Thursday, December 10, 2009

Helping Children with Autism Through the Holidays

During the holiday season, we at the Scottish Rite Clinic for Childhood Language Disorder use the holidays to facilitate language development by teaching holiday vocabulary appropriate to each families cultural traditions. Our therapists do things like cooking with kids using visual recipes, writing letters to Santa with kids using Writing with Symbols,  planning with children what they could pack in a suitcase on a holiday trip, and so on.  This is a rich time of year for teaching new language because language is learned as it is needed in a child's real life experiences and there are so many exciting new experiences that come up during this time of year. At the same time, we know that the holidays are often particularly challenging for children with autism and perhaps more so for their families.

We try to be prepared with strategies that will help our young friends with autism cope with holiday changes at the clinic but still end up needing to deal with unexpected issues.  For example, we have a tree up in our clinic waiting room and one six year old that I see was upset that there was no star on the top of the tree.  We spent quite a bit of our session creating a star. This ended up being a rich language activity because we were able to help him communicate the problem, communicate his ideas for a solution, carry out his ideas, and even take a picture of his star on the tree to show mom.  But we had a dedicated hour in which to accomplish this and time can be in short supply for parents during the holiday season.  Using the holidays to support language development, social learning, and emotional coping skills is a challenge for parents both because of time constraints and because parents may not have a set of strategies ready to implement as needed.  As I was thinking about this, and talking to my colleague, Tamara Pogin, she mentioned that Linda Hodgdon has recently published a great newsletter on this topic.  Tamara and I are both faithful readers of Linda Hodgdon's Online Newsletters because they are consistently filled with useful information on how to use Visual Supports with children who have Autism Spectrum Disorders.  Visual Supports are the single closest strategy that we have to magic when it comes to helping kids with autism through difficulties of all kinds.  

So, as we approach this holiday season, I want to take this time to introduce any of you who do not yet know her, to Linda Hodgdon.   A good way to start your relationship with the wise and wonderful Linda Hodgdon would be to read her current newsletter in preparation for your holiday season.  Ideas from this particular newsletter may save you and your child a great deal of holiday stress and anxiety.  Her ideas include things as simple as showing your child the date on the calendar when you plan to take down the Christmas Tree but ideas like that are brilliant and invaluable. Click Here.


Paulene Angela said...

You must have read my mind with this post, the heading caught my eye. Today I have been reflecting upon the pros/cons, do I sign my son up for one weeks Christmas school or work out a plan for home, with everything else I need to do. Usual questions, will the school offer enough activities to stimulate him, ratio 2/7. I'm not getting a clear answer either way. I have until Monday to decide.

Thanks so much for that super link to Linda Hodgdon's newsletter. I am familiar with seeing her name, usually as an invited guest for conferences. Had to laugh at Linda's suggestion list of activities, clean the house! that's unfortunately near to top on my list. How to make it fun is the secret.

My Autism Recovery said...

Hey, that's interesting!