Winter 2016
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Sensory for Children during Holidays

Holiday Spirits

We know the holidays are one of the busiest times of the year. There are lights to be lit, goodies to bake, songs to sing, games to play, and gifts to wrap. There are so many ways to get ready for the season's celebrations it can be overwhelming. It's good to take time out to prepare your child and his or her siblings for what is coming up. For some children with sensory issues, the holiday hubbub may be a relatively new experience. Here are some easy tips to help prepare your family:

  • Shopping for gifts: Heading to stores at the last minute for holiday shopping when stores are at their busiest may be stressful for any child, but especially for a child that thrives on a routine. It's best to plan out holiday shopping in a way that gradually exposes kids to the excitement of the season.

  • Decorating your home: Bright and flashing musical holiday decorations inside the house could be overwhelming for kids with autism or sensory processing challenges. Parents should think about their individual child and what works with their needs. Letting your child with autism pick out and help with decorations can be a good way to help them become acclimated with how the decorations in their environment will look and sound.

  • Holiday visits: Tell your child in advance about where you plan to visit for the holidays, even if you're only making short-term visits. Show photos of where they are going and who they will be seeing so they aren't surprised when they get there. Sharing what you plan to do on a visit and how long you will be there may be helpful. Talk to your friends or relatives who are hosting the visit to determine in advance a plan for your child in case he or she needs a quiet space to go if there is a lot of noise. It may be helpful to find out what types of foods will be served if your child has food sensitivities as well as if there are any other differences to be aware of at the host's house such as pets being present. This allows you to plan to take any necessary precautions or bring foods that are familiar to your child.

  • Exchanging gifts: Before exchanging presents with extended family or friends, it may be helpful to practice how to be a good gift recipient. Try role playing games focused on taking turns opening presents and saying thank you. Reiterate your rule that all gifts are to be opened in the company of family.

  • Talking to your child's siblings: Remind siblings that the holidays can be a stressful time for their brother or sister. That way the whole family can work together to steer clear of any issues or have plans in place in case any arise.

  • Be a calm example yourself: Be a living example of the positive behavior that you want your children to have throughout the holidays. Show your kids firsthand how to share with others, be relaxed, and have polite manners.


Tips for bedtime

Child sleeping

It can be easy for people of all ages to miss regular naptimes and bedtimes when schedules are anything but regular. Children on the autism spectrum thrive best with normal bedtime routines. Here's how to get your kids back on the right bedtime track before heading back-to-school in January:

  • If you're away visiting a grandparent or relative's house or even at your own home with guests, your child may get irritable or have trouble going to sleep. Set aside time for your kids to nap or have quiet time with just you. Start getting ready for bed earlier to allow him or her more time for winding down from their day's excitement before it is time to go to sleep.

  • Sleeping in an unfamiliar place while visiting friends and relatives can be a new and challenging experience for your child. Unfamiliar noises, sleeping arrangements, and scents may be things that you and your child will encounter. You may find that bringing familiar blankets, pajamas, and toys can help your child relax and fall asleep.

  • An overtired child may wake up early despite going to bed late or become agitated because they are sleepy. You can avoid this by getting kids to nap or to bed as early as possible. Keep an eye out for nonverbal clues unique to your child that indicate your little one is ready to go to sleep before they're able to throw a tantrum.


sensory friendly banner

Children in snow

Screen time can be great for learning and entertainment, but unpressured outdoor playtime can be just as great! While screen time focuses on senses like hearing and sight, kids become aware of the calming natural beauty of the outdoors with their five senses when outside.

Kids with autism and sensory challenges are sensitive to smell, light, sound, taste, and touch but can explore these senses through guided outdoor play. It's important to be cognizant of your child’s unique sensory needs. Outdoors, children may see birds, plants, and animals, hear birds and wind rustling through the trees, smell flowers, and touch snow or frozen grass. This can help you as a parent understand what sensory stimuli your child enjoys or may find unpleasant. Learn what your child’s therapist is doing and try to incorporate what they are doing in outdoor playtime games.

Also, when kids are outside playing, they have the opportunity to be creative by making up games, inventing rules, and having fun with family. Children can practice eye contact, verbal communication, decision making, and social skills as they play with you and their siblings.

Here are some ideas for outdoor winter fun:

  • Nature walks

  • Making snowmen

  • Bubbles

  • Scavenger hunts

  • Freeze tag

  • Snow painting with water and food coloring

  • Parachute games



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The presenter, Allie Edwab, is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst who has worked with children with autism and developmental delays since 2007. She has an undergraduate degree in special education and a graduate degree in special education with a focus on applied behavior analysis from Penn State.

Allie began working for Sunny Days and Sunny Days Sunshine Center in 2014 as an ABA team leader and instructor for several social skill groups. She is now the Autism Clinical Educator for Sunny Days and the BCBA for Sunny Days Sunshine Center. Prior to coming to Sunny Days, Allie was an ABA supervisor for a private company in Bergen County.

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