The crazy, cold, dreary winter is here, and spring is no where to be seen. In our neck of the woods, good ole’ New England, the frigid, bleak weather can last until April, which starts our rainy spring. Typical children and adults as well, can become depressed, and in the children’s cases’, behavioral. Now add Autism to that equation, and it’s no wonder that most occurrences of meltdowns, tantrums, and overall bad attitude, happen during this time of year.
So how do you survive this time of year with an Autistic child?? It takes a little creativity, some pre-planning, and a whole lot of patience. Think ahead of the game. February vacation will be here soon enough-do you have some respite and activities set up yet? Make calls to all your back up help, respite providers, and capable family members, and book actual days and times for them to help out. Put it on the calender. A few hours off a day can make all the difference to an exhausted caretaker.
Think of fun, unusual things to do. Get a 6’x6′ tent, typically on clearance this time of year, and camp out in your living room, or the child’s bedroom. I also get an area rug for underneath it , as I have hardwood floors. With a plastic bin for books, flashlights, Legos, and music headsets, and you have a brand new playground.
Rotate the child’s toy. Put some that they have become bored with, away until summer vacation. Bring out some of the new items from Christmas, along with things you have most likely stored in closets and toy boxes. Forgotten toys become new ones. This is best done before hand, with no kids around, as little ones can become attached to certain items, and stress out when they are put away. It’s a good time for a new puzzle, a classic children’s movie and nothing beats a coloring book with a fresh box of crayons.
And, of course, take the child outside to play any time weather permits. Exersize of any kind, up until an hour or two before bed time, will make them happier in general, and easier to get to sleep.
So start thinking of people (helpers), places (indoors and outside activities), and things (rotated and new toys and items), that will make the long Hum-drum winter go by. And above all, remember to take a deep breath, a step back, and take a little time off for yourself. Because even adults can have a meltdown, when they are stressed out.
Don’t wait in Waiting rooms. Doctors Appointments, Dentist Exams, and other frequent visits that require a wait before being seen, can be a deal breaker for how well the actual visit goes, with an Autistic child. Call ahead before you get to the office of the appointment, ask them if they are running on time, and tell them your child is Autistic and doesn’t wait well. Ask them to take your cell number and call you when they are ready for you to be seen. Assure them you will be right outside their door, and just want to keep your child calm and get the most from your visit. I even have popped my head in my Pediatrician’s office to tell them “We’re here!” and then Mattie and I do laps in their nice big building, till they call me that the nurse is ready for us. It NEVER hurts to ask for this kind of help, they would rather have your child calm than tantruming in their waiting room!!
Wireless door bells are great for the child’s bedroom when you need help but don’t want to make a lot of noise. Install the button near the child’s bed, and the wireless chime near family members usual hang out. Need help with the child without yelling?! Ding-dong!!