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If you’re a teacher who works with students who have autism or a parent of a child with autism (grades PreK-12th), Melissa Finch’s Autism Adventures resources may be helpful. There are a variety of resources that you can purchase and occasionally grab a freebie. Below are a few.
Materials: Poster board or large paper; magazines; newspapers; printed out images from online; quotes; scissors; glue; pen; pencils; markers; stickers; glitter; tiny, lightweight objects (travel ticket; concert ticket; key chain; charm…).
Instructions: Ponder and visualize a long-term goal (a few months or years ahead). What does it look like? What are the details of your vision? Where will you be, what will you be doing and who will you be doing it with? Using your materials, cut out, print, draw, paste anything that could be a part of your board. Add quotes, mantras or positive affirmations to remind you of your long-term goal, and to motivate and inspire you. An extra element to consider is a letter-sized envelope. It can hold: tiny, meaningful items; a sticky note with a short-term goal (that can be accomplished in one day); sticky notes with something positive going on in your life; sticky notes with a memory that will make you smile. Glue the envelope to the side or bottom of your board. Everyday (or as frequently as you’d like), pull one thing out of the envelope. It adds a little extra fun and interaction. Do a “rough draft” of your board before gluing things to it, just to make sure that you are satisfied with the layout. Glue on the cutouts, pictures and objects. Let the board dry. Lastly, on the back of the board, add “reminders” (important things to remember). The reminders should be uplifting.
Vision Boards are fun and easy to make. They remind you of what you are working towards, your long-term goals, dreams, and aspirations. This motivational collage project is something that a child, adolescent or adult can create. Check out my Vision Board and reminders.
Materials: an index card; colored pencils; markers; crayons; stickers.
Instructions: this crafty project is for children and adolescents who need a little reminder of their most effective coping skills or ways to help them to stay safe when they are feeling overwhelmed or escalated. Having a safety plan written on an index card is accessible, can be kept hidden to protect privacy, or shown to a trusted adult (teacher or family member) when additional support is needed.
A safety plan can contain any number of coping skills or strategies that will help de-escalate a reaction to a situation. I like to ask children and adolescents to choose five things that they find most helpful to do when they feel like they are losing control or feeling unsafe. Five is a good number because it gives a variety of options to choose from. The child or adolescent can choose what they feel will be best option for in the moment.
When creating the card, sometimes figuring out coping skills and strategies is challenging and requires children and adolescents to really think; an adult who knows the child should help come up with ideas. These need to be things that can be used immediately, in the here and now. Try to avoid requiring any specific toys or equipment because that requires extra effort. The things also need to be very detailed and specific. Being detailed and specific will promote brain change and way of thinking. Write the coping skills and strategies on the index card and decorate it!
Examples of coping skills and strategies:
Counting to ten in my mind while taking deep, easy breathes.
Notice five things in the room and what color, shape or texture they are.
Sing a song.
Think about my favorite memory.
Think about my favorite pet.
Use a fidget toy.
Read a book.
Listen to music.
Think of a positive self affirmation.
Curl and uncurl my toes ten times.
Stretch my legs and arms.
Ride my bike.
Notice three scents and where they are coming from.
Feel the texture of my clothing.
Where to keep the safety plan
This card can be kept in many different places, but keep it easily accessible, which means carrying it around:
In a pocket.
In a desk, locker or lunch box at school.
In a backpack.
On the refrigerator or a mirror at home (better if there are two or more are created).
Kept on a coffee table, dining room table or night stand.
Material ideas: Large paper or poster board; pens; pencils; crayons; markers; glue; glitter; stickers; magazine clippings; photos.
Journaling prompt: What adventure do you wish you could go on? Make sure that the adventure is realistic, like planning a vacation. Where would you go, how would you get there, and what would you do once you are there? What is your mode of transportation? Will you go alone or will someone go with you? What are the steps that you might take in order to put this plan into action? Try to come up with three specific steps for putting your plan into action. How might you feel once you have reached your destination? How might you feel throughout the adventure? What about when it is over? Write a story. Be specific and descriptive. Use your creativity. Draw. Create designs. Most importantly, have fun setting your goal!