National Autism Resources

10 Tools to Teach Social Skills for Autism

Social skills training is so important for people on the spectrum.  Below is a list of 10 therapist and parent favorite resources you can use with the children & teens you support.


Fitting In & Having Fun Video Modeling Series:

This video modeling series features real life social situations reenacted by kids and teens. This video recognizes that in order to be socially successful, one must learn to notice and “read” the social cues and messages that people use to communicate.  This series visually shows viewers how to decode and interpret information from others. It also helps viewers become aware of their own body language and the messages they are sending. This series is perfect for those who are ready to learn about the intricacies of social interactions. Volume 1 is for grades 1-6Confident & In Control, grades 1-6, Moving on to Middle School, and High school Life Unspoken Expectations.

Social Skills Game Set6 Social Skills Game Set:

This is our most popular social skills tools and includes six games that will help you teach key social skills in the following six areas:

  • How Others Feel- Learn empathy by understanding the perspective of another.
  • Acting Out- Dealing with and Showing Emotions
  • Manners- Important manners for social success.
  • Mountain of Emotions- Simple Strategies for emotion management.
  • What Should You Do? How to make good choices.
  • What Makes A Good Friend?- Simple tips for being a good friend.

zeebuPlaytime with Zeebu:
Another wonderful gift for a child with autism is the Playtime with Zeebu set.  This set comes with a video and two puppets so that therapists or parents and children can roll play with the puppets different social scenarios.  Young children with beginning social skills will learn how to share, think about others’ feelings, simple ways to calm down, and so much more!  There are also fun Zeebu coloring books available that help to teach calming strategies and social skills.

The Blunders Game:Blunders Game
The Blunders Game teaches essential manners and social skills for grade school children, and works well with higher functioning children on the autism spectrum.  The nice thing about this game is that the “blunder kids” are the ones who make mistakes.  It’s a safe way to learn social skills and talk about social blunders without feeling embarrassed or ashamed.  Best of all this game is fun and would make a great gift for the whole family.

Reverse Charades:
Reverse Charades is fun to play with children and teens on the autism spectrum and is helpful for teaching nonverbal communication.  The nice thing about reverse charades is a team works together to figure out how to communicate without using words and the person who is “it” has to try and figure out what the team is communicating.  This is a great game for social skills groups or some family fun.

Buddy talkThe Buddy Talk & Teen Talk:

The Buddy Talk card set is full of fun topics to help kids start talking. Sturdy laminated cards are held together by a spiral ring. This 50 card deck is loaded with questions and topics to help kids talk with their friends.

Making & Keeping Friends Game: 

The Making and Keeping Friends card game is simple and fun to play during social skills groups, at home around the kitchen table, or when you have a few extra minutes during the day.  Each card within the deck features a thought-provoking question related to common social situations.  Use these cards to help your students explore a variety of topics.

Use these cards to help start conversations that will help your students open up about social challenges they are facing.  They can also help them explore personal values and social boundaries.  They are great for exploring and practicing proper etiquette and social expectations that students need for successful friendship skills.

imageHidden Rules in the Classroom:

We have a lot of unwritten expectations within our classroom and Hidden Rules card game will help your students with autism or Asperger’s syndrome to discover what these are.  You can use this interactive card game to teach social rules and expectations that your students will encounter in the classroom.  This is a fun fast paced game that your students will love to play over and over again – making sure they get lots of practice!

cjBullies Victims and Bystanders: 

Use this game to educate students on the consequences of bullying for everyone involved.  Teach your students positive behavioral strategies to overcome bullying.  While playing this game your students will learn proactive ways to deal with bullies, the victims of bullying, and what bystanders can do when they witness bullying.  To play students move along the board, selecting bullies, victims or bystanders cards.  Game cards can be used outside of the game to provide discussion starting points to discuss positive and negative behavior as it relates to bullying.

5 Fabulous Fidgets for Special Needs

A good fidget can be a parent and teacher’s best friend. Ideally it should fit in the palm of a student’s hand, be fairly sturdy, and have a quiet way of keeping fingers busy. Here are five of our favorite fidgets in no particular order.

five fidgets

Koosh BallKoosh Ball

We love the Koosh ball because it acts as both a stress ball and an interesting fidget. This classic little toy has been around for years and continues to be a teacher favorite. It features sturdy squeezable rubber strings all tied together into a sturdy little ball. It fits easily in a pocket or the palm of your hand. They come in a variety of colors that both girls and boys will enjoy.

Textured Tanglejr-textured-tangle-4

Textured tangles are guaranteed to keep fingers busy. They feature 18 slightly curved pieces with a variety of textures that connect together to form a loop. You can bend and twist it into all kinds of shapes and they are perfectly quiet.

This is a great sturdy option for the classroom that tends not to distract other students. Each interconnected piece pops apart. You can easily attach the tangle to a belt loop or backpack so that it won’t get lost. You can also snap it apart and make 2 smaller tangles or turn it into a bracelet that still provide lots of movement fun.

Tactile Atom BallTactile Atom Ball

This super squishable atom ball is always a favorite when we take it to conferences. It features soft, rubbery, and highly squishable “arms” that extend from the center that are about an inch long. It’s great for kids who really seek sensory and tactile experiences. This toy also fits easily in your hand and is super portable. Use it as a reward for a job well done, to help with concentration, or to help with transitions.

Squeeze StarSqueeze Star

Everyone has seen the classic foam squeeze ball, but have you seen a squeeze star? This interesting item allows you to place your fingers between each point of the star and feel the deep pressure on and between your fingers as you squish down. This is a super durable stress toy for your kids who need to relax.

It encourages them to use isometric exercises to get rid of some of the tension. If you don’t know what isometric exercises are stop now, make a fist, and squeeze. Now count to 3 and then let go. Did you notice that your whole arm including your upper arm forearm hands and fingers are little more relaxed? It’s even better when you try this with the stress star!

 squigglet braceletSquigglets Sensory Bracelet

Do you have a student who’s always losing things? Why not give them a wearable fidget. This squiggly bracelet easily slides over a grade school student’s hand. This soft and stretchy fidget is covered with thin rubbery 1 inch squigglets that are fun for fingers to bend, twist, and squeeze.

All of the fidgets above are super quiet making them a great option for the classroom. Use them to help your stressed-out students relax and you’re distracted students pay attention. Take them with you when you take your child shopping or to a restaurant. Happy fidgeting!

Five Chewable Necklace Options for Children with Autism

Lots of people chew things; it’s common to see students chewing on their pencils in class.  However, many children with autism crave chewing.  They may chew their pencils, hair, or shirts to the point that it causes holes.  They may chew to relieve stress, help with focus, or because they have pica.

It’s difficult to stop this behavior so providing a chewable necklace can be a safe and discreet alternative for kids (and may save a lot of shirts).  Below are five chew necklaces you can choose from to help with this situation.


The original Chewlery® is designed by an Occupational Therapist.  It is very durable and provides a lot of oral motor input.  This is because the coil design bounces and moves in the mouth.  This is a durable option because it is made of medical grade non-toxic thermaplastic.  It does not contain lead or BPA and is made in the USA.

This is the most affordable chewable necklace we have found at $7.99.  However, it does not have a break away feature which means it must be supervised while a child is wearing it and that it could pose a choking hazard if worn on the playground.  The coil design of this item can be difficult for children who are sensory sensitive.  Some kids have reported it feels like it pinches.


SentioChews are a pendant style necklace.  It features a chewable pendant that is hung on a soft breakaway paracord.  This item is also made of medical grade thermoplastic that does not contain phthalates.  Like Chewlery, this item is more durable than silicon based items and is much less likely to break apart with lots of chewing.

This chewable necklace features several styles that come in red or blue and is suitable for boys or girls.  Unlike necklaces that are designed for teething babies, the pendant is flexible and bounces back when a child chews on it.  This is a newer product for National Autism Resources and so far the feedback has been excellent.  This item is made in Canada.

Dr. Bloom’s Chewable Jewels

Dr. Bloom is not a physician, but a dentist.  They are the original creators of chewable jewelry for babies.  They feature chewable pendants that are hung on a “breakaway” cord.  The cord ties around the neck.  It does not have a clip so the cord actually breaks if it is pulled to hard.  This item is made of medical grade silicone which contains no phthalates as well.

Chewable Jewels are fairly sturdy, but not quite as sturdy as the other plastic based options.  It is sturdier than several other styles of teething jewelry because the pendants are slightly flexible.  However, this item will crack or break with aggressive biting.  This option is very popular with older children as the style looks more socially appropriate on older kids and teens.

Cool Chews

Cool Chews are designed by an Occupational Therapist and a mother of a child with sensory challenges.  It is also made of durable medical grade plastic that is nontoxic.  This item comes as a pendant only.  You must provide the cording you will use to hang it.

The nice option with this design is that it will slide over a pencil so that it can become a chewable pencil topper, or it will easily fit on a carabiner so a child can hang it from a belt loop or backpack for additional ways to access it.

Smart Mom Teething Bling

We hesitate at adding this product to the list as this item is specifically designed for teething babies.  It is made of nonflexible silicone and will break apart when kids and teens with fully developed teeth bite on it.  However, it does work well for kids who have issues with sucking their thumbs, hair, or shirts.

This item is good for kids who are trying to quit sucking their thumbs or come home with shirts covered in saliva from sucking.  This is a nice option because they look socially appropriate for older kids.  They feature a silky break away lanyard that is very comfortable to wear.

5 Tips for Teaching Survival Signs and Symbols

Getting-Started-Flash-Card-SampleLook around you. Everywhere you look special signs, symbols, and directions are encountered in every area of our lives. They provide us with information and tell us what we can and cannot do. Knowing what they mean is vital. Knowing them is even more essential for students who are trying to expand their knowledge outside the classroom into the “real world.” Below are five tips for how you can teach and review survival signs and symbols with your students.

Getting Started

First things first, you’re going to need some pictures of the signs and symbols you want to teach and reinforce with your students. Whether it’s a walking field trip with your students, or on your own time, go out and snap some photos of the signs in your neighborhood, at the movie theater, and around the school. Save and organize them so that you can display the pictures on your classroom’s whiteboard, your iPad, or print and laminate them.

If you are working with students who may be easily distracted by the other elements in a real-world photo, try using Survival Signs & Symbols Flash Cards. This flash card set offers 94 different survival signs. Each card features a stand-alone sign displayed on the front with a simple definition of the sign on the back. These flash cards are a great way to review the signs and symbols that students will encounter in their daily lives with minimal distraction. As students become familiar with the signs, you can introduce the “real-world” photos you’ve taken.


Categorizing is a very important skill that helps with memory, problem solving, and organization. Depending on your students’ ability level, you may ask them to categorize the signs into more complex categories like “warning” or “transportation” signs. However, some students may struggle with categorizing and will need more systematic instruction.

For these students, help them categorize the signs by similarities such as color or shape. Find all of the triangle signs. Find all of the yellow signs. For example, you’llCategorizing-Brown-Survival-Signs notice that brown signs all belong to the same category. If students can recognize these patterns, this can help them learn and remember the meanings of each sign.

Another way to help your student categorize would be by using situations that they can relate to. Start by displaying anywhere from three to eight signs. Ask students to choose the signs that would be most helpful in the below situations.

  • If you were sick or hurt?
    Signs: first aid kit, ambulance, hospital, fire department
  • If you need to use the bathroom
    Signs: restroom, men’s room, women’s room
  • If you are riding your bike?
    bike lane, bicycles prohibited, cross walk, stop sign, no trespassing
  • If you are entering or leaving a building?
    Signs: push, pull, exit, open, closed, food prohibited

Riddle Clues

As students become more familiar with the signs, playing riddle games will be a fun way to reinforce what they know. Make a riddle for each sign and try to get students to guess the sign based on the clues in your riddle. For example: You can find me on a street corner. I am red. I am shaped like an octagon. What sign am I? As students become proficient at playing the riddle game, ask them to make their own riddles to share with a partner.

Story Time

Tell a story to get your students thinking about how they may encounter the signs in the real world. My friend and I were hiking in the woods. We brought a lunch to eat. We wanted to find a place where we could stop to eat. We came across a brown sign. The sign had a white picnic table on it… As you tell the story show a picture of the sign so that students can better connect to the story. Challenge students to write or tell a story of their own that includes one or two signs.

Photo Shoot

When students are ready, send them out of the classroom with a partner, a parent, or yourself to experience the signs in the real world. Have students document their experiences through pictures.

Assign each student one sign. Have students take pictures of their sign to share. You can ask students to share their pictures in a slide show for the class. Or students can post their pictures on your class’ Facebook page or even on Twitter or Instagram using your class’ hashtag (example: #MrsSmithsRm120). Students may even have fun making a Vine video of their sign being used. They could record people waiting for a bus in front of the Bus Stop sign or a car stopping at a Stop sign.

No matter how you choose to review the survival signs and symbols, the more practice and experience students have with the signs, the more prepared, confidant, and independent they will be in the real world.

Handwriting and the Autism Spectrum – Notes from a Survivor

by Kate Gladstone A

1Handwriting matters. Technology doesn’t always work — and even if we never write, we must decipher others’ handwriting. (Many of us on the autism spectrum never managed to read cursive: even if we can write it).  Furthermore, we are often evaluated on the basis of handwriting.  My earliest handwriting memory involves a readiness test for kindergarten.  Difficulties here would have classed me “unready”— but the examiner accidentally discovered I could read.

I also remember asking grownups why letters looked so different in books than on worksheets and elsewhere …
Grownups told me these were “the same.” I was bewildered. Even more perplexing: grownups scribbled —
The kindergarten bus driver’s surname, for instance, apparently started with a backwards 3 and a regular 3, according to his window sticker:

Why? What for? Grownups said…

  • No reason, no anything — “that’s just how it is”
  • “It’s always been like that”
  • “I don’t know what you mean”
  • “Don’t think about it —you’ll get confused”
  •  “When your older you’ll understand”

Much handwriting training is autism-hostile. Handwriting curricula/expectations are usually self-contradictory — even within a single district, school, or program. (Programs with internally contradictory requirements include the majority of programs marketed as “consistent.”) For instance, students with form constancy issues and/or figure-ground issues may not equate all of these shapes as the letter s…
Students with these issues and/or motor-planning issues may not process exactly where the letter ends and the join begins (or exactly where a stroke changes direction). This happens whenever the handwriting model’s structure fails to make this motorically and visually clear.


Another early memory: As my doctor wrote a prescription, I asked why it was scribble.
His explanation made even less sense to me than his writing:

There is printing, and there is writing, and what you write isn’t writing because it is printing, because printing is writing that is for reading, while writing is writing that is for writing, although of course it is also for reading. So will you please be a good girl and stay quiet, so that I can finish writing this prescription and you can go home?”

First grade meant workbooks: we were told to copy everything just as it was shown.
I did my best …
The teacher threw a fit! She showed me the work of another student.
I asked what made mine wrong, since I’d given details he’d left out.  I was then sent to the principal’s office …  Please keep in mind that ambiguous instructions confuse and impede Aspies. When our best efforts at understanding are penalized, we often stop trying or caring.

Next year, with cursive, I couldn’t see which parts went where, or why:

Letters had homogenized! Any shape might mean different letters at different times.

The “same” letters had different shapes for different grownups…

The letters “F T” in three cursive forms.

The letters “F T” in three cursive forms.

I much later learned that this is true internationally:

Source for large chart: — school models in France, Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands ... to note a few!

Source for large chart: — school models in France, Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands … to note a few!

Confusion increased when letters changed after b/o/v/w.
Remember when you tell students “all letters start at the same place,” they don’t. Print-then-cursive requires three sets of starting points and motor patterns for each lower-case letter. This can impede writers who have motor issues, working memory issues, and/or form constancy issues.
To help Aspies understand cursive, show us how cursive happened! We can see and understand factually accurate patterns better than we can memorize, recall, and use the what apparently arbitrary.

Learning how cursive happened was my gateway to handwriting function and handwriting comprehension. (Unfortunately, I did not begin learning this until the age twenty-four, when I desperately attacked my dysfunctional handwriting by combing through 500 years of handwriting textbooks, finding what worked, and discarding the rest. Making sense of handwriting should not depend on cursive.)

The earliest published textbooks on handwriting used a semi-joined form, with letter shapes unchanged whether joined or not.

This page is from the very first: produced in 1522.

This page is from the very first: produced in 1522.

Later textbooks complicated things:

When instruction presumes complexity, many of us are barred from handwriting competence. Fortunately, writing a difficult script isn’t the only way to learn to read it (or the only way to get beyond printing).  That’s why I devised the free iPad app “Read Cursive” which teaches cursive reading without requiring cursive writing.

Even signatures don’t legally require cursive.  BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY (8th edition) defines “Signature” — as whatever you produce as your signature: 

“A signature may be written by hand, printed, stamped, typewritten, engraved, photographed, or cut from one instrument and attached to another, and a signature lithographed on an instrument by a party is sufficient for the purpose of signing it, it being immaterial with what kind of instrument a signature is made. . . whatever mark, symbol, or device one may choose to employ as a representative of himself is sufficient . . .”
“The name or mark of a person, written by that person at his or her direction. In commercial law, any name, word, or mark used with the intention to authenticate a writing constitutes a signature. UCC 1-201(b)(39), 3-401(2). A signature is made by use of any name, including any trade or assumed name, upon an instrument, or by any word or mark used in lieu of a written signature.”

The fastest, most legible handwriters don’t join all letters. They join only the most easily joined letters, and use print-like versions of letters whose cursive version disagrees with print.
(Graham, Berninger, and Weintraub, 1998).

Aspies — and all writers — deserve training and encouragement in the most effective handwriting strategies. These strategies are excluded by conventional (print and/or cursive) instruction.

In 2012, handwriting publisher Zaner-Bloser surveyed handwriting teachers from all over North America. Only 37% actually used cursive for their own handwriting. Another 8% used “manuscript” (print-writing) as their handwriting. The majority — 55% — combined features of cursive with features of print-writing. Why exalt cursive, when handwriting teachers themselves write otherwise? (Zaner-Bloser Handwriting Survey Statistics)

Some curricula do recognize and develop habits typical of fast, legible handwriters, avoiding conventional two-tier (print/cursive) inconsistencies.  These include Queensland Cursive, Jarman Handwriting, Getty-Dubay, and Barchowsky Handwriting.  One program of special note is the work of a diagnosed Aspie: Jim Bennett.  You can see his handwriting curriculum at   Jim also wrote the best-selling book Calligraphy for Dummies. He and I, as far as we know, are the only Aspies creating handwriting resources.

Simplifiers are in good company …

Mayflower Compact, 1620: handwriting of William Bradford

Mayflower Compact, 1620: handwriting of William Bradford


For me, handwriting has become:

  • a special interest and skill
  • a path to productive achievement, shared goals and friendships
  • a value that others can perceive and experience
One of my Grocery Lists

One of my Grocery Lists


For handwriting tools and specialty paper click here.

Kate Gladstone teaches and consults on curriculum for handwriting throughout the United States and worldwide, serving organizations and individuals with and without disabilities through individual and group consultations, and workshops. Her involvement with handwriting began through efforts to correct her own formerly dysfunctional handwriting. She helped design two iOS handwriting apps (BETTER LETTERS for the iPhone/iPod Touch and READ CURSIVE for the iPad).   Kate is also the director of the World Handwriting Contest, and creator of US Patent #5,018,208 a signature verification system for pen-based computers.  To learn more about Kate or to contact her for services please visit Handwriting Repair: Handwriting That Works.

Helping Individuals with ASD Cope with a Break Up


Love hurts, and it can be incredibly confusing for an individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder, no matter the person’s age. What do you do when your child with ASD has suffered the crushing blow of a break up? As a parent or educator of individuals with ASD, it’s tough to see your child or student in pain. You’ll want to take away the pain as quickly as possible. However, be careful— in your efforts to help the person, you may be doing more harm than good. Below are some simple do’s and don’ts to helping someone with ASD cope with a break up.

Immediately After the Break Up, Do:

  • Validate their experience. 

Normalize their feelings of pain and upset; let them know that this is a common reaction to a break up. Agree with them that, yes, break ups suck!

  • Lend them a shoulder to cry on or a comforting, listening ear

Sometimes just having someone there is comfort enough after a break up. There’s no need to interject with comments or thoughts about what has happened. Just be there and give them a hug if needed.

  • Encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings with you, instead of publicly on social media

Impulsively posting potentially regrettable things on social media after a break up can start a negative chain reaction and prolong a nasty break up. It’s better to avoid this if at all possible.

After the immediate pain has subsided, Do:

  • Introduce the idea that some people will like us and others won’t—and that’s okay!

This is a hard concept for people to grasp, ASD diagnosis or not. Try to educate your child or student about how not everyone can like everyone; it’s just a fact of life and has nothing to do with how likeable or awesome you are.

  • Remind them of all their positive attributes

Discussing this immediately after the break-up poses the risk of not allowing your child or student to feel his feelings and making him feel unheard. Waiting until the hurt subsides helps bring hope.


  • Say negative things about the object of their affection

This is a no-no for several reasons. For one, who knows if they will stay broken up? You do not want to be the person who says horrible things about the significant other if they get back together. Secondly, if you make the other person sound too horrible, it might make your child or student feel like she was stupid for dating that person in the first place. Lastly, it’s important that we teach our children and students to cope without resorting to blaming and name-calling others.

  • Minimize their feelings

Try to avoid being the cheerleader that tells them that life is great and this is not the end of the world— at that moment, life sucks and it feels like the end of the world for them. Don’t minimize that or run the risk of making them feel like they shouldn’t be feeling the emotions they are having, which leads to shame. That’s the last thing we want to do when they’re already feeling hurt and embarrassed.

What have you done to help your child or student cope with a break-up? What have you found is not helpful in helping your child or student cope with romantic rejection?

Dr. Crystal Lee is a licensed psychologist in California who specializes in autism spectrum disorder across the life span. She is also author of the blog Aspie Match: A Dating Advice Column for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder. For more information and psychologically-based advice related to dating with autism, go to

5 Strategies to Help Students Focus in Class

TT3inchBoyWEBDo you work with a wiggly preschooler who can’t sit still during circle time, or a student who stares into space or can’t say on task during seat work? If so, you are not alone! If you have students who have trouble focusing in the classroom or staying on task here are some simple strategies to help.

Use Visual Tools

A schedule will give your students a quick overview of the activities planned for the instructional period or day. An advanced schedule can help your students with time management, help them prepare to have the appropriate learning materials ready, transition, and mentally prepare to focus when they need to. You can create a classroom schedule or provide an individualized written schedule for your student to refer to.schedule

Use checklists to make sure your students understand each step they need to complete in order to finish a task. You can also create simple checklists to prepare for the day; organize the desk, prepare to go home, and so on. You can also make a checklist to make sure they have the right materials at home.

Create a reward chart to encourage on task behavior and increase motivation. For example, using a simple chart, you can add a star after every ten problems your student finishes. This encourages focus and helps you monitor your student’s progress. Your students can work for a small reward or homework pass.

Visual timers are a great self-monitoring device. They can help students stay focused and monitor their time. You can set a timer in smaller increments of five minutes and reward a child for on task behavior, with a sticker on their chart. As students are able to use the timer you can slowly increase the time.

Provide Opportunities for Movement

Moving can help students focus on the task at hand.

  • One way to incorporate movement is have students sit on a large exercise ball or sitting disc.
  • During independent work time let your student move around a designated area of the classroom while writing on a clipboard.  Make sure your student understands that this is a privilege they can participate in only if they remain on task.
  • Provide opportunities for movement breaks: allow your student to run an errand, pass out papers, or erase the blackboard. (Remember you can add these physical activities into the daily schedule.)
  • Allow the student to chew gum or give them an oral motor fidget to release energy and give their mouth something to do besides talk to their neighbors.

Use a Fidget

During your teaching time, provide your student with a tangle toy or Koosh ball to hold and manipulate.  Allow the student to manipulate an object as long as they stay on task.  A small fidget toy that is quiet and provides finger movement can become a concentrated distraction.

Minimize Distractions

Create a quiet place in the classroom for students to go to complete difficult assignments. This can be as simple as a quiet corner or placing a study carrel on a desk. For this option to work, the student must not see it as punitive. Quiet corners should not be used for punishment, but as a tool to help with focus. Remember don’t isolate for long periods of time as this stigmatizes students.  Always allow the student to participate in group work.

Give special attention to where your student is seated. Select a seat location that avoids other distractions. Avoid seating the student by high-traffic areas, a door, window, pencil sharpener, or talkative classmates. Sitting next to the teacher is a tried-and-true method for increasing on-task behavior.

Get Rid of Clutter

Try to remove extra visual stimuli and clutter that might distract your student. Visual clutter can distract and make it difficult to focus. You may want to consider having your student’s desk face a blank wall.

Make sure your student’s desk is organized so that they are ready to work. Consider seating a classroom buddy next to a struggling student to help with this.

What to do When Worries Are a Big Deal for Your Child

By Kari Dunn Buron

When children experience high levels of stress and anxiety, it can lead to a number of unwanted outcomes, including explosive behavior.   High levels of stress and big emotions related to poor social negotiation skills, difficult educational demands, upsetting sensory issues, and general frustration are more common than you might think.  According to the 2013 report by the Center for Disease Control, anxiety is the most frequent of all mental disorders in children.


In my work with children who experience anxiety, I have found that often parents, teachers, and therapists respond to the unwanted behavior without recognizing the need to address the underlying anxiety.  For example, a teacher might respond to a screaming child by saying,  “make a good choice” or “that behavior is not OK” or “use your words”.  These responses assume the child has the skills needed to make that choice or to verbally communicate the overwhelming feeling she is experiencing.

More than any other issue, a loss of emotional control can impact how peers and adults think about a child.  A well meaning adult might view the child as “difficult” and an otherwise caring peer might become fearful of being around him.  These responses can greatly hinder the child’s social and academic success in school.  Lack of understanding and rejection can actually lead to increased stress and result in chronic worry, where the child experiences ongoing low levels of anxiety in environments that require flexible social thinking or problem solving.

It is therefore critical that we help children to learn about and control their emotions, in a safe, direct and yet non-judgmental way.

When My Worries Get Too Big! is a book written to help parents, teachers and therapists support a highly anxious child, using a systematic and cognitive  approach.  The idea is to teach the child what anxiety is; how anxiety feels; what situations typically cause him to feel that way; and what to do about the feeling before it gets too big.

It uses a story format to introduce young children to the idea of worries, and how sometimes worries get so big that it is too hard to control them.  The book then gives the child an opportunity to label and define her own levels of worry.  Finally, the story introduces a systematic relaxation sequence for the child to practice prior to events that might typically cause big emotions.

Kari Dunn Buron has taught students on the autism spectrum for 30+ years and is a founding member of the MN Autism Project. She developed an Autism Spectrum Disorders Certificate program for educators at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN and was inducted into the Illinois State University Education Department Hall of Fame in 2012.  She is the author of numerous books including When My Worries Get too Big.

10 Sensory Toys Kids & Teens with Autism Will Love

Are you looking for a great gift for a child or teen with autism?  The following ten gifts are sure to delight your senses!  We talked to our product specialist and they put together a list of the top 10 highest rated and most requested sensory gifts.  If you are looking for more gift ideas our product specialists are always available to help!  You can call us toll free at 877-249-2393.

Tranquil Turtle or Starfish

We can’t say enough good things about the Tranquil Turtle and Starfish. This is one of our top selling gift items and everyone at National Autism Resources loves it. One of our customers sent in the picture of her son engaged with the turtle. Turn it on in a darkened room and it instantly makes the whole room look like water is rippling across the walls and ceiling. You can turn on soothing wave sounds or gentle music to add to the tranquility. The pictures don’t do this product justice!


Laser Stars

Watch shooting stars and a floating crab nebula from your living room couch! The laser stars turns any room into an amazing night sky. The short video clip below gives you a glimpse of what this constellation projector can do. This a great gift for kids and teens!


Living Sands

We love living sand because unlike play dough it never dries out! This unique tactile activity is great for sensory seekers. You can use tools similar to the kind you would use with play dough. The large size set comes with it’s own play container and five pounds of sand.  This provides more than enough sand for two kids to play with at a time.  A smaller version is also available and includes one and a half pounds of sand.


The Strobotop has been a top seller two years in a row! This highly visual top features a variety of discs that turn into animations when you spin them and shine a strobe light on them. Color your own discs are included so you can make your own animations. Watch the video below to learn more.

untitledMini Volcano Lamp

This economical visual lamp is perfect for your calming area or room. It’s gently lit with LED lights and the rhythmic motion of the lava beads is mesmerizing.

Tangle Relax

The Tangle Relax is our favorite fidget. This quiet fidget toy is covered with textured rubber. It keeps fingers active, is quiet, and is very interesting to touch.  This item can break apart and be reconnected.  You can turn it into two mini fidgets or reassemble it into different color combinations.


Animal Massager

Gentle vibrations are calming and provide nice tactile input. We love that these massagers are animal themed and kid friendly!


Liquid Timer

Turn this timer over and watch colored drops of liquid gently float to the bottom. This simple item makes a great travel toy or a calm down companion to gaze at during stressful moments.


untitledTeachable Touchables

This set features twenty tactile squares that make up ten matching sets. Each 2” x 2” square features an interesting texture and a bright, kid-friendly color. Textures include fabrics such as fur, corduroy, and mesh. A helpful activity guide offers lots of developmental activity suggestions for parents and educators.


Body SoxUntitled

Body Sox create a comfortable cocoon experience for the user. They’re also great for building body awareness and coordination.  They are made of durable, high quality Lycra and feature double stitching. This is a great portable sensory item you can take anywhere for an instant sensory experience.

We hope these ideas have given you some gift inspiration.  If you need more help feel free to call and ask to speak to one of our product specialist.  We are committed to helping you find the perfect holiday gift!

Our 10 Favorite Gifts for Kids and Teens with Autism

Most of the people working at National Autism Resources live with special needs or have a close family member with special challenges. We feel everyone should get a gift they can enjoy at the holidays. As a matter of fact, we are a little fanatical about this. This month we’ve put together a list of our staff’s favorites, to give you some gift inspiration to help make your shopping easy.

Tranquil Starfish & Turtle

The visual effects of the Tranquil Turtle and Starfish are stunning. This amazing toys projects an absolutely mesmerizing underwater light effect onto any ceiling. You have the option to set the lighting effect to move or stay still. Want a darker room? No problem easily adjust the brightness with a slide control.  You also have the option of listening to a tranquil melody or the sound of ocean waves.  It now comes in a cute frog option as well.


Aim your LightPhaser at the spinning Strobotop, adjust the dial, and watch the images come to life! Watch animals, playing children, kaleidoscopic patterns and much more. Swap out Strobodisks or even draw your own! Great for highly visual teens and adults!  To see how it works check out the video here.

Hidden Rules Social Situations Card Game



Social challenges are common for people on the spectrum.  Why not work on developing these skills while having fun?  This simple card game will teach elementary age kids 40 need to know hidden rules that will help them as they interact with their peers.  This is a fun, fast paced, and easy to learn card game.  You can play it at home or during your social skills program.


Flowing Sand Panel

This is one of our top rated gift items, by both family members and teachers. It is so calm and relaxing for highly visual people. People of all ages enjoy looking at it, so it is a socially appropriate gift for teens and adults.

Mini Volcano Lamp

The soothing mini volcano lamp is a calming visual item that makes a great gift, desk top toy, night light or calming item for your quiet area. Fill it with water and watch red balls shoot out of the volcano and fall gently down the sides. It’s a true visual delight!

untitledLightshow DJ

You can adjust this light projection machine to dance to any kind of music.  You can create calm visual patterns to help you relax.  Or you can create stimulating light shows that you can dance to.  It has a variety of settings and four lenses creating all kinds of visual options to choose from.

Hoberman Sphere

Kids love to pull the Hoberman Sphere and watch it expand from 9.5 inches to 30 inches in diameter. Push any hub and watch it contract! This fun toy comes assembled with game ideas and instructions.

Tangle Therapy

This is one of our most popular and durable small fidget toys.  You can twist and bend the Tangle Therapy in a wide variety of directions.  The smooth movement of the interconnected pieces along with the soft rubber cover make it almost impossible to put this small fidget toy down!

Super Spaghetti Ball

The Super Spaghetti Ball gives a sensation of “noodles” dripping through your fingers is probably one of the most tactile toys we’ve tried. These balls stretch forever and are so soft and wiggly they are hard to put down!

Goblet Liquid Timer

Flip this goblet timer over and watch blue liquid slowly drip down. A liquid version of a sand timer, it’s engaging and soothing to watch. It’s great for the desk, calming area or purse with an approximate size of seven inches.

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