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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.
When choosing what to write in, consider all of your options and what best suits your needs. A journal can be a spiral-bound notebook, which is an easy to find and cheap option. Combination code or lock and key journals can provide privacy and are usually well-made. A journal can be kept electronically in a secure computer. It is convenient to access and saves your hand from becoming cramped in writing position.
Relaxing and stress relieving.
A coping tool.
A way to vent or express emotions and thoughts.
Makes your thoughts more apprehensible.
Improve and train your writing.
Set and achieve goals.
A way to become more organized.
Develop improved understanding of yourself and situations occurring in your life.
Allows for creativity.
Provides you with a way to reflect and consider new ideas.
Record new ideas on-the-go.
A place to keep memories.
Provides you with a record of events, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. You can use this record to track patterns over time, which can lead to problem solving.
Can help you feel a sense of accomplishment.
You will learn new things.
Can provide you motivation and inspiration.
And many, many MORE!
Use your journal however you’d like! Decorate it and add pictures. Slip a photo of a favorite memory, person or pet inside. Write in different colors or use black ink. When you start a new journal entry, include the date, so that you have that information if you ever need it. Write about your day freely or choose a prompt. It might take you a little time to get used to writing, you might encounter writer’s block, and you may struggle to find what time to write. Don’t stress, it’s okay! Writing should become easier overtime and this isn’t meant to be stressful, it is meant to be therapeutic and enjoyable! Aim to write everyday because it will help develop a habit and really reap those benefits. If you end up writing most days of the week, that is still good, just keep in mind that you might get out of habit of keeping your journal if you don’t write frequent enough.
I think of the graph as an umbrella. The emotions on the edge of the circle are related to the “main” emotions (or the emotions that we most commonly identify), which are in the very center. For example, when we feel confident and successful, we feel proud, and we feel happy.
If someone is struggling to pinpoint or identify what they are feeling, just seeing all of the emotions in front of them might be helpful.
This graph is good for teaching kids about other emotions, not just the “main” ones. So, when they feel happy about receiving a good grade at school, proud, confident and successful can be introduced to them.
This worksheet helps with recognizing what our bodies do for us and what is unique about us. Think about the abilities and all that our bodies achieve every day, there are several! Walking, speaking, reading, thinking, feeling, eating, and reproducing, just to mention a few. Our bodies are elaborate and designed to do absolutely astonishing things! This worksheet is for anybody to complete: children, adolescents and adults; use in the classroom setting with children; use in a group setting, so that you can learn from and relate to others. I have used this as a tool when working with people who struggle with body image, eating disorders and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) in a group therapy setting.
We may be dissatisfied with certain parts of our bodies and find it difficult to accept them. The focus tends to be on our flaws and sometimes we long for our bodies to appear or function differently, in unattainable ways (distorted thinking). As you work through the uniqueness section of the worksheet, remember that everybody is different and that if we weren’t, then how dull this world would be! Things that make you unique are your talents, special abilities, personality, a birthmark, etc… again, there are several!
A word about going against negative body image obsessing… we can battle our distorted thoughts and beliefs about our bodies by really thinking through body positivity and appreciation. Positivity and appreciation will increase self-awareness, and when we accept our bodies as they are and their unique characteristics, we can find peace and satisfaction. As we focus on these positive qualities, stay clear from thinking about what we view as flaws or what we dislike about our bodies because it is most important to be grateful for them and not judge ourselves. For example, you may not like the appearance of your birthmark. Try not to think about the appearance as much, give thought to a meaning behind the birthmark. Does or did anyone else in your family have that birthmark? How does your birthmark make you unique? At times, we are our most critical judges. Through this whole process of learning, appreciating and accepting, we gain self-esteem and it becomes easier to love ourselves as we are. Don’t give up if you become stuck, take a short break or ask for help.
Lastly, about taking care of our bodies and meeting our basic needs. Self-care sounds simple, but when there is a struggle accepting and appreciating our bodies, it is complicated. It is key to know ways that we can take care of our bodies to help them stay strong and healthy. Eating well-balanced meals, exercising the appropriate amount, practicing good hygiene, going to the doctor’s, dentist’s, chiropractor’s office when necessary, are all perfect examples of taking care of our bodies. There is an endless list of creative ways to take further care, such as, feng shui the bedroom to get better sleep, practice dance or yoga therapy, head to the spa, do simple stretches for your muscles, breathing exercises, etc. Self-care means feeling better, having gained confidence and love towards our bodies.
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.