Wings for Autism

Wings for Autism

Today this article showed up in my newsfeed. It is a mom thanking JetBlue for the service they provided her son with autism before and during a flight. She liked that she was able to indicate his special needs and make a few specific remarks about those special needs when she booked online. Then when she called just to make sure everything was okay, she was offered assistance and silent boarding when they arrived at the airport. She selected silent boarding and indicated how much this helped her son get settled into the new environment and get his headphones on to cancel out the noise when his fellow travelers started boarding the plane. Additionally, extra care and patience were shown to them throughout the duration of the flight, as the staff were aware of his needs based on what she was able to share when she booked the flight. I thought many of these things were good and important to consider when traveling by plane with a person with special needs. I didn’t know some of these options were available and was excited to share them! This also made me think of a JetBlue program I had heard of awhile back called Wings for Autism. The Wings for Autism program was created to offer a safe environment for families to practice traveling with an autistic child, and be surrounded by others in similar situations. By getting comfortable with the airport and flight experience (without actually leaving the airport!), both parents and their children with special needs could gain the familiarity and confidence needed to fly for real when the...
Why Autism Awareness Matters

Why Autism Awareness Matters

April is Autism Awareness month. Chloe is on the autism spectrum. I rarely list autism as one of her diagnoses because it’s more of a symptom of other diagnoses. However, I recognize autism as part of our lives and am always studying how to help her deal with the sensory and social issues that go along with that. We also have a nephew with Aspergers. He is such a sweet kid and is extra sweet and sensitive with Chloe. We sure love him. There are so many conditions and issues to be “aware” of, it’s hard to know when and how it can matter to you or what you can actually do about it. Well, I would suggest that autism awareness matter to everyone. Why? Because it is prevalent and the numbers are rising. There are over 70 million people with autism worldwide. That means understanding is crucial and research is important. That means many children and their parents are in need of support. Being aware and showing support means we can have more conversations about autism: about what it looks like, how it affects those with autism and their families, how legislation can be reformed to facilitate much needed community changes for those with autism, and how anyone can include and celebrate a child with autism without overstimulating them. “Not everything that steps out of line, and thus ‘abnormal,’ must necessarily be ‘inferior.” – Hans Asperger So what can you do? How can we help in the vast sea of many needs bring about change and conversation about autism? My suggestion is this: anything! What I plan to...
Sensory Blankets for Sensory Processing Disorders (DIY!)

Sensory Blankets for Sensory Processing Disorders (DIY!)

I found a great DIY online for a weighted blanket and just had to share! Weighted blankets are used to help with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) which is fairly common with children who have been diagnosed with ADHD, Autism among many other diagnosis. From the SPD Foundations website – “SPD is a condition that exists when sensory signals don’t get organized into appropriate responses. Pioneering occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, PhD, likened SPD to a neurological “traffic jam” that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively.” Many parents and therapists swear by weighted blankets to calm children with SPD. The theory is that the pressure is comforting and when weight blankets are used it can release Seratonin, a happy, calming chemical. Seratonin can also be converted by the body to Melatonin and can help children sleep. Along with being a sleep aide, many children respond well to having a weighted blanket across their lap when they need to sit still, relax and focus. Any special needs parent will tell you, when their child is in need? Anything is worth a shot. I found this great online tutorial for a weighted blanket. It requires a sewing machine, but it doesn’t look like you have to know much about sewing to be able to do it. (I think...
Sensory Santa!

Sensory Santa!

Sensory Santa is coming… to town! Well, many towns anyway! This is the first year that I have seen so many articles and posts from all over the United States, from all over the world, about initiatives to get Santa in touch with all of the children who want to have a visit. You see, visiting with Santa is often something that is out of reach for special needs children. Waiting in lines, braving crowds, noises and slashing lights almost always proves too much for a group of kids who are easily over-stimulated. Not to mention, germs! Often special needs children have weakened immune systems making them especially susceptible to colds at an already really rough time of the year. This yea, some malls and organizations are setting aside special meetings, blocks of time dedicated to special needs children. Others are allowing special need children to go to the front of the line. All of these arrangements provide a calm environment for every child to sit on Santa’s lap, hear his jolly laugh and make those special Christmas wishes! Here are some articles and information we have found – There are many more but these are very touching. Sensory Santa in Australia Caring Santa in Indianapolis Malls Sensitive Santa in Toronto Merritt Square Mall in Florida Johnson City Tennessee – Six years! For many of these children, this is the first time they are able to sit on Santa’s lap! Isn’t that incredible? As awareness and acceptance for Autism grows I anticipate many more opportunities for all children to meet with Santa and feel the magic spirit that the...
Do You Have a Runner?

Do You Have a Runner?

A lot of children with Autism and Down Syndrome (among other diagnosis) love to run, run away, far… fast… and they don’t have the ability to process consequences or danger. They are focused on the instant gratification in spite of negative consequences. Unfortunately, what this means is that a lot of parents avoid taking their children to crowded places like the circus and zoo, for fear they might bolt. Eloping they call it… there is an actual term because it is an actual, pretty serious challenge for special needs parents! I shared a recent story about a friend of mine, it was a scary situation! What can you do ahead of time if this is a problem you face frequently? Temporary Tattoos – There are a few options for temporary tattoos. Some have you write the number in a location on the tattoo with a marker once it’s been placed but others are fully customizable. I found several vendors, even Etsy, by searching “Temporary tattoos with phone number”. They are very reasonably priced, we are talking as low as 45 for $20,with the phone numebrs! This is a great option for crowded places. Teach older children to show the tattoo to others, no words required. Harnesses and Leashes – There are a number of somewhat fun and stylish kid backpacks on the market that function as harnesses. Not only will many children like the style of the pack, but they also provide some weight and sensory input. You can also put some of the tiny things to keep tiny hands busy inside! Check online for “Toddler safety harnesses and...