Feb 05, 2019

Timely Tips For Friendship Parties and Valentine's Day Celebrations

Children making valentines at a table

Valentine’s Day is the next upcoming holiday. It can sometimes be a confusing holiday for some children who don’t understand what is happening and/or find the events stressful. It’s a rather abstract holiday… Why do we give all the kids in our class cards? What does it mean when a card says ‘Be My Valentine’ or ‘I’m sweet on you’? There are so many multiple meanings and a lot of commotion! Plus, if your child has severe food allergies like mine have, that is an additional layer that can interfere with the holiday. UGH.. and don’t even get me started on the WRITING! Writing out Valentine’s cards for classmates has caused meltdowns in my house over the years. There are a few tips and tools to gear up for Valentine’s Day and make it more enjoyable for children with ASD and/or anxiety:

  • Social narratives can help explain an event or situation. They can reduce child anxiety by letting s/he know the facts about what will happen. Here is a Valentine’s Day social narrative from Positively Autism that can help some children understand what Valentine’s Day is and what will happen.
  • For the Valentine’s cards… MOTIVATE and REDUCE WRITING DEMANDS (we had to do this in my house):
    • Pick a special interest of the child - a motivating character or item - to use in the cards for classmates. This might help a child want to hand them out.
    • Make sure that you let your child have at least ONE of the classroom Valentine’s items themselves (especially since it IS their favorite character or a motivating item).
    • Does your child have a unique interest like volcanos or insects or the periodic table of elements? Use those and make your own cards! I’ve made ‘homemade’ Valentine’s cards in Google Docs (using a table in Google Docs along with Google images) to meet a child interest. I have my child help pick out the image in Google Docs (favorite volcano, etc.) and then put a fun Valentine’s saying on like, “You create an eruption of happiness!” This has been good since one of my children didn’t like the cards saying different things - they wanted them all to say the SAME thing. Printing your own also reduces the amount of writing they need to do since you can print them from your computer and already have your child’s name on it. Here’s a Google Doc template I created that you can edit and use.
    • Find out what the schedule will be like and make sure your child has a written schedule (if he/she is a reader) or visual/picture schedule to know what will happen, especially during the classroom Valentine’s party when things will be different and ‘busy’ with movement and activity.
    • Role play/practice how to hand out Valentine’s and what to say when someone gives you a Valentine’s card.
    • If your child has food allergies like mine, I always try to get the classroom ‘menu’ for any food activity. That way, we can make it at home and/or I can substitute ingredients that are similar that my child can eat.

GWAEA autism consultant and mom Kelli Robertson is a trained speech-language pathologist who has worked at Grant Wood AEA for 19 years, and is currently an autism consultant and assistive technology coach. She also is the parent of three kiddos who are unique thinkers/learners.



Category: The Carpool Lane