Daylight Saving Time: Tips to Help Your Child Adjust

By Ronit Molko, Ph.D., BCBA-D
Strategic Advisor, LEARN Behavioral

Preparing a child who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD) for any routine change can be a significant challenge. In fact, insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines, or ritualized patterns of verbal or nonverbal behavior are common traits and characteristics for children on the spectrum. So, you have your schedule, your child has adjusted to it, and then Daylight Saving comes along. Getting ready for school no longer happens during sunrise, and eating dinner no longer occurs in the dark. Now what? Thankfully, there are tools at your disposal that can mitigate the stress caused by these abrupt changes and help you prepare for the upcoming Daylight Saving Time—when our clocks “spring forward” an hour at 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 14.

When establishing a new routine with your child, planning ahead is important. A change is made all the more stressful when it is abrupt. You can sit down with your child a few days or even weeks before Daylight Saving to explain what will happen and why. If your child is used to visual routines, you can add the new sunrise and sunset into the visual schedule, so it is something they can look at and expect each day. You can even start using light-blocking curtains to mimic the upcoming change in sun around waking and sleeping times.

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It is also helpful to put your child’s schedule in context with the rest of their day. Instead of explaining to your child what time each thing is to be done, you can explain it as an order of events. For example, you could say, “breakfast is before school,” instead of, “breakfast is in the morning at 7 a.m., and we leave for school at 7:30 a.m.” Framing the story in this way leaves room for flexibility. Plus, the statement will hold true when the time has changed—and your child and family continue to eat breakfast before school, regardless of the light outside or the time on the clock.

Another stressful trigger for children with ASD during this time is their internal clock. They may find themselves wide awake at their bed time and overly tired in the morning, as their bodies adapt. For this, two main techniques can help: incremental adjustment and physical activity. To use the first technique, start moving your child’s bed time in small increments (15 minutes, for example) each night leading up to Daylight Saving Day, so their bodies have more time to get used to the new schedule. Also make sure they engage in physical activity after school, so they burn some energy and feel tired by their new bed time.

For children with ASD, most of the stress that comes with routine changes stems from a lack of understanding the change. It will take time, but with proper communication and incremental adjustments, you can significantly minimize the stress triggers that come with Daylight Saving. Once your child has acclimated, reward their flexibility with a task they enjoy, verbal praise, or any preferred activity you currently use. This will lay the groundwork for flexibility in future routine changes and encourage positive coping behaviors for stressors moving forward.

Perspectives: Supporting Women in the Workplace During the Pandemic

By Mary Smith, BCBA, LBA
Executive Director, WEAP

The global pandemic of COVID-19 has directly claimed 2.6 million lives worldwide, with roughly 20 percent, or 525,000, of the departed living in the United States. Indirectly, the cost of and on lives is vast—beyond vast, actually—and we are all facing this vastness together, now and for future generations.

The impact of COVID-19 on the labor market has also been dramatic. According to studies, and to what I’ve witnessed firsthand as the executive director of WEAP, a part of LEARN Behavioral, this impact has been greater on women than men. Consider, for example, that there were 2.2 million fewer women in the labor force in October 2020 than there were in October 2019. Why?

Largely, it’s that the occupations and industries most affected by the pandemic—leisure and hospitality, education and healthcare, and wholesale and retail—have a high proportion of female workers. Another reason is the closure of daycares and schools, leading to increased caregiving responsibilities. Research indicates that women took on a disproportionate amount of these responsibilities, compared to men. Decisions needed to be made regarding the children and elderly who needed caring for, and millions of working women left their positions.

Time away from the workplace can result in missed opportunities that range from training and tuition reimbursement to participation in initiatives, pay increases, and promotions. Despite the fact that more women than men now graduate from college, women are the ones moving out of the workforce, potentially leading to an entire generation of women being unable to progress to leadership positions in their chosen careers as readily as men.

Why is this vacuum of women leadership in business a big issue for society? A recent analysis by authors Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, as published in an article for Harvard Business Review, finds that women scored higher than men in several key leadership skills, including taking initiative, driving results, developing others, inspiring and motivating others, and displaying high integrity and honesty—among other skills. So, empathy and multi-tasking, which women have, for centuries, been stereotyped as having in higher degrees, are not the only talents women bring to the table. It turns out women bring an abundance of skills. If women lose their seat at the table as a result of COVID, a tremendous opportunity for continued gains by women will be lost.

Mary Smith, BCBA, LBA - Executive Director, WEAP

Mary Smith, BCBA, LBA – Executive Director, WEAP

In my own field, applied behavior analysis (ABA), recent data reports that more than 85 percent of licensed practitioners are female. Likewise, a study by Melissa Nosik and her colleagues indicates that over the past few decades, women in ABA have made substantial career progress, transforming the field from one in which men hold more leadership positions to one predominantly led by women. Despite this progress, Nosik identifies career milestones, like becoming a fellow of the Association of Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) or receiving late career awards, underrepresented by women. If women are not given the flexibility to continue to advance into leadership positions, we risk this lack of progress and representation continuing.

As a female leader in the field of ABA, I have a significant responsibility to maintain a flexible work environment for every staff member, 85 percent of whom are women (and many of those who are working mothers). One benefit of COVID-19 that has made this easier is the increasing acceptance of telehealth by health plans. Now, 90 percent of insurance companies fund telehealth treatment and consultation—a move that has been vital for the children and families we serve, in addition to the clinicians who can work from home and be more flexible with their time.

In my role, I strive to ensure that all women and men alike are comfortable being flexible with their working hours. I want them to know, for instance, that they’re supported when they need to change their schedule to attend to care-giving needs. Additionally, I initiate conversations about leadership to ensure that my team consider it. As Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman in Congress, once said, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, then bring a folding chair.”

I am confident that LEARN takes female leadership seriously. Here, 75 percent of our senior leadership team are women, including the recent promotions of Hanna Rue to Chief Clinical Officer and Sabrina Daneshvar to Senior Vice President. Other opportunities helping women involve the introduction of sick pay for part-time workers, the majority of whom are women; the many cross-organization task groups available for people to practice leadership skills; the accepted flexibility of time management to meet care-giving needs; and the organization’s initiative to purchase from and do business with female-owned vendors and businesses. These decisions and actions, in addition to others, make me proud to work for and help lead an organization committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion—and to women.

How Books Can Help Kids with Autism Build Language

By Katherine Johnson, MS, BCBA
Senior Director of Partnerships, LEARN Behavioral

Children learn language best when they’re engaged and interested—something the right book can evoke in an instant. Since children on the autism spectrum sometimes struggle with reading comprehension, it’s important to build positive routines around reading as early as possible in your child’s life. Why?

Books often use repetitive or rhyming words that capture a child’s attention and help them focus on language. In addition, reading offers a chance to generalize recently-learned vocabulary and expose your child to new words. This year, in honor of Read Across America Day on March 2, which is also the birthday of one of my all-time favorite children’s book authors, Dr. Seuss, I’m sharing strategies and tips on using books to help your child build language skills—and, over time, an endless supply of new words.

Tips on choosing books

As you browse reading options, select books at the right level. It’s OK if they’re a bit of a stretch, but in general, they should use language your child can mostly understand. If you plan to read aloud, the best books for learning will be those with vocabulary your child has learned in programming and is just beginning to generalize.

Books with pictures are wonderful for many reasons. Colorful illustrations can capture a child’s attention; pictures can provide a visual for new words; and children can point to pictures, even if they don’t yet have expressive language.

bigstock-Family-With-Young-Children-Rea-205795039 (square)As you look for books, don’t shy away from perseverative topics. Stories that center around your child’s intense interests can captivate your child’s attention and may even encourage spontaneous language—not to mention a long-term love of reading.

To get the most of your reading time, take a step back and let your child choose the book. If the selection feels overwhelming, talk through the options and categorize the books. For example, you can separate books into fiction versus non-fiction or picture books versus chapter books. If you want to target a specific topic, select several books and let your child pick from those. Kids love to feel in control of their choices, and studies show that letting them weigh in on the selection can boost their motivation to read.

How do you engage a kiddo who is still learning to love books? Try making your own books with homemade drawings or family photos. Alternatively, if your child is already a reader, consider using books without words, or even covering up the words, to work on skills like recognizing emotions, reading social situations, inferencing, and predicting.

Strategies to build language through reading

As you read together, follow where your child’s attention leads you, affirm their interests, and keep it positive. This sort of responsiveness to your child during reading promotes learning.

Some children may not yet have enough language to benefit from reading the actual words in the book. In this case, modify the words to match your child’s level of understanding. Also try out a range of prompts, as you read, to see what best supports your child’s communication. For example, you can model comments (“I had a feeling that would happen”), point to and comment on a picture, or provide a carrier phrase (“That is a …”) to encourage your child’s language. When your child becomes accustomed to talking during reading time, wait quietly after you turn a new page or finish reading a page—and know that pausing for your child to point or comment can foster initiation.

Reinforce the words your child uses and build upon them. For instance, if your child labels a truck, you might respond: “Yes, a truck! That truck is big and red. Look at the big tires!” In this way, you’re affirming your child’s observations, while extending the language development. Keep in mind, too, that some children may benefit from using other reinforcers at the beginning, such as tickles and treats.

bigstock-Child-Reading-Book-Kids-Read--338931562(square)When you come across a new word, stop and explain at a level your child can understand. You might point to things in the picture, use intonation or gestures to demonstrate the word, or give a different example. Whatever the case, read the sentence over again so your child can hear the new word once more, in context.

Draw connections between the book and your child’s life to assist with generalization. For instance, if you’re reading a book that introduces the word “grandmother,” you might draw a connection to the child’s own grandmother, known as “Mimi.”

Remember, too, to use repetition. After all, books with predictable or repetitive language and rhyming words help solidify new vocabulary—and children on the spectrum often count these books among their favorites. You can also read a favorite book many times over, focusing on new things each time.

Perhaps the most important tip I can offer, however, is to follow your child’s lead. Remind yourself to let go of the familiar parental urge to control—and let your kids choose how long they want to read, whether they want to hold the book, how fast they want to go, and even if they want to skip pages. Again, you’ll need to hold back your natural inclination to supervise, and in the words of Queen Elsa from Frozen: let it go.

Books of all kinds offer a wonderful way to teach new words and can help your child generalize recently-taught language, while making progress on current goals. Plus, building a love of books will cultivate curiosity—and a love of learning across a lifetime.

Did you catch our recent blog post about reading, “Celebrate Black History Month with These Children’s Books”? Also see “How Can Parents Embed Language?