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Jennifer LaLuzerne, MSW, LSW
Expert Name: Jennifer LaLuzerne, MSW, LSW
Expert Title: MSW, LSW
Company Name:  Step by Step Academy
Company URL:
Short Bio: Jennifer LaLuzerne has been a Clinic Director at Step By Step Academy, Inc. since May 2011. Before that, she served as Program Manager and social worker, starting in 2008. At Step By Step, she is responsible for supervising Program Managers, their staff, and their caseloads, collaborating in the development and monitoring of treatment plans, behavior plans, and ongoing treatment integrity.

Jennifer has been working with families of children with autism, providing ABA services, since May 1995. She started her career in Wisconsin, at the Wisconsin Early Autism Project in Madison, WI. She has utilized her social work skills to bring families comprehensive services that consider the family as a whole when developing treatment recommendations.

Jennifer has a Bachelor’s Degree in social work from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, her Master’s Degree in social work from The Ohio State University, and she is completing coursework towards her BCBA through the University of North Texas.

Autism and 4 Challenges of the Holiday Season

The holidays are fun, exciting and yet challenging times for everyone. Rushing, shopping, cleaning, and traveling are just a few things most of us seem to try to multi-task during this festive season. It is even more challenging for families with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). How can you do it all? Enjoy your time with family, friends, and at the same time ensure that your child will have a safe, happy and enjoyable time too?

Here are some tips to remember during the holiday season:

Large Gatherings

  • Can you facilitate smaller gatherings?
  • Bring your child’s favorite activities to do on his own or with family and friends.
  • Prepare your child ahead of time. Familiarize your child with photos – help your child remember people he does not see often
  • Make a schedule so he knows what to expect for the day – who are you going to see? What will you do there?

Opening Gifts

  • Teach your child to open gifts if he hasn’t learned how to do that yet. Practice at home, rewrap, and try again. Wrap up favorite toys, treats, anything that is fun to open.
  • Ask your family members to use gift bags if your child has fine motor difficulties.
  • Have favorite toys or snacks on hand for your child while he waits his turn to open presents.
  • Try a new tradition – can everyone open together?

Religious Services

Whether you bring your child to services regularly or if you bring him only for special holidays, this can be a challenging time for families. The expectations to sit quietly for long periods of time can be a recipe for disaster.

  • Visual supports – consider supports such as a visual schedule, a visual timer, communication devices/pictures
  • Reinforcement – bring special quiet things to reward your child for quietly sitting and good waiting. Your child might enjoy coloring, having snacks (if allowed to be brought in), small fidgets, and more.
  • Know your environment – is there a quiet room, other “escape” places to go, other members who can support and help you? Does your religious facility have a special needs ministry?
  • Resources - Attending religious services:
  • Books about religion/faith: William Stillman’s Autism and The God Connection, Kathy Lebosh’s The Child with Autism Learns the Faith.

Dietary Concerns

Is your child on a Gluten-Free, Casein-Free (GFCF) Diet? Does your child only eat square-shaped crackers? Does he prefer certain textures? This is where you will need an extra ounce of more preparation. You know your child’s food preference, so the best bet? Bring it yourself. Although this means more time investment on your part, it will alleviate your worries of having your child eat nothing at your destination. Better yet – pick your child’s favorite special recipe and bring it to share with everyone! Let your family and friends know easy things they might be able to offer that everyone will love, including your child! If you think your child will want food he is not allowed to have, bring his version of it, so he can “fit in.”

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