Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Meeting the Needs.

Have you ever wanted to take a cruise or even go to the movies, but thought that the needs of your child with autism would not allow such a vacation or outing?

We have good news.  Lately, we have received more and more notices about companies who are paying special attention to the needs of families affected by autism by providing autism-friendly activities and versions of their services.  We are always delighted to hear about these wonderful opportunities for families with special needs.  While ATC has not participated in all of these programs, we do want to share with our readers that there are options out there to experience many of the things you may feel like you are missing. Below are a few of the companies we know about that are taking action to include as many families as possible.

Royal Caribbean - This year, Autism At Sea named Royal Caribbean as the world's first certified autism friendly cruise line. Royal Caribbean offers sensory friendly films and toys, alternative menu options, and autism friendly training for Adventure Ocean staff. You can read more about their programs here

Studio Movie Grill - The SMG Special Needs Screening series presents family friendly movies for free for children with special needs and their siblings with a discounted admission for adults ($6).  Movies are shown with increased lighting and decreased volume.  Children are free to experience the movie as they like, there is no need to worry about attempting to keep them in their seats and quiet.  Click here for locations and information about screenings in your area.

AMC Theaters - AMC's Sensory Friendly Films program offers special screenings on a monthly basis in select communities.  Audience members are invited to get-up, dance, shout, and sing.  Click here for info on movies in your area.

Live theaters are also presenting special performances.  Fans of The Lion King and Mary Poppins can see an autism-friendly performance
of these shows on Broadway that include adjusted lighting and sound, quiet areas, and fidgets - small toys to be held during the show. Volunteers are trained to answer questions and provide assistance during the play.  Not in NYC?  Look up your local theater, more and more theaters have added a special performance to their schedule.

If there's a museum, amusement park, or other business you'd like to visit, just give them a call and ask about their programs.  The AMC Sensory Friendly Series was started because one parent called to ask if they had a program for special needs.  If your local business doesn't yet have a program, you could be the one to get the ball rolling for you and your community!  More and more business are willing and happy to learn what needs there are and how they can help.

Know of any great autism friendly events/businesses?  Leave a comment with your favorites!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Hunt is On...Almost!

Children and adults at the Autism Treatment Center primarily look forward to two events during the year. One is the Roundup for Autism Rodeo in Fort Worth. Unfortunately, we are more than six months away from that event. The other event is the annual Easter Egg Hunt put on by volunteers of The Fairmont Dallas – and that is only days away.

Jenny, age 24, enrolled at ATC 12 years ago for residential and educational services. Once she turned 21, she transitioned to ATC’s Tiger CafĂ© and has focused on culinary skills while continuing to improve daily living skills to increase her independence. Jenny is non-verbal and uses sign language as her main communication; she has to work a little bit harder than others to express her feelings, ask questions, and to carry on with regular communication.

For the past several weeks, Jenny has known Easter is around the corner. Each morning, she has asked several staff members about the upcoming Easter Egg Hunt, to be held April 17th. She does this by signing the word “egg”.

After several days of asking about the Easter Egg Hunt, we developed a calendar system for Jenny. On the box for April 17th, Jenny glued a cut-out of an Easter Egg. Starting with March 26, she has crossed off one day before she goes home everyday. Today is the 8th day she has marked off; 14 days remain for her project to count down the days until the big hunt!

In this simple task, Jenny is doing more than just counting down the days until she hunts eggs. She is learning patience and positive behavior is rewarded. She is also increasing math skills, learning about the usage of calendars, and how fun the different seasons are. At ATC, education is more than learning. It is a fun, interactive, and enriching experience.