Let’s face it, we all have bad days every now and then. Usually we deal with the mood and move on. Most of us may even know and understand what caused the mood to begin with and how to avoid it in the future. If you have a child or teen with autism you may have to learn a whole new set of cues to help you understand situations where behavior becomes a problem.
Going out or encountering new stimuli, no matter how much you think you child may enjoy it, can be challenging. Planning in advance can mean the difference between a meltdown or avoiding unwanted behaviors. Here are a few suggestions we found online from parents who have been through this before.
- Be aware. Many parents know what stimuli whether visual, auditory or other trigger unwanted behaviors. Try avoiding situations that may cause anxiety and stress. For example, your child may enjoy keeping you company on outings but gets tired in the early afternoon, then plan your events for mornings or after a nap. Keep in mind this means that you may need to plan your day around stimuli that may cause problems but it may be worth it in the end.
Make Expectations Clear – You’ll get better cooperation if both you and your child are clear on what’s expected. Sit down with him/her and present the information verbally.
Have Options – If your child has meltdowns or is rude to someone in public, you have a few different options. You may need to experiment to determine what works best for your family. Removing the child from the situation may work best but you may also want to consider other options. Some parents have the child calm down and apologize. Even others keep a card in their pocket that explains that their child has autism. Still others only visit outing locations where they know people who are understanding and sympathetic.
- Talk to the Team – If your child has already been diagnosed, you may want to decide with his/her team of specialists including PT, OT and Behavioral Therapists what behavior modification you will use. If you are all on the same “page” it may make heading off unwanted behaviors easier.
- Avoid Transitioning without Warning – Transitions can be hard for kids, especially in the middle of something they are enjoying. Having transitional warnings gives children the chance to find a good stopping place for an activity and makes the transition less fraught. Tipping your child off that a transition is coming can ward off meltdown behaviors.
Squish, twist, flip, or squeeze. A good fidget can be a parent, teacher or student’s best friend in the classroom. They can mean the difference between focusing or drifting away or possibly the difference between a stressful day or a calm relaxing one. What is a fidget you ask and how can it benefit my child? Let’s explore the world of classroom fidgets and how they are making a huge difference for students at all levels.
What is s fidget? To the untrained eye a fidget looks like a toy, or worse yet a distraction in the classroom. In fact, it is exactly the opposite. A fidget is a small object (preferably one that fits in the child’s hand), that can be squeezed, pulled, or moved around as the child sits and listens to the teacher. Fidgets can be toys, games, or everyday things such as pens, jewelry, or pocket change.
What is the point of a fidget? For many children (and even adults), fidgeting is a normal behavior. We often fidget when we are trying to concentrate or pass time. Some students fidget because they are stressed or nervous in the classroom. This is especially true with students struggling with learning disabilities and/or neurological disorders such as autism. While it might seem like fidgets are distracting, they actually take care of “antsy” behavior—making us more relaxed and evening out our energy levels.
Benefits of Fidgets – Fidgets can serve many purposes in a classroom including the following:
- Research on fidgets shows that if movement can be directed, it can enhance learning. Test scores improve and students report they can focus better on what is going on in the classroom with a fidget in their hands.
- Movement is essential for learning because the learner is required to use both the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Kinesthetic learners can actually absorb more information if they can move or “fidget” while learning.
- Fidgets are affordable can can be a quiet way to reduce stress.
- For students who concentrate better with sensory feedback a fidget may be a good solution for a child who chews clothing, rocks, or needs to tap a pencil incessantly.
- Fidgets are socially acceptable and will not single a child out like other actions may.
Fidgets come in different sizes, shapes, weights, and textures. These different characteristics provide different pressures and sensations to the nervous system. Find one that is right for your child by following the links below.
The air is turning cooler and crisper and the leaves are beginning to show some color. This is such a great season to get outdoors and soak up some nature all around us! Here are some great ideas for place to visit with your child that may be wonderful places to practice social skills as well as just enjoy a relaxing day outdoors!
Apple picking – Great for gross and fine motor control as well as some practice with social skills. Here are some local favorites in the Boston area:
- Honey Pot Hill 138 Sudbury Road Stow, MA 01775 (978) 562-5666 – This local favorite is just 27 miles outside of Boston and offers not only apple picking but also hayrides, hedge mazes or tunnel mazes.
- Russell Orchards 143 Argilla Rd. Ipswich, MA 01938 (978) 356-5366 – This family owned farm on the north shore has all sorts of fun activities as well as apple picking. Enjoy hayrides, farm animals, live music and cider donuts that are too die for.
- Smolak Farms 315 South Bradford St. North Andover, MA 01845 (978) 687-4029 – Smolak is a 300-year-old, family owned farm that sits on 160 acres and is located 30 miles north of Boston. Farm animals, playgrounds and amazing fresh-baked goods are the highlight of this local farm.
Leaf Peeping – A quiet activity that can get our out for some exercise as well as some great views. There is no need to go for a long drive to the mountains when the Boston area bosts some great coloring all around. Two areas that you may want to check out are the Arnold Arboretum and the Charles River Walk to get some spectacular views.
Corn Mazes and traditional Fall fair – Getting lost can sometimes be fun when you have a map or a trail guide to take you through a fun fall corn maze. The north shore hosts some of the best local corn mazes at Marnini Farm on Linebrook Road in Ipswich or Connors Farm on Locust Street in Danvers. Bring your sneakers and a sense of adventure for a walk through a man made corn maze.
Rail Trails – If biking, walking or hiking are your thing, check out some of the local rail trails that bring you through swamplands, forests and even cities all along the eastern part of Massachusetts. Check out this list of local Rail Trails in your area .
Like many parents these days you may find that your child likes to stay busy and active. But what do you do if your child needs options that are sensory friendly? Thankfully through autism awareness campaigns, an ever increasing number of entertainment venues are offering sensory-friendly options for families who would otherwise not be able to enjoy activities such as going to the movies, seeing a live performance or participating in indoor recreational activities. Here is a list of resources that you may find helpful for planning a birthday party, a playdate or just a fun family outing without having to worry about music that is too loud, rooms that are too dark/light, or other sensory issues that many families need to plan for in advance.
- Movies- Who doesn’t like the movies and a huge bucket of popcorn to share? AMC Theaters and Chunky’s Cinema and Pub are to movie chains locally that host sensory friendly movie experiences where the house lights are up, the volume turned down and an accepting atmosphere where children can get up walk around if they need to or enjoy the movie in a way that is comfortable for them.
- Baseball – Take me out to the ballpark! Major League baseball teams around the United States host sensory friendly evenings (often on Autism Awareness Night). Accommodations include sections of the ballpark where the speaker volume is lowered, quiet rooms are made available, activities are provided and tickets are given away to individuals with autism.
- Trampoline and Jump Zones – If jumping, tumbling, sliding and climbing are things that your child loves then try sensory days and times at Sky Zone or Pump It Up. At Pump It Up modifications are made depending on the needs of those in attendance but typically music will be turned off as will some of the equipment if the inflatable blowers are too loud. At Sky Zone the music is turned off and families are allowed to jump for half the price of regular admission.
- Museums and Activity Centers – Local Museums for younger children such as the Discovery Museum and Science Center in Acton, Massachusetts offers special days for children with sensory disorders.
- Eating Out – Autism Eats hosts friendly, non-judgmental family dinners at restaurants with others that get Autism, and there is no need to be nervous or explain any behaviors. Reservations are required. Check out their next dinner out at www.autismeats.org