A Letter from a Trellis Parent

Trellis means home to me…

I remember the first day I came into visit the school, two months after Max was diagnosed with Autism. For the two months before walking through the Trellis doors, I felt lost and, honestly, sad every time I met with an ASD service provider. The approach was “we know best” and “your son has this laundry list of limitations” … as a result my expectations were low and actually misguided.

When I walked through the door of Trellis, children were laughing, teachers were smiling. It was a school not a “treatment center”. I was asked all about Max and said “he sounds great” and I felt proud of Max for the first time after his diagnosis. I will never forget that moment. I have never stopped feeling proud of Max since then.

Thank you. All of you. Thank you for ignoring behaviors, counting and manding, working patiently when Max’s sensory needs carry him away and make him unavailable for a while and even taking a right hook or two.

Today, Max is soaring – he is talking. Yes talking. At one point in time, that was not clear he would talk. You all did that. You pushed him. You coached me and you never, never, never gave up on us. Max’s behaviors are manageable. Before Trellis, Max had broken my nose, and more things at home than I care to remember. Now he says “no” when he is unhappy at home. If he has behaviors, I know the ABCs and can manage them along with the latest protocol that we are generalizing at home. You did that. You implemented the protocol. You coached me and you never, never, never gave up on us.

When you are the parent of a kid on the spectrum you feel like you are either fighting or apologizing with everyone in your child’s path. When Max started at Trellis, for the first time that feeling changed. Now I feel like I have a team of people in my corner. From the front desk, the program managers, Occupational Therapists, Speech Pathologists and Instructors on our team.

At the end of the day, Trellis means home to us. Max is known and loved for his whole self. You accept him for who he is and at the same time push him to reach his potential. Thank you for teaching my son with love and respect. You will never know what you mean to Max and me. He and all of the children you serve will reach their potential thanks to you.

– Audra Jones

Tips for Making Homework Easier

The school year is now in full swing. The once-new backpacks may already be showing signs of distress from their daily haul …and perhaps your kids are too. Homework is a task that few (if any!) kids enjoy, and children with autism can especially have trouble with such assignments. Some children, for example, can appear to understand what they’re doing while in the classroom but might not grasp what’s expected from home assignments. And many students on the spectrum don’t ask their teachers for help. Fortunately there are several strategies to help your child stay focused.

NEGOTIATE APPROPRIATE ASSIGNMENTS
Regular communication with teachers is important when it comes to homework: it helps clarify the level and amount the child can handle. Keep in touch so teachers can create individually appropriate assignments.  Also, make sure you know which assignments are due when and that your child is turning in their completed assignments.  Children with autism may have difficulty organizing and tracking homework assignments and due dates.

KEEP IT CONSISTENT
If homework always occurs at the same time and becomes routine, your child will eventually accept it. Initially it may be hard to hold the line, but persistence pays off. This works for almost all chores children prefer to avoid, from taking baths to brushing teeth.  You may also want to use a visual schedule and even a timer so that your child knows what to expect when.

SET YOUR CHILD UP FOR SUCCESS
Set a tone that homework time is important and a priority. Give your child an important place to sit, and ask siblings to stay quiet or have them work on their homework too! Ask how it’s going, and be sure to offer praise to help build your child’s confidence. Show that you care and want them to be successful.

MOTIVATE AND ENCOURAGE
Be firm but encouraging, being careful not to nag too much. This can be difficult when you’re frustrated so be conscious of your tone. Set solid standards for what the homework routine looks like, but be encouraging and motivating. Remind your child that you are proud of their efforts and that they are learning. Consider giving a reward for good effort (or even just sitting and attending initially) even if not everything is correct. As improvement is made over time, you can shift rewards to more academic goals. Rewards don’t have to be candy or toys, just ask the child what they might like to do with you once homework is done—it’s an opportunity for positive quality time you can both enjoy.  If your child has difficulty waiting until the end of homework to receive the reward, give them tokens (stickers, stars, etc.) throughout the homework routine, and when they reach a certain number of tokens, give them the reward.

OFFER CHOICES
Giving choices has been proven to increase motivation. You want homework time to become routine, but you can still offer choices such as where to sit, what writing materials to use, which task to start with and definitely the type of reward given for successful completion. Empower them by offering at least three options; they’ll like the (limited) control!

PICK YOUR BATTLES
Your child’s homework does not have to be perfect.  Maybe they misspelled a word.  Will the teacher be able to figure it out? Then let it slide.  Perhaps their handwriting is a little sloppy.  If it’s still legible, don’t spend a lot of time making them re-write something they already did.  The less you correct your child (and make them re-do their work), the less frustrating homework will be for both of you! Try to praise twice as much as you critique!

BREAK UP DIFFICULT TASKS
Seeing a full worksheet of 30+ math problems can be overwhelming for any child! Try covering the bottom of the page with a blank sheet of paper and working on one row at a time.  You can even switch to other assignments between rows if necessary. Ask your child to help you come up with a pattern (e.g., 5 math problems, 2 spelling words, 5 math problems, 2 spelling words, etc.).  If there’s a longer assignment due at the end of the week, work on a little bit each day to make it less overwhelming.

This post was written by Kelly Namanja, MA, BCBA,  Autism Spectrum Therapies’ (AST) Clinical Director for Chicagoland. AST and Trellis are part of the Learn It Family of Companies.

Creating a Great Halloween

Halloween is just a few short weeks away. As we prepare for the decorations and fun activities to come, now is the time to consider some ways you can help your child to have a happy and fun Halloween experience.

PRACTICE
Know the route you plan to take on Halloween and practice the walk with your child before Halloween. Consider taking about 3 practice walks beginning 1 week before and leading up to the big day.

ROLE PLAY
Let your child play out the scenario of trick or treating by walking up to a door, ringing the doorbell. Enlist a friendly neighbor to help you act it out, or practice at your own front door. Give candy! If you give them an actual piece of candy they will be way more excited about what is in store.

CHOOSE CAREFULLY
There are so many fun and creative costumes to choose from but be cautious about getting anything that may irritate your child, particularly sensitive areas around the ears, eyes or throat.

HAVE A BACK UP PLAN
Stay flexible on the day. If your child is not up for the outing, have a back-up plan that includes fun indoor activities.

Click here for more great resources from our friends at Pathfinders for Autism.