Water safety is a huge safety concern especially during the summer months where kids are more exposed to pools, lakes, and the beach. When researching about water safety for kids with autism, I found out that drowning is the leading cause of death for kids with autism. Drowning is such a concern because children with autism can wander off and they may be drawn to water areas.
This is why teaching water safety skills are so IMPORTANT!!
Water safety skills are important for all children to learn, but this is vital for children with autism in order to help keep them safe.
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Swimming lessons are a must to help children learn to be safe around the water. Try to find swim instructors and programs that offer swim lessons specifically for children with autism. The National Autism Association offers a comprehensive list by city and state of YMCA’s that offer swim lessons for children with special needs.
How to help your child feel more comfortable with swimming lessons and the water:
Help them ease into the swimming program by letting them take a tour of the pool/environment before the lessons. Let them explore the area and get used to the sights, smells, and sounds that they may encounter. Create a positive atmosphere by talking about the pool and how fun the experience will be for the child.
Find a way to introduce the water to the child before the lessons begin. This could be by letting them watch videos of swimming lessons on YouTube, introduce water play with toys during bath time, or get a mini pool with very shallow water and let them play in there.
If the child is super fearful of the water, they may need an extended amount of time to desensitize to the water. If the child cannot swim, try to find a swim vest or flotation device that child can wear to help keep them safe.
Teach the skills in a way that the child will understand. Try to create an atmosphere with minimal distractions and repeat the concepts as often as necessary for the child to understand. Be patient.
Try using a visual schedule during a swimming lesson to help them understand what they will be learning and help with transitions between the activities. This can also help to ease anxiety and frustration to help make a more successful swimming lesson. Try taking pictures of the actual pool environment to help them better understand the environment and to help with transitions.
Create a sensory-friendly environment for the child. Do they need to wear a specific type of swimsuit, wear goggles, ear plugs, or nose plugs? Check out the KU Sensory Enhanced Aquatics program with a video showing how to help make teaching water skills for children with autism successful!
Pool Safely has some great tools and videos to help explain water safety for children.
Austrailia’s Royal Life Saving Society has created a kids zone dedicated to teaching kids about water safety in fun interactive ways!
Kickboards: these can help your child stay afloat while they practice kicking their legs.
Goggles: these can be helpful if your child is bothered by getting water in their eyes.
Ear protection: These can be helpful to help keep water from getting into the ears, but also to help minimize the sound.
Water Noodles: Noodles are another fun way to use a flotation device to help child float and learn to kick their legs.
Help Stop Wandering
Set up the environment for success by putting bells, chimes on doors to help let you know if they open. Put locks on doors and put high chain link locks as well out of reach of kids. Secure the pool area with a fence, cover, and alarms. Install a fence/gate with an alarm around a home pool. Let your neighbors know you are worried about your child wandering and that your child has autism. Encourage them to always keep their pool fence secured and aks if you can contact them if your child ever wanders.
Always stay near your child when around the water. Do not let them out of your sight. An accident can happen super quick, and you can be right there to help stop it from happening.
Teach your child about the dangers of water. Talk to them about water safety through a social story or social video.
The National Autism Association provides a comprehensive safety guide with the Big Red Safety Toolkit for parents to help keep them safe around water.
We hope you find these water safety tips and reousces helpful for you and your loved one. We want to make the water safe for all children! Let us know if you have any more safety tips you would like us to add!
Life Skills Summer Activities
Summer vacation can be a great time to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of the school year, but it can also bring about some added stress of going away from the typical routine. Some teens may do well without structure, but some may still need some structure throughout their day as well. As a family, we are always finding ways that we can continue to work on building life skills with everyday activities.
The summer months can be a great way to explore new activities that you may not have the time to do during the school year. These can be great activities to help engage your teen in new and fun experiences, but also help them learn new life skills as well. Just because it is the summer, does not mean they have to stop learning.
We decided to help create a list of summer learning activities that you can do with your teen this summer to help them gain independence with life skills!
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- Understanding what an emergency is and how and when to call 911
- Memorize their home address, how to verbalize it and how to write/type it out
- Memorize their phone number
- Internet safety rule to help keep them safe on social media
- How to be safe crossing the street and in parking lots
- Kitchen Safety with knives
- Kitchen Safety with fires
- Kitchen Safety with the stove and microwave
- How to navigate their local community (how to read road signs, how they could get back home if they were lost)
- How to talk to strangers/neighbors if they are in trouble or need help
- Who to call if they need help
- What to do if there was a fire in the house
- What to do if a stranger is at the door of the house
- How to identify “safe people” (such as police officers, fire-fighters, or friends)
- Understanding potential hazards with household products and chemicals
- Safety around pets and animals
- Understanding basic first aid skills
- How to stay safe in the home and not wander
- Pool safety skills (teaching them how to swim)
The National Autism Association has created a free Safety Toolkit for resources on how to help prevent wandering. Check that out here!
They have also created a Big Red Safety Box that is available to families in need to help keep their child with autism safe and to help prevent wandering. Click here to see if this is something that will help keep your child safe!
- Using manners when talking/socializing with others
- developing relationships with others
- conversational skills
- small talk
- how to ask questions
- how to ask for help
- how to say sorry
- understanding personal space
- Check out our post of over 50+ Social Skills for teens!
- Teaching personal hygiene skills
- washing face
- brushing hair
- brushing teeth
- Understanding the importance of personal hygiene skills
- Working on dressing skills and understanding what type of clothes to wear in different weather situations
- Setting up good sleep habits and bedroom routine
- how to care for their bodies
- Check out our personal hygiene skills Ebook to help you teach these skills!
- Laundry skills
- sorting clothes
- folding laundry
- putting clothes away in the right area
- loading the washing machine and how to turn it on
- loading the dryer and how to turn it on
- safety with laundry products and how much to use when doing laundry
- Cooking skills
- simple recipes to follow to make meals
- using a microwave
- safety when using a stove
- how to store food in the kitchen
- how to read labels
- how to read a recipe and gather the supplies
- how to make a grocery list
- Cleaning skills
- how to make the bed
- how to wipe off the counter
- how to clean up a spill
- taking out the trash
- sorting for recycling
- Taking care of pets
- feeding pets
- cleaning pets
- taking pets for a walk
- Basic home repair skills or who to call for repairs
- how to take care of their things and know where they are located
- Money Skills
- creating a budget
- manage checking account, savings account, or write a check
- how to pay with dollar bills
- how to pay with debit/credit cards
- how to save money
- how to navigate stores to make purchases
- how to create a list of items they need to purchase
- how to purchase your items at the check out lane
- navigating parking lots safely
- how to read community signs
- Ask for directions
- able to use an app or electronic device for directions
Sensory Fun Activities
Looking for a checklist of skills to help your teen learn as they transition to adulthood?
How to Handle Changes
Hormonal changes, new expectations, social situations, a need for independence, and emotional mood swings are all things that a teenager is experiencing. The list goes on and on. Their body is changing physically and emotionally. They are learning new skills everyday and not to mention starting middle school.
Their are higher school expectations placed them and they are starting a whole new avenue with social situations. They are starting to figure out who they are as a person and starting to rely less on parents. They are testing the boundaries to see what they can and cannot do. All of these changes can lead to some pretty emotional changes as well.
Sensory Processing Difficulties
Teenagers with sensory processing difficulties can also have new and unexpected changes. They may start to respond differently to sensory experiences, times when they would have been able to be in control, they may not be able to control as easily. They may need to be taught how to handle themselves in certain situations again. They need our love, guidance, and support. What can we do to help our teens with sensory processing difficulties calm down? Check out our FREE Calm Down Strategies Toolkit for Teens for helpful tips, tricks, and resources!
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Teenagers can still experience sensory meltdowns. What are sensory meltdowns?
A sensory meltdown is a neurological response due to their brains being wired differently and their bodies fight or flight system kicks in. When the fight response takes over we can have a sensory meltdown.
They become so overwhelmed by the situation that they may not be aware of their surroundings and may lose control. They may not even be aware of what they are doing during the meltdown.
What can we do to help them with sensory meltdowns?
SAFETY IS THE TOP PRIORITY: Do what you can to keep everyone safe in the situation. Try to have the teen move to a safe area, but if you are unable to move them, make sure the people around them are able to move away to stay safe. You may need to move objects that could potentially be thrown or turned into a weapon.
Do not try to talk to the person during the meltdown as they will be unable to respond as they may be unaware of what they are doing in the situation.
As the parent/teacher/therapist, know your boundaries lines as to what you need to do in certain situations. We would love to always be able to deescalate a sensory meltdown before it happens, but when it does happen we need to understand our roles. There is a line when a bad behavior turns into a meltdown and then when a meltdown turns into a potentially dangerous situation. If at any time you feel that you cannot keep the person, yourself, or people around you safe CALL FOR HELP.
Have an understanding: Have an understanding that the teen may not understand what is going on during a meltdown and most likely does not want to be acting this way. These situations are hard and mentally exhausting as well as physically exhausting. Be present in the situation to help keep everyone safe, but when it is over do what you need to do to mentally and physically recharge. You are most likely their biggest support system and advocate and they need you to be able to be there for them.
Check out our FREE Calm Down Strategies Toolkit for Teens for more tips on calm down strategies, sensory meltdowns, emotional self-regulation skills and coping skills!
There can be many sensory challenges that kids and teens face throughout the day. Colleen from The OT Toolbox has created a great solution for me to share with you today! *This post contains affiliate links. There is no extra cost to you, but we may earn an income. Please see our disclosure statement for further details.
It can be a real struggle to help kids manage tricky sensory-related challenges. Parents find it difficult to weed through all of the information and pull out what will work for their child. Teachers may struggle with kids who fall out of their chairs, can’t focus, and feed off other students. They may feel compelled to help these students but lack resources, time, or tactics. Therapists may search for fresh ideas that provide the right kind of sensory input and will be carried over at home and at school, all while fitting into the child’s occupational performance sweet spot.
Do one or more of the categories described above sound familiar?
Maybe you are trying sensory strategies, searching for information, and creating sensory diets that just aren’t working. You’re doing all of the right things, but struggle to meet the sensory needs of an individual child.
Colleen from the OT Toolbox has created 3 amazing FREE solutions for you!
The Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards and Sensory Challenge Cards
The Classroom Sensory Strategies Toolkit
The Attention and Sensory Workbook
She has created an amazing sensory ebook called The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook that has TONS of resources and helpful tips for teaching sensory strategies to your child!! This is a great book for parents, therapists, teachers, and professionals!
Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards
That’s where the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards and Sensory Challenge Cards come into play.
They are a FREE printable resource that encourages sensory diet strategies in the outdoors. In the printable packet, there are 90 outdoor sensory diet activities, 60 outdoor recess sensory diet activities, 30 blank sensory diet cards, and 6 sensory challenge cards. They can be used based on preference and interest of the child, encouraging motivation and carryover, all while providing much-needed sensory input.
Research tells us that outdoor play improves attention and provides an ideal environment for a calm and alert state, perfect for integration of sensory input. In fact, outdoor play provides input from all the senses, allows for movement in all planes, and provides a variety of strengthening components including eccentric, concentric, and isometric muscle contractions. The outdoors are a vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile, and overall sensory-enriched goldmine!
There’s more: Providing opportunities for sensory diet activities in the outdoors encourages open-ended play, imagination, creativity, body awareness, learning skills, self-confidence, gross and fine motor development, attention, and social-emotional skill development.
Here are a few ways that the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards and Sensory Challenge Cards can address much-needed skills of our children/students/clients with sensory needs:
- Outdoor play is the ideal setting for incorporating the “right kind” of sensory input. A child who uses a therapy band in the classroom receives just one direction of proprioceptive input. Outdoor play provides sensory input in all planes, directions, and with multiple senses.
- Outdoor sensory diet activities are easy, fun, and motivating…and they make memories for the whole family while meeting the needs of a child with sensory processing challenges.
- Outdoor sensory activities can be completed as a group or on an individual basis, and learning can be incorporated right into the tasks.
- Teachers will find the outdoor recess sensory diet cards appropriate for the right kind of sensory-based brain breaks throughout the day.
- The great outdoors is the biggest sensory gym you can imagine…and all of the sensory equipment is already there! From tree stumps, to hills, to pebbles, to pavement…outdoor sensory diet strategies can occur with little or no equipment.
- Parents will love these outdoor sensory strategies that make memories for the whole family.
- The whole family can join in on these sensory brain breaks! They provide the best kind of calming proprioceptive input, alerting movement, and sensory-based play that we ALL need!
- The outdoor sensory diet strategy cards include a section of outdoor recess activities. These are perfect for the parent advocating for more sensory input for their child at school. The school playground is a powerful source of calming and organizing input!
- Therapists will find the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards a valuable tool in creating home programs. Every child needs more of this type of play!
- Sometimes therapists run into issues with sensory diet carryover at home or in the classroom. These are sensory-based activities that kids will love and WANT to do!
- As an added bonus, the Outdoor Recess Sensory Diet Cards included in this free packet can be used at any neighborhood playground, making a quick stop at a park a motivating means of incorporating much-needed sensory exercise.
- The Sensory Diet Challenge Cards incorporate all of the senses and are a quick checklist of activities that can be used for easy sensory activities.
Be sure to grab your copy of the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards and Challenge Cards!
So often, kids with sensory processing challenges struggle in the school environment. Colleen from the OT Toolbox has created an amazing school sensory strategy toolkit just for you! This post contains affiliate links. There are no extra cost to you, but we may earn an income. Please see our disclosure statement for further details.
As a caregiver or parent, it is exhausting to see the challenges your child faces, while ticking through the laundry list of strategies and still witnessing the sensory breakdowns. Parents are the advocate for addressing their child’s needs. They are looking for resources to share.
Therapists are challenged to find tactics that will be carried over while meeting functional goals. We strive to create streamlined suggestions that will be used at home and in the midst of a busy classroom.
Often times, teachers are the middleman when it comes to sensory issues. They are dealing with curriculum requirements, little time, and demands of a full classroom. Time, space, and resources are limited in the classroom. Teachers struggle with meeting sensory needs and children who “feed off” other students.
Because of these challenges, the classroom can be a tricky environment for addressing the needs of students, incorporating strategies, and addressing behaviors related to sensory needs. If any of these struggles sound familiar, know that you are not alone!
You’re striving to find and use the sensory strategies that students need and to put them into place in easy-to-understand handouts where recommended tools can be highlighted. You’re seeking information about why students are acting the way they are and how to help them to improve learning, attention, regulation, and emotional needs so that educational needs are met.
Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit
That’s where the Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit comes in.
It’s a free printable packet of resources and handouts that can be used by teachers, parents, and therapists. Whether you are looking for a handout to explain sensory strategies, or a tool for advocating for your child, the Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit has got you covered.
And it’s free for you to print off and use again and again.
In the Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit, you’ll find:
- Fidgeting Tools for the Classroom
- Adapted Seating Strategies for the Classroom
- Self-Regulation in the Classroom
- 105 Calm-down Strategies for the Classroom
- Chewing Tools for Classroom Needs
- 45 Organizing Tools for Classroom Needs
- Indoor Recess Sensory Diet Cards
Here are a few ways that the Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit can address much-needed skills of our children/students/clients with sensory needs:
- Science tells us there are more kids with processing needs than ever before. Schools are responding with a better understanding of how to help students using sensory input within the school day.
- The Sensory Strategy Toolkit is a helpful tool for incorporating sensory needs within the educational environment as supports and tools that kids need.
- Sensory processing challenges in kids are baffling! Having a set of sensory tools that can be used in the classroom is powerful to teachers, parents, and therapists.
- Sensory processing issues cause stress, motivation, and challenges for the whole family. Having a toolkit of sensory strategies for the classroom can help.
- Self-regulation in the school environment can derail the whole classroom from effective learning. Use the calm-down strategies and self-regulation pieces in the toolkit and have the information you need to address these challenges.
- Those who work in the school environment struggle with a limited budget for addressing sensory needs. These strategies use equipment that is on hand in the classroom.
- The toolkit is appropriate for preschool through teenage years and older and the strategies can be modified to meet the needs of each individual.
Be sure to grab the Classroom Sensory Strategy Toolkit and start addressing those classroom sensory challenges!
Today, I wanted to chat about an issue that so many children struggle with, whether they have sensory processing needs or not. Colleen from The OT Toolbox has created yet another amazing resource to share with you and it is all related to attention and focus! *This post contains affiliate links. There is no extra cost to you, but we may earn an income. Please see our disclosure statement for further details.
Attention is a big challenge for kids. Distractions occur in the home, community, classroom, and everywhere a child goes! When attention interferes with learning, performance of functional tasks, or creates unsafe situations, it can be a real problem. But did you ever stop to think about how attention is so very related to sensory processing?
Our children with sensory challenges know the struggle of inattention. Parents, teachers, and therapists know that sensory processing challenges interfere with a child’s ability to attend. They may be so focused on a specific sensory input or need that they don’t notice when someone has called their name. Or, they may be so fearful in anticipation of a light touch that they miss what’s happening right in front of them.
As a parent, teacher, or therapist working with these children, we can find it difficult to address the underlying needs so that a child is able to pay attention to their classroom, or to a passing car.
We need to figure out strategies that meet the child’s needs in motivating and natural ways within the environment. Lack of attention span and undesirable responses to sensory input can lead to frustrated teachers, and challenged parents. Distractions from external and internal stimuli can lead to responses that look a lot like behaviors.
What if we could treat the underlying issues, resulting in increased focus and attention?
The Attention and Sensory Connection Workbook
That’s where the Attention and Sensory Connection Workbook can help. It’s a one-stop spotfor information on the basics of how attention is related to sensory processing. It provides tips to boost attention through the senses so that kids can learn, focus, and pay attention when they need to. The workbook covers information about how impaired sensory processing relates to attention issues in a variety of ways and provides movement and sensory-motor activities that can help boost attention. There are specific activity ideas and tactics to address attentiveness. You’ll also find workbook pages that can be used to identify underlying sensory-related areas that impact attention and tools for addressing those needs.
This is an ideal tool to add to any sensory lifestyle!
Here are a few ways that The Attention and Sensory Connection Workbook can address much-needed skills of our children/students/clients with sensory needs:
- It’s been found that there is a co-morbidity of 40-60% of ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder.
- This workbook is an actionable guide to help teachers, therapists, and parents to help kids boost attention and focus in the classroom by mastering sensory processing needs.
- You will find information on the sensory system and how it impacts attention and learning. There are step-by-step strategies for improving focus, and sensory-based tips and tricks that will benefit the whole classroom.
Don’t forget to grab your Free copy of The Attention and Sensory Connection Workbook!
The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook
The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook
The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is a strategy guide for sensory processing needs. With valuable insight into the sensory system and the whole child, the book details how sensory diets can be incorporated into a lifestyle of sensory success. The tools in this book provide intervention strategies to support and challenge the sensory systems through meaningful and authentic sensory diet tactics based on the environment, interests, and sensory needs of each individual child.
So often, we hear that sensory recommendations are not carried over into the home or classroom. The tips and tools in The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook uses child-led interests and daily life interactions so kids WANT to participate in sensory diet activities their bodies need…because it’s part of play!
There’s more. To celebrate the release of the book, there will be added bonus items that address needs like self-regulation and self-reflection, school screening tools, sensory diet cards, sensory planning calendars, play-based sensory activities, and so much more. These are strategies and solutions for every sensory kiddo!
When you buy The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook, you get an additional 6 bonus products. These include:
- A Year of Sensory Play- 67 pages of sensory activities for the whole year, 12 months of sensory planning sheets, and 12 months of movement activities and sensory bin fillers
- Sensory Diet Activity Cards- 24 pages of 345 sensory diet activities including calming and alerting movement activities, heavy work fine motor activities for pre-writing needs or fidgeting needs, sensory activities, and sensory support cards
- Sensory Diet Visual Schedule- 3 page visual sensory diet schedule form to be used with sensory diet cards. Print it off, laminate, and use over and over again in binders, at desks, at home, and within a sensory lifestyle
- My Self-Reflection Journal- 6 page printable journal designed to help kids self-reflect on daily and weekly actions, behaviors, and tools for better self-regulation. This is a great tool for managing sensory needs.
- School Sensory Checklist Screening Form- 7 page screening tool for the school or homeschool environments to identify sensory red flags
- Sensory Lifestyle Forms- 16 pages of forms, data collection sheets, sensory diet guides, checklists, and schedulers needed for creating an effective sensory lifestyle. Print these forms off and use them over and over again.
The guides in the bonus bundle will help to create simple sensory routines that fit into a family’s schedule, help parents figure out why their child responds to sensory stimulation in the ways that they do, help master sensory behaviors with simple activities, manage appointments and sensory routines, and find balance in sensory strategies.
You can also purchase the book from amazon: The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook