Category Archives: Autism

The World is “Lighting Up Blue” for World Autism Month

By: Laura Bueche MOT OTR/L

Every April 2, in conjunction with the international autism community, Autism Speaks spreads awareness of autism spectrum disorder with its Light It Up Blue Campaign. Thousands of organizations around the world, such as Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley participate in this event to spread education, resources, and awareness for greater understanding and acceptance of Austism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

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What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism, also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a neurodevelopment disorder. It refers to a wide range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and non-verbal communication. The Term “spectrum”
reflects the wide variation in challenges and strengths possessed by each person with autism.

08_Kai_JudyThere is no known single cause of autism, but increased awareness and early diagnosis/intervention and access to appropriate services/supports lead to significantly improved outcomes.

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued their ADDM autism prevalence report. The report concluded that the prevalence of autism had risen to 1 in every 68 births in the United States – nearly twice as great as the 2004 rate of 1 in 125 – and almost 1 in 54 boys.

Signs and Symptoms

People with ASD often have problems with social, emotional, and communication skills. They might repeat certain behaviors and might not want change in their daily activities. Many people with ASD also have different ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to things. Signs of ASD begin during early childhood and typically last throughout a person’s life.

Children or adults with ASD might:

  • not point at objects to show interest (for example, not point at an airplane flying overhead)
  • not look at objects when another person points at them
  • have trouble relating to others or not have an interest in other people at all
  • avoid eye contact and want to be alone
  • have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
  • prefer not to be held or cuddled, or might cuddle only when they waAutism Diagnostic Clinic 2 - Richard Howent to
  • appear to be unaware when people talk to them, but respond to other sounds
  • be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play, or relate to them
  • repeat or echo words or phrases said to them, or repeat words or phrases in place of normal language
  • have trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions
  • not play “pretend” games (for example, not pretend to feed a doll)
  • repeat actions over and over again
  • have trouble adapting when a routine changes
  • have unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound
  • lose skills they once had (for example, stop saying words they were using)

Meet Some People With Autism






Autism Diagnostic Clinic at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley

Early detection and intervention is the best way to help children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental disabilities gain greater independence.  If you are concerned about your child’s development inquire about our medical diagnostic and autism diagnostic clinics.

Additional Services at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley for Children & Young Adults with Autism Include:

  • Occupational therapy to learn daily life skills and help integrate sensory processing difficulties
  • Physical therapy to improve strength, endurance, and gait
  • Speech therapy to help children with ASD improve speech, articulation, language , and interaction
  • Assistive technology to give children a way to access language through technology devices
  • Social Work services to support families and provide behavior strategies
  • Parent Liaison services also offers parents support and are full of great recourses
  • Case Management services to help coordinate this complex network of caregivers and providers
  • Feeding Clinic and Nutrition Therapy provide families with feeding, digestive, allergy, food sensitivity, GI, and sensory related issues.
  • Easter Seals also offers families a variety of community outreach programs including: social groups, physical fitness groups, feeding groups, and aquatics.

To learn more about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley’s Autism services visit our website.

Why Swimming is a Great Sport for Children and Adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

By: Bridget Hobbs, PT, DPT

Photo by Joann Hartley
Photo by Joann Hartley

With April being Autism Awareness Month, I wanted to shed some light on providing physical fitness to children and adults with autism spectrum disorders.  According to the newest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 68 US children have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.  As an aquatic therapy instructor, I have seen tremendous improvements in physical fitness level, behavior and survival skills in children with autism in the aquatic environment.  Here are some reasons why children and adults with autism thrive in the aquatic setting.

  • Swimming is a life-saving skill. Because children with autism have an increased rate of wandering off, drowning in a near-by lake or pool is a concern.  Swimming incorporates techniques such as floating and treading water so a child would be able to get out of a potential life-threatening situation.
  • Water provides an excellent sensory experience. The resistive and buoyant properties of water make it a very calming environment for children with autism.  Undesired behaviors are often reduced in the aquatic setting and children are more grounded by the water.  Even children that have aversions to textures such as grass and sand will likely feel more at peace in the water.

    Photo by Julie Hermes
    Photo by Julie Hermes
  • Swimming is an excellent aerobic activity. Children with autism are at a higher risk for obesity.  According to a report published in the July-August issue of American Pediatrics, at least one in every three children and adolescents with autism is overweight or obese.  Getting children moving is key, and if they are in an environment they can enjoy, such as the pool, the easier it is to motivate them to get their bodies working.
  • Because many children with autism have difficulty with motor planning and coordination, swimming is a great way for children with autism to work on activities such as: reciprocating both sides of the body, timing of breathing, core and extremity strengthening. These skills transfer well to land-based activities such as throwing, catching and running.
  • Swimming is social! Often times, jumping in the water or swimming the length of the pool can help induce talking in children that are limited verbally.  Kids can also learn a lot from watching each other and can encourage them to try a new skill in the water.

If a more structured swim team would be too much for your child, look into aquatic therapy. The physical and occupational therapy teams at Easter Seals provide aquatic therapy for children with special needs twice a week at local pools.  Please call Easter Seals at 630-620-4433 for more information.


Broder-Fingert S. et al. Acad. Pediatr. 14, 408-414 (2014) PubMed

American Academy of Pediatrics

 For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley please visit

Keeping your Wandering Child Safe

By: Cara Long, Parent Liaison

For years I have worried about my daughter, who is non-verbal and has Down syndrome, wandering from our home – and I know that I am not alone!  A 2011 study conducted by the Interactive Autism Network found that nearly half (or 49% of children with autism) attempted to elope from a safe environment, a rate nearly four times higher than their unaffected siblings.  In addition, wandering is ranked among the most stressful behaviors by parents of children with autism who wander.                                                                                                              Caregiver toolkit

Thankfully, my daughter has always returned safely, but sadly that is not always the case.  According to the National Autism Association, between 2009 through 2011, accidental drowning accounted for 91% of the total U.S. deaths reported in children with autism ages 14 and younger subsequent to wandering.  Two out of three parents of wanderers reported that their missing children had a “close call” with a traffic injury with 32% having a “close call” with drowning.

The Interactive Autism Network study also found that more than 1/3 of children with autism who wander are never or rarely able to communicate their name, address or phone number.   These children should wear/carry some type of ID.  There are a number of great products available — bracelets, anklets, necklaces, shoe or jacket tags, ID cards, clothing labels, permanent ink ID on t-shirts or undergarments are all good options.

ProductSquare-SPORT-v2-gray-blueSome products to consider include:, or  However, in order for an ID to be useful, parents must consider what is best for their child.  Parents must take into consideration the specific needs of their child, including sensory issues.  If the child will remove a bracelet/necklace or anklet, it is obviously not a good choice.   When my daughter wandered away, she left the house without her shoes (which included an ID tag), and her communication device (which also contained personal information). An innovative option is the use of prepared washable tattoos that bear ID information, Tattoos with a Purpose.  In order for an ID to be effective, parents must consider the unique needs of their child when choosing an appropriate ID.

The Autism Wandering Awareness Alerts Response and Education (AWAARE) collaboration, whose mission it is to prevent autism-related wandering incidents and deaths, has some wonderful information and resources for parents.  Their Autism-Wandering Prevention Brochure covers information about securing your home including installing locks, alarms and stop signs (as a visual prompt) on all doors and windows.  It also emphasizes the importance of teaching your child how to swim and even practicing with shoes and clothes on.  Although they are quick to point out that knowing how to swim DOES NOT ENSURE that your child will be safe in the water.  The brochure also provides information and resources on tracking devices, and how to alert and educate your neighbors and first-responders about your child.

AWAARE’s Big Red Safety Toolkit includes toolkits for both care-givers and first responders. bigredsafetyboxlogoonly

Their Caregiver Toolkit includes:

  • Family Wandering Emergency Plan (FWEP)
  • First-responder profile form
  • Swimming Lessons Tool
  • Root-cause Scenario & Strategies Tool
  • Stop Sign Prompts
  • Social Stories
  • Caregiver Log
  • Sample IEP Letter   (Never allow restraint/seclusion practices into any IEP)
  • How to Get Tracking Technology in Your Town
  • General Awareness Letter to share with schools, homeowners’ associations, law enforcement
  • Five Affordable Safety Tools
  • Caregiver Resources One-sheeter

The First Responder Toolkit is something that should be shared with first responders in your area prior to any wandering incident.  It includes basic information on autism, wandering, checklists, resources and tips on how to interact with a missing child with autism once found. It is very important that first responders understand that children with autism have a decreased sense of fear causing them to engage in high-risk behaviors such as seeking water, active road ways, heavy equipment or railroad tracks.  Responders must also be made aware that the missing child may not be able to respond to the rescuer and may, in fact, run and hide from rescue teams.  Every effort should be made to educate all children to “go to” police or other uniformed first-responders.  As children get older, parents should be aware that wandering can also lead to high-risk contacts with law enforcement or members of the general public.

Please take the time to visit the AWAARE website to learn more.  Hopefully, by becoming more educated on this issue and instituting these strategies, you can decrease the risks associated with your child wandering, and maybe even decrease your stress level a little.

Parents can receive a 25% discount at by entering promo code carlon15 at checkout.

 *  The links mentioned in this article are offered by the manufacturer to the consumer.  Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley does not endorse nor support the content of third-party links, benefit from this linkage and is not responsible for the content of a third-party web site.

 For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley please visit