Sunday, October 27, 2013

Last Minute Preparation for Your #SpecialNeeds Halloween

     Halloween is almost here and if YOU haven't taken the time to prepare for your child's Trick-or-Treat experience, it's not too late to get started!! Please read and #share the guest post, Last Minute Halloween Preparation, that I wrote for Special Happens, with your friends, family and others in the #SpecialNeeds community.
     You might want to check out my previous piece, Is YOUR Special Needs Family Ready For Halloween? Thank you for following us and we always welcome any comments that anyone takes the time to leave us!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Autism and Epilepsy Awareness Month

I was delighted when Lorrie asked me to submit a guest post to Nathan's Voice. As a person with epilepsy, and a fellow blogger, I am always happy to build bridges between the autism and epilepsy communities. This topic is especially timely as November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. I hope you take a moment this month to spread the word and raise epilepsy awareness. 

Epilepsy Awareness Month 

You may be aware that epilepsy affects people with autism spectrum disorders, but you may be surprised to learn that epilepsy affects more than 65 million people worldwide and more than 2.2 Million Americans of all ages. Since November is Epilepsy Awareness Month this is a great chance to get involved and spread the word. Here are a few ways you can make a difference: 
  1. Add your event to the Epilepsy Event Calendar 
  2. Share your story of living with Autism and Epilepsy 
  3. Share a Fact Sheet 
  4. Get your own Epilepsy Awareness Gear 
  5. Support an Artist with Epilepsy 
  6. Spread the word on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumbler, Google+, and other Social Media outlets 
  7. Tell a friend 
  8. Wear purple 
If you need more ideas check out our facebook page. Readers are submitting comments on what they are doing to raise awareness during epilepsy awareness month. The suggestions range from paint your nails purple to go to Disney for Epilepsy Awareness Day. Check it out and add your own.

Link between Epilepsy and Autism 

I think I might be a bit of a data geek. My first instinct with this post was to share some hard facts on epilepsy and autism. Here's what I found: 
Data from 2002 
A study using data from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, collected retrospectively from the year 2002, representing children with autism spectrum disorder showed approximately 15.5% of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders are also diagnosed with Epilepsy. This study titled, "Autism Spectrum Disorder and Co-occurring Developmental, Psychiatric, and Medical Conditions Among Children in Multiple Populations of the United States." was published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics in 2010. 
Data from 2003-2005 
As mentioned above, the CDC recognizes epilepsy as a "co-occurring condition" with autism spectrum disorders. Epilepsy, of course, is not the only co-occurring condition recognized. Utilizing data from 2003-2005, the CDC published a web article in 2012 that stated, "Among children with an ASD, about half had at least one of the three commonly co-occurring conditions: ADHD, intellectual disability, or epilepsy." 
Undetermined Data 
The Autism Speaks website notes as many as 1/3 people with Autism Spectrum Disorders are also diagnosed with Epilepsy. However, there is no reference notation to back this data up. I hope you found this quick look at epilepsy and autism helpful. Sometimes it is good to know where to go for correct information. Visit this link for more information on the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network

Take this opportunity 

I hope you take the opportunity that Epilepsy Awareness Month provides, to connect with other families affected by autism spectrum disorders and epilepsy. Clearly there is a need to build bridges between the two communities. We can support one another and share ideas on how to get the word out. 

About Jessica K. Smith 
Living Well With Epilepsy is a leading epilepsy blog that covers the full spectrum of issues faced by people living with all types of seizure disorders. We aim to inspire people living with epilepsy through a unique mix of news, personal stories, commentary, interviews, guest posts, and forums. The site was created by Philadelphia area-based writer, Jessica Keenan Smith.
Jessica brings a unique perspective, as she has lived with epilepsy for more than 25 years. She was diagnosed as a teen after having several grand mal seizures. In 2009, after more than two decades of living with epilepsy, she was ready to speak out for a cure. Jessica speaks on a variety of topics including: Navigating Social Media, Maximizing Your Child’s Strengths, Epilepsy 101: Raising Epilepsy Awareness. 

Jessica K. Smith Founder | Living Well With Epilepsy

Monday, October 21, 2013

We Have Been Given The Distinct Privilege Of Being Featured On A Wonderful Site Authored By An Absolutely Amazing Woman!

Join Nathan's Voice over at a wonderful site, that I have just become acquainted with, and that is featuring one of our posts. You will immediately fall in love with the Author, Martha Gabler, who has written a book titled Chaos to Calm: Discovering Solutions to Everyday Problems of Living with Autism!! She is the mother of a nonverbal 17 year old son and I admire her deeply. Please take a few minutes to visit my Guest Post, Autism, Behavior and Our Children, and then check out the rest of her site. Please be sure to tell Martha that Lorrie from Nathan's Voice sent you!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Now you're talking my language!

by Martha Gabler, parent of nonverbal 17 year old boy with autism.

Bonjour!    Hola!     Ciao!

Hello! If you travel to another country, it’s helpful to know a few words in the native language. It makes getting around so much easier and builds relationships with local residents. But, having a few words takes you only so far. To really communicate, you need to make a study of the local language.

Now let’s look at kids with autism; they seem to live in a different world from ours. Their condition is often characterized by deficits and delays in language and communication. How do you communicate with a kid who can’t stand listening to human speech? How do you find out what is bothering a child who is hitting or biting, if he can’t explain? My son with autism is profoundly nonverbal. We could not communicate with him and had very hard times during the early years.

Over time I discovered that there is a language, or more specifically, a form of communication in which my son excelled: he is brilliant at comprehending positive reinforcement. Eureka! We achieved communication. With communication came learning, and with learning we were finally able to find a path out of the wilderness and move on to greener pastures.

The method I stumbled upon during the course of our journey is called TAGteach, or Teaching with Acoustical Guidance. TAGteach is a teaching and communication method based on the science of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), and involves the use of positive reinforcement to achieve behavior goals. This part is familiar to many autism families.

The next part will probably be something new and different—after all, we are traveling in a different country. Here it is: the unique aspect of TAGteach is that it combines positive reinforcement with an audible event marker signal. The marker—the key communication tool used in the system—makes a distinctive “click” sound to mark a behavior at the time it occurs. The mark (or “click”) means YES, YOU DID SOMETHING GOOD, and the absence of the mark (or “click”) means TRY AGAIN.

With my event marker (sometimes referred to as a “tagger” or “clicker), I was able to “tag” my child every time he did something good. “Good” things were behaviors like Quiet Mouth, Both Feet On The Floor, Hands Still, or Eye Contact. The procedure is: Observe child, “tag” (press clicker) when child performs Quiet Mouth (or other desired behavior), then reinforce child (give a treat or token).

When I started doing this, I was amazed by all the good behaviors my son was able to deliver. Tantruming? With screaming and stomping? I tagged Quiet Mouth and Both Feet On The Floor; the tantrum was over in 12 minutes with my son sitting nicely on the sofa and no exertion on my part. Bolting? I tagged Walks Next To Parent. Toe walking? I tagged Heel On Ground. My son’s world changed. Previously, it had been incomprehensible to him. With the tag and positive reinforcement, he understood precisely what he was being rewarded for, and he responded by producing more of the desired behaviors.

The more I communicated with him via tags/clicks and positive reinforcement, the more skills he gained and the happier and better behaved he became. Despite the lack of speech, despite the sensory issues, the tag rang loud and clear and told him he had done something good. He loved that and responded brilliantly. My favorite moments were when I would tag him for something, and a look of total comprehension flooded across his face, “Oh! So that’s what I’m supposed to do!”

We found the right language and made a study of it. It is called positive reinforcement with an event marker signal. With it, we quickly and easily taught my son new behaviors. When he was able to walk nicely with us, sit quietly in the car, and follow instructions we were able to take him to many new places. He likes to travel, he likes to see the world and he likes to have fun. He was even able to go away to sleep over summer camp for a week and have a wonderful time without my presence. I got some very nice compliments from camp staff about Doug’s co-operative behavior and his happy attitude. We are in a much better place now and enjoy life with this charming teen.

I think TAGteach is an outstanding method for working with children with autism, and I recommend it to all autism families for their consideration. Consider this: TAGteach is scientific—based on the principles of ABA—and effective. It is easy to learn, easy to do, and almost no cost. Taggers/clickers cost anywhere from $.79 to $1.50, and the treats are things most families already have around the house. TAGteach is flexible and portable, and easy to do both at home and outside. It’s great for building skills in the community. For more information, please see my website at If you have questions, please contact me through the website at the Questions for Martha link.

I hope you enjoy learning about this new language! It’s easier than French or Spanish, and it’s a great way to communicate with our kids, who can be very challenging customers.

Au revoir!

About Martha

Martha Gabler is the author of the book, Chaos to Calm: Discovering Solutions to the Everyday Problems of Living with Autism. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area with her husband and two sons. The younger one, age 17, is profoundly nonverbal and was diagnosed at age three with severe autism. In the early years the family struggled with many extremely difficult behaviors including aggression and self-injury. Life was very hard. Now life is good and the Gablers are a happy family.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Win a #Success Box By Visiting The Our Mom Spot Community!

I have learned that I am an extremely visual person. I understand verbal instructions to an extent, I just comprehend them better if I can see a visual example. I have never been diagnosed by anyone but, I am probably a "high-functioning" autistic individual, like my own son. I'm glad that prevalence and awareness has increased so that children, like my own son, can be diagnosed at an early age. It is important that individuals with autism receive the services they need, to be able to accomplish their educational goals, in turn, helping them eventually to function as they need to in society. 

Organization is also an important factor when trying to accomplish anything. This is where I will share a giveaway that is being featured on an online parenting community called Our Mom Spot. If you are a special needs parent or an educator, you will want to check it out!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Is YOUR Special Needs Family Ready For Halloween?

It's hard to believe that it is already October! My most recent article, 5 Helpful Tips for a Prepared Halloween Costume, was written for Special Happens, a site in which I contribute towards several times a year, in an effort to help parents when shopping for a special needs child. Please visit the link above, read the article and share it with someone you know in the special needs community. You never know when another family, or friend, could use the information to improve a situation in their life. Thank you for your continued support and willingness to help others around you!