Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring Cleaning and Autism

Everyone probably has a room or rooms in their house in need or spring cleaning!  Anyone with kids knows that things can collect and build up that really should be sorted through and given away.  A challenge for any family is convincing the kids to let go of some of their stuff and give some away to other children.  

Children in the autistic spectrum can have particular difficulty keeping their space organized and free of clutter because of executive function and sequencing difficulties.  Executive function is a primary difficulty within the autistic spectrum.  This includes abilities such as figuring out how to start a multi-step project, initiating behavior, and attending to both the details and the big picture.  In addition, many individuals in the spectrum are very particular about their belongings in the sense that they may have collections, prefer to arrange certain belongings "just so" while other belongings are on the floor, and may resist change (such as changing the location of an object at home or throwing things out that aren't important any more).

One approach that I use with my son in the autistic spectrum is to go through the house while he isn't home, and gather things that I don't see him playing with or using.  Then I store them in boxes and bags out of site. If he notices something is missing and asks for it, I can return it.  But if months have gone by and he hasn't noticed that something is missing, I give the items away.  

I also encourage him to choose some items to give away. Sometimes his school has a charity drive for example that kids can contribute to.  This is a way to focus on the teaching part about having a generous spirit, why that is important, and how to live that out.  

How do you help your autistic child sort through and give up some of their things?  Do they have trouble tolerating the changes?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Monkey Birthday Party for Kids

 My son wanted a monkey themed party this year.  The cupcakes are chocolate cake with a chocolate ganache frosting.  Then I made a basic sugar cookie, cutting the batter out around a tablespoon before baking.

After baking, they looked like this:

I assembled the monkey cupcake by putting the cookie on the face like the monkey snout.  I put a dab of white frosting with mini chocolate chips on top for the eyes and drew on the nostrils and mouth with chocolate frosting.  The two ears are mini cookies I found at the grocery store.  I ended up putting a small banana candy on top of frosting for the mouth.

For the gifts bags, I used brown bags and printed off a monkey picture, putting each child's name in the placeholder.  

I added a dab of color with markers and hung some monkeys on the side of each bag.

The inside goodies included monkey tattoos, mini banana candies, a monkey keeper lego, monkey bracelets, and small monkey toys.  

It was a barrel of fun for the kiddos!  Hope your party is fun too.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sensory Activities for Older Children

The Occupational Therapist for my 8 year old son has suggested that we get back into some sensory activities to help him with his autistic spectrum symptoms. 

There are many ideas for sensory play for toddlers out there, but not as much for older children.  I decided I wanted to try to integrate sensory activities into some functional tasks... like cooking and bathing for example.  

This morning I made muffins with peanut butter, banana and eggs as part of the ingredients.  I asked him to help me cook.  My idea was to have him get his hands into the batter to mash up the bananas, but he wasn't going for that today!  We will try another time.  I did show him, however, how to separate eggs with his hands just like Bobby Flay!  He let me crack an egg right into his open hand, let the egg whites spill out into the bowl underneath, and put the egg yolk into the batter.  

In his bath, he is experimenting with different textures and senses as well.  He loves the shaving cream play in the bath but is not as keen on the more greasy coconut butter lotions.  Next up...we are going to try an apricot scrub with a light scent and a somewhat textured feel.  

Experiment with your older children, and see how you can integrate sensory experiences into everyday functional tasks!