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Helping Children Deal With Anger

Anger can be a real issue for children with special needs.  Whether your child is on the autism spectrum, has a reading disability, or struggles to pay attention because of ADD, frustration and anger can cause them to want to quit on their schoolwork.  It is important to teach your child to deal with their anger in healthy ways.  They may always feel angry about circumstances and events in their life, but they can learn to manage the anger instead of acting on it.

Take a Break

One of the best ways to keep anger under control is to take a break from what is causing the anger.  You could teach your child to walk away from a situation and go to a quiet place (their room, the kitchen table, or a certain spot in their classroom).  Teach them to stay in this spot until they feel calmer.  Remember though that this is something you want them to learn to do on their own.  It is not a punishment.  You can encourage your child to walk away, but don’t try to force them to stay in the chosen spot.  If a special needs child feels like he is being punished, the anger will probably get worse, not better.  You can also ask your child’s teacher if your child can take a break from a subject that is frustrating them and go back to it later in the day.

Use Their Words

One problem that can cause anger is the inability for some children to put their thoughts and feelings into words.  Imagine how frustrated you would be if you were trying to talk, but no one could understand you or you didn’t know how to tell someone what you were thinking or feeling.  During times when your child is not angry, have them practice using their words to talk about their feelings.  Role play possible situations that would upset them and have them tell you in words how they would feel or what they would tell their teacher about the situation.  It could also help to give them a special feelings journal.  Tell them that they can write in the journal anytime they want or about anything they want.  Encourage them to write down things that bother them throughout the day.  In addition to just writing in the journal, you could look at the journal with your child every night and talk with him about what bothered him during the day.

Think From the Perspective of Others

Many special needs students have a hard time putting themselves in the place of others.  Because they tend to focus only on themselves, it can be difficult for them to understand things like why a child refused to give up a favorite toy or why they didn’t get to use the blue marker first.  When you talk with your child about things that have made them angry, try to get them to see what made the other child act the way they did.  (You may not be able to do this until your child has calmed down quite a bit.)  Ask your child what he would have done if he was the other child.

Anger is a real problem for some children, but with your help your child can learn to control his anger.  What other strategies do you use when teaching your children to manage their anger?

Photo by: greg westfall

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Attention Troops! – Girl Scouts for Special Needs Students

Many young girls across the country participate in the Girl Scout tradition, joining troops where they get to learn about leadership and friendship. Much like the unique girls who make up each troop, no two troops are the same.

In Naperville, Illinois, Troop 200 is made up of Girl Scouts who range in age from 7-17 and all have different disabilities. Many of the activities are modified specifically to their special needs. The girls go on many field trips and attend meetings, just as in any other troop.

The troop leader started Troop 200 for her own daughter who has autism. After believing that her old troop was not meeting her needs entirely, she decided that she wanted to start her own, and gear it specifically towards special needs girls.

Members of the troop follow the same rules and guidelines as any other troop, earning patches, attending events and providing community service as a group. Family participation is also a big part of Troop 200 and really helps the girls form friendships and enjoy their time together.

The troop currently has 13 members and is hoping to expand into northern cities in the near future. More troops like this one will help other special needs children participate and enjoy their times as a Girl Scout.

The troop provides a time and a place for the girls to be themselves. They get to learn from one another and form bonds with other children who are just like them.

For more information, please visit the Western DuPage Recreation Association.

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A Summer of Fun – Camp for Autistic Children

For children who go to summer camp, it is all about having fun and interacting with their peers. For others, it is about more than that.

At the Summer Social Skills Camp, sponsored by the Autism Society of Greater Cleveland, a group of about 20 autistic children and other volunteers gather together to spend quality time over the summer months.

cleveland

Local special education supervisor and teacher Lori and Jim Wotowiec are directors of the camp. Because autism makes it more difficult for children to form social and behavioral relationships, the Wotowiecs wanted to develop a place where the children can practice these skills and form friendships.

Because the camp has peers who do not have autism, they were trained about the disorder ahead of time, so that they would be aware of how to handle a certain situation that may have come up.

Campers attended classes to practice academics, had indoor gym time, group activities, outdoor activities and lunch. Because many problems occur when there is a less structured environment, the peers in the camp who were present were able to provide real-life solutions that would help the children see how to act. These interactions were crucial in letting the autistic children build social and independent living skills.

By providing real situations and social interactions, the children get to practice real life problem solving. Just like any other child, they want to have fun and be accepted. Without the stresses of the classroom, the children can flourish and grow while having fun and gaining confidence.

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The Aurora Project – Robots Helping Autistic Children

The Aurora Project was created as a long term project in the United Kingdom in 1998.  It is a project supported by the University of Hertfordshire School of Computer Science with local schools.  The program pairs autistic children with robots, a high-interest ‘toy’, to help them build educational and social skills.

aurora

Their theory being tested is that the autistic children would be able to learn how to interact with the robot and then be able to transfer those skills to interacting with other children and adults.  Robots are programmed to be more predictable than humans, which makes it easier for an autistic child to play and mimic.  The Aurora Project research includes testing this theory with a variety of different robots – humanoid, dog, life size, and doll sized.  On their site, they have very detailed information about the different robots that they are using with the autistic children.  They also encourage the children to interact with other children during the process of playing with the robots.

Their site also includes many research publications from the beginning of the program up until 2009.  The most recent publication includes information about three low-functioning autistic children and how their interactions with one of the robots have helped them to interact with the adults present during the therapy sessions.  Reading the various research publications and viewing the photographs embedded in them addresses the success of this program.

Other Robot Therapy Research Programs

There are several other universities that are researching the social advancement of autistic children with the use of robotics.  The University of Southern California’s research program is highlighted in an article about their program and success at the Science Daily website.  Their study varies how the robots interact with the children.  One robot reacts to the child’s interaction with the robot and one just displays random behaviors without being affected by the child’s interaction.  There was a definite positive correlation with social interaction not only with the child with the responsive robot, but also from the children to the adults present in the room.

An article from the Popular Science Magazine includes discussion about a similar program at Carnegie Melon along with the research program from USC.  There are also many other articles, programs, and research being conducted about this method of encouraging and teaching autistic children how to socially interact.

With the increasing successes of the research programs being reported, I believe that this is a great resource that should be more widely integrated into the school systems as therapy during the school day.  It would require training and financial resources to be implemented, but the outcomes would be well worth the commitment.

Article by Laura Ketcham

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Building Blocks Towards a Better Future – Special Needs Groups

A frozen yogurt shop may not be the typical meeting point for kids to play, but for the Plano Lego Lovers, it is. This group, which has more than 100 member including autistic children recently met up and played with the latest Toy Story 3 Lego set.

lego

The group was started as a way to bring kids together by playing with Legos, but also to bring them together to socialize. Carla Graham, parent of an autistic child, was searching for a play group. Since her child was so interested in Legos, she decided to use the toys as a way to bring other children together, playing and socializing and communicating with each other.

By meeting just a few times a month, students of all capabilities gather at schools or local restaurants where they play. Not only do they have fun, but they can practice their learning skills, social skills and other shared interests.

Even though some children come with plans to build certain structures, they usually all end up working together and collaborating to come up with new and unique creations. This playtime is the perfect opportunity for these children that don’t get to socialize that often to do it when they are in a more comfortable place.

According to a paper by the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge, children with autism and Asperger’s syndrome are often drawn to Legos because of their systematic and structured nature. As they are more comfortable with the environment, these children with special needs can be more comfortable learning and interacting with their peers, too.

Picture By: oskay

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Growing Towards the Future – Special Education Experience

Sometimes it’s the little things in life that add up.

At South-Doyle Middle School in Knoxville, Tennessee, special education teacher, Brad Bowles got a group of his students together who weren’t afraid of a little dirt to help him build and grow a beautiful garden.

Brad wanted to create an outdoor learning environment for his students. By working together, they have created a garden full of various fruits and vegetables. Teamwork, according to Brad, is the secret to making your garden grow.

Despite the fact that the students have different disabilities and some use wheel chairs, they still work hard at helping the garden grow. The practice they get with the garden is giving them hands-on experience for real life job and life skills.

The students in the class had to apply for each job that they currently have. They dressed up and filled out applications. They then interviewed with their teacher and principal. Tears of joy when they got accepted for these positions proved to everyone how important this was for them. Little joys like these are great for learning important skills for the real world.

The class hopes to soon be able to add a picnic table and a shed to their gardening class. With academic skills, job skills and social interaction with the whole school, this is a great opportunity for students to learn and grow.

The students in the class take pride in their jobs. They each hold a different role and responsibility towards helping the garden grow. Working together, they can help each other work towards the future.

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