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A Baby’s Ability to Self-Soothe

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Our Readers Ask:

I currently have a 2 month old baby. Although I am a stay at home mother, I tend to the house and also pay the bills, which is time consuming. I love my baby and obviously do not want to leave him alone, or upset him while I am working. For this reason, I am wondering when and how does a baby develop the capacity to soothe himself? Is there anything I can do to help the process? Thanks! 

This is a great question because there is a common misconception that young infants should be encouraged to self-soothe. While the ability to self soothe starts in infancy, over the course of the first few months of life, a baby must first develop a sense of his mother taking care of him, from which he will create an internal model of soothing and care taking. Babies develop the ability to amuse themselves for brief periods of time around 2-4 months, at which time Mother is often surprised to come into her baby’s nursery and find him awake, looking around his crib, and maybe even babbling to himself or making cooing sounds. Later on, from about 4-6 months, this process can also include a developing interest in his feet and hands, reaching for things in and around his crib, and turning himself over. Eventually, a baby’s ability to explore his environment, and entertain himself without his mother in view, is wonderful and rewarding evidence that he has experienced his mothering as “good enough,” and now, he doesn’t need his mother to be there immediately at all times.

However, although the ability to self-soothe may be emerging during the first 6 months, you should neither depend on this, nor try to foster it. Babies as young as yours will not benefit from being left, even temporarily, to “figure it out.” They will become better self-soothers by reliably being soothed by you in this early period. Steadily, over time, as your baby begins to identify himself as a person, separate from you (6 months and beyond), he integrates his experience of being cared for into an ability to do the same thing for himself.
I appreciate how difficult this can be, but try to bring him wherever you go, in his bassinet or on some blankets, or perhaps you could carry him in a sling or pack as you work. Also, talking to him while you work is a great way to connect with your infant. Babies love to hear the sound of Mother’s voice, which they recognize more quickly than they recognize Mother’s face. And, check on him frequently during his “awake” time, smiling and cooing to him–it will pay off in the end!–Dr. S and Dr. G

Spark Winter 2018 Semester

Spark Winter 2018

A total of 11 sessions have been scheduled for the following dates:
January 10
January 17
January 24
January 31
February 7
February 14
February 28
March 7
March 14
March 21
March 28
*Please note: there is no session on February 21st.

Meeting Time
Spark I  (Ages 7-14)-  4:15 – 5 PM
Spark II (Ages 14-20) 5:30 – 6:15 PM

Fee
$1,650 for the semester

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Are you, or any youngsters you know, interested in joining our program? We currently have spots open for both clients and mentors.  Please contact us if you are interested in joining: in the service of personalizing the attention we give each child, Susan P. Sherkow, MD and Jenifer Clark, PhD, our group leaders, meet with every child or teen and his parents who are interested, before they are assigned to a group.

For any further information, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. We would be glad to have the opportunity to discuss this program in more detail with any interested parties.

Susan Sherkow, M.D. and Jenifer Clark, Ph.D.

Spark’s Fall 2017 Semester

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We are excited to announce the dates for our Fall 2017 semester of Spark!

We welcome back all of our returning youngsters, as well as some new faces who will be joining us!

What is Spark?

Spark is a weekly supportive mentoring group that takes place in a structured and supervised group setting at The Sherkow Center. It is designed to help young people diagnosed with ASD or uneven development learn socialization skills, and to learn about their bodies and their minds! Within each Spark group, we pair an ASD child or teen with a similarly aged youngster, who serves as a mentor, social model, and friend. Spark offers an opportunity to learn and hone conversational skills, and ultimately expand creative horizons while reinforcing empathy and engagement. Our programming also prepares our youngsters for events in the practical world, through presenting projects to a group, and practicing sharing and politeness with others. We typically have an art activity, a unique game or sport, and finally a more psychological and socially-oriented “Sparkinator” segment, which covers a range of activities that touch on emotions. Our goal for every “Sparkinator” is to work on relationships and sharing within the group, coping strategies for strange or challenging situations, and how to understand other’s mental states. To achieve this goal we practice social skills such as turn-taking, initiating a conversation, and other social conventions.

The following 12 Wednesdays will make up the Fall 2017 Spark semester:

September 13

September 27

October 4

October 11

October 18

October 25

November 1

November 8

November 15

November 29

December 6

December 13

*Please note: there are no sessions on:

September 20th and November 22nd

 

As a reminder, Spark meets from 4:15-5pm (for ages 7-14) and 5:30-6:15pm (for ages 15+).

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Are you, or any youngsters you know, interested in joining our program? We currently have spots open for both clients and mentors.  Please contact us if you are interested in joining: in the service of personalizing the attention we give each child, Susan P. Sherkow, MD and Jenifer Clark, PhD, our group leaders, meet with every child or teen and his parents who are interested, before they are assigned to a group.

For any further information, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. We would be glad to have the opportunity to discuss this program in more detail with any interested parties.

 

Susan Sherkow, M.D. and Jenifer Clark, Ph.D.

First Yoga Fundraiser: A Success!

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The OM Factory NYC, April 30th, 2016

The Sherkow Center’s Junior Committee, headed by Ms. Carlotta Bettencourt, raised an amazing amount of money this past weekend after their first successful Yoga Fundraiser event, sponsored by Om Factory NYC 

Dr. Sherkow was honored to speak for a few minutes before the event began, about her own work, and the work and mission of The Sherkow Center. 

The class was led by Helene Kerherve, an amazingly talented yoga instructor interested in raising awareness for autism spectrum disorder. As Helene led the class through her “Caring Vinyasa Flow, ” her passion to help others shone. The Sherkow Center couldn’t be more grateful for her attention to our cause!

In all, The Sherkow Center Junior Committee raised more than $2,500!

These funds will go directly towards supplies, and scholarship funds for children in need who receive services from The Sherkow Center.

Most importantly, we are spreading awareness of the challenges and difficulties that children on the autistic spectrum face.

To all the attendees of the event: we cannot thank you enough for your support, and attention and compassion for this widespread disorder. We encourage you to share your experience with family and friends; if our message only reaches a handful of new people, our mission will continue to grow, and we will be able to continue supporting and aiding this unique population of children and adults.

 

Yoga Workshop Fundraiser

On Saturday, April 30th, 2016 at 5pm, come join us on a journey of self-reflection and compassion with the incredibly talented yoga instructor Helene Kehervé at the Om Factory. Read More

Attend our Nov. 19 Workshop!

Nov 19 Child Aggression Workshop Flyer-jpg

When: November 19, 2015 at 7:30PM

Where: The Sherkow Center

What: This is a continuation of our last workshop, and will focus particularly on the demographic of younger children and outbursts of aggression.

Understanding Aggressive Outbursts in
ASD Children

ASD: Sources and Solutions
A Workshop Series for parents, educators, and professionals

We have observed that differences in the brain organization of ASD children appear to affect their ability to recognize, tolerate, and modulate emotions, particularly their fear and anxiety. This often prompts sudden outbursts of aggression. In children this can take the form of temper tantrums, disruptions in the classroom, and overreactions to any kind of transition. Is medication useful?

The focus of this workshop will be to explore how an educator or professional can help!

Speaker: Susan P. Sherkow, MD

To reserve a space kindly email:  rsvp@sherkowcenter.org
Refreshments will be served
All are welcome to attend this series of workshops presented by Dr Sherkow.

The Sherkow Center offers regular workshops for parents, educators & professionals, free of charge, throughout the school year.

Spark’s Apple Season

For the first few weeks of this semester’s Spark group, we have had activities featuring apples in celebration of the fall season, and the apple harvest here in the Northeast.

So far, we have:

We tasted different kinds of apples...
Tasted four different kinds of apples…
Then picked our favorite with popsicle stick ballots!
…then picked our favorite with Popsicle stick ballots!
Dr. Sherkow showed us how to bob for apples!
Made caramel apples with sprinkles, and dipped apple slices in caramel!
Some made caramel apples with sprinkles, and some just dipped apple slices in caramel!

In our physical activity time, we have also practiced walking carefully with apples balanced on our head- not an easy feat for anyone!

Using fresh apples not only provides a healthy snack for our Spark youngsters, but also teaches them about our local produce, and how to enjoy it while participating in a fun group activity.

As the focus of the season shifts to Halloween and the upcoming Holidays, we are hard at work planning more activities that all of our children and teens can enjoy together.

What do you want to see happen at Spark? What was your favorite apple activity? Let us know!

Can Theater Ditch Surprises for Compassion? Yes!

It’s no surprise that ASD children may want to experience the thrill of seeing a live performance. However, the reality of sitting quietly, not moving or talking for more than an hour, can be very difficult for children on the autism spectrum.

The issue of theater etiquette and compassion arose recently after one actor posted, in response to audience members’ complaints about a disruptive child: “When did we as theater people, performers, and audience members become so concerned with our own experience that we lose compassion for others?

Luckily, in this age of immersive theater, Trusty Sidekick has nurtured such compassion, and created a performance specifically for Autistic children! The company’s name is taken from the idea that each cast member is meant to serve as the sidekick to each child—who, in a sense, becomes the hero throughout the journey of the play as it is experienced together. From this alone, it is clear what the company’s priorities are: that each ASD child is free not only to attend a real theater performance, but also to experience it however he or she chooses.

On September 25, The New York Times published a review of Trusty Sidekick’s performance of the production “Up and Away,” describing in detail how the company tailored their production to meet the needs of their very special audience of ASD children.  It is truly refreshing to see how a theater performance can still be “theater,” even while it is guided by strategies and flexibility that takes into account the way an ASD child would likely react to a live theater experience.

In particular, almost every aspect of the production of the play is aimed at easing the transition into “watching a theater performance” for ASD children. We, at the Sherkow Center,  applaud not only their overall intentions, which were evidently very successful, but the ways in which they tailored their production values to be most effective in working with this population.

In particular, these particular elements tailored to the special needs of the ASD audience members:

  1. Before arriving, an online video is sent to each child in the audience, so that he knows what to expect from thetheater and cast. Here, the goal is to gradually diminish the factor of the “unpredictable”– the sense of surprise one has when seeing a live theater performance for the first time.  ASD children have great difficulty experiencing anything “new.” (See our earlier post on the issue of “unpredictability” and anxiety about “surprise” in the ASD population.) While this might seem to go against the ideals of traditional theater, one of Trusty Sidekick’s founders knowingly states, “[ASD children] need to have information ahead of time to feel safe.”  Far from detracting from the experience of live theater, the ASD child comes to the theater prepared to participate in the wonder of the story-telling, a feeling enhanced by having been able to anticipate and process the story when it finally arrives!
  2. The cast themselves assist in transitioning the children from the outside world into the world of theater. As each child arrives at the theater, he is greeted by his own personal cast member who is waiting for them. He or she allows each child to acclimate to the new surroundings of the lobby before casuallycontinuing to a solarium, which is filled with lounging chairs. Then the child is taken to the performance room, where each cast member sits next to his or her child in the fused set/audience space of hot-air balloon replicas. When the performance is finished, each of the cast members then escorts her child back to the lobby with a celebration song, in lieu of a curtain call, and waves goodbye. Not only is this a casual encounter from start to finish, but the close presence of the cast members throughout helps avoid any sudden changes that may trigger anxiety for an ASD children.
  3. The solarium room itself is an innovation that allows the children the flexibility of leaving and reentering the production space during the performance should they feel the need to “take a break.” The personal cast member even follows their child, leaving the rest of the cast in the performance space to adapt, improvise, and continue the story in their absence! No child is forced to sit still the entire hour, and the freedom of each child to move about and experience the performance as he or she wishes is truly unique.

Trusty Sidekick’s methods of providing entertainment for ASD children is groundbreaking. They fully embody the essential compassion, knowledge of ASD children’s psychology, and remarkable thoughtfulness that make it possible for parents to bring new experiences to their ASD children. If you have an interest, we encourage you and your child to experience this for yourself!