August 1, 2017

Executive Functioning Games

Students on the autism spectrum typically have some deficits in Executive Functioning. Let’s be honest, we all have deficits and can improve in various areas. Executive Functioning skills include flexibility, memory, self-monitoring, problem solving, organization, initiation, planning, execution, inhibition and emotional regulation. The good news is these skills can be learned and improved through practice. Problem solving, flexibility and memory can all be practiced through playing games. Card games and board games are a fun way to practice these skills. Ten games for practicing these skills are: Fluxx- A card game for three or more players where the rules and […]
May 12, 2017

It Really is All About You

As parents, we do all we can for the safety, security, health, and well-being of our children. In doing so, it is not uncommon to give our all to our children at the sacrifice of our own self-care. This is unavoidable for short spurts of time such as illness or serious accidents, but when our only focus is on the care of other’s we soon become less effective and nurturing as a parent and care giver. Remember the last time you were on an airplane preparing for takeoff, and heard from the flight attendant, “If you are traveling with a […]
April 10, 2017

FLOW – Creating Timeless Growth and Happiness

“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times … The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi). Have you ever felt lost in the moment? In the zone? So fully immersed in a task that you lose your sense of time? Maybe you were painting and suddenly hours had passed or you were taking on moguls while skiing and time seemed to slow as you took each turn. These timeless moments of peaked ability is called […]
April 2, 2017
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Building Confidence and Life Skills through Equine Programs

As a young teenager, Katie seemed a little shy and unconfident. She often walked with her shoulders slouched and her eyes down. Katie had been introduced to horses before her arrival at Heritage, so when she came to Heritage, she was interested in working in the equine therapy program. Katie often struggled with social interactions with people around her, but really enjoyed spending time with the horses. She liked to groom and talk to them, and enjoyed learning to ride. In the beginning, Katie lacked confidence in riding. She was unbalanced, she continued to slouch her upper body when riding, […]
March 15, 2017
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Simple Steps to Teach Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to Effectively Communicate Emotions – Part Two

In my previous blog (Click here) I illustrated how a parent can help their ASD teenage son or daughter learn effective ways to recognize and communicate emotions. I covered these steps: Step One: Teach teens with ASD to identify feelings based on their related energy levels using a color-based zones system Step Two: Teach them feeling words that are associated with each colored zone. In this entry I will continue with: Step Three: Teach them that emotions often are expressed on spectrums and help them identify and use words for different levels of emotions. Many teens are hesitant to experiment […]
March 7, 2017
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Simple Steps to Teach Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to Effectively Communicate Emotions – Part One

At Heritage, some of our adolescents with ASD have difficulty understanding and expressing how they are feeling to others. Sometimes this is because they don’t know how to take what they are experiencing and put it into words. They don’t know what abstract words like “depressed,” “excited,” “overwhelmed,” “jealous,” “embarrassed,” “scared” or “confident” mean, especially when it is something they are experiencing in the moment. To be clear, linguistically they sometimes have heard or know the general idea behind these types of words, but they don’t know how to translate their own experiences into words they can label and then […]
February 27, 2017
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Motivating the Unmotivated Teen

Parents have used all kinds of motivational tactics to get their teenager to do things they don’t like to do. We use such tactics as rewards, punishments, cheering them on, lectures and, as a last resort, the futile argument of reason. I have seen that parents tend to do these things because they don’t know what else to do. We think if we use the entire arsenal in our toolbox, at some point the motivational light will go on or we will just somehow inject motivation into them. Most people tend to misunderstand motivation. When we want to motivate our […]
February 24, 2017
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Help Your Troubled Teenager by Taking Care of Yourself

At the beginning of a flight, you’ll often hear flight attendants state “In case of a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will deploy,” and ask passengers to, “Please place the mask first on yourself and then assist children or other passengers.” The logic being we first must help ourselves before we can help others. However, as parents, we often put all of our children’s needs and well-being before our own. Still, like the analogy suggests, when it comes to self-care it is important to ensure our oxygen masks are securely in place, so to speak, before we can begin […]
February 8, 2017

Encouraging Students with Autism to Try New Things

Anxiety and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often go hand in hand. Individuals on the autism spectrum can experience significant anxiety when it comes to trying new things. As a recreation therapist for more than 15 years, I’ve seen anxiety when students branch out and try new experiences ranging from wood carving to acting on stage to sports and/or outdoor recreational activity. Here are four tips I have found to be helpful for decreasing anxiety for students on the autism spectrum given any level of new activity. MENTALLY PREPARE: Talk with your son or daughter about what they are going to […]
January 25, 2017
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10 Do’s and Don’ts for Meaningful Phone Calls

For many families the geographic distance between home and their program is a key component to help adolescents learn to take care of themselves and to allow a space for families to heal and change. It also means that the time allotted for communication and connection should be maximized to strengthen family relationships and to maximize therapeutic alliances. To help families make the most of the communications they have with their son or daughter during the treatment process I have outlined the following 10 Do’s and Don’ts: Don’t get hung up on the day to day. While it can be […]


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