Posted at 3:27 pm on December 20, 2011 by Farrah
The holidays can be busy, challenging days of us. There is lots to do, places to be, fun to be had. This time of year can bring stress along with the joy and good times, but this is especially true for families with special needs children. Today’s guest post is from Julie Martin, center director of BY YOUR SIDE. A unique therapy center dedicated to providing speech and language therapy, BY YOUR SIDE provides ABA therapy and Occupational therapy to children, teenagers and adults with autism. Julie offers parents advice on making the holidays special and stress-free for their special needs children.
1. Create a visual calendar with pictures representing special events and time off school. Special events may include visitors coming to the house, decorating for the holidays, traveling, and visiting family and friends. Anything that changes in the daily or weekly routine is helpful to incorporate into this calendar. Pictures can be found in Google images, Boardmaker, newspaper clippings, drawings or personal photographs. Be sure to cross off each day when it has passed.
2. Create activity schedules for special events, especially things that include multiple outings and times of waiting (i.e. go to see Santa and then go to Aunt Sally’s house). Do this by writing a checklist or using pictures to represent the sequence of events (drawings, photos). Be sure to include a way to check off when the activity is completed. If possible, use a timer on a phone or watch for things that include waiting or a dedicated amount of time.
3. Opening presents can be the most exciting part of the holidays, yet all of the excitement can be an assault on the sensory system for some individuals. Try to find some fun ways to bring structure to gift opening (i.e. take turns by pulling names out of Santa’s hat) and have a safe place in the room (i.e. a pillow fort or a tent) where the child can comfortably participate. Most importantly, be aware of signs of stress from your child and give them a choice to remove themselves to a less stimulating activity.
4. Share information by creating an “About Me” worksheet with your child. Include things your child likes and dislikes (this is helpful for gift ideas), things that are funny, and even things that are upsetting. Send the completed sheets to relatives and friends who will be part of holiday celebrations. You and your child can also use the same sheets to learn about members of the family (include pictures) so your child can become familiarized with them before the visit.
5. Structure down time with activities and events that are special needs-friendly. Many holiday preparation activities can easily become a structured learning opportunity such as baking cookies, wrapping presents, and decorating Christmas cards or envelopes.
BY YOUR SIDE is a center for children, teens and adults with autism in the Chicagoland area providing both group and individual therapy in a comfortable home-like environment. These strategies coupled together have helped individuals with autism and their families develop better communication, social and behavioral skills. BY YOUR SIDE offers a number of programming options to address the varying needs of the autism spectrum. Frequency and intensity of the program is unique to each individual and determined by the therapy team which includes the family as an important member of that team.
With hours of operation from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Friday, BY YOUR SIDE accommodates a variety of schedules. They are currently located in Burr Ridge but have another location opening in Schaumburg this March.