Picture of child in the snow making a snow angel

7 Tips for Snow Day Fun

While no one can argue with the fun of traditional activities such as building snowmen or snow angels; keeping your kiddo occupied throughout an entire snow day while confined to your house might require a few more tricks up your sleeve.

Consider the unique opportunities the snow can provide for you and your kiddo to explore different language concepts, social skills, academic tasks, and leisure activities. Think about bringing what winter has to offer indoors where it is warm for a unique way to learn and play together.

Just to get you started, grab a few safe bowls (think plastic Tupperware), some pots, a muffin tin, and a few spoons of different sizes. Fill one bowl with cold water, and another with hot water. Throw a big beach towel out on the floor and grab up some of that white, powdery stuff!

  1. Let your child explore, figure out what he likes about the activity, and add to what he finds fun. If he is watching you and waiting for what you are going to do next, you’ve got it right!
  2. In the beginning, don’t demand, just show him some fun ideas you might have of how to play with the snow and “kitchen junk” and talk about what is happening, “Wow you smashed the snow!” “Did you see it melt in the hot water?” “You got more snow!” “Stir, stir, stir, good job stirring!”
  3. Language Concepts: Once you’ve gotten the activity going, use the snow to start talking about fun, related language concepts like hot/cold, wet/dry, melting/frozen.
  4. Social Skills: Take turns with the spoons, stirring, and playing. Encourage and model commenting about the activity and what you or your child enjoy. “Watch it melt!”, “Wow that is cold!”, “I like playing in the snow!”.
  5. Academic Tasks: Discuss weather, precipitation, seasons, and states of matter (solid, liquid, gas). Use your muffin tin and practice counting as you fill each cup.
  6. Leisure Skills: Feel free to step away from the activity and let your child dig in on his own. Sustaining a play activity and incorporating newly learned play skills modeled by an adult plays a crucial role in learning.
  7. Be sure to set boundaries about where the snow must stay. We suggest prompting all snow activity back to the area of the beach towel.

Most importantly, have fun and enjoy this new experience!

Autism 2015: 365 days to make progress

Autism is in the news, social media, and even old fashioned print more than ever. The increasing awareness is great. The influx of research and funding options is even better! The heartwarming stories are nice, the success stories are inspiring. Still, misinformation and slanted headlines annoyingly abound. Such is this strange, complicated, passionate and ultimately very special autism community. We’re glad to be a part of it, and will do our best to honor and respect the many contributing voices. As a community we are making progress in many ways and continue to have optimism that together and individually we can make great strides. But we have no doubt, the most important person to each and every parent, day-in and day-out is your child with autism.

So what will this year’s 365 days mean for you? We suggest this simple but powerful idea: Progress. When your past the notion that there may be a quick fix and come to terms that the pursuit of cure won’t help you with today’s challenges, progress is the name of the game. Forget quantum leaps, each milestone met will offer its own reward. Know there will be set backs and rough patches, and keep moving forward.

BE PRESENT: There are lots of amazing therapists, doctors and teachers in the world. These are brilliant folks that have advice about child development and parenting. But you are the one that is with your child every day and for real progress to take place, you gotta be in the game. And don’t forget to take time to just BE with your child, to appreciate all the beautiful, unique ways he expresses himself and what he enjoys.

BE CONSISTENT: What is the 12 step motto…”the more you work it, the more it works”? Working consistently with your child’s team to implement strategies and teach him…even when it is hard or inconvenient, propels the process.

BE A FRIEND/SPOUSE/PERSON: You can’t focus on autism 24 hours a day. You just can’t. Make time for yourself, your friends and your family. When you do, life just makes more sense, has more balance and you will likely have more stamina for the work ahead.

BE GRATEFUL: Count those blessings, celebrate the wins and enjoy every single bit of progress. This is the real juice of life that makes it all worth it. No one else will feel the joy quite the way you will. It’s awesome.

Of course we will keep reading the headlines, keeping up to date is valuable and research is exciting. In 2015 we will continue to be moved, enlightened and sometimes annoyed by it all. Stick to the plan that works for you and your family and know that come December 31, 2015 you will be able to look at another year passed and call it good.


The Power of Siblings

One of the Merriam-Webster definitions of siblings is “one of two or more things related by a common tie or characteristic.”

But what if one of those siblings is a child with autism?

The relationship between children with autism and typically developing siblings is a varied, interesting and special one – much like all sibling relationships. And while that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges or issues that might arise –sibling relationships can be one of the most valuable interventions.

Most children naturally develop – learning language and behavior from those around them. Unfortunately, the imitation skills for children with autism are often not there. They need interaction to accomplish these milestones. Having a sibling who already has these skills is one of the biggest and best teaching opportunities.

Playing, talking, mimicking siblings – older or younger – can help children with autism develop language and behavior that will help them in school and in life.
In fact, peer modeling and peer interaction is one way Trellis helps children learn and build the skills they need for success through its school and various therapeutic programs. Children with autism that have typical siblings often can build this into their everyday lives.

Children without autism can sometimes act as parents, as nurturers and as teachers. This unique bond is one of the reasons Trellis invites typically developing siblings into school and programs for “play dates.” It helps foster the relationship and can benefit both children.

There is no doubt that having a child with autism can put extreme demands on a family. And every family and every sibling relationship is different. While there are many scenarios that can play out between children with special needs and their typically developing siblings, we think the first step to ensuring your children can make the most of this special bond is ensuring siblings understand why his/her sibling might act differently. This obviously depends on the age of the child, but chances are most children already sense something is different and love and accept their sibling regardless.

Trellis also encourages including siblings in family meetings and other discussions. Not only does this help ensure no child feels left out, but you might gain some insights from the unique perspective of your children.

There are many aspects of the sibling relationship to explore beyond this. In addition to your Trellis staff, some resources to foster interaction between your children include:
• Pathfinders for Autism Sibshops
• Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital Sibshops