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Form of Art Therapy that Works Best for Your Child

 Art therapy, also known as expressive therapy, helps clients communicate and deal with emotions and thoughts. It “combines psychotherapy, or talk therapy, with the interpretation of visual images to delve into an individual’s subconscious.” Children do not have to

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be creative or artistic to participate in art therapy. Some may feel intimidated by some art forms. All they need is the right supplies and the correct format to begin.

Brief Art Therapy Lesson

The term art therapy was created in 1942 by a British artist named Adrian Hill, although it was used long before a term was made. Hill discovered the benefits of art through painting and drawing while recovering from tuberculosis. Several writers in the mental health field during the 1940s began to write about their work using art therapy on patients. There was no training or programs for this therapeutic approach. They were guided by psychiatrists, psychologists, or other mental health professionals. 

In the mid 20th century, art therapy has become more of an established and publicly accepted therapeutic approach. Now it is used to treat a multitude of health issues such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD)
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity (ADHD)

Art therapy benefits people of all ages, but it can specifically benefit

  • those with learning disabilities
  • those with autism
  • those who find it hard to express emotions

Those with learning difficulties may find it hard to verbalize their feelings. At the same time, those who struggle to express their emotions can show their feelings without much verbal communication. Clients who have autism may find art therapy or creative art outlets to help distract them and calm them down.

Art therapy comes in many different forms. A therapist is trained to recognize the most appropriate tools and techniques for their clients to use to help them communicate and express themselves. There are eight main types of art therapy forms that a child could use, and that can be incorporated into their daily routine.

Painting

Painting is a common art therapy form that most are familiar with. It gives the child a free-form approach to art by creating images from a blank canvas. Painting involves using tools to help make pictures but can be done with fingers. Types of painting may include:

  • acrylic
  • watercolors
  • pray painting and much more

Note that painting may not be suitable for children who struggle with control and perfectionism.

Drawing

Drawing is another commonly known form of art and art therapy. It usually involves paper and a pencil but can include other supplies such as 

  • pens
  • pastels
  • charcoal
  • crayons

When introducing drawing, remember that some children may perceive this art form as a specialized skill and may need encouragement to begin. The child should be reminded that art therapy aims not to produce artwork but to explore emotions through art.

Writing

Writing is sometimes not viewed as a creative visual outlet. With art journaling, storyboarding, and comics, more people begin to see the benefits through writing. For art therapy, a child could write in a journal and then create art on top of the journal to “let go” of writing content. If children are struggling to write, they can use keywords to solidify their overall thoughts and feelings.

Sculpture

The sculpture is an excellent way for a child to use their hands and bring dimension to the issues they are facing. While creating a sculpture or when it is completed, remind the child that situations are multidimensional and can be approached from different points of view to find a solution. Sculptures can be made with

  • Clay
  • Paper clay
  • Paper mache

Additional tools can include

  • Carving tools
  • Decorative items, i.e., paint, paintbrushes

Collage

Creating a collage can be seen as more of a passive type of art form than painting or drawing. A collage combines multiple items that are already created or designed, such as magazine images or word titles. This form of art therapy can be more straightforward for those who struggle with communication and making decisions. A child might find making a collage less threatening and can focus more on construction. 

Creating a collage can involve a variety of supplies such as

  • patterned papers
  • magazines
  • stamps
  • paper-based substrates
  • brayers
  • adhesive
  • pens
  • pencils
  • paints

Photography

Photography is a fun way to incorporate past memories and images on a physical or digital medium. Photos have a funny way of stimulating memories and help people relive certain events. Those same photos can be used to create a positive narrative or framework. Technology makes it easy for us to take pictures and use them right there on our devices. 

Textiles

Textiles involve stuffed toys and puppets and help children who have physical difficulties using art supplies that require fine motor skills. Textiles involve using stuffed toys and puppets and add a sensory level of softness and texture and a level of safety and comfort.

Digital

Digital art is a newer form of art that is constantly developing and evolving. It can take a range of formats like

  • manipulating photos
  • creating more elaborate artistic projects using graphic software or video editing software
  • Apps for drawing, i.e., Procreate
  • Apps for coloring, i.e., Lake
  • Note-taking apps that allow you to add photos and stickers, i.e., Noteshelf
  • Journaling apps

Digital art will require a device that can handle the software or apps needed to create the art. It may also require supervision for younger children. It is a great way to look back at old artworks and see how far they have come, both with art and communications and emotional development.

Choosing the Form of Art Therapy that Works Best for Your Child

Art therapy can be done at home or with a therapist. It is essential to select the child’s correct type as some forms may negatively impact them and their progress. For example, a person who shows Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms may not do well with messy and less controllable art forms.

Therapists usually take the time to gauge the child’s interests then explore alternative options as they build trust with their child. The same can be done with parents and their children. Take note of what interests them, then find alternatives. They may like a few different art forms, and others may help them explore difficult emotions or thoughts. 

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Tips on How to Teach Children with Autism

Teaching a child with autism can prove to have its challenges. Autistic children have unique learning needs and will require extra guidance and support to succeed in the classroom. To best understand how to work with a child with autism, you must first take the time

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to understand what the child needs and then learn how to help them best. Here are some tips for working with autistic children.

Simple InstructionSimple Instruction

Providing simple instruction is one of the best ways to work with children with autism. Communication can be difficult for autistic children, and giving hard to follow instructions with figurative language is sure to frustrate them. Break down instructions into steps, then provide those steps one or two at a time. Don’t forget to allow them time to process the information and clarify when needed. 

Easier Communication

Communication can be difficult for children with autism. Along with simple instruction, simple communication can also provide less confusion and more productivity. Keeping sentences short and language clear is one of the best ways to ensure that kids with autism understand what needs to be accomplished. Avoid vague and abstract language.

Give Extra Time 

Sometimes even simple direction may not be sufficient even for a child with autism, and that is okay. Giving them extra time to process the instructions allows them to work at their own pace. In the Therapist Spotlight with Sarah-Jane, one of our Speech Language Pathologists mentions patience as the key to working with autistic children. Rushing through activities and assignments will only bring frustration and to both the teacher and the student. 

Eliminate Stressors 

Kids with autism are typically used to a routine. When things disturb their routine, they can become stressed and agitated. This can also be true if items are rushed and misunderstood. As mentioned earlier, communication can be difficult for children with autism, and the same goes for routine disruptions. Eliminating stressors in a child’s day can lead to greater success and more streamlined learning in the classroom.

Use Visuals

Visuals are an important tactic used by teachers and therapists working with autistic children. Materials such as line drawings, photographs, and picture cards can help teach a lesson or clarify an instruction. Picture books are also a great way to get reading and literature into their daily activities. Pictures of a child’s schedule can also help bring structure to an environment.

therapists working with autistic children

Tech for Teaching

With advances in technology, it’s no wonder parents are beginning to use it to help their children. Specific apps can successfully address developmental delays in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Apps such as Otsimo and Proloquo2Go help with speech skills, while apps like Grace App help empower nonverbal people to communicate. Some use games, like SuperWhy! while others are websites that provide adaptive products for children with autism to use. These methods and more can help children with autism in the classroom to better understand lessons and activities. Our list of technological tools is the perfect start to incorporating technology into everyday activities.

Structured Environment

A structured and predictable environment will make a child with autism more comfortable when learning. A routine with minimal distractions paired with a structured lesson plan and environment is the best way to work with kids with autism. Lesson plans and instructions should include what to do, how to do it, when it needs to be completed, and what comes next. Providing this structure will bring out the best in the student. 

Structured ActivitiesStructured Activities

Structured activities also provide the comfort and predictability students with autism need to stay focused. Visual schedules can help to keep kids on track with their actions. Implementing a timer can help them know how long a project will take. Don’t forget to schedule a time for social interactions to improve social skills with their peers.

Teach Social Skills

The classroom is the perfect opportunity to teach social skills as it should encourage kids to practice communication. Activities such as arts and crafts or even eating lunch together in the classroom can encourage students to interact and begin to feel comfortable communicating and playing with their peers. These social skills can also include interpreting facial expressions or learning how to respond to a specific situation.

Avoid Sensory Overload

Children with autism can experience over sensory stimulation or under sensory stimulation without others even knowing. Things such as smells, lighting, or even echoes can trigger an autistic child and give them sensory overload. It is essential to be aware of a child’s triggers and eliminate them as much as possible for a productive learning environment. 

Incorporating Sensory Activities

Sensory activities are fun and engaging for kids with autism. Incorporating sensory activities such as finger painting, play-doh, and picture books help bring students back into focus while also enjoying play therapy.

Play Therapy is another great way to add sensory activities into daily routines. Although it may just seem like playing, children with autism are given the opportunity for language development and working through social skills. It allows children to learn and develop the best way they know how; by playing. Play Therapy can be done with role play, obstacle courses, or even play-doh. The possibilities are endless!

Working with autistic children may require extra attention and extra support, but seeing them thrive and be successful in school is a different kind of joy. Here at Lexington, our schools are designed to help children with autism reach their full potential inside and outside the classroom. 

Lexington is committed to creating the best quality of life possible for our students. With multiple school locations for children with autism, we provide evidenced-based practices, structured learning, standards-based curriculum, sensory integration, and behavior modification.

Our Pre K-12 school educates children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) by providing the critical components for every student to develop their academic, behavioral, and social skills. This is made possible by tailoring to every child’s needs and building a foundation for students to achieve their highest potential. Contact us today to learn more about us. 

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Disclaimer: This post attempts to publicize ideas and comments that we find would be useful for our community to know. Our post is by no means intended to prompt you to handle your challenges in any specific way. We desire to bring helpful information to all our audiences and shine a light on popular topics.

Video Games And Their Relationship To Autism

Video games have quickly integrated into the global culture and become one of the most beloved hobbies in the world. The diversity of games and platforms for playing has made gaming one of the most innovative industries. For children and teens with autism, video games can function as a hobby, but there are surprising benefits for people with autism that researchers are beginning to realize. Gaming can be therapeutic and remove certain barriers for young people with autism, leading to better social lives and peer interaction. As the industry expands and diversifies, researchers are learning how to use video games to teach young people vital information in an interactive way. The future that gaming holds for people with autism is already here and the benefits of video gaming only look to improve in the future. While we might not use video games actively at Lexington Services, the exciting future that the industry holds, particularly when it comes to jobs for people with autism, it’s hard to deny their importance in our community.

Video Games And Social Interaction

Interacting in the digital world with the backdrop of video games has become a staple for kids growing up. Gaming has evolved a lot from the arcades of the 80’s and 90’s and the industry continues to grow. For people with autism, video games offer a great conduit for social expression that minimizes the social anxiety and the pressures of face to face interaction. Video games give kids the opportunity to interact with friends and creatively problem or apply critical thinking in a fun digital environment. Interacting in game removes a lot of the pressure of reading social cues and creates social bonds over a shared common interest. The struggle then, for many parents and guardians, is balancing video game time with the need for other interactions. Moderation is key, as with anything good in life. Kids with autism are more likely to be at risk for the negative effects of video game addiction, as more than 41% of kids with autism spend a majority of their time playing video games. An article on the Asperger Experts websites suggests that the best way to combat addiction, isolation, and associated health issues is to set a schedule or a time limit, as well as to practice playing as a family with social games like Guitar Hero, Rockband or Just Dance which encourage social bonding, teamwork and exercise.

Game Technology And Learning

After the advent of the digital age, there was a large gap between teachers that wanted to maintain a more traditional learning model and students whose entire lives were shaped by the digital landscape. Luckily, people have found ways to incorporate digital learning into traditional models. And more than that, researchers are actually finding that kids are learning through platforms like video games. When it comes to kids with ASD, video games are a great tool for teachers to connect and for them to learn. Video games provide a unique opportunity for teachers and therapists help kids develop their executive functions, improving cognitive flexibility, self-awareness and self-control in a safe environment. For example, a video game has been developed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison with the aim of helping kids recognize different emotions or react to different social cues, developing empathy in a fantastical scenario. If the technology continues to grow like this, video games could be a permanent part of any teaching model for kids with ASD.

The Future Of Jobs In Video Games

The video game industry also supports the autism community when it comes to employment. Even though research has proven that people with autism have a lower rate of turnover and they are more productive than their peers, the statistics for adult employment are abysmal. Only 14% of adults with autism work full time and only 20% are employed consistently at all. Yet the video game industry has become a welcoming place for those in the autism community where they can find work, perform at a high level with equal compensation to their peers and also be free of the social pressure that comes with a typical 9-5. The tech industry is a safe harbor for people with autism, as many people with ASD find some familiarity or comfort with game design. Organizations the nonPareil Institute in Dallas and Semperical in Silicon Valley were created with the specific goal of training and employing people with autism. As more and more companies update their disability hiring practices, we can be confident in the autism community that video games will help bridge the cavernous employment gap for people with autism.

It’s amazing to see how the world has changed and how an industry has evolved around video games in less than a 60 year period. If anything, video games have helped create a grand opportunity for people with autism and we always admire when technology can bridge gaps that only a few generations were completely misunderstood.

Want to see how Lexington Services is bridging gaps? Contact our team today by calling 480-900-1009 now to find out more information or to schedule a tour.

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Improving Handwriting Skills At Home

Students with autism often struggle with handwriting and printing legible writing. One of the many skills that our highly accomplished therapists at Lexington Services work with members on is strengthening their handwriting and legibility. Often times children with autism struggle with handwriting because of the sensory qualities of pens, pencils, paper and erasers. Other times, there is a motor struggle for the pinch and grip skills required to write with clarity. Parents and caregivers can help their loved ones improve their handwriting in home so they have a head start or critical support on this crucial skill.

Translating Thought To Text

Part of what makes handwriting so crucial is the ability to translate thought to text. Especially for children of autism that are non-verbal, the ability to write clearly and effectively gives them the opportunity to communicate their needs. At Lexington, we employ a variety of methods to improve communication including the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), but students that are beyond that form of communication yet continue to struggle with verbal articulation rely on handwritten messages to get their thoughts across. It’s important for caregivers to understand that handwriting is not just a skill taught in school for formality. Handwriting coupled with reading helps people understand language and to communicate. For young people with autism, mastery of this skill will improve their ability to communicate so they can express their needs and foster new connections.

The Trouble With Handwriting In Schools

Knowing that handwriting is crucial for communication, it’s possible to see why the Lexington staff works with members to form this critical understanding and why many children struggle in schools not equipped to understand their needs. Often times students with autism struggle with constancy, motor planning and figure-ground issues, resulting in the inability to decipher certain handwriting exercises, particularly cursive. Many experts in the field, some with autism, have revealed the depths of the struggle that handwriting presents in an environment that isn’t sensitive to a student’s needs. Parents and caregivers can help at home to improve handwriting in a safe environment.

Improving Handwriting Skills

While many children benefit from expert intervention from a therapy team, like the one at Lexington, there are many things you can do as a caregiver to improve a child’s ability to write and communicate at home. Here are some strategies you can apply at home:

  • Copycat – Don’t make your loved one just follow your directions. Demonstrate, slowly and one letter at a time, how to write letters and communicate their sounds, even if your child is non-verbal. Handwriting without Tears has a great method that caregivers can apply called “Wet, Dry, Try” which gives a demonstration of how to write letters and gives loved ones the chance to practice prior to ever writing on paper.
  • Don’t Limit Your Medium – Whether your child has sensory struggles or not, pencils and pens might not inspire them to take up writing as a skill. Get creative and use different writing utensils to inspire some fun. Use different writing surfaces like white boards and use markers or gel pens. Parents can use finger paints or shaving cream in the shower to write letters and practice. You can even get super craft and use playdough to roll out and make letters.
  • Use A Vertical Surface – Try using a vertical surface such as a chalkboard or a whiteboard on the wall. This allows your child’s wrist to remain in a neutral position which helps to increase a pincer grasp and a more functional grasp.
  • Be Flexible – As with most skills that Lexington offers tips for, be patient and flexible. This skill will take time and understanding.
  • Apply Hand Therapy – Because some people with autism struggle with motor skills, be mindful of the effect that an activity like handwriting can have. Practice squeezing with stress balls to improve grip and finger strength or get a stretch band to help improve strength across the whole area.
  • Arts and crafts – Use arts and craft time to help children improve their writing. Coloring and painting build up their tolerance of fine & visual motor activities, as well as strengthen the hand which allows your child to be ready for handwriting activities.

For a full list of activities that can be tried out in your home, check here.

Managing Sensory Issues

Handwriting, no matter how commonplace it may seem, is definitely a sensory issue. Grips, shavings, scratchy sounds, hand weakness, distractions, and a whole host of other things sometimes make writing a difficult task for loved ones with autism. While the list of strategies that you can apply to make handwriting easier for your child is long and depends on your child’s sensory struggle, here are a few common things to try:

  • Instead of using sensory friendly pencil or pen grips, which only add a bandaid to the struggle, but do not fix the problem, try breaking crayons in half, using small child-friendly markers, or even small gel pens.
  • Improve mobility and help children to avoid stiffness or pain with simple handwriting breaks for simple exercises like bear crawls, crab walks, or rainbow arches on the wall.
  • For children with tactile input struggles, try using different textures such as sandpaper letters, writing in sand or shaving cream, finger painting or even using technology such as iPads.

We also suggest that parents check out Handwriting Without Tears, which is a great resource for a multi-sensory approach. Each child is different in the same way the every person’s handwriting is unique. Pay attention to what your child struggles with and implement strategies to help.

Let Lexington Help

The staff at Lexington Services is a great resource for parents who want to help their child to master handwriting and to improve their communication. Parents and caregivers shouldn’t have to do everything on their own. Call us today at 480-900-1009 or click here to contact a member of our staff for more information.

To read the previous blog post, click here.

What Kind Of Skills Could Your Child Improve This Year?

One of the many things that the skilled professionals at Lexington Services work with children and adults with special needs to improve is their skill sets that aid them in daily life. Our staff are not merely there to care for and watch over our members, although they do accomplish that with excellence. Part of our goal set as educators, providers, and caregivers is to empower the members that walk through our doors to accomplish something new. We do everything we do for our members so they can improve and harness a newfound sense of independence. As the new year begins, ask yourselves as parents and caregivers: What kind of skills could your loved one learn or improve this year?

Social Skills

Does your loved one with special needs struggle with social skills? Social interaction can be particularly difficult to learn, particularly for children with Autism. At Lexington, kids find a loving and like minded circle of friends who are all finding the encouragement to improve their social understanding and how they fit into a community. Through community outreach, in-center practice, and practice activities, the staff at Lexington has improved the lives of children and adults throughout Arizona, giving them the essential knowledge and practice so they can improve social skills in a welcoming and warm setting. Lexington is a place for people to expand their community skills and find their place within that community.

Motor And Speech Skills

Lexington employs a world class staff of therapists, educators, and caregivers gifted with helping young people and adults with special needs to improve the motor areas that they struggle with. The speech and occupational therapy staff at Lexington use only evidence-based practices to improve outcomes in a manner that’s beneficial to each member and supports a continuous program to help them improve other skills. From motor skills to improved speech and communication, every success is celebrated, but each skill mastered lends itself to further development of other skills.

Life Skills

The Lexington influence goes further than our centers or schools for children with autism. When a member joins the Lexington family, our staff works with everyone to help them achieve their maximum potential. There are programs through Lexington like IDLA, which helps people with demonstrated independence to find and maintain their own home and independant living situation. With help of Lexington staff and support, loved ones with special needs can get involved in their community, find employment at reputable establishments, or attend college a quality institutions that’s sensitive to their needs. Lexington supports every member to help them improve life skills so they can accomplish their goals.

Quality Care

Lexington Services is a leader in DDD services and in-home or in-center care for individuals across the spectrum. Our Home And Community Based Services programs are designed to offer care for people in their homes and to support parents and caregivers through programs like respite so everyone in the family maintains a healthy level head. Our home based services offer parents and caregivers across Arizona the opportunity to receive excellent care and support in a familiar location.

A bite sized explanation of each program isn’t really enough to display with justice the quality of support and care Arizona families will find through Lexington Services. Now is the time to call a member of our staff for more information. Contact Lexington Services at (480) 900-1009 or click here to send us an email with your questions.

Ready for the next step? Schedule a tour now and check out our facilities for yourself. We have locations in Phoenix, Mesa and Show Low that you can tour now.

Teaching Children With Autism To Brush Their Teeth

One of the common skills that many children with autism struggle with is personal hygiene. It’s not a willful ignorance that makes this area a struggle but a lack of social awareness and a dislike of sensory stimulants. It can be difficult to get loved ones with autism to adopt good habits when brushing their teeth because the activity can cause sensory overload so some people would rather avoid it entirely. If your a parent or caregiver that struggles getting your loved one to brush, don’t worry. You’re not alone. At Lexington Services, we work with children and adults with autism to improve many different skills, including brushing teeth, but there are some steps that you can take at home to make the process easier and fun.

First Steps

Each child is unique with their own preferences and every parent is vividly aware that the techniques you might use to get one child to brush will not work for other children, especially with ASD. Autism Speaks is always a great resource to turn to for answers on processes like brushing teeth for young ones with ASD, such as this guide. You should make the process as comfortable and fun as possible while reinforcing its importance. Let them pick out a tooth brush that is unique and fun to them, but make sure that the bristles are soft. Stand behind them and help apply a very small amount of toothpaste, like the size of a pea. You may have to help by guiding their hands, making sure to reach all sides of the teeth in front and in back. You can also help ease some anxiety and help to teach the technique by brushing at the same time. Experts recommend using a timer or singing a favorite song while doing the activity in order to make sure they brush for the recommended two minutes and to make the process more fun. Visual aids in the bathroom can also help children that learn visually to complete the process. While you may have to brush their teeth for them at first, this is a skill that requires some independence so it’s important to at least try to help them form good habits on their own. If you must brush your child’s teeth, try taking turns with them, allowing them to continue to develop necessary skills with you are their back up making sure their teeth and gums are healthy.

Potential Sensory Problems

Part of the reason why this skill in particular is such a struggle area is because of the sensory problems that it poses. Whether your child is hypo or hyper sensitive, there are a lot of roadblocks that make a child choose not to brush. Be aware of the following things:

  • Look for a toothbrush with a wider handle, as it helps children who struggle with motor skills.
  • Understand that sometimes the problem is toothpaste, with minty flavors that can be perceived as a burning sensation or taste. Look for other flavors such as bubblegum or orange. Some kids might even be too sensitive to these flavors, but there are many options on the market that are flavorless.
  • If your child isn’t wild about the foam from toothpaste, there are many inexpensive options on the market that don’t foam up available at your local grocery store.
  • The right toothbrush for the job might not be a standard toothbrush. Some experts recommend using a three sided brush, which do more work in less time.
  • Remember that your hygiene habits might not be the same for them. If you brush with really cold water, that could be the culprit your child is sensitive to. Try lukewarm water while brushing if that’s the case. Find what works for your loved one and make it part of your habits.

Overall, try to track down the source of the discomfort that makes it hard for your child to brush their teeth. Of course, some children will struggle so vehemently at home that help from a professional is required

Get Some Help

If your child absolutely refuses to brush their teeth at home, you might need to enlist the help of a trained therapist, who can work with your child to improve hygiene habits and other crucial skills. At Lexington Services, we employ highly skilled Occupational and Speech therapists that constantly help improve the lives of our members every day. If you are searching for a solution to help your child learn things like how to brush their teeth, Lexington is the place for you. Contact a member of our staff today to learn more about our programs.

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