Autism workshop focuses on tools for children

Jodi Schellenberg
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Autism Services is helping the public understand the disorder that affects many children in the world.

Autism Services put on a presentation about iPad apps on Tuesday morning, giving those gathered an idea of different activities children with autism could try on the tablets.

An autism workshop was held on Tuesday at the Victoria Square conference room. This month the workshop focused on using iPads as a tool for children with autism.

“We are having a workshop on apps for the iPad that might be useful for kids that have autism,” Autism Services consultant Dr. Sharon Mitchell said. “The reason things on the iPad might be helpful is because kids who have autism take in information that they see more easily than what they hear.”

The iPad is a very visual machine, Mitchell said. Since it is an interesting machine, it appeals to a lot of children.

“We spent the first hour and a half going over some basic apps that would probably be good -- some that cost up to $20 and some that are free and then people were having fun playing with them,” Mitchell said.

Autism Services puts on a workshop the first Tuesday of every month, focusing on a different topic each time.

“We base the topics from the questions that we get from teachers and parents so we provide information based on what people are looking for,” Mitchell said. “Kids with autism can be a puzzle to both parents and teachers. That is our job here, to share information on what strategies often will help.”

Usually two workshops per year focus on a basic introduction to autism, explaining what it is, how to recognize it, what the strengths and challenges are and other topics.

“The rest of them focus on a certain aspect like sleep can be a common challenge for parents of kids who have autism so we do a workshop on sleep, why it is a difficult area, strategies that help,” Mitchell said. “The next one in February is on dietary interventions. We are having a pediatrician and specialist on autism and it is really common for kids with autism to have a lot of allergies and food sensitivities and gut complications.”

Mitchell said it is important to educate others about autism because they may not understand the disorder.

“I think a lot of people have an old-fashioned idea about autism,” Mitchell said. “They think of autism as a guy who might sit in a corner and rock and be totally isolated from his world. That is a part of autism for some kids but that is quite the minority.”

Autism is a neurobiological disorder and is based out of the brain, Mitchell said.

“People with autism process information differently -- some of it is sensory information like the way things fell or sound, look, the touch of things,” Mitchell said. “Often kids with autism are over sensitive or under sensitive in those areas. For example, the buzzing of flourescent lights -- the rest of us barely notice the flickering or the slight sound but kids with autism can be hypersensitive and that noise in the background can bother them a lot.”

Little things may irritate them and prey on their minds all the time, she said.

Since autism is a spectrum disorder, there is a wide range in a child’s intellectual ability and in how much a child is affected by the characteristics.

“You can have an extreme intellectual ability and have autism or you can be very bright and still have autism,” Mitchell said.

The workshops help people to better understand these facts about autism and are open to anyone, she said.

“You don’t need to have a child or student diagnosed with autism -- anybody is welcome to come,” Mitchell said.

The workshops are the first Tuesday of every month and start at 9 a.m., usually ending between 11 a.m. and noon. Mitchell said if anyone has questions about the disorder call Autism Services at 306-765-6055.

Organizations: Autism Services

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