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Each year we get asked what presents Beanstalk parents should tell their family members to buy their children (both on the spectrum and otherwise). Each year my answer is the same – but this year we thought we’d make life a lot easier and recommend specific toys that are more likely to increase language and problem solving. This blog is NOT sponsored, we are bringing you unbiased recommendations for your grandchild / niece / nephew / son / daughter’s Christmas this year.

The secret is choosing toys that don’t have an on /off switch, no buttons, no flashing lights, no music (parents rejoice everywhere!). The best presents you can buy for any young child is a toy that you need to play with them.

Books. Books where there are flaps to anticipate and label (cue our perfected expectant look we use in therapy a lot). Touch and feel books are also great and add fun suspense to the story. Books that rhyme and are repetitive.

18 months-3 year olds: Dear Zoo, Goodnight Moon, Hairy McLary, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, First word books, eye spy books. We love ABC by Alison Jay– see how many words you can find on each page starting with that letter!

3-6 year olds: Stuck, Pig the Pug, Harry the dirty dog, The Snail and the Whale, Madeline, Any ‘look inside a (human body / airport / etc)’ type book is great – choose whatever your little one is into.

Toys.

18 months-3 years:

Blocks – that you sit down and play with your child. Build towers, figure out the engineering of making taller / more sturdier towers. Build the anticipation before it falls, see if you can squeeze one more on!

Stacking boxes that are numbered 10-1. Balance them together, say the numbers, hide a number and see if they notice what’s missing. Get down to the number 1 block and make it blast off in the air.

Memory. There are lots of versions of this – see if your child’s favourite movie / book have put out a version (there are Cars, Peppa Pig, princesses, Thomas, Dora, even Hairy McLary versions).

Dominoes. Teach them to match, take turns, then once mastered, turn them over and teach them to subitise using the patterns – an important early math skill.

Train sets. Boys of all ages love this, usually more so than girls in our experience. Ikea and Kmart sell cheap train track sets that fit standard wooden trains. Add on the bridges, tunnels etc.

3-6 year olds:

Lego and building blocks: lego is great for fine motor skills and creativity. Children around this age begin to have a bit more of an imagination and start to show their creativity. Little people or animals to go with this is also a winner.

Dress ups: Again children love to dress up as their favourite characters or the things they look up to. Their ‘Superheros’, favourite movie or book character or even what they want to ben when they grow up.

Playdoh: Playdoh is great as it is a cost effective gift that you can make at home if you don’t want to spend a lot of money. Playdoh is another gift that kids can show their creative side with. There are a lot of different tools you can buy for playdoh to make interesting shapes and objects. The best part about playdoh is that some kitchen appliances can also be used if you don’t want buy those extra bits and pieces. Cookie cutters, rolling pins and plastic knifes and forks are great for this.

Arts and crafts. Drawing and painting allows children to be creative and to put their thoughts onto paper. Its a simple gift but one that always seems to amuse kids. (Maybe just put the paints away when you’re not around to avoid mess!)

Games.

The games we have suggested are directed towards children that are 3 years old and older. This is when children start to interact socially with others and develop muscular control and coordination.

Jigsaws. Jigsaws are great for kids around the 3-6 age category. This is a great present because the range and limit for the difficulty with jigsaws can differ. Find one with their interest – space, dinosaurs, Thomas etc, and it will keep them entertained or something you can sit down and do together. Talk about the pieces that match, what might come next, why that piece doesn’t go there etc.

Floor puzzles are also a great idea for children this age and a little younger. They are great for spacial awareness and allow children to move around to complete the picture instead of sitting in the one spot. 

Large and small balls for kicking, throwing and catching. using different muscles, hand eye coordination, social interactions and are great for encouraging outdoor activities for children. This is also a great present that you and the rest of the family can get involved with. Those sticky mits that balls stick to are good for young children who can’t yet catch but want to be a part of the game.

10 pin bowling. How cool is it to have bowling at your house? You can buy 10 pin bowling to play at home that is another great activity to include the family or to play on your own.

So there you have it. A list of gifts that don’t include flashing lights, sounds or require hundreds of batteries to keep them alive and working. We love the golden oldies that have been around for years and still bring joy to kids and parents.

We hope this made Christmas shopping a little easier.

Merry Christmas from the Beanstalk Family.

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Are you planning your first NDIS meeting and not sure what to expect? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. We have created a list of tips to answer any big questions we are frequently asked to help make your first meeting as easy as possible.

Tip #1 A clear plan helps you have a clear mind.

Its important to go into your first NDIA meeting with a clear plan. We don’t expect you to have everything mapped out but it is useful to know what therapies you will use your funding for and the daily challenges that your child has (convey to them what a ‘bad’ day is like for your child). Its also important to be adamant that ABA therapy is the one for you, or at least high on your list of therapies (especially if behaviour is a huge barrier for your child).

Tip # 2 Tell them what hasn’t worked.

It is important to mention what hasn’t worked. Why? If you mention you have tried Speech or Occupational Therapy prior to starting ABA and that it did not yield the same result as ABA then it will (hopefully) assist with eliminating this hurdle. It will help if the diagnosing Speech Pathologist and Psychologist recommend ABA.

Tip # 3 Have assessments prior to the meeting.

Get an assessment done on your child to convey to the planner the “gaps” in your child’s abilities and why intensive ABA (20 hours per week) is needed.

Tip # 4 The NDIA commissioned report is gold.

Take the NDIA commissioned report with you (attached with you – see highlighted pages 34 and 35) it should help you get the level of funding required for the minimum hours recommended in the report (15-25 hours per week).

Tip # 5 Be prepared.

Have your NDIS portal registration complete before your plan is approved (you must have a MyGOV account prior). That way you won’t have to wait for your child’s plan to be approved to have access to the portal log in, only an acceptance into the scheme.

Tip # 6 The squeaky wheel gets heard!

We are all very aware of the workload that the NDIA is currently experiencing, but you need to keep in contact with them regularly. If you have a planner allocated, email them. If you are pre meeting, phone them. Don’t be afraid to put in a complaint. If at any stage you need help, there are Disability advocates that can help and support you. Also, get in touch with your local MP- They all have a contact within the NDIA to act on your child’s behalf. We have found that this has been very useful in getting replies from the NDIA.

Tip # 7 Make it clear, ABA is the way.

The NDIA will likely want you to try cheaper alternatives to ABA, which have been reviewed by the Association for Science in Autism Treatment website
https://www.asatonline.org/for-parents/learn-more-about-specific-treatments/ Make sure you use this as rebuttal when they try to suggest you try other things over ABA.

Tip # 8 You need to know what ABA can change.

You will need to prove that ABA can help with:

-Increasing functional capacity.

-Increasing emotional regulation.

-Increasing social skills.

-Increasing communication.

-Its cost effective compared to long term effect; Researchers (Jarbrink & Knapp, 2001, and Jacobsen et al, 1998) have assessed the costs of autism over a child’s lifetime. The benefits of doing early intensive behavioural intervention (EIBI) at a young age ranges from a saving of $656,000- $1,082,000 per child over their lifetime. Funding early intervention with young kids with ASD will save the government millions of dollars in the long run.

-Teaching them self-care.

-Beanstalk is value for money compared to other ABA providers.

-Talk about your child’s learning trajectory, and how each goal impacts up this.

-Its effective and beneficial; Prove this by getting started straight away so you have proof that it achieves goals quickly.

Tip # 9 The limit does not exist.

It is not $16k. There is no limit. Don’t let them tell you otherwise. You need to know the research, and cite it in your funding application. Here are some references that prove ABA’s efficacy:

No other treatment has more evidence for autism

Title: Autism spectrum disorder: Evidence-based/evidence-informed good practice for supports provided to preschool children, their families and carers.

Authors: Jacqueline M. A. Roberts & Katrina Williams (2016)

https://www.ndis.gov.au/html/sites/default/files/Early%20Intervention%20for%20Autism%20research%20report.pdf

For further reading (meta-analyses, summaries) on how ABA is the most effective treatment
available, please see the below as a sample of the research available:

Title: Intensive Early Intervention using Behavior Therapy is the Single Most Widely
Accepted Treatment for Autism
Author: Eric V. Larsson (2008), Executive Director, Clinical Studies, Lovaas Institute for
Early Intervention, USA
Summary: A very useful compendium of the research backing ABA

Title: Applied Behavior Analytic Intervention for Autism in Early Childhood – Meta-analysis,
Meta-regression and Dose-response Meta-analysis of Multiple Outcomes
Author: Virues-Ortega (2010), Published in Clinical Psychology Review
Summary: Comprehensive ABA intervention leads to (positive) medium to large effects in
terms of intellectual functioning, language development, acquisition of daily living skills and
social functioning in children with autism.

Title: Autism and ABA – The Gulf Between North America and Europe
Author: Keenan et al (2015), Queen’s University, Belfast, Published in the Review Journal of
Autism and Developmental Disorders
Summary: How European children have been denied ABA, despite its prevalence in the US.
The same can be applied to children of Australia currently.

Title: Using Participant Data to extend the Evidence Base for Intensive Behavioral
Intervention for Children with Autism
Author: Eldevik et al (2010), Published in the American Journal of Intellectual and
Developmental Disabilities
Summary: Great ABA meta-analysis – “More children who underwent behavioural
intervention achieved reliable change in IQ (29.8%) compared with 2.6% and 8.7% for
comparison and control groups, respectively, and reliable change in adaptive behaviour was
achieved for 20.6% versus 5.7% and 5.1%, respectively”.

Title: A Comparison of Intensive Behavior Analytic and Eclectic Treatments for Young
Children with Autism
Author: Howard et al (2005), Published in Research in Developmental Disabilities
Summary: ABA is better than eclectic, even when eclectic methods are used to the same
intensity.

Title: Early Intensive Behavioral Intervention: Outcomes for Children with Autism and their
Parents after two years
Author: Remington et al (2007), Published in American Journal of Mental Retardation
Summary: This report, produced by the charity Research Autism describes how early
intervention using structured teaching based on the principles of ABA led to significant,
positive changes amongst children with autism, including gains in intelligence, language and
daily living skills, as well as motor and social skills.

Good luck from the Beanstalk family.

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