Fall weather is upon us… and with it are many opportunities for you and your family to share new experiences together. One of the important ways to help children on the spectrum grow socially and emotionally is to try new adventures and model sharing your reactions to them. Fall is full of sensory fun — the colors of the changing leaves, the smells of apples baking, the feeling of scooping out pumpkin seeds. As a mom of a ten-year-old son with autism and as a cooking instructor for children of all abilities, I recommend that you take some time, slow down your pace, and find a few hours on a weekend afternoon when you can try one of these fun, fall activities with your family:
Apple or Pumpkin Picking: Find a local orchard where you and your family can pick your own apples, pumpkins or whatever produce is being harvested locally where you live. Take turns with your child carrying the pail or bucket and picking the produce. If your child struggles with gross motor control, reach and pull together. Count the apples as you place them in the bucket. Praise your child for the great work he/she is doing!
Baking Those Apples: The smell of apples and cinnamon says autumn to me. You don’t need to bake a sugary pie to enjoy the delicious taste of your apples. My kids love baked apples with raisins and honey — in my gluten-free children’s cookbook The Kitchen Classroom I have an easy recipe with pictures of each step in which we use a melon baller to scoop out the apple core. You can also add some GF oats on top. Alternately, we core and slice the apples first and then bake them at 350 degrees for 30 minutes = soft, sweet, delicious!
Scooping and Roasting: If you have a sensory-seeking child like I do, you know that getting much needed sensory input through appropriate activities is essential to functioning. Every year, my kids and I cut open a few large pumpkins and have a blast scooping our hands in and pulling out the wet seeds. Not only is this a fun sensory activity, but it’s also prep for a great snack: dry and roast those seeds for another delicious fall treat.
Leaves, leaves, everywhere: If you leave in a locale where the leaves change colors, take time to gather different sizes, colors and shapes. Put leaves under a sheet of paper and rub over them with crayons — more great sensory input. Glue onto paper and make a nature collage. And of course, rake leaves into a giant pile that you can jump into!
Gratitude Journal: Thanksgiving is coming. Share books and stories about gratitude with your child. Start a journal and write things that you and your child are thankful for. If your child is non-verbal, print out pictures of family, friends, pets, food and toys and ask him/her to select the things he/she would like to include in the gratitude journal.
May your fall be full of many moments of sweet fun with your family!
Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer blogs about food and family at www.kitchenclassroom4kids.com. “Like” Kitchen Classroom on Facebook for GFCF cooking tips and fun family recipes: https://www.facebook.com/KitchenClassroom