Join Our "Autism Alphabet Challenge"!

Join Our "Autism Alphabet Challenge"!

This April, in honor of Autism Awareness Month, we’re excited to launch our “Autism Alphabet Challenge”! For 27 days, we'll explore a term from our "Autism Through The Alphabet" ABC Flashcards and a daily interactive activity to foster more awareness, understanding, empathy, inclusion, and creativity. This educational and fun initiative is an au-some way for families, classrooms, and communities to connect and learn with their children, deepen Autism awareness, and celebrate neurodiversity! 

Gain full access to our daily activities through this blog post, including all the terms, detailed how-tos, and fun ideas to make the most of your experience. Plus, enhance your challenge experience with complementary video content that we will share across our social media channels throughout the month, designed to offer visual and interactive ways to engage with each topic.

Here's How You Can Join Us:

  • (Stay Updated) Follow Jai At Play on Instagram (@jai_at_play) for the latest updates, insights, and glimpses into the activities and stories shared by us and our community. Be inspired by the creativity, learning, and joy that unfolds as we journey through the alphabet and the Autism spectrum together.
  • (Engage and Share) We encourage you to actively participate by using the daily Flashcard challenge as a chance to learn, bond, and have fun. Share your experiences, pictures, and videos on social media using #JaiAtPlayChallenge and tagging us. This is not only an au-some way to document your journey but also a chance to inspire others and possibly see your contributions featured.
  • (Continue Beyond April) While this challenge will be launched during the start of Autism Awareness Month, we hope it ignites a long-term commitment to Autism awareness, understanding, inclusion, and representation. We invite you to continue the journey, carrying the insights, growth, understanding, and connections you've made throughout the rest of the year and beyond. 

Thank you for being a part of this journey! Let's learn, grow, advocate, and celebrate together this Autism Awareness Month and beyond. Your participation and support can make a difference in fostering a more inclusive society where children and families in the Autism Community feel seen, embraced, and valued.

Let the "Autism Alphabet Challenge" begin!

P.S.- We’d love to see your participation! Feel free to share your challenge experiences and creations with us on social media using #JaiAtPlayChallenge. Let's spread the word and inspire others to join in to foster more positive Autism awareness, understanding, inclusion, and representation! 

A - Autism Awareness & Acceptance

Share a Personal Story: This activity encourages you to share stories from your life that highlight positive experiences related to Autism awareness and acceptance, which can challenge misconceptions and celebrate differences. Write down or record a memorable instance where Autism brought about a feeling of pride, understanding, joy, or connection. 

Prompt/Question Ideas- You can provide prompts or questions to help children and participants think of a story to share. Questions and topics might include: 

  • "Can you think of a time when you felt proud of an achievement or something related to Autism?"
  • "Do you have a memorable story that positively changed your understanding of Autism?"
  • A parent could share a story about a time when they felt a profound connection with their autistic child over a shared interest, like drawing or music. This story might highlight how engaging in activities together can lead to joyful and meaningful moments of understanding.
  • A teacher could recount an instance where a student with Autism taught them a new way to approach learning or problem-solving, emphasizing the unique insights and contributions individuals with Autism bring to a group.
  • A young adult with Autism could share their self-advocacy journey, including how they navigated social situations or educational systems to achieve their goals. This story could inspire others facing similar challenges and highlight the importance of resilience and self-awareness.
  • A family could tell a story about the support they received from their community, such as neighbors, schools, or local businesses, which made them feel accepted and valued. This could serve as a call to action for others to be more inclusive and supportive.

B - Brain (Neurological)

Brain-Boosting Fun: Today is all about boosting the brain with educational games that not only entertain but engage and grow cognitive capabilities. Explore how these games can be a fun way to support children’s neurological development.

Implementation: Select any of the games below to play with your children, family, or friends. Focus on the joy of learning and consider the skills each game enhances.

Game Examples:

  • Memory Match: Find pairs in a set of overturned cards.
  • Puzzle It Out: Complete a jigsaw puzzle together.
  • Scrabble Junior: Build vocabulary and spelling skills.
  • Simon Says: Enhance memory and attention by following commands.
  • Tangrams: Use geometric pieces to form shapes and figures.
  • Math Bingo: Make math fun with a game of bingo using numbers and equations.
  • Chess or Checkers: Strategy games that improve critical thinking.
  • Connect Four: Develop strategic planning and problem-solving.
  • Hangman: Foster spelling and vocabulary skills.
  • Guess Who?: Develop questioning and deductive reasoning skills.
  • Pictionary: Encourage creative thinking and communication.

C- Communication

Communication Device Exploration: Explore the world of assistive communication apps and devices to gain insight into how these tools empower expression for individuals who are non-verbal or have communication challenges. Research and download a basic communication app and experiment with using the app to convey messages to each other. By engaging in this challenge, participants not only learn about the technical aspects of communication apps but also gain valuable insights and hands-on understanding into the experiences of individuals who rely on such tools for everyday interactions. 

Implementation:

  • Begin with a brief research session on the internet to find communication apps and devices commonly used by non-verbal individuals or those with communication challenges. Some popular communication apps include "Proloquo2Go," "LAMP Words for Life," and "GoTalk NOW." These apps offer customizable communication boards with symbols and text-to-speech capabilities.
  • Choose an app that seems user-friendly and suitable for your exploration. Many apps offer free trials or lite versions that provide a basic understanding of their functionality. Download the selected app onto a device your child can easily access, such as a tablet or a smartphone.
  • Spend some time getting familiar with the app's features. Look at how it categorizes different words and phrases, the customization options it offers, and how it uses symbols or pictures to represent concepts.
  • Set aside time for a focused session where participants use only the communication app to interact. You might choose a theme for conversation, such as discussing what to have for dinner, planning a weekend activity, or simply how each person's day went. Encourage creativity in using the app, combining symbols and words to express thoughts and responses.

(BONUS) For our Letter C Challenge, we're excited to spotlight a helpful resource and strongly encourage you to visit @motherhoodphasing on Instagram. This page is full of content centered around the use and significance of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) for nonverbal autistic children. Whether you're just starting to explore AAC options or seeking to deepen your understanding and application of these tools, her page offers insights and experiences to support your journey.

D- Dancing To The Beat of Your Own Drum

Dance Party: Host a dance party where everyone can choose their favorite music and dance freely to their own rhythm. This Dance Party is not just about dancing; it's a celebration of individuality, creativity, and bonding. It encourages everyone to embrace and express their uniqueness in a supportive and loving environment.

Preparation & Implementation Ideas: 

  • Clear a safe space to serve as your dance floor. Ensure there's enough room for everyone to move freely.
  • Prepare a playlist with a wide range of music genres to ensure there's something that everyone can enjoy and feel inspired by, including upbeat, slow, and modern tunes.
  • Start the party with a group dance to get everyone loosened up and in the mood. A simple and fun group dance can set a positive tone.
  • After the group dance, begin the showcase rounds where each person takes the center stage to demonstrate their unique dance move. 
  • Encourage creativity! Here are a few fun examples: The RobotButterfly Flaps, and Dinosaur Stomp. Applaud and cheer for each dancer, highlighting the fun and enjoyment of seeing each other's creativity.
  • (Bonus) After everyone has showcased their move, integrate each performed move into a final group dance. Start with the first showcased move and add one after the other, creating a sequence. This way, the group makes a unique dance routine together.

E- Echolalia

Echoic Storytime: A fun reading activity where parents and kids read a story together, but with a twist. Instead of just listening, kids repeat phrases or sounds from the story. This is a great way to make reading interactive and help your child practice communication skills! 

Choosing the Right Book:

  • Select a book that is engaging and age-appropriate for your child. Try to choose a story with repetitive phrases or catchy rhymes, as these elements lend themselves well to echolalia. "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?" by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle is a good example because of its repetitive structure, which encourages children to predict and repeat phrases.
  • Select books that include animal sounds, action words, or words that mimic sounds. "Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?" by Dr. Seuss is great for its range of sounds and fun phrases, perfect for echoing back.

Implementation:

  • Sit together in a quiet spot.
  • Begin reading the story aloud, using expressive voices and gestures to capture your child's attention.
  • Pause at certain points in the story and encourage your child to repeat specific phrases or sounds that you've read. For example, if the book features animal sounds, you might say, "Can you echo the sound the cow makes?"
  • Conclude the activity with positive reinforcement and praise for your child's participation in Echoic Storytime.

Additional Example Books:

  1. "Pete the Cat: Rocking In My School Shoes" by Eric Litwin and James Dean: The repetitive and catchy song throughout the book invites children to sing and repeat Pete as he sings around school in his cool shoes.
  2. "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault: With its rhythmic alphabet narrative and catchy chorus, it’s a good pick for Echoic Storytime.
  3. "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond: The repetitive structure of the mouse’s requests makes it a fun book for children to predict and repeat phrases.
  4. "Llama Llama Red Pajama" by Anna Dewdney: With its rhyming text and repetitive phrases, this story is great for reading aloud and repeating key emotional phrases together.

    F- Focus

    (Activity #1) Breathing Techniques: Breathing techniques are a powerful tool for managing stress, improving emotional well-being, and fostering a sense of calm in both children and adults. By teaching and practicing these breathing techniques, families can gain valuable skills for emotional regulation, stress management, and collective well-being, fostering a nurturing and supportive environment.

    Introduction to Breathing Techniques:

    Begin with a simple explanation of why breathing techniques work. Discuss how controlled breathing can slow down the heart rate and reduce stress or help regain focus by activating the body's natural relaxation response. Clearly demonstrate the chosen breathing technique(s), then guide participants to practice together. Ensure everyone is comfortable, either sitting or standing, and encourage a quiet space where the focus can be on the practice.

    Example Breathing Exercise:

    Belly Breathing- Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Breathe in deeply through your nose, hold for at least 4-5 seconds, and breathe out through pursed lips (almost like whistling). It’s helpful for kids to imagine inflating a balloon in their belly as they inhale and deflating it as they exhale. This technique helps reduce the anxiety or stress, regain focus, and promote calm.

    Encouraging Regular Practice:

    • Incorporate breathing exercises into your daily routine, perhaps at the beginning or end of the day, to help everyone unwind or prepare for the day ahead.
    • Remind family members that these techniques can be a quick and effective way to regain focus and manage stress or anxiety as it arises, whether before a test, during a difficult moment, or in any situation that might feel overwhelming.
    • Highlight the importance of practicing as a family. Not only does it provide a shared tool for managing stress, but it also strengthens bonds through shared activity and mutual support.

    (Activity #2) Task Completion: Task completion involves selecting a specific task or project that the family can work on together. This could be a household chore, a DIY project, or a creative activity like painting or crafting. The goal is to share the sense of accomplishment and focus when working collaboratively.

    Implementation:

    • Choose a task or project suitable for the family's interests and abilities. It could be something as simple as organizing a closet, planting a garden, or creating a piece of art.
    • Allocate dedicated time to work on the task together. Set clear goals and, if necessary, break the task into smaller, manageable steps.
    • Encourage participants to contribute and take ownership of different aspects of the task. Rotate roles if necessary to keep everyone engaged.
    • Acknowledge progress and accomplishments made along the way. 
    • Once the task is completed, celebrate the effort and focus that went into achieving it together. 

    (BONUS) In addition to exploring the power of breathing techniques with our Letter F activity, we want to highlight an incredible resource to support you as you continue your journey toward more mindful breathing and overall wellness. Kyds (Konscious Youth Development & Service) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to nurturing the mind, body, and spirit through a variety of programs and services tailored for children and adults alike. Learn more about how Kyds can enhance your journey by visiting their website and handles: 

    Website: Konscious.org 

    Instagram: @kyds_NJ

    TikTok: @kyds_NJ

    YouTube: @kyds_NJ

    LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/konsciousyouth

    G - Gastrointestinal Issues (GI Tract)

    Food Art: Encourages families to explore healthy eating habits while expressing their creativity through food. Participants will use a variety of fruits, vegetables, and other food items as their canvas to create edible works of art. This activity promotes sensory exploration, fosters appreciation for nutritious foods, and encourages families to bond over a shared creative experience.

    Implementation: 

    • Collect a wide selection of fruits, vegetables, and other food items such as cheese, crackers, and spreads. Consider including items with different colors, textures, and shapes to inspire creativity.
    • Arrange the food items at “designated stations” with enough space to work. Provide utensils as needed.
    • Explain the Food Art Challenge, emphasizing the importance of using healthy ingredients to create their masterpieces. Encourage creativity and imagination while reminding everyone to consider food safety guidelines.
    • Let everyone unleash their creativity as they design and assemble their food art creations. Offer guidance and suggestions as needed, but let kids take the lead in their designs.
    • Once the artworks are complete, invite participants to showcase their creations and enjoy the edible masterpieces together.

    Examples of Food Art Projects:

    1. Fruit Rainbow: Arrange slices of various colorful fruits such as strawberries, oranges, pineapple, kiwi, blueberries, and grapes in the shape of a rainbow.
    2. Animal Faces: Use sliced bananas or apples as the base for animal faces. Add raisins for eyes, berries for noses, and carrot sticks for whiskers or ears to create animals like cats, bears, or rabbits.
    3. Funny Faces: Arrange a variety of sliced fruits and vegetables on individual plates to create funny faces. Use cucumber slices for eyes, cherry tomatoes for noses, and bell pepper strips for smiles.
    4. Sandwich Shapes: Use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches into fun shapes like stars, hearts, or animals. Decorate the sandwiches with colorful spreads or use different types of bread for added visual appeal.
    5. Pizza Art: Make mini pizzas using whole wheat/low-carb English muffins or tortillas as the base. Then, decorate the pizzas with various healthy toppings, such as sliced vegetables, cheese, and herbs, to create unique designs or patterns.
    6. Smoothie Bowls: Serve smoothie bowls topped with various colorful fruits, nuts, seeds, and/or granola. Use the toppings to create patterns or shapes on the smoothie's surface.

    H - Hypersensitivity

    DIY Sensory Tools: Create simple sensory tools like stress balls (balloons filled with flour or rice), sensory bottles (water bottles with glitter and beads), or textured playdough. This activity can help explore textures and materials that provide comfort.

    Sensory Tool Examples:

    1. Scented Playdough: Use a playdough of your choice (you can even get creative and find a simple recipe to make your own!) and add a few drops of lavender essential oil (or any calming scent). Stir until it all comes together. This scented playdough can provide a calming sensory experience through texture and smell.
    2. Rice or Bean Sensory Box: Fill a large, shallow storage box with rice, beans, or lentils. Hide small toys or objects in it for children to find. This activity allows for tactile exploration and can be very soothing, as digging through the medium can be a calming sensory experience.
    3. Homemade Water Beads: Although commercial water beads are also available, you can have a similar experience by soaking small amounts of chia seeds in water until they swell. These can be used similarly to water beads, providing a unique tactile experience that is both engaging and calming.
    4. Sensory Balloons: Fill balloons with different materials such as sand, small pebbles, flour, or cornstarch. Each balloon will offer a distinct tactile experience. Make sure the balloons are securely tied to avoid spills. These can be squeezed and manipulated for a soothing experience.
    5. Visual Sensory Bag: Fill a large, sturdy zip-lock bag with hair gel, add food coloring, and small items like beads, glitter, and sequins. Seal the bag tightly (using tape for extra security) and tape it to a window or a flat surface. Pressing and moving the contents around can be visually stimulating and calming.

    (BONUS) Download our helpful and fun resource, “DIY Sensory Play Ideas,” HERE. It includes instructions for simple sensory play activities that can be done with common household or classroom items! 

    I- Imagination

    Magical Potion Making: Become wizards and witches for the day, concocting magical potions with ingredients found around the house. This activity not only sparks imagination but also introduces basic chemistry concepts in a fun, accessible way.

    Preparation:

    Assemble safe, non-toxic ingredients from around the house. Some examples include:

    • Water: The base of many potions.
    • Food Coloring: To magically change the color of your potions.
    • Vinegar: For bubbling and fizzing reactions.
    • Baking Soda: Reacts with vinegar for an exciting fizz.
    • Glitter: For sparkle (use edible glitter to keep potions safe to touch or accidental taste).
    • Sugar: Can create crystallization effects.
    • Cornstarch: For potions with a "slimy" texture.
    • Edible Flowers or Herbs: For color and aroma (make sure they're safe for consumption).

    Arrange your ingredients on a table. You can use measuring cups, spoons, and mixing bowls as your tools. (Bonus) You can provide each child with a notebook to jot down their potion recipes.

    *Remind everyone only to use the ingredients provided and that while potions can be touched and smelled, they should only be tasted if all components are edible and safe.

    Potion Examples:

    1. Invisibility Juice: Mix water with a drop of blue food coloring and a tablespoon of vinegar. Add a teaspoon of baking soda to make your potion "disappear" in a fizz.
    2. Giggle Elixir: Combine water, a few drops of yellow food coloring, and edible glitter. Add sugar to sweeten it. Say the magic word(s) to "activate" the laughter spell when stirred.

    Implementation: 

    • Mix potions in the kitchen using safe, edible ingredients (like water, food coloring, vinegar, and baking soda). 
    • Encourage children to come up with imaginative names for their potions based on the effects they desire. Each potion can have a unique name and an imaginative effect, such as "Invisibility Juice" or “Giggle Elixir”. 
    • Children can experiment by mixing different ingredients to see the reactions.
    • After concocting their potions, children can share them, explaining the magical properties and uses for each one.
    • End the session with a "clean-up spell," encouraging everyone to help tidy up the lab.

    Jumping (Hyperactivity)

    Fitness Circuit: Set up a mini fitness circuit in your home or yard with jumping stations—jump rope, jumping jacks, and broad jumps. This can be a fun and healthy way for families to spend time together, fostering a positive attitude towards physical activity while accommodating the energetic needs of hyperactive children.

    Implementation: Create stations for each activity, spending a few minutes at each before rotating. This allows for varied movements and keeps the energy flowing.

    Station Examples: 

    1. Jump Rope Station: Participants try to achieve a set number of jumps without stopping or aim to jump for a specific duration, such as one minute. Provide jump ropes and have participants take turns jumping while the others cheer them on.
    2. Jumping Jacks Station: Set a goal for the number of jumping jacks to be completed in one turn, like 30, or do as many as possible in a timed challenge. Use a timer to challenge participants to do jumping jacks for a short period of time straight, like 30 seconds or one minute, and count how many they can perform.
    3. Broad Jumps Station: Mark a starting line and see who can perform the longest broad jump. Use tape or a rope to mark a starting point and measure distances jumped. Participants take turns doing broad jumps, trying to beat their own best distance.
    4. Hopscotch Drill: Create a hopscotch pattern that includes both single and double-foot hops. Draw a fun, complex hopscotch pattern on the ground with chalk. Participants must follow the pattern, enhancing coordination and balance.
    5. Hurdle Hops: Set up mini hurdles or obstacles to jump over  or moe around quickly. Use cones, foam blocks, or safe household items to create a line of hurdles. Participants jump over or move around each hurdle, focusing on maintaining speed and agility.

    K- Kinesthetic Learning

    Lego Building Challenge: Build a structure with Legos to engage children in a creative and educational building activity using a variety of Lego pieces, fostering an understanding of kinesthetic learning through hands-on experience.

    Building Ideas:

      1. Tallest Tower: Construct the tallest tower possible that can stand on its own for at least 10 seconds. This variation focuses on stability and balance.
      2. Functional Bridge: Build a bridge that spans a specific distance (ex: between two chairs) and can support the weight of a small toy. This introduces concepts of architectural design and load distribution.
      3. Animal Safari: Create an assortment of animals found in a safari. This can be a fun way to learn about different animals while practicing detailed construction.
      4. Colorful Garden: Create a garden scene using as many colors as possible. Include elements like flowers and trees. This encourages color recognition and creativity, allowing participants to explore different ways to use colors in design.
      5. Vehicle Fleet: Build a variety of vehicles, such as a car, a boat, and an airplane, using basic Lego blocks. This activity focuses on understanding different modes of transportation and fosters a basic understanding of mechanics and design.

    L- Lining Up Toys

    Toy Parade: Host a toy parade where toys are lined up in creative formations. Gather as many toys as possible and work together to either create the longest, continuous line of toys, or incorporate another twist to the fun by having children sort toys by color and line them up in distinct rows, circles, or shapes. These activities encourage teamwork, planning, organizational skills, and creativity, and also help with color recognition and categorization. 

    Basic Toy Parade:

    • Start by collecting a variety of toys from around the house. This can include anything from stuffed animals and action figures to blocks and cars.
    • Decide together on how you want to arrange the toys. You might choose a simple line or get creative with shapes like zigzags, spirals, or even letters and numbers.

    Advanced Toy Parade Ideas:

    • Color Coordination Challenge: Separate the toys based on their primary colors. Once sorted, create separate lines or formations for each color. (Example: Create a rainbow effect by lining up toys in rows of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.)
    • Obstacle Course Parade: Incorporate obstacles and challenges along the parade route for the toys to navigate, such as bridges made from books, tunnels from cardboard boxes, or a maze constructed with blocks.

    Educational Enhancements:

    • Use the parade setup as an opportunity to discuss different types of categorization beyond color, such as sorting by size or type of toy (vehicles, animals, dolls). 
    • Organize the toys in alphabetical order by name or type. This activity reinforces letter recognition and alphabetical sorting skills.

    M- Meltdown

    (Activity #1) Calming Box Creation: Work together with your child to assemble a "calming box" filled with items specifically chosen to help soothe and relax them during moments when they feel overwhelmed or are experiencing sensory overload. Include items like stress balls, noise-canceling headphones, and soothing visuals. Let your child pick items they find comforting, explaining how these can help during overwhelming moments.

    Implementation:

    The key to a successful calming box is personalization. Each child may respond differently to various sensory inputs, so it's important to choose items that they personally find comforting. Here are more examples and categories of items you could consider, along with a brief explanation of their potential benefits:

  • Tactile (Touch)
    • Stress balls or squishy toys: Squeezing these can help with stress relief and provide a focus for restless hands.
    • Fidget spinners and toys: Great for keeping hands busy and minds focused, reducing anxiety.
  • Visual (Sight)
    • Liquid motion timer or lava lamp: Watching the slow, steady movement can be mesmerizing and calming.
  • Auditory (Hearing)
    • Noise-canceling headphones: To block out overwhelming noise from the environment, promoting a sense of quiet and calm.
  • Olfactory (Smell)
    • Scented playdough or putty: Scents like lavender are known for their calming properties.
  • Taste
    • Chewable Jewelry: Provides a safe way to satisfy the need to chew, which can be calming for some children.
  • Proprioceptive (Sense of body position)
    • Foam Rollers: Can be used to apply deep pressure and joint compression to various parts of the body, including the back, shoulders, and legs, helping children relax and reduce stress. 

    Notes: 

    • Introduce the calming box during a calm moment, not in the middle of a meltdown. Let your child explore and familiarize themselves with the items.
    • Show your child how each item can be used. For example, demonstrate squeezing a stress ball or watching a liquid motion timer.
    • Keep the calming box in an easily accessible place where the child can reach it whenever they need it.
    (Activity #2) Sensory Safe Space Design: Work together to design a "sensory safe space" in your home or a space where anyone can go to feel secure and calm. Let your child contribute ideas on what makes a comfortable, safe space, such as dim lighting, quiet, and cozy pillows. Explain that sometimes, the world can feel too loud, bright, or just too much, and having a special place to go to can help make things feel better. 

    Involving Your Child in Planning:

    • Ask your child what makes them feel calm and safe. Is it a particular color, texture, sound, or scent?
    • Explore different sensory preferences. Some children might prefer complete silence, while others might find certain sounds calming, like white noise or soft music.

    Designing the Space:

    • Find a spot in your home that is naturally quieter and can be made comfortable. This might be a corner of a bedroom, a big enough closet space that can be emptied, or even a tent or canopy set up in a quiet corner.
    • Install soft, adjustable lighting. You can use dimmable lights, string lights, or even lamps with different color light bulbs to create a soothing atmosphere. Some children might prefer darkness or the use of blackout curtains.
    • Incorporate comfortable seating options like bean bags, floor cushions, a small mattress, or a hammock. The idea is to offer a variety of textures and support options.
    • Introduce various textures through rugs, blankets, and pillows. Weighted blankets can be particularly comforting for some children. Choose fabrics that are soft and relaxing. 
    • Stock the space with quiet, calming activities that can be done alone. This might include coloring books and crayons, puzzles, sensory toys (like stress balls or fidget spinners), or picture books.
    • If your child finds certain sounds soothing, consider adding a small speaker to play calming music, nature sounds, or white noise. For those who prefer silence, sound-proofing the space with thick curtains or wall hangings can help.
    • Let your child personalize the space with their favorite items, like a special toy, photos, or artwork they've created. This makes the space feel uniquely theirs and more comforting.
    • Ensure the space is safe, with nothing that could harm your child and everything within easy reach. It should be a place they can access whenever they feel the need, without obstacles.

    N- Nonverbal

    Sign Language Basics: Learn and use at least five basic sign language signs (like "hello," "thank you," "more," "play," and "love") when communicating with each other throughout the day. This challenge not only introduces families to sign language but also fosters empathy, inclusivity, and a deeper understanding of the importance of nonverbal communication.

    Preparation: 

    • Decide on which sign language you will learn. American Sign Language (ASL) is widely used in the United States and Canada, but other countries have their own sign languages.
    • Look for reliable resources to learn basic signs. Websites like Lifeprint and SignSchool, apps like Lingvano and ASL Sign Language Pocket Sign, or YouTube channels dedicated to teaching sign language (ex: Bill Vicars) can be very helpful.
    • While "hello," "thank you," "more," "play,” and "love" are great starting points, there are additional basic signs that can be useful for daily communication. Think about other words that would work in your daily life, including “please,” “yes,” “no,” “hungry,” and “help”. 

    Implementation:

    • Dedicate a specific time for the family to sit together and learn the signs. You can watch tutorial videos, use flashcards, or use apps. Practice the signs multiple times to ensure everyone is comfortable using them.
    • Encourage family members to use the signs they've learned in appropriate contexts throughout the day. 
    • You can also make learning fun by incorporating games, including:
    1. Sign Language Simon Says: Play Simon Says but with sign language commands.
    2. Sign Language Bingo: Create bingo cards with pictures of sign language gestures. Call out the actions, and players cover the corresponding picture if they have it on their card.
    3. Sign Language Day: Everyone tries to use sign language as their primary mode of communication. Depending on your family's comfort level, it could be for an hour, during a meal, or the whole day.

     

    O- Occupational Therapy

    Playdough Creations: Make shapes, letters, or objects using playdough. Work together to create different items with playdough, enhancing fine motor skills, hand strength, hand-eye coordination, and creativity. Incorporating these playdough activities into your day will provide fun and engaging ways for children to learn about Occupational Therapy.

    Creation Ideas:

  • Animal Zoo: Create different animals with playdough. Use various colors of playdough to form animals. Encourage children to think about what features their animals need (like tails, ears, legs) and how they can use their hands to shape these parts. Discuss the habitats where these animals live and what they eat, integrating learning about nature and animal behavior.
  • Alphabet and Number Fun: Form the letters of the alphabet and numbers with playdough. Roll playdough into long snakes, then bend and shape them into letters and numbers. This activity can be personalized by creating your child's name or age, reinforcing letter and number recognition, and practicing spelling and counting.
  • Playdough Bakery: Pretend to bake cakes, cookies, and other treats using playdough. Shape playdough into various bakery items and decorate them with different colors and tools to mimic icing, sprinkles, etc. This imaginative play activity encourages creativity, following sequences (like recipes), and fine motor skills involved in shaping and decorating.
  • Playdough Pizzas: Make pizzas with different toppings. Flatten a piece of playdough to form the crust, then add different colored toppings to create a pizza. Children can learn about food groups, colors, and shapes while practicing the fine motor skills of rolling, flattening, and placing small pieces.
  • Fantastic Creatures: Invent your own creatures. Encourage the creation of fantastical creatures with unique features. This not only boosts creativity but also allows children to narrate stories about their creatures, enhancing imaginative play and language skills.
  •  

    P- Patience

    Patience with Puzzles: Work on a puzzle together that is slightly above your child's current skill level, emphasizing that it's okay to take breaks and return with fresh eyes. Celebrate small victories along the way to keep motivation high. This is a great way to engage everyone in a task that naturally teaches patience, problem-solving, and perseverance.

    Extra Implementation:

    • Start by selecting a puzzle that is slightly beyond your child's current skill level. For example, if they are used to 50-piece puzzles, try moving up to a 100-piece puzzle. Also, try to choose themes they are interested in to keep motivation high.
    • Create a calm and comfortable puzzle-solving space. Ensure the area is well-lit and spacious enough to spread out all the pieces. Playing soft, instrumental music in the background can also enhance focus and relaxation.
    • They can also divide the puzzle into smaller sections based on colors or patterns and tackle one section at a time. This approach could make the challenge more manageable and less overwhelming.
    • Emphasize the importance of taking breaks, especially if frustration starts to build. Use breaks to stretch, have a snack, or talk about what has been accomplished so far. Discuss how taking a step back can provide new insights and the importance of patience and persistence in overcoming challenges.
    • Celebrate every small victory, whether it’s completing a section of the puzzle, finding a particularly elusive piece, or simply working together for a set amount of time without getting distracted. 

     

    Q- Questions

    Storytime with Questions: Read a story or watch a movie featuring an autistic character. Pause at intervals to ask and answer questions about the character's experiences and feelings. This activity encourages empathy and understanding through interactive engagement with stories or movies featuring autistic characters and can help children understand diverse perspectives. Choose media that portrays Autism in a respectful and accurate manner.

    Implementation: 

    During the reading of a book or viewing a movie, you can pause at key moments to engage children in discussions about what's happening. This interactive approach helps children to reflect on the experiences and feelings of autistic characters, fostering a deeper understanding of Autism. The goal is to encourage children to consider perspectives different from their own and to understand the diverse ways people experience the world.

    Example Questions to Ask:

    1. How do you think [Character] felt when [specific event] happened?
    2. Why do you think [Character] reacted that way to [situation or sensory experience]?
    3. What could [Character's] friends or family have done to help them feel more comfortable?
    4. If you were in [Character's] school, how would you be a good friend to them?
    5. Can you think of a time when you felt like [Character]? What helped you feel better?

    Book and Movie Suggestions:

    1. Movie: "Loop" (Pixar Short)

    A short film featuring a non-verbal girl with Autism. "Loop" provides a unique perspective on communication and understanding, making it great for prompting discussions about different ways of experiencing the world.

    2. Movie: "Life, Animated"

    This documentary is about a young man with Autism who learns to communicate with the help of Disney movies. It also provides a unique look into how stories can help people understand social cues and emotions.

    3. Book: "My Brother Charlie" by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete

    A heartwarming story from the perspective of a girl whose twin brother has Autism, focusing on both the challenges and the special bond they share.

    4. Book: "A Friend Like Zeek" by Serena Arvayo

    This children's book, written by a dedicated Mom to her au-some nonverbal, autistic son, is designed to introduce and explain Autism to young readers. It includes ways to interact with and be friends with a nonverbal autistic child, making it a great starting point for discussion.

    R- Routines

    Create a Visual Daily Schedule: Creating a visual daily schedule together is a great way to engage children, especially those on the Autism Spectrum, by providing them with a clear and predictable structure for their day. This activity not only helps them understand the concept of routines but also develops time management and organizational skills. 

    Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Visual Daily Schedule

    Materials Needed:

    • A large piece of paper or a whiteboard
    • Markers or crayons
    • Stickers or printed symbols/pictures (optional)
    • Velcro or magnets (if you want to make parts of the schedule movable)

    Implementation:

    • Start by listing the key activities that make up your child's daily routine. This could include waking up, eating breakfast, brushing teeth, going to school, homework, playtime, dinner, and bedtime.
    • Decide whether you want to draw pictures together, use stickers, or print out symbols representing each activity. For example: A sun for waking up, a plate and fork for meal times, a toothbrush for brushing teeth, a book for homework time, or a bed for bedtime. You can also let your child choose symbols or draw pictures next to each activity, reinforcing the concept of a routine.
    • Arrange the symbols in order on your paper or whiteboard. You can create a timeline or just place them in sequence. If you're using a whiteboard and magnets or a poster board with Velcro, you can make each piece movable, which can be helpful for visualizing and adjusting the routine.
    • Once the schedule is laid out, go through it together. Discuss what each part of the day will look like and how following this routine helps you know what to expect. This is a good time to reinforce the concept of time, such as morning, afternoon, and evening activities.
    • Hang the schedule in a place where it's easily seen by your child throughout the day, like in their bedroom or the kitchen. This will help them refer to it and become familiar with their daily routine.
    • Refer to the schedule daily, guiding your child through their routine according to the symbols. Over time, they may start to anticipate what comes next and gain a sense of security and independence from knowing their routine.

    S- Stimming

    Guided Movements Meditation: Participating in yoga moves that involve spinning, rotations, flapping, and repetitive movements in a guided meditation can create a soothing and grounding experience. Reflect on the sensation of motion and how controlled spinning can help focus the mind, reduce stress, and provide sensory input in a way that mimics the comfort found in certain stimming behaviors.

    Note: We encourage you to look up these moves to learn how to perform them correctly. A website where you and your kids can go for inspiration and guidance is Cosmic Kids Yoga, which features yoga and mindfulness and is designed especially for kids.

    Example Yoga Moves:

  • Rotating Seated Twists: Engage in seated twists, focusing on gentle, rhythmic rotating movements from one side to the other.
  • Arm Flapping Warrior Pose: Incorporate arm flapping into the Warrior II pose to mimic the motion of a bird in flight.
  • Sufi Grinds (Seated Circles): Perform Sufi grinds, which involve moving the upper body in circular motions while seated.
  • Butterfly Flaps: In a seated position, mimic the motion of a butterfly's wings with your legs.
  • Standing Windmills: Perform standing windmill movements to simulate spinning and rotational movements.
  • S-Support

    Kindness Bingo: Play a game of bingo where each square is an act of support or kindness. Create bingo cards with different supportive actions listed in each square, such as "Give a compliment," "Listen to someone," or "Help with a task." As participants complete these actions throughout the day, they can mark off the squares until someone gets a bingo. This is a fun and interactive way to encourage positive behaviors and actions. 

    Bingo Setup:

    • Design bingo cards with a 5x5 grid, leaving the center square as a "Free" space. Each other square will contain a different act of support or kindness.
    • Before creating the cards, brainstorm a list of supportive actions that are suitable for all participants. Aim for variety to cover different aspects of support, kindness, and understanding.
    • The goal is to complete a line of actions—horizontal, vertical, or diagonal. When someone achieves this, they shout, "Bingo!" To verify, they explain how they completed each action in their winning line.
    • While the game may have winners, it's important to celebrate everyone's efforts to show support and kindness. Consider a group reward, like a special family outing or movie night, to reinforce the value of teamwork and collective support.

    Action Examples to Include on Bingo Card:

    1. Give a genuine compliment: Encourage noticing and vocalizing the positive traits and actions of others.
    2. Listen to someone share a story or feeling: Foster an environment where everyone feels heard, respected, and valued.
    3. Help with a household chore without being asked: Promote teamwork and initiative in supporting the family unit.
    4. Write a thank-you note to someone: Cultivate gratitude and recognition for the support others provide.
    5. Share a favorite song, movie, or book with someone: Encourage bonding over shared interests and the joy of discovery.
    6. Teach someone something new: Whether it's a skill, a fun fact, or a life lesson, sharing knowledge is a powerful form of support.
    7. Offer to help with homework or a project: Show interest and support in each other's endeavors and challenges.
    8. Spend quality time together doing an activity of their choice: Validate their interests by engaging in activities they love.
    9. Make a homemade gift for someone: Encourage creativity and the joy of giving.
    10. Share your snack or treat with someone: A simple gesture of sharing can be a powerful act of kindness.
    11. Perform a random act of kindness for a stranger (with supervision): Expand the circle of kindness beyond the family.
    12. Encourage someone when they try something new: Support can boost confidence and the willingness to explore new experiences.

    T- Timeline

    Journey Stones: Create a tangible, visual collection of stones that represent your child's significant achievements, milestones, or positive traits (like kindness and creativity) serving as a lasting reminder of their unique journey and personal growth. Collect smooth stones, paint each one, and display these stones in your child's room or in a garden, and add new ones as they continue to grow and achieve new milestones.

    Materials Needed:

    • Smooth stones or pebbles, preferably of various sizes
    • Acrylic paints or permanent markers
    • Brushes (if using paint)
    • Protective varnish (optional to protect the designs outdoors)
    • A container or designated space for displaying the stones

    Examples of Milestones and Traits to Represent:

    • First Words: Choose a bright, cheerful color to represent the joy of this milestone. Paint the date or the word itself on the stone.
    • Creativity: Swirl multiple colors together to symbolize creative moments. 
    • Overcoming Challenges: Paint a small mountain or obstacle being crossed, acknowledging resilience.
    • Academic Achievements: Paint a book or graduation cap for starting school or achieving academic goals.
    • Social Milestones: Represent making a new friend or participating in a social event with two linked figures or two smiley faces.
    • Personal Interests: For a child passionate about certain activities (like reading, sports, or art), paint symbols representing those interests. 
    • Emotional Growth: Depict emotional milestones, like learning to express feelings or mastering a calming technique, with symbols like a peaceful ocean or a serene scene.
    • Physical Growth: Mark physical growth milestones, such as learning to ride a bike or swim, with appropriate symbols like a bike or waves. 

    Implementation:

    • Go on a nature walk with the child to collect stones, turning it into an adventure. Consider smooth surfaces that are easy to paint.
    • Set up a comfortable space with all materials at hand. Paint or draw on the stones together. Each stone can be a mini-project that you both look forward to.
    • Once the paint is dry, you may apply a protective varnish, especially if the stones will be kept outdoors. This step is optional but helps preserve the artwork.
    • Decide on a special place to display the stones. It could be in your child's room, on a shelf, in a container, or in a garden. The idea is to have a physical reminder of your child's journey and achievements that can be seen every day.
    • (Bonus) Make it a tradition to add new stones periodically. This can be an ongoing project that grows with your child, offering opportunities to celebrate new milestones and reflect on personal growth.

    U- Unique

    Talents Showcase: Host a small family talent show where participants showcase their unique talents or interests. Each person prepares a short presentation of their talent or interest, such as a dance, a song, a magic trick, or sharing about a hobby. This activity is a fun way to celebrate individuality, boost confidence, and provide a supportive environment where everyone feels valued for their unique contributions.

    Implementation:

    • Encourage each participant to choose a talent or interest they feel proud of. It could be anything from a traditional performance talent like singing or playing an instrument to less conventional talents like solving puzzles quickly, storytelling, or even demonstrating a science experiment.
    • Designate a safe space as a “stage.”' You can also get creative with decorations to make it feel special.

    Examples of Unique Talents or Interests:

    • A child interested in astronomy could give a short presentation about their favorite planet or constellation.
    • Someone who enjoys cooking or baking could prepare a small dish or treat ahead of time and present it during the show, explaining why they chose it and how they made it.
    • A family member good at drawing or painting could display their artwork and talk about what inspires them.
    • For those with an interest in storytelling, reciting a short story or an original poem they've written could be their talent.
    • Someone with a talent for building or construction could showcase a model or structure they've created from LEGOs, woodwork, or any other material.

    V- Voice

    Emotion Through Color: Pick an emotion and create an art piece that primarily uses color to express this feeling. Consider how different colors can evoke different emotions and how combinations of colors can enhance the emotional impact. Encourage sharing the color-focused artwork with others, and either explain how the chosen emotion was represented or ask others to guess the emotion being represented. This can be used as an opportunity to discuss how colors influence our feelings and the power of color in art. 

    Implementation

    Materials Needed:

    • Art Supplies: Gather a mix of child-friendly paints (watercolors or finger paints work great for younger kids), markers, crayons, and colored pencils. Digital art apps can also be fun if your child prefers creating on a tablet.
    • Paper or Canvas: Use whatever is handy or what would work best with the preferred art supplies, whether it’s drawing paper, a canvas, a sketchpad, or construction paper. 
    • Workspace: Set up a comfortable workspace where you and your child can get creative without worrying about making a mess. Cover the table with newspapers or a cloth for easy cleanup.

    Activity Steps:

    • Start by talking about different emotions and how they make us feel. Let your child choose an emotion they’d like to express or explore through their artwork.
    • Talk about what colors they think of when they feel that emotion. You can share your thoughts too. It’s a great way to see how each other perceives different colors in relation to feelings.
    • Work on your own pieces side by side or collaborate on a single piece of art. Focus on using your chosen colors to express the emotion. Encourage your child to use their fingers, brushes, or even stamps to make it a multisensory experience.
    • Once you’re both done, share your artworks with each other. Talk about why you chose certain colors and what part of the painting or artwork you like best. 

    More Examples of Emotion-Color Representation:

    1. Joy: Use bright and sunny yellows, vibrant oranges, and maybe a splash of glitter to represent joy. 
    2. Peace: Choose cool and calming colors like soft blues and greens. You can use sponges or cotton balls to dab on the paint, creating a serene, textured look that feels peaceful.
    3. Frustration: This might be a surprising choice, but it’s a healthy way to talk about and express difficult emotions. Use deep reds and darker colors to paint over a piece of cardboard (it can handle vigorous painting). Discuss healthy ways to deal with frustration as you paint.
    4. Love: Warm tones of pink and soft red, combined with smooth, rounded shapes and lines, could depict the warmth and feelings of love. 

     W- Wandering

    (#1) Safe Walking Adventure: Take a supervised walk to instill safe walking habits in children, especially focusing on preventing wandering and understanding the importance of staying close to a caregiver in public places. This activity combines practical experience with discussions about safety, making it both educational and enjoyable. This structured approach to learning about safety in a real-world context is effective in teaching children the importance of staying close to their caregivers, recognizing safe places, and responding appropriately to potential wandering situations.

    Implementation:

    • Begin by explaining the purpose of the walk to your child, emphasizing the importance of staying safe and avoiding wandering.
    • Equip yourselves with necessary safety gear like reflective vests or ID bracelets.
    • Select a familiar neighborhood or a local park that is not overly crowded, minimizing distractions and potential wandering triggers.
    • Plan a route that is safe and has clear boundaries.

    During the Walk:

    1. Start the walk by holding hands or using a safety wristband that connects a child to their parent, explaining why it's important to stay connected.
    2. Teach your child to stop and look both ways at intersections or crosswalks, even if you’re walking in a park with defined pedestrian lanes.
    3. Point out and discuss safe landmarks where your child can go if they feel lost or need help, such as a park ranger station, a known neighbor's house, or public areas like libraries. 
    4. Casually introduce "What if?" scenarios, like "What if you can’t see me?" Guide your child on how to react, emphasizing staying in place and calling out loudly for their parent or finding a safe adult, such as a police officer or teacher.
    5. Make a game out of observing surroundings, like noticing the types of trees, houses, or animals, for even more comprehension and engagement, such as a "spot the safety signs" game. This not only makes the walk more interesting but also helps your child become more aware of their environment, which is crucial for safety.

    Post-Walk Reflection:

    • If applicable, after returning home, have a discussion about the walk, asking your child to recount the safety measures you practiced.
    • Encourage questions from them about the walk, providing clear, comforting answers that reinforce safety habits.

    Reinforcement:

    • Repeat these safe walks regularly, varying the routes and scenarios to reinforce learning and adaptability.
    • Celebrate successful walks with praise or a small reward, emphasizing the achievement of staying safe and following safety rules.

    (#2) Safe Walking Adventure with Water Safety Focus: This has the same objective as the previous activity but also includes educating children on the importance of water safety and the necessity of staying close to an adult or caregiver at all times, especially near water bodies. Adding these elements not only makes the walk educational but also ensures that your child understands the importance of water safety, helping to prevent wandering and ensuring a safer environment for exploration.

    Enhanced Implementation Steps

    Pre-Walk Briefing:

    Begin with a discussion about the day's walk, specifically mentioning that you'll be talking about water safety and the importance of not going near water without an adult. Explain the rules of staying with a caregiver at all times, especially near water, using simple and clear language.

    During the Walk:

    1. If your route includes passing by ponds, lakes, rivers, or any body of water, use these as teaching moments.
    2. As you approach a body of water, remind your child of the plan to stay close and hold hands. Explain how water can be dangerous and why it's important to enjoy it safely with an adult.
    3. Discuss what to do if they find themselves near water. Emphasize that they should never enter the water without an adult present, even if it looks shallow or if there are other people swimming.
    4. If applicable, point out lifeguards or safety equipment like life jacket vests and life rings. Explain their roles and how they help keep people safe around water.
    5. Ask questions like, "What would you do if you saw a pond but you were alone?" Guide the conversation towards seeking an adult's help to enjoy the water safely.

    Post-Walk Reflection:

    • If applicable, reflect on the walk, specifically discussing the water safety elements. Ask open-ended questions to ensure your child understands why water safety is crucial and why staying with an adult is non-negotiable near water.
    • Praise them for following safety rules and staying close to you during the walk, reinforcing positive behavior.

    (BONUS) In addition to our Letter W activity, we want to highlight a resource of hope and help made available through the remarkable initiative, Project Lifesaver. For families and caregivers of individuals on the Autism spectrum who are prone to wandering, Project Lifesaver offers complimentary location devices, adding an essential layer of security and reassurance. Through collaboration with trained law enforcement, fire/rescue teams, and caregivers, this esteemed 501(C)(3) non-profit organization deploys an innovative program that has proven time and again to be an effective method for "bringing loved ones home."

    As an actual family that has used Project Lifesaver for years, we understand the comfort, support, and protection this resource provides. If you or someone you know could benefit from this, we encourage you to learn more about how Project Lifesaver can be a part of your safety plan. For more information and to see how you can get involved or obtain a location device for your loved one, please visit Project Lifesaver's website. Together, we can create a safer environment for our community and ensure that those who wander are more protected.

    X- Xbox & Other Electronics

    Social Skills Through Multiplayer Gaming: Enhancing social skills through multiplayer gaming can be an enriching experience for both parents and children. Multiplayer games provide a controlled environment where kids can practice communication and teamwork and understand social cues in a fun and engaging way. After playing, reflect on how working together helped achieve game objectives. 

    Implementation & Multiplayer Game Examples: 

    • Cooperative Puzzle Games Challenge: Improve problem-solving and communication by playing cooperative puzzle games.

    Implementation- Select puzzle games that require two or more players to solve complex puzzles together. Games like "Portal 2" or "Human: Fall Flat" require players to communicate effectively, plan, and execute solutions together. Reflect on how communication and collaboration led to solving the puzzles.

    • Building and Creation Games Adventure: Foster creativity and teamwork through building and creation games.

    Implementation- Games like "Minecraft" or "Terraria" are great for working together on projects. Set a goal to build a structure or complete a mission, discussing roles and strategies. Reflect on the teamwork involved and how each person's contribution was significant to the project's success.

    • Sports and Racing Games for Friendly Competition: Learn about healthy competition and sportsmanship.

    Implementation- Play sports or racing games like "Nintendo Switch Sports" or "Mario Kart," where you can compete in a friendly manner. Use these sessions to teach about winning gracefully and encouraging others, regardless of the game's outcome. Reflect on the importance of encouragement, fairness, and respect in competitive settings.

    • Educational Multiplayer Games for Learning: Combine learning with social interaction.

    Implementation- Choose educational multiplayer games that can teach subjects like Math, Science, or History through teamwork. Games like "Kerbal Space Program" in multiplayer mode can teach physics and engineering concepts as players work together to build spacecraft. Reflect on the learning experience and how collaboration made complex concepts more understandable.

    Y- Year Around

    Autism Awareness Tree Planting: Choose a tree or plant as a living symbol of growing awareness and acceptance. As you plant, discuss how awareness and acceptance can grow and spread in a family or community. This activity can become a deeply personal and meaningful way to engage with the message of Autism awareness and acceptance year-around.

    Choosing the Right Tree or Plant:

    Together with your child, pick a tree or plant that can grow in the yard or in a large pot if you don’t have outdoor space. Consider species known for their resilience, longevity, or unique characteristics that might metaphorically represent the diversity of the Autism spectrum. For instance:

    • Oak Tree: Symbolizes strength, endurance, and longevity, mirroring the enduring journey of awareness and acceptance.
    • Weeping Willow: Known for its adaptability and growth in various conditions, representing resilience and flexibility.
    • Lavender: This plant is often associated with calmness and soothing properties, similar to the supportive environment we strive to provide for those on the spectrum.
    • Sunflower: Sunflowers are known for their ability to turn towards the sun, representing positivity, joy, and tenacity. 

    Preparation and Implementation:

    • Spend some time with your child learning about the tree or plant you’ve chosen. You can look up interesting facts about its growth, care needs, and how it relates to the themes of growth and resilience in life.
    • Decorate the pot or create a small sign together that symbolizes Autism awareness and your family. Examples include painting it in the colors of the rainbow to symbolize the Autism spectrum, the inifinity symbol, or puzzle pieces; whatever works for you and your family!
    • Make caring for the plant a shared responsibility. This can include watering, ensuring it has enough sunlight, and eventually replanting it if needed. Use these moments to talk about growth, change, and the continuous nature of learning and acceptance.
    • At the change of the seasons, take a moment with your child to observe any changes in the plant and relate these to personal growth or milestones in your personal Autism journey.
    • Use the time you spend caring for the plant to discuss how understanding and support for Autism needs to be nurtured continually, just like your plant. It's a way to reinforce the message that awareness and acceptance should grow throughout the year, not just in April.

    Z- In the Zone (Hyperfocus)

    DIY Project Fun & Focus: Choosing a DIY project that aligns with a child's interests can be a awesome way to engage their hyperfocus in a positive and productive way. Hyperfocus can lead to the creation of something amazing; something that requires their interest, focus, and concentration. This activity not only fosters a fun learning environment but also encourage kids to explore new hobbies and interests.

    Below are examples of DIY projects for various interests. Each of these projects can be adjusted for complexity to suit different ages and interests, ensuring that every child has the opportunity to deeply engage in activities that fascinate them. 

    • For Animal Lovers

    Animal Masks: Grab some cardboard or paper plates and turn them into masks of your favorite animals by decorating them with markers, paint, or anything crafty you have on hand. Cut out eye holes, attach a string, and your animal mask is ready for a fun day of imaginative play.

    • For Science Enthusiasts

    Volcano Experiment: Create a volcano shape using papier-mâché around a bottle, and let it dry. Then, cause an eruption by pouring baking soda into the bottle and adding vinegar.

    Homemade Slime: Mix up a batch of slime using household ingredients like glue, baking soda, and contact lens solution. Experiment with different recipes to see how changes in ingredient ratios affect the slime's texture and properties. Add food coloring or glitter for extra fun.

    • For Train Enthusiasts

    Train Ticket Design: Design a ticket to your next big (imaginary) adventure with just coloring supplies and some creativity. Use colored pencils, markers, and stickers to make them vibrant and detailed, and to bring your journey to life. 

    • For Artistic Souls

    DIY Tie-Dye T-Shirts: Use tie-dye techniques to transform plain white t-shirts into colorful creations. Wrap rubber bands tightly around sections of a plain white t-shirt to create patterns, then apply different colored dyes to each section. After letting the dye set and washing the shirt, you'll have your own vibrant, tie-dyed masterpiece to wear.

    Customized Storybook: Write and illustrate a personalized storybook. Encourage your child to come up with a story idea, then draw and color illustrations on each page. Bind the pages together to create their very own storybook.

    • For Music Fans

    Homemade Instruments: Create your own musical instruments at home by filling empty bottles with rice or beans to make shakers, and use an old oatmeal container with a lid as a drum. Enjoy making music together by exploring the different sounds each homemade instrument can produce.

    • For Nature Explorers

    Leaf Pressing: Go on a nature walk with your child to gather various leaves you both find interesting. Then, place them between the pages of a heavy book or under a homemade press to flatten and preserve their shapes.

    • For Culinary Kids

    Cookbook Creation: Gather your favorite recipes and put them together in a homemade cookbook. Add a personal touch by decorating each page with your own drawings or photos of the finished dishes.

    • For Future Engineers

    Cardboard Castle: Build a castle from cardboard boxes of various sizes and some basic craft supplies. Together, design and construct a castle with towers and maybe even a drawbridge, using scissors to cut (with supervision), tape to secure the walls, and markers to decorate it with flags and crests.

    • For Young Sports Fans
    Sports Jersey Design: Provide fabric markers and a plain T-shirt so your child can design their own sports jersey. They can draw inspiration from their favorite team or create a completely original design.

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