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.

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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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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