Articles & Blog

Maureen Bennie curates a news blog for Autism Calgary called "What in The World is Going On About Autism". Her blog often mines and expands on the articles and events that she has detailed in that news feed, as well as looking at current best autism resources, news stories, and events on a variety of topics about autism and ASD.

Autism Awareness Centre Inc. Celebrates 16 Years

June 2019 marks Autism Awareness Centre’s 16th anniversary. When I co-founded this company in 2003, my children were 4 and 6 years old. I was only four years in to the autism journey. Today my children are 20 and 22, young adults. So much has changed in the autism field these past 16 years. Some of our biggest advancements have…

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Understanding Stimming and Autism: The Good and Bad Side of Anxious Behaviours

What is stimming? Stimming – or stims – are a wide variety of self-stimulating behaviours that people with autism may exhibit when experiencing sensory overload or high levels of anxiety. Stimming can be a repetitive motion such as hand flapping, rocking, repetition of words or phrases (echolalia), vocalizations, or even the repetitive movement of objects. Stimming still puzzles many neurotypicals,…

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Ten Ways to Increase Your Child’s Ability to Be Flexible

Our guest blogger this week is Lauren Kerstein, a licensed clinical social worker who specializes in working with children, adolescents, adults and families. Lauren will be speaking at our Calgary Conference on November 16, 2019. In this post, Lauren discusses the challenges with flexible thinking and suggests ten strategies to try to teach a child to be more flexible in…

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A Viewpoint on Token Economies

Bo Hejlskov Elvén is a Swedish clinical psychologist and author of several books on challenging behavior. He is also part of the Studio 3 Low Arousal Approach group. You may have heard Bo present at one of our Canadian conferences in Vancouver, Halifax, or Edmonton. Bo has a wonderful website where he blogs in English on a variety of topics…

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Parenting Two Children With Autism: How I Became an Optimist

I’ve just started reading Mark Durand’s new book Optimistic Parenting. Durand has studied the nature, assessment, and treatment of behavior problems in children with ASD. He has spent the past 3 decades working with individuals with ASD, their families and other professionals. He wrote this book to be a self-help guide for parents and suggests great strategies for children and parents.

 What I like about this book so far is the personal stories from parents. What they say and experience raising challenging children rings true – feeling guilty, no time for themselves, fear of what the future holds, frustration and exhaustion. How can you have a good life in the world of special needs?

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The Positives of Autism

Autism is often defined and described in terms of deficits. This happens in order to determine what supports are needed, for program design and implementation, and level of funding; but always talking about what a person can’t do or do as well as their peers can be demoralizing. Improvement can be difficult to see and small but significant gains are…

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Desperately Needed: Respite

Parents of special needs children or adults need respite care to get a much-needed break from the stresses of their parenting situation. Most parents find it difficult to find good, reliable childcare – to leave their child with someone who may not have the experience in dealing with the problems of autism. Young people such as high school students can struggle with the demands of difficult behaviors. The job requires someone with maturity and experience.

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Autism x 2: Transitioning into Adulthood

A few years ago, I wrote a post about the experience of raising my two children with autism. I first wrote this piece from the point of view when my son and daughter were quite young. Recently, someone from China contacted me to ask if she could translate the post because it would encourage families and give them hope for…

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The Difficulties with Toilet Training a Person with Autism

The topic of toilet training or toileting issues continues to be my most frequently asked question. I’m asked what to do about withholding a bowel movement, toileting readiness, fecal smearing, constipation, continued use of diapers, elimination on the floor or other inappropriate place, and how to teach the toileting process. These are all very important questions that can be hard…

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For those of us with ASD children, becoming autism “experts” is a survival skill

It’s not often that I write about personal issues I am facing with either of my children on the autism spectrum, but this struggle has to be told because I would hate to see other parents go through what we have for the past 3 months.

Our daughter, Julia, has been in an inclusive setting since kindergarten. We have been fortunate in our choice of school because class sizes has been relatively small, the teachers have been accommodating and caring, Julia has been with the same supportive peer group since kindergarten, and she has had the same aide since the first day of school. Even with a severe coding for her disability, her aide support has been gradually reduced from all day in kindergarten, to 2 pm daily for grades 1 – 2, and down to mornings only from grades 3 – 6.

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Definition of Autism

Autism is a lifelong, nonprogressive neurological disorder typically appearing before the age of three years. The word “autism” means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and non-verbal communication and social interaction.

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Keep Calm and Carry On This Holiday Season : 8 Tips for Supporting Individuals with ASD

The Christmas holidays can be a time of wonder and delight, taking part in family traditions, seeing loved ones, and a break from routine. The holidays can also be a time of stress for those on the autism spectrum who thrive on familiarity and predictability. This can be a difficult time of year, but with some preparation and planning, the holiday season can be enjoyable.

The school schedule can be interrupted with plays, concerts and assemblies. Teachers and educational assistants, give lots of warning about changes in the daily routine. Work in special activities into the visual schedule. Create a social story about a concert or a play the children will see. It is often anxiety rooted in fear of the unknown that causes challenging behavior and avoidance of new experiences.

Allow for some quiet or down time during a day that has new experiences in it. Create a plan B if the school play is too hard for the child to sit through. If a music concert will be loud, perhaps use some noise cancelling headphones to lessen the sound. If the class is planning a Christmas party, walk the child with ASD through what it will be like. There are some great party planning suggestions in Tasks Galore: Making Groups Meaningful. Maybe the child can also help with the organization or suggest a favorite game to play. If a preferred activity is included in the day’s events, the child is more likely to be enthusiastic about it. Think about scheduling a favourite activity right after a new experience so that the child knows when the concert ends, there is some computer time, games, or play time with a much loved toy.

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An Uncertain Future – What Will Become of Our Kids?

This week I was spoke on an ageing caregivers panel hosted by the Autism Calgary Association. It was both interesting and informative to hear parent perspectives on how they have supported their adult children through different life transitions. No matter what our stories were, common themes emerged : the need for housing secure income continuing advocacy and who will oversee…

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