Recommendations for Child With Possible Autism or ADHD

I have a sweet friend that believes her almost five year old boy may have autism or ADHD. However, she cannot get in for an appointment with a specialist until January. I have ADHD, and was going to reach out to her with some pointers with it. I have some experience with children with Autism, but they are further on the spectrum that what I would believe this kid is (if he is at all). He appears to interact normally socially with other children. Her big concerns are his lack of focus, behavior issues, and possible sensory issues.

I am going to recommend:
Trying to find an outlet for his energy (Taekwondo)
Encouraging his creativity
Providing more routine and structure
Working on basic preschool concepts
More individual time with mom and dad

Are there any curriculum choices (maybe a pre-k or k4 program) that more hands-on, sensory based or appeal to children with focus problems?

The only programs I have experience with are Abeka and the LOTW program (which would not work because she needs something that requires little prep time).

Do you have any other advice on things she could be working on with her son?

Confessions of a Homeschooler K3! COAH K4 is a bit advanced. I also love FREE! ages2-5. All about reading (pre-reading) and math u see primer. Check out Dianne Craft.

I believe you are asking more about recommendations for teaching during the coming months between now and January. However, on a side note, has she brought her child to the regular pediatrician yet? Most, if not all, pediatrician offices screen for Autism spectrums - normally right at the child’s well-check. If she’s worried and can’t get in with a specialist until January, she could talk to the pediatrician. If they do a screening and decide that the mother may be correct, they can usually expedite the appointment with the specialist. Just a thought… good luck.

Hey there! My 7-year old son is on the spectrum and has sensory issues, etc. My first recommendation would be to ask her pediatrician for a referral for an OT (occupational therapy) evaluation. An experienced OT, especially one who specializes in pediatrics, will be able to give your friend an idea about which diagnoses she may want to discuss with the specialist. At this age, my son was not interested in, not ready for, any formal curriculum. It was most important for us to address and develop strategies for other issues first, such as his sensory issues. Once we had worked with the OT, had a game plan, and his sensory and other issues were under control, then we were able to work on more scholastic pursuits. I would just caution her to not get stressed out about starting a pre-k program until her son’s special needs are being treated. I tried to start school too early with Anthony and it was horrible for both of us. I hope this helps!

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She has started with the pediatrician, and I doubt they get her appointment expedited. And, the pediatrician did not recommend an OT. I think that ADHD and a crazy schedule are more likely than autism. They just moved and have a one year old daughter, so there is a lot of chaos going on in this poor child’s life right now.

After talking to her last night, her main concerns are:

  1. He is artistically gifted and has good penmanship without a formal program.
  2. Pooping in his pants and playing with poop
  3. Hyperactive
  4. “Doesn’t play with other children” (We just went to a party, where he played with three other boys the whole time and he plays with my son every time they are together. When I asked her to elaborate on this, she said that he will often times find a toy he is interested in and sit in a corner with it)
  5. Obsession with certain things (mainly toy cars)

I guess, what I am really trying to find for her is some kind of activities she can do with him one on one that will allow her to give him attention. I am not looking for a real structured program, more like hands-on activities that don’t require a lot of parent prep time.

The Montessori method is multisensory, hands-on, and helps to develop self-control, independence, organization, etc. It is a good option for the early school years. Using workboxes also helps the kids to keep focused and organized.

I totally agree with the OT eval and would recommend a speech and language eval as well. Both disciplines will have special ways to help this child and can create a program specifically for him. I’m an SLP and at our clinic we have many parents call us first, then we ask their dr for he referral. I live in Idaho and I’m sure all states are a little different and insurance can be tricky.

Some books I love: the out of sync child and Einstein didn’t use flash cards

For social ideas: social ; Michelje Garcia Winner is at the head of the social thinking movement dealing with high functioning kiddos in the spectrum ; her super flex program is great for boys, I use it daily at work , as well as Let’s make it better program ( basically social stories) I’m thinking some social stories regarding soiling himself. These also don’t have to be fancy , I have seriously in the moment drawn out 6-8 boxes on a paper and used stick figures I labeled bc I’m not an artist and we talk in the moment about what happened, then “make it better” by rewriting it the expected way.

For some ADHD issues, I love the website that corresponds with ADDITUDE magazine; I get emails daily about tips and ideas ( it really helps to know you are not alone )

My son has ADHD mixed, mild Aspergers, sensory issues, ODD, OCD , etc

Homeschooling him has been the greatest thing we have done for him. He was in private school for k-3, last year was our first HS year and I wish I could get back those lost years.

I agree with the Montessori methods of teaching ideas too. We have used sensory bins ( think rice, popcorn kernels, oatmeal ( we are gluten free so this one was expensive) fish rocks, water, etc) pinterest has a lot of ideas. I find which textures he likes best and we use those, but I also begin to introduce the non desired textures to help him grow (shaving cream, slime, etc for him) for his age she could just hide ABC letters, numbers , colors, shapes matching, rhyming words, etc) then he digs them out.

I have posters ( now that he’s older I use maps, etc) at his height throughout the house. I change it up and when inspired to look at them, we learn from them in that moment

I have really learned to follow his lead within my boundaries. All choices are ones I’m fine with, if that makes sense?

This subject is very dear to my heart as my son has struggled so much and I’ve worked with so many families who have struggled too. Wishing your friend all the best. I hope others will share their thought too, I love learning new ways to help my son. I feel like we grow daily ! Take care


I would suggest physcial and visual structure with clear expectations to each assignment and motor/sensory breaks:

  1. Make a visual schedule. This can be the whole day, part of the day, or just a first this task/tasks then break. This allows the student to know how much work he has to do and when his next break is.
  2. I would have a desigated place (a small desk, etc. ) that is where he does his table work. This will help him know what to expect and what is expected of him when he sits in that place. If he has a hard time focusing, put this place against a wall, facing a wall, providing physical structure and minimizing visual distractions (posters, windows, access to toys, etc. ) to help him focus.
  3. Make a varity of sensory buckets. These can be used as breaks in between unpreferred tasks. The more options there are, the less likely he will get saturated (or bored) with them.
  4. Limit breaks. I would not do more than 10-15 minutes of break time between tasks, especially if he is only working for 10 - 15 mintues. And as he learns to sit and work, I would reduce this time.
  5. While working, provide lots of verbal/physical praise (high fives, pats on the back, ‘good job’, perhaps stickers at the end).
  6. Have him work on regulating his own workflow ( I recommend this for ALL students). Put a few tasks he can complete independently on his left. Have him complete each task, and when he is finished, put them in a folder/bucket on the right. You could put some worksheets/dry erase activities, etc. in a binder. He would have to do each page in the binder until finished.

If he has a hard time sitting and completing tasks, I would set him up for success by doing one unpreferred task followed by a preferred task. For example, 'First writing, then playdoh (or whatever he likes). Follow this structure until all his lessons are complete. When he can follow this schedule with minimal behavior issues, then up the unpreferred tasks (First, writing, then math worksheet, then playdoh) etc. Subjects can be broken down into manageable tasks, if he cannot sit and focus appropriately for the entire lesson.

You can read more about my teaching experience on my blog. Hope this helps.

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