Transitioning Into the New Year: Tips and Strategies to Help Students with Autism and LD Accomplish Goals in 2016
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Transitioning Into the New Year: Tips and Strategies to Help Students with Autism and LD Accomplish Goals in 2016

New Year's Resolutions

There is often a sense of excitement when something new begins with the coming of the new year, whether that be a job, a relationship, or an academic semester. It is important to take advantage of this excitement to harness new motivation, because, for many, this is a limited window of opportunity.

Here at CIP, our students are focusing on strengthening their progress toward independence and developing their individual successes. This term, they are:

  • working with their advisors to increase their knowledge and independence in banking and budgeting practices
  • working with their therapists on increasing their awareness and ownership of overall actions and well-being.
  • enhancing their problem-solving skills and building a forethought for consequences and self-guided actions that benefit their health, social well-being, and overall success.
  • developing stronger self-advocacy.
  • working on making sure their PCPs are updated monthly, so that their advisors can continue to communicate effectively with their parents in a timely manner.

It’s not just the students at CIP who can benefit from making changes in the new year. Let’s all start off 2016 on the right foot and focus on making healthy new changes to our daily, weekly, and monthly routines. Here are a few other tips, tricks, and resources to help us all make positive changes in 2016!

Four New Year’s Resolutions for Saving Money:

By Natalie Dean, Head Student Advisor, CIP Berkeley

The new year is a great time to start fresh and create some budget friendly goals that will help you make changes in your spending that you can live with from month to month.

  1. Track Day-to-Day Spending: The only way you will be able to start setting sensible financial goals is to look at your current expenses and find out where your money is going. You can use a simple spending log and include everything you purchase – whether with cash, debit card, check or credit card. It is the small day-to-day purchases that add up the most!
  2. Create a Monthly Budget: After you have figured out where your money is going on a day-to-day basis, you will then be able to develop a monthly budget. It is important to create a monthly budget because it will help you balance your expenses with your income, and it will ensure that you have enough money to pay rent, bills, and other necessities. You can use a simple website like Mint to keep track of your accounts.
  3. Be Careful with Your Charge Cards: It can be very tempting to charge items to your credit card(s) because many credit cards offer great sign up bonuses and discounts, but be cautious when doing so. Many people can fall into the bad habit of “I will charge it today and pay it back later”. This can be a very dangerous habit to develop because if you do not pay your bills in full and on time, you run the risk of just paying the interest rates alone and not touching the full balance. A good tip to keep in mind is: if you can’t pay for it at the end of the billing cycle, then it does not get charged to your card. You will thank yourself in the end!
  4. Learning to Live Well and Spend Less: Try not to get too distracted by social media or billboards that advertise those luxurious products you just have to have otherwise you will live a “miserable” life without them. As tempting as it might be to have the latest new iPhone or those hot new shoes, ask yourself “will all this stuff really make me happy in the end?” Chances are — No! Believe it or not, the best things in life are free. Take the challenge and learn how to live well, be happy, and spend less!
Inspired by the book: “Living Well, Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life” by Ruth Soukup.

Creating Healthy Routines for Your Body

Eat Breakfast

When we skip our first meal of the day, our body has no fuel to draw on, including energy to get our metabolism started. We also tend to get hungry later in the evening, which means snacking right before bed.

To ensure the day begins on a good note, stock the fridge with breakfast foods that are easy to prepare, like whole-grain toast and peanut butter, yogurt, fruit, hard-boiled eggs, oatmeal, and low-sugar granola. If cold cereal is your breakfast of choice, try adding fresh berries to the mix.

Engage in Low- to Moderate-Intensity Physical Activity Everyday

This is much simpler than it sounds. Walk to a friend’s house. Bike through town. Take a ten-minute stretch break while studying.

Roommate not home? Put on some music and dance in the living room. Roommate home? Invite him or her to join you. Find a way to get the body moving at least 30-minutes a day.

IMG_0186Go Outside

The attraction of television, phones, and computer games, and the intimidation of winter and other uncomfortable weather, makes staying inside an easy choice.

Give yourself reasons to get up and out, like offering to walk a friend to school or walking to a cafe or library to study. Your mood, immune system, and vitamin D receptors will be very grateful, but don’t forget to bundle up if you live somewhere cold!

Speak Up (and Let Go)

A tremendous amount of energy goes into keeping our feelings hidden and unexpressed. It is also an impossible task: our feelings will eventually rise to the surface, the resulting communication often unclear and resentful. Don’t hold on to something when it bothers you – express yourself clearly and kindly, and all the pressure bubbling up inside of you will slowly be released.

FoodEat Different Foods

Our nutritional well-being is not thrown off by eating unhealthy food. It is thrown off by eating unhealthy food all the time. Our body responds best to variety – different types of foods provide different types of nutrients. We need a well-rounded diet to feel energized and balanced.

If you find yourself cooking similar meals with similar ingredients, step out of your comfort zone and try to master a new recipe. A helpful tip: buy your fruits and vegetables from local sources. This way, the produce you buy will change with the seasons.

Not only will your food taste great, but you will also have a natural change of menu throughout the year.

Surround Yourself with Good People

Choosing the right friends is one of the best things we can do for ourselves. Surround yourself with people who inspire you to be yourself. Notice if you are around people who are asking you to be someone you are not. Are your relationships balanced? Do you receive appreciation and affection as much as you give it? Let your friends be an important gift you give to yourself.

Be Happy

Above all, make sure you are happy. Everything on this resolution list should contribute to that. Laugh often. Be passionate and courageous. Life is very much a trial-and-error process. Through this process, find out what is most important to you, then go out and do it.

Bettering our Executive Function Abilities

From Autism & Learning Differences: An Active Learning Teaching Toolkit
Written by Dr. Michael McManmon, EdD
Published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers

cip-executive-function-iconExecutive Function describes a set of cognitive abilities that control and regulate behavior. Executive Function ability is necessary for goal-directed behavior and includes being able to initiate and stop actions, to monitor and change behaviors as needed, and to plan future behaviors when faced with novel tasks and situations.

Executive Function allows you to anticipate outcomes and adapt to changing situations. As you start a new semester, managing your space and keeping track of time are two skills you need to master in order to succeed in school and live independently.

My filing system is all messed up!

From your brain’s point of view, life is a staggering blast of completely disorganized stuff. Impressions, feelings, images, smells, etc., are being fire-hosed into your brain through your eyes, ears, nose, and skin every waking hour. It’s confusing, never-ending, and hopelessly chaotic. At least it would be, if your brain didn’t create an internal filing system to organize it.

Managing Space and Material

  • Create a dedicated work space.
  • Organize work space.
    • Color-coded bins.
    • Sections in backpack.
  • Minimize clutter.
  • Schedule cleaning and organizing at least once per week.
  • Employ master notebook system.
    • Accordion file or 3-ring file with sections


Managing Time

  • Segment large tasks into chunks.
  • Use calendars/day planners to keep of long term assignments, due dates, and deadlines.
  • Reminders on computers and smart phones.
  • Organize – daily, weekly, monthly to-do lists.
  • Time estimation worksheet with estimated vs. actual time tasks table.
  • Use prompts to guestimate the approximate time and develop a better internal system for keeping time.


For more information about our Teaching Toolkit, including a link to purchase a copy or receive a sample packet, visit

Other resources:

7 Ways To Be A Better College Student This Week – via Buzzfeed

10 Organizational Tips to Let Go and Start 2016 Off Right – via Huffington Post

366 Daily Inspirational Quotes for 2016, One Month at a Time – via Forbes


This has been a special needs program update from Asperger’s & LD College Programs. You may also click here to read the original article on the main program website.