Thursday, March 23, 2017

15 Mealtime Strategies for Kids with Hyperlexia and/or Autism

Food sensitivities are quite common in children with hyperlexia due to their sensory issues or feeding issues associated with their autism. As a result, they may appear to be picky eaters, preferring to eat only certain types of food.

Furthermore, sensory issues may make it difficult for them to stay seated for the duration of the meal. Or poor fine motor skills and lack of understanding hidden social rules may contribute to these kids preferring to eat with their fingers than mastering utensils to eat.

These 15 mealtime strategies for kids with hyperlexia and/or autism should hopefully inspire you with some new ideas to try if your child is struggling during mealtimes. These strategies, as well as hundreds of others, can also be found in my Beyond the Letters book.

Mealtime strategies for kids with hyperlexia and/or autism from And Next Comes L

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Mealtime Strategies for Kids with Hyperlexia and/or Autism

It is important to note that the strategies below are ones that we have personally tried and/or had success with at some point. They work for our family, but may not work for yours, but hopefully it can give you some new ideas to consider.

1. Let your children help with the meal planning, preparation, and/or cooking. They are more likely to eat what they picked out for lunch or supper if they are involved in the process.

2. Let your child assemble their meals with build your own supper ideas such as make your own pizza night or build your own salad night.

3. Teach them the hidden rules of mealtimes so that they can learn what is and isn't expected of them during mealtimes.

4. Keep food items separate to encourage kids to explore foods and textures at their own pace. Divided plates work great for this, but offering pasta sauce on the side, for example, can help kids to not get overwhelmed by combining sensory textures.

5. Use a wiggle cushion or fidgets to help fidgety kids stay seated during mealtimes. Or use tape to put their favorite letter on the seat of the chair and encourage your child to sit right on their chosen letter!

6. Use their interests to encourage new seating arrangements, trying new foods, etc. You can read our experience here about how we used numbers and games to encourage J to sit in a new spot at the kitchen table.

7. Offer utensils at every meal, even if they don't end up using them. Gently encourage them to try using them too. See tip #12 about investing in alphabet cutlery too as a way to entice them to use utensils.

8. Model how to use utensils to cut food and transfer food into your mouth.

9. Write social stories about current mealtime struggles from how to use utensils, trying new foods, not eating with your hands, cleaning up, washing up before eating, etc.

10. Sneak foods they don't like into other items on the menu that they do like. I personally love to add things like hemp seeds, nuts, avocados, etc. to smoothies. Or I add extra veggies and puree them into pasta sauce.

11. Make letter and/or number shaped foods. Or if they are into planets, then make planets! Basically, use their interests to entice them to eat their meals. Thank goodness for cookie cutters in basically any shape possible!

12. Invest in some fun bowls, plates, cutlery, place mats, cups, or napkins that reflect their current interests. Ideas include: ABC plates, planet place mats, etc. Something similar to these alphabet dishes will work awesome!

13. Make checklists of foods to eat during meals. Kids with hyperlexia respond well to written checklists and can check off things they eat as they go! This strategy works really well for lunch boxes too! Better yet, invest in a lunch box with a chalkboard. Here's a pro tip: put the most important foods to eat first because guaranteed your child will eat things in the order they see them on the checklist.


14. Use a visual schedule to guide kids through the routine of mealtime from washing up, eating, cleaning up, and helping with dishes.

15. Write out what is expected of them. Kids with hyperlexia thrive with written visual instructions so don't be afraid to write down explicitly what is expected of them like "use a fork to eat your pasta" or "stay seated while eating."

BONUS STRATEGIES: Find more practical strategies like this in the book Beyond the Letters.

Other Ideas You'll Love

This post is part of a monthly series called Parenting Children with Special Needs. This month's topic is mealtime and you can find the other posts regarding this topic below.

Nutrition for Childhood Trauma | The Chaos and The Clutter 
Mealtime strategies for kids with hyperlexia and/or autism from And Next Comes L
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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Mealtime Hidden Rules Social Skills Printable

You might not realize just how many hidden rules there are regarding mealtime, but think of all those phrases your own mother probably said to you at some point: "Chew with your mouth closed," "Don't talk with your mouth full," or "Elbows off the table." Those are exactly the types of hidden rules that kids with hyperlexia or autism will not pick up on, so it's important to explicitly teach this rules to them.

This free hidden rules social skills printable for kids covers a variety of expected and unexpected behaviors regarding mealtime.

Free hidden rules social skills printable about mealtime from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links.

About this Hidden Rules Social Skills Printable

Kids with hyperlexia and/or autism need to be taught social skills directly. They often struggle deciphering what the expected and unexpected behaviors are surrounding social situations. I particularly like to use the language of expected versus unexpected instead of good versus bad, thanks to the Social Thinking Curriculum, which is why you will see that language used on this printable.

Simply print, cut, and laminate (optional) the behavior cards and the sorting chart. Then work together with your child to sort the behaviors into what is expected when it comes to mealtime and what is not expected. Be sure to discuss why the behaviors go into which category.

With enough practice, hopefully the understanding of these expected and unexpected behaviors can transfer over and become well-learned social skills for your child. Pair it with these other mealtime strategies and your kids will be mealtime pros in no time!

Download the Free Printable Mealtime Hidden Rules Printable



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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tulip Suncatcher {Spring Craft}

My kids love to make suncatcher crafts and honestly I love them too! They're easy to make, use simple materials that I always seem to have on hand, and quickly brighten up the rooms in our house. And I especially love suncatcher crafts this time of year as the snow melts because the dreary brown and gray landscape is so blah and depressing.

Thankfully, this easy tulip suncatcher craft for kids adds the perfect punch of color to the dreary early days of Spring.

Easy Spring craft for kids - make a tulip suncatcher from And Next Comes L

Easy Spring Craft for Kids: Make a Tulip Suncatcher

Kids of all ages can make these tulip suncatchers, even young toddlers! It's also perfect for destructive kids who like to rip things, which is initially why we even started doing these types of crafts because K was notorious for ripping things as a toddler!

I absolutely love how this tulip suncatcher turned out! It looks lovely in our living room window.


Easy Spring craft for kids - make a tulip suncatcher from And Next Comes L
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Thursday, March 16, 2017

How to Teach Kids to Praise Others

Everyone enjoys being praised for doing something well. Whether it is for working hard on something, achieving some new milestone, or just being praised for being kind to others, kids and adults alike enjoy hearing that they are, essentially, being awesome. Teaching kids how to praise others is quite easy, I think in comparison to other social skills, since it can easily be incorporated into everyday interactions right from birth.

However, kids with autism and/or hyperlexia might need additional support to master this social skill. Here are 7 ways to teach kids how to praise others.

Tips for teaching kids how to praise others from And Next Comes L

Strategies for Teaching Kids How to Praise Others


Teaching kids how to praise others is just one of 50 social skills to teach kids and can be achieved with these simple strategies.

1. Be an example & model

The absolute best way to teach kids how to praise others is by being a good example yourself and modeling how to praise others. That includes praising your child for their accomplishments, whether big or small, and even praising the efforts of others that you interact with. Remember, kids pay more attention to our behavior rather than what we say so if they regularly see us praising others, they will pick up on it. And keep in mind that you don't have to praise your child for everything they do.

2. Be specific when praising

Avoid non-descriptive phrases like "good job" or "way to go" or "you're so smart" when praising others. You should be specific about why you are praising your child so that they can learn and internalize what it is that they did that was praise-worthy. The praise should be related to something your child has the ability to control. Phrases such as "good job" fail to tell the child what it is that they are being praised for. Besides, it is an abstract phrase for literal thinking kids with autism or hyperlexia so means little to them. For example, you might say, "I like how you put your dirty clothes away all by yourself!" instead of just saying "good job."

3. Model nonverbal ways to praise

Words aren't always necessary when praising others. Show your child how you can clap, give a high five, smile, or give a fist bump as a way to encourage and praise others without using words.

4. Teach empathy and compassion

This strategy is so important and can be the hardest of all these strategies listed here to master, especially in younger children. Teaching kids to think about how others might be feeling can help them be better at praising others because then they are capable of understanding what the needs of the other person might be and can praise accordingly.

5. Give them scripts for how to praise

Teach your child some specific phrases or templates for praising that they can use when trying to praise others. I know my son often has a tough time phrasing his exact thoughts, so simple social scripts are a way to give him the foundation he needs to word his praise in an appropriate manner. Eventually the scripts can be phased out as the child learns to create their own encouraging words.

6. Teach your child to be observant

Help your child learn to be more observant by pointing out things that are praise-worthy. Encourage them to look around them and see how people are acting and feeling. You can also ask your child questions to encourage them to observe what is happening around them.

7. Practice praising others

You can practice praising others through play and role playing. Or you can prompt your child to praise others when you are pointing out praise-worthy behaviors to them. Finally, be sure to give your child plenty of opportunities to praise others in your everyday interactions.

Free printable cheat sheet with tips for teaching kids how to praise others from And Next Comes L

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Eating at a Restaurant Hidden Rules Social Skills Printable

For many years, we avoided eating out at restaurants with our kids because of the sensory issues that frequently overwhelmed J as a preschooler. It was simply just too much for him to handle whenever we did try! Now that he is older and we have eaten out at a restaurant numerous times, he has a good understanding of all the hidden rules of eating at a restaurant. However, I realize that he too struggled with these hidden rules during his preschool years. He was not only overwhelmed, but he also didn't know what was expected of him while eating out.

This free social skills printable about the hidden rules of eating at a restaurant is a perfect way for kids with autism and/or hyperlexia to go over the expected and unexpected behaviors involved. It would have been the perfect tool for him back then!

Free hidden rules social skills printable about eating out at a restaurant from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links.

About this Hidden Rules Social Skills Printable

Kids with hyperlexia and/or autism need to be taught social skills directly. They often struggle deciphering what the expected and unexpected behaviors are surrounding social situations. I particularly like to use the language of expected versus unexpected instead of good versus bad, thanks to the Social Thinking Curriculum, which is why you will see that language used on this printable.

Simply print, cut, and laminate (optional) the behavior cards and the sorting chart. Then work together with your child to sort the behaviors into what is expected when it comes to eating out at a restaurant and what is not expected. Be sure to discuss why the behaviors go into which category.

With enough practice, hopefully the understanding of these expected and unexpected behaviors can transfer over and become well-learned social skills for your child.

Download the Free Printable Eating Out at a Restaurant Hidden Rules Printable

This printable is four pages long. You can grab your copy by clicking the button below.


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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

St. Patrick's Day Perler Bead Patterns

Our entire family recently got into perler bead crafts over the Christmas break. While most of our creations have been letters (shocking when you have a kid with hyperlexia, right?), Pokemon characters, and Super Mario characters. We've been branching out though to create some fun holiday and seasonal themed ideas lately. These St. Patrick's Day perler bead designs are easy to make and would be great to turn into magnets or even a pin to wear on St. Patrick's Day.

St. Patrick's Day perler bead crafts from And Next Comes L

St. Patrick's Day Crafts for Kids: Make a Perler Bead Shamrock & Leprechaun Hat

These patterns are easy to follow and make, but if you are unfamiliar with perler bead crafting, you'll discover that making these is a great fine motor workout! Even for adults! There's also lots of counting. visual discrimination, and color matching involved, so even if it doesn't seem like it, there's lots of learning hidden within these crafts.

Plus, there's a cute photo of K trying to wear the leprechaun hat over on CBC Parents.


St. Patrick's Day perler bead crafts from And Next Comes L
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Monday, March 13, 2017

Brushing Teeth Hidden Rules Social Skills Printable

You might not think that there are any hidden rules when it comes to brushing teeth, but trust me, little things like explicitly stating where to spit out the toothpaste is one of those things kids with autism and/or hyperlexia might not pick up on. This free hidden rules social skills printable about brushing teeth helps kids learn all those little expected and unexpected behaviors associated with brushing their teeth. It also makes a great companion activity to do after reading this brushing teeth social story.

Free hidden rules social skills printable about how to brush your teeth from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links.

About this Hidden Rules Social Skills Printable

Kids with hyperlexia and/or autism need to be taught social skills directly. They often struggle deciphering what the expected and unexpected behaviors are surrounding social situations. I particularly like to use the language of expected versus unexpected instead of good versus bad, thanks to the Social Thinking Curriculum, which is why you will see that language used on this printable.

Simply print, cut, and laminate (optional) the behavior cards and the sorting chart. Then work together with your child to sort the behaviors into what is expected when it comes to brushing your teeth and what is not expected. Be sure to discuss why the behaviors go into which category.

With enough practice, hopefully the understanding of these expected and unexpected behaviors can transfer over and become well-learned social skills for your child.

I highly recommend doing this hidden rules activity after reading through this free social story about brushing teeth first.

Download the Free Printable Brushing Teeth Hidden Rules Printable

This printable is four pages long. You can grab your copy by clicking the button below.


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