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8 Things We Implemented that Have Made Huge Progress in Our Son with Autism’s Life

My son was diagnosed with tier two non-verbal autism at the age of 18 months. He is currently 3 years old turning 4 in May (it's March when I wrote this) and since he has made HUGE progress, I thought I would share strategies and tools we implemented that I deemed made the biggest difference in his world.

Why Implement Strategies and Tools for Individuals with Autism?

The implementation of different strategies is really important for any child not just an atypical child because it's how they adjust and learn to the world around them. However, it's extremely important for our children on the spectrum. These tools are essential in helping children to learn in their way and to organize the world around them into something less scary and unfamiliar.

Most people on the spectrum, especially children, live in a script. They follow that script to a tee and have a difficult time redirecting when the path is changed, therefore, for the behaviors to adapt we need to change the script. That script takes time to renavigate and it takes several interventions and therapies before they can rewrite it and that's a process. I learned this from one of Ellis's teachers and once I learned that fact, I had a better time understanding Ellis's mind.

autism strategies

The Strategies and Tools We Implemented Early that Has Led to Progress

  1. Early Intervention. This first strategy is the key to success. The earlier your child has the help the better according to research. The brain grasps new concepts and accepts change much easier at a younger age, so early intervention is the key that unlocks the door. Once you get the early intervention, you will see progress little by little and then all of a sudden you realize how far they have come and you're overjoyed. I cannot advocate this strategy enough because it is the key to success. Also, initiate the process earlier than you think because the early intervention process can be quite the wait since COVID-19 has backed up the medical world. John Hopkins and Boston's Children's Hospital are great places to start. I have also heard that UCLA has a great program if you're on the West Coast.

  2. Utilize communication devices. We have tried many communication devices such as visual schedules, an AAC device, and sign language but the main goal here is a whole language approach. At first, we tried to figure out what Ellis liked to communicate with more but then we started to realize he may not have just one approach available in his life so now we do them all. It can seem very daunting and exhausting at first, but keep with it. In our experience, asking your speech pathologist to model and maintain that relationship is best.

  3. Sticking with a routine. Most children on the spectrum thrive with routines, so we stick to one as much as possible. We try to use a visual schedule in the home and at school, so Ellis knows what is coming next in the day because knowing what his day entails helps limit breakdown and makes the day run smoothly.

  4. Implementing a flexible visual schedule. Our visual schedule is something new we have implemented at home, therefore, it is very flexible for us and adapts to the rest of our family's schedule. We use cards that have the same symbols as the ACC device that our speech therapist created for us and a Velcro stripboard. I walk Ellis up to the board, we use hand-over-hand, point to the card as I say the activity, then, he takes it off and puts it in the "all done" pocket. That's it! For it to work though it takes consistency and repetition.

  5. Signing up for therapy services early. This is another tool that needs to be implemented sooner rather than later! Physical, occupational, speech and ABA therapy are huge interventions that need to be started in the infant/toddler phase of life because the sooner they start molding the brain the better. I cannot say enough good things about speech and OT and the effect it has had on Ellis. For example, within 6 months Ellis has gotten control of almost all sensory aversions to sticky, slimy, and velcro-type textures and sounds. He has also started writing, catching, kicking, and using utensils independently. The progress has been amazing!

  6. Enrolling him in an appropriate school. This is a tough one and geographically challenging. I read Jenny McCarthy's book on how she sent her son to a special school for children with autism in LA, but my geographical location isn't near a big city, and with a blended family moving is a tough one, so we had to adapt and advocate much more. When choosing a school you want to make sure to check all the boxes so that your son is taken care of while he is attending school. It's difficult trust me which is why some parents participate in homeschooling. For us that wasn't an option, so we made sure he had an IEP, we asked for the things we wanted, and we continued to push until we thought his needs were met. I also asked his teachers, IA's, and service providers their thoughts because this is a team effort. I put him into a learning program at age 2 for 2 days a week for half a day and it helped the transition. Depending on behavior and medical needs your child's educational route may be different, but I do believe putting Ellis into school early and starting an IEP at such a young age helped tremendously and aided in his progress.

  7. Utilizing the iPad. I hate the technology topic. It's a sore spot for a lot of people but for neurodivergent individuals, I love the iPad. I feel like my son has learned his alphabet and numbers from the iPad because he loves watching educational shows. I also think that watching shows like Mrs. Rachel has helped his speech. We also use the iPad to trace letters, but it's also such a great calm-down/regulation tool. The iPad has also helped with transitions and family outings so I utilize it. When he was two, we decided to take the iPad to our advantage and asked the district for an AAC device for communication. I think technology can be positive it just matters how you utilize it in your home.

  8. Getting him involved in sports/activities. I have not come around to many sports for Ellis because I still suffer from grief when it comes to being with other children, but we have tried music classes, playgroups, and special education programs. I feel like the more we get him involved the better he will understand other children and adapt to social scenarios. My hope is to start into sports as he gets a little older.

How Do I Go About Implementing These Strategies?

This is a lot of information especially if you just found out about your child's diagnosis, but if I can give you any piece of advice it would always be to act early. The earlier your child has services implemented, stronger support systems, and a team of caregivers and service providers the better. Call your healthcare provider and ask to set you up with your local infants and toddler program and if your child is in school ask for an IEP from your teacher or the special educator. Some days you will feel pushback and it will feel like you're the only one who is willing to fight for your child but once you continue to push a team will stand behind you.

Where Can I Find Support?

If you find you need more support, please reach out to me on Instagram @ericacaryln. For other support try these amazing programs.

autism strategies


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