The beginning of winter is filled with anticipation leading up to the holiday season. It’s a time of year with full schedules and even fuller hearts. Then, before you know it, the holidays are over; but it’s still winter. This time of year tends to bring anticipation of warmer weather, which for many areas of the world, is still many months away. The cold keeps us inside, brings on sickness, and leaves us with children who are filled with energy but stuck inside. How can we make the most of this time of year? Below, we’ve gathered the top three activities to do with your ASD child during the winter, so you can enjoy this season for all it’s worth.
Seek Out Sensory-Friendly Events
Many parents keep their children occupied during the colder months with trips to the movies, the zoo, or various museums. If your child is sensitive to noise, lights, or smells, however, attending events or visiting certain attractions can be difficult. Luckily, Sensory-Friendly events have been added to the calendars at kid-friendly attractions all around the country.
Sensory-Friendly events take extra precautions to be sure that their guests, specifically those with ASD or sensory disorders, will be comfortable within their environment. If the attraction typically has flashing lights, they turn them off for the day. If they usually turn the lights off completely for a segment of the activity, they keep them on (and not overly bright). Attractions make sure that there are no loud or sudden noises, and that the air is kept as free from strong smells and fragrances as possible. They may even have sensory toys or activities available to explore with.
Some places you can check for Sensory-Friendly events include:
- Movie Theatres
- Science, History, and Art Museums
- Children’s Museums
- Indoor Playgrounds
- Indoor Mini Golf Courses
- Orchestra Halls
- Concert Venues
- Trampoline Parks
- Live Theatres
- Community Centers
- Roller Rinks
Another great way to embrace the winter season is to simply get outside. Of course, some days this may not be possible with negative wind chills and snow storms. Other days, however, it can bring a great opportunity for excitement, exploration, and a way for your child to get their energy out. Here are some tips to make playing outside in the winter easier for your ASD child:
Give The Winter Gear A Practice Run
Going outside may be difficult if your child is sensitive to certain types of clothing. If this is the case for you, try practicing with winter gear ahead of time. Try on the whole outfit, and see if any part of it is bothersome for your child. You may need to remove tags, or allow them to wear their preferred clothing underneath to keep them comfortable. Allow your child to experience their winter clothes in a setting without pressure.
Talk Through The Experience Beforehand
You may also want to talk with your child about how the cold will feel when they get outside to play. Have them think of how the cold air feels on their cheeks, and explain they will have that same feeling while they play outdoors. Have them think of how the snow will crunch under their boots, and how the legs of their snow pants will feel brushing against each other. You could even look at pictures or read stories about playing outside in the snow.
Try It Out Without Set Expectations
If you do all of this preparing and your child still does not enjoy their time spent outside, it’s okay. You can try again another day, or you can find an indoor activity to keep yourselves occupied. Enjoying outside time is not as important as simply enjoying the season spent with your child, no matter how you spend your time.
Have A Plan For Days Spent Inside
This time of year often brings unexpected schedule changes, which can be difficult for children with ASD. If you have a snow day and stay home from school or work, or simply cannot make the drive to an event you were planning to attend, you’ll want to have a plan on how to deal with the sudden change.
Be sure to tell your child about the change in plans as soon as you know about it, so they have as much time to process the information as possible. It can also help to stick to a schedule, even if it is one that is made up specifically for snow days. If you have the same schedule each time, your child may eventually remember it and know what to expect when the weather keeps you home.
One tangible way to help your child with unexpected, weather-related schedule changes, is to create a “Snow Day Bin.” Take a plastic bin, or even a shoe box, and fill it with activities your child loves to do at home. You may want to put a good movie and their favorite snack in the box, for example. You could also put a new board game, or another activity to help them occupy their day. You may even want to include some activities specific to their development, such as sensory experiences, social skills games, or quiet time activities. You can also keep a copy of your snow day schedule in the box, and have our child hang it on the fridge where they can see it throughout the day.
Even though this is a cold, and seemingly long, time of year, you can make the best of it with a few simple plans. Plan to attend some sensory events near you, consider getting outside with your child, and have a plan for the days that don’t go as planned. Before you know it, the weather will warm up and we will be moving on toward spring.