• What can parents do to support healthy friendships for their children?

    All children deserve to experience the joy of friendship. However, some children have more trouble than others making and keeping friends. In particular, kids with autism may be unsure of how to communicate and interact with their peers. If your child has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or another developmental difference, one of the most effective things you can do to encourage social skills is to have your child work with an ABA therapist. In addition, consider incorporating the following strategies. 

    Get involved from an early age. 

    As children grow older, friendships become more important to them. However, older children are also less likely to talk to their parents about their friends. It’s important to establish active involvement from an early age to set the stage for your child’s preteen and adolescent years. Actively monitor your young child’s play dates. Provide guidance on social skills and correct inappropriate behaviors when necessary. Encourage open communication with your child. Talk to your child often about his or her friends, and make an effort to get better acquainted with those friends and their parents. 

    Help your child resolve conflicts peacefully. 

    Whenever two people are close to each other, a conflict will inevitably arise at some point. The conflict itself is not necessarily what’s primarily damaging to the friendship. Rather, the way in which the two friends manage the conflict will determine whether the friendship survives. Talk to your child’s ABA therapy provider if your child seems to have trouble handling conflict. It can be helpful to teach your child to take a deep breath and walk away to calm down before addressing the situation. Additionally, kids need to learn how to see things from the other person’s perspective. They also need to learn how to make amends, such as by apologizing. 

    Children with developmental differences can learn to make and keep friends in our Social Skills group at The Behavior Exchange. Our ABA centers in Frisco and Plano help children understand how to behave appropriately and give them opportunities to master their new skills. Call us at 888.716.8084, and be sure to ask us about our parent training classes! 

  • Tips for using visual schedules

    Many individuals with autism have trouble handling unstructured periods of time. The use of a visual schedule can minimize anxiety and encourage smooth transitions between activities. With consistent use, a visual schedule may help children with autism increase their independence, reduce inappropriate behaviors, and transfer skills to a variety of settings. 


    Understanding visual schedules 

    A visual schedule is a list of activities with corresponding images. Some visual schedules are broad and include all the main activities that will happen during any given day. For example, these activities might include going to school and visiting grandma’s house. Other visual schedules are focused on one specific activity or task. They depict all the steps necessary to complete that task. 

    Using object schedules 

    Children who have limited language skills may need to start with object schedules before moving on to visual representations. An object schedule uses actual objects to transition individuals from one activity to the next. For example, when it’s time to play outdoors, the parent might hand the child a blue ball. This ball would be used to indicate that specific activity every single day. When it’s time to eat lunch, the child might be handed a spoon.  

    Transitioning to a printed visual schedule 

    If your child started with an object schedule and the ABA therapist believes it’s now time to transition to a printed visual schedule, your child will need to be taught to check the schedule. An object cue can be helpful. For example, if your child is showing signs of anxiety, you might hand over a pencil or a picture of a pencil, and guide your child to the schedule. 

    Limiting the length of the schedule 

    Some parents find that their kids feel overwhelmed if their visual schedules are too lengthy. If your child seems to have trouble with this, try using a schedule with just three to four items on it. Gradually, you can add more items as your child adjusts. 

    Here at The Behavior Exchange, our behavior analysts understand the importance of consistency across different environments. We regularly hold parent training sessions to help families learn how to consistently apply ABA therapy techniques at home and out in the community. To inquire about our next available parent training session, call our ABA therapy center in Plano or Frisco at 888.716.8084. 

  • What is social (pragmatic) communication disorder?

    Social (pragmatic) communication disorder is a relatively new addition to the family of autism spectrum disorders and communication disorders. It was officially added to the Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 2013, although clinicians have been observing the symptoms for many years. Also referred to as pragmatic language impairment, this disorder refers to having difficulty interpreting and using language in appropriate ways within social contexts. 

    Children with a social (pragmatic) communication disorder may have trouble following the rules of conversation, such as taking turns speaking. They may not understand nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions and body language. They might also have trouble adjusting their communication to fit different audiences or contexts. Another possible indicator is the literal interpretation of nonliteral languages, such as idioms or metaphors. 

    Has your child been showing possible signs of communication disorders or autism in the Plano and Frisco area? Contact The Behavior Exchange at 888.716.8084 to request a consult with one of our skilled ABA therapists. 

  • Encouraging Healthy Snacking in Children with ASD

    For children with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, snack time can be a challenge. Oftentimes, children with ASD have sensory aversions that cause them to avoid foods with certain textures, odors, or flavors. Certain disorders, such as food intolerances and gastro-esophageal reflux disease, also tend to be more common among children with ASD. You should see a physician if you are concerned that your child may be malnourished. 

    There are some simple strategies that you can use to encourage healthy snacking habits in your child. Make sure that you keep your family’s snack and mealtime routines consistent so that your child feels comfortable and knows what to expect each day. Always include some of your child’s favorite treats along with healthy snacks. Try to stay positive during snack times, even if you feel frustrated or anxious about your child’s eating habits. 

    At The Behavior Exchange in Plano and Frisco, we help families with children with ASD reach their full potential. To learn about our ABA therapy options, our supportive summer camps, or any of our other services, call (972) 312-8733 today.