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What parents of kids with autism want you to know

Autism Speaks tells Motherly how to help autistic kids and families deal with challenges on planes, in stores and more

What parents of kids with autism want you to know

The news that a 15-year-old nonverbal girl with autism and her family were removed from a United Airlines flight from Houston to Portland this week frustrated many family members, their advocates and allies. For its part, the airline told KOIN 6 News that it made the decision to divert the flight to Salt Lake City, "after the situation became disruptive."


One in 68 American children today has autism, making awareness and acceptance of the sensory processing disorder crucial for the public, advocates say. Motherly reached out to Autism Speaks, an advocacy organization, which shared tips and insights from parents and experts on how to best help a family in the midst of a autism-related challenge.

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Here's what autism advocates want you to know:

1. That parents know best

"Do ask the family whether there’s something you can do to help,"explains Autism Speaks, but "be prepared for 'no.' It may be that they want to minimize attention to the situation to avoid worsening the meltdown." And that unsolicited parenting advice? No thanks, says one mama.

2. That people with autism may feel overwhelmed and need the space to calm down

As someone standing by, you can help by making the space as peaceful as possible, Autism Speaks recommends. "Scan the area around the child for sights and sounds that may have contributed to the meltdown. Many individuals affected by autism are easily overwhelmed by sensory input. Is there an alarm that can be silenced? A flashing display that can be temporarily turned off?"

3. Parents just need your patience

"How long the meltdown lasts can vary widely," the advocacy organization explains. "Neither you nor the family will have ultimate control of when it ends. Keeping calm and helping others keep calm is the best support."

4. That it's possible to have better training, awareness and acceptance

Not only can families and children prepare for the experience of air travel, but corporations can also help develop programs to make life easier for the millions of Americans on the spectrum. You can read about one such program JetBlue developed here.

5. That the rate of autism is increasing, and so is the need for awareness and support

6. That kids with autism and their parents are people, too!

Nobody is perfect. But keep reaching out, asking questions and engaging with your friends and families who love someone with autism.

In This Article

    These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

    I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

    I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

    My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

    The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

    Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

    1. Go apple picking.

    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

    To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

    2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

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    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

    3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

    Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

    4. Have a touch-football game.

    Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

    5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

    Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

    This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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