Young children love playing with sand and water and find both relaxing.

It cannot be emphasised enough though that when children are playing with water they need to be fully supervised as they can drown even in a small amount of water.

Our aim is to suggest activities and to explain how children can learn from having the chance to play and experiment with sand and water.

Water Play

You can provide opportunities for your child to play with water in the bath, in the kitchen sink, in a washing up bowl or baby’s bath or weather permitting, in a paddling pool. You need to make sure there is no danger of a burn from a hot tap.

This type of play is likely to lead to some mess, but your child should not feel under pressure to keep dry or not make a mess. It is better to try to encourage children to limit the mess and for them to help clear up afterwards.

When playing with water children learn:

  • to improve their skill at pouring by developing their arm and hand muscles
  • how water behaves when you pour it from one container to another
  • how water feels and that it can be squirted
  • objects either float or sink
  • that containers hold the most or least
  • that water leaks from containers with holes
  • hand eye co-ordination

It is not necessary to buy special toys for water play. Here are some suggestions of everyday items which children enjoy playing with and which provide opportunities to explore the properties of water.

Things to Play with in Water

  • collander
  • strainer
  • old teapot
  • toy buckets
  • jugs and containers
  • sponge
  • small watering can
  • funnel
  • whisk
  • hollow ball
  • plastic bottles

Discover Science

Floating and Sinking

Let your child experiment with diffferent objects to see which float or sink.

Here are some suggestions:
Ice cubes, spoons made of metal, plastic or wood, wooden bricks, smooth twigs, a cork, washed polystyrene food trays, a toy boat and paper cake cases.

Situations such as letting your child bath a doll can create opportunities to discuss caring for babies and the need for personal hygiene.

Another activity is washing and drying dolls’ clothes. Not only do children enjoy the imaginative play, but they experience the science involved in cleaning and drying fabrics.

Ask your child to predict what will happen to the wet fabrics. Discussion can extend vocabulary and enhance your child’s communication skills. The activities also help to develop manipulative skills.

Safety Disclaimer

Children should always be supervised by an adult when playing in or with water.


“Yes, recovery is possible! But the road to recovery is long and hard and parents can’t give up too soon. My son is now an aerospace engineer. But helping him was the hardest thing I’ve even done. I once was where you are now. I never realised recovery was even possible. When Ryan was in middle school, my dream was that one day he could hold a job at McDonalds and live independently. But I didn’t believe that might happen back then. Who knew he would accomplish all he has? Only another parent can understand how much we love our kids in spite of how difficult living with autism can be. I know this is all very overwhelming, but I will be here to help you any way I can”

  1. Set goals. Think short-term (3 months), medium-term (6 months) and long-term (the whole year).
  2. Attend workshops. You are just as valuable a team member as any other in your child’s treatment programme.
  3. Communicate to your supervisor what is important to you as a parent and for your family.
  4. Receive parent training. The better equipped you are, the more consistency you can create between home and centre, and the faster your child will progress.
  5. Stay in the loop. Make sure you are receiving our newsletters and following our Facebook page.
  6. If you haven’t already, explore biomedical intervention. Most, if not all, children on the spectrum are suffering from underlying biomedical conditions. Children who are feeling well are more receptive to education and ABA instruction.
  7. Follow recommendations. These recommendations are made in your child’s best interests and stem from decades of research and experience.
  8. Stay positive. Your child is in the best possible hands and has a real shot at making huge gains.

This article was created by the Star Academy’s Supervisor Jenna White and was published by several magazines including Living & Loving and All 4 Women: Living & Loving | All 4 Women | IOL

Healthy discipline alternatives to spanking children

It is now illegal to spank your child in South Africa, but you can still teach him right from wrong with these alternative discipline methods.

It is now illegal to spank your own child in South Africa. This new ruling was passed by the South Gauteng High Court on 19 October 2017. Although smacking a child (your own or someone else’s) in the home environment has always been classified as an assault, there was previously a loophole where the parent could plead the special defence of “reasonable chastisement” in the event of being taken to court on the matter. This common law defence has now been revoked by the South Gauteng High Court’s ruling, which has rendered this plea inadmissible and not in keeping with the Constitution.

Corporal punishment in schools has also been banned for 21 years, as well as psychological abuse.

So what does this mean for parents who spank their kids from time to time at home? The court emphasised that the intention is not to charge parents with a crime, but rather to guide and support parents in finding more positive and effective ways of disciplining children.

Response to judgement

“This judgement is a significant statement to parents to rethink their disciplinary procedures and to ask themselves whether the current measures in place for discipline are resulting in the desired outcomes,” says Supervisor Jenna White of the Star Academy, which specialises in behaviour intervention programmes.

“As a behaviourist, I am in agreement with the court’s decision,” says Jenna, who advises that when dealing with a problem behaviour, the first step is to determine why it is occurring. Often, communication difficulties are at the root of problem behaviour. Teaching and reinforcing communication skills such as asking for something or expressing an emotion, allows the child the opportunity to have their needs met in an appropriate and pro-social way, so that they no longer need to engage in challenging behaviour.

We asked you whether you agree with this ruling, or if you think parents should be allowed to spank their kids. Here’s what you said:

“I don’t agree. I will continue spanking my kids. I know what’s best for my kids. I can’t hurt them. My kids, my decision on how to discipline them. My kids, my rules on how to raise them – after all I’m their mom. I love them so much. I care, protect, provide and pray for them, unless government thinks that they can manage to do all I mentioned above.” Esther Thibela

“I agree. There are better ways to ‘teach’ a child manners and discipline than by hitting them. If one adult hits another adult, it is called assault. If one child hits another child, it is called bullying.
If an adult/child hits an animal it is called animal abuse. Yet it has always been OK for an adult to use their strength on a child who is weak and can’t defend themselves. In my personal opinion, this is good news. It will hopefully motivate parents to look into alternative methods of discipline. I use reward and repercussions and my four-year-old is pretty decent, thank you. Hidings instill fear. So while your kid may listen, they haven’t necessarily learnt anything.” – Sarisha Riona Singh

“The government should focus on a way to stop child murders and rape and not tell us how to parent. If they want to tell us how to raise our kids then they might as well collect all children after birth at the hospital and raise them. Let’s see if they can give them more love, attention, clothes, food, money etc, than the parent.” – Elize Petersen

“There is a difference between assault and disciplining. If you cannot discipline your children without respecting their humanity then you should be in jail. Relationship is key to effective discipline. You cannot have one without the other.” – Zalisa Mkentane

Alternative discipline methods you can try

“Behaviour can be improved by increasing the relevant skills, and managing the difficult behaviour when it does occur. Smacking is just dealing with a problem behaviour after it occurs, and not in the most effective way,” says Jenna. Rather use a behaviour intervention plan, which is not only reactive in response to the behaviour, but is also proactive – empowering children with alternatives and skills so they don’t engage in problem behaviour.

One of the most effective alternatives in dealing with challenging behaviour and enforcing discipline is by using the principles of Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA).

Applied Behavioural Analysis focuses on three elements using the acronym ABC as follows:

1.) Antecedent (what happens before the behaviour)

2.) Behaviour

3.) Consequence (what happens after the behaviour).

Jenna explains that when looking at a particular challenging behaviour, if we change what happens at A or what happens at point C, it is possible to change the challenging behaviour. “This mindset could assist parents in using the techniques of Applied Behavioural Analysis when considering disciplinary procedures,” she adds.

What is gentle discipline and how does it work?

An example of using antecedent intervention:

If you know your child always complains about having to go and bath, you could implement antecedent modification by preparing your child in advance by explaining that bath time will be at a certain time instead of just calling the child away from a desired activity to go and bath. This antecedent modification allows the child time to transition to the idea that bath time is coming up soon.

An example where consequence intervention can decrease inappropriate behaviour:

If your child is throwing a tantrum because he can’t get a sweet or toy, wait until he is calm before explaining to him that he can use appropriate language to communicate his desire for a lollipop or toy by asking for one instead of screaming. The child learns that when they scream, they don’t get what they want, but when they ask nicely, they do.

“Of course each child is different and that is why it is essential to create a tailor-made programme, which deals with the needs of each particular child,” says Jenna. She adds that rules and healthy discipline are important for children to understand boundaries. It makes them feel safe.

“Healthy discipline teaches kids to find different avenues rather than exhibiting challenging behaviour in order to get their needs met. In this environment, children learn that there are appropriate consequences for their actions. In this context, discipline is a learning experience, providing kids the opportunity to learn from their mistakes in a safe and loving environment,” concludes Jenna.

Can A Marriage Survive Autism? Four Things You Need To Know That Are Key To Protect Your Marriage
by Marcia Hinds

Marriage is supposed to be “for better or worse.” It certainly has the potential to be “worse” when you have a kid with autism. Our marriage almost didn’t survive Ryan’s diagnosis. What I didn’t know then was that I held the key to making things better. Back then, both my husband and I felt helpless and couldn’t understand why Ryan was so difficult. Neither of us could talk to the other about the terrible circumstances we were trapped in. Why bother to talk when almost every conversation ended with me crying and Frank frustrated because he couldn’t fix things? My husband thought I was too soft and I knew he was too tough. And Megan, Ryan’s sister, just got what was left after we were done dealing with Ryan and each other.

I hope you don’t treat your husband the same way I did when we were still in the autism trenches. I was so overwhelmed by all I needed to do to help Ryan that I sometimes made the mistake of relegating Frank’s importance to that of a piece of furniture. I didn’t give Frank much consideration or attention because I was on a mission to save my son and couldn’t focus on anything else. If I knew then what I know now, I would have done the following:

  • Consider your spouse’s wishes for your child’s treatment. Your spouse also wants what was best for your child. I was so busy disagreeing with him that I couldn’t see that.
  • Don’t forget to be a wife as well as a mother! My husband recently told me that the dads he has spoken with often say their wives are great mothers, yet expressed considerable pain over not being shown love, affection or anything else. I was one of those wives.
  • You catch more flies with honey. The same methods I used to change Ryan’s behavior would have worked with Frank. I should have ignored the things I didn’t like, and complimented my husband when I saw him being the dad I needed him to be. A compliment followed by a full-body hug, would have worked better than arguing with him or ignoring him all the time.
  • Remember what you love about each other. Often times, I questioned how I could feel so much resentment for the man I once loved more than anyone else. But it happened because we were both emotionally drained and scared for our son’s future. What we needed to do was to reminisce about happier times before we became entrenched in autism hell. It is important to remember what you liked about your spouse and what made you fall in love in the first place.

By changing my behavior, I could have helped my husband become part of the solution. I could have made him an ally instead of the person standing in my way. If I had treated him with the same respect and adoration I did when he was my still boyfriend, he would have done all he could to support me. The bottom line is that our constant fighting interfered with helping Ryan. I needed to give my husband the clear message that we were in this together. Fortunately, my husband never gave up on me or our kids no matter how many times I pushed him away.

Marcia Hinds is the author of I Know You’re In There -Winning Our War against Autism. This inspirational book tells how her family combined medical, behavioral and educational interventions to help her son. Marcia has a degree in sociology and psychology from UCLA and is a credentialed teacher. But, Marcia’s most important qualification is that her family beat autism. Preview the book on Amazon or at All profits from Marcia’s book go to spread the word that autism is treatable. Marcia is available for speaking engagements, media appearances, and interviews. Permission granted for use on

Parent to parent, how does one know if their child has autism? Should I get my child diagnosed?

Great advice from Dr Granpeesheh for parents on potty training!

by Dr. Melinda Sharma

A note from Marcia Hinds…
When you live with autism, sometimes we all feel this way. It is worse when we question if it was something we did or didn’t do that caused our children’s condition. But, we can’t look back or spend our time wondering “what if.” All we can do is to keep putting one foot in front of the other to help our children improve and regain their health. Dr. Sharma who wrote this blog was the first to say that autism doesn’t come with a manual, only a parent who NEVER gives up! And boy is she right! Melinda’s credentials include a PhD in immunology and microbiology. But, her best credential is that she is a mom and gets it.

Now here’s Melinda…

How to go from victim to victor when your child has autism

Your dreams for your child began early, before you even met your spouse. Perhaps they began in childhood when you donned your mom’s heels and pushed your dolls in a carriage.  Your dreams revolved around happiness and contentment, where you were able to meet your child’s needs with love, hugs, kisses, food and tender words.

Your dreams for your child began early, before you even met your spouse. Perhaps they began in childhood when you donned your mom’s heels and pushed your dolls in a carriage.  Your dreams revolved around happiness and contentment, where you were able to meet your child’s needs with love, hugs, kisses, food and tender words.

Then reality hit hard.  Your child wasn’t contented with breastfeeding or a bottle. He didn’t sleep peacefully with a swaddle or a book and kiss good night.  It became clear that you were the caretaker of an absent soul, who fluctuated between lethargic and hyperactive, perhaps spinning in circles.  He didn’t use words for communication.  And then there was the incessant crying or screaming… or perhaps just silence.

The dreams didn’t match the reality.  The diagnosis:  autism spectrum disorder.

No one would argue that there is a period of adjustment, even grief, over the realization that life as you know it now wasn’t what you envisioned. No one would blame you for taking time to adjust. But your child is your child, and your dreams were solely your dreams. Some parents learn much later in life that their child is not responsible for fulfilling their dreams. You have to learn it now, and fast. You cannot afford to spend years in grief or denial. It’s time to take action.

No one would argue that there is a period of adjustment, even grief, over the realization that life as you know it now wasn’t what you envisioned.  No one would blame you for taking time to adjust.  But your child is your child, and your dreams were solely your dreams.  Some parents learn much later in life that their child is not responsible for fulfilling their dreams.  You have to learn it now, and fast.  You cannot afford to spend years in grief or denial. It’s time to take action.

  • Realize that your dreams are yours.  If you want to help your child, do it because you want to.  Wake up every day wanting to fight for their health, happiness and development as a human being because you desire the best for them.  Do it with joy!  Doing it because you have to results in resentment, animosity or martyrdom, and no child wants to feel or be told later that somehow they owe you, or that they somehow ruined your life.  Ouch!
  • Ask yourself what is truly important. Once you’ve made your choice, own it!  Have the wisdom and the courage to build your life around the answer.  If you choose recovery, it will take years, and many resources.  You will face criticism within and outside of your family, and you will have to rise above all of it, no matter how hurtful.  The people who choose to try to recover a child from autism typically do so because their life is unbearable, and the pain of remaining where they are is far worse than the energy required to take the steps needed to improve the situation.
  • You will have to fight for your child’s recovery. No one will do it for you.  No doctor will be there 24/7 to make decisions for you. No therapist will be in your home day and night to do the hard work for you.  You will have helpers, for sure, but you are responsible for organizing, directing, training, and mastering the process accessing the medical interventions, followed by implementing the educational and behavioral interventions necessary.  Be ready to take on that leadership role.

If you choose to pursue recovery, bring all your gifts and talents to the process.  Make it fun for yourself, because enthusiasm is contagious.  Your child will sense your positive (or negative) attitude.  And be prepared to go beyond what you’ve mastered, your comfort zone, because otherwise, you will never grow.  You will be asking your child to go outside his comfort zone as well, and it is helpful for you to understand what this feels like.

Making a big life change is scary.  What is even worse is regret.  So, do everything you can so that your child can reach his God-given potential, and do it all for you.  Because in reality, these are your hopes and dreams.


Dr. Melinda Sharma wrote the medical companion to my book. It is called  A Parent’s Guide to the Common Immune System Issues in Autism Spectrum Disorder .  Melinda has a PhD in immunology and is extremely knowledgeable about the medical treatment for different subsets of autism.  Dr. Sharma is my “go to” person and the one I have on my speed dial to answer my questions about the immune system and everything about the medical piece of autism.


NOTE FROM MARCIA HINDS – Megan and Ryan’s mom :

Ryan became an aerospace engineer, because he received proper medical treatment combined with behavioral, and educational interventions. To preview my book, “I Know You’re In There – winning our war against autism” click on