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Tips to Enjoy Fall Festivities with Your Sensory-Challenged Kiddo

By Samantha Sallade, Ph.D.

Dr. Sallade is a certified school psychologist who is experienced in evaluating children for autism and other neurodevelopmental challenges. She is the Director of Clinical Operations of As You Are, a virtual clinic dramatically increasing access to early autism diagnostic services through the use of exclusively telehealth appointments

Pumpkins! Football games! Harvest festivals! Fall is such a fun season. But if your little one has some sensory challenges, autumn can be overwhelming. Here are three strategies you can try to support your child with their sensory needs and help them enjoy all the festivities the season has to offer.

Strategy 1: Reduce stimuli

You know your child best. First identify which situations or activities tend to be the hardest for your child, and then try to drill down to how you can reduce the triggering stimuli. For example, wearing headphones to reduce the noise could help your child enjoy a football game more easily. Heading out to a fall festival on a sunny day might be less stimulating with a pair of sunglasses or a hat. Think about what might work for your child, and go for it!

Another thing to be mindful of is clothing. Some kids have a difficult time transitioning to fall clothing, switching from short sleeves to long sleeves and adding layers. These are great things to work on with your child’s therapist.

Strategy 2: Prepare ahead of time  

Use social stories to tell and show your child what to expect at a certain event. What will they see? Who will be there? What will they do, and when? By preparing ahead of time, your child can envision the event, cutting down on the amount of new information coming at them in the moment.

Strategy 3: Practice at home 

Fall brings a lot of sensory activities to mind. Try incorporating sensory play into your child’s activities. New experiences can be overwhelming for anyone! By phasing in small new sensory experiences at home, you can help your child become comfortable in a safe-space as well as learn more about what your child’s sensory needs are and how to support them. Here are some fun fall sensory play activities:

  • Have your child help you rake some leaves, then jump in the pile and have some fun!
  • Get a few mini pumpkins, some textured gourds, and a bucket, tray, or sink full of sudsy, soapy water for sensory water play!
  • Make some fall-themed homemade play-dough – pumpkin spice, anyone?!

While engaging in these activities with your child, talk to them about what you see, smell, feel and hear. This can help give your child the words they need to communicate with you in the future about something that is bothering them. If your child has any therapists, make sure to ask them about other ideas and approaches you can try at home, so your child can be ready to enjoy all the beauty of fall.

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