Last week I ended my series “What Autism Looks Like in Our Home”. It included emotional reactivity (aka meltdowns), sensory issues, sleep problems, anxiety, and food aversions. This is not an exclusive list by any means but these are the Top 5 that stand out to me as we raise our son.
Today I’d like to share some of the tools I did not mention in this series, that we’ve used to help with these daily issues.
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This has been a huge hit in our home. We originally bought this for our daughter with ADHD. It works wonders for her when she just can’t settle down and is super fidgety. It also works for our son when he’s bored or just needs to get some energy out.
Our son loves books. Before he could even read he would sit and look through books often. Over the last year we’ve found that he particularly enjoys activity books – mazes, puzzles, and seek and finds.
More recently, I’ve been using these as a distraction for him when he’s on the verge of a frustrating meltdown. They’ve worked so far, which means I need to keep a variety of these activity books on hand at all times.
Have you heard of this website? We discovered this website through our occupational therapist. It’s also used by public schools as a way to give kids “brain breaks” and effectively release all that energy kids seem to have.
On this website, we’ve taught our son about belly-breathing as a way to calm down, but they also have some fun, unique videos and games that our son just loves. His favorite channel is “Moose Tube”. It’s free to sign up. I highly recommend it!
When our son is feeling overwhelmed it’s a good idea to give him some privacy. One of the things our occupational therapist wanted him to learn was to “self-soothe” or learn how to regulate his own emotions. The goal is for him to recognize when he’s becoming frustrated or anxious, take himself out of that situation and into a calming place.
Our son received a tent for Christmas, from his Grandma. It’s a “Minion” Tent and he loves it. He uses it when he wants some time alone. We’ve also used it when he needs a break. One time I placed him in his tent when he was on the verge of a meltdown. I then placed a few tools in there with him – bouncy ball, therapy putty, and books. One by one he threw each one back out at me (which was hilarious). But he stayed in there and did not try to hurt himself or anyone else. That is a victory in our eyes!!
Weighted Blankets and Pillows
We’ve also found, through occupational therapy, that he enjoys being covered with heavy weight, usually a blanket or bean bag or heavy pillows. One day he was getting bored so I suggested he lay on the floor and I cover him up. He laid on his belly with a bunch of books while I covered him with 2 comforters and a bunch of pillows. He loved it! He laid there for at least a half hour and he was perfectly content.
I first saw this idea on Pinterest. It’s basically a bin, basket, or box of items that will help your child when he or she is on the verge of a meltdown. We also discussed this during our son’s occupational therapy appointments.
(Do you see a pattern here with occupational therapy? Besides our psychiatrist and medication, this has been the most helpful resource for our son. Read more here about our personal experience.)
- Find a container – I used an old plastic dishpan tub that we used to store some of his toys. I bleached it and it was as good as new.
- Choose your items – What tools, toys, blankets, media, etc help your child calm down when he or she is getting frustrated or mad? For our son it was certain books he likes to read, putty or play doh, a light-up ball, bubble wrap, a list of calming activities, and a fidget toy.
- Place the items in the container (self-explanatory)
- Show your child the calm down bin and clearly explain how it will be used – When our son was in a good mood, I called him over to me and told him this was his very own “Break Box”. I used break box because in occupational therapy we talked a lot about taking breaks when he felt his “engine” was going too fast. And I’ve told him plenty of times to calm down so I thought the word “calm” may not be the best to use with him. I explained that when he was getting frustrated or mad I would tell him it’s time for a break and he would go to his “Break Box” and find something in there to help him relax. And I let him decide where it should be. We placed it in his bedroom on his bookshelf.
- Use the Calm Down Bin – Ha! Now here’s the tricky part – using the box. If you are the parent of a child who has meltdowns, you know very well that getting your child to do anything during a meltdown is impossible. So my husband and I attempt to catch him before he explodes. When it works, he’s still upset, but one of us takes him to his bedroom and we stay with him while he plays with his “Break Box”. If he’s already exploded, we usually pick him up, and take him to his bedroom, or I may bring his calm down bin out to him.
Let me be honest – this does NOT always work. Most of the time he throws the items in his bin all over and makes a huge mess. After he’s calmed down we do make him clean it up. Then it’s all ready for the next time. 🙂
I hope this gave you some good ideas of what you can use in your home to help ease anxiety and promote peace.
If you have any ideas or suggestions to add to this list, please do! Thank you so much for your input. 🙂