How to Motivate Your Child With Autism – 5 OT secrets

Autism Spectrum Disorder

5 Ways to Understand what Motivates a Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Today we have a guest post from Occupational Therapist Hope Caracci.  Hope specializes in the evaluation and treatment of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Sensory Processing Dysfunction.  She is a well-known speaker who often presents on the topic of Autism Spectrum Disorder. (See below for more information on her next conference in November).

 


Are you having difficulty motivating your clients or your child to participate in learning activities?

Learning a new skill requires the internal drive to do so.  Unfortunately, children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) often lack intrinsic motivation.

As an experienced OT who has presented and written extensively about Autism Spectrum Disorder, I have some secrets to share!

These are my 5 tried and true techniques to identify what is interesting and meaningful to a child with ASD.  

They really work, and can help you to improve the child’s participation significantly!

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express emotions

One genius way to teach your child how to express emotions

Have you ever seen a kid burst out crying for no reason? I know I have. The thing is, there is always a reason. Whether it’s because they are scared, tired, disappointed, or anything else, there is ALWAYS a reason.

No matter how silly it may seem to us, something is bothering them and it’s important enough to cause a physical effect for that child.

In my opinion, it’s the WORST when a child can’t tell you how they are feeling. Many times this is because they simply don’t know. Children rarely spend time learning about emotions and feelings.  There are children’s books and stories that may help. But most kids  learn by picking up simple social cues and digesting the actions of their parents and peers.

For some kids, that’s just not enough. Some kids need practice with figuring out how they feel and what that means.

express emotions

You know how horrible it is when you are terribly embarrassed? When you feel mortified and want to crawl under a table? Now imagine if you couldn’t understand why you even felt that way – uggh. Continue reading

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Play and attention

Using Play to Increase Attention

#FunctionalSkillsForKids

*This post contains affiliate links

This month’s topic in the  “Functional Skills for Kids” blog hop is PLAY, so check out the landing page for the rest of our posts and information on all things related to play skills!

what is play?

Play is defined as an activity that a person engages in for recreation and enjoyment.   For children, play is crucial to their development and learning. A child’s primary occupation is to play, learn, and socialize  (AOTA, 2015).     As a child plays, they develop the ability to problem solve, learn new skills, and use coordination and motor skills.   (AOTA, 2011).    It is important to remember that children learn best when they play with toys that are geared towards their developmental level  (raisingchildren.net).   Encouraging play with toys that are above your child’s developmental levels can lead to frustration and distraction.  

why is PLAY important for children to learn?

Play is an important component of childhood learning.  It fosters the development of motor skills, teaches children how to use their bodies, and helps children learn about the world around them.    When a child “plays”, it can be a structured game with rules such as kickball, free play (building with blocks), or engaging with a toy or another person.   Although play is perceived as “fun”, it is also a vital part of childhood development.

For example, an infant may “play” by cooing and giggling with mommy.  That baby is developing the ability to make eye contact, socialize, and form a relationship.   A toddler may play with blocks or toy trains.  He is developing the ability to use his two hands together to connect the blocks, visual skills to line them up properly, and imagination to decide what he wants to build.  As he plays on the floor with his train, he is crawling on all fours, using his body to bear weight,  and using eye-hand coordination to keep his train on the track.  A school-age child plays a board game with a friend.  Although socializing and forming a friendship with a peer, he is also learning to follow rules, take turns, and cope with losing/ or learning to be a good sport.

As children grow older, the activities they participate in as “Play” activities change.  So do the benefits and acquired skills of the activity they are engaging in.

When a child’s attention limits his ability to play for extended periods of time, it also interferes with his ability to develop the skills that naturally emerge from playtime.   So, as you can see, PLAY IS VERY IMPORTANT!

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Weighted fidget

How to Make a Weighted Fidget

How to Make a Do-It-Yourself Weighted Fidget

I’ve been blogging a lot lately about fidgets and fidgety kids.  Parents and teachers are always looking for a way to keep fidgety kids quiet and focused.  Weighted items like vests or lap pads are commonly used by teachers to help kids who are fidgety, restless, and unfocused.  Fidgets are another common request – they are great for keeping busy fingers quiet while the rest of a child’s body is attending to the lesson at hand.

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A Fidget for Busy Hands

 

Busy Hands for a Fidgety Kid

Fidgets, Fidgets, Fidgets!

If you’ve been reading my latest posts, you’ll notice that I’ve been talking a lot about fidgets, fidgeting, and all things fidgety. Teachers are constantly asking how to help their students focus and how to keep them in their seats. Parents are looking for sensory toys to help their child succeed at school.  There are many simple fidgets that you can supply a student with to keep busy hands quiet during class activities.

As I’ve recently posted, there are great little toys you can get at the dollar store that will do the job. But, sometimes you need something more. Something sturdy, durable, washable, AND fidgety. Today I’m excited to write about a new product I found called Fiddle Focus™ for Busy Fingers.  It’s made by Creative Educational Strategies and Services.  I had a great experience with one of my most fidgety Kindergarten kids ever. This product did the trick, so I’m happy to share my good luck with you.

*This post contains affiliate links

The Busy Hands tactile fidget is a tactile strip with four different patterns and materials set next to each other in a horizontal row.  There is velcro attached to the back, so you can stick it to the underneath of a desk or a table if that is convenient.

My Fidgety Kindergarten Case

“Danny” was a 5-year-old boy who presented with all the classic symptoms of ADHD.  He was inattentive, impulsive, and had a constant need to be moving.  I worked very closely with the special education teacher in his co-teaching kindergarten classroom to make sure that Danny’s environment was set up so that he could learn.  We tried a Seat Cushion for him, which helped him stay seated for longer periods of time. Then we added TheraBand to the legs of his chair, so he could kick while sitting at his Kindergarten work table.  We gave him a weighted vest to wear during circle time, which he loved.  So we had most of our bases covered.

Except for his hands.

 Those fingers would seek out anything they could during lessons, resulting in untied shoelaces, tiny crayon wrappers all over the desk, you name it.  I decided to try out the Busy Fingers from Fiddle focus.  We had already tried Velcro under the table as a tactile fidget.  The problem was that he kept peeling it off.  Simply rubbing the Velcro wasn’t enough.

busy fingers

The Busy Fingers tactile strip turned out to be perfect.  It comes with a velcro strip, so we stuck it to the underneath of his kindergarten table right at his seat.  Now it was out of view, which didn’t make all the other kids ask about it.

But, when he got up to go sit on the rug, he was able to peel it off and take it with him.  This way, his fingers were busy while the teacher taught her lesson of the day.  Now, with the vest, the cushion, and the Busy Fingers, we had the tools we needed to help Danny focus.  On a side note, Danny’s mom was on board with us trying all this stuff.  He was just as inattentive and fidgety at home.

busy fingers fidget

Danny’s special ed teacher told me that Danny was doing great with the Busy Fingers.  She said  “he’s playing with it while the teacher is teaching but he hears everything she says.   It’s under the table so the other kids aren’t distracted, but he loves to reach for it in between lessons”. Sometimes it’s hard to understand that a child can still hear everything you say even if they aren’t looking at you.  But the same is true for us.  How often do we watch TV, read a book and have a conversation with someone at the same time? Not everyone’s brains are wired to concentrate on one thing at a time. That’s okay. As long as you get done what needs to get done, it’s all good.

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Products for your Fidgety Kid:

*These are affiliate links

fidget pencils

 What is your favorite fidget?  Please share!
miss jaime ot
~Miss Jaime, O.T.
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Dollar store fidgets

10 Simple Fidgets from the Dollar $tore

Wiggly Kids Need Fidgets to Learn  

In the “olden days”,  kids were expected to sit still and listen. When they didn’t, they were in big trouble.  Nowadays, teachers and parents understand that kids need to move in order to learn.  Children who have special needs may have particular difficulty listening or maintaining attention to topic for what educators consider “appropriate” periods of time.   Thankfully, fidgets have become more and more commonplace in the classroom. Teachers have changed their classroom routines to include movement breaks and “brain breaks” so kids can get their “wiggles out”.  But when it’s time to sit and listen, nothing beats a fidget for keeping busy hands still.

 Simple Fidgets from the Dollar $tore

Teachers (and O.T.’s) spend a ton of their own money every year to make sure their kids have everything they need to learn.   As  one of those “teachers” AND a total Bargain-Hunter, I spend a lot of time at the Dollar store.  I’m teaching a class for teachers in a few days about sensory processing and I want to drive home the importance of letting kids fidget.  So I decided to start the class by giving each teacher (aka student in my class) a fidget to play with during the lecture part of my class.   I decided to share my favorite budget fidgets on my blog to help other teachers as well as all the parents of those wiggly kids.

 

 

Fidgets keep wiggly hands busy.  So the kids aren’t looking at you when you talk, Who cares!?  They know what you look like.  And very often, they can still answer your question.   So why not give them something to fidget with?

Ok, so here goes: Miss Jaime, O.T.’s Top Ten Dollar $tore Fidgets

1)  Bubble  Wrap– The best fidgets are silent, but there is really something so satisfying about the “POP” of bubble wrap.  It also works on the “pincer” grip that OT’s are always looking for.  It works on hand strength, too.  A word of caution, kids with weak hand strength have difficulty  popping the bubbles. So they tend to “sneak” a pop by using their nails to cut the bubble. Not on my watch – oh no you don’t.  Pads of the fingers only, kiddies!

2) Car Wash Mitt – this is a weird one, but if you look past the name on the label- it’s a perfect simple fidget.  the soft material just begs for fingers to play and rub and the little nubs are the perfect size for little hands.  If you wanted to take it a step further, you could open it and put some rice or beans in there.  Then it’s not only tactile, but a weighted fidget, too.

3) Microfiber Hand Towels – the ones I found at the Dollar Tree by me (in the Baby section)  have these cute little character faces on the ends.  Just one could be a nice quiet fidget.  Or you could sew two together and make a weighted lap pad.

microfibertowels

These little towels are soft with a little face for fingers to play with.

4)  Cold Compresses – Again, in the baby section.  Most people wouldn’t think of these as a fidget, but why not?  They are filled with little gel balls that are fun to squish around, and they are Quiet!

cold compresses, sensory, fidgets

These are meant for bumps and bruises, but why not as a fidget? Both squishy and quiet, they make a perfect fidget.

 

5)  Pop beads– in the Kiddie toy or “goody bag” section – there are usually  pop beads available.  Now, I can’t pretend that Dollar Store Pop beads are as good as really good pop beads from a therapy catalog.  BUT – sometimes budget pop-beads do the job.  They are quiet. Plus, they work on eye-hand coordination and bilateral coordination.

popbeads, fidgets

Popbeads are great for keeping two hands busy.

6)  Stretchy animals – Again – in the toy section or maybe the goody bag section, there are usually lots of yucky stretchy worms, spiders, frogs, etc.  They tend to be seasonal.  But they are always there.  They are quiet and small enough to fit in a pocket for silent fidgeting.

stretchy bugs, fidgets

Stretchy bugs change every season, but they are always at the dollar store!

7) Silly Putty – Silly putty is almost always available at the dollar store and it’s a great simple fidget.  It’s quiet and so satisfying to stretch and roll in between fingers.  It fits in the little “egg” to keep it nice and clean in the child’s supply box.

8) Loofah – My favorite part about being an OT is that I am able to look at things further than seeing what they are usually used for.  Everyone knows a loofah is great in the tub, but why not in the classroom?   They are quiet, they are fun to fiddle with.  Sometimes they have little animal heads on them, which makes it seem more like a toy and less like a hygiene tool.  But either way, they are great for busy fingers.

9) Tiny Koosh balls –  I like these because they fit right in a little palm or a little pocket.  They are quiet, and they are usually colorful. The tiny spikes feel good when you roll them in your hand or against a desk.  My Dollar Store usually has them in the goody  bag  section.  They usually come ten in a bag, so ten fidgets for a dollar, which makes a budget diva like myself very happy!

10) Large Squishy balls – these are usually in the toy section.  They come in fun loud colors and are sooo fun to squish, stretch, and smash.  I do like these fidgets, but I find that they are a little more distracting than the little ones.  They don’t fit in a pocket, either.

 

A lot of teachers who aren’t used to giving out or allowing fidgets will say to me “how do I explain to the other kids that only Johnny is allowed to have this toy”?  I like to tell kids that every student is different and they all need different tools to learn.  One child might need a special cushion seat and another might need special crayons. Everyone is different and just because one child has something doesn’t mean you all need it.   I love the book “Arnie and his School Tools” for this reason. It basically explains this to the kids in a cute story about Arnie, a very fidgety kid!

Arnie and His School Tools: Simple Sensory Solutions That Build Success

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Products you should check out for your Sensory Kid! (affiliate links)

 

FIDGIPOD HAND FIDGET Set of 3! Tangle Fidget Toy Pencil Tops Fidget

 

 

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