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2016 National Autism Awareness Month

Most people recognize April 1st as a significant day on the calendar because of April Fools’ Day, but within the realm of autism, the first day of April marks something a little bit different. Namely, it’s the first day of National Autism Awareness Month, first given this designation in April of 1970 by the Autism Society.

The goal of this month is to educate the public and build awareness around autism spectrum disorders and the difficulties and challenges that children with an autism spectrum disorder face. The official imagery has since come to be a puzzle piece. The idea behind the puzzle pieces is to represent the complexity of autism spectrum disorders, and also, as every puzzle piece is different in some way, they represent the diversity of every individual affected by autism. Lastly, the bright colors of the ribbon signify hope – hope that through increased awareness, early intervention and appropriate treatments, all people with autism will be able to lead happier, fuller, more complete lives and improve their daily living skills. In addition to the puzzle piece, the official color for National Autism Awareness Month is a bright royal blue.

Here at Partners In Excellence, our goals are directly aligned with those of National Autism Awareness Month, which is why we will be actively participating throughout the month of April. Every Friday of each week will be known as “Fantastic Fridays” in which our children and staff dress accordingly to fun themes like Mismatch Day and Pajama Day.  On Sunday, April 3rd we will be taking part in the Highlight It Up Blue event at Tera Photography in Burnsville, MN. There will be bright blue hair extensions being put in by volunteer professional hair stylists, some great pictures will be taken, and you’ll be given some information that can help you spread the word about autism. If you’re interested in learning more, you can head to the Highlight It Up Blue For Autism Awareness Facebook page, and if you’re interested in attending, you can join the Facebook event here.

Be sure to visit Partners’ Facebook page throughout April to keep up on all of the Autism Awareness happenings at Partners.  We hope you’ll get involved with National Autism Awareness Month, and that you’ll join us on Sunday, April 3rd for Highlight It Up Blue!

Posted in Blog |

What? Playing With Food?!

Many children with Autism have an aversion to certain foods. Food aversions can be caused by or attributed to any of the five senses or a combination of them.  In some children, the aversion is severe while in others it is less noticeable.  One way to help avoid drama at the dinner table, though, is to play with food.

During meal times, playing with food will force your child to become engaged in the task of eating, while allowing him or her to develop new and different ideas regarding food.

Does your daughter have a slight obsession with the movie “Frozen?” Buy a cookie cutter shaped like Olaf the snowman and use it to cut her sandwich with!  Does your son like to color or paint?  Use a sauce he has been having difficulty eating to create something fun while tasting a few bites of it yourself.

If your child can’t stand veggies, try a mini food fight. Maybe your children like Star Wars.  You could create light sabers out of slices of carrots or peppers for them to use for the fight.

If your child does not like fruit, try using different kinds of berries, such as blueberries or strawberries, to create a smiley face on pancakes next time you make them for breakfast.

Try prepping meals together. If your child is a part of the meal prep time, a sense of ownership of the end result and pride at the presentation of it will be instilled.  If you have fun while prepping, your child will most likely have fun while eating what you created together.

Remember to have fun and take a bite here and there so your child knows you like the foods, too, and that they are good foods to eat. Also remember to give praise!  Consistently giving positive reinforcement will help your child continue to master goals as well as add new foods to the list of things to try.

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May LaCrosse Resource Night: Kids Can’t Get along? 

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Echolalia: What Is It and What Can You Do?

Communication   (Photo credit to

Does your child repeat what you or others around them say? Does he/she verbally replay their favorite TV show or movie on a regular basis? Does your child choose to use the voice of someone else to communicate their own thoughts? If yes, your child may be using echolalia to communicate.

In the past echolalia has been thought of as a behavioral tendency rather than a method of communication. Although it may not seem like it, a child using echolalia is likely trying to communicate his/her own thoughts, but cannot seem to find the words within him/herself to communicate effectively, so he/she chooses to use someone else’s, such as a TV show character, sibling, classmate or even you.

Echolalia is a challenging communication method to understand and be patient with, because it can be challenging to keep your cool after you have heard the same request, “do you want to build a snowman?” using the same inflection and squinty eyes of the original speaker Anna, from Frozen, for the 50th time. In reality, your child may be seeking permission to go outside and play in the winter weather. The hard part with echolalia is it is so easy to say, “Why didn’t you just ask me that?” The answer is, your child did, just not using the most preferred or appropriate language.

The next step after tolerance and understanding is helping your child to redevelop their communication strategies and “word bank” to include only their own, genuine words. Start small, only expect 1 to 2 word requests and don’t worry about grammatical content. For example, an acceptable request to go and play outside may be “play outside.” That request has no “please” or fancy wording, but it only consists of your child’s genuine words that they chose to put together to get a message to you… victory!

Grammatical tweaking and manners can be added into this process as you continue to work with your child to expand his/her communication skills. With time, your child may be able to communicate using a string of words correctly and appropriately, such as, “Mom, may I please go play outside?” Keep in mind that every child is different, and his/her progress in this process should not be compared to that of others – allow your child to learn to express him/herself authentically at his/her own pace. Lastly, remember to be his/her biggest cheerleader every step of the way!

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La Crosse March Resource Night

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La Crosse Resource Night: What is AVA & AVB Therapy?

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Getting Messy… An Important Part of Development

How do I wash “mud puddle” out of my kid’s white socks?

Impage provided by:

Getting messy is part of being a child and figuring out how to navigate through life.

Stained clothing, messy hair, ripped jeans, and one shoe missing… If you saw this child, you may think that something awful happened at first glance, but the gigantic smile on his face tells a different story. Most kids love to be messy and a willingness to be messy is a critical part of daily exploration – it is a parent’s job to encourage and enhance natural curiosity within their child, even if it means allowing your child’s favorite t-shirt to be swallowed up by the biggest mud puddle you have ever seen!

Life is messy! So how can we deal with it?

Some kiddos are hands-on learners that are always elbow deep in their learning and play environment, but others prefer a more distant approach to learning. There is nothing wrong with observational learning, but there is truly no substitute for just giving something a try. For example, if your child is interested in play dough, but doesn’t want to touch it and only likes when others play with it… ask yourself why? What about play dough is interesting your child, but also deterring them from playing with it at the same time? Attempt to introduce the play dough slowly at small intervals of time. Start out by allowing your child to watch you play with the play dough – have fun, make it clear that the toy is creating an enjoyable experience for you. Next time you play, place a small amount of play dough in front of your child and just leave it there. Use this second step as an opportunity to see if your child will spontaneously reach for the play dough. If not, don’t be discouraged – just add another step of encouragement! Try lightly pressing the play dough into your child’s hand, watch their response, is it positive or negative? Do they recoil or just stay still – if they stay still we are making progress! The goal is for the child to desire to play with the item they are interested in, in this case the play dough. Continue trying to introduce and encourage the play dough in varied ways until the child starts to be physically involved in the activity – remember, there is no right or wrong way to do this, the only way to fail is to do nothing… so, you reading this blog is already a step towards doing something – small steps matter, don’t discount them.

There are many potential ways to enhance your child’s curiosity – try anything and everything you can to open the world up to your child. Just keep encouraging your child to explore their world and the things that seem to be interesting to them – encourage the concept of “you never know until you try.”

Life is messy, kids can be messy and that is okay. The next time you see your child covered in a gloppy mess, take a deep breath, smile, and make a game out of clean up time, because getting messy doesn’t have to be the only fun part!

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Last Minute Christmas Ideas


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La Crosse Resource Night – November 25, 2014

Posted in Events & Workshops, WI Activity |

LaCrosse Resource Night – October 28, 2014

Sensory Play and Exploration

Are your child’s sensory needs driving you and him/her crazy?! Come join us for a night of information filled fun.

Presented by: Lauren Hutchins, MS, OTR/L

This hands-on presentation will provide participants with a basic understanding of the body’s different senses including the five basic senses as well as the less familiar vestibular and proprioceptive sensory systems. You will have a chance to explore your own sensory preferences and how these might impact your day to day activities. You will learn how to identify these senses in your child and determine if your child is under or oversensitive to each sense.  In addition, you will be exploring and creating a number of sensory-based ideas and activities to take home and use with your child! This presentation will be informative, fun, and interactive!  We will be making some homemade moon sand, learning to make monster bubbles, and exploring other sensory based play ideas.  Get ready to create!

  • Date: October 28, 2014
  • Time: 6:30 – 8:00 pm
  • Location: Partners In Excellence’s La Crosse site- 901 Caledonia Street, La Crosse, WI 54603

Partners Resource Nights are free and open to the public. They are designed to be an opportunity for parents, family members, caregivers, professionals, and community members to come together to learn more about autism and its impact on children and their families. The goal of these evenings is to equip attendees with valuable skills and expand their knowledge of autism and effective therapeutic approaches. Childcare is not provided for these events. If you have any questions or would like more information, please email us at

Posted in Events & Workshops, WI Activity |


Burnsville, MN
14301 Ewing Avenue
Burnsville, MN 55306
: 952-746-5350

Minnetonka, MN
5501 Feltl Road
Minnetonka, MN 55343
: 952-746-0222

North St. Paul, MN
2344 Helen street N
North St. Paul, MN 55109
: 651-773-5988

Winona, MN
910 E. 2nd Street
Winona, MN 55987
: 608-785-4100

LaCrosse, WI
901 Caledonia Street
La Crosse, WI 54603
: 608-785-4100