By Jennifer Lingle, M.Ed.
How to keep your child calm when you need a
It can be very challenging for parents of children with Autism to do a simple task, like cooking dinner for example, without worrying that their child is going to run out the door. Sometimes they feel like they can’t even go to the bathroom with the door closed because they don’t know what their child will do. Many children with Autism get bored when they are left to themselves, and they have difficulty finding things to do on their own, so I am going to provide you with a great tool to keep your child busy and calm when you need ten minutes to yourself. You can use this tool also when your child’s behavior is escalating, but he is not quite yet in meltdown mode where objects go flying, or heads go banging. I introduce to you…
THE CALMING BOX™
Important information about The Calming Box™
- Only place activities or games in the box that your child can independently complete. The Calming Box™ is not for teaching new skills.
- The tasks should have a clear beginning and end.
- The games should be motivating, fun, and new.
- Your child should only have access to The Calming Box™ at specific times, to make sure that the games stay fun.
- The games can be repetitive, which can be calming for your child.
- You can switch out the games every two to three weeks.
- Only place three activities in the box.
- You can use a Tupperware container, a cardboard box, or even a pillowcase (but then you have to call it The Calming Bag!)
- Place a photograph of The Calming Box™ in your child’s schedule.
- Place The Calming Box™ in an accessible place, so your child can see and request it.
- Have an area set up for your child where he can use the activities in the box (i.e. a quiet area, a clean tabletop, inside a tent, under a table, etc.)
- The first few times, pay attention to your child’s reaction to the activities that are in the box. If the games are too stimulating, you may want to switch them out for calming ones.
What to put in The Calming Box™
- Puzzles: Make sure they are not too difficult for your child to complete them on his own.
- Stickers and a piece of paper with dots on it: Your child can put the stickers on the dots.
- Lego or blocks: Have photographs of Lego structures so your child can copy the same patterns.
- Coloring pages: Encourage your child to color inside the lines.
- Sorting activities: Your child can place colored objects in bowls of the same colors.
- Gluing activities: Your child can glue his favorite pictures on paper.
- Matching and gluing activities: Your child can match and glue corresponding pictures on paper.
- Putting coins in a piggy bank: Your child may love this repetitive activity.
- Playing cards: Your child can sort and put the same cards into corresponding piles.
After reading this, you may feel like The Calming Box™ takes too much preparation and that you don’t have time to do all this. You are right. You will have to prepare many of these activities ahead of time. However, by creating activities for The Calming Box™ and setting up this program, you are setting both you and your child up for success.
When to give The Calming Box™
- When you are cooking dinner
- When you have to use the bathroom
- When you need to talk on the phone
- Before a high anxiety activity, i.e. bath time, bedtime, school, etc.
It is always good to maintain structure and routine, but there are often times when things come up that you and your child are not prepared for. The Calming Box™ is the perfect activity for those times, because your child will be familiar with the activities in the box AND he will find them calming.
Many children with Autism find repetitive activities calming; they listen to the same song repeatedly, they watch videos (rewind, play, rewind, play), they flick string, spin, jump, etc. You are most likely very familiar with the behaviors that your child participates in to calm himself. However, providing your child with alternatives to these sensory seeking behaviors teaches your child self-regulation. Self-regulation is the act of knowing how to calm yourself and how to get your body moving when necessary. The Calming Box™ helps to teach your child how to calm himself down and promotes independence as your child tries completing these activities independently.
If your child asks you for The Calming Box™, by all means, let him have it! Requesting this box, may be your child’s wonderful way of telling you that he needs to calm himself down.
If you have any other questions about alternatives to inappropriate behaviors, promoting independence, and ways to assist your sensory seeking child, please feel free to email the Director of Autism Consulting and Training, Inc. at JenniferLingle@AutismConsultingandTraining.com.
Jennifer offers a free “Getting to Know You Call” to find out more about your challenges and to offer you a Next Steps Action Plan.