Keep Your Child with Autism Engaged This Summer

Parents of special needs children worldwide are struggling with the prospect of engaging the minds and bodies of their children through the ongoing summer of Covid-19.

For children with autism, routines and predictability are critical, threatened by the inexplicable disruption of closed schools and camps, and curtailed social outlets. Although some families are utilizing in-person and virtual services, for many, professional support has declined dramatically or evaporated entirely while the needs of children with autism remain the same.

So what are things we can do to make best use of this time?
With summer weather there are more opportunities to engage children in a variety of indoor and outdoor activities that ignite their imaginations and keep their bodies moving. But first, it is important to speak with children about the current situation in a way that helps them understand why their world has been transformed. Social stories and comic book conversations can help explain current circumstances.

Maintaining a routine is vitally important for children with autism. Meal, nap and play times should remain sacrosanct even as the activities within play time vary. Keeping an autistic child engaged around the clock amid today’s restrictions is going to take some imagination; here is a framework to help, which also allows for maintaining social distancing:

Exploit the good weather and get outside
  1. Camp in the backyard. Teach your child how to put up a tent, cook outside and have a sleepover in your backyard or living room.

  2. Use colored chalk to draw on the sidewalk.

  3. Paint your fence. Use water if it is not in need of a new coat.

  4. Visit a local pond. Feed the ducks. Race paper boats.

  5. Hike in the woods. Talk about the different trees, plants, and animals you see and hear.

  6. Learn about geocaching and go in search of caches. Visit for information and download an app.

  7. Blow bubbles

Employ learning activities disguised as fun
  1. Develop a secret code and write a letter to a friend using it.

  2. Cook or bake together. Teach your child about measuring and following directions.

  3. Play school and make your child the teacher. Ask them to teach you something they have learned.

  4. Pick a favorite animal and read about it online. Create a fact sheet and draw a picture of the animal.

  5. Make healthy snacks together and talk about what makes them healthy.

Engage in tactile activities
  1. Go to a playground and play in the sand, on the swing and on the see-saw (many playgrounds are re-opening now with specific procedures in place for social distancing and disinfection).

  2. Make slime or modeling dough using online recipes.

  3. Spread shaving cream on a cookie sheet and draw in it.

  4. String macaroni or beads.

  5. Finger paint. Ask your child to spell out words.

  6. Build contraptions with Legos.

Explore the world online
  1. Visit a zoo, aquarium or museum. They are easy to find online. Here is the Montreal Science Centre.

  2. Visit an online learning site like Scholastic. There are literally dozens of them.

  3. Visit five spectacular National Parks – Kenai Fjords in Alaska, Hawaii Volcanos, Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, Bryce Canyon in Utah and Dry Tortugas in Florida. Or take a trip to Mars.

  4. Use a video conference platform to visit with a friend or therapist.

Be intentional about screen time and avoid using it as an anesthetic. An overload of screen time, including television, is associated with hyperactivity, difficulty sleeping and irritability.

Disruptions in the daily lives of children with autism caused by the novel coronavirus present significant challenges to parents. Innumerable resources exist online to keep children engaged physically and cognitively. For more ideas, visit

LEARN Behavioral announces Telehealth ABA services now available in D.C., Maryland and Virginia through Trellis and SPARKS.

Children diagnosed with ASD may continue to receive critical ABA therapy remotely during COVID-19 pandemic.

Washington, DC; LANDOVER, SPARKS, PERRY HALL & COLUMBIA, MD; Springfield VA… LEARN Behavioral, the leading network of providers serving children with autism and other special needs, announces the availability of telehealth Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services to children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and their families in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia through their regional providers, Trellis and SPARKS.

To continue providing critical ABA services to client families during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Trellis and SPARKS have innovated their service delivery model and capabilities to provide telehealth ABA services, or “teleABA” as coined by LEARN.

TeleABA provides another option for families who prefer virtual therapy services over in-person therapy, or who have household family members who are at higher risk for severe illness. It is ABA therapy overseen by a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) that parallels in-person treatment.

“The COVID-19 response requiring nationwide social distancing and other safety guidelines

has left many parents of children on the autism spectrum wondering how to maintain the gains their children have made in ABA therapy,” explained Hanna Rue, Ph.D., BCBA-D, Vice President of Clinical Development for LEARN. “Trellis, SPARKS and LEARN are helping parents throughout D.C., Maryland and Virginia by providing the option of teleABA therapy which helps ensure that their children are able to continue their forward momentum towards established treatment goals.”

TeleABA Services

Treatment for ASD is in accordance with state and federal emergency guidance regarding medically necessary telehealth services. It is imperative that children with ASD avoid any break in ABA therapy as this may cause distress, disruption and potential behavior regression. TeleABA is the delivery of evidence-based ABA therapy with master level clinicians via HIPAA-compliant videoconferencing, which is accessible by computer, tablet or smartphone.

Trellis and SPARKS teleABA services include direct treatment and parent consultation. Direct treatment is one-on-one treatment sessions with a child geared towards maintaining and generalizing communication, play skills and behavioral progress. Parent consultation provides an opportunity to discuss daily routines and challenging behaviors, identify targets, and implement a plan.

TeleABA enables families to continue to build upon and reinforce skills including, but not limited to:

– Potty training

– Bedtime/sleep routine

– Screen time

– Personal hygiene routine, including hand-washing

Through teleABA, Trellis and SPARKS help children and families in a number of ways. For example: discussing strategies and progress on a desired goal; developing a routine that fits in to your family’s schedule; providing individual reinforcement strategies; setting and explaining clear expectations; and offering “in the moment” parent coaching along with references to help successfully reach your child’s goal.

Dr. Rue continued, “We have received a tremendous response from our families, who are experiencing new successes due to our virtual teleABA services. It is our hope that teleABA treatment will continue to be accepted by insurers beyond COVID-19, as this will enable us to serve a greater number of children and families on the autism spectrum who need services but have limited in-person access to ABA providers.”

LEARN has served over 2,500 families through teleABA, with nearly 1,000 trained providers across the nation who have delivered sessions. LEARN is dedicated to supporting their staff and has developed a comprehensive resource library which enables them to access tools, resources, training and support online.

For more information about Trellis teleABA services, visit and for information about SPARKS teleABA, visit

About Trellis

Founded in 2001, Trellis specializes in serving children with autism and other related disorders using the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Trellis is a unique agency that uses progressive educational and behavioral models to help teach children that learning can be a fun, playful and interactive experience. Over the years, their passionate staff and thoughtful programming has helped more than 500 families in Maryland. Trellis is located in Sparks, Perry Hall, and Columbia, MD. For more information, visit


SPARKS is one of the leading autism services organizations in the D.C. Metropolitan area. The organization’s mission is to develop programs for individuals with autism that will allow them to reach their highest potential. At SPARKS, ABA Services are provided to each child on an individualized basis, through a continuum of therapy models. The ABA services team meets regularly with a child’s parents, caregivers, and other service providers to share progress and treatment strategies. SPARKS is located in Landover, MD and Springfield, VA.


LEARN is a leading network of providers, which includes Trellis and SPARKS, that serves children with autism and other special learning needs. LEARN specializes in behavioral health treatment based on the science of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and is committed to providing programs and services that are family-focused, community-minded, and delivered with the highest clinical integrity. The LEARN team delivers more than 2.5 million hours of service annually and is comprised of more than 5,000 passionate professionals dedicated to nurturing each child’s personal best. For more information, visit

How to Start Talking About Racism

By: Angela Montes, MS, BCBA


Racism. Its existence makes our hearts heavy, evokes sadness, generates uncertainty, and creates fear. Starting and having a conversation about racism has always been difficult. Even though it may make us uncomfortable, it’s an important conversation to have. As parents and caregivers, you may find yourself asking: How old does my child need to be to have this conversation? How do I even start the conversation? Are there any resources that will help me with this conversation? Here are some starting points, using some of the tools you might already have, to initiate a conversation about racism.


Ages 0-2:

It is recommended that children see their parents and caregiver interact with individuals whose race and ethnicity differ from their own. Take it a step further and enrich your environment to ensure that your child is exposed to books and toys that include multiple ethnicities. According to studies (Kelly, D.J., et al. 2005), children as young as three months old can categorize people by race. Early intervention is critical.


Children’s Books about Diversity


Ages 3-4:

Between this age, parents should continue to model inclusivity of other ethnicities via physical interactions, TV shows, books read, and toys purchased. Children who see their parents and caregivers engage in unbiased behavior benefit from the positive model they observe. As a proactive strategy, initiate the conversation of racism with your child by pointing out the differences in color of skin, hair, and language. It is important to show young children that differences exist and that it’s okay to be different.


10 Tips for Reading Picture Books with Children through a Race-Conscious Lens


Ages 5-11:

Between this age range, children are making stronger associations across racial groups. Continue the exposure of multiple ethnicities via books, TV shows, and interactions. Initiate a discussion about the subtleties within TV shows and how stereotypes often carry over into the real world. Begin to discuss how racism has created an unfair treatment of people of different

races. Continue the conversation that this issue has been ongoing and that they can help support the fight against racism through advocacy groups. Having direct conversations during this age can help improve racial attitudes. As a proactive strategy, parents and caregivers can begin conversations about racism early and not wait until their child is exposed to a racist event.


CNN/Sesame Street racism town hall


Ages 12 and up:

Keep the conversation going! During this time, continue to model interactions with other ethnicities, diversity within books, games, and TV shows. Remain open in dialogue, including answering questions children have about racism (even if it’s uncomfortable for you). These direct conversations promote inclusion and that it’s okay to discuss racism within your family structure. In doing so, you are providing different perspectives for your children. Teach your children how to recognize racism and how to respond to situations they may encounter. For example, you can equip your child with statements to use, such as “I don’t agree with you,” or “that wasn’t cool – because…” Additionally, ensure your child knows whom they can approach to report and discuss what they experienced. Using age-appropriate language, ensure that children also have the skill of self-awareness regarding race. From evaluation, that is your starting point to begin to educate your children on what race is and what it isn’t.


How to Talk to Your Kids About Anti-Racism: A List of Resources


Studies on the topic of race

(Kelly, D. J., Quinn, P. C., Slater, A. M., Lee, K., Gibson, A.,

Smith, M., Ge, L., & Pascalis, O. (2005). Three-month-olds,

but not newborns, prefer own-race faces. Developmental

science, 8(6), F31–F36.



Tools on How-To regarding racism



Resources to expand your library