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MORE Tips To Help Your Child with Autism Enjoy Halloween

Halloween is fun and exciting holiday for many children. It gives the opportunity to dress up in their favorite costumes and get a lot of candy. While these traditions seem easy and effortless for most children, for a child with autism it may not be so easy. With the proper preparation Halloween can be a very fun holiday for any child with autism and below are a few steps on how to make Halloween an enjoyable experience.

Help Your Child With Autism Have a Happy Halloween With These Tips:

  • Let you child pick out his costume so you know it is something he will want to wear.MORE Tips To Help Your Child Enjoy Haloween
  • Make sure your child is able to wear the costume around the house prior to going trick-or-treating. This will allow him to get used to how the costume feels and allow you to make any necessary adjustments to the costume to make it more comfortable for your child.
  • If you are planning on trick-or-treating, take walks around your neighborhood or wherever you plan on going in the weeks leading up to Halloween. Also, you may want to practice walking up to the doors of people you know and ringing the doorbell.
  • Read your child social stories about Halloween traditions and trick-or-treating.
  • Make a schedule of the events that will take place the night of Halloween. Show this schedule to your child frequently so they know what is coming next. You could even make a map of each house you will be going to and they can cross off each house they go to.
  • If your child has limited verbal skills, make a picture they can hold up that says trick-or-treat, or if possible have a sibling do all of the talking.

Click here for more simple tips to prepare your child with autism for Halloween.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanston, Deerfield, LincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Halloween and Autism

Simple Tips To Prepare Your Child with Autism for Halloween

 

It’s that time of year again: the leaves are changing, the weather is getting cooler, and children and parents alike are beginning to feverously plan Halloween activities and costumes. While this may be an exciting experience for most families, it can be a difficult and anxiety-provoking experience for families with children with autism.  Children with autism may interpret and react differently to Halloween festivities and costumes, which can be an overwhelming experience. However, this doesn’t mean that children need to sit on the sidelines and avoid Halloween activities altogether. With the following tips, parents and their children with autism can have a stress-free and enjoyable Halloween.

Costumes

Costumes are a quintessential part of Halloween. It is important to remember that costumes are possible for your Simple Tips to Prepare Your Child with Autism for Halloweenchild with autism, but should be safe and comfortable for him or her to wear. This is especially important if your child has sensory difficulties. Take into consideration how the fabric and the fit of the costume will affect your child: Is it a fabric the child is used to wearing? Is the fit too tight or too loose? A great way to decide if a costume works is by practicing wearing the costume around the house. This allows your child to become acclimated to the costume, and lets you know whether or not the child will be able to tolerate wearing the costume for extended periods of time. With practice and knowledge that a costume works, you can avoid meltdowns and last-minute costume changes on Halloween.

Social Cues

It is not everyday that we ask our children to walk up to a stranger’s house and socially engage with the stranger for candy. This is a break in typical social rules that children normally follow. This break in rules may be difficult for a child with a rigid understanding of rules and expectations of the world. One way to help your child overcome this change in rules is through setting a schedule and script that your child can follow for trick-or-treating. For example, the script and schedule may look like the following:

  1. Ring doorbell
  2. When an adult opens the door, say “Trick or Treat”
  3. Allow the adult to put candy in your candy bag
  4. Say “Thank you” and walk away from the house

This script and schedule allows your child to understand the expectations and rules of Halloween while also creating an easy timeline that they can follow and refer back to with parents. Similarly, you may want to practice this script with your child prior to Halloween at your own household. The child can put on his or her costume, and practice ringing the doorbell and asking for candy to simulate trick-or-treating on Halloween.

Know your Child

Even with extensive preparation, Halloween can be an overwhelming and tiring experience. Know and recognize when your child has had enough and is ready to call it quits for the evening. The point of Halloween is for your child to have an enjoyable time, whether that lasts 30 minutes or 2 hours. Halloween is all about maximizing your child’s fun while spending time together as a family.

With the right knowledge and planning, families with children with autism can have a successful and happy Halloween!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanston, Deerfield, LincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

How to Choose a Halloween Costume for a Child With Sensory Processing Disorder

Halloween is a time for kids to dress up in fun costumes, however, this may be very uncomfortable for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Kids with SPD may find certain clothing uncomfortable due to tactile sensitivities. This may range from kid-to-kid; some kids may prefer to wear loose fitted clothing, some may prefer to wear clothes that are tight, and some kids may prefer to wear soft clothing. It is best to explore which type of clothing your child prefers prior to picking out a Halloween costume. Halloween

Once you know which type of clothing best suits your child, you can then begin to find what Halloween costume will be most comfortable for them to wear.

Here are some recommendations to make your search for a Halloween costume easier:

  • Allow your child to be a part of the process of choosing a Halloween costume and try to incorporate their favorite things.
  • Never force your child to wear a costume.
  • It may be helpful to find costumes that are seamless and do not have tags.
  • Wash the costume prior to your child wearing it.
  • Allow your child to wear their costume prior to Halloween.
  • Masks and face paint may be uncomfortable for a child with SPD. It will be helpful to practice wearing a mask or putting on face paint prior to Halloween to see if your child can tolerate the feeling of having it on his or her face. If your child decides to wear a mask, allow them to remove it if needed. Also, if your child decides to wear face paint, make sure to bring facial wipes in case you need to remove it from his or her face.

It is more important that your child is comfortable in his or her Halloween costume, rather than what costume they wear. It will be helpful to know what type of clothing your child finds comfortable and what clothing they find uncomfortable in order to find the best costume for his or her needs.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake Bluff, and Des Plaines! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 or fill out the form below and we’ll reach out to you!

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Surviving Halloween With Sensory Issues

How to Survive Halloween with Sensory IssuesWhen I think of Halloween, my mind races back to colorful memories of bright and lively costumes, overly sweet and delicious fun-sized bars of chocolate, and children of all ages screaming “trick or treat”! As most parents know, children who are especially oversensitive to auditory, visual, and tactile stimuli may experience a spark in meltdowns or increase in negative behaviors as a response to this incoming sensory input. Below are some helpful strategies to circumvent these challenges before the day and ensure a safe, fun, and successful Halloween for all.

How to survive Halloween with sensory issues:

  • Recognizing the symptoms of auditory sensitivity is the first step in preventing any tantrums or negative experiences resulting from auditory overload. If your child has auditory sensitivities, investing in some noise-canceling ear plugs or headphones may help to alleviate some of the meltdowns that arise with loud music or conversation at Halloween parties.
  • Trick or treating is one of the most fun and special parts about Halloween. Encouraging children to take part in this special tradition is important to allow them to be able to explore and grow their social skills and leisure opportunities. If your child is tactile or visually sensitive, or he becomes overly emotional or uncomfortable when having to meet and introduce themselves to people, it may be helpful to have an older sibling take on the responsibility of introducing selves to neighbors or family while trick-or-treating. Let your child choose if they want to partake in ringing the doorbell and asking for treats, and know that it is okay if they wish to hang back with caregiver while visiting unfamiliar houses. Role playing with your child to help them prepare for the day’s activities can also be a helpful way to improve their social emotional responses.
  • Practice makes perfect, especially when it comes time to wear a costume! Oftentimes, Halloween costumes can be hot, difficult to put on, or uncomfortable. To avoid this nightmare, prepare your child by having them wear their costume days before the festivities, so that they have an opportunity to break in their costume on their own time, which can highlight any potential issues beforehand. Hosting a fashion show with other siblings or friends could help to make the idea of wearing non-traditional clothing more fun and exciting in a non-threatening environment.
  • For Halloween parties, make sure to bring some familiar food for the child to enjoy. Safe food choices can be comforting in an unfamiliar setting like a family or friend gathering, especially when the parent is not there for support. If the party is at your house, take advantage of this by setting up a sensory corner away from the main area of entertainment and provide extensive individual and all age activities to try out. Some good suggestions may include coloring, painting pumpkins, or themed craft jewelry. Playing quiet music and decreasing the amount bright lighting can help alleviate some stress for children with sensory concerns.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanston, Deerfield, LincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

how to make carving a pumpkin a speech and language activity

Carving a Pumpkin – Make it a Speech and Language Activity!

One of my favorite Halloween memories from childhood is carving pumpkins with my dad. I loved the excitement of picking them out, pulling out all the yucky guts, deciding on faces, lighting them up and then, of course, making pumpkin seeds. With Halloween right around corner, it’s a great time to carve some pumpkins and make memories with your kids. Below are 3 ways you can work speech and language goals into this fun holiday activity!

3 Ways to Make Carving a Pumpkin a Speech and Language Activity:

1. Going to the pumpkin patch: There is so much to see at the pumpkin patch! This is a great opportunity to talkhow to make carving a pumpkin a speech and language activity about size concepts as well as to compare and contrast.

  • Have your child find the biggest or smallest pumpkin.
  • After picking out your pumpkins, have your child put them in order from biggest to smallest (or vice versa).
  • Compare the sizes and shapes of the pumpkins.
  • Use similes to describe the pumpkins. “It’s a big as a____.”

2. Carving the pumpkin. But first, talk about how you’re going to do it.

  • Make “How to Carve a Pumpkin” directions and problem solve with your child about what’s going to happen first, next, and last. They can draw or write out the steps.
  • If your child is younger, use one of these sequencing activities to help with the sequencing!

Sequence 1
Sequence 2
Sequence 3

3. Making pumpkin seeds. Cooking and recipes are great ways to work on language comprehension, vocabulary, and sequencing skills.

  • Click here for a great recipe – it gives you different seasoning options.
  • After reading through the recipe ask comprehension questions such as “What are two ingredients we need?” or “How hot should the oven be?”
  • Have your child recall all the steps of the recipe. It might be helpful to draw, or write them out.
  • Talk about the different seasoning options and how they might taste; use descriptive vocabulary words to describe the flavors! Spicy, fiery, zesty, sweet, fragrant, etc.

Happy Halloween!

Click here for 5 more speech and language themed Halloween activities!

 

 

 

Don’t Let Halloween Spook the Nutrition out of Your Kids!

Halloween and nutrition don’t exactly go together as do witches and brooms. I know, as a parent, I’m wondering how to balance the fun of the holiday halloween candyalong with the health of my young daughter. All foods have some place in our diets. Candy is one that should appear less often than most. Here is my advice regarding how to handle all the candy your kids bring home from Trick or Treating.

Keeping a nutritious mind on Halloween:

  1. Before Trick or Treating, as in the night before so you have their full attention, explain what the ground rules are going to be for the candy. Make sure they know what to expect ahead of time.
  2. Some example ground rules could be:
    1. The kids can pick 5-10 of their favorite candies from trick or treating to eat Halloween night. Save the rest and choose 1-2 candies to have each day from there forward.
    2. Let them keep half the candy, and allow them to eat a few pieces every day until it’s gone. Create a project where they give the other half away in little treat bags to people who might appreciate the thought (i.e., the mailman, the school secretary, grandma and grandpa, etc.)
    3. Pick a handful of candy to eat at designated times. Give the rest of the candy to both parents to take to work.
  3. Remember the ground rules. They may start whining about what their friends get to do and how unfair you are as their parents. You are in charge; you make the rules; therefore, you must enforce the rules.
  4. In addition, remember that a moderate amount of candy in one day is not the end of the world. Eating a little candy every day for a number of days is not all that bad either; however, having no rules relating to eating the candy can result in unnecessary sugar consumption in short periods of time. This will likely result in a huge crash in behaviorIt can start as hyperactivity and quickly escalate to emotional outbursts, anger or aggression and feeling ill. Also, they will probably not have an appetite for other food, making mealtimes a definite struggle.
  5. Be conscious to not use candy as a reward. It sends a message that there is some great value in candy when you use it as the ultimate reinforcer for what you want them to do. This will turn into a continuous battle once you decide that you don’t want to reward them with candy.

I will leave you with a few nutritious, kid-friendly Halloween recipes to balance all the candy:

Edible Eyeballs- carrots, cream cheese, pitted black olives
Slice carrots into 1 inch thick rounds, and top each with a blob of cream cheese and one half of a pitted black olive.
From Familyfun.com 2009

Eerie Eyeballs- apples, apricots, dried cherries or raisins
Slice apples horizontally so that you have ¼ inch flat disks; cut out the core centers. Slice apricots carefully in half (lengthwise) and place sticky side down onto the apple rounds. Do the same with raisins or dried cherries and place stick side down onto the apricots.
From Familyfun.com 2009

Witches Fingers- carrots, block of white cheddar cheese or string cheese, sliced almonds, peanut butter, cream cheese.
Use baby carrots or peeled thin carrots and put a small dab of peanut butter on the top of one end. Place one sliced almond on the peanut butter so that it is held in place. This is the witches fingernail and the carrot is the finger. Do the same with the cheddar or string cheese by slicing it into finger-like shapes and putting the almond on using a dab of cream cheese. Arrange on a plate and be sure to slice in “knuckles”.

Pumpkin Pancakes
Just add a few dollops of canned pumpkin and a little sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon to your favorite pancake batter. Try pouring the batter into greased pumpkin-shaped metal cookie cutters on the griddle to make festive shapes.

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Skills Addressed When Carving a Pumpkin

Like many other fun and simple activities, carving a pumpkin is a great way to work on occupational therapy skills right at home. Such skills include boy carving a pumpkinfine motor, visual motor, bilateral coordination, executive functioning, along with imagination and creativity.

Here is a quick breakdown of the Pumpkin Carving activity:

  1. Choosing a pumpkin: this in itself provides the child with independence and decision making skills. The child is required to pick a pumpkin of his choosing and be confident in his selection.
  2. Scraping out the insides: not only does this piece of the activity provide a great amount of tactile input, as the guts of the pumpkin are squishy and cold, but it also provides a significant amount of bilateral skills and upper body strength (holding the pumpkin steady with one hand and scraping with a large spoon with the other hand).
  3. Creating a face for the pumpkin: this works on drawing age appropriate shapes (e.g. circles, squares, triangles, diamonds) to become the eyes, nose, mouth, and ears of the pumpkin. It also lets the child be his own artist and lets his creative juices flow, as there is no right or wrong way to do it.
  4. Adding details with toothpicks: oftentimes children like to add on external pieces to their pumpkins, like ears. This can be done by poking a toothpick through the extra piece of the pumpkin, which would again work on bilateral skills and also hand and finger strength. Additionally, it works on muscle grading to control how much force is put onto the pumpkin, so that the small piece of the pumpkin or the toothpick does not break.
  5. Baking the pumpkin seeds: this step of the pumpkin carving process allows the child to try new foods and spices, and also works on following a recipe. For many children, pumpkin seeds may be a new texture to explore and eat, if they don’t eat other seeds often (e.g. sunflower seeds). Trying new textures and foods is a great way to broaden your child’s taste buds.

Overall, it is extremely important for parents to remember that occupational skills can be easily incorporated into daily tasks, and especially into fun holiday activities! Carving pumpkins is a perfect way to bring the whole family together, and incorporates many age appropriate skills! Happy carving!

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Halloween For Dog Families

Guest Blog From Bark Busters!

Halloween brings a fun time for most of us, but for some of our much-loved four-legged family members, Halloween can be a nightmare. Dog owners  may not be able to control external surroundings, but they can care for their dog’s safety and well-being by observing the following tips from Bark Busters Home Dog Training, the world’s largest dog training company:Dog Training Chilcago

Don’t leave your dog outside. Even if you have a fenced yard, bring your dog inside where it is safe. Your dog may be used to strangers, but so many little ghouls and goblins running about may be too much. Remember also that it is a natural instinct for dogs to protect the family from strangers, and on Halloween there will be no shortage of strangers.

Keep your dog restrained. If your dog is timid or scared, or if he tends to love people a little too much, it is best to put him in a separate room away from the front door to limit his excitability, aggression, and chance of running outside and becoming lost.

Reassure your dog. The best thing you can do for your dog when he is feeling unsettled by Halloween activities is to act as you normally would around your dog. By over-reassuring your dog or giving him an unusual amount of attention, you inadvertently can communicate to him that there must be something to worry about.

Have your dog get used to costumes. Your dog may see his family members as strangers once they don their Halloween costumes. Before the kids put them on, allow your dog to scent the costumes and keep masks off while your dog is around.

Check your dog’s ID tag. Be sure identification tags are secure on your dog’s collar-just in case.

Keep candy away from your dog. Many candies-especially chocolate-are toxic to dogs, resulting from a mild upset tummy to vomiting and diarrhea, or even death. If you want to keep your dog safe, make certain that sweets, including their wrappers, are kept well away from your dog.

Protect dogs from candles and pumpkins. Excited or agitated dogs can easily knock over a lit candle or pumpkin. Be sure those items are away from your dog’s reach, or consider a battery-powered candle that does not burn.

Think twice about dressing your dog in a costume. While some dogs might enjoy being dressed up, many don’t. Experiment first to see if your dog likes being in a costume. If he shows any resistance, don’t do it.

Be prepared. If you take your dog with you while trick-or-treating, be prepared at all times. Do not let your dog approach the door of a house, and stay clear of possible witches or goblins that may pop out. Neither children nor adults in costumes should approach a dog without the owner’s consent.

Have fun but think of your dog’s safety.

Finally, if you want your dog to be included in Halloween festivities, think about his safety as much as you would the safety of a small child.

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Marlene Marks  is a dog behavioral therapist and trainer with Bark Busters, the world’s largest dog training company. For more details, call 1-877-500-BARK (2275) or visit www.BarkBusters.com to find a dog trainer in your area. 

Language Fun with Halloween

Halloween is a super fun holiday! There are so many great ways to use Halloween to build your child’s language skills. Here are a few ideas:

“Categories and Sorting” to Boost Language

After your child goes trick or treating, have them sort their candy into different categories. They could sort candy by type (chocolate vs. gummies), size, shape, color or taste.Boy in Costume Sorting Candy

“Describing” To Boost Language

Picking out the perfect Halloween costume is always fun! When talking about costumes, have your child describe what it is that they’d like to be this year. Have them talk about costume colors, accessories, emotions/feelings associated with the character, etc. Or when you’re at the store, play a guessing game. “Guess who I am thinking about…I wear a pointy hat, fly on a broomstick and can be a little scary!”

“Following Directions” To Boost Language

There are lots and lots of Halloween art projects and craft ideas. Take any project and turn it into a following directions activity. Depending on what level your child is at, you can have him/her follow 1 or 2 step directions. It could be as simple as a drawing activity. Start with a haunted house picture. Tell your child, “draw a pumpkin next to the door” or “Put a scary ghost in one of the top windows.”

Vocabulary

Halloween is a great time to work on different vocabulary words. You can work on synonyms or antonyms, definitions, grammar or even salient features. For example, take the word “spooky.”

You can ask the following questions:

  • What does spooky mean?
  • What is the opposite of spooky? What is another word for spooky?
  • Tell me something that is spooky – once they give you an object, have them tell you more about the object. For example, let’s say they say “witch.”   Then have him/her tell you what a witch has, where you find a witch, what does a witch do, etc (these are all salient features).

Reading Comprehension

There are many thematic books for Halloween. Find a book that is appropriate for your child’s reading level and work on reading comprehension skills. Ask wh- questions (i.e. who, what, where, why, why) while reading the book. You can ask text-based questions (questions that stem directly from what you read) or critical thinking questions (questions that will stimulate your child’s thought process). For example, if you’re reading about a scary character, you could ask “What makes you scared?” or “What do you do when you’re scared?”

For a list of great Halloween Books, click here.  You can read summaries and even take a look at the first few pages of the books.

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Building Your Child’s Speech & Language Skills During Halloween

As a speech-language pathologist, I love holidays for the language-rich opportunities they provide.  For starters, my kids reliably arrive to therapy sessions bursting with things to talk about, from Halloween costumes to anticipated candy.  And research supports that children learn best when they’re motivated and excited.  By incorporating speech-language goals into holiday activities, you can encourage your child’s development in a fun and engaging context.  Enjoy these 5 fun ways to build speech and language skills during Halloween fun.

5 Halloween Activities to Practice Speech & Language

1. Read a book about Halloween.  Choose an age-appropriate book with fun pictures.  By reading a book about Halloween ahead of time, you can introduce your child to vocabulary and activities they might experience at Halloween.  This activity targets: mother reading to children in the fall timevocabulary development, literacy, and comprehension.
2. Create a book or timeline about your Halloween plans.  For many children, Halloween festivities can be overwhelming.  Prepare them ahead of time by creating a book about what you will do during Halloween.
Include places you will go, things you will see, and people you will be with.  You might even include appropriate phrases your child will use at Halloween (e.g. “Trick-or-Treat” or “I like your costume!”).  This activity targets: vocabulary, sequencing, literacy, narrative language, social skills.
3. Create a fun Halloween snack.  There are lots of fun and creative ideas on the internet (example: mumified pizzas).  Write out the steps needed to make the snack, and help your child brainstorm things you will need.  Afterwards, encourage your child to share their snack with others and describe how they made it.  This activity targets: executive function, sequencing, vocabulary, expressive language, social skills.
4. Create a Halloween craft.  Crafts are a great way to work on sequencing, vocabulary, and following directions.  The internet has endless ideas for creative kid-friendly crafts.  A few of my favorites are Enchanted Learning and DLTK Kids.  Encourage your child to share their craft with others and explain how they made it.  This activity targets: sequencing, vocabulary, following directions, expressive language.
5. Make a Halloween scrapbook to remember the day.  Take digital pictures throughout the Halloween festivities.  Afterwards, print each picture out and glue them into a construction paper book.  Help your child describe what happened in each picture (Who is in this picture?  What is mommy doing?  Where are we going?, etc).  Encourage your child to share their Halloween scrapbook with family and friends.  This activity targets: answering questions, literacy, expressive language, social skills.