Friday, September 23, 2016

Sleep Strategies for Kids with Autism or Sensory Needs

Sleep issues can be common in kids with autism.

Thankfully, J has always been a good sleeper. But he has always been an early riser, regardless of what time he goes to bed. He was also sometimes quite difficult to get to sleep because he would be so fidgety and fired up before bedtime. However, once he was asleep, he was asleep for the night.

So over the years, we have come up with a pretty solid list of sleep time strategies that work for him, as well as for our youngest son, K. The sleep strategies for kids with autism below are things that we do to target a variety of sensory systems: visual, olfactory, proprioceptive, tactile, and even oral motor. They address his specific sensory needs, which is why I think they are effective for him.

Sleep strategies for kids with autism or sensory processing disorder from And Next Comes L

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Sleep Strategies for Kids with Autism or Sensory Needs

These are the strategies that we use and implement for bedtime success. They work for us. That doesn't mean they will necessarily work for you or your family, but instead, they may give you ideas of things to try.

1. Create a Bedtime Routine

We have a set routine that we follow for bedtime and it has been the same since my kids were newborns. I know this strategy seems like common sense, but I'm always surprised to learn of families who do not have a regular bedtime routine. Our kids thrive on routine, as do many other kids, because it teaches them to know what comes next. There are no surprises. They know that sleep time follows reading books.

If it is bath night, then the routine is as follows:

  • Bath
  • Get dressed
  • Brush teeth
  • Go pee
  • Read books for about 30 minutes or until child falls asleep
  • Sleep time
If it is not bath night, then the routine is as follows:

  • Get dressed
  • Go pee
  • Wash face, hands, feet, etc. with a cloth
  • Brush teeth
  • Read books for about 30 minutes or until child falls asleep
  • Sleep time
We also use an electric toothbrush to provide oral motor sensory input before bedtime as a way to reduce chewing on books or toys during the bedtime routine.

2. Use a Visual Schedule to Reinforce the Bedtime Routine

We don't use our visual schedule as much as we used to when our kids were toddlers. The visual cues helped J tremendously when he was little, especially since our visual schedule used written words and pictures. You can grab a copy of the exact visual schedule that we use here. It is a free printable!

3. Use a Weighted Blanket or Stretchy Bed Sheet to Provide Calming Proprioceptive Sensory Input Before Bedtime

Proprioceptive sensory input is calming for kids and can help energetic kids settle down into a slower rhythm. So if your kids are a bundle of energy before bed, then try squishing them with a body pillow, using a weighted blanket while reading, or encourage them to crawl under a lycra bedsheet (see our DIY stretchy sheet tutorial) while reading.

We have noticed a huge difference in J's ability to settle during bedtime since we started using our homemade stretchy sensory bed sheet on his bed. He crawls underneath and the light pressure is enough to keep him from wiggling and fidgeting during story time.

How to make a stretchy lycra bedsheet for kids


Other alternatives would be to try a weighted blanket or weighted stuffed animal. You could try one of these 13 homemade weighted blanket tutorials if you are the DIY type. If you're not the DIY type, then you can try buying a weighted blanket.

How to make a weighted blanket tutorial


4. Use a Visual Sleep Training Clock

We started off using Momo the Monkey sleep training clock and J used to carry that clock everywhere with him. He never did use it the way it was intended and it eventually it was dropped one too many times and would no longer open and close its eyes.

Monkey sleep training clock for kids


However, when we received Gro-Clocks one Christmas, J was more interested in using it to help him know when it was time to sleep. He still doesn't use it as a visual aid for when it's time to wake up though and likely never will since he's such an early riser, but it has definitely been a great help for settling to sleep.

Gro-clock


The OK to Wake! Clock is another alternative, although we have not used this particular one.

OK to wake clock


5. Get Lots of Fresh Air and/or Exercise Before Bed

Again, this strategy is kind of obvious, but mentioning it because it is still important. We like to jump on a trampoline, go for a bike ride, or even go for a walk before we do our bedtime routine. It's a great way to burn off excess energy before bed and really wear out the kids. The fresh air always helps them sleep soundly for the night.

6. Use a Himalayan Salt Lamp for Better Sleep

I swear by Himalayan salt lamps, not just for the kids, but for me. I always sleep so amazing when we have our salt lamp on for the night. There's lots of health benefits to using a Himalayan salt lamp and we have definitely noticed the benefits ourselves. They also make great night lights too with their soft glow.

Himalayan Salt Lamps



7. Do a Weekly Detox Bath

Every Sunday night, my kids have a detox bath. It helps them settle for the night, but we also see improved focus and mood for the following days. They also get sick less. You can read all about how to do a detox bath and why it's good for kids here.

8. Use Essential Oils to Settle the Kids into a Better Sleep

When the kids are wound up before bed, even after some fresh air and exercise, sometimes they need a little extra help to settle down for the night. A bit of essential oils in the diffuser helps them settle down for the night and even helps them sleep better. You can do something as simple as a drop of lavender on a cotton ball and place it in their pillow case. Or you can try our DIY bedtime blend, which smells amazing!

Other Ideas You'll Love

This post is part of a monthly series called Parenting Children with Special Needs. This month's topic is support and you can find the other posts regarding this topic below.
When Nightmares Become Reality | Every Star is Different
Surviving Night Terrors | Grace and Green Pastures

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Games & Apps to Help Kids with Hyperlexia

When I first learned about hyperlexia, all I wanted to know was how can I use this knowledge to help my son? I knew WH questions were hard and I knew pronouns were confusing for him, but what could I do to actually help him improve these areas of speech and language?

You can start by making these 8 simple tweaks to your daily interactions or ensuring that you are reading books with speech balloons and thought bubbles to aid in comprehension.

But you can also just play games!

There are tons of great ABC games and apps that would certainly appeal to hyperlexic kids, but that is not what I want to cover here. Instead, I want to focus on the best types of games and apps to help kids with hyperlexia improve their comprehension, speech, and social skills.

The suggestions below focus primarily on improving their language skills so that these kids can express themselves better, answer WH questions with confidence, and build conversation skills.

Games and apps to help kids with hyperlexia improve comprehension, speech, and social skills from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links.

Games to Help Kids with Hyperlexia Improve Comprehension, Speech, & Social Skills

Playing games with your hyperlexic kids is not only good for social skills, but they can be a great way to improve their speech skills as well. You can also modify games that you already have at home to target specific speech issues, just like your child's speech therapist likely already does. As an example, you can see how we modified Guess Who to target WH questions using this free printable.

However, I wanted to focus on specific types of games that are really good for kids with hyperlexia.

1. Barrier Games

Barrier games are one type of game that are perfect for kids with hyperlexia. Barrier games are a great way to target expressive speech, vocabulary, following directions, prepositions, and more! I highly suggest reading this article about how barrier games are great for language enrichment.

You can use two whiteboards to play your own barrier games, taking turns drawing and describing what you are drawing. You can also buy a magnetic barrier game set or you can try one of our free printable barrier games below.
2. I Spy Games

I spy games are also great to play with hyperlexic kids. If you play the verbal version, then be sure to use WH questions similar to "I spy with my little eye something that is green. What do you see?" That encourages them to learn the differences between you and I and that some times those two words can refer to the same person. It is also a way to model a small conversation, encourage your kids to be descriptive and look at the parts of objects, and increase vocabulary. You can read more about the benefits of playing the verbal version here (see point #1).

However, playing visual I spy games is great too! I have made a ton of free printable I spy games for kids that my son loves to do. The written word is paired with a visual picture to aid in comprehension and to introduce new vocabulary.

I also encourage you to play these printable I spy versions alongside your child and ask WH questions as they search. For instance, you can ask how many of one object they find, what color certain objects are, what shapes certain objects are, etc.

3. Hangman

Another game that is great for hyperlexic children is hangman. Naturally, these kids gravitate towards anything that involves lots of letters, so hangman is a great game to play with them.

The reason why hangman is helpful for them is because it's formulaic and encourages them to ask and answer questions. Hangman is a great way to engage in small scripted conversations. You can simply write down the formula for the questions on a piece of paper if your child needs prompting. Something like "Is there a letter       ?" and "Yes, there's a letter       " or "No, there's no letter       ."

Your child will also enjoy being the person who fills in the blanks and comes up with the word or phrase for the game. If so, then they have to practice answering verbal questions, which is something they find tricky.

4. Dress Up Games or Paper Dolls

Games such as Raccoon Rumpus and toys such as the Melissa & Doug Magnetic Dress Up Sets are a great way for kids to work on pronouns, which if you have a child with hyperlexia, then you're likely familiar with how problematic pronouns can be. Pronoun reversals are a common feature in hyperlexic kids so it is important to find fun ways to practice them.

Take turns with your child while playing while these types of games and toys and describe what the person is wearing, being sure to emphasize the pronouns "he" and "she."

5. Games That Focus on WH Questions

WH questions cause problems for kids with hyperlexia. I cannot emphasis enough how important it is to practice WH questions with these kids as it aids in comprehension, as well as conversation skills. Here are a few fun games that target WH questions.

Apps to Help Kids with Hyperlexia Improve Comprehension, Speech, & Social Skills

Apps are a great way to help hyperlexic children improve their comprehension, language skills, and social skills. They make a perfect supplement to speech therapy, occupational therapy, and any other therapy you use for your child. The apps have been organized into common problem areas for hyperlexic kids (e.g., pronoun reversals, comprehension issues, difficulties with WH questions) so that you can easily find the apps that you need to help address your child's issues.

Other Ideas You'll Love




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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Boredom Busters for Kids Using Muffin Tins

If you're looking for ways to keep the kids busy during the witching hour or whine-o-clock (and honestly, who isn't looking for ideas to survive that time of day!), then look no further than your own kitchen for inspiration! Grab some muffin tins (and some other household objects) for these ridiculously simple boredom busters for kids. No preparation needed. Just grab and go!

Boredom busters for kids using muffin tins from And Next Comes L

Boredom Buster Ideas for Kids Using Muffin Tins

I've come up with 8 simple boredom buster ideas for kids using muffin tins that target sorting, fine motor skills, patterning, math, and practical life skills! So even if these activities are simple, then you can be happy knowing that you are sneaking in some learning for the kids too. 

Now maybe you can cook supper in peace? 

Ah who am I kidding...that's never going to happen, right?


Boredom busters for kids using muffin tins from And Next Comes L

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Fall Harvest Themed I Spy Game {Free Printable for Kids}

Fall is in full swing where we are. In fact, I first noticed the leaves starting to change color at the beginning of August. Now many trees are bare or close to bare and the temperatures are definitely much cooler. As much as I love summer, I do love fall. The colors, the cooler temperatures, and most definitely, the pumpkin pie. Mmmm...how I love pumpkin pie!

So to get my kids excited about fall, I created this free printable fall harvest themed I spy game for kids. It celebrates the best of the fall season from corn and pumpkins to colored leaves!

Free fall harvest themed I Spy game for kids from And Next Comes L

The Benefits of I Spy Games for Kids

I Spy printables like this fall harvest themed one are great for providing visual sensory input to kids, making them a great choice for visual sensory seekers. They also help develop a child's visual tracking ability and improve visual discrimination. This printable requires kids to visually scan through the objects and find ones that are the same.

Playing I Spy with your kids is also a great way to improve speech, language, vocabulary, and comprehension skills. I've discussed how playing I Spy games with kids can improve comprehension in kids with autism and hyperlexia before.

These types of I Spy games also encourage math learning by asking kids to count how many of each object they find.

Download the Free Printable Fall Harvest Themed I Spy Game

This printable includes one I Spy game sheet and one answer sheet to record the number of objects found. The answer sheet uses the written word as well as an image of the object to search for to help improve comprehension - something kids with hyperlexia struggle with.


Other Ideas You'll Love

More Free Printable I Spy Games for Kids

Fall Activities & Crafts for Kids

Free Printable Fall Leaves I Spy Game
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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

15 Simple Fine Motor Activities for Kids Using Rubber Bands

Rubber bands are such a perfect way for kids to build hand strength and fine motor skills. I know my kids can't resist playing with them, much like they can't resist playing with tape or cutting paper with scissors.

They're versatile too and can be used for lots of different activities! So think beyond the traditional geoboard because these 15 simple fine motor activities for kids using rubber bands are fun and creative ways for kids to build hand strength and fine motor skills. There's lots of math and science learning involved too!

Fine motor activities for kids using rubber bands from And Next Comes L

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Fine Motor Activities for Kids Using Rubber Bands

1. Pool Noodles & Rubber Bands Fine Motor Activity - A perfect summertime fine motor activity using pool noodles. Don't be fooled because this activity is harder than it looks!

2. Hand Strengthening Building & Engineering Busy Bag from Sugar Aunts - This fine motor activity turns out so colorful when you use colored rubber bands! And if you don't have Jenga style blocks kicking around, try this activity using scrap pieces of wood instead.

3. Egg Carton Geoboard - There's no need to make a fancy homemade geoboard when you can just grab a large egg carton tray and turn that into a simple geoboard.

4. Pinecones & Rubber Bands Fine Motor Activity from My Nearest and Dearest - If you have a child who collects (or maybe even hoards!) natural materials such as pinecones, then this fine motor activity is perfect for them! Turn their treasures into colorful fine motor practice.

5. Fine Motor Skills Challenge Using Corks from No Time for Flashcards - Put those corks from all that wine that you drink during the witching hour to good use with this simple fine motor skills challenge. I love that this activity incorporates math learning!

6. Hockey Puck Rubber Band Wrap from Every Star is Different - Here's a fun idea if your kids are really into hockey! You might have to scroll down quite a bit in this post to find the activity, but it's simple and brilliant.

7. Muffin Tin Geoboard - Here's my absolute favorite homemade geoboard idea. It takes zero prep to get this muffin tin geoboard ready for some fine motor practice. Who doesn't love no prep activities?!

8. DIY Fine Motor Fidget Toy from Sugar Aunts - Let your kids make this super cute DIY fidget. It would be a great fidget to keep in a travel sensory bag or in your purse for those times when your kids need something to fiddle or fidget with.

9. Rubber Bands & Cans Fine Motor Activity from Hands On as We Grow - My boys loved stacking cans of food when they were toddlers, but why did I never think to add some rubber bands to their play?! This activity is super simple and awesome!

10.Perimeter & Area Geoboard Exploration from Life Over Cs - Work on fine motor skills and math learning with this simple fine motor geoboard activity.

11. Rubber Band & Foam Dice Activity from Every Star is Different - I love the idea of counting a set number of rubber bands and then adding them to the foam die. Just roll, count, and stretch those rubber bands around the die. 

12. Rubber Band Passing Game from Hands On as We Grow - The only materials needed are rubber bands and hands, but I'm pretty sure this game would have my kids laughing hysterically!

13. Rubber Band Fine Motor Play Using Household Objects from Best Toys 4 Toddlers - There are so many great suggestions in this post! Just grab some rubber bands and other household objects (hello cardboard tubes!) and let the kids play and explore.

14. Geoboard Constellations from School Time Snippets - Here's a nice twist on the typical geoboard play. I know my oldest son would have loved making these geoboard constellations when he was younger.

15. Paintbrush Engineering STEM Challenge from Preschool Powol Packets - This fine motor STEM challenge is so creative and fun! It combines rubber bands with paintbrushes and other materials.

Other Ideas You'll Love




Fine motor activities for kids using rubber bands from And Next Comes L
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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Boredom Busters for Kids Using a Box of Pencils

Back to school shopping meant I ended up lots of pencils to label, as well as lots of leftover pencils to save for next year. Before I labeled them though, I let the kids explore and learn with these simple boredom busters for kids

Back to school learning activities and boredom busters for kids using a box of pencils from And Next Comes L

Back to School Learning Activities & Boredom Busters for Kids

So even if you aren't hoarding leftover school supplies like I am, you could easily pick up a box of pencils at the dollar store to keep on hand for these simple boredom busting ideas.

You'd be surprised how much learning can be accomplished with these pencils. We didn't write with them or even sharpen them. You honestly just need a box of regular pencils and a few random materials from around the house. 

And just like all of our other boredom buster ideas, I try to focus on low prep or zero prep activities. These back to school boredom busters certainly fall into that low or zero prep category, so go ahead and grab some pencils and dig into these fun ideas.


Back to school learning activities and boredom busters for kids using a box of pencils from And Next Comes L
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Monday, September 12, 2016

Homemade Calm Down Kits for Kids

Making a calm down bin or sensory kit for kids with autism or sensory processing disorder is a great way to help your child learn to self-regulate. They can be tailored to your child's needs and can include a variety of sensory toys and tools. You can make one to keep at home or to take while traveling or to use while at school. The possibilities are endless!

While we don't use a dedicated calm down kit, we do keep a variety of sensory tools and toys available throughout our house, in J's backpack, and in my purse. We like to ensure that these items, as well as our free printable visual calm down cards, are available to him at all times.

In case you are looking for a little inspiration while making a DIY calm down kit of your own, I thought I would roundup some of my favorite homemade calm down kits for kids. There are lots of wonderful ideas in each of these sensory kits and I have tried to highlight my favorite part about each one.

Homemade calm down kits for kids from And Next Comes L

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Awesome Homemade Calm Down Sensory Kits for Kids

1. Travel Sensory Kit for Kids from Sugar Aunts - I love that this sensory kit is designed for road trips, airplane rides, or for on-the-go while running errands. It is a perfect one to keep in your car or purse!

2. Anti-Anxiety Kit for Kids with Free Printable Relaxation Prompts from The Chaos & the Clutter - I really like that this one comes with free printable relaxation prompts and that it uses Rescue Remedy, which we also use and love!

3. Homemade Sensory Kit for Fidgety Kids from Little Bins for Little Hands - If your child is particularly fidgety, this DIY kit has lots of great suggestions!

4. Sensory Kit for School or Home from Lemon Lime Adventures - This sensory backpack idea is perfect for kids to take with them to and from school or even on a road trip! There's also some great tips on how to use a sensory kit with your kids, which I highly recommend reading.

5. 4 Sensory Oriented Anxiety Kits for Kids from Every Star is Different - This mama has four special needs kids so she shares the four different calm down kits that she has made for her kids, including one that is perfect for princess loving kids!

6. Simple Calming Basket from The Way He Plays - I like the simplicity of this calming basket. It would be perfect for toddlers!

7. Calm Down Bin for Sensory Meltdowns from My Mundane and Miraculous Life - This simple calm down bin has lots of great suggestions and uses things like play dough and sensory balls, which you can easily find at your local dollar stores.

Other Ideas You'll Love

40+ Things to Put in a Calm Down Kit for Kids with Free Printable

Calm & Focused DIY Essential Oil Blend for Kids

Free Printable Visual Calm Down Cards for Kids

Homemade calm down kits for kids from And Next Comes L
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