In our previous blog article, we provided some tips on how to involve your child with autism in Christmas, by getting your child to help with decorating the Christmas tree. Another way you could get your child with autism involved in the upcoming Christmas festivities is to involve them in the making of Christmas cards and buying of Christmas gifts.
Here are some tips on how to involve your child with autism in making Christmas cards and buying Christmas gifts:
Making Christmas Cards
- Researching ideas on the internet
Instead of buying Christmas cards, you could opt for making your own. By making your own cards, you engage your child in a fun activity that could help strengthen fine motor skills as well as expand your child’s creativity.
To add a personal touch to your Christmas cards, add your child’s handprint to the design of the card. For ideas on personalised handprint Christmas cards, you could look it up on Pinterest.
- Breaking down the steps
We recommend breaking down the steps for your child and providing them with a step-by-step guide on how to make the cards. To do so you could utilize visual strategies such as:
- Visual schedule (picture or written)
- Video modelling (for children with imitation skills)
- Live modelling (for children with imitation skills)
- Setting appropriate demands or expectations
Additionally, the demands and expectations you place on your child during the card-making process should be based on the type of learner your child is and benchmarked according to their skill sets.
For early learners (children who are nonverbal or who have very minimal speech):
- You could paint their hand and they could stamp their handprint onto the paper with minimal assistance
- You could hold their hand to guide them while drawing the features and designs of the card
For intermediate learners (children with emerging speech):
- They could paint their hand with minimal assistance and stamp their handprint onto the paper on their own
- Depending on the Christmas character (e.g. reindeer, santa) you opt for the design of your card, they could draw the features of the character (e.g. eyes, antlers, nose) with minimal assistance
- They could write a simple greeting on the card (e.g. Merry Christmas)
For advanced learners (children with fluent speech):
- They could independently paint their hand, stamp their handprint onto the paper and draw the designs or features, while you model the steps to them
- They could have the opportunity for creative freedom and design the card differently if they choose to do so
- They could write a greeting on the card and add a personalised message for the receiver of the card
Buying Christmas Gifts
- Make a list
Before going out to buy the gifts, make a list of the people you will be buying gifts for. Your child could have his own list, which could include names of family members, teachers and friends.
Next, together with your child, brainstorm ideas of gifts that each of those people on the list would like. This activity is a great way to teach your child other people’s perspective, that the gifts that your child’s friends like and would want may be different from what your child would want.
While doing this activity, we would recommend having a toy catalogue as a visual aide for your child to browse through and choose gifts for the people on the list.
- Buying the gifts
Children with autism may find it challenging to go to new or unfamiliar places such as the shopping mall, and some may also find it challenging to be in crowded spaces.
Before going out to the shopping mall or toy store to purchase the gifts, you would need to communicate this to your child in advance. To do so, you could utilize the following strategies:
- A social story about going to the mall to buy gifts (Click for free download!)
- A calendar to show your child when you are going to the mall
- A visual schedule of what will happen when you go to the mall
- A rule card to communicate the expectations at the mall (e.g. stay with mom)
At the toy store, you could make the task of searching for the gifts into a fun treasure hunt activity for your child. After your child has found each gift, cross off the name/gift on the list to show your child how many more they need to find. Depending on the type of learner your child is, you may want to simplify the demands on your child while at the toy store (e.g. if there are 10 items on the list, your child could look for 5 of them while you look for the other 5 items).
- Reward your child
When your child demonstrates the appropriate behaviours at the toy store, it is important that you reward your child. For example, once you have purchased the items on the list and your child cooperated by staying with you throughout, you could buy them a gift or treat them to their favourite snack or activity.
We hope that these tips can help you and your family get excited for this festive season. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas from all of us at EAP Malaysia!