Befriending An Autistic Person

befriending an autistic person
*This post was written by a guest contributor, Grace McGillivary.
befriending an autistic person

Befriending an autistic person is just like making friends with any average Joe. However, there are some things you want to keep in mind when hanging out with them. Check out these three helpful tips if you are unsure how to befriend a person with autism. 

Actively Listen 

Something interesting about having an autistic friend is if the two of you have a similar interest. If they are fixated on it, you could talk with them for hours on end without them getting tired. Sometimes, however, they might be particularly passionate about another subject. Take time to listen and hear them out. It might not mean much to you but actively listening on your part could really make an impact on someone. 

Be Flexible 

Despite our friends with autism wanting to be treated like anyone else, sometimes they need space, just like neurotypical people do. If they say they need some time alone, let them have some. Depending on the person, they might not be able to do some of the activities you can. Keep this in mind, and plan accordingly. Make sure it is something that they want to do before going through with your plans. 

Sometimes you will find that it is easier to follow the other person’s lead. If they want to go about doing things a certain way, let them. It will make it more interesting for both of you. Perhaps you’ll learn something new from them.    

A personal example of this would be when one of my friends played Pokemon Shield with me for the first time. None of my other friends own that game, so it was a fun experience to let her show me the ropes.  

Treat Them the Same 

This is by far the most important of the three tips. A person with autism is no different from you, or anyone else you might know. They have their own interests and personality, too. The diagnosis does not define them, and you should not let it define how you act toward them. Treating them as you would other friends is the best way to make them feel included. But remember to keep the two earlier points in mind.  By simply showing kindness you can be a great friend. 

A Note to Parents

Additionally, if you’re a parent, it’s great to teach your kids how to befriend autistic kids. Perhaps your child has a classmate with autism. Helping your child learn about differences in others and being friendly is so important.

Now that you have some tips, you are better equipped to befriend an autistic person.  Please remember to keep these ideas in mind when hanging out with them. You just might develop a wonderful new friendship!  

Meet the Author 

Grace McGillivary is a freshly graduated high school student who has been regularly writing as a hobby. She is relatively new to writing blogs, and occasionally partakes in other activities such as drawing, taking long walks, and playing piano. Art, music, and writing are her pastimes. She also has several friends with autism, as she has served as a peer model at Healing Haven since its inception. 

More Autism Friendly Vacation Ideas

autism friendly vacation

Our blog post – Top 5 Autism Friendly Vacation Spots – was one of our highest trafficked posts for that year. So with more hotels, resorts and theme parks making efforts to provide an enjoyable and safe experience for families impacted by autism, we decided to do a follow-up post with even more autism friendly vacation ideas.

That previous post included Sesame Place®, LEGOLAND Florida, Surfside Beach, South Carolina, Dollywood and Tradewinds Resort. We also did an addendum to share about VillaKey, provider of autism friendly vacation rentals in Florida.

Thankfully we are seeing lots of places becoming “autism friendly” – and when they make these efforts they are creating inclusive places for everyone to enjoy. Hotels, resorts and theme parks are providing training for their staff about autism. They are creating quiet rooms and sensory rooms for individuals who get overwhelmed and need a place to relax. They are adding safety measures for kids who are prone to wander. All of these thoughtful efforts benefit families with an autistic child, but also kids with Down syndrome and even typical kids. By doing so, they are opening up vacation opportunities for families who never dreamed of going to some of these places.

So here are a few more autism friendly vacation ideas to add to your list.

Heading to Florida

Disney World – Orlando 

Disney World is a destination for many families with young children. For those with an autistic child, Disney has some accommodations to help make your time there more enjoyable. If you are considering a vacation there, look into their Disability Access Service Pass that allows pass holders to avoid lines at rides. They also have Disney’s Strollers as Wheelchairs program, which is a special safety measure for kids who wander, or who need a familiar seat to feel safe and secure. For qualifying children, this program allows kids to remain in their strollers while on a ride or visiting an attraction. Disney also offers a visual guide of the park for individuals with disabilities that you can download before you go. There are a number of additional accommodations for individuals with autism, like Rider Switch, Break Areas and Companion Restrooms.

Discovery Cove – Orlando 

Earlier this year Discovery Cove, Orlando became a Certified Autism Center. Discovery Cove is SeaWorld’s all-inclusive family resort. They have created accommodations and supports for individuals with autism and other sensory needs. As explained on their website – staff receive specialized training to ensure all guests have an enjoyable experience. Training focuses on: sensory awareness, motor skills, autism overview, program development, social skills, communication, environment, and emotional awareness. They offer a Sensory Guide that provides details on their attractions and how a person with sensory issues may respond to each experience so that families can plan accordingly. Another benefit Discovery Cove offers is they limit the number of daily attendance of 1,000 guests. So crowd control is built into how they operate.

Closer to Home

Cedar Point

At just over 2 hours away from Metro Detroit, Cedar Point’s autism accommodations can provide for a great get-away for families. Known as the Roller Coaster Capital of the World, they also provide some great services for families with an autistic child or other disabilities. They offer a Parent Swap ride program and KidTrack is a wristband program if your child is known to wander. There is a Family Care Center and other places for a quiet place to take a break and cool down. Additionally, there are several Family Restroom facilities for those who need support. You can download the Cedar Point mobile app to check on ride wait times, attraction accessibility, events and more. And for overnight stays there is Cedar Point’s Hotel Breakers that provides many features to make it a fun get-away.


For a little bit longer trip but still a doable drive for a long weekend, Hersheypark is about 7 hours from Metro Detroit. They partnered with Parent to Parent of Pennsylvania to make sure their park and attractions are accessible to individuals with disabilities. One feature is their Ride Accessibility Questionnaire – families can answer some questions to receive a detailed list of the rides and attractions suited for your personal family situation. They have several Quiet Areas throughout the park to provide a private place for those who may become over stimulated. Additionally, guests can download a Rider Safety & Accessibility Guide ahead of their visit. And if you have dietary restrictions, you can learn about their allergen information and dining options.

Going Above and Beyond

Morgan’s Wonderland

A park designed to cater almost exclusively to children with special needs? That’s Morgan’s Wonderland, in San Antonio, Texas! It is the world’s first “Ultra Accessible Theme Park”. The park offers an impressive number of traditional and adaptive rides, swings, and activities to suit all ages. Additionally, they have a Sensory Village, and entertainment that teaches messages of inclusion and kindness. And most importantly, children with special needs, including autism, receive free admission! It may be time to start planning a Texas vacation.

International Adventure

Beaches® Resorts

Beaches® is the first IBCCES (International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Studies) and Autism Certified resort company. Their resort locations in Jamaica and the Turks and Caicos islands offer specialized service to families with children with autism and other special needs. These services include mealtime accommodations such as custom dietary needs, kids camps for children of all abilities, and staff trained in autism needs, sensory awareness, motor skills, and more. Additionally, Beaches® partners with Sesame Street® and Autism and offers activities with Julia, the first Sesame Street® character with autism.

Shannon Airport, Ireland

If you’re thinking of traveling through Ireland, be sure to consider Shannon Airport as a thoroughfare! Ireland’s Shannon Airport provides an awareness program for kids with special needs, ensuring a smooth airport experience. Through this program, kids and those with special needs can access a 24-hour sensory room.

In conclusion, many resorts, theme parks and hotels are understanding the needs of autistic individuals. So we hope these autism friendly vacation ideas help spark your imagination to plan a get-away for your family that everyone will enjoy! And let us know if you’ve found another vacation spot that was perfect for your family.

If you found this information helpful, we’d love it if you’d share it with your network!

Summer Break: 5 Ways to Help Your Child with Autism Thrive

Many kids love the break summer brings – a relaxed schedule, sleeping in, a variety of activities like the pool, summer camps, and vacation. But for a child with autism (and their parents) the lack of the regulated school schedule can cause major struggles over summer break.

Having a predictable schedule helps kids on the autism spectrum make sense of their world. Knowing what to expect from day to day and even hour to hour helps reduce anxiety. So as a parent, how do you facilitate a summer break that provides the structure your child with autism needs, while also incorporating fun summer activities we love?

5 Ways to Help Your Child With Autism Thrive Over Summer Break

Create a Summer Schedule

Use visuals to show what your child’s “typical” weekdays, weekends, vacations and holidays will be on a calendar. Another great tool is to make a “typical day” schedule to show when they should get up, get dressed and eat meals. Also include activities and outings for the day. So if you plan to go to the pool or library on certain days – put them in the schedule to show them what to expect. And for days at home, read on for how to have a schedule on those days too. 

Review the schedule each day, or the night before, so they know what is coming up. Doing so will help to reduce the anxiety involved with the unknown. Here is one example (pictured above from the Reading Mama) available for download. And a quick Google or Pinterest search will offer a variety of options.

Create a Back Up Plan

Work on teaching your child about a back up plan or “Option A” and “Option B”. If your schedule is to go to the pool tomorrow but thunderstorms are in the forecast, talk with them about a back up plan. Reviewing with them what you will do if they can’t do what’s on the schedule will help reduce behaviors associated with a “change in plans”.

Be Disciplined

If you stay home with your child in the summer it’s easy to get too relaxed and let go of any set schedule. But the more you can stick to a routine for meals, bed time and wake up time, and limiting screen time (see the next tip for more on this), the more well-regulated your child will hopefully be.

Create a Summer Vacation Rules Chart

The never-ending requests for the iPad, video games and TV are exhausting. Manage these requests – to a degree – with a Summer Vacation Rules list. The chart spells out a list things they need to do BEFORE they get to use any technology. Some “rule” options include tasks like getting dressed, brushing teeth. Or include chores like making their bed, cleaning their room, and more advanced chores for older kids. You can also have a rule for playing – inside and outside for specific amounts of time. Additionally, include some academic work that is age appropriate – reading for 30 minutes, math work, or coloring for 20 minutes. Here’s one example from Thirty Handmade Days.

summer break rules

Also check out our post 5 Ways to Manage Screen Time for Children with Autism for more helpful ideas on other ways to help manage screen time.

Start An Annual Tradition

Celebrate the end of the school year and the start of summer. Plan an activity or treat that you can repeat every year. Make their favorite dinner (or go to their favorite restaurant if that is an option for your family), or go out for ice cream. Or plan a fun activity like a trip to the zoo, visiting their favorite playground or making a picnic lunch to have at a special park or beach. Do something that you can repeat each year on the last day of school/first day of summer break. This creates a positive rhythm to the start of summer.

We hope these ideas help you create some structure AND fun for you and your family this summer! What are some ways you survive the summer months with your child with autism? We’d love to hear them!

5 Ways to Support Autism Acceptance Month

It’s April, and during this month at Healing Haven, we celebrate Autism Awareness and Acceptance. 12 years ago, the United Nations established April 2nd as World Autism Awareness Day. Since then, April is recognized as Autism Awareness Month across the globe.

However, autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), isn’t new. According to recent statistics, 1 in 44 children are diagnosed with ASD. In other words, autism is more common than many may realize!

Spreading autism awareness is important, as many people still don’t know much about autism. But, at Healing Haven, we like to focus on autism acceptance rather than just awareness. Awareness goes only so far. Awareness without action is meaningless.

So how can we take action?

1. Learn about autism

As mentioned above, 1 in 44 children are diagnosed with autism. That means you probably know at least one child or family impacted by autism. Autism is a developmental disorder that can impair communication and social interaction. Individuals with autism often display repetitive behaviors, obsessive interests, and may have learning difficulties. However, autism is a broad spectrum and individuals can have a vast array of abilities and struggles.

Likewise, it’s important to know that not all individuals with autism look a certain way. Some may express themselves in a distinctly different way than most neurotypical people, whether through body language, speech or body movements. But for many, you may not even know they have autism. Nevertheless, just because an individual’s autism may not be noticeable doesn’t mean they don’t have unique needs.

Check out these resources to continue your autism self-education:

Autism Alliance of Michigan

National Autism Association

2. Reach out and listen to parents of a child with autism

Parents who have a child with autism often battle stress and isolation. Their child may be prone to challenging behavior outside of a strict routine, thus disrupting gatherings, which means invitations to social events may not be plentiful.

Invite a parent of a child with autism out to coffee or a meal and be a listening ear. Ask questions to learn how you can support them. Invite their family over and prepare any accommodations needed for their child. These actions will show parents you care.

3. Talk to children about accepting individuals who are different

You may be out with your child and see another child engaging in stereotypical behaviors. Children (and adults) often stare and feel uncomfortable. Instead of telling your child to stop staring, use the incident as an opportunity for discussion. You could say, “Looks like he/she is feeling happy/sad. Sometimes, people show how they feel in different ways. What do you do when you feel (insert emotion)?”

Additionally, your child may have an autistic classmate. Discuss how we all have differences, and some differences are more noticeable than others. Together, come up with ways to befriend them and include them in activities.

4. Recognize strengths rather than just difficulties of people with ASD

While autistic individuals face many challenges, as well as their parents, their challenges do not define them. In fact, people with ASD often possess many incredible strengths and unique traits. For example, people with autism often have intense interests in one area, such as animals, music, or numbers. Autistic people’s passion for these interests can take them far in life and many have succeeded in great ways.

People with autism can also possess a plethora of positive qualities such as the ability to deeply focus, fact retention, attention to detail, and high intelligence. They are complex and gifted individuals who offer a unique perspective of the world.

5. Advocate for parents and individuals

Show your support in social settings involving individuals with autism or parents of children with autism. If a parent is trying to access accommodations for their child in a school, religious or community setting, advocate for them. Listen and share your voice to help influence the decision makers.

Throughout this month, how will you look for ways to advocate for those with autism? You can even make it a family challenge and discuss what you discover.

Be sure to check out the blogs listed below for further education on autism and support for parents . We are in their corner and yours as we work towards a world with more awareness and acceptance.

Autism Awareness and Acceptance:

Autism Acceptance and Changing Perceptions

Moving from Autism Awareness to Autism Acceptance

Never Underestimate Individuals with Autism

Resources for Parents:

ABA Parent Training Resources to Support Your Child

The Importance of Early Intervention for Autism

Receiving an Autism Diagnosis: What To Do Next

Never Underestimate Individuals with Autism

The Changing Landscape of Autism

In 1995 the rate of autism was about 1 in 500 individuals. However, in 2021 that number changed to 1 in 44* individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. ABA therapy was not a readily available treatment for autism back in 1995 in Michigan. But it is considered the “gold standard” today for improving language, play and social skills, while reducing negative behaviors in individuals with autism.

Our founder Jamie McGillivary was studying psychology at Eastern Michigan University in 1995. One of her professors saw something in Jamie and encouraged her to work with children with special needs. Shortly after that Jamie met Katie, a bubbly 3-year-old girl in Saline, Michigan. Katie’s mother hired Jamie to work with her daughter to support her communication, play and social skill development.

ABA therapy was not a common course of study back in 1995. However, as soon as Jamie met Katie, she knew the direction she wanted to take her career. They developed a very special bond in those early years that has continued to today. For example, Katie was in Jamie’s wedding 18 years ago, went on vacations with them and is like a member of the family.

Having High Expectations

After living in four other states over the past decade, Katie moved back to Michigan. She worked as an Office Assistant here at Healing Haven from 2019 to 2020. When she was 3 years old, Katie worked so hard to learn to put words together, but now she loves to talk! Katie received a certificate in Office Administration from Nashville State Community College. As a result, she is proficient in Microsoft Excel. She was a whiz at organizing the mountains of files we have here at Healing Haven. Katie was eager to help in any way around the clinics and is also a natural with children.

After years of hard work and support from her mom, Jamie and others, Katie is motivated to share her story to encourage parents of individuals with autism, or any disability. Because she speaks from experience, her words are so meaningful.

“Do not underestimate your child with autism. It’s important to know your child can do anything they can put their mind to,” Katie said. “People should give kids with disabilities a chance. They have a future ahead of them,” she added.

Katie’s Inspiring Message

Katie joined the staff of Healing Haven as an Administrative Assistant in January 2019. One of her dreams is to become a public speaker. She had her debut at the Open House we held in 2019, inspiring guests with her confidence!

To learn more about ABA therapy and how it supports the development of children and teens with autism, visit our What is ABA Therapy page.

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*The original post from 2019 has been updated with 2022 figures

Top Gifts for Autistic Kids and Teens in 2020

gifts for autistic kids and teens
gifts for autistic kids and teens

Do you enjoy shopping for gifts for the holidays? Some relish the hunt for the “perfect gift”, while others stress over what to get their family and friends. And when you have a child or loved one on the autism spectrum, you may think finding a gift is even more challenging. However, it doesn’t have to be. For the past two years we’ve put together a gift guide for those with autism (linked below), and this year we are continuing the tradition. We know 2020 has been possibly the most challenging year all of us have experienced. So we’re taking the challenge out of finding gifts for autistic kids and teens.

Let Their Interests Guide You

Here are a few things to keep in mind: Every autistic child or teen is unique, so remember to consider their individual interests. If they are obsessed with dinosaurs, trains, music, Legos or a certain super hero, then go with that obsession! You can also consider supporting their development with gifts that will help them with communication, fine motor, socialization and sensory needs. And if the gift combines both their unique interest and a developmental need, then you’ve struck gold! Additionally, you don’t always have to go with the age recommendation for the toy or game. What is more important to consider is the child’s interest and where they are developmentally right now.

Creative Play and Fine Motor Development

These gift ideas are great for creative play, while also using their hands for fine motor skill development.

  • Playfoam is a foam material that can be shaped into anything, will not dry out, is non-stick and not messy! Kids can squeeze and mold it into all kids of shapes.
  • Kinetic Sand is a popular item because of it’s non-messy nature as well as all the fun ways you can build and create with it.
  • Legos are known to be a popular toy for autistic kids. Lego groups for autistic teens and kids are used in therapy to develop communication and social skills. The limitless ways you can build and create with them, along with the way they develop fine motor dexterity and strength make these an awesome gift for all kids!
  • There are several popular magnet building toys. However, Magz-Bricks are different than the usual flat, triangle, square and rectangle magnets, providing a new way to create and use your hands!

Sensory Gift Ideas

Some kids and teens on the autism spectrum have sensory needs. The following gift ideas are wonderful resources to support their sensory needs:This Thomas and Friends Pop-Up Train Tent is a great way to provide a quiet respite for kids who may become overstimulated. And if they love trains, even better!

An Inflatable Pea Pod will help a child who benefits from pressure (being squeezed and hugged). This one is designed for children ages 6-12 and this one if for little ones ages 1-4. These pressure tools can help them calm down before bed, or if they become overly stimulated. And a pressure vest may be a great option for teenagers.

For kids who move a lot, keeping their fingers busy with fidgets is a great way to help them focus. This unique spikey glove is great for sensory input, and can provide proprioceptive input (stimulates muscles and joints) during handwriting. Not to mention it looks cool! You could also go with a fidget bundle pack to provide a variety ways to keep their hands busy and help them focus. And if your child is doing remote school at home, an inflatable seating disc may help them with attention and focus.


Many autistic children and teens have communication delays. Our amazing team of speech pathologists put together a list of toys and books and the communication goals to target when playing with them. For example, Mr. and Mrs. Potato head provide a wide array of speech and language development from receptive and listening skills to practicing two word phrases, using pronouns and more.

National Autism Resources

For a plethora of more gift ideas for autistic teens and kids, check out the National Autism Resources website for games to develop social skills, tools to build independence, and many more incredible ideas.

Remember the Parents

Let’s face it, parents of autistic kids and teens are often under additional stress and juggle more than parents of neurotypical children. So if you’re a grandparent, aunt, uncle or friend of a child or teen on the autism spectrum, consider a gift for their parents! Something that encourages self-care, like a massage or a mani/pedi. Or even a gift card for carry out dinner takes some stress off their plate, while supporting the struggling restaurant industry. You could also give the gift of your time for some time out of the house without kids!

Hopefully these ideas are helpful in finding a gift for your child, grandchild, niece or nephew. And if you’re local to us here in Metro Detroit and want to support a local business, there are two great options for your shopping. First, Adventures in Toys in Birmingham where you can take advantage of curbside pickup or even shopping via FaceTime. And Toyolgy Toys has locations in Royal Oak, West Bloomfield and Bloomfield Hills, and they have website ordering available, as well as curbside pick up.

And for more gift ideas, here are the links to check our gift guides from 2018, 2019, and 2021:




And if you have a gift idea for an autistic child or teen, please share it in the comments below!

Back to School during COVID-19

back to school during COVID-19

As we approach the start of the 2020-2021 school year here in southeast Michigan, many parents are facing the reality of back to school during COVID-19 being like nothing we’ve experienced before.

An Uncertain School Year

Many public school districts in this area are opening with only a full remote school option due to COVID-19. This post is not to get into a debate on whether remote school is the best option right now. We know there are parents who want their child to go to school in person. And we know other parents who don’t want to send their child back to school in person.

The reality is, for many students with IEPs, distance learning is not a viable or meaningful option. This can be because they are not receiving the numerous supports and services they receive in person. They may have trouble attending to a screen or processing all that is happening in an online meeting. Or parents may have to work and not be able to support them through their remote school day.

Unfortunately, in-person or a hybrid plan may not be a viable option for children with compromised immune systems and underlying health conditions.

In the past we’ve written “back to school” blog posts like Back to School Tips for Parents of Different Learners. We created those resources to help parents with the transition from summer break to school. But going back to school during COVID-19 is like nothing anyone has experienced before. Read on for some ideas and resources to help you with a remote start to school, as well as returning to school in-person, and homeschooling your child with autism.

Remote School

remote school

For those who are navigating a remote start to the school year with your child who receives special education services, you may be feeling overwhelmed. It’s totally understandable! We’ve compiled a variety of ideas, that may help. From visual schedules to establishing routines, to positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS), to IEP resources to help you navigate your rights.

Educational Advocacy Resources

Michigan Alliance for Families is a wonderful support organization for families who have children with disabilities to help them navigate their educational resources. They have a specific COVID-19 page on their website with many resources specific to how this pandemic is impacting education. And their Distance Learning page has a variety of additional resources for a remote start back to school.

The Autism Alliance of Michigan has some back to school resources for families. This is a great blog post about advocacy and what your rights are in regard to your child’s IEP and special education services.

Another great resource is the Michigan Alliance for Families YouTube channel. They’ve posted recordings of past webinars specific to COVID-19, special education and distance learning.

Visual Schedules

We know that for many kids, visual schedules can help reduce problem behaviors. Visual schedules help them know what to expect. They are a neutral way to communicate what they need to do and what is coming, rather than you verbally having to ask (or nag) them over and over. Check out these visual schedules from And Next Comes L, like the School Morning Routine Chart, the After School Routine Chart and others. And, a great resource for students with learning challenges, offers several free visual schedule downloads.

Distance Learning Resources

Understood also has some Distance Learning resources for both families and educators. There is info on how focusing for remote school can be even more challenging for many kids. And they offer some tips to help. And Next Comes L also provides specific Distance Learning resources for teachers, therapists and parents. If your child is struggling to understand why they aren’t going to school in person, she has a free social story download School is Closed. And she has tips on how to best support your autistic child on Zoom meetings. Definitely check that one out!

Accessing Their Education

If your child needs individual, in-person support to access their remote school, you may need to hire someone to help. Whether you work outside the home, have other children to take care of, or simply don’t feel equipped to become your child’s para professional, definitely reach out for help. Start with your child’s school to find out how their IEP will be fulfilled. Network with other parents to find out how they are managing it. If your child receives ABA Therapy, ask your provider if distance learning behavioral support may be an option. Check out local universities with education programs. You may be able to find a special education student who is looking for some income and experience in their field.

Returning to School In Person

child going school during COVID-19

Back to School Anxiety

If your child is heading back to school in person, they may be experiencing some anxiety after such an extended break from school. Here are some resources to help with this transition from And Next Comes L.

Wearing a Mask

If your child’s school is asking (or requiring) students wear a mask, here are a few social stories about wearing masks to help them get used to it. Here is a video version and a printable version from Autism Little Learners specific to wearing a mask at school.


child and mom homeschooling

Some families are considering homeschooling their child for various reasons. Maybe remote school doesn’t work well for their child, or they have health issues making in-person school a risk. Homeschooling may also provide the flexibility to continue with their therapies from the summer (ABA therapy, speech and occupational therapies).

Resources to help

If you’re considering homeschooling your child with autism, but aren’t sure where to start, here are a few resources. First, check out this blog post from the Friendship Circle – Tips for Homeschooling Your Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The Applied Behavior Analysis Program Guide has an extensive list of possible homeschool curricula for students with autism. If you’re on Facebook, there are numerous homeschool groups specific for children with autism. There are sure to be some full of tips and recommendations.

Ready or not, it’s here!

As you prepare for this unique year heading back to school during COVID-19, we hope these ideas and resources help. Whether preparing for remote school, an in-person or hybrid plan, or you are diving into homeschooling your child, we wish you a successful start to school. Remember you have what it takes for whatever lies ahead!

Summer Reading Guide: The Latest Books About Autism


books about autism

It’s not a surprise that reading books is on the rise as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. Weeks upon weeks at home has to be filled up with more than just binging on Netflix, right? Even with restrictions easing and people getting out more, there are many who love having a summer reading list. So we’ve researched the latest books about autism published so far in 2020. There are several books for parents as well as books to help autistic kids, tweens and teens. (Note: This is not an endorsement of all of these books, but an informative list for you to do your own research.)

The Latest Books About Autism

For Parents

There are several new books about autism released the first half of 2020 that are written to help parents. There’s a brand new release filled with tips to help children with autism in our new COVID-19 world. We found a book written by a BCBA that we are excited to add to our collection. And there is new resource written by a Mom specifically for the many families navigating a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.

Autism in Lockdown: Expert Tips and Insights on Coping with the COVID-19 Pandemic

This timely collection includes tips from expert voices in the field of autism like Dr. Temple Grandin, Ellen Notbohm, Dr. Tony Atwood, and many more. You’ll find activities to help kids cope, homeschooling tips, stress management, social stories, ideas on building structure for better behavior, and much more!

Thriving with Autism: 90 Activities to Encourage Your Child’s Communication, Engagement and Play by Katie Cook, MEd, BCBA

Written by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and Educator, this book is filled with practical activities for parents and caregivers to help their children build better conversation skills and strengthen social skills. This is also a great resource for families new to autism, as well as, Applied Behavior Analysis. Kelly provides a great foundation for understanding your child’s diagnosis and the reasons for and scientific background of ABA therapy.

A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism by Teresa Unnerstall

For families navigating a dual diagnosis, this brand new book takes a deep dive into the complexities that families face raising a child with Down syndrome and autism. The author’s son is now in his twenties, so she has years of experience navigating this extra unique world.

For Kids, Tweens and Teens

It’s wonderful to find so many new books about autism specifically written for kids, tweens and teens! Here are a few released the first half of this year.

Your Interests, My Interests: A Visual Guide to Playing and Hanging Out for Children on the Autism Spectrum by Joel Shaul

Geared toward elementary and middle school aged kids, this visual resource can help children learn important social skills. So if your child could use some help learning how to play and interact with their peers, check out Your Interests, My Interests. (Kindle preview not available.)

books about autism for kids

The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide: How to Grow Up Awesome and Autistic by Siena Castellon

This empowering quote from the book says it all: “Never be ashamed of being different: it is this difference that makes you extraordinary and unique.” If your daughter with autism could use this type of positive self image, and support in understanding social communication, friendships, dealing with bullying and more, this book may be a great option. Because it is written by a young woman on the autism spectrum, she understands this important time in a young autistic girl’s life.

The Awesome Autistic Go-To Guide: A Practical Handbook for Autistic Teens and Tweens by Yenn Purkis and Tanya Masterman

This newly released interactive book is a guide for autistic tweens and teens that promotes self-acceptance. It helps shape a young person’s understanding of the strengths they have because of their autism and develops confidence in who they are. How great is that!

Have you picked up a new favorite book about autism that we don’t have here? If so, let us know in the comments! And if you want to check out more helpful resources, one of our most popular blog posts of all time is Six Great Books for Parents of Autistic Children.

We hope you learned about some new books about autism. Please share it with your community!

Surviving Summer Break in a COVID-19 World

summer break during covid-19

Most kids love summer break from school – a relaxed schedule, sleeping in, fun places to go and lots of time outside. But we are in a new reality with the COVID-19 pandemic. Kids – and parents – are coming off nearly three months of adapting to distance learning. Additionally, many of the typical summer activities are closed or modified. So for a child with autism (and their parents) the end of distance learning, limited or cancelled therapies, no places to go, facing summer break probably seems daunting!

As autism parents know, having a predictable schedule helps kids on the autism spectrum make sense of their world, knowing what to expect from day to day and sometimes hour to hour. So even in your exhaustion from the past few months, it’s time to prepare for summer break.

Are you wondering how do you facilitate a summer break that provides the structure your child with autism needs? Not to mention doing this during the new world of social distancing, closed playgrounds and pools, cancelled summer camps and vacations? It may seem overwhelming. But we’ve got some simple tips to help you and your child survive summer break in our new COVID-19 world! (And these can help typical kids too.) Whether you will be home with your kids, you have someone coming it to care of them while you work, or they will be doing summer therapies, these ideas may help.

Celebrate the End of Distance Learning!

Let’s face it, this school year has been like no other! So it’s definitely something to celebrate the end of distance learning and all the extra responsibilities you’ve taken on. You can start off summer break with an activity or treat. From something simple like getting take-out from their favorite restaurant or going out for ice cream – yes many are open here in Michigan! Or you could throw an “end of school year” party with balloons, games, fun snacks and a dance party. What you and your children have been through is worthy of a celebrating!

Create a Summer Schedule

As you may have done during this time of distance learning, use visuals to show what your child’s “typical” weekdays and weekends will be on a calendar. And then create a “typical day” schedule to show when they will get up, get dressed, eat meals, activities, and outings. So if they are able to resume some in person therapies, or you take a daily walk or ride in the car,  put them in the schedule to show them what to expect. And for days at home, read on for how to have a schedule on those days too. 

Help reduce anxiety of “the unknown” by reviewing the schedule each day, or even the night before, so they know what will be happening. Here is one example you can download. A quick Google or Pinterest search will offer a variety of options.

Sticking to a Schedule Has Benefits

Traditionally summer break is an easy time to get too relaxed and let go of any set schedule. But the more you can stick to a routine for bedtime and wake up time, meals and limiting screen time, the more well-regulated your child will hopefully be.

Online Therapies & Camps

Not that we want to encourage even more screen time, but there are some great opportunities to make your child’s screen time purposeful! If they are able to attend and engage with short amounts of screen learning, you can look into some online camp opportunities. There are so many programs popping up due to in person camps being closed. From educational classes to keep their learning progressing, to Lego camps, coding, dance, art, music, and more!

And if your child typically receives ESY (Extended School Year) services, but are missing out on important therapies over the summer, consider telehealth speech and occupational therapies. Many providers are now offering them, including our team!

Have A Summer Break Rules Chart

The never-ending requests for the iPad, video games and TV can be managed to a degree with a Summer Vacation Rules list that details out the things they need to do BEFORE they get to use any technology. The rules can include chores like getting dressed, brushing teeth, making their bed, cleaning their room, and more advanced chores for older kids. You can also have a rule for playing – inside and outside for specific amounts of time, as wells as a bit of academic work that is age appropriate – reading for 30 minutes, writing a story, art or coloring for 20 minutes. Here’s one example from Thirty Handmade Days.

Back Up Plans Teach Flexibility

For some kids, they may have learned to be more flexible with change during the Stay Home order and learning a completely new routine. But if not, work on teaching your child about a backup plan or “Option A” and “Option B”. If your schedule is to go visit their cousin’s house, but someone in the house isn’t feeling well, talk with them about a backup plan in case you can’t go that day. Reviewing with them what you will do if they can’t do what’s on the schedule will help reduce behaviors associated with a “change in plans”.

We hope these ideas help you create some structure AND fun for you and your family during this summer like no other! Remember to take it one day at a time.

What are some ways you survive the summer months with your child with autism? Let us know in the comments! And if you’re looking for help for your child with autism this summer, learn how we’ve adjusted our programs for our new COVID-19 world.

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