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.

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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Ageing Caregivers – Who Will Take Care of Our Kids When We No Longer Can?

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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Toy Treasures: Making Toys and Games from Recycled Items

We had a new speaker present for us in Vancouver, BC this past weekend – occupational therapist Barbara Sher. She has written a number of great books about play and how to makes games and toys out of recycled materials. The conference delegates were asked to pick and choose items from a list to bring to the workshop. Most of us could find all of these items around home – newspapers, magazines, masking tape, string, old scarves, egg cartons, boxes, socks, beans, wool, buttons, cans, water bottles, rope etc. We then got into groups, put our heads together, and made toys and played games with these items.

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Enjoying Halloween: Tips for Parents of Children with Autism

For parents of children with autism – and those with autism themselves –  any kind of holiday or special occasion can become an extreme source of stress; Halloween is no different. For parents, there can be too many expectations to try and live up to. For children with autism, holidays are unpredictable, loud, and often bring changes in routines and diet. Halloween,…

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Great Expectations – Starting the School Year Off Right

September is here which means the start of a new school year. Great expectations and high hopes abound. Maybe your child is going to a new school this year or attending school for the first time. Parents and children can feel both excited and anxious. How can you make this year a successful one? What is both reasonable and attainable this school year?

At Home

  • To make mornings a little less stressful, lay clothes out the night before, make lunches and check agendas for communication, forms etc.
  • If your child has trouble waking up, set the alarm 15 minutes earlier than needed to allow time to rise.
  • Post a visual schedule or checklist where your child can see it to know what needs to be done before leaving in the morning – bathroom routines, packing a backpack, dressing etc.
  • Be cautious about overscheduling with extra-curricular activities. For many children with ASD, it takes great energy to cope with the school day and down time can be needed after school. Look at alternative ideas such as one day events or weekend activities for things to do.
  • Decide if your child will do homework or not. If you decide to do homework, assign a quiet spot where it can be done and a regular time in the schedule.
  • Create some visual organizers for items that have to go back and forth to school. This could be a basket or bin by the front door.

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Developing Leisure Activities for Individuals with ASD

Leisure activities are an important part of life for everyone. Engaging in activities that are fun, enjoyable and interesting increases a person’s well-being, happiness and satisfaction in life. Leisure activities can be done alone or in a group, at home or out in the community. We learn activities by watching others, taking lessons, joining clubs, reading instructions, or simply by…

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Getting Summer Work Experience For Those With Autism

My children, Marc and Julia, have been involved in their first work experience this summer. They finished their final shift of four at the Famer’s Market yesterday. What a great learning experience this has been for the kids. Their work environment was a supportive one, surrounded by people they knew through my figure skating club. Volunteering gave them a chance to see what working was like, presented them with challenges and gave them opportunities for personal growth.

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Team Around The Adult – Why We Need A Community

Children with ASD attending school have teams of support around them, often without parents having to ask. There is an IEP, an aide, teacher, consultants, and professionals giving input like a speech pathologist or occupational therapist. If your child is receiving services from an agency, there are usually multi-disciplinary teams in place to provide guidance and therapy. Once that child…

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How do I teach sexuality to a person with ASD?

Answer: For children that are concrete thinkers, teach rules and skills. Many individuals with ASD follow rules well and understand those types of boundaries. Make sure everyone who works with that child knows the established rules as well. You can teach the “why” behind the rule if the child is at a higher social-cognitive level. Keep in mind the cognitive level when teaching concepts. Does the person understand abstract concepts? Can they apply what they’ve learned in books to real life? Think about how the person learns best: using computers, through visuals, reading, video modelling etc.

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Autism, Immunity and Gut Health : New Study Continues the Link Between ASD and Health

The connection between autism and gut issues has been known about for over a decade, but until now, while the connection has been clear, the causes have been unknown. Up to 70 percent of those with ASD have gastrointestinal (GI) abnormalities at some point during childhood or adolescence. They are also more likely to have constipation or chronic diarrhea than children…

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How Animals Benefit Individuals with Autism

Owning a pet and interacting with animals can have many benefits. An animal can provide companionship, friendship, reduce loneliness and alleviate anxiety. It can be easier for a person with autism to interact with an animal because an animal is nonverbal and non-judgemental. Owning a pet can also foster responsibility in children. A study done in 2013 at the University…

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