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Autism and Lockdown - Part 2 Making the Most of Lockdown



In my previous post, I talked about the sorts of things that you need to do with kids on the spectrum in order to keep them safe during lockdown. In this post, I want to look at ideas to pass the time while always keeping things positive. 

While these activities are suitable to all kids and all adults, you'll find that autistic children will respond a little differently to them.  You might find that they take in science concepts better than other kids or that they don't tolerate paint textures. Push the boundaries a little and encourage the kids to try but be aware that sometimes activities simply aren't suitable for the child. If that's the case, don't make a big deal about it, just choose something else. 

Television and Netflix

It's a given that television and movie viewing will be on the rise during lockdown. That's okay provided that you don't turn them into binge TV sessions, where kids watch one show after another while sitting on the lounge eating. Sure, it's fine to have a little binge watching when you're tired but don't do it all the time.

Try to set up some "event movies" where you make sure that you sit down and watch the whole thing with your kids. Make some popcorn or set up another treat while doing this. It's great to have a fun movie like Star Wars but if possible, try to get some things that educate too. Here are some examples, though obviously you'll need to watch your ratings and material with kids and match it to their reactions;


  • History Lessons: Braveheart, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven (Extended version), 1917, All Quiet on the Western Front, Apocalypto,
  • Understanding the Virus: Contagion - I can't recommend this enough in the current situation.
  • Science: March of the Penguins, Apollo 13, The Dish, Jurassic Park, Blackfish, Dante's Peak, Hidden Figures, The Andromeda Strain
  • Language: Anything foreign language with the subs on; Anime such as Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke or Grave of the Fireflies is particularly great for Japanese, Amelie (French), The Lives of Others, Downfall (German), Cinema Paradiso or Life is Beautiful (Italian).
  • Ethics, Rights and Morality: Gattica, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Million Dollar Baby, The Help, Fight Club (much older kids), To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Understanding Life on the Autism Spectrum: Temple Grandin, The Black Balloon, Mozart and the Whale, Mary and Max, Eagle Vs Shark, Adam, Aspergers R Us.



Obviously there are thousands more, just pick a subject and ask Google for "great movies that teach about economics" or whatever subject you're interested in and look for links to IMDB lists (they're the best). 

Reading

You still need to keep up with reading. It's one of the few absolutely non-negotiable critical skills for our society. No doubt you have book at home that you and your kids can read but if your kids are reluctant readers, consider using Audio books. These won't help at all with word recognition but they will make a difference when it comes to widening the vocabulary.

While you can get some great commercial audio books from your phone stores (Apple and Google), they often have some free ones as well. Alternatively, you can visit some of the many great sites with free audio books;




Playing

If you've got younger kids, you already know how to engage them in playing and they probably do a lot of playing by themselves. The lockdown presents you with a perfect opportunity to dive in and get involved in their play a little more. Try doing some things that they've either never done or haven't done for years;

If you're not nimble, get out some board games or cards or crafts. Maybe consider finger-painting or finding some shapes around the house to paint and stamp. Jigsaw puzzles are also a great option but make sure that you have all the pieces. Missing pieces might not bother most kids but sometimes they create havoc in kids on the spectrum.



If you can get around easily, try building a blanket fort, playing on the floor with lego, cars and action figures. You'll find that if you help your child to make a story around things, you'll help them with their imaginative play and with sharing. Let your child take the lead sometimes but not all the time. After all, their friends won't always let them lead or win, so it's important that they learn to lose gracefully or to follow as well as lead.

If you're up for a bit of movement, try dancing or exercising with the kids. For inspiration, try searching youtube for "Kid Friendly Dance Routines" or "Kid friendly exercise"

Craft and Cookery

Craft activities are always a good way to distract kids. Things like card-making, a paper airplane making and flying contest or making origami animals can provide hours of simple fun that they'll take away new skills from. Again, YouTube is your friend, try searching for "easy crafts for kids"

When it comes to "Cookery" you don't need to have hot ovens and exotic ingredients. Start with something simple, like making a milkshake using a blender or mixer, ice cream, milk and chocolate. You can also make Jellies or get simple Yoghurt-making kits. When your child is ready to move onto bigger things, try baking cakes or making scones.

One of the best challenges we had for our kids in scouts was for them to eventually plan and prepare an entire meal (these were 7-11 year olds). Setting your child a challenge like this and helping/guiding throughout will give them a great self-esteem boost. 

If the weather is warm and you can go outdoors, you might also like to try using a barbeque or cooking over a fire (depending on what you have in your backyard).

Chores

Chore might seem like a dull way to entertain the kids but it depends a little on the chore. Young kids love getting into the garden and older kids will actually benefit from being involved in washing, folding or hanging out clothes. If you're having difficulty with your linen cupboard, use your isolation time to fold items and put them into categories.

You might also want to weed out the kids wardrobes with them.  Listen carefully though because if your kids start talking about "scratchy" clothes you might want to note these as materials that you don't want to buy in the future.

Other things, like helping dad out in the garage can also be productive especially if dad likes tinkering with the car or making things out of wood. They're good, educational time-wasters.

Chores are particularly important with Autistic kids because they don't necessarily pick up skills by simply observing others. They need to do things in order to understand how to do them -- and you need to explain why you make the choices that you do.  For example, why do we peg paired socks together on the line? Why don't we put pegs in the middle of a shirt.

These pictures show how my eldest son (19) was hanging his clothes out.
He had to have it all explained.

Computers, Phones, tablets and Games

Computers were bound to come up at some point or other. Computers are an important part of learning and play. Anyone who denies their kids access to a computer or the internet will likely create a lasting negative impact on their development in modern society. Unfortunately, computers can also become addictive very quickly and the internet can quickly become unsuitable.

Depending upon the ages of your children, you may need to vary your levels of supervision. Sometimes older kids need more supervision than younger ones. You might find that keeping the kids in the same room as you solves most of these problems.

YouTube can be a brilliant learning resource but it also devolves very quickly into an offensive mess. Try to avoid watching clips of people falling over, shouting or generally being silly. They're very addictive but you won't learn anything from them.

Instead, look for educational things, science experiments you can safely repeat and tutorials on how to do things. You might even want to watch some short films and see if your kids can make similar things with your phone. If your kids are struggling with homework, you'll find that the internet provides some amazing tutorials. One of the best resources for math is Eddie Woo. If your kids still aren't understanding how to solve a particular problem, you might want to post it in the comments, someone will probably help.

If you have older kids, have a look around for online courses. There's quite a lot available for free at the moment. Just google it.


Lockdown is difficult for everyone but it's important if we're all going to stay safe. If you can, use the lockdown time to break old habits and make some real progress.

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