Friday, May 24, 2019

Free Printable Fidget Social Story

You're going to love this free printable fidget social story for kids with autism and/or ADHD that talks about what fidgeting is and different fidgeting strategies they can try.

Have a fidgety kid?

Yep, me too!

Well, this free printable fidget social story is written for those fidgety kids like yours and mine. It will help them understand what fidgeting is, why they fidget, what fidget toys are (you can even make your own DIY fidget toys), and other fidgeting strategies and ideas.

Free printable fidget social story for kids with autism and ADHD

About the Free Printable Fidget Toy Social Story

This social story is all about what fidgeting is and some different fidgeting strategies your kids can try. It covers how to ask for a movement or body brain, some strategies and toys they can use when they feel fidgety, and some basic fidget rules.

I highly suggest laminating the social story for durability. You can use binder rings to keep the social story together or store it in a binder. As an alternative to laminating, you could use sheet protectors in a binder. Or if you find yourself printing off lots of social stories, then this binding machine is a lifesaver!

Download the Free Printable Social Story for Fidget Toys

This printable is 10 pages long and includes full color photos. To get your copy, simply click the link below.


Or subscribe to the Weekly Autism Planner newsletter to gain access to hundreds of printables in the subscriber library!

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Thursday, May 23, 2019

Fidgeting in Kids: The Best & Most Inexpensive Ways for Kids to Keep Their Hands Busy

Cheap and free alternatives to fidgeting toys. These DIY fidget suggestions use everyday materials and objects that you likely already have on hand.

There's really no reason to spend money on fancy fidgeting toys for kids.

Unless you really want to, of course.

After all, you can make your own fidgets for a fraction of the cost.

Or you can simply use things you already have on hand to fidget with.

Below I'll show you 40+ inexpensive fidget ideas for kids (they also make great stim toys for autistic kids) that use everyday objects.

Best alternatives to fidgeting toys

40+ Ways for Kids to Fidget for Free (or as Close to Free as Possible!)

Fidget toys are a great way to keep kids' hands busy, but they can add up in cost. And I'm SO cheap frugal. So, if you are frugal like me, I encourage you to simply try one of these low-cost or free alternatives instead.

Like I've already mentioned, these fidgeting toy alternatives are simple ideas that use materials or objects that you likely already have on hand.

Plus, they just happen to encourage the development of fine motor skills and incorporate a variety of sensory ideas.

Alternatives to Fidgeting Toys

1. Pop bubble wrap

2. Wear hair ties or rubber bands around the wrist and pull or pluck them

3. Twist pipe cleaners

4. Play hand games for kids

5. Loop a rubber band around a finger and thumb and flick/strum it

6. Twist and bend straws

7. Fill a zipper seal bag with hair gel (tape it closed) to squish, poke, or "draw" on with fingers

8. Make a sensory bin to run hands through

9. Thread beads on to a pipe cleaner

10. Play with curly bow ribbons (the ones used to decorate gifts)

11. Bounce a ball or pass a ball back and forth between hands

12. Make DIY fidget toys to play with

13. Use twist ties and wrap them around a finger, twist them, or bend them

14. Fold paper (e.g., origami, paper fortune tellers, paper airplanes, folded paper fan)

15. Roll dice

16. Unzip and zip zippers

17. Crumble paper or tin foil and unwrap

18. Run fingers over a piece of velcro or stick and unstick velcro pieces

19. Peel stickers (reusable sticks or gel window clings work great too!)

20. Rip tissue paper

21. Play with strings, yarn, or ribbons: twist, tie, play Cat's Cradle, braid multiple pieces

22. Play with PopSockets style phone holders

23. Open and close containers (wipe container lids are especially fun for fidgeting)

24. Cut paper or yarn with scissors

25. Squeeze sponges, small stuffed animals, or squishy toys

26. Play with nuts and bolts

27. Twist or braid hair

28. Spin a top

29. Do and undo snap buttons

30. Button and unbutton a shirt

31. Flip a coin

31. Play with play dough by rolling it, squeezing it, or cutting it with a knife

32. Play with binder clips or chip clips by opening and closing them

33. Crinkle and crumple a wrapper from a granola bar or similar snack

34. Twirl or tap a pencil

35. Click and unclick a pen

And these ideas are great to keep kids' mouths (instead of hands) busy:

36. Blow bubbles

37. Chew on a straw

38. Chew bubble gum and blow bubbles

39. Whistle or hum

40. Blow dandelions

41. Suck on an ice cube

Other DIY Fidgeting Toys You'll Love

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

20+ Epic DIY Fidget Toys That Will Keep Little Hands Busy

Looking for how to make your own fidget toys? Try out one of these epic DIY fidget toys that are designed to keep little hands busy. There's things that spin, things to squeeze, and even homemade fidget ideas for the classroom.

Many kids are fidgety and need something to keep their hands busy.

They might bite their fingernails or twirl their hair, for instance. Or they might grab whatever is nearby and fiddle with that in their hands.

So if you have a fidgety kid like I do, then you'll love these 20+ homemade fidget toys for kids that also make great stimming ideas for autistic kids. They can be used at home, at school, or on the go. You'll find things that spin, things to squeeze, things to manipulate, and more on this list!

Ready to find out how to make your own fidget toys?

DIY fidget toys - how to make your own

Homemade Fidgets to Keep Little Fingers Busy

Do you have a child that is constantly moving something around in their hands? Then they'll love these homemade fidgets that are designed to keep fingers busy.

1. DIY Finger Fidget from Your Therapy Source

2. DIY Soda Tab Fidget from STEAMsational

3. DIY Fidget Bracelet with Built-In Marble Maze from de Jong Dream House

4. Homemade Duct Tape Endless Cube from Frugal Fun for Boys & Girls

5. DIY LEGO Fidget Cube from Lemon Lime Adventures

6. Homemade Rubber Band Fidget Ring from The OT Toolbox

7. DIY Fiddle Key Rings from Party Through the USA

8. Endless DIY LEGO Fidget from Lemon Lime Adventures

9. Yarn Dolls You Can Braid Over & Over from The Craft Train

10. DIY Zipper Bracelets from Moms & Crafters

11. DIY Fidget Zipper Pull from The OT Toolbox - If your child likes to chew on things, try this DIY chewable zipper pull instead.

How To Make Fidget Toys That Spin!

Many autistic people stim with things that spin (learn more about what stimming is here). There's just something so mesmerizing about things that spin around and around. Below you will find some awesome homemade fidgets that spin.

1. How to Build a LEGO Fidget Spinner from Frugal Fun for Boys & Girls

2. Easy DIY Fidget Spinner with Free Template from Red Ted Art

3. DIY Ninja Fidget Spinner from Red Ted Art

4. DIY Paper Spinners from Red Ted Art

Make Your Own Fidget Toys to Squeeze & Touch

If you have a tactile sensory seeker, then these DIY fidgets are perfect for you! You can squeeze, touch, and squish as much as you like with these awesome ideas.

1. DIY Pokemon Stress Balls

2. No Sew Mermaid Fabric Fidget Bag from Lemon Lime Adventures

3. DIY Emoji Squishies from The Chaos & the Clutter

DIY Fidget Toys for the School Classroom

Make a fidget for your child's desk, their chair, or their pencils with these brilliant DIY classroom fidget toys.

1. Homemade Stretchy Bands Foot Fidgets - Put this around the desk legs to use as a hand fidget or around chair legs to use as a foot fidget

2. DIY LEGO Spinner Pencil Topper from Teach Me Mommy

3. Homemade Desk Fidget Tool from The OT Toolbox

4. DIY Pencil Topper Fidget from The OT Toolbox

Other Fidget Resources You'll Love

DIY Chewelry Fidgets for the Kids Who Chew on Everything

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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Benefits of Visual Schedules: 12 Reasons Why Visual Schedules are Helpful for Kids with Autism and/or Hyperlexia

How does using a visual schedule benefit kids with autism and/or hyperlexia? Let's take a closer look at 12 benefits of visual schedules. Then be sure to grab the free printable cheat sheet too!

Back when my kids were about three and one, I made this visual schedule as a way to build routine and structure into our day. I was hoping it would also help us deal with transitions.

Little did I know that that visual schedule would have such a tremendous impact on our daily life!

Since then I have been a big fan of using visual schedules and routines for kids, especially those with diagnosese such as autism or hyperlexia.

Here are 12 benefits of visual schedules and the reasons why you should be using one, if you aren't already.

Visual schedule: 12 reasons why visual schedules are helpful for kids with autism or hyperlexia

12 Reasons Why Visual Schedules are Helpful for Autistic & Hyperlexic Children

I remember when we first started implementing and using a visual schedule in our house. It was simply life changing for us!

Here are some of the reasons why using a visual schedule is important for kids with autism and/or hyperlexia.

1. Provides organization, structure, and predictability to the day

Visual schedules are a great way to build routine and inform kids about the expectations for the day.

2. Supports literacy development

Since visual schedules often incorporate words with pictures (at least my free visual schedule does!), it aids in comprehension, recognition of words, and the relationship between words and pictures.

3. Reinforces & supplements verbal instructions

Many kids with autism and/or hyperlexia struggle with expressive and receptive speech so verbal instructions can literally go in one ear and out the other. Using a visual schedule with these kids reinforces those verbal instructions.

4. Teaches time concepts & sequencing

Even if you don't use specific times alongside your visual schedule (we never did because that would have been a disaster with J when he was younger!), the format of a visual schedule clearly illustrates the sequence of events for the day. These kids can literally see what comes next.

Visual schedules can also be used to teach abstract concepts such as first, next, last or before and after.

5. Teaches responsibility & planning

Kids can take part in planning out their day by helping their parents or teachers build the visual schedule or routine for the day. Doing so allows them to think about and plan out tasks in an appropriate sequence, helping to build strong executive functioning skills.

Kids also learn to move onto the next task or activity on the schedule on their own after completing the previous one.

Visual schedules can also be used to break down tasks into smaller steps, allowing these kids a better way to master basic life skills.

6. Eases transitions

Switching tasks can be extremely tough for kids with autism or hyperlexia, especially if they are unexpected changes.

A visual schedule, however, reduces meltdowns and struggles about moving to the next task because the schedule visually depicts what comes next. As a result, the schedule helps kids anticipate any changes.

7. Reduces anxiety

The reason why changing tasks can be difficult is because kids don't always know what comes next, causing anxiety. However, as pointed out above, visual schedules ease transitions. As a result, anxiety can be reduced too.

8. Provides independence

Kids can check the visual schedule when they want and move onto the next task by themselves by referencing the schedule to see what comes next.

Also, visual schedules reduce the need for students to ask teachers or parents what they can do next or what time a particular activity is happening at. They can simple check the schedule independently.

9. Builds self-esteem

Since visual schedules allow children to develop responsibility and independence, kids' self-esteem can also be strengthened. Kids can see the progress they make by checking off things on the visual schedule and feeling a sense of accomplishment.

10. Plays to the strengths of kids with autism

Kids with autism and/or hyperlexia are strong visual learners. Using a visual schedule plays to this strength.

11. Allows change to be introduced easily

A new task or activity can easily be introduced into a visual schedule by placing it between two items already on the schedule. Since kids can see the new change visually and where that change takes place, they can adapt better to those changes. See benefit #6 for more information about this benefit.

12. Available for referencing throughout the day

Many kids with autism and/or hyperlexia struggle retaining and/or comprehending verbal information. Using a visual schedule at home or in the classroom allows for these kids to check the schedule whenever they want, without having to rely on memory of what was spoken to them earlier. Visual schedules are not fleeting like language is.


Or subscribe to the Weekly Autism Planner newsletter to gain access to hundreds of printables in the subscriber library!
Free printable cheat sheet about the benefits of visual schedules for kids from And Next Comes L

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Free Printable Daily Visual Schedule Planner for Activities & Events

Free printable visual schedule planner for kids to write out a plan for activities and events.

When I first made a visual schedule for my son many years ago, I had no idea the impact it would have.

Same goes for social stories.

Having visual tools available for my hyperlexic son has been a game changer.

Whenever he is feeling anxious or nervous about a new activity or event, we always break it down for him. We explain the what, when, where, who, and why behind the event. We show him relevant videos, photos, and websites (if applicable). We discuss the event multiple times before the day of the event.

Essentially our goal is to have him be so comfortable and familiar with everything involved so that he can be prepared. It also helps ease his anxiety and reduces the likelihood of a meltdown because he already knows, ahead of time, what to expect.

This visual schedule planner sheet for activities and events is a tool that you can use to break down any upcoming event or activity for your child.

Free printable visual schedule planner for kids to plan out activities and events

About the Free Printable Visual Schedule Activity Planner for Kids

This printable is one page and has spots for kids or adults to fill in details about an event or activity that they will be participating in. It can be used for field trips, weddings, funerals, birthday parties, or really any new social situation that your child needs help with navigating.

It will help outline details about the activity or event including:

  • Where the event or activity is taking place
  • When the event or activity is taking place
  • What they will be doing at or during the event or activity
  • Who else will be at the event or activity
It's a great visual schedule tool!

To get your copy of this printable, simply click the link below.


Or subscribe to the Weekly Autism Planner newsletter to gain access to hundreds of printables in the subscriber library!

Other Visual Schedule Resources You'll Love

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Friday, May 17, 2019

One Super Simple Activity to Teach Perspective Taking Skills to Kids

A simple activity that will teach and improve perspective taking skills in kids. Plus, a definition of perspective taking and what it means.

Teaching social skills doesn't have to be complicated (or boring).

It also doesn't have to consist of worksheets.

After all, hands-on learning is the best, especially when it comes to kids.

Something that involves your child engaging with their senses - and their whole body - is particularly effective.

This perspective taking activity for kids is super simple and takes only a few minutes to do. Yep, just a few minutes of your time and you can have an incredibly powerful way to show your kids how to consider and understand another person's perspective.

Teaching perspective taking skills - 1 super simple activity!

Perspective Taking Definition: What is it Exactly?

Perspective taking is the ability to perceive or understand another person's point of view besides your own. It's where you consider someone else's thoughts and feelings about something in order to see things from their perspective.

An Easy Perspective Taking Activity to Show Your Kids

This activity involves physically putting yourself into someone else's place so that you can see what they see from their perspective. It's like asking the question, "Do you see what I see?" Kind of like that Christmas song, Do you hear what I hear?

For this perspective taking activity, you'll need:

  • 2 chairs
  • 2 people
Both people sit in a chair, facing each other.

One person (person A) says, "Tell me what you see behind me," and the other person (person B) names a few objects that they can see.

If you want to be more specific and concrete, you can say, "Name two (three, four, etc.) objects you see behind me."

Now it is person B's turn to ask person A to describe or name the objects that they see behind person B.

Both people will likely respond with different objects because they are each seeing the room from their own unique position in the room. They are simply sharing what they see from their point of view and perspective. For example, person A might see a poster and a window while person B might see a stack of books on a table and a bowl of fruit.

Next, both people switch chairs.

Once seated in the opposite chair, both people can begin to see the room from the other person's perspective and position in the room. They start to see the objects that they couldn't see previously because they now sit in a different position and have a different point of view.

And that's it! I told you it was super simple.

Other Social Skills Resources You'll Love

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Thursday, May 16, 2019

20+ Effective Strategies for How to Teach Social Skills

Strategies and tips for how to teach social skills to kids at home or at school.

While I would argue that the most important skills to teach your children would be emotional self-regulation skills, it's certainly no secret that it's important to be teaching social skills to our kids as well.

But how do you teach social skills to the kids who particularly struggle to understand social rules?

How do you support them in their social skills development?

And what can you do to help teach these skills at home?

Well, there are lots of different things you can do to help teach your child social skills, which I can sum up nicely as: explain, be patient, practice, model, prompt, and praise. But, if you're like me, you crave more practical suggestions and ideas to try. So below you'll find these 6 broad tips broken down into 20+ strategies for teaching social skills to kids.

How to teach social skills to students with autism

One Thing to Remember When Teaching Social Skills to Autistic & Hyperlexic Children

When it comes to teaching social skills, remember that it should be individualized to the person.

What and how you teach depends on their learning style, their individual skill sets, their interests, their goals, and so on.

What works for one kid, might not work for another. One child might need help with turn taking skills, while another child might need help with being a good sport.

In the case of a hyperlexic child, for instance, using their ability to read is a great way to teach them social skills. That's why tools like written social scripts are so effective with these kids.

Or, as another example, many autistic children benefit from using visual prompts so try to include visual aids or cues when teaching social skills.

How To Teach Social Skills at Home or in the Classroom

There are lots of different social skills to teach your child at home or in the classroom. This list of 50 social skills is pretty comprehensive, but I also know how overwhelming it can be to tackle that entire list.

Remember, these are skills that you are helping your child to learn over the course of many years.

Psst, many adults still struggle with some of these social skills so trust me, you've got plenty of time to work on them.

So what do you think? Are you ready to dive into these strategies?

Let's do it!

1. Explain Social Interactions

Explain all the ins and outs of different social situations to your child. That may include:

  • Using social stories to explain different skills and situations
  • Outlining the hidden rules of the situation
  • Breaking the skills down into smaller steps
  • Verbally explaining the situation directly to your child
  • Using visual cue cards to outline the different steps involved or support your child during the situation (e.g., these turn taking cue cards)
  • Watching video clip examples and discussing what happens or what's involved
  • Reading picture books together on the particular skill or topic you are addressing and discussing the social rules mentioned
  • Narrating and describing your own social skills to your child (e.g., "I really want a turn to play this game so I'm going to ask, 'May I have a turn please?'")
  • Providing written scripts of the language they can use during social interactions

2. Be Patient

Social skills don't come easy to many people so remember to be patient. Your child might need to be reminded of hidden rules through prompting. And they might need to practice the skills many, many times before it sticks. And even when it does stick, they might still make mistakes, just like we do as grown adults from time to time.

3. Practice, Practice, Practice!

The more your child can practice, the better it will stick. Besides, there are lots of different ways to give your child an opportunity to practice including:

  • Role-playing the social scenarios
  • Rehearsing social scripts (this is really helpful for skills like greeting others, introducing yourself, etc.)
  • Playing games together (e.g., try one of these listening games or play a board game together)
  • Joining a group, team sport, camp, or activity club around your child's interest so they have an opportunity to interact with a variety of different people (e.g., science camp, social skills group, local hockey team, etc.)
  • Doing a variety of social skills activities
  • Practicing specifically what you want to work on
  • Providing different environments, people, and situations to practice in and with

4. Use Modeling & Be a Good Role Model Yourself

Want your child to have good social skills? Model them yourself. I mean if you are terrible at sharing or taking turns, then how can you reasonably expect your child to be good at the skill themselves?

Children are always watching so make sure that what you are modeling is what you want them to emulate in the future.

Video modeling is another option for modeling social skills. You can find lots of videos on YouTube for this purpose.

5. Prompt, As Needed

It's easy to forget all the steps involved or even the hidden rules of the social situation, especially when you're just learning. So be sure to prompt your child, as needed, to help them be successful when they are practicing their social skills. You can try:

  • Prompting verbally (e.g., "It looks like you are wanting to play with that toy. You can ask your friend, 'May I have a turn with that toy please?' and maybe your friend will let you try it out.")
  • Using a visual prompt or aid (e.g., pointing to a visual cue card or a prewritten script to guide your child to know what comes next)

6. Provide Feedback, Encouragement, and Praise

Be sure to praise your child for their efforts! And encourage them to try out their new skills and/or encourage them for trying, especially if anxiety or sensory needs made it particularly challenging. Offer them feedback on what went well, what could be improved, etc.

Your praise and encouragement will motivate them to keep learning, while your feedback gives them the tools to be more successful in the future.

Other Social Skills Resources You'll Love

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List of 50 Social Skills

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