Monthly Archives: June 2012

Helping Others is a Good Life Lesson

Yesterday I dragged my son with me on some errands. It’s summer and, well, he needed to get out of the house. And I needed a helper. Our first stop was the local food bank. We had a few bags of donations and I asked him to handle it. When he got back in the car, he said, “It makes me feel good about what I just did. We helped about 25 people, didn’t we?” <Proud mom moment.> So we took a few minutes to discuss his public service and gesture of kindness.

Our next stop was the recycling center. We had lots of cans and plastic bottles. We got our receipts redeemable for cash, and went back to our car. In that time, two older guys on bicycles came up carrying big bags of the bottles they had scavenged. I asked my son who he thought needed the $6.75 more—us or the men on the bikes. “Well, I could buy some Legos with it.” An honest statement from my guy. “Yes, true,” I said. “But I said need. Who’s more in need?” OK, he got it. So I said I’d give my receipt to the tall guy and he could give his receipt to the other one. The next question was interesting: “Do you do that every time, mom?” I said that it depends on a lot of factors and you just have to be aware of what’s going on and what feels right. This is tough for individuals with ASDs—they want a hard and fast rule. But there is none.

From there we went to the market and at the checkout stand, there was no one helping the cashier bag our items. So my dear son piped up, “Do you need some help?” as he proceeded to load the bags into our cart. <Another proud mom moment.>

When we got to the car, he said, “Did you see what I did? I was aware and saw that she needed some help.” So for the drive home we reviewed all the ways he was kind, responsible, caring—and aware.

It’s important to me that my son be familiar with the feelings and actions involved with helping others. It takes us out of ourselves and just makes us better humans. I know he’s getting the hang of it. My helper is learning to help others.

When you help someone else, you also help yourself! It’s never too early or too late to learn to help others.

There’s a lot we need to teach our kids who are on the autism spectrum. We need to teach them how to play, how to interact with others and yes, how to help others. But once they learn it—and receive positive feedback and support—they will continue because that positive input is motivating.

TIP: Acceptance with expectations

June 26, 2012


One thing I know for certain — always accept what your kids do, then expect a little more. What a great habit to get into from the start. Acceptance with expectations. I know it has served us well.

Expectations are Opportunities.

Ideas for a Summer Project

For most kids, school is out for the summer! Yay! Put their leisure time to good use by agreeing on an independent living skill to master and work on it all summer.

Back when my son had just completed 4th grade, we practiced going to the market and buying groceries all summer. By the time he started 5th grade, he could walk into any grocery store on his own and pick up a few items for his mom who didn’t want to get out of the car [that was my excuse anyway]. Our local market had a self-check aisle which was perfect for him. We did lots of rehearsing, with me shadowing, then he’d shop and pretend I wasn’t there [but I was].

Independent Shopper!

Independent Shopper!

His “final exam” was when I actually remained in the car and he went into the store with a list of a few items and some cash. I remember he came out once to tell me that the kind of applesauce we always buy wasn’t available, and he was unsure of what to substitute. But we discussed it and he went back in to complete his mission. [Lucky for him and me that he didn’t walk out of the store carrying the other items, or we’d have a totally different subject to talk about here!]

Anyway, summer is a great time to hone your child’s skills in a variety of areas. Remember to take baby steps—three to five steps at a time. Here are a few ideas:

  • Laundry [HINT: The easiest one to start with is washing, drying & folding towels.]

    Folding Towels is an Easy Skill to Master.

    Folding Towels is an Easy Skill to Master. Parents must be willing to give up expectations for “hotel-style” folding — at least for a while.

  • Operate the washer & dryer
  • Sort clothes
  • Be familiar with detergents, fabric softeners, stain removers and bleach
  • Select the correct water temperature for different fabrics
  • Select the correct drying cycle
  • Clean the lint screen after each use
  • Fold clothes and put them away


  • Wake up on his own in the morning
  • Set and use an alarm clock
Alarm Clock

An important step to self-reliance!


  • Know how to exit apartment/home in event of an emergency
  • Know when and how to call for emergency services
  • Know when to call 911—and when not to
  • Know how to lock and secure all doors and windows
  • Know basic first aid skills or how to get added assistance when needed

Cooking        [teach him to prepare two dishes for each meal]


Another crucial step in teaching your child self-reliance.

With patience, understanding and a whole lotta practice, you and your child will have a productive project for the summer that will result in an important life skill by September.

Have fun with it and good luck!

TIP: Dealing with Disrupted Plans

June 22, 2012


Autism Resource Mom has had her ARMs wrapped around some personal business over the last few weeks. But she’s back now and rarin’ to go. Sorry for any inconvenience caused during her absence.

Dealing with Disrupted Plans

We’ve all had to be flexible. No matter how hard we try to prepare every last detail, there are things out of our control that can upset our arrangement. What do we do then? You or your child is ready to lose it. How do we “talk them down”?


Disruptions are hiccups in our daily lives.

One approach that has worked for us is what I call the Delayed-Reaction Plan: Let’s say, for example, that we were traveling and missed our connecting flight. Trust me, I know this doesn’t go over big with our kids. Been there, done that. But I offer this explanation to my panicked son:

          We were going to wait 15 minutes and then board the plane to go home. We will still do that, it’ll just be a bit later. Now, we have some extra time, so we’ll go have dinner, walk around, visit the restrooms and then we’ll come back to this gate, wait 15 minutes and board the plane to go home. It’s important to show that the same procedure will occur, but a few steps have been added in between; there’s a delayed reaction.

And when your child learns to go along with this, heap on the praise for his flexibility! We really lucked out a few years ago when this happened to us. We had to be put up for the night in a hotel, which was unsettling for our son because he hadn’t figured on it. Anyway, he was tolerating the change. When we finally boarded our plane the next morning, he spotted his favorite villain from James Bond films on board – actor Robert Davi. He could hardly stay in his seat the whole flight from Newark to L.A. At baggage claim he was jumping out of his skin—but he wouldn’t dare go speak to him, so I went over to the movie tough guy and told him my son was a fan. “Where is he?” he asked. I explained that he’s quite shy and he said, “So am I. Where’s your son?” I motioned to my shy one to come over and he did! They shook hands, exchanged a few shy words, posed for a few photos and, well, it made his day.

What did my son take away from that whole experience? “I’m so glad we missed our connection!” I know we got lucky. Wishing you missed connections and fun successes like ours!

What Is Your Child’s Special Skill?

When my boy was young — way before he could speak — he loved jigsaw puzzles.

My son's preference: the "gray" picture.

My son’s preference: the “gray” picture.

And he was fun to watch. I don’t think I ever saw him build the border first. [Guess that’s for beginners like me and his grandmother.] Sometimes he’d assemble them piece by piece, horizontally; other times vertically. But the day I saw him put it together with the picture face down, I was stunned.

My son’s preference: the gray “picture”

What is your child’s talent/ability? Please share it with us. These positive stories  are important to have on hand when the day has been particularly tough.

Your Child & Law Enforcement

June 11, 2012

Police officers maintain law and order in our society. That’s a very simplistic job description, because they face life and death dangers every time they answer a distress call. But for the purposes of this article, let’s keep it simple.

To make sure that there’s open communication between our local police force and my son, I’ve been teaching him some basics which I think will be helpful for any child who may have communication issues. Of course I hope my son doesn’t have any run-ins with the law, but if he does, he needs to be prepared.

Respect law enforcement

Respect law enforcement

If you are stopped by the police:

  1. Show your hands at all times.
    • If driving and you’re pulled over by the police, keep your hands on the steering wheel.
    • If you’re standing, keep your hands out of your pockets and at your side.
    • Don’t grab your wallet, your phone or anything else – unless directed to do so.
  2. Do not touch the policeman’s gun, knife, baton, tazer, radio, badge, hat – anything. Do not reach for it. Do not ask about it. Save your love for weaponry and electronics for another time and place. And keep your hands to yourself.
  3. Respect the personal space of the police officer. Stand an arm’s length away. He may invade your personal space, but you cannot invade his.
  4. Don’t get out of your car until asked to do so.
  5. Don’t sass. Don’t joke. Don’t ask questions. Don’t speak unless you are asked to.
  6. Follow the instructions of the law enforcement personnel.
  7. Never answer questions at a police station without having an attorney present. Often individuals with Asperger’s will say things they never meant to say, or their literal interpretation will wrongfully incriminate them. [Remember the scene from HBO’s TEMPLE GRANDIN movie where she was questioned by college authorities about her squeeze box? She was interpreting the questions literally, which got her into trouble.]
  8. Know when to call 911.

If you have any pointers to add to this list, please comment below. We’d love to hear your input!

Let’s Educate Law Enforcement About Our Kids!

As the mom of a 6-foot tall, 15-year-old boy with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, this scares me. Even though the teen in this article was wearing medic alert bracelets — to his credit — I still don’t understand this aggressive treatment. For any kid, not to mention one with autism and epilepsy.

We, as parents, need to inform and educate law enforcement. On an ongoing basis. I have complete respect for law enforcement, but I also know that their behavior in this case only exacerbated the issue.

One way to be proactive is to visit your local police dept. with your child/teen/young adult who has autism. Make the police aware of your child, and vice versa. Advocacy on our part as parents might help avoid these unfortunate events.

TIP: Be Prepared for September

June 5, 2012


Be Prepared for September!

Before this school year comes to a close, be sure to get your back-to-school IEP calendared; aim for around the third week of school. At that time you can review problem areas, successes, etc., and it’s early enough to make any needed adjustments.