Beautiful Minds Blog

Tips on Celebrating the 4th of July with a Child on the Autism Spectrum

Beautiful Minds Center knows that the 4th of July can be an exciting time and it can also be a scary time for children that have been diagnosed with autism. Along with family fun, games, barbecues and picnics, come fireworks, loud noises, and large crowds. It is important to prepare children on the spectrum for what to expect this upcoming 4th of July weekend. By following the tips below you can ensure to have a fun, stress free and happy 4th of July.

  1. Make sure your child on the spectrum knows what to expect: With some simple preparation you can decrease anxiety and stress on this wonderful day that brings family and friends together in celebration of our glorious nation. Be sure to talk to your child about what happens on the 4th of July. What food to expect, what noises to expect, the fact that there will be crowds, etc. Show them pictures or videos of firework displays. We recommend easing them into it. First with the volume off, then the volume low and finally (when they are ready for it), in full volume, so that they are not surprised when they hear/see them live. If you child still has a hard time with the “BOOM” of the fireworks, be sure to take ear plugs or earphones with you to make their evening more enjoyable.
  2. Remind them that the celebration is meant to be FUN! – Get your child on the spectrum excited by showing them how excited you are about the celebration. Describe the many activities that you will be doing on that day, from barbequing, to spending time with family and friends, to going to see a firework show…whatever it is that you have planned, make sure they know what to expect. It is also a good idea to bring games, toys, snacks, and other activities with you in case your child gets antsy.
  3. Define their boundaries – Children who have been diagnosed with autism, may have a hard time dealing with large crowds, so it is important to set up boundaries. Some simple and easy ways to do this is to try to sit some distance from other people. Placing a blanket, chair, or towel on the ground will allow your child to claim their space and get comfortable in it. Make sure that your child’s safety is always a priority; remind them of your set of rules about running, leaving without telling a parent, and talking to strangers.
  4. Be aware of your child’s needs and when it’s time for a break – Whether your child, who has been diagnosed with autism, can ask you for a break, or not, be mindful of them and the possibility of experiencing sensory overload. Pay attention to your child’s body language and try providing them with a special signal, word, or image that lets you know it’s time to get away from the stimulation. By paying attention to your child’s needs you have the opportunity to prevent a meltdown.

 

Beautiful Minds Center wants to wish you all a very happy, safe, and stress free Independence Day weekend, filled with family, friends and happy children!

How to Prepare Your Child with Special Needs for a Fun Experience at Summer Camp!

It’s the beginning of summer and many children are transitioning from school to camp. Going to camp is a way for children to interact with their peers, experience new things, and create lasting memories, but for some children who have been diagnosed with autism, the transition can be a difficult one. They may need to adjust to new people and schedules and this can cause anxiety and fear, but it doesn’t have to. Here are some ways Beautiful Minds Center recommends that you prepare your child on the spectrum for a fun and memorable experience at summer camp.

  1. Once you figure out what camp is best for your child, visit the camp site so that your child on the spectrum is familiar with where they are going when you drop him/her off on the first day. Try to meet the camp counselors and any other staff members, if possible. Unfamiliar places and situations can cause unnecessary stress for a child who has been diagnosed with autism, so take pictures of the camp grounds, the schedule, and the faces of the people you meet; and use these tools to create a social story on what to expect. This will make your child’s transition much easier to handle on the first day of camp.
  2. Another great way to prepare your child for camp is through visual aids. Use the pictures you took on your visit to the camp, the camp brochure, their website or any other visual information you can get your hands on, and talk to them about the cabins, the food, what activities they will be involved in, etc. so that you can help set their expectations and give them a feel for what camp will be like when they go.
  3. Involve your child on the spectrum in planning their day at camp. Have them pack their backpack for the day, discuss with them what the weather will be like, what activities they want to do and what they can expect from the day. If they are playing sports, have them pack their sports clothes and shoes. If it’s a water day, work with them on packing their bathing suit. Also remember that sometimes a new activity sounds like fun, but if it’s the first time your child who has been diagnosed with autism is participating in that activity, prepare them for what they should expect and/or practice this activity with them at home, in the park or wherever you have access to the items you need.
  4. Throughout the whole process of planning to go to camp, and even after your child with special needs has started camp, continue to set their expectations. Be sure your child knows what they can expect, not only from the camp and the people/peers at the camp, but from you. Let them know where you will drop them off and where you will pick them up, the time you will get there, etc. This way you decrease anxiety at the start and end of the day.
  5. Go over each day of camp with your child on the spectrum when they get home. By doing this, you allow them to process their day, tell you stories, and create special memories. Many camps also take pictures of their campers throughout the summer and either post these pictures or e-mail them to the parents. Take these pictures and create an album or a book to share with your child, so that they remember their summer experiences and so that you can use this book next summer when it’s time for your child to go back to camp.

Summer camp can be an incredible learning and growing experience for a child and with a little preparation, communication, and setting expectations, your child that has been diagnosed with autism, can have an enjoyable summer, meet new friends, experience new activities and create memories that last a lifetime.

How to Make Bedtime Easy, Relaxing and Enjoyable for Everyone!

 Bedtime can be a difficult time for children on the spectrum and their parents. Many will protest bedtime or create distractions, but by creating a routine and keeping calm you can make bedtime a more pleasant and positive experience for everyone. Here are a few tips on how to make it through bedtime with a child that has been diagnosed with autism.

Find a time that works for your child’s bedtime. Read their signals to find out what the right bedtime would be. When you know your child’s bedtime, stick to it. If your child goes to bed at 8:00 pm, plan for their activities to be over, their teeth to be brushed and their bedtime story to be read, so that they are falling asleep at 8:00 pm. Make sure their bedtime stays the same during the week and on weekend so that you don’t catch them off guard. Children who have been diagnosed with autism need consistency to be successful, and that includes bedtime consistency.

Create a bedtime checklist or plan. Go over it with your child every night, and make it visual so they can see each step and mark it off as you go. Many children on the spectrum are visual learners and by creating a bedtime chart, you give them the opportunity to anticipate what’s next and decrease a chance for unexpected surprises.

Make bedtime something to look forward to by changing bedtime from a time your child dreads to an enjoyable part of the day. Create a routine that includes a time for your child on the spectrum to enjoy some calming activities that make them happy, like bath time, story time, snuggling etc. Make sure that during this time you devote your full attention to your child and their bedtime needs.

Whatever the situation, make sure to stay positive. Children gather information from your tone and sense frustration, so no matter what your day was like, keep a positive attitude in order to help your child relax before bed.

No matter how much your child wants to stay up and play, it is important to follow through at bedtime. If bedtime is at 8:00 pm that means your child should be in bed and ready to go to sleep at 8:00 pm. In order for that to happen, make sure you plan your day and activities to keep consistent with their bedtime, because any changes to their schedule can cause stress or frustration in a child that has been diagnosed with autism. Although setting a schedule and sticking to it can be difficult at times, it is in the best interest of your child to follow through with their routine in order to be successful.

It isn’t only your child on the spectrum that benefits from a bedtime routine and set schedule. Parents also benefit from this as well. When your child follows a bedtime routine without protesting, it causes the parent less stress; and when your child is in bed and asleep at a certain time, you can relax and get things done before its time for you to go to bed as well.

Bedtime should be a relaxing time filled with family bonding, stories, songs, etc. It should be a time that your child looks forward to. We know it can be hard to resist your child’s plee for “an extra 10 minutes Pleeeeeeaaaassseee”, but once you do, and once you set a solid routine for your child on the spectrum to follow, bedtime will be an enjoyable time for everyone in the home.