Spring Break Activities
Spring break can be a great opportunity to engage your child in new activities, even you aren’t traveling to a luxurious locale. It is also a great time to work on generalizing speech and language skills. In speech therapy, it’s important to remember that getting away from the environment in which we were taught a skill is the best way to generalize and reinforce the lesson. Take advantage of spring break and consider the following activities for your child:
1.) Find a Camp
Enrolling your child in a camp does not mean they’ll have to sleep away in cabins. Instead, “camps” can be a wide variety of activities that promote participation, provide structure or can support intensive therapy services.
2.) Indoor Recreational Sports
Any parent knows that staying indoors for five days is not an option when you’re raising small children. For any child, exercise and a chance to get out of the house and run around are a spring break necessity. For indoor recreational sports including swimming or organized soccer, consult your local YMCA for open pool time, gym or community programs for children with special needs. Children with developmental disorders love swimming, but you could also consult local horse-farms for therapeutic riding programs with knowledge and accommodations for special needs.
3.) Visit a Children’s Museum
Children’s museums are one of the few places where children are not only expected but encouraged to touch everything they see. Perhaps you live in a big city or even a small one, but haven’t taken the time to look up your local children’s museum or haven’t made it there. While it can get crowded, spring break would be a great time to try this new activity with the family. New interactive exhibits, group classes and presentations in addition to free-play make this an option suitable for everyone.
4.) Visit Your Local Library
While book reading is important, don’t forget that libraries have other resources to explore over spring break. Most libraries also have story time and other child-friendly events in addition to computer and video access. With headphones to make the computer games quiet, children and parents can enjoy their separate activities- or play together. If you’re planning to check out books, try asking your child’s teacher for suggestions before spring break to help narrow the search.
5.) Spring Cleaning
While it isn’t as glamorous as the others, spring cleaning is important for families with children at any age or ability level. Cleaning doesn’t have to mean scrubbing, it could include organizing, decorating or rearranging. By making these chores into a family activity, kids can get involved and practice problem solving, language comprehension and expression, sorting and taking ownership of their items. Take this time to help make your home more efficient or more comfortable by throwing out old art projects, school notes and toys that just aren’t used.
Here are helpful tips and tricks for feeding special needs children created by Chris Purgatori, an occupational therapist at the Kaufman Children’s Center for Speech, Language, Sensory Motor & Social Connections in Michigan. Take a look:
Winter Activities with your Child
Have the winter blues? Check out these ideas for some fun with your child!
1. Fort Winter
Sheets, blankets, cushions and pillows are all it takes for a magical afternoon at home. You can even create a “fort kit” box for that very purpose, and drop ripped or old bedding in it for future building. Serve a snack, read a book, do some physical therapy, or encourage a nap – everything is more fun in a fort.
2. The Noodle Pool
Swimming in winter? Sure – why not? Cut pool noodles down to six-inch lengths and fill the tub (or a baby pool) with them. Softer than a ball pit, fun for “swimming” or rolling around but the benefits are still there. The brightly colored pieces offer sensory stimulation for children with special needs, as well as strengthening motor skills . And when you’re done, store them in a laundry bag tucked into the closet.
3. Puppet Parade
Paper bags or discarded socks, some markers and yarn and suddenly puppets are ready to have some fun. Act out a story or get out some excess energy by leading the newly made friends in a march around the house.
4. Drive In Movie
Big boxes left over from the holidays? Cut off any flaps so the top is entirely free (and smooth for curious fingers) then set the kids off to decorate them. This is a fun time to practice naming colors or using crayons to draw their names on the works of art. Is there something the teacher is encouraging you to work on over break? Everything is better when you’re practicing on your own cars, boat, or plane. Then everyone gets to park his or her new rides in the living room for a movie! Snacks optional…but a juice box would be awesome.
5. Go Fish
Bring out those pool noodles, reuse old rubber fish or ducks from toddler tub years and let’s play a game. Fill a bucket of noodles per child (and you!) and hide a few toys inside. Make it a race or just some fun – the noodles can go flying without doing damage and the winner finds the fish first! This is a great activity for when therapy or play time is disrupted by weather. Build fine motor skills and practice taking turns while having fun!
8 Ways to Celebrate the Holiday
Holiday crowds, noise, and chaos can be challenging for children with autism, ADHD, and other special needs—here's how to plan the happiest of holidays with your family
1. Find a sensory friendly Santa
2. Always sit near an exist
3. Create a special wrapping paper
4. Wrap gifts so they are easy to open
5. Give your child their own tree, menorah, or kinara
6. For special events and dinners, have a plan and a timeframe
7. Talk about expectations with the family before a gathering
8. Bring your child’s favorite foods and comfort items
*source https://www.realsimple.com/work-life/family/celebrate-holidays-special-needs-child. *
Thanksgiving can be a fun but stressful time of year. The meal itself is a lot to plan, especially for families with special needs children. Below are some tips to help your child with special needs feel comfortable and part of the family Thanksgiving tradition.
Dressing for Thanksgiving: Showing off your family at its best dressed can be a little tricky when you have a special needs child. Don’t let fancy outfits make or break your holiday. If your child fusses, just let him or her pick the outfit. Then you can just add some festive accessories!
Planning Thanksgiving Dinner: When planning this yearly get-together, ask around to see which family member has the most accessible home. If you have an accessible, why not be the one to host dinner? This will already make your child feel more comfortable being in a very familiar place with less familiar faces and activities.
Traveling with your special needs is hard enough. To help make things a little easier, try asking a pre-teen or teen family member to travel with you as your helper. Chances are they will jump at the chance to travel to Grandma’s house with your family instead of his or her own. Your child will enjoy traveling and playing with someone closer to his or her own age.
Preparing Thanksgiving Foods: Some kids are on a special diet, which means they can’t eat all the same foods as the rest of the family. If possible, prepare their food in a special way to celebrate Thanksgiving.
For a child fed through a feeding tube, a family dinner can be tough. If relatives are comfortable with your child being fed while everyone else eats, try some thanksgiving tube feeding recipes. You can also feed your child ahead of time, or wait to attend the party until after dinner.
Because your child is eating differently, don’t let that make him or her feel left out. To help your child feel more included, have them help prepare the foods even they aren’t eating (children often want to try foods that they’ve helped make!) and in other productive ways like grocery shopping or setting the table.
The Importance of Sibling Involvement Families and their EI teams can plan ways to help siblings play and grow together. By involving siblings in the goals of individualized family support plans (IFSPs), all children—including the child with a disability—may benefit. For example,siblings can participate in speech therapy sessions. When siblings act as communication partners, they can help improve their brother or sister’s communication while developing a stronger sibling bond.
Siblings can also be involved in playtime with their brother or sisters with a delay or disability.Siblings can be great role models for age-appropriate behavior. Sometimes,siblings without disabilities may need extra coaching to help them play and interact with their sibling receiving EI because she may not respond in the way the sibling expects of a playmate.
Careful planning and targeted strategies can help make sibling interactions positive and fun.Consider a child in EI who is receiving supports for a physical disability.Throwing a ball back and forth may be difficult for this sibling pair, but an adult can coach the children to try rolling it back and forth. Or, consider a child in EI who is challenged in interpreting social cues such as body language. When a sibling holds a toy out to share, the sibling may not see this is an invitation to play. A parent may coach the sibling to include the words,“Share this dolly with me!” along with the gesture.
Ways to Involve Siblings First, find the best times for sibling involvement. Mealtime or playtime can be a good place to start. Begin by teaching siblings some ways they can engage with their brother and sister with a disability.
Then you can show them how to help build new skills with their brother or sister by initiating conversations, inviting the brother or sister to play with them, requesting the brother or sister to share, and doing activities where they take turns. Also,siblings can give meaningful praise (“Sara, I liked the way you shared your toy with me”) or physical guidance (“Cam, let me show you the new cars we can play with”).
This praise and modeling behavior can help a child in EI experience greater success and reinforce a positive sibling relationship. At times, siblings trying to help may be discouraged or struggle with connecting to their sibling with a delay or disability. When the strategies aren’t working, be a coach and encourage a sibling to try a different way or seek assistance from your EI team to try a new approach.
Practice separation. Leave your child with a caregiver for brief periods and short distances at first. As your child gets used to separation, you can gradually leave for longer and travel further.
Schedule separations after naps or feedings. Babies are more susceptible to separation anxiety when they’re tired or hungry.
Develop a quick “goodbye” ritual. Rituals are reassuring and can be as simple as a special wave through the window or a goodbye kiss. Keep things quick, though, so you can:
Leave without fanfare. Tell your child you are leaving and that you will return, then go—don’t stall or make it a bigger deal than it is.
Follow through on promises. For your child to develop the confidence that they can handle separation, it’s import you return at the time you promised.
Keep familiar surroundings when possible and make new surroundings familiar. Have the sitter come to your house. When your child is away from home, encourage them to bring a familiar object
What is AAC?
AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. Children and adults with severe speech or language problems may need to find other ways to communicate. There are many types of AAC that they can use. Speech-language pathologists, or SLPs, can help. AAC includes all of the ways we share our ideas and feelings without talking. We all use forms of AAC every day. You use AAC when you use facial expressions or gestures instead of talking. You use AAC when you write a note and pass it to a friend or coworker. We may not realize how often we communicate without talking.
Who uses AAC?
Many different AAC methods are used by people of all ages with various physical or learning difficulties.
How does AAC devices work?
Speech-generating devices, produce electronic voice output, allowing the individual to communicate. These portable electronic devices allow him or her to select letters, words, and messages, alone or in combination, to be spoken aloud in a pre-recorded or computer-generated voice (text-to-speech).
The speed and pattern of these methods can be customized to accommodate the user's age, familiarity with the device, etc.
Helping Your Child Thrive
Learning that your child has Autism Spectrum Disorder can be daunting. You may be unsure of how to help your child, or what comes next after a diagnosis. As parents, there are a variety of ways you can support your child and help them thrive. Some of the things you can do are learn about autism, community outings, finding nonverbal ways to communicate, finding support groups, and acceptance.
The first thing you can do is learn about autism. There is constantly research being done on Autism Spectrum Disorder, and being informed about different treatment options and triggers for your child can make it easier to participate in treatment decisions. Nobody knows your child better than you, and knowing their triggers is an equally important part of helping them thrive. Knowing your child’s triggers can also help you help your child’s team modify treatment plans and create the least aversive environment possible.
Community outings are also very important for a child’s development and growth. Taking children out in the community can be difficult, but you will be teaching them that it is okay to try new things, and you will be there to support them through it if they are upset by something. It can be a fun way to see if there is something different your child likes that you may have never thought of, like looking at the fish tank at a library, or walking up and down the aisles at the grocery store. This is also a great way to connect with your child.
Finding nonverbal ways to connect with your child can be incredibly difficult, but it is important to remember that they are trying to communicate with you as well, whether it is through their body language, their eye contact, facial expressions, or physical gestures. Play is also a great nonverbal way to connect. Playing with your child is a great way to show them that you enjoy their company, and allow you to spend time with each other without pressure of demands being placed.
Another thing you can do as a parent is find help and support not only for your child, but for yourself as well. Having a support system that understands what you are going through can make a huge difference in the way that you see things. Joining an ASD support group can help reduce feelings of loneliness or isolation, and it is a great way to meet other families that are going through the same thing that you are. It is also a great way to find an extra emotional support factor, and to be one for others as well. Even seeking individual or family counseling can help open a dialogue without fear of judgement and can help work through some challenges that you may have faced.
Perhaps the most important thing is accepting your child exactly the way that they are, and loving them unconditionally. Celebrate small victories with your child, and enjoy their uniqueness. Focus on their strengths and support them, while being there for them through things that may be more challenging for them.
Music Therapy Part II
Benefits of Music Therapy
Cognition Skills: Music’s rhythmic patterns provide a structured way for children with special needs to organize auditory information. This makes music a helpful tool for memorization and learning daily routines. With repetition, music can also help improve a child’s attention span.
Language Skills: Music therapy has been found to improve speech output among individuals with autism in the areas of vocalization, verbalization, and vocabulary. Research has found music to improve the mapping of sounds to actions, by connecting the auditory and motor sections of the brain, which may help improve understanding of verbal commands. By pairing music with actions, and with repetitive training, the brain pathways needed to speak can be reinforced and improved.
Social-Emotional Skills: Studies show that during play sessions with music, children with autism showed more social engagement with their peers than in those without music. How? Music encouraged the children with autism to interact in more appropriate ways with other children, including sharing and taking turns. Parents and caregivers can use music with children to increase their social interaction and improve social skills. Passing and sharing instruments, music and movement games, learning to listen and singing of songs are just a few ways music therapy sessions can increase interaction. We know that autism can create barriers for children in social settings, but small groups of children listening to music together may feel confident and comfortable enough to comment, express their emotions, or sing along with others.
Physical skills: Music is a great way to help with gross and fine motor activities. Dancing exercises can also help stimulate our sensory systems and allow us to enhance fine motor skills such as using musical instruments.
Behavior: Music can improve children’s behavior by helping them learn to follow directions. Research found that music connects the auditory and motor parts of the brain. This helps children with autism better understand and obey verbal commands. Music therapy also helps decrease negative behaviors such as aggression and tantrums.
Anxiety: Children who receive music therapy appear to have decreased anxiety-related behaviors. Playing classical music or music with a steady rhythm is thought to be beneficial for alleviating anxiety in children with autism due to the predictably of the beat. Introducing music into their routine helps increase their tolerance for frustration and decrease anxious behaviors.