All posts tagged: autism

Grandfather’s Age May Play a Role in Autism

Research findings suggest that a grandfather’s age may increase their grandchildren’s risk for developing autism. There has been an established correlation between paternal age and increased risk, yet this study — Autism Risk Across Generations: A Population-Based Study of Advancing Grandpaternal and Paternal Age– implies that the effect can accumulate if both father and grandfather wait to have children at an older age.

This study examined data from Sweden’s patient registries, dating back to 1932. Data included the ages of 37,000 children’s maternal and paternal grandparents at the time of birth. Roughly 6,000 of these children were diagnosed with autism.

Results showed that men who had fathered daughters at age 50 or older were 1.79 times more likely to have autistic grandchildren than men who had done so in their twenties. These older men who had fathered a son were also 1.67 times more likely to have an autistic grandchild than their younger counterparts.

Fathers play an important role in autism development because male reproductive cells are more prone to mutation. Reproductive cells reproduce continuously throughout a man’s life, as compared to female reproductive cells that only replicate 24 times. Every time a cell reproduces, or divides, there is a risk of something going wrong. Therefore, the increased cell reproduction associated with paternal age leads to an increased chance of cell mutation.

Although this study does find a correlation between increased risk and paternal age, it should not be interpreted as direct evidence of increased paternal age causing autism. Researchers also note the role of maternal age, as well as environmental and genetic  factors in contributing to increased risk. There are many factors that should be taken into account when planning a pregnancy, including nutrition, genetic counseling, medications, environment, psychological stress, and now parental age. Findings such as these lead to increased awareness in the autism community and provide exciting ideas for future research by organizations such as The Autism Research Foundation.

To learn more about this study, read the full article.

Citations:

Frans EM, Sandin S, Reichenberg A, et al. Autism Risk Across Generations: A Population-Based Study of Advancing Grandpaternal and Paternal Age. JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;70(5):516-521. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.1180.

Lupkin, Sydney. “Grandfather’s Age Plays Role in Autism Development.” ABC News. ABC News Network, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2013.

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Packing Craziness: Not So Happily Ever After

Getting ready to travel with my sisters is like preparing to go on a pilgrimage across Europe for five months. I mean how much stuff can two nineteen-year-old-girls possibly need? A lot is the answer to that question!

The main trip my family and I take is to Disney World every few years. My sisters have always loved it, and surprisingly it’s a place we’ve all grown to love and enjoy as a family. When it’s time to leave for the airport, everyone is excited and ready to go right when the car arrives to drive us to the airport.

HA-HA! No, not so. My mom INSISTS on bringing our whole entire house on trips with us. It’s like an addiction that she can’t kick. No matter how many times my dad and I plead with her not to bring three full suitcases each for Emma and Olivia, the routine stays the same. To give you a better idea, let’s break it down by item:

  • Clothes: Obviously a necessity for anyone. For my sisters, this means 20 outfits for a seven-day trip, equipped with yoga pants, tank top, over shirt, zip-up jacket, and socks. Over-the-top? We haven’t even gotten to the best of it yet.
  • Shoes: All of the shoes my sisters own come with us wherever we go. Need I say more?
  • Diapers: Since my sisters aren’t fully potty trained, they wear adult diapers. In a pack, I’d say there are about 20 diapers. Mind you, they usually go in the bathroom, but once in a while they’ll have an accident and need to be changed. My mom prepares fully, and brings about 10 packs of diapers with us. She’ll check about 15, and bring about five on the plane.
  • Food: Emma and Olivia are the pickiest eaters of all time. Emma only eats pizza and a few snack items, and Olivia eats a few more things and is able to eat at restaurants, but also likes her snacks. So what do we bring? Frozen pizza and snacks. I would say five bags of chips, Smartfood Popcorn, fruit roll ups, etc. Each. Plus a few dozen boxes of frozen pizza.

Now, my dad has developed a new system where he ships some of this stuff over in advance, which has helped out very much. We arrive, and all the food and some of the other things are already there and put in the room. What hasn’t changed and probably never will, is the mad rush right before we get in the car to drive to the airport. Clothes are being shoved in suitcases; pizzas are being thrown across the room into freezer bags; sisters are being antsy and running out the door ahead of everyone else – it’s just a mad house.

When we finally get to where we’re going, and everything is settled and unpacked, we always appreciate my mom’s over-the-top packing strategies. No matter how frustrated and crazy we feel while she’s doing it, she knows the girls and knows what they need. Their needs are so much more than ours, and sometimes we forget how much extra attention and planning that needs to go into account when traveling with them. It’s a part of our lives that mom definitely knows best. Sometimes it’s just a matter of letting her do her thing, sitting back and just putting it all in the car.

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How “Typical” Siblings Can Support Each Other

I am a sister to two amazing and wonderful twin sisters, both of whom have autism. I am their only other sibling, and our extended family is scattered. Looking back on our life together thus far, I’ve realized that I dealt with a lot of tough, emotionally draining times without anyone who fully understood what I was going through as support. My parents of course were an amazing support system on their own, but there was no one that was in my shoes that I could reach out to for advice.

I want you to know, I NEED you to know, that I was so wrong. You are NOT, and never will be, alone. There are so many other typical “sibs” out there that are feeling the way I did and it pains me because all I want to do is be able to help and tell them that I AM HERE! We all are here. I hope this post gets to as many of you as possible.

I’ve come up with some ways we can all support one another and feel a little less lost:

  • Get involved. This is the most important thing you can do. Everyone else won’t know you’re there unless you make the effort to join us in conversations. Resources like The Autism Research Foundation’s sibling blog is a GREAT way to find support and familiarity through posts, comments, and even events. The number one way to support one another is by being there to listen, being there to offer advice to a fellow sib during a tough time, and being there for life.
  • Speak up. We want to hear your stories! We may even NEED to hear your stories. It feels so good to know that you are not alone, even if it means writing the most embarrassing au-kward story on this site. All us other typical sibs appreciate your courage in sharing. It gives us the comfort of knowing that that curdling scream our sib let out at the movies last night happens to the best of us.
  • Create awareness. I think I can say with a pretty good amount of certainty that all of us would like autism to be a little better understood. A little fewer stares, a little less tension when navigating au-kward situations would bring the anxiety levels down a notch. Fundraise with your friends, organize an autism-related event at your school, make some informational boards at local hangouts, get involved with Best Buddies – there are endless possibilities.
  • Ask your friends for help. This can be daunting to do all on your own. Friends are great back up for events, fundraisers, and creating awareness. Ask them to listen if you need to have a vent session in the bathroom at Chili’s. If they can listen to your love life problems, they can listen to your sib life problems too.
  • Be a role model. If you see something, say something. Never let bullying go unnoticed. I speak for the entire typical sib family when I say a world without bullying of our au-tastic sibs is possible when we are there to create it. Bullying is unacceptable and sticking up for what you believe in can really make a positive impact on those around you.
  • Join a support group. (insert link to group sites here?). There is nothing wrong with admitting that having a sibling with autism can be mind-blowingly stressful, and sometimes we need some serious support. Being able to talk is key, while also lending an ear to those who need someone to listen to them. Support groups can be found anywhere locally with a quick Google search. Ask your doctor or even your sibling’s doctor for advice on how to find them, because he or she may have a referral.

What you can do right now is comment on this post and tell me ways that you think we can support each other. Ask questions, give advice, and offer an ear – let us know. Typical sibs, unite!

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How to Navigate Au-kward Social Moments

Au-kward situations come in all shapes and sizes. They can be big or small, loud or silent, seen or unseen. Sometimes there is no predicting an au-kward moment making them more challenging than most. The most important thing to keep in mind is that these moments are unavoidable. Even typical awkward moments are impossible to avoid! What matters is your approach when dealing with combating the situation and the mindset you keep.

Consider this scenario: my sister Emma is a flinger. She flings anything she can get her hands on – the problem is we never know WHEN it’s going to happen. One day when we were much younger, we went out to lunch at a restaurant that had outdoor seating. Emma must have felt that this gave her some kind of permission to fling things, because right when she got her fries, she took one, wound up, and flung it as hard as she could over her head, backwards. All of us paused in shock not knowing where the fry landed, waiting to see the outcome. Turns out it landed smack in the middle of the salad belonging to the man sitting behind us. He turned around and we braced ourselves for the looks of disapproval and frustrated comments, but he BURST out laughing! He couldn’t contain himself –he thought it was the funniest thing that had happened to him all summer. We exchanged some laughs and short explanations and went on with our lunch.

Moral of the story: don’t sweat it. Au-kward situations happen to the best of us. For times that you need a little navigating, here are some of my tips:

  • Laugh it off. Sometimes if you’re the one trying to hide whatever is happening, people will automatically feel tense and irritated. If you laugh and keep it light, most likely it will roll off their shoulders.
  • Keep distractions handy. For those times when the au-kward situation seems never ending, YouTube on an iPad is your BEST FRIEND.
  • Have a short and sweet “explanation” thought out in your head. My go-to line for my sisters is usually something like, “Hi guys, sorry to interrupt, she has autism and is easily overwhelmed. This is just her way of coping.” You don’t need to get into detail, just enough to define the situation.
  • If someone is really irritated by what’s happening, start with your “explanation”. If that’s not enough and they’re still on your case, don’t go into attack mode (although it can VERY be tempting at times). It’s ok to come to terms with the fact that some on-lookers just won’t accept au-kward situations for what they are. At that point, that’s their problem. I like to smile, nod, and move on.

Au-kward moments make life interesting. Whoever can’t handle it must just be boring.

If you have an au-kward moment, learn how to share your personal story with us.

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Children with ASD more attracted to screen-based media

It is not uncommon for parents to worry about their child/teen’s excessive fascination with technology.  To be honest, the amount of time I spend glued to my computer on a weekly basis is probably a bit worrisome to anyone who walks by me in the study lounge. However, a recent study at the University of Missouri (MU) led to the conclusion that children and teens with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) use screen-based media, such as television or video games, more often than their peers and are more likely to develop problematic video game habits.

MU researchers studied screen-based media use among 202 children and adolescents with ASDs, as well as 127 of their typically developing siblings. Those with ASDs spent more time playing exclusive video games and less time on interactive social media websites, such as Facebook or Twitter. They also spent more time watching TV and playing video games than participating in physical or social activities. The typically developing siblings spent more time engaged in non-screen activities.

A further study examined 169 adolescent boys with ASD. Findings showed a correlation between problematic video game addiction, and oppositional behaviors, such as refusing directions and engaging in arguments. This study does not imply causation; therefore results do not prove that video games are the cause of oppositional behavior. It may just be that video games provide a distraction from stresses these individuals experience.

Researchers questioned why children with ASD experience increased attraction to video games. Possible explanations include the idea that video games offer visually engaging experiences, which do not require face-to-face communication or social interaction, which can be more stressful or uncertain. Figuring out why these children are so attracted to screen-based technology may allow researchers to develop therapies that are similarly engaging. Some researchers have begun to investigate how to incorporate therapy in a virtual environment to teach skills that could translate into actual social reactions. An example of one such study is taking place at UC Davis Medical Center. By creating a virtual reality for participants, researchers are able to track gazing and eye movements, as well as create mock situations with faces appearing on the computer screen. These virtual reality methods provide participants with practice making appropriate eye contact in a more comfortable situation. For more information on the virtual reality studies at UC Davis, visit the full article.

Until further research determines a way to translate this visual attraction into a more beneficial screen-based experience, researchers at MU warn parents against allowing children with ASD to spend too much time glued to the screen. Parents should encourage their children to participate in more social or physical activities (which can be easier said than done). This article by Autism Digest offers helpful tips in considering what sport may be most appropriate for your child. The Autism Research Foundation offers several programs, such as Athletes 4 Autism andArt 4 Autism, to provide opportunities for children to get off the couch and explore their talents!

Check out the full article to learn more about this study.

Citations:

University of Missouri-Columbia. “Children and Teens With Autism More Likely to Become Preoccupied With Video Games.” ScienceDaily. 17 Apr. 2013. Web.

Virtual Reality: An Intervention for Autism. (2010). <http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/medicalcenter/features/2010-2011/09/20100916_MIND_virtual-autism.html>

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Poem: Can’t See You

Scott writes poetry and — through his poems — shares his experience of life on the spectrum. He is a great friend of our founding director, Dr. Margaret Bauman, and both of us are proud to share his poems with you.

Scott Lentine is a 25-year-old man with high-functioning autism (PDD-NOS/Asperger’s) from Billerica and summer resident of Fieldston Beach, Marshfield. Scott graduated from Merrimack College magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Religious Studies with a Biology minor. Currently, Scott is an office intern at the Arc of Massachusetts in Waltham, where he tries to persuade lawmakers to pass key disability resources legislation to improve the lives of people with developmental disabilities.

Scott is interested in data clerical entry duties, hospital settings, autism non-profit organizations, and research type work. He even got a support letter email from President Obama for autism advocacy! Scott’s interests include poetry, politics, music, movies, science and medicine, various religions, traveling, going to Boston, dogs, and the beach.

Can’t You See

Can’t you see
I just want to have a friend
Can’t you see
I need the same connections in the end

Can’t you see
I want a good job
Can’t you see
I need to have stability and dependence and part of the general mob

Can’t you see
I want to be independent on my own
Can’t you see
I want to be able to have my own home

Can’t you see
I want the same things as everyone else
Can’t you see
I want to be appreciated for myself

~

Scott and his brother at a Boston Celtics game

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Awesome Apps for Autism

Most of us know what an app is. For those who don’t: “app” is short for application software, which helps a device user perform specific tasks. Most smartphones, handheld devices, and computers have apps that allow us to play games, catch up on the news, and connect us to social media.

Recently Hewlett-Packard (HP) hosted a “hackathon” for autism at their campus in Cupertino, California. What is a hackathon? I asked myself the same question.

At the hackathon about 100 HP tech members and autism advocates came together to work towards developing touch screen apps for children with autism. Working with children who have autism, the team members began to develop apps that would help overcome the challenges individuals on the spectrum face daily. Some of the new apps include speech and verbal learning, communication assistants, and, of course, games. These new apps — soon to be released on the web for free! — encourage children to develop communication skills, learn according to their interests, and develop social relations with other children by sharing a common interest in technology.

Communication and social skills have the opportunity to improve drastically with these new apps. In a case study about a child with ASD, researchers used FM audio trainers and video inputs to see if social skills and communication skills improved with these devices. After weeks of treatment, the case study showed that the individual had a substantial increase to attention of visual and auditory cues.

With the assistance of the external devices, the child had an increase in communication. [1] Similarly these new apps for smart phones are designed to use visual and auditory cues to assist children in developing communication and behavioral skills.

apps

A study on the new technology of smart phones addresses the old system of communicating, PECS, and compares it to the updated communication systems that are on apps. PECS used laminated cards to teach and improve communication and social skills. PECS is very successful but does have some limitations. Using the laminated cards for PECS can be an overwhelming, paper dependent process. With new technology that allows the cards do be digitized on a touch screen, children, teachers, and parents can have an easier time using the PECS system. The Pix Talk system, similar to the apps created at the hackathon, is designed to use visual and verbal cues to enhance communication and behavioral skills. The Pix talk system creates a personalized and more involved way for children to communicate their needs. Motivation for ASD children to use these new programs also increases with the use of a computer, smart phone, or a touch screen device. Technology is becoming more and more important in providing easy, fun ways for children with ASD to communicate and socialize. [2]

Most children these days know how to play on iPad and use a touch screen. The innovations of the hackathon will drawl on the easy use of a touch screen for ASD children and allow them to download apps that are not only educational and beneficial, but also fun. To check out more of the apps that are to be offered and to suggest any idea you think would make a good app head to http://www.hackingautism.org/hackathon

Starting at a young age, technology is engrained in your life. The advent of the touch screen and these new apps will allow ASD children to learn life skills that will help improve their everyday living. Everything from social relationships, communication, independence, and visual and auditory learning has the opportunity to improve with these new apps.

One touching story of how these apps can change a child’s life is the story of Jordan, a 10-year-old boy with autism. As a boy who could not communicate verbally, technology changed his life. His heartwarming poem, “Silent No More,” describes his journey from a non-communicative boy to someone who has endless possibilities in the realm of communication technology.

To read his poem — which I highly recommend — and other stories of success with technology head to http://www.hackingautism.org/stories-of-hope. In the words of HP executive, Phil McKinney, “Today is about making technology that gives people a voice, and the ability to participate”.

What apps do you love? Share in a comment and start the conversation here!

– Taylor Platt

______________________________

To read more about the “hackathon”: http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_19098013

We’ll be adding links to the apps we believe are helpful to our marketplace atwww.theautismresearchfoundation.org/marketplace.php .

Until then head over to http://www.autismepicenter.com/autism-blog/blog5.php to read some more information about the iPad and the new apps that are coming out.

Another great website to check out ishttp://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/communicationdevelopment.htm. This website provides great detailed information about the communication development for children in kindergarten through fifth grade. It also gives suggestions to parents and caregivers about how to improve communication skills.

________________________________________

De Leo G, Gonzales CH, Battagiri P, Leroy G. A smart-phone application and a companion website for the improvement of the communication skills of children with autism: clinical rationale, technical development and preliminary results. J Med Syst 2011 Aug;35(4):703-711.[cited 2011 Oct 21 ]

Baharav E, Darling R. Case report: Using an auditory trainer with caregiver video modeling to enhance communication and socialization behaviors in autism. J Autism Dev Disord 2008 Apr;38(4):771-775.[cited 2011 Oct 21 ]

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Batman Saved More Than Bedtime

When we moved our family almost 3000 miles away from their cousins, I knew the separation would be hard.

My girls and my sister’s boys have grown up together since birth. They love Lilly for who she is and have never seen her as any different than that. After a horrific trip home this past summer, I soon realized flying across country with my autistic angel just might not be in the cards for awhile.

How was I going to keep the connection going?

My angel loves watching pictures and videos of the boys, but never asks for them or does more than a whine and then kiss on the phone. I just had to keep the faith to talk to both my daughters equally about their boys in California, show pictures, tell stories. One of the difficult aspects of autism is not knowing what their minds are absorbing. I know my Lilly is extremely bright, but it’s never easy or normal to not receive answers to questions we try to ask her.

A couple weeks ago, I was blessed with a sneak peek inside her precious mind. Every day around noon the doorbell rings, and I prompt Lilly to go answer it. It is always one of her amazing therapists arriving for her in-home ABA therapy. On this day, she pranced through the hallway, long legs and tip-toes as always, but cried when she opened the door. To my complete and utter amazement, she whined, “No Miss __.” “Dane! Dane!”

There it was. More than a year from moving away, she asked for her adoring cousin. I immediately jumped on FaceTime with my sister so Lilly could see his face, but more importantly so my nephew knew she was here, asking for him. I ran into the kitchen, grabbed his proud soccer picture from the fridge and put it in her therapy room. My gut told me to keep the momentum going. I felt this strong urge to hold onto this seemingly unimaginable moment forever.

batmanmaskShe has not asked for him since, but found a Batman mask given to her by the boys on our trip home. Lilly had regressed on that trip — humming constantly, little to no language, wandering — and the only thing that seemed to calm her was the mask. It acted as a comfort, an escape: heartbreaking and adorable wrapped in the same breath.

Of course my generous and loving nephews let her keep it.

Lately, and, honestly, most of her life, Lilly’s bedtime routine has been a nightmare to say the least. So last night, when she insisted on bringing the hard plastic mask to bed, I didn’t flinch. Anything to calm her and not cause aggression and a meltdown, I figured.

As if she was recalling a memory, my sweet girl slid the mask on, smiled one of her room-lighting, angelic grins, and peacefully closed her eyes. My heart sang: confident that this one simple toy is serving as a link, a physical connection to recall her memory of time spent with her boys.

Most people wear a mask to keep the world out, but Lilly wears hers to let the world in. I bet Batman never knew he had the ability to save a little girl like this.

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Emma and Olivia: My Angels

For my first blog post, I wanted to share why I’m here and why it’s so important to me. Here is my story.

I have two nineteen-year-old sisters with moderate to severe autism, Emma and Olivia. They are my absolute life and there is nothing in this world that I would not do for them, but let’s just say I’ve had my fair share of trials and tribulations for the last 20 years, give or take.

When I was younger, it was a lot easier for me to shrug off the idea of autism and just categorize it as something my sisters had and I had to deal with it. I never thought about it often or made any kind of reference to my friends because it was so normal to me that it didn’t seem like I needed to explain. My sisters’ behavior were such a natural flow in my life that I almost believed that everyone’s siblings were like mine.

As I grew older, I started to realize the enormity of the difference between my life and my friends’ lives. It became evident to me that I struggle with something everyday that no one else I knew did. As this came to light, I started to wonder how others perceived my difference and if it was good or bad. I struggled with this for some time, trying to figure out how to deal with coming to this realization. I would find people staring at Emma and Olivia to be horrifying and all I wanted to do was to go over and tell them how ignorant and blind to reality they were.

Comments from older generations while out in public would sometimes bring me to tears, and I needed comfort from my parents who were equally as shaken. This happened once when my family and I were out to dinner at a fancy hotel. An older gentleman went up to my sister Emma and said “Young lady! Why are you being so loud? You need to quiet down in here, that is inappropriate.”

I broke down. My dad got angry with him and let him know he upset my family, and he eventually, reluctantly, apologized. I didn’t understand how there were so many people in this world that had no idea what was going on with Emma and Olivia, and how they could be so offensive and arrogant.

It hasn’t been until recent years that I embrace my sister’s differences and enjoy sharing them with the world. If I find someone staring or making a comment, and I’m in close enough proximity, I’ll try my best to explain my situation in a polite manner. To this day, in some situations, I still struggle with the polite aspect. But since autism is so widely known today, it has become less common for people to make comments, yet the staring is still something that is extremely prevalent. I’ve come to terms with the idea that in most cases it’s curiosity, not condescension.

As this came to light for me, I was in high school and it was time to think about college. Everyone was extremely concerned with what they wanted to do with their lives. It seemed to be something that young people my age had much difficulty with, and I didn’t quite understand. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. There was no doubt in my mind that a career with autism and/or other mental disorders was my calling. I am interning with The Autism Research Foundation to give myself a well-rounded understanding of autism outside of my family, and to share my personal experiences and resources with the autism community I have grown up a part of.

I consider myself so lucky that my sisters were brought into my life because I’m one of the only people I know my age that has a clear motive for schooling and life itself. Emma and Olivia have brought me an incredible amount of purpose that I might not have had otherwise. They better me and I wouldn’t be who I am today without them. They’ve touched not only mine but so many others lives that I can’t help but wonder if that is their purpose. I think of them always, every aspect of my days remind me of them, and I couldn’t be happier.

While I spend so much time and energy dedicated to being their ‘guardian’ angel, they’ve equipped me with life skills, emotions, and first-hand experience that would earn THEM the title of ‘guardian angels’ all on their own.

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Holidays? No Problem!

Holidays are stressful for everyone. Forced family fun (FFF as my mom likes to call it), gift giving/rejecting, and massive coma-inducing dinners… it’s all upon us and guess what? We have a sibling with autism.

If you’re reading this and you don’t have a sibling with autism, here is a run down of some of the events that can add extra sparkle to the holiday cheer:

  • Meltdowns! Big ones. It can be triggered by a multitude of things, usually involving screaming, fighting, kicking, rolling on the floor, etc.…
  • Persistence to blare the Barney VHS tapes that NEEDED to come to Grandma’s or leaving the house just wasn’t an option.
  • Act III: The Escape Artist. Find an open door, maybe even a window, and they’re OUT.
  • Bags of food to cook specifically for our wonderful siblings whose diets don’t allow for turkey with gravy or pineapple ham. It’s only because they’re too trendy though – it’s a new diet, kind of hard to explain.
  • Speaking of hard to explain, there are always the bold and beautiful family members. One little quirky thing out of our sib’s mouth and it’s on to the final act: ‘twas the night before judgment day.

If you have a sibling with autism, at least one of those scenarios should sound familiar. Of course every child is different in his or her disorder, but the characteristics are known to be the somewhat same amount of challenging. I’ve come to realize that some, even all of these things just aren’t avoidable. I hope to provide some insight on softening the blow, even if only a little bit.

First of all, don’t panic. The less meltdowns there are, the better. There are several ways to combat any of these situations, but the biggest savior is distractions! This works best for things like meltdowns, persistent blaring, and escaping. For example, iPads and other types of technology that can play videos or music with volume control or headphones have been big helps in my family’s life. If wherever you’re going has a TV, DVD player, or computer, even better. But it’s a good idea to have a back up plan like an iPod, portable DVD player, or even a laptop.

Another way to keep behavior at bay is a solid reward system. If your sib knows before hand that they’ll be rewarded for good behavior, the likelihood of a tantrum happening (or at least lasting the minimum amount of time it goes on) is increased. Rewards depend on what your sib likes to do and are different for everyone. My sisters love to go to the mall, so my parents often tell them that we’ll take a trip to the mall if they behave. The most important part of a rewards system is to be able to follow through. When your sib knows that your word is good, their behavior is much more likely to be desirable.

Needing to have your own food options is completely unavoidable in most situations. If your sib is on a specific diet, or is just plain picky, then there is nothing wrong with bringing their own options. Pack a cooler bag with the foods they love and ask if it is OK to use the kitchen at your destination. If it’s a problem, prepare the food before hand. If you’re going to a restaurant, find out in advance if they have options your sib will like. If they don’t, make sure they eat before hand.

Overly forward family members, friends, and even strangers are an unfortunate part of life. The likelihood of someone not approving of your sibs unusual behavior can be pretty high, including their genuine disregard for your feelings. When someone makes a snide comment just know that its not the end of the world – they don’t and probably never will understand what you’re going through. Some may not agree with it, but I’ve had the best luck ignoring it and acting like it never happened. Sometimes all they want is the attention. If it’s an ongoing occurrence, ask to speak to them privately and ask them to be more respectful of your sibling because what they say is hurtful to you. If this doesn’t help, get a parent involved. What they’re doing is inappropriate and should be stopped.

My number one piece of advice when trying to survive a holiday with your sib is not to make a big deal out of it. Go about it like a normal day at home, with a few little tweaks. Family and friends should be understanding, loving, and accepting of whatever your sib brings to the party because guaranteed, they’ll be the life of it!

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