Mission Statement: This blog was created to provide information on getting help for autism in general while focussing on locally available resources for families with newly diagnosed children in Belleville and Quinte area.

Please browse the blog at your leisure. You are welcome to comment on the posts. If you are a parent, an autism consultant, counselor, teacher with information on autism resources available in our area, please email your information to benziesangma@gmail.com. Your information will be added within 24 hours.

Local Autism Support Groups

Parents Engaging Autism Quinte (PEAQ), an autism parent support group, meets once a month on the first Tuesday of the month (no meetings in January, July and August) at Kerry's Place, 189 Victoria Avenue, Belleville at 6:30 to 8 p.m. If you have questions or suggestions for autism topics that are important to you so that we can invite appropriate autism professionals to speak at these meetings. Next PEAQ meeting is on June 5.

Autism parent support group meeting hosted by Mental Health Agency, Trenton and Military Family Resource Centre (MFRC) meeting is on the Second Thursday of the month from 6 to 7:30 p.m. If you have require any further information please contact Marya Peters for more information at 613 392-2811 ext 3953 or email marya.p@trentonmfrc.ca

For info on Community Living Prince Edward County Parent Support group, contact Resource Consultants @ 613 476 6038

Central Hastings Autism Support Group meets in Madoc at the Recreation Centre. Contact Renee O’Hara, Family Resource & Support, 613-966-7413 or Tammy Kavanagh, Family Resource & Support, 613-332-3227

Transition planning for elementary school students with autism

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Social referencing

My son and his younger, typically developing sibling were in a semi-private swimming class together recently. Every day they eagerly looked forward to the lesson. After every lesson they get rousing hi-fives from both their coach and I. They are both eager to discuss what they did really well in their class that day and what they need to do better. But during every lesson I would notice my youngest looking over at me looking for signs on my expression to indicate to her whether I'd seen her swim backwards or forwards or treading water or her strokes etc. Every time I'd give her a thumbs up or clap silently or give her animated smiles. She loved those silent interactions with me from across the pool and sometimes even in the middle of her treading water with her little face struggling to stay above the water. It's as if by locking eyes with me she'd keep herself afloat and keep treading. The silent interaction between my daughter and I is what is called social referencing. This never happens with my son who is mildly autistic. He loves to go under water and would follow the coach's instructions to a T but would never look around to see if I am looking at him or whether I'd seen a particular skill he was practicing. Nope, none of that. If I hi-five him at the end of the lesson, he's okay with that. If I praise his efforts verbally when he's out of the water, he smiles up at me. But he would not look to draw attention to his efforts. He does what he has to just because he enjoys it. His pleasure does not increase or decrease because I was watching and smiling at him from across the pool. Joint attention was something we struggled with him from when he was toddler. He'd never follow with his eyes where we were pointing and he'd never ask us to go look at something with him. Same thing with social referencing. In typical children, social referencing behaviour begins to emerge toward the end of the first year of life. But in individuals with autism, this behavior, along with several other aspects of social cognition, is mostly impaired. This is something we can continue working on by constantly engaging in social referencing behaviour with other people so that he'll be exposed to that behaviour often and learn that it's an acceptable behaviour. It is important to continue to improve on that aspect of his social development because it will allow him to connect more with others on an emotional level as well as improve his ability to read emotional expressions on other people's faces and reciprocate appropriately.

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In it for the long haul...

I created this blog with my sincere wish that those of you reading this will want to share your own stories, both good and bad, what worked for you and what didn't and together, we can make it easier for the next family beginning their own journey of discovery. By posting what you know, where you have recieved certain services, who you have talked to, whose expertise you trust, how you navigated the school education services and by responding to questions in the discussion thread, know that you have helped a family in need. So, parents, experts in the field, counsellors, teachers and everyone who has any information on resources available, please feel free to post on this blog.