Friday, August 14, 2009

Stimulating Communication in Children with Autism

By Anna Luca, founder of

Looking for ideas on helping an autistic child communicate? This article may help. I’m the parent of a child with Aspergers Syndrome and he experienced speech development delay. My other child has cerebral palsy, and is unable to speak. Similar to what is being reported by some of the kids with autism, he has lots to say, but can’t get the words out – at least not well enough that everyone can understand him.

There’s a good chance that if you’re dealing with an autistic child that has trouble communicating, you’ll be able to benefit from some of the alternative communication methods we’ve used. Here are some ideas for you to think about.

Picture communication is a great technique. You can use symbols, images or personal photos on cards or even stickers as a way of communicating. This is how we started at home. We created custom images and photos of his favourite foods and drinks on laminated cards and attached them with Velcro to a large Bristol board on the side of the fridge, placed at his height for convenience. When he was hungry or thirsty, he’d go and examine the board, take the card of what he wanted, and bring it to us.

He’s also a big fan of videos. So we created custom cards with images of the covers of his favourite shows and created another communication board placed at his height next to the TV in the living room. This was actually a huge benefit to us, as until then he’d just cry and scream, pointing to the TV and we had no clue what he wanted. After the PCS cards were set up, the tantrums stopped.

In the hallway near the kitchen, we created a board with picture symbols of different facial expressions, with the printed word of different feelings. This was a very useful experiment, as it gave him a way of expressing his feelings when it would be next to impossible to guess what his thoughts were. For instance, he’d bring us a “scared” card to let us know that he was afraid of the dark in his room. How else would we ever have guessed that? And how important is it to a child to have a parent appease their fears?

Another time he grabbed the “quiet” card and brought it to me, making sure that I knew that was what he wanted. Puzzled, I then watched as he took the card and poked his noisy little brother with it!

He was smiling all the while, mind you, but it was great to see that he had figured out a way of telling us both that he wanted his brother’s behaviour to change.

On the occasion that we had a caregiver in charge that wasn’t as familiar with our son’s routine, he was also able to use the communication cards to help the caregiver understand what he needed.

In the daycare and schools, they used a similar setup with picture communication symbols. They found it most useful to help create a map of the daily activities, and help train kids in the steps of individual routines, such as getting dressed, washing hands, bathroom routines and so on.

Setting up this type of communication system can take a fair bit of time though, and I realized that not everyone has that luxury. So, I started a small business offering to create custom communication cards and boards for them. As autistic kids often respond much better to photos of actual items they know, this can be a real benefit in promoting communication, with minimal effort for families and caregivers.

That project in turn led to the creation of a website offering other tips and tools for families with special needs,

Later on I found Prompt communication cards and stickers that are pre-printed and ready to use. This of course is a huge time saver, especially for the daycare and school environment. There are even sets available to help communicate and learn life skills and routines such as shopping or going out to the restaurant.

The next step up in alternative communication is to provide an actual voice that will do the speaking on their behalf. For this, we’ve found the Go Talk to be the best solution. This augmentative communication device also uses picture communication symbols or images (standard or custom) to communicate. But it has several very important advantages – access, portability, sound and durability.

With the Go Talk line of communication devices, there are a number of symbols available for display at any one time, but there are also additional layers of symbols also available at the touch of a button. The Go Talk 20, for instance, has 5 standard buttons that can be programmed, as well as 20 variable buttons that are available on 5 different levels. That means that at any point in time, he can have 105 communication symbols available to him wherever he goes. And, each button allows you to record a voice message for each level.

With the Go Talk, for the first time he was able to participate in a classroom. He could raise his hand and answer the teacher’s questions just like everybody else, just by pressing on the right button to speak for him.

It also allowed him to take part in drama class since he learned to listen for his cue and ‘speak’ his lines when ready. He loved it. And of course, he can use the Go Talk to tell us about his day, or tell his classmates what he did on the weekend.

I realized that this type of small low-tech and affordable device wasn’t readily available, and often people didn’t even know it existed. So, in addition to talking about it in my existing website, I created an online store to make it easy to find and purchase all sorts of useful equipment.

Using the right communication device can help autistic kids get their words out.

For more information or to purchase a Go Talk or other communication device, picture communication cards and stickers, and other products for autism, visit my online store at:

Go to and enter promo code ahwm and press recalculate for 10% off orders of $75 or more - limited time offer subject to change.

The Grass-Fed Meats Advantage

By John Wood –

The majority of Americans don’t understand the grass-fed advantage for their health. Our forefathers consumed grass-fed meat in this country for decades until the land grand universities saw an opportunity to dispose of excess nitrogen stockpiles following WWII as plant food for corn production. This created a glut of corn and initiated the modern era of commercial cattle feeding with high energy starches. As a nation, we now consume just a fraction of grass-fed compared to grain fed which is a 180 degree turn from 1950.

Rolling the clock back 60 years cancer, diabetes and heart disease were much smaller risks than at the dawn of the 21st century. Needless to say, beef is not the only major shift in the American diet, but one has to recognize that shifting omega 6:3 ratios from 3:1 to 20:1 and dropping CLA content to insignificant levels has impacted the American meat consumer’s diet.

The next time you drive in rural America, please note beef cattle, lambs and goats contently grazing swards of grass. During this daily ritual which takes place primarily in the first hours after dawn and aggressively before sunset, the species mentioned are performing the tasks their maker intended. The forage diet will yield a pH of 7 in the first chamber or fermentation vat of the 4 stomach ruminant animal that is driven by the bacteria in the first chamber responsible for fermentation. The output of the billion plus family of pH 7 forage bacteria drives the next 3 chambers ending in the small intestine. The pH 7 family bacteria are responsible for increased CLA, omega 3, vitamins A&E, branch chain amino acids and enzymes in the finished retail cuts for consumers.

What happens when man replaces forage with starch heavy grains? In 30 days, the first chamber bacteria flora switches from pH 7 friendly bacteria to billions of pH 4 bacteria. During this 30 day time frame omega 3, CLA, Vitamins A&E, branch chain amino acids and good enzyme levels plummet. Not only is this a sad day for the end consumer but a hardship for the animals as well. It is customary to feed low grade levels of antibiotics to keep liver abscesses at bay in beef cattle on high starch diets yielding acidic stomachs.

200 days of excellent forage management can be ruined in 30 days of grain feeding. Consequently, forbids starch in the diet.

U.S. Wellness Meats has 6 years worth of grass-fed beef consumption experience in high performance athletes specializing in strong man, power lifting, figure fitness, women’s marathon running and personal trainers working with a mix of professional athletes. These athletes will attest in increased lean muscle mass, reduce joint pains, improved digestion and excellent blood chemistry.

Jon Andersen is in the top tier of world class strong man competitors and consumes 100 pounds of beef per month. He reports that would be impossible with commodity beef as constipation would prohibit his levels of consumption. He indicates the number one training improvement in the last 6 years has been switching to the grass-fed protein source. He has added approximately 27 pounds of lean muscle with excellent blood chemistry to the surprise of his medical team.

Jon Diflorio, owner of Institute 3E, is a world class fitness trainer on Long Island who has been one of our best supporters since inception. Mr. Diflorio encouraged U.S. Wellness to produce beef pemmican from a native American recipe. After 18 months of effort, Mr. Diflorio is convinced we have the premier energy bar on the planet. 18 grams of protein and 340 calories packed into 3.2 ounces direct from the Cherokee nation recipe. Mr. Diflorio trains many professional athletes on the east cost.

Deena Kastor, the current U.S. women’s marathon record holder, is a great proponent of grass-fed meats. Ms. Kastor has been encouraging aspiring athletes to understand the grass-fed difference as she trains for Gold in 2008.

The U.S. Wellness Meats product line is touching a few premier athletes, but more importantly we are slowly proving to families across the country there is a smart choice in proteins that can be savored by your persona for a host of healthy advantages including your longevity.

We thank you for reading this brief article and encourage you to spread the good news of grass-fed meats. We’d like for you to enjoy 15% off your first order, use promo code: autism. Call for details.

At U.S. Wellness Meats… “Our animals eat right so you can too!”

Effective Methods Of Improving Behavior In Kids With Autism Spectrum Conditions

Reacting To Agitation, Escalation And Outburst

By Rebecca Klaw, MS, M. Ed.

Owner, Autism Services by Klaw

A word about consequences

Treating “out of control”, irrational, incoherent, destructive and sometimes abusive behavior with consequences is not routinely effective in children with autistic spectrum disorders. Children who are developmentally compromised in the areas of flexibility and frustration management usually:

§ Lack the capacity to manage emotions associated with frustration well enough to think clearly in the midst of crisis; and

§ Lack the ability to shift their thoughts from their agenda to your agenda even when faced with consequences.

Even when the punishment is very meaningful to the child, remembering the consequence in the middle of a meltdown in order to miraculously regain control, remains exceptionally difficult.

Proactive strategies for maintaining a calm, productive learning environment

Strategies for maintaining a learning environment are individualized but often include the following:

§ Access to communication

§ Access to choice

§ Predictability

§ Access to meaningful reinforcers that increase quality of life

§ Environmental adaptations

§ Analysis of common challenging behaviors and the motivation behind these behaviors

§ Utilization of strengths and special interests as a mechanism for teaching

Yet even with these strategies in place, there are times that new learning and growing expectations create frustration and our meltdown cycle begins.

Warning signs of agitation and escalation

While each child is different and has his or her own set of warning signs that indicate mounting stress and frustration, often an episode of agitation starts with refusal. Refusal can be shown in lots of ways: By saying “No!” effectively; falling to the floor; not moving; hitting, kicking, pinching, biting; or hiding under the table. Children with autism may refuse for many reasons and most of these reasons are linked to the universal difficulty with shifting attention.


It is important to intervene quickly once agitation is observed. You need to try and find the moment when the child is upset but can still reason and respond. One thing that should be done immediately is to reconsider the demands that you are making on the child. Is the demand a non-negotiable request? Worth pursuing on a good day but not on a bad day? How important is it? One way to prioritize demands is:

A level demands = Non-negotiable

B level demands = Important, but not totally essential, can be put on hold if the child is stressed about other things

C level demands= Non-essential, not important

A-level requests – those that involve health and safety and are non-negotiable - are often the trigger for full escalations and there is no easy way to avoid this. For a child that is inflexible, rigid, and routine-bound (as many of our children with autism are), being told that he/she must or mustn’t do something is often intolerable.

B-level requests – important but not essential - can be withdrawn or changed if you realize that there are too many other variables contributing to your child’s distress. If he/she is sick or tired, if there have been changes in routine, if there is sensory overload, do not choose this moment in time to teach a new skill. Save it for another time when the child is more available for learning.

If you find yourself withdrawing your B-level demand once you note the rising agitation, you can do the following: partner with the child (“Why don’t we both clean up today”), label the emotion and empathize, give the child time and space to absorb your request, use humor to de-escalate the situation and/or teach the child some negotiating skills around the demand that is causing agitation.

C-level requests can simply be withdrawn. Pick your battles thoughtfully. Remember that meltdowns are not good for anyone – not for you, not for others around you, and certainly not for the distressed child.


What do you do?

§ Wait it out safely.

§ Stop talking unless your words have a soothing effect.

§ Have one person manage the meltdown with others nearby to help you (not to help the child).

§ Know the child well. If you are uncertain or overwhelmed or if you have lost your objectivity, hand the job over to someone else.

§ Isolate the child. If he/she doesn’t want to come with you into a safe spot, then move other children and/or other staff away.

§ Use protective strategies so that no one gets injured.

§ Once the child has begun to calm down, you might offer sensory activities such as rocking or deep pressure if, and only if, you know that this is helpful in re-organizing the child.

§ Once the child has begun to calm down, you might offer the child a drink or something to eat if, and only if, you know that eating and drinking is helpful in calming and refocusing this child.

§ Offer the child with calming strategies that he/she has practiced during non-crisis times such as counting backwards, deep breathing or singing a repetitive song.


When the child is out of crisis, and the request has been met (medicine has been swallowed, seatbelt has been fastened, etc.), let the child know that even though it was hard, they did a good job complying and you are proud of them.

If the outburst was triggered by an A level or even a B level request, it is likely that that request, in the future, will once again cause the child to escalate and potentially meltdown even if the child has shown remorse and has “talked it through” with you during recovery. The child’s team, then, needs to come up with ways of understanding why this particular request is so difficult for the child and what to do to make it easier on the front-end, proactively. You might try:

§ Gathering more information from the child and the team about why this request was so problematic;

§ Writing a social story that gives the child information and coping strategies;

§ Setting up regular and highly desired rewards for compliance;

§ Reading the social stories, rehearsal and role play;

§ Finding effective calming methods that can be practiced and made readily available to the child even when agitated.


Understanding basic characteristics that cause distress in a child with autism will prevent adults from choosing inappropriate techniques to manage the crisis. Understand what fuels the child’s frustration and select techniques that seem to fit:

What you always do….

§ Responding to basic needs: Proactive strategies for helping to manage stress for the child and optimize functioning and learning are an important part of every child’s treatment, whether it be in the home, the school, the community or in groups. These include enhancing the opportunity for both receptive and expressive communication; adapting the environment; providing predictability; and fulfilling sensory needs.

But if they don’t work on a given day or in a particular circumstance…

§ Responding to agitation and escalation: The strategies for defusing potential meltdowns include: becoming the child’s partner as opposed to adversary; giving the child space and time to process the problem; empathizing and labeling the feelings; and, if possible, helping the child frame and solve the problem in a way that is satisfying to both you and the child.

But if these interventions don’t work…

§ Responding to crisis: The strategies for managing a meltdown in a therapeutic manner include isolating the child for his/her safety and the safety of others, using protective strategies in the event of dangerous and/or aggressive behavior, and waiting for the storm to blow over. As the child begins to calm, you may find that certain sensory activities increase the child’s ability to grow calm and focused again.

After it is over…

§ The learning phase: Although many children with autism have limited insight into their own behaviors, it is important to eventually discuss what happened with the child and to devise, as a team, ways to rehearse similar situations during non-stressed moments. Social stories, rehearsal and possibly desensitization with regular reinforcement are all appropriate post-meltdown techniques.

For a complete training DVD on overcoming difficult behaviors in children with autism related conditions please call (412) 247-0599, email or visit

Securing an Appropriate Education

By Mark S. Kamleiter

Attorney and Advocate for Children with Special Needs

Education is one of the most challenging trials for families of children with autism. For many years, society and educators considered children with autism to be mentally deficient and treated them accordingly. Today, we are learning that autism often hides very intact, even superior intellects. The problem is that a number of neurological issues interfere with the child’s ability to express his/her true intellect.

Depending upon the way the autism affects the child, the child may have difficulty understanding and expressing language. Sensory needs may cause distracting stereotypic behaviors, movement, and vocalizations. The child can have severe difficulty focusing on tasks, have a low threshold for frustration, and high levels of anxiety. Interactions with others may be difficult, because the child may not desire to or understand how to relate to others.

While the combination of the above issues may make the education of a child with autism seem daunting, we have learned that these children can be successfully taught. Every day, we are improving effective educational techniques for children with autism. We know how to help our children learn appropriate behavior and how to communicate their knowledge with us. We can teach our children to interact with us and each other and help them develop social skills.

Success in educating children with autism, however, depends upon several essential elements. First, only the most advanced, research-based, peer reviewed educational methods must be used. It is vital that we bring “best practices” to the education of children with autism and no longer accept twenty-year old practices instead.

Second, children with autism require extremely focused and intensive services, especially in the early years as pre-school skills are being developed. Third, we need to insist upon high expectations for our children. No one knows just how far our children can go educationally, so we need to bet on them. Finally, it is important that children with autism be educated with their typically-developing peers. The only way children with language, behavioral, and social disabilities will be able to reach beyond their disabilities is to be integrated with children who have well developed language, behavioral, and social skills. If this requires additional classroom support, then so be.

It is hard for schools to provide the level of services our children require. It is easier to put children with autism together in a classroom, with caretakers who do their best to gradually teach life skills. Insisting that children with autism receive essential, high-quality services will require a serious struggle against an archaic educational system.

This may be the most important challenge you will undertake to give your child a shot at breaking free of the restraints of autism. As you struggle, know that thousands of other parents are fighting the same fight. Our children are worth it.

Innovative Teen Programs to Curb the Symptoms of Autism

By Yomin Postelnik

The general rule is that treatment for autism must be delivered in the early stages of a child’s life. To be sure, early detection is critical and can mean the difference between mainstreaming a child or not as he or she gets ready to enter school.

Yet while early detection is essential, one should not think that nothing can be done in the later years of a child’s development. In fact, many innovative programs are being developed that have been incredibly effective in allowing teens with autism to flourish. This article will examine a few of the latest and most successful ones.

One program that is excellent for teens who need to develop social skills as well as job training capabilities is the Botvin Lifeskills Training Program. Generally used to curb substance abuse among teens, the program is also highly effective at developing a teen’s sense of self worth and personal responsibility. This program can be extremely effective in motivating teens with autism to succeed in school and allows them to adjust and even thrive in a workplace environment.

However, the above program is not specific to youth with special needs and is only effective with those who possess the highest levels of functionality. Other programs that are of greater value to special needs youth as a whole include a variety of software programs that facilitate learning, hands on programs that develop social skills, physical abilities and team work, as well as motivational programs that propel special teens to realize their full potential.

Sports and fitness programs for youth with autism abound. Special needs schools and social service agencies in most cities throughout the nation can provide lists of innovative therapeutic programs designed for special needs students. That said, one recent program started in Montague, New Jersey, is truly noteworthy and should be replicated in as many areas as possible.

Montague is home to Fountain House, a farming community maintained by adults with special needs. With the assistance of a grant from the Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation, Fountain House and the Boy Scouts of America embarked on a cooperative project in which teens with autism built a wildlife habitat trail on the farm’s property. In addition to receiving their Eagle Scout badges, participating teens learned a valuable lesson; that they are valuable and effective members of society. This program would serve as an ideal model for other therapeutic social and fitness programs in all cities and states.

In the field of education, one highly effective program for math instruction is ABA Math, a free software program that was designed by a parent to help his own child learn arthmatic. Available at, the program is designed to allow the student to practice level appropriate math problems in a variety of different ways until the problems’ concepts are fully understood. It is based on the Applied

Behavioral Analysis methods of UCLA’s Dr. O. Ivor Lovaas and is highly effective at increasing the mathematical abilities of teens who struggle greatly in this area. Another excellent resource for free educational software designed specifically for kids with autism is

With regard to social interaction programs, an organization called The Friendship Circle is taking the lead in promoting big brother/big sister type programs in which mainstream teens befriend children and fellow teens with autism. The program calls for home visitations, under the supervision and guidance of the parents or caregivers of special needs participants.

The program encourages volunteerism, which is shown to increase a teen’s civic awareness, sense of responsibility, public speaking abilities and academic performance, while greatly curbing his/her chances of falling into the pitfalls of crime, truancy or substance abuse. The program is also unique in its ability to develop lasting friendships between special needs teens and their mainstream peers. While the goal of the majority of treatment/therapeutic programs for teens with autism must be mainstreaming (and many of the Friendship Circle’s activities assist in this area as well; not the least of which are its sports and creative programs), mentoring and friendship building is essential for teens with more severe cases of autism.

These are a few of the most innovative programs that are currently available for teens with autism. And while early detection is key and much emphasis needs to be placed on treatment during the early years, the need for teen programs cannot be overstated. It is my two-pronged goal in featuring the best of these programs, that a) parents of special needs teenagers be made aware of their existence and b) these and other such programs be replicated wherever possible.

Yomin Postelnik may be contacted at

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Can treating allergy symptoms help with autism?

New laser treatment may help answer this question

Dr. Darren Lastofsky

AllergiCare™ Relief Centers of South Florida has introduced a new, non-invasive laser treatment for the effective relief of allergy symptoms allowing allergy sufferers the opportunity to no longer experience these debilitating symptoms and once again enjoy an uninhibited quality of life.

What makes this new method of treatment even more remarkable is the success that has been seen in treating patients with autism. “What we have found,” says AllergiCare™ clinic director Darren Lastofsky, D.C. “is that when we have treated autism patients for many of the food substances, primarily wheat, milk, and gluten, it has been reported back to us by families that there has been a decrease in the symptoms associated with autism”.

The link between autism and allergies has been highly debated over recent years with many researchers confident that food allergies do play a major role. According to the National Autistic Society, “people with autism are often intolerant of gluten, a protein in four types of cereal, and casein, a protein found in animals’ milk.”

According to over 30 years of studies carried out by the Sage Laboratory in Florida, food allergies are always present in children with autism and each situation seems to be with a unique combination of foods. Finding the foods that are toxic to your child is well worth the effort because it will affect their behavior dramatically. If a food can affect a child’s mood, it is hard to say what else it could be doing to the overall health and well being of that same child.

Although food allergies and sensitivities are most likely not the cause of autism, Lastofsky believes that the reactions to these substances magnifies the symptoms. He explains that by removing these reactions, the symptoms become increasingly manageable, and remarkable improvement in behavior, communication and social interaction have been the result.

The unique biofeedback and laser system used in the clinics can assess inappropriate reactions to over 10,000 different food, airborne, outdoor and environmental substances. “What make this technique so special”, says Lastofsky is that in addition to its effects, the treatments are affordable, pain-free, there are no allergy shots or medication, and it is safe and effective for adults and children of all ages.”

AllergiCare Relief Centers has three area locations in Boca Raton, Palm Beach Gardens and Ft. Lauderdale and can be contacted at 1-866-788-3391 or