Tag Archives: autism

How Do Other A-Typical Families Survive the Holidays?

holiday imageTips for Surviving the Holidays for Non-Typical Families

Holidays can be insidious for our families.  School breaks and cold weather keep our kids inside and boredom can become an issue. Kids like ours often don’t have lots of friends they can visit with or activities that can divert them.  Parents can get overwhelmed with the needs of their kids along with all the expectations, events, financial stresses, and additional chores that the holidays can bring.

Remember, it is defminitely OK to say “No”.  Don’t overschedule yourself or your children. It’s ok to turn down invitations to certain parties or events and do something less stressful like watching a movie at home or playing a board game. It’s really ok for kids to spend some time in a quiet space away from all the relatives and chatter.  Remember, relatives are often very supportive of any approach that will minimize having their holidays disrupted by tantrums and outbursts!

While you’re freeing yourself of too many engagements, keep in mind that you don’t have to be a Slave to Tradition. Maybe kids of other people’s families enjoy getting their picture taken on the lap of a stranger dressed like Santa, but not mine. Many of our kids can only keep it together in public for a little while, so make sure you are not overtaxing them or asking something of them that is just too overwhelming or distressing.

Lower Expectations: Don’t expect your holiday season or your children to be perfect.  I don’t know about you and yours, but my kids don’t smile or say all the right things on demand. For kids with a mental health issue or developmental disability, social niceties just don’t happen spontaneously.  For my son with autism, being around a lot of people at the holidays was very stressful. He did not enjoy opening gifts for a number of years.  Even now, he sometimes disappoints a relative by not showing the type of response to a gift that might be typical.  There could be hurt feelings .  On top of this, some relatives might make negative comments or judgments about the type of parents we were.  This is why it’s extremely important to develop a THICK SKIN.  You need to be able let some of these comments or observations just roll off your back.  They don’t live in your shoes and have no idea what works or doesn’t work with your kids.  You know best what your kids need to feel loved and supported.

Ultimately, the best way to survive the holidays is to take care of yourself and your family.  The rest will fall into place.

Summer Can Be Fun

We all struggle with finding ways to get our kids outside and moving in the summer.  When kids have mental health issues or disabilities, it’s even harder to find fun activities for them that match their interests.  I’ve gathered a list of some different kinds of activities in and around Hennepin County and also places you can contact to get even more information.

Three Rivers Parks District – Lots of different types of activities for families, from fishing and farming events to day camps for kids.  Please contact 763.559.9000 if you have any questions about special needs accommodations.

Get Out, Get Active!  Hennepin County and area cities have teamed up to offer a great brochure  with listings of fun activities and recreation resources as well as a participation card, that gives you a chance to win a free pass to Three Rivers Parks District (a $150 value).  The contest starts now, so check it out!

Hoofbeats and Heartbeats (763-441-2274) is an equestrian learning center dedicated to providing therapeutic riding and teaching proper horse care and management to individuals with emotional and physical disabilities, elderly and youth. Located in Otsego, MN

Mall of America – Nickelodeon Universe Parents of Kids with Special Needs children can stop by customer service within Nickelodeon Universe for your Park Handbook. A Manager will sign off on rides appropriate for your child and an adult can ride all the rides free of charge with the special kid as a chaperon. The book will also enable up to four people in the party to enter the rides from the exit so there is little to no wait time.

Pump It Up – Sensory Play Night – Come play on the giant, soft, fun-filled interactive inflatables 2nd Monday of each month from 6:00 to 7:30.  During this evening event the area is reserved exclusively for special needs children and their families.

Sensory Friendly Films at AMC Theaters For families affected by autism and other disabilities, these are special opportunities to enjoy their favorite films in a safe and accepting environment. The movie auditoriums will have their lights brought up and the sound turned down, families will be able to bring in their own gluten-free, casein-free snacks, and no previews or advertisements will be shown before the movie.

More Resources and Ideas:

Reach for Resources (952-988-4177) provides therapeutic recreational services to Brooklyn Park, Brooklyn Center, Maple Grove, Golden Valley, Plymouth, St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka, Chaska and Chanhassen.

  • YMCAs – summer and after school camps, lots of other activities
  • YWCAs – summer and after school camps, lots of other activities

City Parks and Recreation Departments – Classes, camps, sports,

Summer Camp Is Not Off the Table

I was curious to see what options families have for sending their children to summer camp this year, even if the child has special needs or mental health issues. ImageHere’s what I found out:

Camp Buckskin (Ely, Minnesota) – has been helping young people with ADD/ADHD, Learning Disabilities, Aspergers or those who have been adopted learn and grow for over 50 years.

Camp Hand in Hand (Autism Society of Minnesota) AuSM-trained camp counselors and experienced program staff carefully plan and maintain a very well-run, relaxed and rewarding camp experience at Camp Knutson in Crosslake, Minnesota.

Camp Noah (Lutheran Social Services) The camp curriculum is specifically designed to help children process their experience with disaster and grief in a safe, supportive, and caring atmosphere that also offers fun and recreation at a time of intense stress.

Camp Character works to develop life and social skills for children with special needs ages 7-18. It is an overnight camp that will build confidence and behavioral skills.

Friendship Ventures – has several resident camps, including:Camp Adventure for children 6-15 with ADD/ADHD and other academic and/or social skill difficulties and their siblings; and Asperger’s Camp for children and young adults with Aspergers.

Need Financial Help? Many of the camps offer scholarships or financial aid for your child to be able to afford camp.  In addition, you might investigate some of these other options:

  • Churches and synagogues sometimes offer partial scholarships
  • Check your local Chamber of Commerce for a list of local civic organizations, such as Rotary, Elks or Lions Clubs that could offer funding.
  • Adoptive parents can sometimes get funding from state adoption agencies.
  • Metro Friendship Foundation offers scholarships for children with ASD to attend social skills camps, like Camp Hand in Hand.

Next, I’ll try to look at options for day camps and other recreational activities closer to home.