not be the same down the road as he/she is today. Age two is vastly different from age 12 and age 12 is very different from 24.
We all grow and change with maturity and autism does not prevent a child from developing and changing over time; they simply may not do it as quickly as a neurotypical child. Autism involves several developmental delays; delay does not mean it will not happen but simply not on the “normal” developmental time frame.
Developmental delays in verbal communication can be especially frustrating. The National Center of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities states that 25 to 30 percent of children diagnosed with autism will speak some words by 12 to 18 months. However, those children may have a diminished capacity for, or lose the ability altogether, to communicate verbally. Nearly 40 percent of children diagnosed will never be able to speak at all. The remaining percentage of children may be able to communicate verbally at a much later age. Keep in mind that verbal challenges seen at age 3 will look very different at age 15 and will also look very different as an adult.
Connecting socially is also important and we want our children to connect with peers. Children with autism often times do not have the social skills to make connections and developmental delays can compound the problem. Children with autism are often socially and emotionally at a much younger age than their peers. At a young age this divide can be huge but as they age this gap gets smaller.
Be patient, being in the “waiting room” is never easy but continue to relish your child’s victories and continue to encourage and support them.
No one wants to receive the diagnosis of autism and recent statistics reveal that autism is on the rise with 1 in 68 children now being diagnosed with autism. While diagnosis is on the rise, most children are not diagnosed until age 2. All evidence points to early detection and intervention as the most successful treatment option, but do you know the early signs of autism? Below are common signs that may indicate your child may be autistic and require further observation.
1. Delayed motor development – Parents love the milestones that their children achieve such as rolling over, crawling and walking. Any delays may warrant further investigation.
2. Repetitive or obsessive behavior – watch for unusual body movements with the hands or arms and unusual body postures.
3. Disinterest in other family members – Does your child look to you for comfort (eye contact) and extend their arms to be picked up? Lack of interest in bonding at an early age may lead to difficulty relating to others as they mature.
4. Unresponsiveness to their name and environment– Is your baby hard of hearing or simply not responding to verbal cues? Is your baby imitating sounds, smiles and facial expressions?
5. Lack of smiling – Does your child smile back and laugh? This should be normal behavior by six months of age.
With any condition, your physician or a specialist can help you determine if further care is needed. With early detection and treatment children on the autism spectrum have the potential to lead full and rewarding lives.