Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are developmental disabilities that can cause significant impairments in social, communication, and behavioral skills. The term ASD covers a broad range of disorders. These disorders include Autistic Disorder, Asperger's Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder–Not Otherwise Specified.

Childcare professionals can identify possible signs of ASD in children at an early age by being familiar with its characteristic symptoms. This allows for earlier interventions and a potentially better outcome. There are three general categories of impairments in children with ASDs.

Issues with Social Development

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders often have trouble relating to others. There is often a lack of social awareness including an understanding of social concepts such as taking turns, body language, or appropriate emotional response. They typically display limited play skills and can often be seen playing alone.

Children who have ASDs may have trouble maintaining consistent eye contact and there may be little to no eye contact at all. It is also common to see resistance to affection or cuddling from others, including parents or caretakers.

Issues with Communication

Some children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder show a delay in language development, with some never using language at all. Within the first five years, a number of communication issues can arise. There may be delays in initial forms of communication such as babbling or cooing. There may also be decreases in the responsiveness to various verbal requests or bids for attention.

Children with ASDs will often use repetitive language that is based on repeating what they hear (often referred to as echolalia) or the creation of nonsensical communication. In addition to these problems, children with ASDs may have trouble with imaginative concepts and figurative language. Instead, they tend to understand things in a much more literal sense. However, just because language delays may be present does not mean that a child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and some children with ASDs do not have language problems at all.

Repetitive Behavior and Interests

It is common for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders to exhibit unusual behaviors or interests. There are many types of repetitive behaviors that may be seen in children with ASDs. These behaviors have been categorized into several groups which include stereotypical movements such as hand flapping or rocking in place; compulsory behaviors such as arranging toys in a certain manner; resistance to changes in routine or environment; ritualistic behaviors involving daily activities or schedules; and restricted behaviors that are limited in focus, such as a preoccupation with a certain toy or television program.

For more information:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Children and Allowances

The topic of allowances is often a source of discussion between parents. There are two views about allowances. One is a payment–for-work approach and the other is based on a belief that a child is entitled to a share of the family income, just as he or she is “entitled” to some responsibility for household chores.

Two advantages of an allowance are that it provides the practice of living on a regular income and it teaches children to learn from their financial mistakes (hopefully while the mistakes are still small) so that they are better able to make money decisions as they get older.

Disadvantages include the fact that it can become a power issue between parents and children, especially if the money is attached to household chores. Parents also may feel pressured into increasing the allowance by children.

Generally, the guidelines for allowances are determined by family attitudes and values. Regularity is important if you are using allowances as a teaching tool. This may mean twice a week for 6-8 year olds, weekly for 9-12 year olds, every other week for 13–15 year olds, and monthly for 16–18 year olds.

You and your child need to decide together what he or she is expected to purchase out of that allowance. Does it include money for lunches? School supplies? Clothing? You may also want to help your child learn how to save some of the allowance for a large purchase he or she wants to make in the future.

When both you and the child work out a plan, it helps the child realize that there are choices and brings the child into the decision-making process. This might make it easier to say “no” when they are out of money before the next payment time arrives.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Bullying, defined as aggression on a continual basis between peers where one has a power advantage over another, is common among children and adolescents. Cyberbullying involves using electronic communication for these ends:

• teach someone a lesson

• put others down

• play pranks

• share personal information publicly

• stalk someone

• commit other overt attacks upon a person

Teens who cyberbully may feel that cyberspace is an impersonal place to vent, and, therefore, consider it less harmful than face-to-face bullying. However, cyberbullying can be very destructive. Examples include middle school teens starting a poll with their classmates, casting online votes for the ugliest girl in the school or unsolicited videos or photos taken in a locker room are posted on YouTube or forwarded by media messaging. In addition, threats or hateful words travel easily through cyberspace in e-mails or cell phone messages (voice or text) from an unrecognized phone number. Ironically, most cyberbullying takes place within a teen's immediate social circle and those most likely to be victimized are highly active in social networking sites, blogs, and chat rooms

About 25% of teens report being victims of cyberbullying, and over a third (35%) of teens reported feeling unaffected by it. Yet, the vast majority of victims reported feelings of:

• frustration,

• anger,

• sadness, and

• social anxiety

In addition, as is the case with online sexual solicitation, preteens are more likely to suffer psychologically from cyberbullying than older teens.

To down load the publication For Teen Safety in Cyberspace, written by Kate Fogarty, assistant professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, University of Florida go to:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Middle Childhood Development

Seven and eight-year-old children are in a stage of development often called middle childhood. They attend school and they enjoy mastering lots of new physical skills. They learn rapidly in school. The opinions of their classmates matter more than ever before and they begin to feel the effects of peer pressure.

This is a good time to review the rules and limits with your child. Let him help set some limits and rules, when appropriate. Children of this age can help solve their own problems. Be flexible and make changes when your child shows he or she can handle the change.

For example, this is a good time to discuss bed time. Seven and eight-year-olds often think bedtime is too early. Be willing to adjust bedtime by about 30 minutes with the understanding that you expect your child to: go to bed without complaints, get up in the morning without grumbling about being tired, and maintain good school performance.

Children need adults who care about them and will talk and play with them. These can be exciting years for you and your child. Plan activities to help children be more independent and have fun. You can help children be successful, to feel good about themselves, and prepare them to be healthy teens and adults.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

7 Principles of Discipline

1. Tell children what they can do instead of what they can’t do, or focus on the do’s instead of the don’ts.

2. Protect and preserve children’s feelings that they are lovable and capable and that you love them – no matter what!

3. Offer children choices only when you are willing to abide by their decisions. This means stop saying, “OK?” and instead say, “Do you understand?”

4. Change the child’s environment instead of the child’s behavior.

5. Work with children instead of against them. What do they want? What do they need? What are they trying to do or learn?

6. Give children safe limits they can understand.

7. Set a good example. Speak and act only in the ways you want your children to speak and act.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Wonderful World of Toddlers

When children begin to walk, they are called toddlers. Usually this term is applied to one and two-year-old children. This is a stage in the growth of a child and not a specific age. It is a time between infancy and childhood when a child learns and grows in many ways. Everything that happens to the toddler is meaningful. With each stage or skill the child masters, a new stage begins.

During the toddler stage, most children learn to walk, talk, solve problems, relate to others and more. One major task for the toddler is to learn to be independent. That is why toddlers want to do things for themselves, have their own ideas about how things should happen, and use “no” many times a day. I often tell the parents in my parenting classes that toddlerhood is just practice for the teenage years!

The toddler stage is characterized by much growth and change, mood swings, and some negativity. Toddlers are long on will and short on skill. They are bursting with energy and ideas, needing to explore their environment and begin defining themselves as separate people. They want to be independent and yet they are still very dependent. One of the greatest challenges for parents is to balance toddler’s need for in-dependence with their need for discipline.

Although the toddler stage can be difficult for both parents and toddlers, it doesn’t last forever. In fact, it can be fun!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Disaster Planning for the Elderly

News that a hurricane or tornado is on its way can cause anyone to worry. But if you are responsible for providing care for someone who is disabled, chances are you face additional concerns. You and the person you care for may not be able to "jump and run" when the tornado sirens are sounded or the hurricane warning is issued. Planning ahead will give you a little peace of mind.

For caregivers, as for everyone else, it is important to have basic supplies available. The supply list available at the American Red Cross web site ( serves as the model for many basic supply lists. Other sources provide information about special supplies for people with disabilities, for example Disaster Planning Tips for Senior Adults lists supplies that might be needed by people with disabilities and can be accessed online at

Although planning for a disaster can be frightening, having a plan in place can help you and the person you care for feel more secure.
Caregivers often feel they are “on their own” during normal times, and this feeling may intensify during times of disaster when people are hurrying to take care of their own family and property. People will be more than glad to help, but they will need to know exactly what you need and when you need it.

Make plans for help with family, friends, and neighbors. Include someone on your team who is able to lift and carry heavy objects such as wheelchairs or other medical equipment. Give at least one other person a key to your home. Each team member should have the contact information for the others. Name a substitute caregiver in case you are unavailable or unable to provide care.

Evacuation can be complicated for caregivers. Develop an evacuation strategy with your “disaster team.” Consider the following:
• Where are the nearest special needs emergency shelters? Remember you may not be able to reach the closest shelter, so know where the next closest one is located. Practice driving to both using different routes prior to storm warnings.
• What supplies must you take with you? In addition to the supplies you would normally need for an evacuation, think of those things you use as a caregiver every day. Make a check list of special caregiving items such as incontinence items, cleaning and sanitizing supplies, pill splitter or crusher, and thermometer. Secure a box or case to carry them in.
• How many people are needed to help make the move? These people should be part of your disaster team. Know how to reach them.
• Whom should you inform that you are evacuating? Let your neighbors and family members know, and if you live in any kind of “complex” let the administrators know that you have left.
• Keep your vehicle's gas tank over ¾ full at all times

For a copy of the UF Extension publication “Disaster Planning Tips for Caregivers of the Elderly and People with Disabilities by Carolyn Wilken: “