Easter is fast approaching and that can mean an Easter Egg Hunt for your little one! Will your child get as much fun out of the hunt as you might think? Sometimes when a child is challenged with a disorder, he or she can feel quite overwhelmed by crowds of people, various colored objects strewn about in a haphazard manner, and the noisy cheering of encouragement, especially if your child has been diagnosed with autism.
Did you know that April is “World Autism Month?” AutismSpeaks.org explains, “Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 59 children in the United States today.”
We naturally think about Easter Egg Hunts this time of the year, but have you ever considered what an Easter Egg Hunt means to a child with autism? Some autistic children have sensory sensitivities, gross motor skill problems, and mental health challenges such as anxiety and attention issues. How can you help a child on the spectrum enjoy an Easter Egg Hunt with his/her peers?
Kerry Smith of KidsOutandAbout.com gives some advice on how she got her autistic son to start enjoying high-energy group activities like Easter Egg Hunts:
- Before the hunt be sure to practice and role play at home so he/she knows what to expect. Hide a few eggs around the house for your child to find. You don’t have to put candy in the eggs either. Let your child be excited by the hunt. Start by hiding one color of eggs, then another time, add another color, so that the multi-colored effect does not overwhelm him/her all at once.
- On the day of the hunt be sure to arrive few minutes early so that you and your child can assess the situation when it is calm and quiet. This would be a good time to explain that everyone will help to gather the eggs and that some children will find more eggs for their baskets. Be sure to explain that it is not a competition to see who can find the most eggs and it is only just for fun.
- Bring with you the necessary gear for your child to cope better such as headphones, sunglasses, and a basket for the collected eggs.
- Explain the rules. Children who are on the spectrum want to know the rules. Are all the eggs fair game? Just certain colors or a certain amount? When can they start? Where do they put the eggs that they find?
- Tell your child to move at his/her own pace and there no reason to hurry or rush around, even if the other kids are. Reassure your child during the event that it is fine to move at his/her own speed.
- Go with your child if your child asks you to go. You can carry the basket and offer encouragement so that he/she does not become overwhelmed. Be careful not to give too many instructions because it could just add to the chaos for your child. Gently lead by example or simply point to an egg.
- Let them stop or opt out if they want to even if your child only has a few eggs in the basket. Encourage your son/daughter to continue but if he/she does not want to, allow that and do not force them. Permit your child to be a spectator. Eventually you will notice that these social occasions of interactions, even if only involved for a few minutes at a time, will have helped your autistic child with his/her social skills tremendously in the long run.
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