PHP helps families who have children of any age with special needs. This support group has been vetted by SARC (San Andreas Regional Center) and has an excellent program. PHP runs support groups specific to a certain condition or disability. They will help you find other parents in similar situations to yours.
This Meetup group organizes play dates for children with autism & related special needs. Social activities like trips to a park, swimming days, or just playing at one member’s house. There’s even the occasional “Moms Night Out” for relaxing. Plenty of events are already scheduled, with more coming.
The San Francisco Autism Society serves the entire San Francisco Bay Area. This page hosts their Community Calendar, where you can find all sorts of local groups & events. Hiking clubs, movie days, workshops, museum trips and more. Some of the other local support groups post their events to the Autism Society calendar. It’s a helpful place to look for San Francisco events where you & your family are welcome.
What’s a fun way for children to learn coordination and punch things … without hurting themselves? Martial arts! This Meetup group meets at 10:30 every Saturday morning, at Darcio Lira Martial Arts in Livermore. Two Sensei (teachers) work with special needs children from ages 5-16. The weekly class helps them learn social skills, awareness of their surroundings, and coordination. The class is free, but donations are accepted.
This Meetup Group is a little different. It’s meant for you, the parent. All parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down syndrome, ADHD, & so on are welcome. It’s a place to ask questions, find useful resources, share experiences with other parents who understand your situation, and more. The group has been quiet for a while, but still maintains a healthy membership. Any member can suggest a Meetup, so don’t hesitate to make a suggestion.
Do you know of a family support group not on this list? Please send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The more groups we know about, the more parents we can inform.
We hope one (or more!) of these groups gives you a helping hand, whenever you need it. Fun activities for your child, relaxing opportunities for you, and a community helping one another – these things help us all thrive.
See you next month!
AMC Sensory-Friendly Films (in partnership with the Autism Society)
A “Sensory-Friendly Film” is a special movie time for special-needs children. The movie is not as loud, the lights are adjusted, and there’s no pressure to keep your child quiet & sitting still. If they want to get up, talk, or sing along, that’s fine.
AMC Theatres has partnered with the Autism Society to host Sensory-Friendly Film days every month. Right now two local AMCs host Sensory Movies: the AMC Mercado in Santa Clara, and the Cupertino Square 16 in Cupertino.
For September, the movie is “Hotel Transylvania” and it will air on Saturday, September 26.
Often we find that the children we work with have a difficult time when out in their community. Some children are afraid of loud sounds, or crowds. Some need to leave the store with a new toy or candy. Or for unknown reasons, they just cry in all outside places.
But even with these behaviors, kids need to experience the world and adapt to being in new places. Here’s how you can make it easier.
Before going out into the community, have a plan. Set yourself up to be successful.
We’ve seen families bring 3 kids to the store with no support or backup. One child has a meltdown, the other runs off, and another wants the cookies opened right now. Not exactly a successful trip!
If you have backup, such as a partner or friend, bring them with you. Or, leave some children behind at home with another adult (if you must go out alone).
Take short trips to desensitize the child.
If you’d like your child to accompany you to the store without getting upset, this method should help. Make small trips with no plan of buying anything. Try going to places for only a few minutes, then leaving (on your terms, not the child’s). This helps the child adjust to the process of going out in the community, and returning home.
If you want, you could bring some small snacks they love, or a favorite small toy. This way you’ll periodically reinforce their good behavior. For example, give them a small snack every 30 seconds or so when they’ve walked nicely with you. (Tell them they’re doing great too; this is excellent reinforcement.)
Prepare for tantrums the first couple times.
Some children will only leave a store if they get something. If your child is like this, make short trips to the store over & over…but don’t buy them a toy.
The short trip helps to desensitize them. The lack of getting something teaches them a new behavior.
They will resist at first, so prepare for a few tantrums. It’s unpleasant, we know, but you can do it. Once they begin leaving the store without crying, reinforce their good behavior with something else (not a toy from the store – perhaps a small snack). And a pat on the back too.
For additional support or ideas, please ask your A is for Apple supervisor.
Ask AIFA: Will Therapy “X” Work for My Child?
“Dear A is for Apple, My friend said art/water/oxygen therapy worked for her child. Would it work for mine too?”
Many therapies are proclaimed as “the solution” for children with developmental disorders. Some of the therapies we’ve heard about from parents are:
Horseback Riding therapy
…and many more!
It’s understandable to hope for big improvements with activities like these. However, be careful with these “non-evidence-based” therapies.
We have heard some good anecdotes about working with dogs. That’s great – many children love dogs! But unlike ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis), there is no well-controlled, reviewed, and published study behind these “therapies”.
ABA practices are evidence-based. Certified service providers such as BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) are regulated nationwide to make sure we all follow the evidence-based practices with children like yours.
If you’re curious about an “alternative therapy”, do some research and look for studies behind it. Maybe your child will respond to it; maybe not. You can try, but the evidence just isn’t there. The best way to look for studies behind it is finding articles in peer reviewed journals. The JABA (Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis) is a big, well-known peer-reviewed journal. Ask your service provider or doctor if you need help finding any evidence behind the “therapy” they recommend.
Also, our recommendation: Don’t start multiple therapies at once. Squeezing in 5 different types of therapy takes up lots of time, exhausts the child, and you don’t know which therapy is contributing to your child’s progress (or regress).
If you still have questions, please talk with your A is for Apple supervisor.
Do you have a question you’d like answered? Please email it to us at email@example.com for inclusion in a future newsletter.
Inside A is for Apple Stanford Microbiome Study – Would You Like to Participate?
The other day, a research team from Stanford University contacted us. They told us about a new study involving children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and the human microbiome.
What’s the microbiome? According to the Stanford study’s page: “Our body hosts up to 100 trillion microbial cells that comprise the human microbiome, and outnumber human cells by 10 fold. These microbes play a critical role in human physiology by balancing the immune system, producing vitamins, promoting gastrointestinal motility, and impacting behavior.”
Stanford wants to know if there’s any link between the microbiome and behavior associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Would you like to help them out?
Participation involves answering a few questions, recording a video of your child, and sending in some samples (swabs, etc.). Stanford will provide the materials. There’s no cost to you.
A is for Apple, Inc. is not affiliated with Stanford University in any way. We’re just passing the word along to you, our parents, to participate. If you want to.
Going to school can be very stressful for a child. Especially if this is their first year.
Preparing your child for a school environment – playing with others, listening to the teacher – is part of our ABA and OT practices. But there are also several things you can do to help your child get ready for school.
We’ve sorted our tips by date here, for easy reference. Please read these through, and try some out with your child.
In the Weeks Leading Up
Work on skills that may have been lost over summertime – basic cognitive & academic tasks, like drawing or listening.
Go back to a regular schedule: Waking up & eating meals at the same times each day.
Put the child back on their school-day sleep routine.
Drive to the school to familiarize themselves with the route (a new route may upset the child if they’re not familiar).
Engage in what’s called “priming” – telling the child they’re going back to school soon.
Put together the necessary school supplies. Have your child put on their backpack so they get used to wearing it.
Be mindful of potty training. They may get anxious & Mom’s not there. It may help to bring their potty insert from home & leave it at the school during the day.
Take the child out for some extra socializing. Go to parks, the mall, or a library. This will help stir their curiosity.
The First Day of School
It’s here! On the first day, go into school with your child. Point out buildings they saw before. Be there when they see their classroom.
Talk to the teachers. Make sure they have a way to contact you if it’s needed. Decide ahead of time the best way to communicate – a daily log, exchanging notes, email, etc. Frequent communication helps if there’s any issues (yours or theirs).
And prepare yourself – Remember, the staff at the schools are trained to take care of children with special needs. The child IS quite safe.
A Caution about Parent Anxiety
It’s normal to feel anxious while your child’s in school. You may even want to stay there & help him or her through the day.
However, this may not be the best thing for the child.
Research papers published by UCLA, the University of Washington and the University of Hong Kong indicate that “intrusive parenting” – doing things like taking over tasks the child’s doing themselves, or giving excessive physical affection – may limit the child’s ability to interact with peers & make friends at school.
Your therapist will help you with parental behaviors that encourage your child’s involvement in school.
If you do have the time & want to help out, parents can be aides in “parent participation” schools. You’ll help out in the classroom, working with your child and others. Ask your child’s school administration about parent participation.
We hope your child enjoys themselves in school! If you have questions about school preparation which we didn’t cover here, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you next month!
Stay & Play Times at San Jose Public Library, Wednesday August 12
A “Stay & Play” event engages children with books, songs, and playtime with others. They’re a fun way for your child to relax and learn.
The San Jose Public Library holds Stay & Plays weekly, at its multiple branches. On Wednesday, August 12, they’ll host several Stay & Plays:
Ask AIFA: My child is losing his Regional Center assistance! How do I verify insurance?
“Dear A is for Apple, My child is losing his Regional Center assistance. How can I find out if A is for Apple will accept my insurance?”
When children turn 3, or their medical circumstances change, a Regional Center may no longer offer financial assistance with your child’s therapy at A is for Apple. If this happens, don’t panic! We have a system in place to help you.
Click the “Verify My Insurance Coverage” button. The form will open right away. You’ll need to fill in your information, your child’s information and your insurance policy information. Instructions are included. The online form is HIPAA-compliant, so you can rest assured that your private medical information will be kept private.
Important Note: You’ll need scanned copies of your insurance card (both sides) and prescriptions, to complete this form.
Our new form will shorten the time needed to verify coverage, so your child continues to receive the care they need. Please try it out!
Do you have a question you’d like answered? Please email it to us at email@example.com for inclusion in a future newsletter.
Inside A is for Apple
Staff News – New OTs, First RBT in Campbell and More Therapists Taking BCBA Exam
In the past month our therapists & supervisors have been busy. We have new staff hires, new certifications and BCBA exams coming up.
Staff Hires & a New RBT
We’ve hired 3 new Occupational Therapists this summer! If your services include OT, you’ll meet them soon.
One of our therapists has also passed the tests to become a Registered Behavior Technician, or RBT. Registered Behavior Technicians must be approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) to work on specific behavior assessments for our BCBA supervisors.
This is a first – A is for Apple now has the very first RBT in the City of Campbell.
Two BCBA Exams Coming Up
We have 2 of our technicians lined up to take the BCBA exam this month. If they pass (and we’re sure they will!), they will become our newest Board Certified Behavior Analysts.
In the autism therapy industry, a BCBA exam is similar to a lawyer’s “bar exam”. It’s a form of continuous education, and a way to keep a strict ethical standard in place across the industry.
BCBAs are authorized to manage groups of children’s cases, and to work directly with insurances agencies on ABA services.
How does all this benefit you, our parents? More flexibility in scheduling your child’s sessions.
These staff improvements expand our existing workforce’s capabilities, so we can make more services available to you.
If your Regional Center has suggested working with an RBT, or you know someone who needs ABA therapy services for their child, please contact us for help.
On April 18, 2015, the new Magical Bridge Playground opened in Palo Alto. It’s the first of 34 playgrounds in Palo Alto to specifically accommodate children with developmental disabilities.
The entire playground was designed and built so kids of all abilities can play and socialize. We can’t convey just how much we appreciate the City of Palo Alto creating this play space.
What the Playground Holds: Soft Surfaces, 7 Play Zones, Calming Stations
Last week we sent one of our Senior Behavioral Program Supervisors out to see what the park offered children & parents. He attended with one of our clients, who had originally gone to Magical Bridge on Opening Day…but the playground was so packed they couldn’t do much.
They found it still busy, even on a Thursday afternoon! The playground is broken up into zones: Swinging Zone, Playhouse, Slide Mound, Music Area, etc. All the surfaces are completely flat, made from soft rubbery material. Perfect for wheelchairs and walkers.
In fact, you’ll find wheelchair ramps everywhere, and very few stairs. You can even push a child’s wheelchair onto the Merry-Go-Round, lock their chair into place, and give it a spin!
If your child becomes overstimulated or startled, there are Calming Stations throughout the playground. Bring your child to the closest station whenever they need to rest & calm down.
Inclusive Experience: Everyone Can Enjoy the Magical Bridge
All of our clients’ children can use the Magical Bridge Playground, in one manner or another. So can their siblings, whether they’re affected or not.
That was a big thing we discovered while at the playground – there were lots of neurotypical kids playing too. Some right alongside their special-needs brothers, sisters & friends.
The playground is open to everyone, with no encumbrances and no judgments. Visitors are very open—just out having a good time. It’s a great place for parents to meet other parents & socialize.
We saw a group of moms chatting while their children played. Like you’d see at any park. It truly is a “magical bridge” for everyone.
A Place to Enrich Your Child’s Life – and Playtime
The Magical Bridge Playground is located within Mitchell Park in Palo Alto, at 600 East Meadow Road. You’ll find plenty of parking at each access point. The playground and park are open dawn to dusk. Ideal for family events, picnics and more.
We encourage all of our parents – bring your children to Magical Bridge! They’ll have a wonderful time, and so will you.
Not only is it perfect for everyone to enjoy, but Magical Bridge can even aid their therapy. Locations like a playground vary a child’s routine, encouraging new experiences. Incorporating games while you’re at the playground helps them stay calm & focused.
If you’re curious about ways to do this, please ask your A is for Apple supervisor.
Like Us? Yelp Us!
Calling our regular Yelp readers! Is your child thriving with his/her therapy? The A is for Apple Yelp page needs your help!
If you regularly read & write Yelp reviews, we’d appreciate your sharing the good news on Yelp. Our Yelp page is here:
Your kids can enjoy our booth in the Resource Fair, with a photo booth, bubbles . . . Gizmo & Ace, our miniature schnauzers, will be there too!
Plus you can enter our Raffle. We’ll have great prizes available:
$100 Amazon gift card
Sprouts gift card
Raffle tickets will be $1 each. 100% of the proceeds benefit Autism Speaks.
We invite all of our parents to come walk with us. If you can’t make it out, donations are gratefully accepted at our Team A is for Apple page.
Inside A is for Apple
Our Supervisors Volunteer Weekends to Spread the Word about “Walk Now for Autism Speaks”
On Saturday, April 18, A is for Apple Supervisors ran a booth to raise awareness about the upcoming “Walk Now for Autism Speaks” event.
They set up a table at Sprouts of Sunnyvale, spoke with shoppers for several hours, and sold tickets for our May 16 Raffle (see the prize list above).
They sold 50 tickets, and also received $92 in donations from caring shoppers. Everyone who came to the booth wanted to donate after we told them about the Autism Walk. Some asked where the event would be held; that’s why we put the reminder in above.
A big thank you to Sprouts of Sunnyvale! The manager kindly let them set up the table outside his store. He even donated the Sprouts Gift Card for our Raffle.
Also, a big thank you to our supervisors for volunteering their weekend. It was very hot out—but that doesn’t stop our commitment to helping children thrive!
Walk, Donate, Come Have Fun – and Help Us Further Autism Research
The Autism Speaks Walk helps raise funds for scientific research into the causes, treatments and possible cures for autism. Autism Speaks also, through its Walks and other events, helps raise awareness about autism’s effects on individuals, families and society.
We are a fervent supporter of their work.
That’s why we’ll have a big turnout: Walkers participating for the fundraising, a booth in their Resource Fair with a photo booth & bubbles…Gizmo (our teacup Schnauzer) is even putting on his bunny ears!
Bay Area participants have raised over $72,000 so far. With your help, we can reach $75,000 before the Walk.
We encourage everyone to come out and join us in supporting Autism Speaks!
Autism Speaks is “The world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.” (From their website)
The organization holds dozens of Walk Now events every year, across the U.S. and Canada. They’re a powerful advocate for families, and everyone at our office is grateful for their hard work.
We hope to see you at History Park in San Jose on May 16!
The A is for Apple Facebook Page is only 14 likes from 1,000.
Have you liked our page yet? If not, please join us. Not only will you help us reach 1,000 Likes, but you’ll receive regular posts of helpful articles on autism & encouraging stories of children growing & thriving.
How Can I Improve My Child’s Expressive Communication?
One of the first steps in learning speech is repeating sounds others make. A child sounds out new words and learns what they mean. We call this “Echoic Skill”.
There are ways you can improve your child’s echoic skills. Right now.
Depending on your child’s age and where they’re at with their therapy plan, he/she may not know how to imitate words you speak to them yet. If not, here is the first thing you can do to help them along.
If your child doesn’t imitate sounds or words yet… Play a “Sound Game.” While you engage in a fun activity (playing with their favorite toys, games, tumble play, etc.), imitate any sounds your child makes. Make it into a fun game with them. If both of you can make the same sounds back and forth, your child is learning how to imitate!
For 9 more ideas to encourage their speaking requests.
Inside A is for Apple
3 of Our Supervisors Attend CalABA Conference for Continuing Education
From February 19-21, we had 3 of our Program Supervisors attend the CalABA Conference in San Diego.
Our supervisors went not only to represent A is for Apple, but to continue their own education at the Conference. They attended panel discussions, presentations and conversations with others in the child therapy industry.
Among the topics covered, they learned about:
Building gesture imitations – Reaching, crawling, locating a hidden object
New research on verbal behavior in children
Discussion on which mistakes you see other providers make when they are delivering services to children under 3
(Example: Adding programs too quickly when fundamental skills aren’t fully learned)
Methods of conducting assessments, while also building rapport with the child
Priorities to keep in mind when giving parents guidance
And many more!
There was even a surprising study discussed. The experimenters tested ABA therapy methods with dogs instead of children, to determine just how effective the methods could be. Results were impressive – the ABA therapy methods helped nervous dogs overcome fears (such as thunder/loud noises) and adopt better behaviors (e.g., stop them running into walls).
It’s an unusual way to verify a therapy technique meant to help children. But we think it adds independent proof to ABA’s effectiveness!