How to help autistic children – become an autism tutor!

How to help autistic childrenI wanted to be an autism tutor.

When I was a new immigrant a decade ago, I thought it was awesome to be teaching kids with autism. I believed I could do it because I had clinical experience with kids.

I knew it did not pay much, but being with kids again would let me use my medical skills on how to help autistic children.

I tried to apply once, somebody called and asked me if I was willing to relocate. Little did I know that the job as an autism tutor that I applied with is a few miles away from where we lived and would make it impossible for me to commute daily.

Of course, I couldn’t move to another place, having arrived only a few weeks back.

I just accepted that it’s not meant for me.

So, I worked at a call centre just to earn something while I prepared to do exams to hopefully get a license to practice my profession in a foreign land.

Until one day, I was out of job again. Thinking of applying as an autism tutor for the second time, I did a first aid course hoping that I could be hired easily if I had this requirement.

Still, no luck!

With perseverance in looking for a healthcare-related job, I landed employment in Clinical Research.

This is where I met Rachel. We now work in the same department.

I know she recently graduated from a Psychology course and I learned that she used to work as an autism tutor.

One day, I introduced her to my website and while reading one of the posts, she exclaimed, ” This is also what I did! “

I got excited and encouraged her to share her experiences tutoring children with autism and she gladly accepted my request.

Here goes Rachel’s story.

 

Be an autism tutor and help children with autism spectrum disorder be the best that they can be.

How many years did you work as an autism tutor?

I worked as an Autism tutor for a year and a bit, approximately from May 2017 to August 2018. This is when I switched to my new job as a Research Coordinator.”

What motivated or inspired you to become an autism tutor?

While I was completing my undergraduate degree in honors psychology, I had an opportunity to volunteer with a school division, tutoring a young man who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and Tourette syndrome.

Through this experience I found a passion for working with individuals with disability. Following this, I started doing respite for an adult with autism spectrum disorder and cerebral palsy, and decided I wanted to focus my undergraduate research in this area.

I met with a professor whose PhD is in the area of Applied Behavioral Analysis and we settled on thesis research looking at the results of a short-run early intervention program on skill acquisition in children diagnosed with autism.

The organization that I completed my research out of ended up being where I got my job as an autism tutor after I finished my degree. “

Can you describe your job? How old were the kids with autism whom you cared for?

” My job involved one-on-one program delivery for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

I worked with both families and children teaching a variety of individualized skill sets and goals in all facets of the child’s life. It heavily involved creatively finding new and interesting ways to deliver the needed programming within a variety of settings (e.g., daycare, pre-school and homes).

This also involved organizing and recording both data and notes on the progress of the child.

I had three clients during my time as an autism tutor; the age range was 3-5 years old.

I worked under both a senior tutor and an autism consultant; every child had a team of one or two tutors, one senior tutor and one consultant.

The consultant was responsible for providing and creating the programs for the children and the senior tutor was responsible for professional development of the tutor and assisting in program delivery where needed.”

Can you explain more on what you did as an autism tutor? What was your typical day like?

” Typically, I would have two clients over a year. I would spend one full day with one client, then the next day with the other client.

I shared my clients with another tutor so we would alternate days.

I would arrive at the client’s home early in the morning and look over the previous tutor’s notes from the day before. From there I would set up all my stimuli for the programs and skills I would be working on that day. An example of this would be setting up sorting stimuli for a program that requires the child to sort different colors of objects into piles.

The programs were all based on Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) principles and theory which focuses on positive reinforcement strategies. ABA focuses on the principles of learning in order to alter behaviours and improve skills.

Throughout the day I would run the programs provided by the autism consultant in between breaks of play and fun!

It was very important to keep things fun for the child and make the programs not feel like work, but like play as much as possible.

The child was able to work for play activities (e.g., playing in the backyard on the bike) or edibles (e.g., skittles).

We would take a lunch break as you would if you were in school and then at the end of the day I would write notes in our communication book for the tutor who was coming in the next day.

Sometimes my days involved attending preschool or daycare with the child and helping them work on their social skills. While I was in the home, the parents were there so we were able to collaboratively work as a team with the parents, senior tutor and autism consultant. “

 Did you have any struggles or challenges in your job?

” Overall, my experience as an autism tutor was extremely rewarding.

However, working one-on-one with a child who struggled behaviourally could be very exhausting and I experienced some days where I felt extremely burnt out.

A significant challenge would be the independent and isolated aspect of the job. If the child had a particularly hard day, it was only me who was in the home and I had to be the one to figure out how to handle it and make the day more positive for the child.

Mostly, I enjoyed every day I spent with my clients and they had a very positive influence in my life and taught me so much.”

How did you handle a very difficult child?

” Every child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder is so different.

Difficult or challenging behaviours manifest in a variety of ways. For the most part, if a child had any difficult behaviours the consultant would have a behaviour plan in place which had consistent steps on how to handle this behaviour.

Having a team consisting of the parents, senior tutor and consultant made for a very supportive environment and we would figure out how to handle challenging behaviour together in the most positive way for the child. ” 

 

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How did you involve the parents in teaching their kids? 

” I believe I discussed this question a little bit above. However, yes the parents were heavily involved in teaching the kids. In fact, they had their own programs that were sometimes similar, or different, to the programs the tutors were running.

Parents worked privately with the senior tutor and consultant in order to learn how to deliver programs and were expected to work on these in their spare time with the child.

As well, the parents were able to speak with me before sessions, as well as after, with any concerns or questions they had about the progress of their child.

It was a very collaborative environment. In this type of early intervention it is so important that parents and tutors are all on the same page and keeping consistent expectations for the child.

If everyone is consistent with programs and expectations, the child will learn so much more! ” 

 

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How did you feel at the end of a workday? 

” I usually felt pretty tired at the end of the day, but at the same time I left work feeling fulfilled and happy.

My clients made me laugh and smile every day!

Some days were harder than others but these just meant I had to
change what I was doing as a tutor in order to help the child have a
more positive day next time! “

What made you happy or fulfilled on a certain day ?

” So much! 

The most fulfilling thing was when you were working with a child on a certain skill for a long time and then it finally clicks and they learn that skill!

An example would be one of my clients struggled with verbal skills, in particular greeting others when getting to school. We worked on saying “Hello” and making eye contact for months and then one day when I walked in to the house they looked up at me and said “Hello, Rachel!”.

This was so rewarding because they had struggled with this skill for so long, and the child was so excited when they finally mastered it. “

What is your best advice on those who plan to pursue a career as an autism tutor?

” My advice would be to make sure you are okay with independent work.

One-on-one program delivery with a child, who is not always verbally able to communicate with you can be very isolating.

But if you are passionate about a career in helping people then it is an amazing and rewarding job. “

 

          

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How did you de-stress after a difficult day?

” After a particularly stressful day, I would try my best to go home and not think about it.

What helped would be taking time for self-care, whether that is having a bath, going to a yoga class, or spending time with friends and family.

When you are doing a job that involves being very attentive to others’ needs it is important that you are able to disconnect and take time to focus on your own needs as well!

Balance is everything. “


How have you made a difference in the life of an autistic child?

” Within this job, there were many moments where I took time to reflect on the positive impact I was having on my client’s lives.

Typically, a child goes through a year of the program and then begins Kindergarten.

Probably the most rewarding moment is before kindergarten when as a team, we reflect on the child’s gained skills and how much they have learnt.

Doing this helps you realize all the things you taught the child and how much of an influence you had on preparing them to have success in Kindergarten and their later school years! “


What is the best lesson that you learned from a child with autism?

” This is a hard question because I have learnt so many!

My clients taught me just as much as I taught them.

The things I felt or thought before I started working as an autism tutor were only strengthened from this job.

If anything, I learnt the importance of appreciating every person’s individual differences and how everyone is special in their own way.

We have to accept people for who they are and celebrate these differences!

Like I mentioned above, every child with autism is so different, and this is what makes them special.

We have to focus on the balance between helping people live their lives to the fullest, and also not forcing them to conform to society’s expectations, we have to remember to celebrate what makes them special and unique!

 

Becoming an autism tutor is very rewarding

 

Rachel, from your stories, I know that doing this job made you a better person now. More open to everyone’s differences and more patient with people’s shortcomings and inadequacies.

I may have been unlucky to do this job and not experience the feeling of fulfillment after a day’s physically tiring job, but the encounters that you shared, made me realize that being an autism tutor is one of those professions where money may not be great, but the rewards to yourself is so great having contributed to a special child’s well-being and preparing him to become the best version of himself.

Given the chance, I would still want to experience working as an autism tutor.

 

Have you recently engaged with an autism tutor? Or do you know anyone working as one? Try to give them a big hug for the awesome job that they are doing.

 

If you are a parent of a child with autism spectrum disorder and he is taken cared of by an autism tutor, please share with us how your child is being helped and how he is developing and trying to evolve to be the best that he can be.

 

 

 

 

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Behavior therapy for Autism-from a registered therapist to your home

I luckily met another friend at Wealthy Affiliate who happily shares her experiences taking care of autistic and other special kids. She loves kids, that’s for sure.

Some people, including me, even considers her an angel for doing her job really well and with passion.

Meet Taylor, who offers behavior therapy for autism and other special kids, serving clients at the comfort of their homes.

You will surely love her just like how her clients and their families do.

 

Autistic kids benefit a lot when helped by a behavioral therapist

As a Registered Behavioral Therapist ( RBT ), please describe what you do.

“I have been an RBT for just over a year now. I work with children from as young as 3 to as old as 21, but the typical ages I see are between 3 and 15.

Most kids have an autism diagnosis, but some have Down syndrome or other types of intellectual disabilities. Almost all of these kids except the very young ones, attend special schools in the morning, or home-schooled, so I see them in the afternoon.

On a typical day, I start my session out by hanging out with my client to give them a bit of transition time. Then, I assist with things like daily living skills (e.g., getting dressed, brushing teeth, doing homework), skill acquisition (learning numbers, letters, colors, etc).


Each client has what we call a behavioral service plan that tells me the types of things I do with them.

Each child has goals that they are working towards, so I help them achieve those goals and take data on their progress.”

What motivated you to become an RBT?

“My inspiration to work with special needs kids came when I was a senior in college.

I was taking a class called Culture and Child Development and we did a unit on autism. I was immediately fascinated and drawn to the subject.”

What is your typical day like?

” On a typical day, I have anywhere from one to three sessions for 2 hours usually.

As a direct care provider working in homes, I have a small caseload. What I do during each session depends on the age and skill level of the child.

For my younger clients, I do a lot of playing to work on cooperation, turn-taking, and waiting. I also work on skill acquisition, compliance with demands, and behavior reduction.

What that all means is, I work on having the child do what is asked of them without acting out.

Often, what I ask of them is something they are not sure how to do, so I will teach them how to do what is asked while working on reducing the amount of refusal they put up.

For older, higher functioning children, I work on functional life skills because they have acquired their basic skills. So, I teach them how to do some basic chores and things that their parents need them to do.”

Do you have any struggles or big challenges on being an RBT?

When you work with the special needs population, you often see challenging behaviors like aggression or high intensity tantrums, and even meltdowns.

This requires me to be quick on my toes, in order to block any attempted aggression, while trying to redirect the child to something more functional.

For meltdowns, in which the child has no control, being a sensory over stimulation, it is important to pinpoint what is causing it and eliminate it. If you cannot figure it out, or it cannot be eliminated, it is important to bring the child to a quiet place with less stimulation to help them calm down.

I have never given up on a child but I have had to leave cases because of time conflicts and things like that, but we work really hard to deal with even the most extreme behaviors. They’re often the ones who need us the most, so we never turn away a child for having a behavior that’s too much. ”

 

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How do you handle a very difficult child?

” Each child is different, so you need to figure out what works with them.

Some kids have a really hard time complying with demands, so I will only give very small, very quick demands. For example, I will stop a child from playing to have them tell me what 2 letters are and then they can return to playing.

This builds up a tolerance for demands without overwhelming them.

I also use a lot of timers to signal transitions.

Transitions are incredibly difficult for children in general, but more so for special needs children. So, when I need them to come tell me what those 2 letters are, I set a timer and tell them how long they have until they need to do their work. I give them a warning for each minute left.

Using a visual schedule is often very helpful. It takes away the air of mystery about what comes next. By using timers and visuals, the child knows what is coming and when they can expect it. “

How do you involve the parents in caring for their kids?

” With in-home work, the parents are very much involved.

A huge part of what I do is called parent training. I am there to help the parent build skills just as much as I am there to help the child.

My job is to make life easier for everyone, so I teach the parents how to do what I do so that it can be continued even when I’m not there.

Consistency is key. If the behavioral interventions that I work on are used by the parents as well, the child is much more likely to pick them up quickly and maintain them over time.”

How do you feel at the end of a work day?

” That depends entirely on how my sessions for the day went.

Some days,  I feel on top of the world because one of my clients finally was able to do something we’ve been working on for days or weeks.

Other days I get in my car and cry because a session was so difficult.

There are those days that, no matter what you do, the child is having a tantrum, throwing things at you, trying to hit you, and refuses to do anything you say, even if it’s something fun.

Those are the hard days, but the days that I get to see the progress and see that what I’m doing is working and is helping far outweigh the bad days, so I’m always ready to do it again the next day.

What makes you happy or fulfilled on a certain day?

” What makes me happiest is seeing a child make progress.

I have one client that has a speech delay, so she doesn’t say too much. We play a game called Zingo, which is like bingo but with pictures. Each day, I have her do her best to tell me what each picture is.

One day, she got the piece with an owl on it. All by herself she happily exclaimed, “owl!” it was one of the best moments of my career.

Seeing a child learn and grow makes every hard day fade into the distance.”

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Any advice on those who plan to pursue a career as a Registered Behavioral Therapist? 

Take every bad day with a grain of salt and forgive.

One of the hardest parts of my job is to turn around after a tantrum where you were hit and kicked and suddenly the child starts playing again, but you have to. He doesn’t mean to act out, they simply don’t know another way to express their anger or frustration.

It’s my job to teach them those skills, so with every tantrum, I know there is still work to be done.

I would also say, don’t give up. Things can get difficult at times and you will have really bad days, but always hold onto the good days, the days when you’ve helped change a life for the better. There’s no better feeling than that.”

How do you de-stress after a difficult day?

I have a lot of different things that I like to do.

I often come home and play with my cat and dog and watch some TV. On the days when I have a bit more energy, I love to build Lego (playing is great for the mind! ) .

On weekends, I try to get out of the house as much as possible and move around as much as I can.”

There’s a point in our career that we realize we have made a difference in someone’s life, in your case a special child’s life. Please share with our readers.

I mentioned before about my client saying “owl” on her own for the first time, but something a bit more special was when she was first able to get my attention by speaking. It is a bit difficult for her to say my full name, so we decided that she would just call me T.

For the first few months she didn’t really show an interest getting my attention by calling my name, but the other day, as soon as I got out of my car she said, as clear as day, “look! T is here!” I wanted to cry, I was so happy.

For the rest of the session, anytime she wanted my attention she said, “T look!” I had been working for weeks to get her to use people’s names to get their attention and on that day it finally stuck.

She was using my name and her sister’s name, and she was also getting her mom’s attention by saying “mom look.”

Seeing the behavioral and verbal progress was just incredible. “

What is the best lesson that you learned from a special child/ children.

I have learned to be more relaxed and to forgive more easily.

Things don’t always go our way and while my kids do struggle with that and sometimes throw tantrums, they often bounce back and keep going.

I have also seen how quickly they are to forgive me when I don’t allow them to do something that they want. I can’t always give them what they want, when they want it, which can make them very upset, but a few minutes later, it’s like nothing happened.

They do a very good job of letting go and moving on, which is something we all need to be better at.

There’s no sense in holding onto things we can’t change.

Let go, move on, and keep being happy. “

Did I miss anything? Do you have something more important to share ?

” People always praise me and tell me what an angel I am for working with these kids. I don’t see it that way. I don’t think I’m special for doing what I do.

I do what I do because I love the kids and I love seeing them progress.

Not everyone can do what I do, but the same goes for any job. I’m not built for an office job. I couldn’t do it. I admire those people.

What I do is necessary, but I don’t think I’m any sort of special for doing it.

The kids are the ones to be admired. They’re the ones doing the hard work. “

 

The behavior technician helps kids and parents to make life easier.

 

WOW! What a very inspiring story of a very dedicated behavioral therapist. I can truly feel how Taylor loves her job and her kids. Her patience and forgiving nature is something so remarkable. She is like a mom and a teacher in a package.

BTW, Taylor is also a blogger, who writes about how to help children as well as adults cope with stress and frustration. Check out her awesome articles at https://brainbreather.com. You will enjoy reading them and will learn a lot.

 

Is your special needs child being taken cared of by a behavioral therapist? How is he coping? If not, do you consider looking for someone to help your child develop better skills to make his life as well as yours, easier?

 

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Is music therapeutic? Know the benefits for your child with special needs.

With or without musical talent, your special child can benefit from music therapy.

I should know.

Pangga, my sister with Down syndrome who passed away a few years back, loved to sing. She had a good voice. She could follow the notes and the rhythm to the beat. 

Because Pangga never learned how to read, she memorized the songs’ lyrics just by listening over the radio, hearing other people sing or watching television. There were of course funny twists to the lyrics.

I would say, she taught herself to be jolly by singing. Music definitely was therapeutic for her.  Even at late nights when she couldn’t sleep ( she slept all day, that’s why ) she would belt out a song to the annoyance of whoever is awakened by her rendition. Funny eh?

Music therapy helps the special child focus and engage.

You, as parents of children with special needs,  know very well that
your kids struggle with focusing and learning to express themselves
clearly.

At the back of your mind, you may have this question, ” Is music therapeutic for my special child? ” Will it help him overcome his inadequacies?

What is music therapy? 

Music therapy is a creative arts therapy – it involves a process used by music therapists to help clients improve their physical and mental health.

Furthermore, music therapy encompasses the skillful use of music and musical elements by an accredited music therapist to help and improve not only the mental and physical health but also the  emotional and spiritual health of a person. 

 For our children with special needs, music therapy improves their focus,  engagement, communication, and even their mood.

Music therapy has been used way, way back, even in  biblical times to affect human emotion. David’s harp music soothed King Saul. Several cultures, like the ancient Greeks used music for healing.

Veterans Administration hospitals following World War II  recognized that music helps their patients, so it was acknowledged as a complementary healing practice. Musicians were continuously hired at the hospitals from then on.

In the hospital where I work, I’ve been seeing musicians, like guitarists or a violinist play their thing at a corner of our institution almost everyday. 

Benefits of music therapy

This video shows how Ryan Judd, a music therapist, teaches his clients, all with special needs, on how to focus, improve communication and a lot more.

Here are the many benefits of music therapy to children with special needs:

  • Music therapy motivates communication. Even if they are non-verbal or cannot express themselves well, the special kids’ facial expressions and their big smiles or laughter say it all. 
  • Music therapy makes the body move and may cause bouts of laughter. That means that the child enjoys the music and the encounter with the therapist. They learn to dance with the music.
  • Music empowers.The kids become proud and fulfilled that they are able to learn something to share.
  • Music therapy helps address academic concepts and speech goals. The kids learn more vocabulary and even how to connect with people around them.
  • Music therapy rewards communication. The kids learn how to express themselves.
  • It re-directs and engages. This is really helpful for kids who have meltdowns.
  • Music therapy inspires and leads to social connection. Again, these special kids enhance their capability to open up to people especially to their families.
  • It honors and enlivens a chid’s spirit. Kids are uplifted and become jolly because of music. Just like Pangga, my sister, who taught herself to be happy by singing to her heart’s content, anyday, anytime.
  • By playing the musical instruments, your child’s gross and fine motor skills are enhanced. 

The music therapist

Look for a music therapist who can teach your child how to engage, enjoy music and improve his well-being through music.

Let us learn from Benji, who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at  2 1/2 years and eventually learned how to communicate and able to cope with school, with a big help from his music therapists.

Characteristics of a good music therapist:

  •  Patient and sensitive
  •  Engaging
  • Loves music, can sing and  play a musical instrument
  • Understands the needs of his client 
  •  Loves being with children
  • Passionate and dedicated to his craft

Musical instruments-your special child’s favorite

Pangga loved the harmonica;  she enjoyed playing with it daily. You would see her smiling wide when she holds it and blows air to make music out of  this tiny but awesome musical instrument. 

The harmonica  lets the special child focus and be attentive while he is trying to produce music. The music per se, gives him joy and calms his nerves.

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It is so fulfiling for your special child to learn that it’s so easy to make his favorite musical instrument work and produce musical notes on his own. He can control it, make his music soft or loud, long or short, happy or sad.

Any musical instrument has the capacity to engage your special child. Observe your child while with his therapist, and see which is his favorite so you may decide to buy for him to play in your home. 

Begin or continue music therapy at home

As always, our homes are the first point of learning for our children with special needs.  Thus, music therapy should begin at home or continue if your child is with a music therapist already. 

It should be easy to do it. 

Fill your home with music. Always turn on your radio or television to musical channels. This way, your child and the whole family will always be in a jolly mood. With less stress and more smiles and laughter around. 

Or if you have a stereo or DVD player, it’s good to buy music like this to help with the anxiety of your special kid and to uplift his mood on a daily basis. 

For younger kids, the Nursery Rhymes  would encourage them to dance and improve their language skills. 

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Buy musical instruments and let the whole family play their choice, even your special kid.

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Your home will always be set in a joyful mood if your child with special needs learn to play even just one musical instrument. 

Just tapping on the piano randomly will bring out simple music that he will enjoy. Or blowing on the harmonica will surely let him have a wide smile and laughter.

When you constantly engage with your child and participate in his music, you will form strong bonding relationship and in time, his communication skills will be enhanced.

Enjoy music with your special kid. It’s never too late to start.

Most importantly, enrol him in a music therapy class and reap the awesome benefits.

 

Have you enrolled your special child in a music therapy class? If so, how is he doing? If not, go find the best music therapist in your area and enroll him now!

 

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