April is Autism Awareness Month and a good time to ask ourselves if we actually know anything about autism. On March 27th, 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a study identifying 1 in 68 children (1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls) as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the USA. Wow. It is time to be aware.
Autism, also referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a complex developmental disability existing from early childhood, that affects the development of a person's social skills, communication skills and behaviour. Autism is a very broad spectrum disorder and that means no two people with autism will have exactly the same symptoms, according to Medical News Today.
People with autism have challenges with non-verbal communication, social interactions and activities that include non-direct communication, such as play, sarcasm, and banter. A person with Autism thrives from following routines and sticking to a set of behaviours. Changes in daily activities are not favourable and may be resisted. So it is important to give lots of notice and mental preparation before changing the routine.
Elaine Tan Comeau, founder and CEO of the multiple award-winning Easy Daysies, a visual scheduler for kids, is an educator and respected speaker on the topic. She offers her Top Three Strategies for Working with Children with Autism:
1. Build a Support Network for Your Child and Your Family:
Educate yourself, your family, the teachers and school, and helpful neighbours too! Studies show that when everyone is informed about Autism and how to deal with symptoms, there is more support and less stress on your child and your family, which most importantly results in the improvement on the functions of the child. It is important to have emotional support because it is especially stressful when the lack of social interaction and communication between the child and adult in every situation of the day can wear on you. Having a support network is vital. The best intervention is early intervention. Make sure your child gets the help he needs as early on as possible; don't give up!
2. Support Your Child's Daily Success By Making It Visual:
Children with autism are visual learners and communicators. Reduce verbal arguments and frustrations by making it visual! Use visual supports. Visual supports are beneficial well into adulthood. Event transitions are smoother and anxiety is lessened. Use visual supports to create life-skills for scheduling, organization, and self-management. Visual supports may be a help throughout their lifetime and alleviate a great amount of stress. Visual schedules can help children and students prepare for the day and understand expectations. It is essential to follow the routine they are given. If there is a change in the routine, prepare them for that change well before it is going to happen. This preparation is important to decrease anxiety in anticipation of the change. Use literal and direct instructions. “First, put your shoes in the closet, and then come to the kitchen.” If the child does not complete the task correctly, he or she may just not have understood what was being asked of them. Simply rephrase the instruction and provide a visual aid. Remember to keep away from using sarcasm, banter and idiomatic phrases.
3. Secure Calmness and Clarity At the Right Time:
Careful communication is needed. Use a calm tone of voice, especially during a behavioral outburst. In order to de-escalate behavior, your tone and behaviour is what will be mirrored. As soon as anxiety sets in the child's ability to process information is diminished and sensory issues are heightened. Know what causes anxiety for that child and be familiar of the signs of anxiety or stress: pacing, hand-wringing, flushed face, or repetition of a phrase. Teach the child alternative ways of responding when they are calm and not when they are in a tantrum because they cannot hear you or understand at that moment. When they are calm discuss strategies that they can use to help calm themselves down during stressful moments.
The bottom line is, don't focus on the autism but focus on the strengths and successes of the amazing person who happens to have autism. Being informed is the first step to understanding, acceptance and assistance. To read her full blog or to learn more about Elaine please visit: www.easydaysies.com
To schedule an interview or interactive segment with Elaine, please contact:
About Elaine Tan Comeau
Elaine Tan Comeau is an enterprising mother of three young children, a wife, and a former elementary school teacher who is the founder and CEO of the multiple award-winning Easy Daysies, a visual magnetic scheduler to help children and families with their daily routines. Elaine was awarded the 2014 Canadian Mompreneur Award of Excellence (aka Mompreneur of the Year) and has received the Chamber of Commerce Award for Excellence in Business, as well as an Award in Teaching Excellence. Her products are recommended by child psychologists, occupational therapists and educators. Easy Daysies was named one of Dragons’ Den favorite deals by Mr. Wonderful Kevin O’Leary and was chosen by Ford Company as one the 2014 Dragons' Den Driven For Success Companies that exemplified Ford's Four Pillars of Success. Elaine has been featured in the Financial Post, Maclean's Magazine, Canadian Business Magazine, Huffington Post, to name a few, all wanting to know her story about being a mom entrepreneur. Her products have been featured on CBC, CTV, ABC, Breakfast Television, FOX32 News, KCAL-TV , WPIX, WISH-TV, XETV. Elaine has been published in Educational Psychology (Allyn & Bacon Canada, 2000) for her insight on teaching diversity. She has written and published several e-books (2013), and she continues to be sought after for her sell-out webinars and speaking engagements on educational strategies for both educators and parents. Elaine is a frequent speaker on educational topics, entrepreneurship, and continues to be a guest blogger for Staples Canada, Scholars Choice (Canada) and Creative Teaching Press (USA).