Suggestions for Winter Activities

The winter months seem so long. With all the snow and cold weather, it is extremely hard to know how to keep my child with autism occupied and having fun. Any suggestions?

painting by a Birchtree studentDuring the winter months, this is a very common question asked by many parents of children with autism. Although it can be difficult to keep your child engaged in leisure/play activities any time of year, it is especially challenging when the weather is cold and the common outdoor activities, such as playgrounds and walks, are not always possibilities. If you are able to think about adapting the options that are available to all children, you might end up pleasantly surprised that there are enjoyable activities right at your fingertips.

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Suggestions for School Vacations

I have no idea how to manage vacation weeks with my child with autism. It is difficult enough to schedule two days over the weekend, but then it feels completely overwhelming when it is a much longer break such as a week-long vacation. Any suggestions?

painting by a studentGreat question at this time of year – or any time of year! Overwhelmed is probably an accurate word to describe your feelings associated with your child being out of school.  BUT, with preparation and planning, this experience can become something that feels more encouraging. Keep in mind that you most likely put preparation and thought into even short errands or brief visits with relatives, so understandably a week-long vacation will take much more effort. That effort will be well worth your while and will increase the likelihood of a positive experience for yourself, your child and other family members. These tips apply to both vacation weeks at home as well as your going away someplace.

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Suggestions for Gift-Giving

Help! I have no idea what to buy as a gift for my child with autism. Often, I have searched for and found what I consider to be the perfect (or at least an adequate) gift, only to discover that my child has no interest in the gift. Any suggestions?

painting by studentThis is a great question – and a common question. Parents of children with autism frequently encounter the challenge of finding birthday and/or holiday gifts which will actually be used.  As a starting point, there are a few considerations to keep in mind.  First, the age listings on packages are only recommended guidelines – and these guidelines are rarely an accurate match for children with autism. You not only need to keep in mind the developmental level of the child but also the common interests of the child. For example, a 10-year-old child with autism might be extremely interested in Sesame Street toys – toys that are typically at the recommended age for toddlers and preschoolers.

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Tips for Restaurant Dining

I have stopped going to restaurants with my child. He doesn’t eat what’s on the menu. He doesn’t sit at the table and usually causes a scene. What can I do to make going out to dinner a family event? 

Restaurants require children with autism to negotiate a variety of visual, auditory, and olfactory information. Selecting appropriate food choices, waiting for food to be delivered, and maintaining appropriate behavior at the table pose significant challenges to a successful visit. Successful restaurant visits depend on selecting appropriate goals. Your goals for your first restaurant visit will differ from your long-term goals. Start with small goals (with which your child is likely to be successful) and work towards more difficult goals. For example, you may start visiting restaurants to have a single appetizer in the afternoon and then work toward a full meal during dinner time.

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Halloween Tips

Halloween is coming up and I would like to try Trick-or-Treating with my child. Is there anything I can do to make it more successful? 

student painting of a catHalloween trick-or-treating requires a variety of skills from sensory tolerance of costumes to the social exchange of receiving candy at the door. Practice and preparation can help make Halloween successful for children with autism.

Costume selection is an important factor in Trick-or-Treat success. Materials should be lightweight, loose, and non-irritating. Your occupational therapist can suggest materials suitable for your individual child’s tactile sensitivities. The characterization of the costume is often less important than a child’s ability to tolerate the material! Hats, wigs, or masks may slip down over the eyes and may become distracting throughout the night. Costumes with tassels, beading, or sequins also may elicit physical stereotypy with the material. It is important to try on the costume and wear it around the house on several occasions before attempting to Trick-or-Treat. Practice wearing the costume will help desensitize your child to the material and movement of the costume. Sports figures, superheroes, and any other costume that simulates typical clothing or pajamas have been successful costumes for many children with autism in the past.

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