Unwanted Hugs & Sandpaper Kisses
For many individuals on the autism spectrum and/or special needs children, Valentine’s Day can be sweet and fun – or it can be a sensory disaster. Here are some tips to make this holiday great for all Sensory Types.
Stick to your child’s diet
While it’s tempting to give in to sugary treats, keep your child’s brain and gut working at optimum levels during holidays so that they’re able to enjoy the day. If you go off a GF/CF diet for a cupcake and glass of milk, chances are your kiddo will end up in the bathroom with stomach cramps, or be bouncing off the walls as his body tries to process and digest.
There are many options to choose from, including suckers, organic treats, and gluten free candies. Even Betty Crocker has gluten free brownies and cakes you can make and decorate with your kiddos.
Let’s talk for a moment about expressing feelings of love. For most kids, we can never oversell the importance of showing affection for your child and giving them hugs and kisses. Children love to show affection for each other by holding hands with their best friends, or greeting each other with a tight squeeze. But what if your child is hypersensitive and a hug is torture? Or a kiss feels like being licked by a St. Bernard? And what about those people that squeeze so hard, you feel like you’re being suffocated?
I remind my son to know and respect his boundaries. He’ll tolerate a quick hug, although he’d prefer to go without. He avoids sensory seekers who roughhouse and give hard high fives. On holidays, when he knows he will be around a lot of people and having to greet them, he prepares himself for plenty of contact. Let your child know it’s okay to tell people, “No, thank you.” when they try to give them a hug or kiss.
Tips for Sensory Avoiders
- Think about sending your sensory sensitive kiddo to school in a compression shirt (available online at fun and function). This will give him a nice, snug feeling.
- Apply deep pressure to his shoulders and arms before school to help regulate them. Right before they enter the Valentine’s Day school party.
- Hold their hand as you walk to school to help reduce anxiety.
- Have them chomp on pretzels or crunchy carrots on the way to school.
- Let them wear ear muffs or ear phones to class if they’re sound sensitive.
Tips for Sensory Seekers
- Let your sensory seeker jump on the mini-trampoline before school to help get his energy out before the Valentine’s Day school party.
- Or maybe jump off the couch onto a crash pad.
- Walk to school with her backpack at 15 percent of her body weight to help her self regulate.
- Do bear walks, jumping jacks, and a yoga pose or two before heading out the door.
- Drink thick applesauce through a straw on the way to school to help calm him.
Your Role in Prepping Your Child For Success
What role do you play in your Valentines Day Sensory challenged kiddo? A big one! Keep in mind, your child sponges off your energy. I’ll write more on this extensively soon, but the gist of it is, if you’re stressed, your child’s stress increases. If you’re feeling particularly hectic before dropping your child off, try to take a moment to breath and calm down before getting in the car. Get up earlier and do yoga or meditate, or simply take a hot shower. Whatever relaxes you. And also save anything stressful to discuss with your child AFTER school. Help them have their best day by sending them off with a peaceful and loving attitude.