Hi parents! Nanette here. I mentioned to Karla that I will take over a blog or two, seeing that this topic is very close to my heart. I have 3 kids at home and creating a calm and “conducive for learning” environment can at times be a challenge. I follow these guidelines as much as possible and it really does make a difference in my own home.
We have created a “Parent Starter Pack” that we are also happy to share with you, so please do let us know if you want us to email you a copy of this: [email protected]. Here is a sneak peek of the document:
I will, to the best of my abilities, try and explain briefly what we believe are the most important strategies to create that “next to perfect” atmosphere.
- Calming background music. Through our extensive research with adults on the spectrum as well as our kids (clients), we have realized how important a relaxed “vibe” is in the home environment. We understand that it’s not always possible to have gentle background music playing, but we have seen the difference it can make. Not all music works for all kids, of course. We have some excellent playlists that have been tried and tested that we can share with you though. Some kids don’t like music playing and that’s totally fine – we then don’t play anything 🙂
- Pleasant smells. We also believe that this is universally true – if something smells nice, it makes you smile 🙂 Our kids have a tendency not to enjoy overpowering smells, so try out some pure essential oils, such as lavender or camomile to promote relaxation and some peppermint or cedarwood to increase focus and attention. This is also an excellent time to work on mindfulness activities – such as games with your kids on what you are smelling to bring their attention to the present moment and being aware of their surroundings and sensory input within these environments.
- Visual schedules. I cannot stress enough the importance of having visual schedules at home and throughout the day for your child. It can start with a simple “first ____, then ____” visual and move to a weekly planner later. The reason we highly recommend including a daily schedule is that it teaches your child about organizing, planning and prioritizing; which are all extremely important concepts to work on. It also really helps to calm your child down during any transition – from going to one activity to the next or from one environment to another. I want to say that if there is one thing you remember from this blog, let it be a visual schedule 🙂 We can definitely offer you some more advice here – so again, feel free to send us an email with a specific query.
- Visual choice boards. This is another excellent strategy to decrease possible challenging behaviors and increase functional communication. We advise our parents (clients) to have various visual choice boards throughout the house – one for the kitchen to request for snacks, one in the sensory room to request for specific input and one where all your child’s toys are kept. We don’t require our kids to follow up with a verbal request if they look at the picture of the activity or item they require. It should really be an easy way for your child to quickly request what they want and then get it. We have a short video to help explain this and create a visual choice board under 5 minutes. Have a look at this link: Pretty’s DIY video: how to make a visual choice board.
- Low arousal tone. I totally understand this one is easier said than done, but trust me – it makes an enormous impact on the entire home if you can keep your tone of voice calmer than usual when your child is exhibiting any anxiety (or similar emotions). The more hyper they become, the more relaxed you should (try to) be and sound. It will immediately help your child to start the process in calming his or her sensory system if there is a constant being calm around him. Someone they trust. Even though we have kids that will laugh or run when they are “acting out”, we usually recognise as many of these behaviors as anxiety levels increasing and thus, it’s important to show your child you are in control of your feelings and emotions and “there” for your child.
We are half way through, but I think we all need a break (which is another element we will cover in the second part of this blog topic). Please join me tomorrow to get 5 more practical and successful tips to implement at home.
Try out the first 5 and please do let us know if it makes a difference – remember though, it will take some time for your child to get used to this perfect environment 😉