Guide to Safe Outdoor Play for Children with Autism

Guide to Safe Outdoor Play for Children with Autism

As a parent, you know how important it is for your child to get active outdoors. But as the parent of a child with autism, you also know that the outdoors can be a dangerous place. From overstimulation to wandering and elopement, the great outdoors comes with concerns that leave parents of autistic children on edge. Instead of letting those worries keep your child indoors, use these resources to get your child outside ‑ safely!

The Benefits of the Outdoors

Time outdoors is good for all children, but it brings especially important benefits for children on the autism spectrum.

  • Outdoor play benefits attention, coordination, mood, and more in kids.
  • Getting outside is also good for sleep, something many children with autism struggle with.
  • The natural world is also full of learning opportunities for children with autism.

Outdoor Safety for Children with Autism

Before your child can enjoy the great outdoors, you need to make it a safe place for play. These resources will help parents keep their children safe outside.

  • Safety starts in the backyard. Create a safe and sensory-friendly place for outdoor play.
  • Additionally, parents should install fencing to prevent wandering and elopement.
  • When playing in the neighborhood, Autism Speaks explains special precautions will keep your child safe.

Fun (and Safe!) Outdoor Activities for Your ASD Child

Once you’ve made it safe, experiment to find outdoor activities that engage your child. These are safe, fun, and sensory-friendly activities that your child is sure to love.

  • Observing wildlife is a great way to connect with nature. Redfin’s guide explains how to view nature in your own backyard.
  • Alternatively, create your own nature area with a DIY fish pond.
  • Always keep water safety in mind.
  • For active play, try outdoor games that improve your child’s social and physical skills.
  • Learn how to manage tantrums and meltdowns.


Getting your child outside safely doesn’t have to be a challenge. While parents of children with autism have extra considerations to make before venturing into the great outdoors, there’s lots you can do to make outside a safe and stimulating place for your child to spend time. Use these ideas to jumpstart your outdoor exploration and watch your child blossom.



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The Parent’s Guide to Executive Functioning Skills

How to model prioritization, self-monitoring, and organization skills for your children with ADHD.

As the parent of a child with ADHD, I am acutely aware of the executive functioning skills your child needs to achieve attention, organization, and timely completion of schoolwork. Yet, over the last week, while trying to balance the multiple details of my three kids’ lives and prepare for the holidays, I’ve realized that my own executive functioning skills are in high demand, too. Without them, I’d be no good at getting my kids to where they need to be, making sure homework is done, or keeping on top of school life. So, what are these skills that we need to better manage our children? And, how can we model them for our kids?

Managing Autism Meltdowns, Tantrums and Aggression

Written by Kim Barloso

Featured on


To an outsider, a child with autism having a meltdown might appear like a child having a temper tantrum, but the circumstances are often more complex than what meets the eye. Those who have cared for a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) will know a meltdown is handled differently and with intimate knowledge of the child’s personality.

What is an autism meltdown?

A meltdown is defined as an intense reaction to sensory overwhelm. When a child with autism is overwhelmed, he/she knows no other way to express it other than with a meltdown. This might involve emotional verbal outbursts such as screaming and crying or physical reactions like kicking, biting or hitting.

Meltdown vs temper tantrum

Although they may look similar, meltdowns are different from temper tantrums. A temper tantrum is usually a child’s method for getting what he/she wants. A meltdown, however, has no purpose and is beyond a child’s control.

To be more specific, a temper tantrum happens when a child is:

  • Frustrated with not getting what he/she wants
  • Not able to do what he/she wants
  • Not able to properly communicate

A child might stop a tantrum after the following responses:

  • Being comforted by a parent or caregiver
  • Being given what he/she wants (although not an ideal strategy)
  • Being ignored and giving up on his/her own

Youngsters who throw temper tantrums are aware and in control of their actions and can adjust the level of their tantrum based on the response they get from a parent or adult. Here we can use behavioral strategies to manage tantrums.

Meltdowns have entirely different causes. Because they are triggered by sensory overload, a child on the spectrum having a meltdown can have a few defining characteristics.

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COVID-19: Does My Child Have a Learning Disability?

Written by Dr. Liz Matheis

Featured on PsychologyToday

Signs to look for as your child’s COVID-19 home school teacher.

Now that you’ve been teaching your child at home, you are most likely very familiar with your child’s learning profile as well as strengths and weaknesses. You know which assignments are going to create a meltdown, a tug of war, procrastination, and which assignments your child will be more than willing to complete and may even do so independently.

Several parents have reached out to me as they are now realizing that their child is struggling academically, and they are uncertain if this is due to a learning disability, ADHD, or anxiety. This leads to the next question: Does my child need a support plan, such as a 504 Accommodation Plan or Individualized Education Plan (IEP)?

I Saw the Signs


  • My child is still struggling to identify letters, lower case, and capital
  • My child is still struggling to recognize, consistently, the sounds that letters make
  • My child is struggling to identify numbers
  • Limited ability to identify rhyming words and sounds
  • Very limited sight word vocabulary
  • My child is avoiding writing tasks
  • My child has a short attention span
  • My child is struggling to sit still long enough to finish work
  • My child is impulsive
  • My child is having difficulty following two-step directions

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Psycho-Educational Evaluations are Now Available

Psycho-Educational Evaluations are Now Available

Now that we have been providing home instruction to our children for over 3 months, we have become familiar with their strengths and weaknesses. Many parents may be noticing that their child is struggling with a particular subject, skill, or is restless, hyperactive, impulsive, and struggles to focus. Many of you may be realizing the impact that anxiety has on your child’s ability to learn. At Psychological & Educational Consulting, we are now available to conduct Psycho-Educational Evaluations that will answer your questions about your child’s learning profile. Your evaluations consist of an IQ test, achievement testing and executive functioning testing. Your completed report will include a diagnosis, if warranted, as well as recommendations for support programs in school such as a 504 Accommodation Plan or Individualized Education Plan (IEP), as well as accommodations for home and school.

Please call (973.400.8371) or email ( so we can review your child’s individual profile. I look forward to working with you and your child!

Dr. Liz Matheis

Psychological & Educational Consulting LLC

513 West Mount Pleasant Ave, Ste 212 Livingston, NJ 07039


Navigating Special Education & Partnering with your Home District


Presented by: Dr. Elizabeth Matheis and Dr. Harold Tarriff

Thursday, June 4, 2020 7-8:30pm FREE!

This session will provide parents with information on the requirements for the provision of special education from both legal and professional perspectives; beginning with a brief overview of legal requirements, followed by prerequisite procedures and, most importantly, the most effective ways for parents to participate meaningfully in this process. As a result of this session, parents will be better prepared to be co-equal partners with the professionals charged with meeting the unique special needs of their children.

Dr. Tarriff has an extensive background as a Special Education Administrator, in both public and private schools. He holds a doctorate in Special Education and is a  Director of Special Services. Dr. Matheis is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Certified School Psychologist who specializes in treating the whole child, adolescent and young adult, which includes home and school, emotionally, socially and behaviorally.

Register in advance for this meeting. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

How to Calm a Child With Autism

Techniques for Avoiding and Managing Meltdowns

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COVID-19 Updates for Families of Students with Disabilities

Late last week, the U.S. Department of Education issued a Questions and Answers document to give guidance on how Districts should be providing services to students with disabilities as the school buildings begin to close.

This past weekend, they issued a Supplemental Fact Sheet wherein they made it clear that Districts may provide special education and related services through distance instruction, whether virtually, online, or telephonically.

The question we have most frequently received since school closure became a possibility is: Does the district still have to follow my child’s IEP? In short, the answer is YES, as long as they are providing educational opportunities to the general student population. Specifically, the DOE stated that “schools must ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, each student with a disability can be provided the special education and related services identified in the student’s IEP developed under IDEA, or a plan developed under Section 504.” However, with the onset of this national emergency, the United States Department of Education has urged that parents and school districts be flexible and collaborative in working within the confines of distance teaching and safety measures to provide disabled students with a free and appropriate public education. Thus, related services that require physical contact may not be feasible at this time, but other services/accommodations such as extensions of time for assignments, videos with accurate captioning or embedded sign language interpreting, accessible reading materials, and many speech or language services through video conferencing, may be able to be provided.

School districts will be required to assess on a case by case basis whether compensatory education services are required when school resumes.

We have had a few IEP meetings via google hangout and conference call within the past week. So far, they have gone more smoothly than anticipated. We are learning ways to make them more efficient (i.e., mute if you are not speaking, in order to eliminate background noise; if it is just an audio call, have speakers identify themselves). Please be patient with Districts as they work out the kinks in this new way of conducting meetings. If you have an IEP meeting coming up, or are due for an annual review meeting, we recommend you reach out to your child’s case manager to inquire how the meeting will be conducted. We have obtained the appropriate technology so that if your IEP team states that they are unable to handle a remote meeting, we can certainly “host” it for them.

Finally, we hope you are all staying safe, and isolated!

If you’d like to schedule a virtual meeting, please contact Melissa (, and she will schedule something for you. You can also call our office (973) (376) (7733).


Manes & Weinberg | Special Needs Lawyers, LLC


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What to Do When Your Child on the Autism Spectrum’s Routine Is Disrupted by the Coronavirus

As we all know, the coronavirus (COVID-19) — the new viral strain in the coronavirus family that affects the lungs and respiratory system — has affected our society, increasing our levels of anxiety and contributing to what some would describe as “chaos.”

Now that social distancing and self-quarantine are very real parts of our world right now, many children will be home for weeks to come without a real end date. If you’re a parent of an autistic child, this upcoming change in your schedule is likely triggering your own anxiety.

Autism is a neurodivergent way of showing up in the world, associated with characteristics like passionate interest in specific topics, difficulty with typical communication methods, sensory sensitivities and using repetitive motions (called stimming) to regulate overwhelming experiences.

The change in the routine due to COVID-19 may upset or throw off your child. It’s a transition and transitions can be difficult and frightening for many kids on the spectrum — and you may be facing resistance from your child. So, how do you, as a parent, help your child with this upcoming change in routine and more time at home?

I have a few ideas on how we are going to get through this, one day at a time:

1. Keep it the same… as it’s becoming different.
In times like these, it’s very easy to change the routines, change your general rules about screen time, bedtime, wake time, snacks or whatever else. I urge you to maintain a similar schedule from day-to-day. Set a wake-up time, a time for lunch (perhaps the same as your child’s school schedule), screen time and bedtime. If you can, try to mimic your child’s school schedule by having periods of time during which certain activities will take place.

It’s very easy for our children to be entertained by an iPad, television or computer, but stick to time limits. Create a visual schedule with times or durations for each activity and follow it throughout the day. Build downtime for you as well as your child so you aren’t overwhelmed either.

With that said, stick to your new or revised routine so that your child can rely on the familiar amidst the unfamiliar. Making a change to your routine takes another element of your child’s life and makes it even rockier. Don’t feel bad and don’t offer too many exceptions to the rules or special treats to make this time easier for your child. That can make this situation confusing and anxiety-provoking.

2. Keep it positive.
As you are staying open to your child’s difficulty with this change in schedule, try to embrace the extra time you have with your child and try to do something fun together. It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed for having to be the parent, the teacher and the therapist right now. Use this time to bake together, play a board game and prepare meals together. If you can, try to make the most of this time that we do have in our homes with our families. It’s truly unusual and there are two ways to make sense of this — either it’s not good or it can be OK (maybe even fun!).

3. Keep anxiety out of the mix.
If your child is sensing your anxiety about the change in routine and about the thoughts you are having about the coronavirus, it’s time to take some deep breaths, incorporate yoga, meditation or walks into your day to help you manage your anxiety.

Turn off the news and avoid discussing the latest numbers of people diagnosed, the shortage of disinfecting products or anything else in front of your children. If your child asks questions, answer just the question and don’t expand. Don’t offer statistics, numbers and don’t share your fears. A little bit of a response to the question may be enough to satisfy your child.

As humans, we are creatures of habit. Many of us thrive on routine and familiarity and dread a change. I am sending all parents everywhere good health vibes, prayers and patience while we figure out our new normal over the next few weeks!

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Click Here for the Original Article

by Dr. Liz Matheis, The Mighty

Designing the Perfect Home Playroom for Children with Autism – A Complete Guide

Children thrive when they play. Playing is an integral part of development and it helps promote the emotional, cognitive, physical and social well-being of kids.

If you have a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), playtime is also incredibly important, but how children on the spectrum play may look a little different.
ASD may affect a child’s ability to copy the actions of others, explore their environment, and imagine the thoughts and feelings of others.

Children with ASD can learn those skills needed to play and ultimately thrive later in life, but it may require some facilitation from parents. One way to encourage healthy play is to create a dedicated playroom or space.

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by Stacey Rubin
"The various psycho-educational testing Dr. Liz conducted on our son gave us critical clues about where his learning strengths and weaknesses lie so that his needs could be better addressed at home and school. Moreover, because of their warm, kindhearted personalities, both Dr. Liz and her associate, Stephanie, formed an immediate bond with my son. He eagerly looks forward to his weekly therapy sessions. We are so lucky Dr. Liz came into our family's lives when she did! For stressed-out families trying to help their children as best they can, she is a calming voice of reason!"
- Julie C.
"Dr. Matheis has a remarkable ability to understand the unique needs of her patients and address them constructively. She builds strong, meaningful relationships with patients and their families, encouraging trust and collaboration. When working with my son who struggles with autism-related anxiety, she created an environment in which he was able to calm down and open up to her in ways I had not seen before. She was able to reach him and helped him work through his crisis/problem. Most importantly, she empowered him to move forward."
- N.L.
"Dr. Matheis is amazing. She has tremendous resources and loads of energy. She is not willing to accept anything less than the most effective results for her clients. She made me feel as if my son was her top priority throughout the entire process. I would, without reservation, give her my highest recommendations.  Thank you, Dr. Matheis!"
- Anonymous
"Dr. Matheis has an amazing ability to read kids and connect with them. She has been an invaluable resource for our family over the past several years and has helped us with everything from educational consulting, to uncovering diagnoses as well as family therapy. Working with Dr. Matheis never feels clinical and most importantly, our children love and trust her. We can not thank you enough Dr. Liz!"
- Anonymous
"My teenage son had been seeing Dr. Matheis through his senior year of high school, as he was only diagnosed with ADHD at 16 years old.  Dr. Matheis came highly recommended from our pediatrician and she has done wonders for our son as well as our family, navigating new ways for him to deal with his diagnosis without the use of medication.  She taught him ways to organize himself and even when something did not work for him, she patiently continued teaching him new ways to keep himself on track.  She has also helped us as parents to understand how his mind works so that we did not continue to blame his lack of focus on him, rather on his unique way of thinking.  Thank you Dr. Matheis!!!!"
- LG
"Dr. Liz is the best! Our family was directed to her by our Pediatrician to assist with figuring out severe mood changes, severe anxiety, strange new fears and food aversion that had come onto one of our children literally overnight. After just a couple of visits, she suggested that the issues may actually be rooted in a physical issue and suggested we immediately take our child to be swabbed for strep, because Dr. Liz suspected PANDAS (a pediatric autoimmune disorder brought on by strep). The same Pediatrician that suggested Dr. Liz would not do the swab (they do not believe in PANDAS and we no longer go there) but I took my child to my doctor who did the swab and it was positive for strep. When our child went on antibiotics, within 24 hours all symptoms went away and our child was back :-) Dr. Liz then recommended a PANDAS specialist who helped us and our child is in complete remission and is happy and healthy. We are incredibly grateful to Dr. Liz for her knowledge of all things, even the most remote and unusual and for helping us so much! Thank you!"
- Anonymous
"The various psycho-educational testing Dr. Liz conducted on our son gave us critical clues about where his learning strengths and weaknesses lie so that his needs could be better addressed at home and school. Moreover, because of their warm, kindhearted personalities, both Dr. Liz and her associate, Stephanie, formed an immediate bond with my son. He eagerly looks forward to his weekly therapy sessions. We are so lucky Dr. Liz came into our family's lives when she did! For stressed-out families trying to help their children as best they can, she is a calming voice of reason!"
- Anonymous
"Thank you, Dr. Liz. Although we have told you countless times, it will never feel enough. You have listened when J could barely speak and continued to listen when he was sad, angry and confused. You've challenged him and directed us in our roles as parents. You've helped J face his fears while the list evolved and changed, and yet you've stayed committed to 'the course.' We pray that your children realize that time away from them is spent helping children learn and that vulnerability is a sign of strength and bravery."
- June I
"My son was admitted to an Ivy League school when only 2 years ago, you assessed him and saw his struggles, his Dyslexia. We are grateful that he no longer has to carry that deep feeling of inadequacy or shame that must have kept him so self conscious and from reaching his potential. He has the PERFECT program for him. He has A's in high math and economics. He became a Merit Scholar, a Boys State legislature, the HEAD captain of the football team and help a job ALL while studying and managing his classes and disability. I am PROUD of you, a young doctor, who knows and sees the vulnerability of children and helps them recognize "it's NO big deal" God bless."
- Anonymous

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513 W Mt Pleasant Ave, Ste 212,
​Livingston, NJ 07039