Posts about Social Skills:

New Health insurance options coming to NH's Healthcare Exchange in 2015

Admin 8/21/2014
Recent news releases from the NH Department of Insurance as well as others have announced several new options that have been recommend to CMS for next year's NH Healthcare Exchange.  The link below announces Assurant Health specifically but others that were just confirmed with the DOI are Anthem BCBS NH, Harvard Pilgrim, Minute Men, Assurant Health and Maine Community Health.  They are awaiting confirmation from CMS Federally for inclusion.  

I've seen announcements from Anthem that service limits for ABA Therapy have been removed but have not yet been able to access details surrounding the other plans.  I wrote to our Insurance Commissioner recently regarding Harvard Pilgrim's current dollar cap for ABA but was unable to identify the details of the plan that has already been recommended for inclusion.  You can see a copy of my letter below.  Note that Dan Unumb of Autism Speaks has been a great help in these efforts so be sure to get out on September 28th for the Northern New England Walk NOW for Autism at SNHU in Manchester.  Without their help we probably would not have seen the dramatic shift towards support for ABA in NH this year. ~Tim Heald 

Easy Way to Build Communication with Toys You Already Own

Admin 6/1/2014
Easy Way to Build Communication with Toys You Already Own
An effective way to increase many language and social skills, while putting a new spin on an old game or toy, are barrier games.  In a barrier game, the players sit with some sort of barrier between them and a directing player gives directions on how to complete a task or create a matching end product.  Common toys, such as Mr. Potato Head, Cootie bugs from the game Cooties, Legos, K’nex, a coloring page, or simply a piece of paper and some crayons can be used. 
To play a barrier game, the “it” person, or the directing player, creates a product.  For building games, it could be a structure using particular types of blocks or certain colors.  For Mr. Potato Head one player could draw a diagram of the final product that the other player is going to have to create.  Then, without being able to see what the other is doing, and just using words, the “it” player describes what the other player needs to do to accomplish the final product.  This requires the use of precise language, including adjectives and prepositions.

This spin on your typical toys targets skills such as receptive language, use of descriptive language, and perspective taking skills.  The “it” player will learn quickly that simply saying “put the piece on the side” is not sufficient enough to “win” the game.  Try it out yourself with a sibling or friend first to see how much fun it can be.  Even the attempts that don't work out can be as much fun as those that do!

Don't Forget About the Siblings!

Admin 4/1/2014
Don't Forget About the Siblings!
Siblings of people with autism experience joys and woes of being and having a sibling, just as anyone does.  Siblings of people with autism also face many different situations and emotions that parents, teachers, friends and other support people should be aware of.  In a Time Magazine article called ‘Autistic Kids: The Sibling Problem’, the author, Amy Lennard Goehner (a parent of a child with autism) wrote “The typically developing’ siblings of autistic children are, in fact, the furthest thing from typical.  Often they are wiser and more mature than their age would suggest.  And they have to be, given the myriad challenges they face: parental responsibility; a feeling of isolation from the rest of the family; confusion, fear, anger and embarrassment about their autistic sibling.  And on top of all of it, guilt for having these feelings.”  

Thankfully, there are many resources available to help involved support people .   Among the recommendations for siblings of children with autism are early education about autism and keeping the conversation open, finding support groups or helping your child to connect with other children who have siblings with autism and creating special time to spend with just them.  Below are sites and resources for this information as well as where additional ideas and supports can be found.  AMC moving theaters offer ‘Sensory Friendly Films’ at 10:00am on Saturdays.  Tickets cost between $4 and $6 depending on location.    Go to the website for more information and to find a theater near you!  Autism Speaks website has a section which celebrates and understands the joys and sorrows of loving a person with autism.  Entering your name and zip code will give you access to their tool kits for explaining autism to friends, grandparents and siblings.  The tools can be modified depending on the need of your audience. This is an extensive book list which references books which can be used to explain autism as well as the feelings that come along with being a sibling of a person with autism. The Sibling Support Project is a national effort dedicated to the life-long concerns of siblings of people who have special health, developmental, or mental health needs.  ‘Sibshops’ are workshops and support groups existing in many locations to include the following New Hampshire towns; Lebanon, Nashua, Laconia, Concord.,8599,1698128,00.html  This is the link to the article in Time magazine.  

Five Fun & Festive Ideas for a Happy Halloween!

Admin 10/28/2013
Five Fun & Festive Ideas for a Happy Halloween!
Social Skills
1. Create a simple social story to define and explain what is expected during trick or treating.

Ideas to include:
- People will be dressed in costumes that will cover their face- you may not know who people really are.
- People may try to scare you (scream, say boo, jump out at you), this is the "tricky" part of trick-or-treat
- When you ring the doorbell to trick-or-treat, you wait on the porch for the candy- you do not go into the person's home.
- You accept the candy, whether you like it or not. You can always trade for a preferred candy when you return home.
- Always say thank you when someone offers you candy
- Do not eat anything until it is checked by an adult
- Initiate imaginative play schemes involving "trick-or-treating" the weeks before as a practice (a good reason to try out the costume!)

2. Review safety rules before leaving the house and consider putting the rules on a cue card to reference throughout the night.
Stay with an adult
Stay in a lit area
Avoid cars and the street
Do not eat anything until it is checked by an adult

3. Trick-or-treating at the mall has several benefits. It keeps the distant short, removes the danger of darkness as well as the need for bulky clothes necessary to stay warm outside. It's also a good way to control any unexpected events that can be accompanied with trick-or-treating in the dark. Some towns have alternative options close by as well.

4. Remember, trick-or-treating may not be successful, but there are other fun Halloween options! Handing out the candy can be just as fun! Watching Halloween-themed movies is an option as well. Be positive and flexible!

5. Another alternative to trick-or-treating, try inviting a friend for a Halloween-themed play date, some options are:
Make and decorate Halloween cookies
Carve/Paint pumpkins
A hayride and hot chocolate!
Laser tag, roller skating or glow bowling
Host a Halloween party with bobbing for apples, pin the tail on the cat, or Guess-that-Goop!


Safety Tips For A Not-So-Spooky Halloween

Admin 10/1/2013
Safety Tips For A Not-So-Spooky Halloween
ABA Services
Our staff utilize evidence-based methodologies when working with children.  This means that we ground our work in procedures that have already been proven time and time again.  We document and show a child's growth through data, but most importantly through daily evidence of their increased engagement, communication and participation.  

Did you know that we can teach your child lifelong safety skills using the principles of ABA?  Let me give you an example:

In 2004, Bridget Taylor and her colleagues demonstrated that they could teach three teenagers with autism to seek assistance when lost using ABA principles.  The teenagers were taught to respond to a pager by finding an adult and giving them a communication card with their name, a statement of being lost and instructions to call the parent or teacher.  This skill was taught using modeling, prompting and reinforcement in a teaching setting to practice how to respond when the pager went off.  Once the students learned how to respond in the teaching setting, a generalization plan included practice in the natural setting.  Prompts to execute this skill were faded until the students consistently demonstrated how to respond.  The teaching teams then helped the parents follow through in the community with successful results.  Prompting, prompt fading, modeling, and reinforcement are some of the basic foundations of ABA.

Other safety tips on Halloween:

  • If your child is nonverbal, put an ID bracelet on them as a precautionary step
  • Practice and wear glow bracelets or necklaces
  • Put reflective tape on costumes, bags or props
Stay in smaller, familiar neighborhood