There’s an energy that emerges with the Spring season, and it seems that the darker and longer the winter, the more energy Spring brings forth.
As April arrives and Autism Awareness Month begins, I can’t help but think of how strongly and acutely our community members with Autism and their families are touched by the coldness of the winter we leave behind. The coldness of short, dim days spent indoors. The coldness of unsatisfied cravings for social interaction. The coldness of cancellations due to weather or feeling sick. The stiffness of bundling and unbundling scratchy hats and puffy coats zipped to the tippy top. Boy am I glad that Spring is here.
Warmer weather and more hours of sunshine bring hope and opportunity. This month, in honor of Autism Awareness Month, I beckon you to step outside into the sun. The phone calls and to do lists will be there when you get back.
Carve out some time for you and your loved ones to embrace the sunshine with no expectations, even for a short time, and simply feel with all of your senses. Savor the moment and simply be.
Advocate for Autism in your community by remembering that you are a part of the community. Below are some ideas that may work for you and your family. Try one and let us know how it feels.
A Breath of Fresh Air
Step outside and practice Diaphragmatic Breathing with fresh air. Diaphragmatic Breathing or “belly breathing” releases muscle tension and makes breathing easier. In a moment of stress or sensory overload, Diaphragmatic Breathing can be a useful de-escalation strategy.
Lie down or sit outside, with your knees bent. You can place a pillow behind you for comfort. Place one hand on your chest and one hand below your ribcage. Inhale deeply through your nose and feel your stomach expand against your hand. Then exhale through your mouth, keeping your lips mostly closed. You can use the visual below to teach this exercise. Smell the roses (inhale through the nose). Blow out the candles (exhale through the mouth).
Take a Stroll
Choose a quiet area or trail and take a stroll or brisk walk. Consider it the start of your training for the Autism Speaks Walk in the Fall. While on your walk you can play I Spy or collect some of your child’s favorite rocks, leaves and flowers found along the way.
Your child may benefit from wearing an Under Hugger layering piece for gentle deep pressure input while on the outing. Top it off with a weighted backpack for calming input and a place to store any treasures that you find.
Did you know that in addition to being fun for all ages, movement on a swing has therapeutic benefits as well? Slow, linear movements typically have a calming effect on the sensory system and fast rotary movements typically have an alerting effect.
Determine what type of movement your child would benefit from most and scout out local swing options to explore as a family. Consider going during off peak hours to avoid large crowds and long wait times.
Plant a Seed
Gardening is a highly rewarding and sensory rich activity that can be easy too. Choose a resilient flower, such as a sunflower. Plant sunflower seeds 6 inches apart,in a trench 2 inches deep, in a sunny area of your yard. Cover with soil and water for 7-10 days until they sprout.
Embrace the sensations of gardening; don’t shy away from getting soil under your nails, between your fingers and on your boots. If your child isn’t ready for that, consider introducing sand to practice with at home. You can also use gloves or just press one finger at a time into the soil. Point out the other sensations too; take in the fresh smell of the soil, and the glowing feeling of sun on your face.
Complete your garden by planting an Autism Awareness garden sign in front of it, spreading the beauty of inclusivity.
Wherever you go this month, use this sense of hope in the air to advocate for Autism awareness. Print flyers and keep them handy to distribute to local businesses and your neighbors. Every action is one step closer to making your town a better and more inclusive place for everyone. Spread kindness. Spread Inclusion. Spread community.
Smell the Roses downloadable on http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Flukes