National Autism Awareness Month

How is Autism Diagnosed?
It would be so much easier if autism spectrum disorer (ASD) could be diagnosed with a blood test or an x-ray, but it’s not that simple. Diagnosis is ultimately made based on your description of your child’s development, plus careful observations of certain behaviors by autism experts, medical tests, and your child’s history.

Parent and Pediatrician Partnership
Early diagnosis requires a partnership between parents and pediatricians. Within this partnership you, as the parent, should feel comfortable bringing up any concerns you have about your child’s behavior or development—the way she plays, learns, speaks, and acts. Likewise, your child’s pediatrician’s role in the partnership is to listen and act on your concerns.

During your child’s visits, the pediatrician may ask specific questions or complete a questionnaire about your child’s development. Pediatricians take these steps because they understand the value of early diagnosis and intervention and know where to refer you if concerns are identified. The importance of this partnership cannot be stressed enough.

ASD Screening for All Children
If your child does have autism, an early diagnosis is better because then your child can start receiving the help he or she needs. This is why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children be screening for ASD at their 18- and 24-month well-child checkups. Talk with your doctor if you feel your child needs to be screened (regardless of their age) and share your concerns — you know your child the best!

Remember…tt can be difficult to learn that your child has a lifelong developmental disability. Naturally, you as a parent, other caregivers, and extended family need to grieve about this. You will undoubtedly worry about what the future holds. Keep in mind during these difficult times that most children with ASD will make significant progress in overall function. Some children with ASD can do exceptionally well and may even remain in a regular education classroom. Many will have meaningful relationships with family and peers and achieve a good level of independence as adults.

It is important to remember that while a diagnosis of autism may change what you thought your parenting experience would be, we now know that children with ASD can achieve so much more in life as long as they are given appropriate support and opportunities. See Words of Support for Parents of a Child with Autism.
Additional Information


Source: Adapted from Autism Spectrum Disorders: What Every Parent Needs to Know (Copyright © American Academy of Pediatrics 2012). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


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How to Inspire Generosity in Children

It’s important to help our children understand the need to give back, provide, share, and act generously. If we (as parents) act generously in front of children, they will learn how to give more freely.

Children Are More Generous When Others Are Aware of Their Actions

Researchers set up an experiment in which 5-year-olds were tested with their peers under differing circumstances of transparency and differing audiences (ie, if others could see into the container). They set up a sticker machine that in some settings was transparent (the child giving and child receiving could see how many stickers were up for grabs), and other settings in which only the giver of stickers knew how many stickers he could give. They had children give out stickers in both settings (transparent and opaque), being able to see the recipient or not.

The results were striking: children were consistently generous only when the recipient and audience of the stickers were fully aware of the donation options (4 stickers over 1 sticker, for example). Children were notably ungenerous when the recipient of stickers couldn’t see the options whatsoever. Having an audience present (seeing the recipient) and having the number of stickers be transparent affected children’s decisions to give. The researchers wrote, “One striking aspect of our results is that children were considerably ungenerous in our task. Indeed, children only showed consistently prosocial behavior in our study in the condition when they could see the recipient and their allocations were fully visible; in all other conditions, children were statistically ungenerous, giving the recipient the smaller amount of stickers.”

Researchers made the conclusions that children are differentially generous depending on what the recipient knows about how much you are able to give and if people are present to observe giving. Basically, children will be generous when those who are in need know how much they have to give. It seems when children can obscure their “wealth,” they don’t give as much away. When their friends are able to see their choices, children will give peers far more.

At a very early age, children are learning how to position themselves socially. Well before they have a handle on the sociology of their networks and what social reputation really means (normally around age 8), they think strategically about giving as a function of how they can gain a reputation with a peer as a generous citizen or pro-social agent when the recipient observes them.

Fostering Generosity at an Early Age

Recognize that children are influenced by how their generosity is observed and understood. Children may often think about giving under the lenses of competition.

It is known that when competitive constructs are present, children are less generous. So are adults. Therefore, we can help young children understand when competition is present and when it isn’t. If a soccer game really isn’t a tally of total goals, tell children implicitly. Allow them to learn how to pass the ball and share as teammates early and often. When they are set to compete, let that be clear. But allow situations of play and giving not to be about winning too.

Children modify their behavior in response to having an audience. Help children give to others in full view (donations to a school can drive or soup kitchen; delivering meals to families who need support) and in private or anonymously too (dropping off treats or surprises for those in your life with- out signing your name).

Remind children that thank-you notes are lovely but unnecessary to receive. As an adult, I’ve often heard people complain about not receiving a thank-you note. It’s as if the reason to give a gift was to be acknowledged rather than provide something wonderful for another person. When we give gifts or lend help to others, try to help children remember why—to provide something for another. It really doesn’t have to be recognized. When a thank-you card doesn’t come, it doesn’t make a gift any less valuable or meaningful for those who were lucky enough to receive. ​


Written by Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE, FAAP. From healthychildren.org. Source: Mama Doc Medicine: Finding Calm and Confidence in Parenting, Child Health, and Work-Life Balance (Copyright © 2014 Wendy Sue Swanson). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Teaching Children Gratitude

Tired of bickering, jealousy, and selfishness? Kids are naturally materialistic and self-serving – but the good news is that gratitude can be taught. And from gratitude flows joy. Here are some tricks for teaching children gratitude and creating a more joyful home:

  1. Surprise them! Avoid too many choices: Surprises help children see something as a gift, not an entitlement. Having too many choices breeds unhappiness– you are always wondering if you could have something better. One night, we tried to have a conversation with our children about where we might go for our summer vacation. Within five minutes, Disney World was not good enough. Everyone had a better idea, and no one was going to be happy with whatever we came up with. I put a prompt end to that conversation, and about a week later, I announced that I had a big surprise– we were going to Mt. Rushmore! I showed off my plans for our national park camping vacation, and they couldn’t have been more excited. Our low-budget road trip turned out to be a fabulous success.
  2. Talk about the best parts of your day: Find some time each day to talk about what you are thankful for– perhaps at the dinner table, before bed, or while you are driving in the car. Ask your children, “What was the best part of your day?”For older children, try keeping a gratitude journal. Gratitude journals have been shown to be an effective approach to helping children be happier: One study had 221 sixth- and seventh-graders write down five things they were grateful for every day for two weeks. Three weeks later, these students had a better outlook on school and greater life satisfaction compared with kids assigned to list five hassles.
  3. Teach your children their past: What are your family stories of hardship and perseverance? My husband’s great-grandmother ironed for a living– her iron is now a bookend in our house, reminding our children what hard work really means. As a child, my grandmother washed dishes for ten cents per week during the depression. We keep her picture in our study, and tell our children her story. Not sure of your past? Just take a family trip to the history museum, a battlefield, or other historic site. You will return home grateful.
  4. Help your children serve someone who does not “need” charity: It’s great for kids to participate in scout food collections and other community charity programs, but these events only occur a few times per year and you rarely meet the people you are serving. Find someone in your everyday life for your children to serve regularly, even if this person doesn’t really need charity. We have a neighbor who lives alone and appreciates our left-overs so she doesn’t have to cook for one person. Our kids love to bring her food. One night they were all griping about how they didn’t like the dinner I made, until I asked them to bring a plate to our neighbor. Suddenly all the complaining stopped and they were out the door with her food, eager to have the opportunity to serve her.
  5. Focus on the positive, all day: I tell my children several times each day, “Attitude is a choice.” Choosing to have a positive attitude is actually our #1 house rule. It’s an all-day effort to constantly turn around the whining, jealousy, and complaining and instead focus on positive. “I’m thirsty!” needs to become, “Mommy, may I please have a drink?” “Where are my shoes?!” has to change to “Daddy, can you please help me find my shoes?”
  6. Say “Thank you:” Teach young children to say “thank you” as part of a full sentence, for example, “Thank you, Daddy, for making dinner.” Encourage school-aged kids to say thank you throughout the day, especially when you help them get ready for school or drive them to activities. Have them thank coaches for practice and music teachers for lessons.Struggling to get your children to say “thank you” without reminders? For ten years I reminded my children to say “thank you” when they were served at a restaurant, but I just couldn’t get them to do it without prompting. Now, if they forget to say “thank-you” they have to seek out their server and personally thank them before leaving. No more reminders necessary.
  7. Lead by example: How many times per day do you say “thank you”? Have you told your children what you are thankful for today? Our children are watching our every waking move. We can’t ask them to be grateful if we are not. Come home and talk about the happy parts of your day, making a conscious choice not to complain.
  8. Teach “‘Tis better to give than to receive.” Even toddlers can buy or make gifts for others: Take young children holiday shopping at the dollar store. Challenge them to pick out gifts for others without buying something for themselves. It’s hard!
  9. Make time for chores: Most children have about four hours between the time they get home from school and bedtime. During those four hours, they have to accomplish homework, extracurricular activities, dinner, bath, and bedtime. It’s hard to find time for chores. Without chores, children just can’t understand what it takes to run a household– they will take clean laundry and dishes for granted. Find age-appropriate chores for your children, even just 5-10 minutes per day. Consider leaving time-intensive chores for the weekend, such as yard work, bathroom cleaning, and linen changing.
  10. Let big kids take care of little kids: They say you can’t really understand what it takes to raise a child until you have your own children. Perhaps, but giving big kids responsibilities for little kids will start to help them have an attitude of gratitude towards their parents. Pair up big kids with little kids to get chores done or get through homework.School aged children can read books to toddlers or help them get dressed. Your older children will gain self-confidence and a sense of responsibility, and the relationship they build with their younger siblings will last a lifetime.
  11. Give experiential gifts, not stuff: Too many toys? How about gifting a membership to the children’s museum, a soccer registration fee, or a camping trip? Experiential gifts build relationships, not materialism.
  12. Monitor your children’s media: Our children are bombarded with age-targeted marketing that they are too young to resist or understand. Media fuels materialism. It is our job to carefully monitor their media so that they aren’t dragged into marketing and made to feel incomplete or unfulfilled.

Source: http://www.healthychildren.org. Copyright © 2015 Kathleen Berchelmann M.D., FAAP. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Bedtime Routines for School-Aged Children

​​​For school-aged children, a quick tidy-up is part of the bedtime routine: putting books and toys back on shelves and clothes in drawers and closets. Their room doesn’t have to be perfect, but it’s more pleasant to rest and read or listen to music and stories in a tidy environment, and mornings go more smoothly if needed objects are where they belong and thus easy to find.

By the middle-school years, the weekend routine is a bit less regimented than the one for school nights, and weekend bedtimes can be later. Lights can go out at different times for different children in the family, depending on how much sleep they need. However, while your child may sleep late the next morning, try to keep weekend wake-ups within an hour or so of the usual time, especially if your child is not a creature of habit by nature. Left to sleep too long, in only a few days a vulnerable child can shift his sleep phase (periods of waking and sleeping) in such a way that he has trouble getting back on his usual schedule. School performance may suffer because he is drowsy when awoken on school days.

Keep Bedtime Routines Manageable
Unless carefully managed, bedtime routines can be drawn out almost indefinitely, thus defeating the purpose for which they’re intended. A child quickly learns that by taking charge of the show, he can significantly delay the time of going to bed. For example, he may have to repeatedly switch his stuffed animals because he can’t find quite the right combination to make him sleepy on a particular night. Or he may desperately need the answers to questions that will keep him awake if he has to wait until morning.

Allow your child flexibility within the routine, but keep things under your control by limiting the choices available. For example, let him choose different stuffed animals for bed each night, but keep him to a fixed number. Let him choose a story and a song, but not a whole book or CD. Try to keep the bedtime routine to no longer than 30 minutes.

As your child gets older, you should gradually begin to step back and let him become more in charge of his bedtime routine. Providing these opportunities during his daily routine is also a way to help him become more self-reliant.


Source: Sleep: What Every Parent Needs to Know (Copyright © 2013 American Academy of Pediatrics) The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.