Thursday, July 31, 2014

Why Can Transitions Be So Hard?

By Bec Oakley
originally published on

Image: istockphoto
Transitions can be a big source of stress for some autistic kids, so let's take a look at some of the reasons why and what you can do to help make them easier.


A transition is a change from one thing to another - a task, location, the seasons, even waking from sleep. They happen more slowly and predictably than other types of change that can be stressful, like surprises or having to reschedule an outing because it’s raining. Those types of change are upsetting because they mess with expectations and routines, but transitions are a slightly different kettle of fish.


Attention shifts

Say you’re sitting in your favourite armchair engrossed in a gripping novel and you’ve hit the sweet spot - the cushions have moulded around you in just the right way and the afternoon sun is warming your toes through the window. You’re so comfortable you could sleep for hours, if only the story wasn’t so damn exciting... Emile has just cracked the combination to the safe, the one that contains the antidote for the poison that’s now coiling around his windpipe like a snake. With seconds of oxygen left before he loses consciousness, he has to defuse the bomb attached to his chest before he blows up everyone on the plane. His fingers tremble, as he slowly --

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The “Softer” Side of Summer Learning


It can be challenging helping children with reading, writing, math and science skills during the summer months to combat the “summer slide,” the learning loss than can occur when school is out.  Parents work hard helping their children stay engaged in summer packets and reading lists to reinforce academic skills, or “hard skills,” which though beneficial are often difficult to assist and not very motivating to students during the carefree days of summer.
Instead, a focus on “soft skills,” often called “people skills” can be a more inviting focus of summer learning, can be developed in children of any age and can be the start of successful life-long habits. Skills such as cultivating a growth mindset, setting goals, journaling, reflecting, collaborating, and communicating are just to name a few.
A national survey reports 77% of employers believe that soft skills are just as important as hard skills in the workplace. Some “soft skills” and ways you can help your child cultivate them this summer are:
  • Work ethic – This is also known as “grit.” Grit allows us to keep going and not give up. Give your child a difficult task to complete and encourage them throughout the process for not giving up and teach them how to bounce back from failure.
  • Goal Setting – Have your child write goals for each week and then have them check them off as they get done and celebrate success!

To read more, please click here

Monday, July 28, 2014

"Fundamentals for Thriving" video review

Fundamentals for Thriving is a video produced by Asperger Experts, which is two young men who have Asperger's Syndrome.  This video covers topics like:

  • How to communicate to someone with Asperger's, in a way that gets through to them at the deepest level, and establish better connections;
  • What the different "thinking types" are, and how to identify them;
  • Why people with Asperger's do what they do and how to use "Behavior Balancing to address any so-called "bad" behavior;
  • And much more!
If you would like to borrow this video, or any other videos from our lending library, and you live in Illinois, please call us at 866-436-7842!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

"Home Learning Year by Year" Giveaway

Are you considering homeschooling your children this Fall?  Or maybe you're a seasoned homeschooler who would like a fantastic resource to help you design your curriculum.
Home Learning Year by Year: How to Design a Homeschool Curriculum from Preschool through High School by Rebecca Rupp may be just what you're looking for.

According to the publisher:
Finally, homeschoolers have a comprehensive guide to designing a homeschool curriculum, from one of the country's foremost homeschooling experts. , Rebecca Rupp presents a structured plan to ensure that your children will learn what they need to know when they need to know it, from preschool through high school. Based on the traditional pre-K through 12th-grade structure, Home Learning Year by Year features:
The integral subjects to be covered within each grade
Standards for knowledge that should be acquired by your child at each level
Recommended books to use as texts for every subject
Guidelines for the importance of each topic: which knowledge is essential and which is best for more expansive study based on your child's personal interests
Suggestions for how to sensitively approach less academic subjects, such as sex education and physical fitness

We are giving away one free copy of this book to a lucky reader!

There are a few different ways to enter the contest. You are able to get up to four entries per person!

~~One entry for leaving a comment here telling us why you would like a copy of this book.

~~One entry for liking us on Facebook:!/FamilyMattersPTIC?fref=ts
Just click on that link and hit the 'Like' button. (Please mention in a comment on this post that you have liked our FB page).

~~One entry for blogging about our giveaway. Share your link here in the comments.

~~One entry for sharing this post on Facebook. Share the link in the comments.

This giveaway ends August 1st at midnight.

***Due to shipping expenses, this giveaway is only for residents of the US.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Preparing your kids for back to school

For most of us, school is just around the corner.  If your children are anything like mine, they may need some extra preparation in order to make the transition back to school easier.

My son, Danny, has autism.  He will be starting fourth grade this year, and the beginning of a new school year has traditionally been quite difficult for him.  Even long after separation anxiety was a problem for him, he would cry on the first day of school.  Each year, it would surprise me; Danny is not actually a big crier.

Finally, last year, I decided I needed to make some changes.  This was not a phase he was growing out of.  Instead, it was something I needed to help him with.

Here is what we did:

Tour the School
I callec the school and set up an appointment to tour the school on a day when there are few people at school.

We did this last year for my son, Danny, who has autism.  He was preparing to start at a new school building and I wanted him to feel comfortable before school started.  On a day in May, the vice principal took us around the school after all the students had gone home.  He pointed out where Danny would have technology class and where the bathrooms were.  He gave us time to explore and familiarize ourselves with the school.

After the tour, Danny and I talked about the school throughout the summer.  I reminded him he would be in a new school, and we talked about the aspects of the school that especially excited him--the computer lab and the music room.

Meet the teacher(s)
Later, in the summer, we arranged for another tour--this time where Danny could meet his teachers and therapists.  Ms. C and Ms. F met us at the door and they walked Danny through what a first day would look like.  They explained that he would meet in the gym with the rest of the students and that Ms. F would come and collect the class.

The teachers showed Danny both classrooms, and they talked to him about how his summer had been going.  They listened to him describe his birthday presents and asked if he had any questions.

Visit the school when it is in session
Another idea that might help some kids would be to actually eat lunch at the new building once before summer. For example, I think if I could get Danny from South Side one day in April or May and take him to lunch at Central, he would get a big kick out of that. And if there were teachers there to talk with him and he could just look around the school a bit while class was in session, it could help him.

Play on the playground
Or if they could get the kids together one day in the summer and let the kids play on the playground equipment for an hour or so, that could help as well.

Basically, anything you can think of that would help familiarize the kids to the school would help. And if there are FUN ways to introduce them, all the better. In my experience, many kids on the spectrum (and I'm sure this applies to many special needs kids in general) seem to have a relatively high level of anxiety.

I think in my son's case, it has to do with sensory overload and feeling out of control. New situations are incredibly stressful for him, because he's not sure what is expected of him. If he has a chance to check out the school in a fun, laid-back way, it would help his transition so much more. And he would associate this new school with fun memories which is really helpful!

Even though he is 8 years old, he struggles with the first few days of school, every single year. I'm sure it has to do with the transition and being so completely out of his comfort zone. I KNOW meeting his teacher well ahead of school time would help him tremendously! I know the schools don't assign kids their teachers right away, and I think this is a shame in the cases of kids like Danny. I cannot stress enough how much it would help him to know in the Spring (or at least by July) who his teacher is going to be. And if he could meet her early and spend a bit of time with her doing something fun that makes him comfortable (like playing LEGOs together) would be the hugest help!
I know teachers work so hard and I don't want to add to their work load, but actually, in the long run, these things could help the teacher. Danny would be far less stressed, which would mean he would do better in school.

Danny spends the whole summer with me and his siblings, people he feels totally comfortable with. When school comes around, especially since he's moved from ELC, Danny has had major difficulty. He cries the first day or so, and even after that, Danny
tells me how much he misses me at school. I think a lot of that is a comfort thing for him, since he is doing it A LOT more this year than ever before and this year has been incredibly stressful for him, for many reasons. If he feels acquainted with his teacher and therapists (Speech, special ed teacher, etc) before hand, I think his transition would go so much more smoothly.
Okay, I'll stop here. I'll try to come up with other ideas, but these are the biggest ones. Thanks so much for asking for my ideas! I really appreciate it. I sure hope we can do some of these things to help Danny when he moves on to Central!
Let me know if any of this doesn't make sense.

Change the kids' sleep schedule

Monday, July 21, 2014

Can you Record an IEP meeting?

Parents May Now Be Able to Record IEP Meetings Without Consent

"The relevant state statute was materially changed on March 20, 2014 by the Illinois Supreme Court"
While recording an IEP meeting or other school meeting has not been strictly prohibited in the past, it was limited to meetings in which all participants consented or someone needed to record because of a disability.

This was the result of an Illinois law commonly referred to as the "eavesdropping statute" wherein, in part, it was illegal to record a conversation without the consent of all the parties to that conversation or electronic communication.

voice-memo 2In other words, if even one member of the IEP team objected, the meeting could not be recorded.  That eavesdropping statute was materially changed on March 20, 2014 by the Illinois Supreme Court.

In People v. Clark, the Court held that the “recording” section of the eavesdropping statute was an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment.  What that means is that, at least for the moment, a school district cannot invoke the Illinois eavesdropping statute as a means to prevent parents from recording an IEP meeting.

To read the full opinion of the Illinois Supreme Court, click here. If you are interested in recording your IEP meeting and your school district says no, Cahill & Associates can help.


Monday, July 14, 2014

We need your help!


Does your child have a favorite movie or TV character?
Would you like him or her to be featured in our
fundraising calendar?
Here’s how: send us a picture of your special needs child (and feel free to include his/her siblings and friends) dressed as their favorite TV, book, cartoon, video game, or movie characters.
Send the pictures to: by August 1st.
All proceeds of the calendar will be used to help families in our program.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Reading Instruction for Students with Below Average IQs

Is Scientifically Based Reading Instruction Effective for Students With Below-Average IQ's?
Read an article about this here:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Really Big List Of Back To School Tips For Kids With ASD

Image: Mário Tomé

Heading back to school after the long summer break can be a really stressful transition for autistic kids... and their parents. Here are some ideas to make it easier for everybody.

1.  Buy school supplies early
Having all new stuff isn’t always exciting, for some kids the change can be unsettling. Shop early for the things your kids need to give them time to familiarize themselves and learn how to use them. And don’t throw away their favourites from last year - even if that coloured pencil is worn down to the nub, the sight of a familiar friend inside a pencil case can be comforting when everything else around you is brand new.

2.  Shop for new clothes together
For kids who don’t wear a uniform, let them decide what they’ll feel most comfortable wearing to school. Shopping for new clothes can be stressful and a sensory nightmare, so make sure you buy the new stuff well before the last week of summer.

3.  Prepare new clothes
If your kids are hypersensitive, cut off all the labels and stretch out any tight neck or wristbands. Wash new clothes a few times to soften them up a bit and get rid of the strange smells (or add comforting familiar ones).

4.  Wear in new shoes
New shoes always hurt feet. Plus they feel weird when you’re used to going barefoot or wearing sandals all summer. Socks can also be an issue for many kids, and can feel distracting or even unbearable, so wear them in slowly and make sure they're not too tight.

To read more, click here.....

Monday, July 7, 2014

Assistive Technology in Action--Meet Brody

Taped by Family Center on Technology and Disability

If you need any more information about Assistive Technology and how it can help your children at school, please call Family Matters at 866-436-7842.