“Take-Home Toolkit” for Positive Relationships for those with Autism (Continued)

3.  Communicate for communities sake: Help to carefully bridge relationships between peers and those with autism.  This is an intuitive process, so be careful of boundaries.  Try hooking up with a “peer coach.” Reach into who they truly are and help to pull them out.  Get them to volunteer, sign up for an acting class or try to find others who have something in common.  By building, nourishing and enhancing young relationships with peers, employers, family and community, the fabric of humanity is enhanced.


After I got Jonny and Stephen in football it was difficult at first because Jonny was not accepted.  He was seen as someone who was different.  At the first parent meeting, Coach Dave said “when the boys are on the field they are mine, when they go home they go back to you parents.  Please respect this rule and the kids will learn respect and discipline.”  I worked with the Coach to help Jonny fit in, of course the coach talked and modeled a lot about acceptance, because he too was in a wheelchair.  He treated everyone the same and expected the best from everyone.  One time Dave, told Jonny to do push ups.  Jonny ran over to me on the sidelines crying because he didn’t want to do push ups.  I told him, at the disapproval of the staring parents around me, to do what the coach said.  This one thing changed Jonny for life! When Jonny began his practice he was running behind all the team players as they ran their laps.  As the year went on, something happened that caused the team to bond and embrace Jonny for who he was as well as his strengths.  He was really a good blocker, because since he always did the same thing over and over again.  The team began running behind Jonny, so that he would be first in line when they ran laps.  By the end of the season, the whole team celebrated Jonny at the final pizza party, giving him a great big “hoorah”!

“Take-Home Toolkit” for Positive Relationships for those with Autism, Continued


2. Enhance empathy: Tune into empathy, not sympathy.  Try to put yourself in their shoes and imagine what they may be thinking or feeling, especially since they have difficulties understanding, expressing and showing emotions which can be confusing.

Try to get a clear understanding of what visual and motor skills our kids have to be able to read.  Pat, my co-author of this chapter is going to hand out overlays so you can feel the difference a color could make for a child on a piece of paper. Most people with autism are extremely sensitive – actually hypersensitive. Color is no exception. By printing papers on toned paper for a school project or whatever can make a huge difference! And different colors can affect different people differently.

Enhancing Empathy can also mean engaging empathy by doing activities together. You can get a real feel for what they like or don’t like and participate in the activities you find most comforting to them. Strangely enough, they may be the most comforting to you as well!

It’s not always important to talk, talk talk all the time and try to get inside their head. Sometimes something as simple as sitting down with some nice colored pencils and markers and scribbling with them at a table in silence can foster a world of closeness. Communication is more than just words (especially for some people with autism).

Another empathetic activity might be going to an empty community hall or large room where you can play music and swirl around together! Be careful of the music. Different types of music affects people differently – sometimes even Classical music can affect someone with autism adversely (I know that may be hard to understand).

Just remember, as much as it may seem to you sometimes that some people with autism don’t always express their feelings, desires, likes and dislikes, it doesn’t mean they don’t have them – they just don’t know how to express them! And above all,  look for the gifts, praise and nurture them within your loved ones.

…to be Continued…

Seeking Creative Website Developer on Autism Spectrum

There is a brand new, special animated series for children, parents and teachers currently being pitched to major television.  They are seeking creative website developer on the autism spectrum that can carry their concept all the way from script to screen.  Please email:  karenss@shaw.ca if you are a person on the spectrum that thinks this is a fit.

“Take-Home Toolkit” for Positive Relationships for those with Autism

1. “Get” the label: We need to get past the label drama by offering a way to help people better understand what’s going on and ultimately support differences, not discriminate against them.  It’s not the label of autism that’s the problem, rather, the fear of the unknown and preconceived notions we associate with the label.  We must understand the challenges facing autism, which are first communication and sensory challenges which result in social skill deficits and behavioral challenges.

For example, because people on the spectrum can be very literal, don’t take what they say personally, as I described in the story about Jonny’s teacher, Mrs. Spaulding. Also, remember to watch out for areas on concern for example, bright lights, loud sounds and possibly uncomfortable clothing as it may cause discomfort leading to poor social and communication skills which affect relationships.  Understand their lack of ability to process and express themselves.  It’s not that they don’t feel; they just have trouble expressing themselves.

When my son was young, I used to get very hurt because he wouldn’t hug me goodbye when he went off to school.  I didn’t think he had feelings or cared about me.  One day right after he learned how to ride his bike he was darting down the street faster than a speeding bullet across a busy road, without even stopping to see if any cars were coming.  He had no fear of anything!  I ran up to him screaming at the top of my lungs “Jonny, what on earth are you doing?  You could have been killed!”  He came over to me with great big tears streaming down his cheeks.  “You hurt my feelings he said” What?  Up until then I never realized he really had feelings, or that he even knew what they were!  Never underestimate what is going on inside their minds and their hearts.  They feel a lot more than we give them credit for.  It’s up to each of us to find out how they express themselves and enjoy the differences.

Not long after that incident, a little boy in the first grade was killed in a tragic accident.  I hadn’t realized that Jonny thought he was very close to Michael, and that Michael was his best friend.  Because Jonny loved video games and wasn’t really in touch with reality he said “I wish I had another life, so I could give it to Michael and bring him back”.  Sometimes relationships to us aren’t necessarily the same to those on the spectrum.  It doesn’t mean we have to fit them into our mold; rather we need to understand that this is okay.

To be continued…

What Led to the Birth of Chicken Soup

“Chicken Soup for the Soul, Children with Special Needs” is all about the relationships parents and caregivers have with special needs children. I first approached Mark Victor Hansen in 2001 to create this book, because by now, I had heard so many heartwarming, loving, emotional and “chicken-soup able” stories from many mothers and felt it would help raise awareness for everyone. Back then I created my own type of Chicken Soup book “The Autism Experience, Stories of Hope and Love”, which was a great success.

Before I had special needs children I didn’t have a clue what the special needs world was all about, now I see it everywhere. It’s kind of like having a brown car.  If you have a brown car you start seeing other brown cars, but probably not until you have your own.  At the time I suggested the book to Mark, I was met with reluctance by Marks publishing group but finally I convinced Mark Victor Hansen and their head office to publish this much needed book.  During the submission process we collected well over 5,000 stories, a first for Chicken Soup, and stories continue to roll in.  That speaks volumes about this book!  I know it will raise awareness, while helping others understand from the inside out what it might be like to live in the special needs world.

Being Your Own Best Advocate for those with Autism!

Recognizing the early signs of autism is not always a mystery, but learning about the right types of foods, therapies and interventions can sometimes be obscure and elusive. Helping facilitate the success of an autistic child can be challenging without the right tools. Planning for a child’s future, having resources at your fingertips and knowing what steps to take is my best advice to you. By being your own best advocate for those with autism, you can stay up to date on the latest biomedical and educational interventions. And, by keeping with current intervention methodologies and having the resources needed for recovery, you can help those you love achieve a better quality of life.

If you know someone you suspect has autism or you have a child you suspect has autism, I would  encourage you to seek early intervention. Intervention at the earliest diagnosis of autism has already helped thousands of children world-wide and continues to do so. Many have found presentations of renowned autism authorities to be very helpful.

For Children with Autism and Language Delays

There are proven, effective ways to help children learn the art of dialogue. Conversation takes place between two people. Children can and do learn to stay on topic while they converse with adults and peers when equipped with the right tools. Learning to respond appropriately and spontaneously to questions first and then learning to initiate questions has been very effective. Simple, easy-to-understand methods have been proven to be most successful. Keeping subjects fresh and interesting helps children stay on task with learning the art of conversation. You never know when a child will want to start the initiative of learning the art of conversation, which it’s why it’s important to always be prepared.

Read more about EASY WAYS to teach language, concepts and comprehension.

Teaching Children with Autism, Aspergers, PDD-NOS

Teaching children who have autism, aspergers, PDD-NOS, and speech & language delays can be a challenge, to say the least. What seems like common knowledge to most, is baffling to others. Pictures with questions and answers have proven to be powerful tools for teaching children this so called common knowledge.

Where, why, when, what, which can be so frustrating for parents and caregivers, one would almost want to ask “why me” to themselves! Frustration is not going to help children learn this valuable knowledge. I have been amazed hearing what parents are saying as their child begins to answer questions by themselves about all the things we do at home all the time.

Click for Details:

Autism Teaching Tools

The Birth of the Official Autism 101 Manual

Navigating through the hospital, education and community relationships was difficult to say the least.  I learned to always ask questions.  Access to school systems and understanding the process, as a mother of a child with autism and five other children was challenging.  I found it very difficult to understand autism, let alone discover all the options available to parents to help them along the path.  I would try new and innovative tools, though the doctors warned me that the studies weren’t complete yet and I was taking a my chances.  I figured that Jonny would be grown by the time the studies were finished, so I tried them anyway.

One such intervention was the DAVID machine, which is piece of equipment that has light and tones and changes your brainwaves.  During the 6 week period we monitored his use, his eye contact improved, he became more social, less echolaliac and his communication improved.  I then began to think of a way other parents and professionals could access similar information, offering a wide variety of choices so they could make more informed decisions about the treatment for their children.  I didn’t leave any rock unturned.  This led to the development of “The Official Autism 101 Manual” with 44 top experts, caregivers and parents which won the Independent Publishers Book Gold Medal in New York this month!

The Ultimate Resource – The Official Autism 101 Manual

Relationships are Everything! (Continued)

….“Oh”, he replied and apologized to her. I then explained to Mrs. Spaulding that Jonny had autism and sometimes he understood things quite differently than you or I and this is true whether Jonny is listening to someone read to him or when he’s actually reading something because he tends to look through or around the words or the words look distorted when he reads. He didn’t mean to hurt her; he was just not used to sitting. It was like a light bulb went off in her head and she said, “oh, you’re right, I had taught a child with autism once before. I forgot that it could look differently and I wasn’t even thinking that could be the issue here. Thank you for reminding me”
I tell you this story because I think it demonstrates how through clear and concise communication, relationships are built. Yet it’s virtually impossible to run around and explain Jonny to everyone in the hopes they will understand. But by sharing with all of you about the importance of understanding and communicating about autism, you can help me to get the message out. This is also the reason I wrote my first book, Little Rainman, to help people see autism through the eyes of a child.


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