5 VALENTINE'S DAY IDEAS FOR CHILDREN WITH AUTISM
Children everywhere are looking forward to making arts and crafts projects, swapping valentines with others, and of course, eating lots of candy and sweets. If you have a child with autism, you can help them get the most out of this holiday with these five helpful tips!
1. Talk about the meaning of Valentine's Day
With so many vibrant colors, candies, and gifts, some children may get mixed messages about why we celebrate Valentine's Day. Sit down with your child and explain that Valentine's Day is a special time of the year to show how much you care about your loved ones. Work with your child to practice the different ways they can interact with others on Valentine's Day:
- Giving high-fives or hugs
- Saying, "Happy Valentine's Day!"
- Sharing compliments with friends and loved ones
2. Make a list of the special people in your child's life
Make it easy for your child to express their appreciation for their loved ones. Write a list of close friends and family members and work with your child to come up with one special thing they like about each person.
Some children with autism may be able to provide descriptive responses when they are prompted with open-ended questions like, "What is your favorite thing about grandma?" However, you may also want to prompt your child with yes-or-no questions, such as, "Do you like grandma's hugs?" or "Do you like playing with your brother?" If your child is nonverbal, you can also hold up a picture of each person write down how your child reacted to the picture.
By the end of the activity, you will be able to deliver a nice message from your child to the people who matter the most to them. This makes for a memorable keepsake for your loved ones and will also give your child an opportunity to think about people from a social standpoint.
3. Practice a routine for exchanging valentines
Think about all the different steps that go into giving someone a valentine:
- Look at the card
- Pick up the card
- Walk up to someone
- Say, "Happy Valentine's Day!"
- Hand them the card
- Let go of the card
- Walk away
During ABA therapy, children with autism break down complex concepts into smaller steps, and gradually build the steps into one skill. This is a perfect model to use to practice social skills for Valentine's Day, especially if your child will be interacting with other children during a school or therapy setting.
4. Decorate your own Valentine's Day card
At Centria Autism, we made our very own printable valentines that you can download here! Help your child express their creativity by coloring, painting, or decorating their own one-of-a-kind valentines to give to others.
5. Create a Valentine's Day Sensory Bin
If you want to enjoy a fun activity at home while helping your child practice his or her play skills, create a Valentine's Day sensory bin! Fill a clear plastic bin with pink, red, white, and purple objects from craft and party stores, such as:
- Heart-shaped foam pieces
- Pink sprinkles
- Colorful pom poms
- Pink sensory sand
- Shredded paper
- Polished rocks and stones
- Plastic rings
- Colorful beads
From all of us at Centria, Happy Valentine's Day!