Technology has contributed to improvements in the quality of human life since as early as we can remember. From primitive rock tools used to dig plants from the ground to metal arrows used for hunting, not to mention running water and the iPhone.
Humans are innovators, and we are constantly looking for ways to create a better future for us all. The question then is why not use the same approach to improve autism treatment and care for the whole family at every step of the way?
This is a question Suchi Deshpande, parent of a child with autism and our VP of Product, and the team at Opya are dedicated to answering. Our mission is to link autism treatment and care with technology, supporting the whole family while improving their lives. And data shows that our technology is helping to achieve greater successes for everyone.
So why are we doing this? We sat down with Suchi to hear about her journey as a parent of a child on the autism spectrum and learned about the amazing technology she is helping to build at Opya.
As a working parent, Suchi found that juggling her responsibilities for a family of four became difficult when her child was diagnosed with autism. The diagnosis meant that she would have to dedicate so much more time to one child, making her feel guilty.
Suchi had so many questions that were often left unanswered by doctors, clinicians, and the internet at large. The information available was difficult to understand and this made helping her child way more difficult than it needed to be, causing anxiety and extreme frustration. Additionally, the limitations of the high-touch and low-tech autism treatments caused exceedingly challenging time management constraints, leaving her with little time for anything—including her career.
Stories like this are probably very familiar to you because so many parents with children on the autism spectrum have experiences exactly like this. This is normal and autism treatment and care need to become better for everyone.
We now know that autism treatment and care need to better support the whole family and become more friendly, more approachable and more human—yes, human. This knowledge and newfound understanding sparked the idea to develop family-friendly technology that improves the quality of autism treatment and care for the whole family.
Today, our technology at Opya is designed to improve overall clinical operations and this helps our clients and clinicians to achieve greater successes in treatment and their lives. Our technology significantly improves the response rate of our clinics, which in turn improves the overall quality of the autism treatment we provide.
Our goals for 2019 include making our technology available to parents, helping to improve communications, increasing the transparency of information, and further improving the quality of autism treatment and care for the whole family—saving time and money while reducing stress.
The Opya Parents App for iOS and Android, which will be released towards the end of February 2019, asynchronously connects parents with Opya’s scheduling team, empowering them to manage their child’s treatment schedule anywhere, at any time, from any device.
With Opya and our technology, your focus can now be on your family and not treatment, giving you more time to do the things that you love together. Feel free to reach out to email@example.com if you’d like to participate in our early-technology-adopter program.
At Opya, we are dedicated to providing uplifting autism treatment and care that improves the quality of life for children diagnosed on the autism spectrum and their families. We have a personal understanding of your family’s needs and provide technology-supported autism treatment and care for the whole family.
Explore opyacare.com to learn more about our super-powered technology-supported autism treatment and how we can care for your whole family. Then, when you’re ready, feel free to reach out to us for more information about a free pre-screen test. Opya, your path to amazing!
For many of us, the holidays are a time to look forward to all year long. What’s not to like? Cheerful music, holiday office parties, limited edition seasonal drinks at Starbucks? Yes, please! But for children on the Autism Spectrum, the holidays may not be quite as happy a time. With this exciting season, children who are already working diligently to manage the challenges of their day to day lives may suddenly be faced with changing school schedules, frequent over-stimulation, exposure to larger groups of family and friends, and more. While many children with ASD enjoy a number of aspects of the holiday season, a bit of initial preparation and front-loading of the changes to come, both preferred and non-preferred, is probably a good idea.
So where can you start?
Prioritize and Identify major adjustments or situations: As a parent already managing what is most likely a busy family life, getting a sense of any and all changes coming up for your child over the holiday season may seem daunting. By prioritizing the identification of major adjustments or situations that may become triggers for your child in one centralized place, you may be helping to set the tone for a more relaxing holiday season. One effective way to start is by getting a blank calendar of the next few months for your child and marking significant changes to their schedule (school holidays, parties, vacations including the location and method of travel, evenings they may have a babysitter, etc.). By doing this, you can involve your child in this process by letting them pick the colors or decoration to use to indicate factors such as days off or visits with family members in a way that makes it visually accessible to them.
If this project sparks certain concerns for your child, work with them to try to identify what may be causing their anxiety and to prepare them for the situation as best possible. One example may lie in looking at the date of an upcoming holiday party with their extended relatives. If such a situation has caused challenges for your child in the past, discuss what may cause them discomfort and look for opportunities to offer them coping tools to use in the moment. If they don’t like the loud holiday music, consider offering them the use of headphones when the music is playing. If they struggle to play the games their cousins like to play, point out some limited choices of games they could play for a certain period of time instead. From there, make suggestions of preferred activities they can engage in during intervals that will increase their comfort levels. For example, after playing Uno or Jenga for 10 minutes with the cousins, it would be fine for them to spend 10 minutes working with their Legos. It also might be a good idea to set some Legos aside now that they would be willing to share if others want to play too!
Set realistic goals your child: During less predictable events such as family parties, it can be helpful to set realistic goals with your child and help them visualize how they can meet them. If in the past your child stayed isolated in his room throughout the party, but you think he may have more social skills to utilize this year, you may want to work with him to see if he will agree to spend 30 minutes (or any period of time you can both agree is reasonable) greeting his relatives and showing them around. Remember that in setting that sort of goal, it is also helpful to identify which positive reinforcement he can expect afterward, such as some downtime in his room.
With younger children, consider making these goals or agreements more visually oriented. Feel free to ask for help from your Opya team if you like! Creating and posting a visual schedule that shows the activities and goals you’ve discussed (as well as the reinforcers to be received) should help keep your child on track and make these upcoming holiday events more predictable and enjoyable for you both.
For further suggestions or support in preparing for the upcoming holidays, please bring your thoughts and concerns to your Opya Intervention Specialist. We will be happy to offer customized suggestions and materials for you and your child. Happy holidays!
Originally published by Christina McMarrow, former Director of Parent Education (MFT), on Dec 6, 2016 for Opya.
Is getting your child to eat a new food a stressful experience? Do you find yourself cooking 4 different meals for the family dinner? Have you given up on trying to get your child to eat fruits and vegetables? These are common experiences for parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).. Picky Eating, or Problem Eating is much more common in children with ASD. We spoke to Judy, Feeding Therapist at Opya, to help us, as parents, understand why a child self-limits their diet and what we can do to help them and ourselves.
“Why is making my kids eat different foods such a chore?”
Eating is a multi-sensory experience. Each mouthful brings the possibility of a variety of flavors, textures and temperatures. They include:
A child/adult on the spectrum may have an aversion to one or many attributes listed above, depending on their sensory profile.
“What do kids with ASD experience?”
Food choices are based on individual children’s sensory experiences. Many children who are picky or problem eaters may have Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). A child maybe hypersensitive, hyposensitivity, or a mixture of both.
A child with hypersensitivity, has heightened sensitivity to flavors, textures, temperatures, and smells, or hyposensitivity, may seek out strong flavors and hard textures to make up for experiences they are missing.
The smell and/or texture of a food may elicit the same noxious sensory response as being stuck in a room with skunk stench. “GET OUT OF HERE!” is the message the body will send.
It can be difficult for parents to understand their child’s preferences when they themselves do not share the same sensory experience. The symptoms in some children with ASD can be further exacerbated by their strong preference for routine.. This preference for sameness can show up at meal time as well. For example, wanting chicken nuggets only from McDonald’s on a specific plate.
“What is considered typical picky eating and when is a child a problem eater?
While it is common for toddlers and kids of all ages to be picky or fussy about foods …
… a typical picky eater tends to exhibit different behaviors and often outgrow these tendencies. This is often not the case in kids who are “problem eaters.”
A typical child may exhibit some or all of the symptoms below:
A child with problem eating may exhibit some or most of the behaviors below:
“My child is already has a busy schedule, I don’t see this as a priority!”
Parents may get dissuaded from thinking that feeding is an issue because the pediatrician’s growth chart shows the kid(s) growing normally. However the reality is that kids can grow quite well on diets that are not nutritionally balanced, eg. a carb-only diet. Additionally, communication difficulties, meltdowns and lack of time makes any eating issues seem trivial and hard to prioritize.
Having a family add one more commitment of weekly Feeding Therapy can feel daunting. Research has shown that for the vast majority of children problem eating presents itself when they are toddlers and they do not “outgrow it”. Early intervention for feeding is the key to having the best outcome, just as in the case of other therapy types (speech, behavior, & OT).
Additionally, research has proven that a nutritionally balanced diet is essential to thrive and has several benefits.
Kids with ASD are 2x likely to be overweight, 5x likely to be obese, and 2x likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.
“What can I do to get a head-start?”
Parents and professionals working with children are responsible for preparing and providing a well balanced meal at an appropriate schedule and setting. The child is solely responsible for whether they eat and how much they eat.
Before each meal
During each meal
PRAISE, PRAISE, PRAISE any participation in food-related experiences.
“How can I take action?”
As a parent you can intervene by:
Think long term, small steps today can make a huge difference! See a doctor or a professional before starting any new meal plan.
If you’re in the area, please contact Opya for any questions regarding our feeding services.
Judy is a licensed Speech Language Pathologist and the Director of Speech & Occupational Therapy at Opya. Judy brings 25+ years of experience in her field. Her level of expertise extends from pediatrics to neurologically impaired adults. She also served as a therapist and manager in the Department of Rehabilitation at Stanford Hospital for many years. Judy was the founding president of the Special Education PTA of Redwood Citv (SEPTAR). Her experience as the parent of an adult child with ASD provides her with a unique and beneficial perspective. She holds her Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) from the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) and is licensed by the state of California.
According to a University of Wisconsin study, parents of children with autism have stress levels comparable to combat veterans.
Between the hours of therapy appointments, unpredictable behaviors, demanding jobs, and uncertain future the stress compounds and takes a mental toll. Most parents focus on the child’s well being at the expense of their own. Sound familiar? Then this blog is for you!
Note: The following blog is intended for parents who have kids with an active IEP and third-party services such as ABA, speech, OT, etc. outside of school hours.
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, in 2016, 13% of kids between the ages of 3-21 years have an Individualized Educational Program, a.k.a. an IEP. This require a school district to provide a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) to each qualified student with a disability who is in the school district’s jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the student’s disability.
An IEP process starts with an evaluation of the child’s current performance at school by a team of experts. The purpose of the evaluation is for the IEP team to understand the strengths and areas where the student would benefit from additional support. The IEP team & parents then come up with an agreed upon list of goals and objectives, along with services, accommodations, and assistance, to help them thrive in a classroom setting.
In order to help us understand this better, we spoke to an Opya parent, Lisa, who shares some tips from her experience. Lisa’s child was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), over 2 years ago. Like every parent, she felt anxious about the process. However, she has come a long way with the support from the school and is grateful for her son’s progress.
Lisa found that prepping before IEP meetings led to more productive conversations and showed the school that she was invested in the process.
Here are some helpful tips that you can do to be prepared and assured that you have a great long-term relationship with the school and the IEP team.
Before the meeting
During the meeting: After you have prepared yourself, the material and have your Binder. You’re ready for the meeting.
After the meeting
The amount of work and effort that goes into the IEP is without a doubt a shadow a mountain of work. However over time it does get easier and a little bit of time investment will not only help the child, but it also makes parents more confident, in control, and less stressed in the long run. Like Lisa, we believe that anyone can advocate for their children, even working parents, since they know their child the best.
About our Opya Contributor:
Lisa is a client (parent) at Opya. Besides being a mom, she is currently working on her Masters in Nursing (Leadership & Management) and works for Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital where she works as a nurse. She has been an advocate for patients going on 14 years and is now putting those skills to use in treatment and educational environments, including IEP meetings. She is also the President of the PTA at her child’s school.
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