Top 10 Strategies to Help Your Autistic Child Sleep

Top 10 Strategies to Help Your Autistic Child Sleep

I say these are the top 10 strategies to help your Autistic child sleep; however, in actuality there are way way more than 10 strategies in this episode! 

In this episode, I will talk about why sleep is so important, why your child might be struggling with sleep, and strategies to support your child and their sleep (and in turn, your sleep!)

This episode is planned to come out right after Christmas and that is definitely on purpose!  The holiday season can be a very difficult time for so many Autistic children.  Which in turn, means it can be difficult for lots of parents. 

Being wound up and having a harder time sleeping can affect the whole family.  Lack of sleep doesn’t just happen around the holidays though, it is often a constant area of difficulty for so many families that have Autistic children.  Now that the holidays are coming to an end, I thought that it would be a great time to try to get to a better place with our child’s ability to get a good night’s sleep and in turn for us to get to a better place with our sleep!

Before we get to how to help your Autistic child sleep, let’s start off with these thoughts…

When you don’t get good sleep, how do you feel?  My guess is that you don’t have to think very hard to think about a time when we didn’t get very good sleep, am I right? I know personally, tend to feel groggy, don’t feel like talking to a lot of people, I am basically just trying to survive my day and am not really enjoying it. 

Really I am missing a lot of the things that are actually really great about my day, because I’m just too tired to actually notice them.  I also have a much harder time remembering things, learning new things, and handling stress.  Being super flexible and knowing the difference between a “big deal” and a “little deal” can be really difficult for me as well. 

In short, I am not able to be the thermostat for my family.  What I mean by that is, instead of responding to what my children do or what events unfold in my day, I react in less than ideal ways in most cases.  Obviously, I am aware that it is super important for me to get enough sleep and restful sleep.

In fact, I want you to imagine this….you just got a new job and you start tomorrow.  You are so excited and nervous about it at the same time that you toss and turn most of the night. 

The next day when you are trying to take in all of the new information that you need to know for your new job you are struggling to even keep your eyes open.  It really is so hard to think of appropriate questions to ask and even harder to remember all of the important information. 

This is such a difficult situation to be in…a new environment with different demands and we really struggle in those situations.  This is a small glimpse into the reality that our Autistic child is experiencing most days.  

With that being said, let’s shift gears to now talking about what it is like for your Autistic child and when they don’t get enough sleep.  Essentially, our children will experience the same feelings when they are not sleeping well or getting enough sleep. 

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Their attention will be affected, they will have negative behaviors, have a harder time learning and remembering things.  They are also less likely to want to engage with others if they are tired, as well. 

Their brain’s ability to process information is that much harder too!

So, let’s think about that a little more.  We are already aware that our Autistic child has a harder time processing sensory information (aka: all of the information that they are given through their senses).  When something is harder for our brain to do, it takes more energy. 

So on a day that our Autistic child gets good sleep, their brain is using a ton of energy to help our brains process that information and make sense of it.  When you really stop to think about it, it really is amazing that our children function as well as they do most days. 

The other point I really want to make here is that since we know sleep is such a foundational piece of our child functioning well, then that means we really need to try to do what we can to support our Autistic child to get the best sleep possible.  

Why is My Autistic Child having Such a Difficult Time Sleeping?

Studies have shown what we already know as parents.  Autistic children have a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep when compared to other peers.

There can be a number of reasons that your child doesn’t sleep well and it is important to understand what might be contributing to your child’s difficulties.  If you have been listening to the podcast for any length of time, you know my biggest thing is to try to understand your unique child. 

This is not an exhaustive list, but some food for thought to help you try to determine what you can do to support your child’s sleep.

  1.  Does your child have GI problems?  For example, is your child constipated?  Is your child still wetting the bed and waking up because of that.  Both of these difficulties were true for our son and we had to work with his doctor to address his constipation.  We also had to work on integrating one of his reflexes to address his bedwetting (a whole nother episode all together!)
  2. Does your child have mineral and vitamin deficiencies?  Many of the vitamins that our bodies need to help us sleep well and keep our minds from racing are deficient in a vast amount of Autistic children.  This is another area to definitely talk about to your doctor or a nutritionist that specializes in Autism, because it really can make a huge difference!
  3. Do they have a hard time shifting between nervous systems?  This is a resounding yes for our Autistic kiddos.  Essentially, if you picture our nervous system as a coin that has two sides, one side, or the parasympathetic nervous system is the “rest and digest” side of our nervous system.  This branch of our nervous system is involved when our heart rate is lower and our body more relaxed, which is what we want when it is time to sleep.  The other side of the coin, the sympathetic nervous system, is the nervous system that is turned on when we go into a “fight, flight, or freeze” response.  Essentially when there is some kind of a stressor.  This part of our nervous system helps us to survive to respond to stressful situations, but all too often this is by far the dominant system in our Autistic children.  This fact also ties back into our children having GI problems and not processing their nutrients properly

Strategies to Support Better Sleep

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For purposes of this podcast, we are going to go over 10 recommendations. These are going to focus on helping our Autistic child move out of that “fight, flight, or freeze” part of their nervous system. And instead into the “rest and digest” branch to support sleep.  These are mainly going to be thinking about how their brains are processing sensory information. It will how we can reduce the amount of stress that they are experiencing and give them tools and strategies. These strategies can be used into adulthood.

  1.  Sleep in your child’s room for a night and think about these things.
    • Are there strange shadows, objects, or shadows in the room that might scare your child?
    • Are there a lot of visuals in the room?  If your child is easily overstimulated by visual information this can make a big difference. Keeping their room simple with a minimalist type of design might surprise you!
    • What is the temperature of the room?  Typically a cooler temperature in the low to mid-’60s is the ideal temperature for sleeping.  Is the room drafty?
    • What are the sounds that you can hear?  Does your child seem to pick up every sound that is in the environment?  If so, what can be changed?  Does your child need some white noise so the other noises don’t affect them as much?
    • What is your child’s bedding like?  Is it warm, cool, soft?  Are these textures, feelings that your child does well with?  Keep in mind that you and your child’s favorites when it comes to textures might be different. 
    • What is the lighting like?  Is it too bright or too dark for your child?  Could you use an adjustable nightlight or even try different colors of nightlights?
  2. Have a cold smoothie with a straw before bed 
    • The coldness of the drink helps calm down the body. The use of the straw mimics deep breathing which is also very calming.
  3. Use deep tactile input to help calm your child’s body.
    • Weighted blankets
    • Lycra sheets
    • Squeezes with a towel when getting out of the bath
    • Hugs in your lap while you read a book
    • Tight compression pajamas
  4. Utilize meditation apps
    • Can also do rocking movements during meditations to further support relaxation
    • Doing body scans
    • Sitting like a Frog
  5. Do a massage
    • Qigong Massage is an instructional book that teaches parents how to complete the massage
    • Cranial Sacral Therapy
    • Vibration pads
  6. Take a nice bath with epsom salts
  7. Use relaxing essential oils either in a diffuser or roll ons. (make sure to educate yourself on how to do this safely)
  8. Do some deep breathing and visualization before bed.
    • So many of our kids are very shallow breathers. This is because they are in the “fight, flight, or freeze” part of the nervous system so often. Learning how to breathe is essential.
    • For example, have them picture a balloon getting filled in their stomach. Then have them hold it before slowly breathing it out like they are blowing out a candle.
  9.  Do activities that help them relieve stress throughout the day.
    • Plan margin into your day
    • Have time for physical movement and outdoor play
  10.  Have a regular bedtime routine that helps with their body recognizing that it’s time to wind down.

There is no magic bullet that will make your child always have a good night’s rest; but, there are things that you can do to help your child function and have the room to grow and learn with greater ease.  

Don’t forget that these strategies don’t just work for your child, but they can help you sleep and take care of yourself as well.

Many hugs and hopes of sweet dreams for both you and your child.

Candice Curtis is a licensed Occupational Therapist and the founder of Integrate Family. She is passionate about helping and empowering parents and their children.  Candice has advanced postgraduate training in theory, assessment, interpretation and treatment in Ayers Sensory Integration.  She is a Certified Autism Specialist with expertise in sensory processing, coordination disorders, learning disorders and executive functioning.  Candice also has 2 boys of her own at home, one of which has a developmental disorder. Learn more about her here.

Simple Ways to Improve Bilateral Coordination

Simple Ways to Improve Bilateral Coordination

I wanted to try something new today. I want to describe and explain Bilateral Coordination. An area I always make sure to access as an Occupational Therapist.  Explain why it’s important and then give you some ideas on how to work on that skill at home.

What is Bilateral Coordination?

Our brains actually have two parts that are also called hemispheres.  So, we all have a left hemisphere and a right hemisphere of our brain.  The left side of our brain controls the right side of our body and the right side of our brain controls the left side of our body. 

In the middle of both sides of our brain we have these white fibers that are called the corpus collosum.  It’s through these fibers that information is passed between the two sides of our brain.

So, if we break down the word Bilateral – the first part of the word, bi – means two and the second part of the word, lateral – means side.  So, bilateral coordination is the coordination between two sides of your body.  Your right side and your left side.

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  1. The simplest type of bilateral coordination is when we use our arms or our legs in the same way or, in other words, with the same movement.  For example, when we use a rolling pin, we are using both of our hands together and they are moving with the same movement.
  2. As we continue to develop skill in this area, another form of bilateral coordination that would develop is when we alternate the same movement of our arms and legs.  A great example of this is a child crawling or when we ride a bike.  This is called reciprocal movements.
  3. Another type of bilateral coordination is when we use both sides of our body in different ways, or asymmetrical bilateral coordination.  For example, when we tie our shoes, we are doing two different things with each of our hands.  Another example of this is also when we use one hand to stabilize the piece of paper, while our other hand is writing or cutting with scissors.

How would I know to do bilateral coordination activities with my child?

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This begs the question then, how do you know if your child has difficulty with bilateral coordination?  Sometimes, it can be hard to tell.  Some children are very active and always on the go.  So it might appear that they have good gross motor coordination; however, they might really struggle with moving in a coordinated way or using both sides of the bodies in different ways.  So here are a few things to think about with your child to know if this might be an area of difficulty with your child.  Keep in mind, that kids usually become more coordinated as they get older.  So, if your child is still really young, some of the higher level coordinated movements are going to be too hard for them because of their age. 

  1.  Does your child avoid using both of their hands?  For example, when coloring, do they automatically use their other hand to keep the paper still?
  2. Can your child march?  How about with arm movements?  Are they able to march with their arms moving opposite to their legs?
  3. Can your child get themselves dressed?  Can they button their own shirts?  Tie their own shoes?

By no means is that an extensive list; however, these are common activities that you may have observed your child doing and will give you a general idea.  Also, if you are working with a therapist feel free to discuss this with your therapist if you are unsure.

Why do we want to have good bilateral coordination?

If a child does not have good bilateral coordination, they will have a harder time doing activities the use of both sides of their body.  So, things like, buttoning their own shirt or playing gross motor games that other kids are doing can be large challenges for them.  Affecting the amount of activities that they are successful doing.

This really does make a difference in a lot of areas of our life.  We use both sides of our bodies for most of our movement activities.  Starting when our kids first get up and have the opportunity to get themselves dressed, bilateral coordination is required.  It would affect how they are able to complete school activities such as writing and cutting.  Or maybe, they think soccer looks like fun, but because of not having the coordination, they aren’t able to join in with peers.

Not only would this affect their ability to complete those tasks, but if other kids are doing those activities then those are social opportunities that your child is missing out on.

I am not here just trying to point out all of the things that your child might struggle with.  What are really do what to share and really empower you with this fact, is this.  The amazing thing about our brains is that they can learn new things and new connections can be made!  So, if we support our child in doing things that supports connections that will help make things easier for them.

Ways to Improve Your Child’s Coordination

There are lots and lots of ways that you can focus on improving your child’s bilateral coordination skills by adding in and/or focusing on bilateral coordination activities at home. 

My advice is to start simple so your child can have success, celebrate that success before making it slightly more difficult. 

If your child has more success, celebrate and make it slightly more difficult again.  If it seems that adding more to the challenge or task is too much, simply return to where they were successful.  The most important thing is to take the opportunity to play with them, engage with them and make it fun when you are doing play-based activities. 

Some of these more play-based activities might be:

  • Play with musical instruments
    • drumming with 2 drumsticks
    • make 2 shakers (one for each hand)
    • have a scarf or ribbon sticks
  • gross motor activities
    • swimming
    • hula hoops – have them jump with both feet together, one foot in/out, alternate, play a hotch scotch, jump sideways, alternate jumping forward-then turning 180 degrees-repeat
    • bike riding
  • play zoom ball
  • playing with playdough
  • park play
    • climbing rock walls
    • balance activities
    • monkey bars
    • swings and working on pumping their legs

Other great activities to work on bilateral activities around the house and with them completing dressing tasks. 

  • wash windows
    • spray water on house
    • meal prep
    • cutting up foods
    • tying shoe laces
    • buttoning
    • fold socks/clothes

Candice Curtis is a licensed Occupational Therapist and the founder of Integrate Family. She is passionate about helping and empowering parents and their children.  Candice has advanced postgraduate training in theory, assessment, interpretation and treatment in Ayers Sensory Integration.  She is a Certified Autism Specialist with expertise in sensory processing, coordination disorders, learning disorders and executive functioning.  Candice also has 2 boys of her own at home, one of which has a developmental disorder. Learn more about her here.

Clever Ways to Do School with your Autistic Child

Clever Ways to Do School with your Autistic Child

So many of us are doing school with our Autistic Child a little different this year. Maybe our child is struggling with the changes at school. Perhaps, you are trying to manage a hybrid type of situation. Or, maybe you have taken the pludge with homeschool. Today, I am going to share our story with school and the many positive changes that have happened for my son in such a crazy stressful year! Learn strategies and hear recommendations on how to help your Autistic Child complete school in a way that works for your family!

I think we can all agree on the fact that it has been a year. 

The other day I was driving and the radio mentioned how hard of a year it is for parents.  How so many parents are having to do things different this year and how unexpected it all has been. 

Now, I am a very optimistic person and I have work so hard to just keep problem-solving, think of the next right step, and I ask myself how is this season for me…but honestly, I don’t think I stopped to give myself permission to acknowledge how hard this really has been and how hard I have really worked. 

I found myself fighting through tears, because it dawned on me the toll the stress has taken on me since last March.  The stress that has been added to all of our lives. 

I think that it is so important to realize that…not to just ignore it, but to own it and dare I say even celebrate how we have continued to fight for what the next right step has been in our lives and with our families. 

Covid has added a whole other layer to our lives that already had a lot of stress in them to be perfectly honest.  So, I guess the point of my little rant right now is to tell you to give yourself permission. 

Permission to recognize how hard you are and have been working through this period of time.  Recognize what you have done and how capable you are of doing things even when it’s not what you had envisioned it to be like. 

I want you to recognize how amazing you have done, if you don’t believe me than double check by pinching yourself.  If you really are here than you have made it through your hardest days so far and that is something to be celebrated!

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Have You Ever Seen a Big Positive Change in Your Autistic Child and Just Had to Share?!?!

I don’t know if you have ever had a big positive change in your life and you are so excited about it that you just can’t help but to share it with others. 

Well, recognizing that we had options about how we were living our life is one of those big positive changes in our lives.  So today, I want to talk about a perspective shift that I have had in regards to school over the past 1 ½ years and I am also wanting to give you some thoughts and strategies for your child’s schooling from home

.…for some of you that might mean how to set up homework time, how to get them to do schoolwork that teachers have sent home, schoolwork online or how to do homeschool for your child. 

I recognize that we are all in different situations and each and every one of our children is an individual and unique in their own ways, so if a suggestion or an idea doesn’t work for you directly, be creative in how you can take the concept and make it into something that will work.

A Typical School Day for my Autistic Son Last Year

The other side of this was also that my oldest son that has Autism was starting to really struggle with school.  He had managed to scrape by up into 5th grade, mainly because he did go to a small school and he was quiet. 

Since he wasn’t disruptive in class, the main thing that drove the teacher’s crazy was that he would squeeze all of his pencils and break a lot of pencils every day. 

Last year was his 5th grade year and the expectations were higher.  He was having a harder and harder time focusing with the fast changes and was getting more and more stressed out. 

He came home one day and was completing his long hours of homework after his normal school day. As quickly as possible may I add, so we didn’t have to miss Tae Kwon Do practice again.

I will never forget what he turned to me and said.  He said, “mom, I feel like I am on fire inside of an electric garbage disposal”. 

My heart skipped a beat and I gave him a huge hug and told him to take a break.  I went to a different room and cried tears of a mother’s heart break. 

When I spoke to his teacher and she was so very sweet and asked if there were things that I thought might help.  I gave suggestions and provided the tools, but to be honest, she had too many other kids and the suggestions were never attempted at school.

Problem Noted, Time to Do Something!

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This is when I started to think about other options for my work, because honestly, I felt like I was just tucking the boys in at night and I wasn’t able to help my son the way that he needed me to. 

I was already working on a new business called Integrate Family, which part of that business is me doing this podcast.  So, I took a leap and I decided to go all in with my business and to make sure financial ends met in the process by contracting with a school to provide Occupational Therapy services, I also continued working at the clinic a few hours every week.

Then this thing called Covid happened….

For us, one of the responses that my husband and I had to address this year is what to do with school and how to manage our children’s education. 

We were very fortunate and thankful that I had stepped back from my full-time clinic job about a year ago to start my business Integrate Family, instead of working at the clinic full time, so I had some flexibility outside of the time I was at the school and the clinic during the week. 

Knowing that I still had 40 hours of work to do each week and so did my husband, we still chose to online school with our 2 boys.  My husband took 2 days off during the middle of the week to cover times that I had to be at work outside of our house. 

I knew ahead of time that it was going to mean long days with work in the late evenings and weekends.  But, knowing that we were going to know what to expect for the year and our kids could have a consistent education outweighed all of the other negative. 

So we did what was the unthinkable in our minds up until this point…we decided to do this whole school things from home, knowing that it was going to be a crazy year, but feeling like it was the best for our children.

My youngest son had great friends at his previous school and was not happy with us when we told him he was going to be switching to an online school.  Thankfully, my oldest son was mainly excited about being able to wear pajamas sometimes.  So we hoped that our youngest son would eventually come around and hoped for the best.

Expectations for this School Year

To be honest, I had great hope and expectations!  Meeting my children where they were at and to support them the way that they needed support made me so excited! 

Setting up our schoolroom was a blast!  I bought a huge whiteboard that covered an entire wall, bought 2 desks that adjusted with a tilted desk surface.  I made sure to have lots of flexible seating in the “classroom”. 

So things like therapy balls, balance boards, bean bags, therabands…all of the things that would make a great classroom at a school building.  I had planners and was so excited to be able to work 1:1 with my son. All the things I have learned as an Occupational Therapist to help him focus and learn could be put to use! 

I had huge plans for PE class and thought it would be a great time to work on therapeutic activities.

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Initially, we started with an online school because the thought of just doing homeschool was way to foreign of a concept and I would have really had no idea where to start. 

We figured that an online school was used to teaching online and so it would be super smooth and easy.  Plus, they told me that I would get to plan all of the PE activities. So I was 100% on board.  But, I soon realized how the long task list made it very difficult for us to modify any of the schoolwork. We were exhausted just trying to get it done. 

Then we just repeated the exact same thing the next week.  There just wasn’t a lot of energy for anything else.  I think we had time to do PE once or twice the entire quarter. 

Most days my kids were in tears. 

It really made my husband and I think about how much stress the whole situation was putting on our children.  Our kids can feel our emotions even if we don’t talk about them.  They also have additional stress from all of the changes that have happened in their lives. 

Everything that they had been used to for a school year was completely different. They are not able to be around their friends they have known since Kindergarten. 

How my kids are feeling is a reoccurring theme I keep hearing. Parents are noticing their kids are struggling more now than ever. That is so understandable!! 

So many of us are in this situation where we are having to do school at home with our Autistic child. Or maybe partnering more with the school in a hybrid situation or maybe decided to homeschool or maybe we are watching our child struggle way more at school right now because of all the craziness that is happening right now.  We are all struggling!

We knew that we had to do something different so I started to talk to other parents. Ultimately, we decided to homeschool through a school district.  That way we had lots of support and resources. But this way, I could teach in a way that my kids would do well with.

School Now with Our Autistic Child

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How we have decreased stress

  1. Focused on getting a good night’s sleep
  2. We start off our day from a place of rest. We sit around the table and talking with a nice warm cup of cocoa
  3. My son does well with and that give him the fuel that he needs
  4. Completing a movement program that incorporates some reflex integration and motor timing
  5. We make movement part of what we are doing.  For example…rocking chair, therapy ball, tic tac toe, we run to the planets
  6. We have more discussions pulling on therabands and less time sitting at our desks
  7. Part of school is doing all of the things that we used to have to do after school
  8. Tae Kwon do is now part of PE.
  9. Piano practice is our music class
  10. They don’t have endless amounts of homework. Quite honestly, they were too tired to do more learning after a whole school day.
  11. Things that they are interested in is part of their learning
  12. Robotics
  13. Website design, blogging and creative writing
  14. We curl up and I read a book out loud to them at night

What has resulted from us having less stress

  1. My kids are adding questions all the time to the curiosity board and wanting to learn!!!
  2. My son hand wrote a 30-chapter book on his own (without being asked)!!
  3. Both of the boys are requesting to write own short stories!!
  4. Both the boys are making Kahoot quizzes for other family members (again, without being asked)!!
  5. The boys are making their own videos about what our family does for Christmas traditions (you guessed it, without being asked)!!
  6. When we get together with other kids, my oldest son actually plays
  7. They actually have time to do things they are interested in without being exhausted (ie: outschool: building a website and blogging)

How to Help Your Autistic Child Do Great at School

1. Think about what you can do to decrease the amount of stress for your child so they can learn. 

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Kids do not learn well if they are stressed.  This most definitely includes Autistic children. Learning is something that we still try to force because we so badly want learning to happen.  But we need to start with decreasing their stress first. If we don’t, everything we are trying to get them to learn is more difficult.

  • How can they get better sleep. (maybe it’s a warm bath with bath salts, a meditation, a weighted blanket, or soft music)
  • How can you start their day from a place of rest instead of chaos.  Maybe the need to jump on the trampoline first or rock forward and back on top of a therapy ball, ect.

2. What is your child is really interested in and how you can use those interests to teach them?

  • Use their strengths and interests to teach them new concepts.
  • Show them how it applies to the real world

3. Point out to them when they tried something difficult but they were successful.  Celebrate with them!!

4. When our children don’t want to participate that is them communicating something to us.  Your job is to try to figure out what it is that they are communication through their behavior. 

How the information is being presented? 

  • Maybe there is way too much information on the worksheet. Try to cut out a small opening in another piece of paper. Allow only a small portion of the math problems to be seen at a time. 
  • Maybe they have been working so hard that they need a break.  Put yourself in their shoes.  If you were trying to learn Greek right now would you be overwhelmed by now.

5. Think how movement can be made a part of what they are learning. 

A great book called “Smart Moves: Why Learning is Not All in Your Head”. In the book, she really delves into why movement is so very crucial to learning. I can’t even begin to explain how much more important it is for our kids that don’t process sensory information well.  So definitely think about how to make movement a part of your learning.

6. Try to think about how you and your child does best. 

It’s not about finding the right curriculum or framework for schooling (ie: classical, unschooling, charlotte mason, ect).  They all have great perspectives that make us think as parents, but ultimately, there isn’t one right way for everyone. 

There is a way that will work the best for your child and the season that you are right now.  And whatever that way is it will transform and change as you learn more and as your child grows.

Start somewhere and then know that it is a work in progress.

7. Don’t forget for a second that you do have options. They are not always the options that you may think you want, but there are options.

I didn’t realize that we had as many options as we did. Until I started to think outside of the box. Now that I realized how big of a difference this has made for myself, my children, and our family as a whole I just can’t help but share it!

Being around your kids more can be difficult. Especially when our children have bigger reactions than other kids.  Think of how you can balance that by using respite care. Maybe you can find someone in the neighborhood that might like to switch off time watching the kids. What about asking family or friends for extra help?

There are always options. Just sometimes you have to allow yourself to be open to changes or different ways of doing things.

Candice Curtis is a licensed Occupational Therapist and the founder of Integrate Family. She is passionate about helping and empowering parents and their children.  Candice has advanced postgraduate training in theory, assessment, interpretation and treatment in Ayers Sensory Integration.  She is a Certified Autism Specialist with expertise in sensory processing, coordination disorders, learning disorders and executive functioning.  Candice also has 2 boys of her own at home, one of which has a developmental disorder. Learn more about her here.

Interview with Chantal, Founder of Fun Sensory Play

Interview with Chantal, Founder of Fun Sensory Play

We have a great guest today and you are in for a treat. Our guest today is the founder and owner of Fun Sensory Play and a mother of an Autistic child.  Fun Sensory Play is a fantastic website with lots of sensory ideas and activities. 

She has sensory floor decals on her webpage that I absolutely love!  They are decals that you place on your floor that kids love, not to mention they are great to work on all sorts of skills, including gross motor skills, coordination, balance, sensory processing and they are a great way to encourage engagement with your child. 

She even has lots of different varieties of decals that make it even more fun!  She also just came out with some sensory stocking stuffers which are perfect for your sensory kiddos and just in time for Christmas!!  So definitely check it out at or on her Facebook page.

During the interview, you will get the chance to hear Chantal’s journey following the birth of her child and the journey to diagnosis and treatment.  She has done a tremendous job learning about sensory processing with her child and was able to find a great outlet with her business.

#sensoryplay, #autism, #autismmomma, #autismdevelopment, #autismresources, #autismpodcast, #sensoryprocessingdisorder, #SPD, #autismlife

Top 3 takeaways

1.  Listen to your “gut” as a parent in regards to your child so you can support them as early as possible.

2.  It will be “baby steps” to help your child, but celebrate each and every one of those baby steps.  Fear can take over and all the questions about the future can be so hard, but staying positive makes such a huge difference!

3.  She is such a great example of taking steps by using her strengths and what she is passionate about to help others through her business and now has a heart and the hope to employ Autistic individuals. 

You can find Chantal at:
Facebook – Fun Sensory Play

Candice Curtis is a licensed Occupational Therapist and the founder of Integrate Family. She is passionate about helping and empowering parents and their children.  Candice has advanced postgraduate training in theory, assessment, interpretation and treatment in Ayers Sensory Integration.  She is a Certified Autism Specialist with expertise in sensory processing, coordination disorders, learning disorders and executive functioning.  Candice also has 2 boys of her own at home, one of which has a developmental disorder. Learn more about her here.

How To Understand and Support Your Autistic Child

How To Understand and Support Your Autistic Child

Ever wonder what to do when your child has certain behaviors?  Today we are going to discuss 2 very specific strategies to help you understand your Autistic child that will help you to better support your child!.

Understanding and Supporting Your Autistic Child

Questions that I get all the time from parents are what to do when their child is chewing on everything or busy lining up their toys or jumping on their couch cushions. 

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On Pinterest, there are all sorts of recommendations to buy some “thing” that their child can chew on instead of their clothing or ways to teach an Autistic child their colors or strategies to get their hair cut. 

I get it…we all need solutions to what we see as our problems or help with what’s difficult for our child.  We need help to trudge through out day to day.    

But the truth is, too often we are completely missing the forest and only focusing on the trees.  We are completely missing the point and how to help our child!!  Learning strategies to put a band aid on the actual underlying problem is just that it’s just a band aid.

And too often we don’t even know what band-aid to use to address the “problem” that our child is having so we just start trying them all.  We end up being super discouraged and exhausted and wanting to throw our arms up in the air. 

We were trying so hard, but essentially, we were starting at the beginning.


  1. Stopping and thinking: what is my child’s behavior trying to communicate right now.  When we change our next step to one that comes from compassion and understanding (from being reactive) and then we know how to best support our child.
  • We will be increasing our bond with our child
  • We will actually start addressing what the child is having a hard time doing
  • Is your child overwhelmed?  Sensory, understanding what is expected…is our world like a different dimension or universe all together where everyone speaks a different language, with sounds and sights that are overwhelming and does things that don’t seem to make sense.

2.  Get excited about every single win

  • think of it from your child’s view
  • so many things are difficult and they have to work so much harder
  • they need to be more willing to try again several times to gain more skills
  • give them a world where they can do that!!
  • Use a 5 minute journal to stary recognizing you and your child’s wins today

It’s not easy and it’s going to take constant intentionality to keep yourself thinking in this way.  There will be days that you react because you’re tired or stressed.  Don’t forget you are human too!  Give yourself grace and try to pinpoint what triggers you as well. 

Understand that your child isn’t doing this to you, they are struggling and trying to make sense of their world and the world around them.

Many many hugs and loves!!

Candice Curtis is a licensed Occupational Therapist and the founder of Integrate Family. She is passionate about helping and empowering parents and their children.  Candice has advanced postgraduate training in theory, assessment, interpretation and treatment in Ayers Sensory Integration.  She is a Certified Autism Specialist with expertise in sensory processing, coordination disorders, learning disorders and executive functioning.  Candice also has 2 boys of her own at home, one of which has a developmental disorder. Learn more about her here.

Using Connection with Autistic Children to Improve Development

Using Connection with Autistic Children to Improve Development

Improving the development of our Autistic Children is a huge desire for so many of us. But, where do we start when there are so many conflicting messages out there? My guest today decided to make the conscious choice of connecting with her child over countless behavioral strategies and “expert” recommendations. Her optimistic attitude and realization that she needed to become empowered since she was the constant in her son’s life was a dynamic and unmovable force that allowed this mother to catapault her child’s development.

Improving Development of Autistic Children – An Interview

I really had to stop and think of how I wanted to introduce my guest today.  Honestly, I don’t think that I have the words to really describe how excited I am for you to hear this episode! Not to mention, words that could give Sally justice.  I truly wish I could shout from all the rooftops for everyone to know and hear about Sally, her family, and her amazing journey.

Saying that I enjoyed talking with Sally, before, during and after the recording would be a huge understatement!!  All I kept thinking as I heard her talk was, YES!! She gets it!  

She understands how to look at her child and love him. How to be proactive. How to actively engaged in her own child’s development.  Not only that, she learned how to understand her child. Including, what things worked for him and what did not work.

It wasn’t until after the interview and reading her book that I gained an even larger admiration for her. Which I didn’t even think was possible when I was speaking with her! 

She has such an amazing story to tell, because she is such an inspiration!!  Her ability to carry out a program that felt so right to her. Her extremely insightful observations allowed her son to make amazing progressions in his development. 

She is a perfect example of how positive and proactive beliefs affect your emotions. How your emotions turn into actions that can make a tremendous impact on your child. Ultimately leading to improved development for our Autistic Children.

In her book in one section she writes,

“when to teach a child is as important as how to teach and what to teach”. 

This is such an important realization. I feel like a huge reason why, as parents, we can often feel so discouraged when trying to help our child. We so badly want to help our child that we force things. 

Obviously, I can’t rewrite everything that she writes in her book, but another part that she wrote that I really loved was when she writes,

“I never looked at Tim and thought, “You are on the autistic spectrum so you can’t do this and that”.  Instead, I thought, “you are struggling, so I will help you through it and onto the next level.”

I think as mom’s we way too often downplay what we do for our children, because we love them so much that we couldn’t ever imagine not wanting the best for our children and not doing whatever we need to support them. 

But, I really do want to just say that I have a huge amount of admiration and just truly want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to be here with you and for sharing her story through her book.

So let’s start off, by sharing some words that tell us a little bit more about Sally…

Our guest, Sally Wagter

About the author

She’s a free spirit – She loves to travel, get out and meet people, experience new challenges, love studying and gaining new knowledge and being open to amazing, spontaneous happenings. She has travelled extensively in Australia and Africa and spent four years training to be a teacher – before marrying a kind, handsome Dutchman and settling down to work.

Their lives before their first child were busy and very sociable. She was so excited at the thought of being a mother. And when Tim was born, she instantly fell in love with him. So, when he was diagnosed with autism, aged two, she embarked on the steepest learning curve of her life – and it has continued daily, ever since.

She has never accepted any form of hopeless prognosis – and there were far too many of those, especially in the early days. Watching Tim’s struggles tore at my heart – and she knew she would never give up finding ways to help him. This journey has taken her on a remarkable path.  She wants to share it with you, because she believes that what she has discovered and learned could also help others, who are also facing confusion and heartbreak. 

She now has two children and have been a qualified teacher for twenty-four years. Her husband, Erik, is a social worker who trains social workers in the Solution-Focused approach. Currently, she is helping Tim embark on his musical career, bringing up his younger brother, and have started a consultancy to help families, whose children have similar diagnoses. 

Miracle in Slow Motion

Miracle in Slow Motion,is an inspirational story from despair to miracles, charting a mother’s deeply emotional journey on being confronted with her son’s autism. Refusing to believe the bleak outlook forecast for him, she determined to go all-out in helping him to connect and discover his real self and potential.

Part I charts the journey up to the age of eleven, where his mother started to see hope for his future. By the age of two, he was having daily meltdowns, screaming, running away, and unable to communicate his needs; by four he was diagnosed with a severe speech, language and communication disorder; at eight his school said they could not teach him and his parents should prepare for a future of assisted working. However, at the age of eleven he was talking easily, thinking of others and becoming flexible. He was also building friendships and some of his talents were starting to emerge. 

Part II charts the years from eleven to seventeen, where Tim’s social skills, academic achievements and dreams were all brought to fruition. You can find out how we did this by reading the book…

Recommended books:

Autism Breakthrough by Raun Kaufman

Miracle in Slow Motion by Sally Wagter

Top 3 takeaways to Support Development in our Autistic Children

1.  They changed from a behavioral approach to a relational approach with the goal was connection to decrease their son’s stress to allow him to learn and develop more skills.  This allowed him to later be able to handle additional situations and environments that had been difficult prior.

2. Understand what your child is going through (hidden brain processes) so you don’t just see it as “naughty” behavior and you respond in a positive way that will support them. 

3.  Since you are your child’s parent, you are the one with the closest relationship with them and with the most influence.  Meaning that you can help the most.  You need to be empowered so wherever your child is in that moment you will know what to do for them.

You can find Sally at:

Amazon book ‘Miracle in slow Motion’


If you want to see where Tim is now himself, you can click here!!

Candice Curtis is a licensed Occupational Therapist and the founder of Integrate Family. She is passionate about helping and empowering parents and their children.  Candice has advanced postgraduate training in theory, assessment, interpretation and treatment in Ayers Sensory Integration.  She is a Certified Autism Specialist with expertise in sensory processing, coordination disorders, learning disorders and executive functioning.  Candice also has 2 boys of her own at home, one of which has a developmental disorder. Learn more about her here.