Archive for January, 2011

Picky Eater versus Problem or Resistant Eater…What’s the Difference?




Has a history of smoothly transitioning from pureed baby food to baby foods with texture Has a history of difficulty in transitioning to different food textures as an infant or young child.
Easily transitioned to table foods and finger food Has a history of not eating table solids by 12 months of age
Able to fully transition from baby foods to table foods by 167 months Unable to transition from a diet composted of baby foods to one consisting of table foods by 16 months
Smoothly transitioned from breast and/or bottle to cup by 16 months (not sippy cup) Unable to transition to open cup by 16 months and remains on bottle or breast for most liquids
Typically eats at least one food from every food group Eliminates entire food groups and eats only one or two food groups, typically carbohydrates
Typically eats a variety of textures, (i.e. ice cream, hot dogs and cereal with milk) Prefers a single texture, usually either crunchy, (i.e. crackers) or smooth, (i.e. applesauce)
Eats a variety of different flavor types, Sticks to mainly one or two flavor families such as salty, (i.e. pretzels) sweet, (i.e. cookies) bland, (i.e. mac & cheese) or spicy, (i.e. ketchup)
Enjoys foods in a range of colors May only eat certain colors of food, often white to brown colors
Appears to be able to drink, chew and swallow without difficulty May have difficulty with the mechanics of eating and drinking; chokes, gags, coughs or looses food through nose while eating.
Feeds self at an appropriate age Relies on adults to feed some, if not all meals at an age when most children are feeding themselves
Eats most meals in a reasonable amount of time Takes an abnormally long amount of time to eat a meal (30 minutes or more)
Is able to sit and behave appropriately during meals as expected for a child of his or her age. Frequently pouts, whines, cries, tantrums, refuses, distracts, gets up from table and other inappropriate behaviors
Is generally polite and happy at mealtimes May demonstrate behavioral problems such as hitting, biting, kicking, and vomiting at mealtime as an attention-getting strategy.
Enjoys similar foods of different brands or from different restaurants, (i.e. frozen chicken nuggets, nuggets from MacDonald’s, Burger King & Red Robin) Notices small differences in similar foods and accepts only specific brands or from a single restaurants.
Tolerates the presence of new and/or different foods on the table or plate Displays anxiety in the presence of new and/or different foods.
Willing to touch and/or smell most new foods. Finds the smell and or texture of new foods noxious.
Willing to taste most new foods. May gag or vomit when tasting new foods
Preferences for different foods will wax and wane across time Often starts with a variety of different foods and eliminates foods or entire food groups over time.
Will eat non-preferred foods at a later date Once foods become non-preferred, they are not regained into the food repertoire
Usually eats more than 20 different foods Typically eats fewer than 15 different foods
Will not make themselves ill Restricted diet may negatively impact growth and development
Often no underlying medical conditions Frequently has another underlying medical condition, (i.e. ADD, sensory integration disorder, low tone, history of tube feeding, etc.).

Posted by on January 24th, 2011 No Comments



Challenges with communication, social skills, attention, behavior and restricted interests are characteristic of children with autism.  Reading instruction, by default, is a less important educational goal than modifying aggression or improving verbal language.  Hence, many, and probably the majority of students with autism do not learn even the most basic of functional reading skills.

Functional reading skills must not be confused with hyperlexic reading skills.  A child who is hyperlexic enjoys letters and reading words.  However, their comprehension and ability to use written language as a form of written communication is lacking.  Functional reading skills on the other hand are include the ability to follow written instructions, (e.g. test instructions, hospital signage), obtain factual information, (e.g. whales are mammals, apples are on sale), understand the perspective of others, (e.g. Puff the Magic Dragon was sad when his friend Jackie Paper died, Carla is nervous about going away to college), and develop cultural literacy, (e.g. the house of sticks is the strongest, creative problem solving can get you out of tough spots such as cages in gingerbread houses).

Reading enriches our live, increases our ability to fully integrate into society and empowers us to share common experiences.  How then, do we support children with autism to reap these benefits?

The National Reading Panel, (2001) identified the following five essential skills required for reading success:

1. Vocabulary

  • As obvious as is seems, children with autism are often not taught enough vocabulary words to be able to comprehend written text so building oral vocabulary is the first action step to reading success.

2. Phonemic Awareness

  • The ability to understand and manipulate the pieces of words to decode written words includes an understand that text communicates messages, in our country it reads from left to right, the white spaces represent the end and beginnings of words, question marks do just that- mark a question, etc.

3. Phonics

  • In order to be able to decode text, the reader must have a working grasp of letter/sound correspondence and how to blend these sounds into words.

4. Comprehension

  • Understanding what is being read allows for the functional use of text, i.e. reading the directions in a recipe enables the reader to bake the cake.

5. Fluency

  • To make sense of text, the reader must be able read quickly enough to be able to retain a meaningful string of words into their short term memory

Two successful research based instructional approaches to reading for children with autism have been identified, (Swartz, 2004).  Both methods were modified to meet the specific learning needs of this population and resulted in marked gains.  It has been noted that success is contingent upon the instructor having extra training in the teaching specialized techniques.

More information about successful reading instruction for children with autism may be found on my web site at

Posted by on January 22nd, 2011 No Comments


Using Messy Play to Boost Language

Paint, play dough, mud, sand, paper mache, water, shaving cream, cookie dough, slime, pudding, glue….the opportunities are endless, and oh, so messy, and oh, such rich language building experiences!

With messy play, the play can be without rules and expectations.  This opens the creative doors to imagination, investigation, exploration, ,experimentation and inspiration.  If we provide children with descriptions of the materials and the actions while they are actively absorbed in explorative sensory experiences, the language is instantly meaningful in a vibrant, salient way that it just isn’t if we use the same words without connection to these rich sensory moments.  Suddenly, the abstract words that make up descriptions of tastes, sounds, feelings and actions are no longer abstract; they are connected to something tangible.

Messy play also increases problem solving and the ability to ask questions.  As children become engaged in maniulating the material, the try new and different things, or try old things in new ways.  They ask themselves questions, such as, “I wonder what will happen if ….” and “How can a make it do…..”.  They ask adults questions like, “How does it do that?” and, “What do you think I’m going to do next?”.

Messy play is wonder play, but for some children it can be a bit daunting to experience novel sensory stimuli.  Children are ususally most comfortable playing with dry textures first, such as rocks, marbles, beans, ceral or shredded paper.  Once they are enjoying these  hard, dry textures, children a ready to explore the properties of soft textures including play dough, squishy balls, wet sand and cooked spaghetti.  The last texture to introduce is material that is both soft adn wet.  This includes items such as fingerpaint, glue, mud, shaving cream, pudding, cooked squash or sponges in water.

“Press, stomp, squeeze, pull, squish, squash, ooze, slurp, slimy, sticky, gooey, slippery, shiny, swirling, dribbling”….such rich vocabulary words from Messy Play.  Go For It!

Posted by on January 12th, 2011 No Comments


Spacing Babies Closely May Increase Risk of Autism in Second Child

A new study, just published Monday in the Journal of Pediatrics examined over  half a million California births during the ten year span between 1992 and 2002.  They found that second born children that were born less than two years from an older sibling were more likey to be diagnosed with autism.  This was even true for children whose older sibling did not have autism.  One speculation is that mothers had not yet fully recovered from the physical drain of follate and other nutrients that had been depleted in the first pregnancy, leaving her nutritional stores lacking in their ability to fully support the second pregnancy.  Another theory is that the parents are more likely to notice developmental delays in a second born child.  Caution must be used when taking this study too seriously becuase it is the first of its kind….what do you think about this?

More information on this study may be found at:,0,195701.story

Posted by on January 10th, 2011 No Comments


Communicating with your child when they have communication challenges

Whether your child has difficulty producing speech sounds, has challenges  hearing words, is delayed in developing language or has some other communication challenge, the most important thing to remember is that communication is an exchange; it involves the active participation of two or ore people- in this case you and your child.

To encourage your child to increase his communication skills and to really converse with him, we need to ask open ended questions, make comments and wait for them to compose as well as to produce their response.  Instead of bmbarding your child with a series of leading questions in an interview format, try using suggestive questions and statements. For example, you might say, “Tell me about recess today”, instead of “What did you do at recess today?”, or What were some parts of the movie that you liked the best?” instread of, “Did you like the movie?”, or instead of saying, “That’s a pretty picture that you drew”, try something like, “You used so many bright colors, what were you thinking about when you chose those?”, or instead of blurting out a story about an evnet such as, “My car wouldn’t start today”, you could say something like, “You  will be surprised to hear what happened today”, and wait for your child to ask, “What?”.  Do you see how these  questions are more leading and more conversational?

Today, while driving your child to school, or while eating dinner together, try using the technique of leading instead of bombarding.  Then, listen.  I’m sure that your child will be happy that you did.  And who knows, they may even tell you something that you didn’t know!

Posted by on January 8th, 2011 No Comments


Daycare May Boost Language Skills

A whopping 12% of three year olds have delays in understanding language and speaking.  As children get older, their language delays manifest themselves in other academic areas such as reading and writing.  A recent study of over 19,000 children in Norway determined that children who regularly attended daycare actually had better language skills than their peers who only attended day care on a part time basis.  Now, parents can relieve themselves of guilt over sending their children to daycare.  I know that there where many times when I felt guilty dropping my children off at daycare and driving off to work with other people’s children!  What do you think….should the US consider subsidizing quality daycare for all children?

From Medical News Today

Posted by on January 8th, 2011 No Comments


The Vaccine Controversy

There has been a debate over the past few  years regarding the legitimacy of Andre Wakefield’s study that linked Autism with the MMR vaccine.  The controversy popped up again yesterday as several news agencies reported that the study was a fraud.  Despite the fact that the journal that published Wakefield’s study, “The Lancet” retracted the story some time ago, Wakefield, who has lost his medical license over this issue, continues to defend his study claiming that he did not falsify either background information or results of the 12 or so children that were the subjects of the study.

Today, many families remain convinced that vaccinations have negatively impacted the development of their children and speak of a developmental regression that they observed in their children coinciding with vaccination dates.    What has been  your personal experience?  What has been the experience of your friends and family?  What would you suggest to a parent of a young child today?

Posted by on January 6th, 2011 13 Comments