Autism: 5 Tips to Your Child’s Healthy Diet

Going on a diet takes a lot of will power and determination. This is even more so when a child has autism. Picky-eating, digestive problems and allergies are just three of the most common problems faced by parents of kids with autism. Repetition is a common element in autism and kids who have it can certainly live off their whole lives eating potato wedges and chicken nuggets, or spaghetti and meatballs, and so on. It does not really matter if a child prefers a certain food that is jam-packed with nutritional value. What matters is when a child favors unhealthy food. It is entirely possible, however, to wean him or her from such unhealthy diet. To jumpstart your quest, here are some useful tips that I have done with my son, John, when he was but a tot. I had highlighted this on my book, Living Autism Day by Day.

1. As much as possible, always involve experts in your first foray to creating a healthy diet for your child who has autism. A registered dietician and an occupational therapist are good options for you to reach out to when trying to address a child’s food aversion or feeding disorder. This should be the first step to tackle as children with autism often suffer from serious gut issues. Having your child checked before undergoing any diet regimen will ensure his or her safety.

2. When introducing new food, do it gently and gradually. Autistic children have specific wants and they thrive on repetition. A carrot is a carrot not a carrot cake. Work around this dilemma by slowly introducing new food in small doses along with his favored food. Putting a colorful vegetable side dish on his favorite Salisbury steak can prove to be disastrous. Integrate small pieces of carrot and potato on the steak itself, in a small amount, will do the trick. The idea is to slowly make him get used to the taste and texture of the new food. This can be challenging but doable.

3. A gluten-free and casein-free diet has been growing in popularity. The premise of this diet is to eliminate certain food groups that aggravate the symptoms. Though proven effective, this can be taxing. The key here is not to abruptly alter your child’s diet regimen. Yes, it will take a lot of pain when it comes to this. Doable, yes but the perspective must be for long term use and not just for a week or two. There are stores and pastry shops nowadays that sell GF-CF food items and if you have one in your area, slowly introduce this to your child. If not, make sure you have plenty of time to work in your kitchen as this requires dedication and focus.

4. Infusing healthy liquids to your child’s diet will prove to be an amazing move. Try juicing apples, oranges, berries, pineapples or whatever fruit your child prefers. Instead of commercial juices, this one is packed with vitamins and minerals for your child’s growth. Invest in a good working juicer for this.

5. Most kids with autism are known to have gut issues. Adding yogurt or any probiotics to his diet will make his meal more enjoyable and his gut more stabilized. Most kids love this food item and infusing these to your child’s regimen will help compensate minerals and nutrients he loses out somewhere else.

Photo Credits: http://homeremedieslog.com/health-topics/mental-health/autism/diet-2/
Photo Credits: http://homeremedieslog.com/health-topics/mental-health/autism/diet-2/

To make a meal enjoyable, one might consider setting an example for a child with autism. These kids, whether high or low functioning, are very perceptive of their environment. Eating along with your child will prove to be the best course of action.

Photo Credits: http://sunfieldcenter.com/picky-eating-and-tummy-troubles-how-to-improve-mealtime-for-your-child/

First Day High: 10 Helpful Tips To Prepare Your Child With Autism For School

With the school opening looming up ahead, the idea of transitioning your child with autism can prove to be daunting. Starting school can be a difficult time even for normal kids, more so with a child who has limited cognitive, social, and other developmental skills. Like normal kids, children on the spectrum also feel the same excitement and anxiety. This change can be difficult for them— the scenery, the people, their responsibility as students, co-existing with others, and so on. This often leads to sudden (and somehow negative) changes in behavior.

By now, you must have already looked into a number of schools in your area and have found the right one for your child. To gear your child for the so-called “first day high,” try looking into these helpful tips and see if any of these can work with his or her level of ASD.

1. Try creating a social story to go along with the preparation. Pictures and video presentation prove to be effective channels to show them what school is like, how to go with the usual morning/afternoon routine, and other school activities.

2. Create creatively the list of daily activities he or she will have to take from waking up to brushing, walking/riding to school, entering the classroom, and so on.  If possible, try to ask the school administration if it is okay for you and your child to look around.

3. Prepare a calendar complete with pictures. Indicate lunch with the picture of the school cafeteria or toilet time with the comfort room or playtime with a picture of the school playground with children playing.

4. Before school officially starts, ask if it is okay for your child to meet his or her new teacher. Let the teacher and the school’s guidance counselor know about certain “obsessions” that your child may have. Often, visiting school ahead of time and meeting the people he or she will encounter head-on can ease their way into transition.

5. Communicate, communicate. Whatever your child’s ASD level, it is imperative that you ask about what he or she feels. Engage him or her in the whole process. His or her feelings should come first and foremost on this journey. Make him or her feel secured and assured, that school is a safe haven. Instill happy thoughts in meeting new friends. He or she may be socially challenged, but this does not negate the thought of feeling the same level of excitement in meeting new acquaintances.

6. Reassure your child that school is his or her second home. While “Mommy” or “Daddy” help resolves problems for him at home, he or she now has an extra set of helping hands with “teacher” (be specific with the name of the teacher to make him familiar) around.

7. Try to check if there are kids in the neighborhood who will be going on the same classes with your child. Sometimes, letting them connect to others before school starts can greatly eliminate unforeseen circumstances during transition.

8. Make sure to find out what after-school activities can your child join. Some sports activities are excellent activities for children with ASDs.

9. Include your child’s therapist on this process. It is imperative that you are fully guided on every endeavor you pursue to ensure zero meltdown.

10. Be extra attentive. Some kids on the spectrum have a hard time coping with these sudden changes. Make sure to prioritize your child’s welfare before anything else.

Each child with Autism Spectrum Disorder has a different way of dealing with changes in their environment. These tips may prove to be effective to others but, in everything else, you alone know what works best for him or her.

 

AUTISM & WANDERING – Ways to Evade Tragic Circumstances

It is a known fact that nearly half of children with autism will wander from safe environments. May it be in school, at home or in a day care center, the issue of wandering or elopement always generates a deep level of fear among parents, caregivers, teachers and anyone directly involved with them. One common denominator among wandering cases is that most of these kids are considered nonverbal. They can slip through a crowd unnoticed. This makes the ordeal even more frightening as these kids often do not sense danger.

Likely Causes of Wandering

Children with autism go missing under a variety of situations and circumstances. Some seek places familiar to them or places that pique their curiosity. Places of special interest are bodies of water, a park, and a secluded or enclosed space. Kids on the spectrum may try escaping from overwhelming stimuli such as loud sounds, unusual sights, unfamiliar surroundings, and rowdy activities with other children involved. Sometimes, it can also be triggered with a disruption in their usual routine. There are a thousand and one reasons why these kids wander. As parents and guardians, it is imperative that we find ways to guarantee their safety.

Life-Saving Tips for Parents and Guardians

It is important to assume that your child can go missing. You need to accept the fact that whether you are in the comfort of your own homes or he may be in a seemingly secured school ground, the probability of an autistic child wandering is always there. Your first course of action, however, should be to identify certain risks for your child. Does he or she have a particular interest like a pool or a lake? Does he love vehicles? Do fire trucks and trains make him excited? Bodies of water like lakes, rivers, swimming holes, waterfalls, and so on can easily caught the attention of children as well as teens on the spectrum. As a parent or guardian, you often have first-hand information on certain “risks” that could draw out your child. Identify certain areas in your community particularly those nearest to the places where he is always billeted. This is of utmost importance especially when moving to a new neighborhood where everything can be interesting and trigger overstimulation of his sensory perception.

Inform and Engage

Create an information drive starting from your closest circle of family members, relatives, friends, teachers, and caregivers. Make sure that these people are alerted on your child’s potential interests and attractions. Sharing this knowledge to the people directly involved in his or her activities can be of great help in identifying places and spaces proven to be hazardous to their well-being. In most cases, this will also prove to be the most effective in search and recovery situations.

Reach out to the local law enforcement agency. Ask if they have any program that helps track a child with autism in case of a wandering or elopement incident. Some communities also offer programs concerning safety of children and teens on the spectrum. In some cases, the local law enforcement or a community provides a GPS tracker. Buying one from radio shack or any electronic retailer near you can also be of big help. Charm bracelets or any “wearables” for your child where you can place an identification badge complete with your contact details is also important. Place one also on his or her backpack or pocket for easy identification should they go out and about. Dead-bolts, inside digi-locks, and placing a STOP sign on the inside of your doorways can also help prevent kids with autism from wandering outside your home. If allowed, getting your child a service dog can also prove to be helpful. Be wary of allergies and underlying health conditions though.

In everything else, try putting yourself in your child’s shoes. What you consider the sneakiest idea might have also crossed his or her mind. Fill in the gaps before it happens—and the time is now!

Autism & Wandering – Tips for Community Members

Wandering or elopement is common in individuals with autism. This is more prevalent in non-verbal kids. If you happen to live in a community where autism is present, it is imperative to know precautionary measures should you come across a wandering individual with autism. Unlike atypical kids and teens (or even adults), individuals with autism who wanders are often nonverbal making the ordeal even more challenging. Here are some important tips should you come across one:

  • If you live in a closely-knit community, identify individuals particularly children who have autism. A local autism group often has awareness campaign in the area. You do not have to make yourself a member but, the least you can offer is a considerate and concerned heart.
  • Be reminded that an individual on the spectrum can be resilient and tenacious. They can walk for miles and miles without a care for any impending danger. If you notice a child or teen walking alone, may it be in a secluded place or in a busy street, try asking where he or she is going. If you are disregarded as if nonexistent, try to get someone else’s attention.
  • Your smartphone is a significant tool in helping out. If you come across an individual with autism wandering, take a picture to easily give the law enforcement agency a visual. This will prove to be a great help when looking for missing persons. Instead of blabbering about physical description and outfit worn, you can simply show the picture for the parents or guardians to identify with.
  • Individuals with autism who wander are often non-verbal and non-responsive when being called. They also fear close contact with people they are not familiar with. They can either run or bolt from uncomfortable situations.
  • Talking to others can scare them, too. No matter how dangerous the situation, they can easily bolt to evade you. Be gentle when asking and avoid physical contact at first. Keep him or her in your line of sight.
  • Try to gain their trust first by introducing yourself and then, asking his or her whereabouts. The words “I am here to help you” might do the trick.
  • Again, your phone will prove to be a great help in wandering situations. Whether a child is with autism or not, when alone, it is imperative that you report it immediately to a law enforcement agency. Wait with the child or do not lose the child out of your sight while waiting for the help to arrive.

It takes a lot of courage and compassion not to walk away and ignore warning signs from individuals we meet on the streets. Even more so when we are busy tinkering with our own lives. However, as community members, it is our obligation to at least manifest a sense of concern especially to children with autism. We can divest tragic circumstances from occurring should we at least reach out a helping hand in trying times like this.