Gateway Therapies
Brisbane occupational therapy, speech therapy, autism therapies and NDIS services for all ages

Get Help With Autism and NDIS Services Brisbane

Featuring articles from our principal Occupational Therapist, Dr Nicole Grant, members of the therapy team, and guest posts from members of our community.  

Posts tagged autism
6 Tips for Making a Comfortable Bedroom for Children with Autism

A Guest Post by:

Lillian Brooks

lillian@learningdisabilities.info

LearningDisabilities.info was created to offer information and understanding to parents of children with learning disabilities, as well as adults who are in need of continued support to succeed.

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 Light, noise, and other kinds of sensory activity are often more intense for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Sensory sensitivity, which many children with ASD experience, means that various stimuli in their environments can cause discomfort, pain, and irritation. As a parent, you want to do what you can to mitigate these effects, and your child’s bedroom should be the first place in your home that receives attention. With that in mind, here are six tips for making a comfortable and safe bedroom for children with ASD.

 Declutter

 The first part of designing your child’s bedroom will be to declutter it. If you’re like most parents, you’re no stranger to toys and games being scattered around your home, and your child’s bedroom is probably no exception. It’s important to bring some order to the room in which your child will begin and end each day. If you seem to have too many items and too little space, look into attractive storage solutions (e.g., bins, stackable drawers, baskets) and label them.

 

Rearrange

 After decluttering, consider the arrangement of the room. It’s important that it accommodates sleeping, playing, and learning. One of the best layouts for these purposes is to place all the furniture along the walls so that there is space in the middle of the room for your child to play or do homework. If the room is large enough, you can even create zones for different activities.

 

Move It Outside

 While you’re making changes in your child’s bedroom, remember that you don’t have to fit all of their activities inside. It’s good for children to play outside, and for a child with ASD, the backyard is a great place for them to have fun. No one wants to be cooped up all the time, and the extra space of a backyard benefits their development allows them to explore. There are many sensory play activities for the outdoors, such as swinging, toy car washing, nature observation, and drawing with washable paint or chalk.

 

Change the Lights

 Light is one of the elements that can most affect children with ASD. For many children with ASD, fluorescent lighting is bothersome and triggering. This is because they can sense the minute flickering and low-buzz of fluorescent light bulbs, which doesn’t affect people without autism. For your child’s bedroom, consider putting in more consistent lighting, such as full spectrum and/or incandescent light bulbs. Furthermore, adding blackout shades can soften the outdoor light that shines through the bedroom.

 

Choose Soothing Colours

 The colours of the bedroom walls also play a role in creating a productive and restful atmosphere. Neutral tones like beige and grey are hard to beat because they are the least distracting and can accommodate other design elements. If you want something that inspires productivity but is still calming and relaxing, consider pale shades of blue, green, pink, or purple.

 

Block the Noise

 Along with lighting and colours, it’s important to take steps to minimize outdoor noise in your child’s bedroom. A passing train, barking dogs in the neighbourhood, or foot traffic in a nearby hallway can hinder their focus, disrupt their sleep, or severely agitate them. Here are a few additions that can mute extraneous noise in your child’s bedroom.

 

●      High-piled carpet

●      Rugs

●      Acoustic wall paneling

●      Thick curtains

 

If your child has ASD, it’s important to make sure their bedroom is a productive and restful environment. Start by decluttering and organising, consider changing the layout of the room, and remember that you can designate many activities for the backyard. Also, address any lighting, colour, and noise issues to accommodate your child’s sensory sensitivity. A comfortable and safe bedroom is critical for children with ASD, and taking steps can help you get there.

 

Photo Credit: Pexels

 

Using visual aids to improve behaviour

Just like learning to eat solid foods, crawl, and hold a spoon, language and communication skills also take time to develop. For children with developmental delays and neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism, it can take even longer. A child’s poor ability to communicate and express wants and needs often goes hand in hand with tantrums and other challenging behaviours. It takes time to develop the full range of communication skills, and there are many!

Communication is a two-way exchange of information between two or more people. Good communication relies on all people involved having the ability to get a point across, receive and understand the message, interpret body language, and respond in a timely manner. Communication breaks down when there is an inability for either the communicator or the receiver to understand and/ or respond to what is being communicated.

For children with poor verbal communication skills, life can be frustrating. They can have lots of difficulty having their wants and needs met because they cannot find the words they need, or may have the words, but not the ability to produce the speech sounds. They might have an auditory delay which means they miss important information, or find it hard to keep up with conversation. They may lack the vocabulary to talk about the things they are interested in. They may not have the ability to understand directions, or interpret tone, or even pin point where auditory information is coming from. Body language and facial expressions can be confusing. Add to the mix a bit of distraction, classroom noise, and high anxiety, and communication becomes even more challenging.

It is very common to see challenging behaviours from kids who have poor communication skills. We can help to minimise the severity and frequency of these behaviours by making communication easier. By addressing the underlying cause of the behaviour, we are more likely to see the behaviour disappear.

Visual aids are one way we can help to improve behaviour by addressing the underlying issue, which is frustration caused by communication difficulties. Visual aids introduce an alternative, and sometimes easier, form of communication. Some kids with auditory delays find it easier to communicate using visual input, and are more motivated by images, pictures, and other graphics.

Visual aids can be things like schedules, checklists, images, pictures, PECS, and charts, as well as stories, cartoons and other graphics that show the child what is expected and/ or gives the child a choice of things from which to choose. Visual aids can show the order of events to eliminate anxiety caused by uncertainty. Visual aids can give kids the words they need to show you what they are thinking. Charts and graphs can provide a visual reminder of progress, which can be very motivating for some kids, especially those with autism.

The keys points on this topic are:

  • if you are having difficulty with a challenging behaviour, anger, aggression, or other concern, think about whether your child is having difficulty communicating something to you

  • Help your child to communicate by introducing visual aids

  • Talk to your speech therapist or occupational therapist to find out the best way to introduce visual aids

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How occupational therapy helps children with autism

Article originally posted as a Guest Post, Authored by Dr Nicole Grant at Baby Hits and Tips.

Occupational Therapists are highly underrated allied health professionals. Being one, I can say that with some authority. Seriously though, having just returned from a conference attended by about 750 of us, I can definitely say that they are an amazing bunch of people. The thing is, if you haven’t needed one, chances are you don’t know what an OT is, and how much you are missing out on!

OT’s are university qualified health professionals who are specifically interested in helping people to independently undertake those activities that matter to them most. For children, this quite often means helping them to play. We look at all of those things that can impact on a child’s ability to play – like physical injuries, intellectual impairment or developmental delay. We find out what kids love to do, need to do, and want to do, and help them to do it. This may include giving them special equipment or tools, modifying their environment to better support them, or engaging them in therapy aimed at improving their ability to play.

Children with autism can benefit from Occupational Therapy in many different ways. We can help to develop fine motor skills (handwriting, using cutlery, stacking blocks) as well as improve social skills (turn taking, joint attention, making friends). We can help establish alternate methods of communication where speech is limited (PECS, Makaton signing) or provide strategies to help overcome sensory dysfunction(such as hypersensitivity to noises and smells).  OT’s can also help with self-care skills such as toileting and dressing.

Many OT’s will undergo ongoing professional development or seek further education to become specialized in different fields. To work with children on the autism spectrum, you will usually find that your therapist has undergone specific training in interventions tailored towards helping children with autism.

If you are a parent of a child with autism, there are questions that you should always ask your therapist, before deciding if they are the right person for you. The following questions are adapted from the Early Intervention for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders: “Guidelines for Good Practice”  (Roberts & Prior, 2012).

Questions to ask your OT

  • What are the specific aims of the program or service you offer?
  • Are there any medical or physical risks?
  • What assessments are carried out prior to the intervention?
  • What is the evidence base for this intervention? (i.e. what proof is there that this works?)
  • What evaluation methods have been used to assess the outcome of intervention? (i.e. how good are the studies that have tested this treatment option?)
  • Do you make money out of the intervention you are promoting?
  • What is known about the long-term effects of this treatment?
  •  How much does it cost?
  •  How much time will be involved?

At Gateway Therapies, we specialise in helping children with autism. Contact us now on 3398 9367 to make an appointment. 

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Great places to take your children with special needs in Brisbane

Great places to take your children with special needs in Brisbane

Brisbane is a city with something for everyone. Bordered by bays and bush, and being a rapidly growing capital city, we really do have a great range of options for entertainment and exploration.

As kids with special needs tend to have vastly differing needs, before embarking on an outing it’s best to consider a few things:

1.    Firstly, what are my child’s interests. What does he or she find fun and exciting?

2.    Who is coming with us. What will I need to take?

3.    Can we get help if we need? How easy will it be to return home or find medical care, or even take time out if needed?

4.    If my child has limited mobility, what access is available for wheelchairs and other mobility aids?

5.    Am I eligible for a discount on entry or are there any special allowances for my child that may give us a better experience?

6.    What is the best time of day or day of the week to go? Do I need to worry about crowds or noise?

Parks

There are quite a few parks out there that have much to offer kids with special needs. A little bit out of the way, but nice for a day trip is Queens Park in Ipswich. Particularly great for kids with limited mobility, the park’s café and amenities all have wheelchair access, and a liberty swing has been installed also for use with wheelchairs. Other parks with liberty swings can be found here -

http://www.libertyswing.com.au/index.php/home/find-a-swing-near-you.html

 Closer to the CBD is Hawthorne Park on Riding Road. This is a great little playground for kids who tend to attempt escape. It is fully fenced, shaded, and is well-padded for those kids that are a little accident-prone. There are a few other fenced playgrounds around, offering a low-risk play experience for young kids.

Cultural Centre

In South Brisbane, there is a line up of some of the best experiences for kids – and they’re free. A stroll or zip around the Gallery of Modern Art and the Queensland Museum can be a great experience for budding artists or curious kids. A lesser-known gem in this part of the city, is The Corner, on the ground floor of the State Library. Suitable for preschool aged kids and below, The Corner is a quiet play area often set up with dress-ups, books, craft, computers, imaginative play and construction toys to keep the kids busy. It’s cool and quiet, and worth a visit if you are in the area.

 Pools and Water Play

Swimming and water play is a big part of our lifestyle as Queenslanders, as evidenced by the number of pools and water play places dotted around our capital city. Some kids prefer to be fully immersed, having a paddle or a kick around, while others just like to be near water – feeling the splashes or smelling the saltiness of the sea. Water is a sensory experience. It can be calming or exciting, depending on your child and their particular preferences. Knowing what your child enjoys is important before ‘throwing them in the deep end’. Luckily, we have lots of options in Brisbane to help kids with special needs benefit from water play.

Many pools, like The Colmslie Pool in Morningside have disability access and offer hydrotherapy, swimming lessons or free play. Alternatively, on Wynnum Esplanade you can find a water park, which allows kids to run in and out of the water fountains or play on the equipment nearby. On the north side, Redcliffe Lagoon also has a water park, which may be preferable for those kids who don’t like to enter water, but like to feel water on their skin.

All throughout the year, events for children with special needs and disabilities are advertised, and can be found on websites such as What's on 4 Kids and Families Magazine - Brisbane.

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Activities for kids with autism in Brisbane

Activities for kids with autism in Brisbane

Autism Spectrum Disorder or autism, is increasingly in the spotlight due to media reports of increased prevalence rates and the never-ending search for causes and cures. Parents of kids with autism can feel limited by options for activities as a result of their child’s need for strict routine, inability to cope with crowds, noise or other sensory input, and difficult behaviours which can be more difficult to manage in public.

Children with autism however, can benefit from a range of activities and should have the opportunity to enjoy participating in the many activities available to kids in Brisbane. The key to getting out and about with kids on the spectrum is a little bit of forward planning.

When preparing your child with autism for a new adventure, consider the following:

1.    Start with activities that are largely predictable, such as a train ride on a familiar route or a walk along a road visited many times before. Discuss your plan to alter the route or catch a later train prior to doing so.  

2.    Prepare to be flexible. You may need to leave a place or event before it’s finished if a meltdown is imminent. Try again another time. The next time may be different.

3.    Try to plan activities around what is relevant to your child and incorporate special interests and hobbies, rather than what you think kids his/ her age should be interested in.

4.     Plan your day and include your child in the planning. Preparation may include showing your child photos of the place you are visiting, writing a schedule of your day together, packing a bag together of all the things you might need.

5.     In your bag, pack pen and paper for you or your child to write instructions or draw pictures for non-verbal or pre-reading kids. For sensory challenged kids, you may want to include earplugs, sunglasses, an iPod and headphones, fidget toys and other items that calm or divert attention.

One of the great things about living in Brisbane is that there are plenty of options for kids with autism and quite a few agencies that offer support to parents wanting to help their child participate.

PlayConnect Playgroups

Most mainstream playgroups and mums groups are very welcoming of families who have children on the spectrum, however Playgroup Australia run playgroups especially for kids with autism. You can find one by clicking here - http://www.playgroupaustralia.com.au/index.cfm?objectid=F85EF1BC-0BB9-CA13-B8D98FA6AE3E2830.

 Public Transport

Many kids with ASD love public transport. Often a train, bus or ferry ride can be an outing in itself! Try short trips first to gauge your child’s enjoyment, before embarking on lengthier trips. Look at maps, plan your route, count the stops to your destination, listen to the engine or feel the vibration under your feet. Remember that kids with autism often see and feel the world in a different way. Use these trips as a chance to see the world through their eyes.

ASD Kidz movie days

ASD Kidz is a support group for families who have children with autism. Every few months they organise an autism friendly movie day, which means that kids on the spectrum are free to move about, stim, and enjoy the movie in a judgment-free environment. Visit their Facebook page for more information - https://www.facebook.com/pages/ASD-Kidz-Familyz-Inc/163088713743185

 

 

Experience Music

Music is enjoyable for most kids, and participating in music groups can be both beneficial and enjoyable for kids with ASD. The evidence supporting Music Therapy as an effective treatment option for autism is primarily anecdotal, however many kids love participating. Informal music groups can be equally fun, and may include singing and/ or using instruments. Either search for a therapist if specifically seeking Music Therapy or try going along to one of the Queensland Orchestra’s Kiddies Cushion Concerts. 

 Visit an Indoor Play Centre

For those kids who just love to run and bounce and climb, consider going to an indoor play centre. Choose a time that’s likely to be less crowded, and go for it. There are indoor play centres located all around Brisbane. If you are unsure if this is the place for your child, consider ringing ahead first. Find out if they can make specific recommendations about how to make the visit more enjoyable for you and your child.

 

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