Thursday, March 21, 2019

Free Printable WH Question Word Posters

Are you working on teaching your kids about WH question words? These free printable question word posters are a great reference guide for understanding the different WH question words.

WH questions are usually tricky for hyperlexic kids to understand and master. In fact, it's best to teach these concepts directly to them and practice them over and over.

By improving their understanding of WH questions, you'll also be improving their comprehension - another area of difficulty common to to kids with hyperlexia.

These free printable posters about WH question words are a great tool for helping your kids understand the different WH questions and why, when, and how we use them.

Free printable WH question word posters

About these Free Printable WH Question Word Posters

These free printable posters are perfect for hanging in a classroom or for assembling into a reference book for your kids.

Each of the different question words are defined, one per page, so that your child can tell when to use the different WH questions.

This printable is nine pages total and includes nine different posters. There is one poster for each of the following WH question words: what, when, who, why, where, how, which, and whose. The ninth poster is one showing all of the question words.

To get your copy of this printable pack, simply click the link below.


Or subscribe to the Weekly Autism Planner newsletter to gain access to hundreds of printables in the subscriber library!

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The Best Autistic-Led Groups That Will Help You Learn More About Autism

Want to learn more about autism and neurodiversity? Let's learn right from the experts - the autistic adults themselves - with these amazing autistic-led Facebook groups that will help you learn more about autism.

I've done lots of reading about autism and neurodiversity over the years.

I've also done a lot of writing about autism the past few years.

And I can say that I feel fairly knowledgeable about autism and neurodiversity.

Having said that, I am not autistic myself. So I am well aware of the limitations of my autism knowledge simply because I don't know what it's like to be autistic.

But what I do know, is that I'm eager to learn from those who are autistic and I'm willing to listen to them.

The things I have learned simply by reading their experiences and their insights have been truly invaluable to me. I have learned so much from reading their posts over the years. And I want you to gain that same knowledge and insight.

So I'm sharing my favorite autistic-led groups that will actually help you learn more about the autistic experience. If you aren't yet a member of these groups, then I strongly encourage you to join them, but only after you read the detailed information and disclaimer below because, I'm telling you now, these groups won't be for most parents of autistic children.

Autistic-led Facebook groups

The Best Autism Facebook Groups that will Help you Learn More About Autism

Okay first up...that disclaimer. If you are pro-ABA, then these groups are not for you. If you are not willing to listen to actually autistic voices, then these groups are not for you.

However, if you are willing to listen to actually autistic voices, then these groups are absolutely 100% for you. And if you are interested in the neurodiversity paradigm, then these groups are for you.

They're a great place to linger (okay that's what I do) just to read and absorb information. You also must be willing to follow some strict group rules because a couple of these groups have pretty strict guidelines for commenting or posting.

I recommend reading the group's description before requesting to join. You'll learn right away if the group will be a good fit for you or not, but again to recap, these groups are for you if:

  • You believe in the neurodiversity paradigm
  • You are against ABA
  • You are willing to listen and learn from actually autistic people
And obviously, you'll need to have a Facebook account to actually join these groups.

1. Ask Me, I'm Autistic --> Click here to join

I like this group because only autistic people are allowed to comment for the first 24 hours on a new post. So if you want straight up advice from actually autistic people, then this group is the best place to start.

2. Autistic Allies --> Click here to join

This group's focus is to introduce parents to the neurodiversity paradigm. It is not a support group. I always find the most interesting autism articles in this group and it's probably my favorite group out of the bunch.

3. Embracing Autism --> Click here to join

This group is run by my blogging friend, Kaylene, from Autistic Mama and it has a very vocal group of actually autistic members that provide incredible insight into autism. There's lots of lively discussions happening every day in this group.

Want a More Traditional Support Group?

You'll notice I didn't mention my Hyperlexia + Autism Support group above.

Well, that's because I'm not actually autistic and my group runs a bit differently than those above. Mostly because my group focuses more on raising hyperlexic children than educating about autism, but we do have plenty of hyperlexic adult members that chime in from time to time! And I try my best to keep the controversial topics to a minimum.

Interested in joining? Click here to join my Hyperlexia + Autism Support Group

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

What You Need to Know About Your Autistic Child's Stimming

What is stimming? Here's what you need to know about stimming in autism.

Stimming, unfortunately like most things in the autism world, is viewed negatively.

But if you really think about it, we all engage in some kind of specific strategy or activity to regulate our bodies when we're overwhelmed or stressed. It might be twirling hair, tapping a pencil, chewing on a pencil, tapping your feet, or biting your fingernails, for instance.

We've all got something.

"We all have specific strategies to stay well regulated emotionally and physiologically. Many children engage in certain behaviors that given them comfort or help them be more alert...There's nothing inherently wrong with any of these." - Barry M. Prizant, Uniquely Human

However, someone somewhere at somepoint decided that some stims are "less acceptable" than others. People think it's weird to flap your hands or line up toys, but it's really not. You just need to change your mindset and your perspective.

"If I could the world sees autism...that the world would stop punishing us for our joy, stop grabbing flapping hands..." - Julia Bascom, The Obsessive Joy of Autism

What you need to know autism stimming

But What is Stimming Exactly?

Stimming refers to self-stimulating behaviors. It's a repetition of movements, sounds, or words that's common in autistic people.

A stimming behavior is often referred to as a stim.

Common Stims in Autistic Children

Here are some common stims in autistic kids:

  • Hand flapping
  • Rocking back and forth
  • Head banging
  • Waving fingers/hands in front of eyes
  • Spinning objects
  • Snapping fingers
  • Chewing
  • Biting hands and arms
  • Repeating noises, words, or phrases
  • Lining up toys

What You Need to Know About Autistic Stimming

So now that we've covered the basics on stimming, let's dig deeper into what I want you to know about your autistic child's stimming. Here are three things you should know.

1. It's Okay to Let Your Child Stim!

Is your child's stimming behavior damaging property or hurting someone?

If yes, then you might need to discourage it. Or better yet, redirect it to something that isn't hurtful or damaging. Some stims can in fact be dangerous and extreme like head banging, for instance.

However, if the answer to the question above is no, then do not discourage the stim.

Yes, really. Do not stop your child from stimming.


Because stimming helps your child regulate (more on that below). It also makes your child happy. It is how your child communicates their joy.

As mentioned earlier, stimming is defined as self-stimulation, but let's look closer at the word stimulation itself, which can be defined as "the action of arousing interest, enthusiasm, or excitement." So yes, stimming is one way your child communicates their joy.

"Sometimes being autistic means that you get to be incredibly happy. And then you get to flap." - Julia Bascom, The Obsessive Joy of Autism

"I pity anyone who cannot feel the way that flapping your hands just so amplifies everything you feel and thrusts it up into the air." - Julia Bascom, The Obsessive Joy of Autism

"I make funny little sounds. I spin. I rock. I laugh. I am happy." - Julia Bascom, The Obsessive Joy of Autism

The only people bothered by it might be a handful of passersby or gawking onlookers who don't know the first thing about autism or stimming. Who cares what they think! And besides who are they to judge a child for stimming?

All that matters is that your child needs it and loves it. So embrace it.

And most importantly, many autistic adults oppose reducing or eliminating stims. And we really need to listen to what they have to say.

"I pity anyone who cannot feel the way that flapping your hands just so amplifies everything you feel and thrusts it up into the air." - Julia Bascom, The Obsessive Joy of Autism

2. Stimming Helps Your Child Regulate

Stimming is a form of self-regulation and as a result, stims serve to soothe and comfort kids.

It's a way to stimulate the senses.

So it's not surprising that stimming can be used to address sensory processing issues. For example, stimming can provide sensory input when understimulated. It can also be used to block out additional sensory information when overstimulated.

Stimming is also thought to be used to relieve anxiety and other negative emotions.

"We should not view [stimming] merely as behaviors, however. They are most often strategies to cope with dysregulation." - Barry M. Prizant, Uniquely Human

3. Make Sure Others are Respectful of Your Child's Stimming

Your child's stimming brings them joy. It's a sign of being happy.

"Sometimes being autistic means that you get to be incredibly happy. And then you get to flap." - Julia Bascom, The Obsessive Joy of Autism

"I make funny little sounds. I spin. I rock. I laugh. I am happy." - Julia Bascom, The Obsessive Joy of Autism

And by now, I hope you realize that it's okay to encourage your child's stimming.

But, let's face it, you're likely still going to face some adversity and resistance from others around you and your child. Others might be uncomfortable with your child's stimming. They'll be judging you and your child, either silently or quiet loudly.

You need to educate those around you about your child's stimming, especially if those same people are the ones who regularly interact with, play with, and/or help your child. Yes, that includes teachers, aides, and family members.

Be sure to explain stimming to others and why it's important to let your child stim. Provide an explanation so that your child is respected and/or never discouraged (unless, of course, the stim is something dangerous obviously).

You need to help others see the beauty of your child's stimming.

Because, trust me, there's definitely some beauty to be found in stimming, if you're willing to just look and appreciate the reasoning behind it.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

15+ Strategies to Help with Head Banging in Autism

Head banging or hitting is a common self-injurious behavior in autism. Here's how to help with head banging in autism.

A common self-injurious behavior in autism is head banging or head hitting.

And we're not talking about the hair-swirling, mosh pit, rocking out to hardcore music type of head banging.

We're talking about the behavior where kids are purposely slamming their heads against walls or floors or furniture.

The type of head banging that is dangerous. The kind that makes you worry about whether or not your child is causing long-lasting damage to their head and brain.

You ask yourself regularly, What can I do about my head banging child?

First you should try and determine what the reason for the head banging behavior is. Then you can implement one (or all) of these 15+ strategies to help with head banging in autism.

Strategies and tips to help with head banging in autism

Autism & Head Banging: 15+ Strategies to Help

Obviously it's difficult to watch your child engage in self-injurious behavior like head banging, but thankfully, there's lots of things you can do to try and help, especially once you've narrowed down the possible reasons for the head banging. I've grouped them into five broad categories.

Provide sensory alternatives

If you have determined that the root cause of your child's head banging is sensory processing related, then you can try the following strategies.

  • Provide frequent deep pressure to the head
  • Hang upside down or invert the head
  • Do head stands (help your child do this safely and with your help)
  • Engage in some vestibular activities like swinging or rocking in a chair
  • Engage in a proprioceptive sensory activity (e.g., jumping on a trampoline, hopping on a hopper ball, etc.)
  • Have a pillow fight

Safeguard the environment

If your child is banging their head as a way to remove pain or discomfort, then you might need to consider safeguarding the environment. Here are some things you could try:

  • Remove any sharp or dangerous objects from the house where they typically engage in head banging behaviors
  • Add padding or protective strips to areas where they typically bang, especially sharp corners
  • Offer safe alternatives for them to crash their bodies (e.g., a pile of pillows, a crash mat, or bed)
  • Invest in a soft helmet for them to wear
  • Put up visual supports (e.g., a stop sign) where they might normally engage in head banging behavior

Determine patterns

Not sure why your child is banging their head yet? Or are you having trouble pin pointing the why behind the behavior? Here is what you can do to help:

  • Track head banging behaviors so that you can identify triggers
  • Determine what might be the main reason for the head banging behavior

Teach self-regulation or coping strategies

Remember that your child's head banging could be their way of communicating how they are feeling. You might find it helpful to teach them emotional self-regulation and coping skills so that they can find alternative ways to express their emotions.

  • Use social stories to teach about safety skills like why head banging is dangerous
  • Use visual supports to help your child communicate their emotions

Seek outside help

Finally, it's always important to reach out for additional help when needed!

  • Book a doctor's appointment to rule out any medical issues that are causing your child pain or discomfort

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5 Reasons Why Your Autistic Child Might be Head Banging

Head banging in autism and the five reasons why your child might be banging or hitting their head.

Many autistic individuals engage in self-injurious behaviors and head banging seems to be one of the most common.

They might slam their head against a wall. Or the floor. Or some piece of furniture.

They're clearly hurting themselves...

But why?

Why is this self-injurious behavior so common in autism?

Well, here are 5 reasons why your autistic child might be engaging in head banging or head hitting behavior. Understanding the why behind the behavior can help you tailor your approach to handling the behavior - dare I say it? - head on.

Autism and head banging: 5 reasons why it might be happening

Autism & Head Hitting: 5 Reasons Why it Might be Occurring

There are lots of reasons why your child might be hitting or banging their head. And if you pay close attention to what happened prior to the onset of the head banging behavior, then you can usually pinpoint what the cause might be, especially if your child is currently nonverbal or preverbal.

Here are 5 reasons why head banging might be happening:

1. Your Child is Having Sensory Processing Issues

Head banging can also be a sign of sensory processing issues, either from sensory overload or from a sensory deficit.

Your child can get both vestibular and proprioceptive sensory input from banging their head and to them, head banging feels good and helps them self-regulate.

2. Your Child is Attempting to Communicate

You're probably heard the phrase "all behavior is communication" and it's so true. Head banging might be how they choose to express frustration or anxiety, for instance. 

3. Your Child is in Pain

It might seem odd to think that your child's head banging behavior is occurring because they are currently in pain, but banging one's head can serve as a distraction from any pain or discomfort they are experiencing elsewhere in their body. 

The head banging behavior is essentially used to mask pain or discomfort.

4. Your Child is Seeking Attention

Self-injurious behavior like head banging is sure to draw the attention of an adult. A child can quickly learn that banging their head is one quick way to make their parents rush over to intervene.

5. Your Child is Trying to Escape Demands

If you are mid-activity with your child and they start to bang their head, then it might be that the head banging is being used as an escape tool. 

Were they finding the activity too challenging? Too boring? 

Your child may have learned a long time ago that they could avoid or escape activities by doing something disruptive. Head banging gives them one such disruptive behavior to use as an escape.

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Monday, March 18, 2019

Free Printable ASL Sign Language Alphabet Cards & Poster

Want to learn ASL sign language? This free printable ASL sign language alphabet cards and poster is a great starting point for kids (and adults!).

I taught both of my boys sign language as babies and it is something that I'm forever grateful that I did.


Because when J's conversation and language skills weren't quite where they were supposed to be, he could use a combination of spoken words and sign language to express his needs. He could clarify what he meant with a sign if I had trouble understanding what he was saying.

And K was just shy of 6 months old when he first signed "milk."

It was incredible to watch my kids use sign language as babies and young toddlers. I have lots of footage and photographs of them signing when they were younger. J, in particular, loved learning the ASL alphabet, but not shocking considering he is hyperlexic.

I'm not sure if they remember much of the signs from when they were babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, but I, on the other hand, can remember a lot, especially the ASL alphabet.

Just knowing the alphabet alone is huge because it allows me to communicate with someone in sign language (obviously on a very simplistic level) if I need to.

So I have been trying to get the kids re-familiarized with the ASL alphabet using these free printable ASL sign language alphabet cards because you can't go wrong exposing your children to other languages.

Free printable ASL sign language alphabet cards and poster

American Sign Language (ASL) Sign Language Alphabet Cards

A lot of the alphabet signs in American Sign Language are pretty easy to figure out, like C, O, Y, L, and Z, for instance. 

Others, however, aren't as obvious. And many look similar to others (like A, N, M, and T).

But I promise, it's super easy to learn! Especially when you use these cards to learn the signs. 

Download the Free Printable ASL Sign Language Alphabet Cards & Poster

This printable pack is 8 pages and includes one ASL alphabet poster and 28 ASL alphabet cards (including a cover and mini version of the poster). To get your copy of the ASL alphabet poster and cards, simply click the link below.


Or subscribe to the Weekly Autism Planner newsletter to gain access to hundreds of printables in the subscriber library!

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Saturday, March 16, 2019

5 Calm Down Breathing Techniques for Kids

How to teach deep breathing to kids using these 5 awesome calm down breathing techniques.

One skill that we have been working on teaching to both of my boys is calm down breathing, specifically fun ways to practice deep breathing.

It's easy to turn to your child and remind them to take some deep breaths while a meltdown is imminent, but most kids do quick, shallow breaths. Unfortunately, shallow breaths don't do much to regulate our bodies.

Instead, we need to take long, deep breaths from the bottom of our bellies to really calm our bodies down.

Long, mindful breaths.

So...I've been getting creative in the ways in which I teach my kids to take deep breaths lately.

And honestly? I like having a wide variety of tools at my disposal because some days one technique will work perfectly and the next day, it will fall completely flat. And some techniques work better for one kid than the other.

Parenting is all about trial and error it seems. Right?

Well, here are just 5 of the simple calm down breathing exercises for kids that we have been doing at our house. These deep breathing exercises will help your kids regulate their bodies when they're feeling overwhelmed.

5 calm down breathing techniques for kids

Calm Down Breathing Technique #1: Rainbow Breathing

This breathing technique is all about stretching up and out as you paint the colors of the rainbow across the sky. Here's how to do rainbow breathing:

  1. Breathe in as you slowly raise both arms straight up above your shoulders.
  2. Hold your breath and arms up for 3-5 seconds.
  3. Breathe out as you slowly lower your arms until they are level with your shoulders.

Calm Down Breathing Technique #2: Elevator Breathing

Imagine you are in the lobby of a building and you spot an elevator. You're going to get into the elevator and ride it all the way up to the top floor and then ride it all the way back down. Here's how to do elevator breathing:

  1. Sit tall in a chair or sit cross-legged on the floor and place one hand, with palm facing down, on your lap.
  2. Stack your other hand, with palm facing down, on top of your other hand. 
  3. While breathing in slowly, raise your top hand up to your chin as if it is an elevator. 
  4. Hold your breath and your hand, imagining people exiting the elevator, for 3-5 seconds. 
  5. Breathe out as you slowly lower your hand back to its original starting position.

Calm Down Breathing Technique #3: Take Five Breathing

Count to five because everything's going to be all right! Here's how to do take five breathing:

  1. Make a fist. 
  2. Breathe in and out. 
  3. Stick out your thumb. 
  4. Breathe in and out. 
  5. Stick out your index finger. 
  6. Breathe in and out. 
  7. Stick out your middle finger. 
  8. Breathe in and out. 
  9. Stick out your ring finger. 
  10. Breathe in and out. 
  11. Stick out your pinky finger. 

Calm Down Breathing Technique #4: Snake Breathing

My son's favorite animal is a snake so get ready to hiss like a snake because it feels so good to let it all out. Here's how to do snake breathing:

  1. Breathe in.
  2. Hold for 3-5 seconds.
  3. Make a hissing sound as you breathe out.

Calm Down Breathing Technique #5: Square Breathing

It's hip to be square, but it's even more hip to be calm and relaxed. Here's how to do square breathing:

  1. Use your index finger to quickly draw a square in the air while breathing in slowly.
  2. Draw the same square again while breathing out slowly.

Need More Calm Down Breathing Ideas? Try These!

The five breathing techniques that you just read about, along with 20 other ideas, can be found in the ebook 25 Calm Down Breathing Exercises for Kids.

Or you can grab a copy of the printable Calm Down Breathing Cards to have them handy for on the go, at home, or at school.

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