Each season brings new opportunities for new experiences that can have a positive impact on development, sensory integration, relationships with family and friends, and overall health and well-being. For children with autism spectrum disorder, changes can be stressful and overwhelming. However, kids with autism can develop the skills and abilities to successfully cope with changes that might come up in their lives. Some changes can even be enjoyable.
Seasonal changes affect most kids. Kids often experience changes in daily routines from summer to fall, for example. In addition to the change of going back to school in the fall, the weather is different in most places. This can impact the clothing kids wear, among other things. This can be challenging for kids with ASD because of sensory issues or strong preferences in wearing specific types of clothing. Also, there are different activities that kids could participate in, such as going to an apple orchard or celebrating Halloween.
The seasonal transition can also have many positive changes and opportunities for new experiences that can be enjoyable and beneficial for children with autism. We’ll explore this in this article.
Carving pumpkins can be a great sensory activity for children with autism. Kids can help adults with pulling out the insides of the pumpkin. Some kids might not be able to tolerate the sensation that this activity involves. In that case, you could encourage them to paint on the pumpkin or to decorate the pumpkin with other craft supplies to create an activity that incorporates hands-on, interactive experiences that support creativity, sensory integration, and fine motor skills.
Although apple orchards aren’t available everywhere, if you do have one close by, this can be a great activity for kids with autism and for most families to enjoy together. Apple orchards offer different activities depending on where you go, but many of them offer a pick-your-own-apples experience. Some apple orchards might also offer a hayride or a petting zoo.
Going to an apple orchard is a unique fall experience that can give kids with autism and their families an opportunity to build positive memories together while also supporting overall well-being and helping kids try new things.
The fall, of course, brings leaves falling to the ground. You could give your child a new sensory experience by encouraging them to play in a pile of leaves. Kids can have a great time jumping in piles of leaves or throwing leaves around. Playing in leaves offers kids an opportunity to stimulate so many senses including sight, hearing, touch, and smell. If your kids participate in this activity with you, with their siblings, or with anyone else, the activity can also build relationships and bonding if your child is enjoying the activity.
Fall is an excellent time to go on a hike down a nature trail or through a nature park. Hiking is a great physical activity that can support both physical and mental health. Research shows that hiking can benefit mood, bone strength, and physical balance. Many children (and adults) with autism might also find comfort in the quiet and calm found in nature.
Of course, most kids aren’t thrilled about doing chores particularly working in the yard. However, this activity does have many benefits. Yard work can teach children about responsibility and can build parent-child relationships when a parent is supportive, encouraging, and uses a gentle teaching approach when getting kids to complete yard work. Yard work supports muscle strength and gives children an opportunity to release energy. It can also support gross motor skills and much more.
Be sure to consider your child’s age, abilities, and needs when expecting them to complete yard work. Here are some examples of yard work that kids may be able to do:
There is an abundance of fall-themed crafts that your child could complete. Consider your child’s abilities and needs when you choose which activities to encourage them to do. You can use crafts to work on fine motor skills, following directions, independent play, creativity, color, and shape identification, and so much more.
Help make crafts fun and support your child’s abilities by providing prompts like physical help, gestures, visual cues, or verbal instructions. Slowly reduce the prompts you give to help your child get better at specific skills.
Here are a few suggestions for fall-themed crafts your child could try:
Apple Stamping Pumpkin Craft by Made to be a Momma
This is a super cute craft that involves taking half an apple and using it as a stamp to make a pumpkin shape and then adding googly eyes and pipe cleaner.
Paper Plate Pumpkins by Housing a Forest
This craft results in a cute pumpkin made from a paper plate and pieces of paper shaped like eyes, a nose, and a mouth.
Leaf Prints by Meaningful Mama
This project is fairly simple but is a great activity for making a cute fall-themed craft. The directions are simple and easy to understand which makes it a perfect choice for any child but especially for kids working on following one or two-step directions or who are working on doing things independently. You could also collect leaves for this craft with your child which can be a fun activity in itself.
A sensory bin is a container of individually selected items that gives children an opportunity to engage in a hands-on activity that stimulates their senses. In addition to supporting your child’s sensory experiences, sensory bins can encourage development in different domains, such as fine motor skills, independent play skills, color identification, and much more.
Sensory bins can have specific themes such as holidays, animals, seasons, etc., and other items that are related to the theme such as small animal figurines, or other items like measuring cups, a funnel, or a magnifying glass.
There are many fun fall activities that kids with autism spectrum disorder can try. These activities can support many domains of development such as fine motor skills, gross motor skills, relationships, independence, and much more.