A Mom's Perspective on Creative Outlets for Children With Autism
My son's first butterfly drawing.
Far be it from me to start a writing guide or expertise introduction on Lego toys. While my son, an avid collector and builder of the popular toy might be able to write a detailed book, I would not dream of starting a how to guide on collecting them or where to buy them for hobbyists.
No, my focus here today is placing importance on creative outlets such as using Legos to enhance imagination in children with Autism.
As far back as two years old, I remember my son taking apart everything he could get his hands on and rebuilding it. His curiosity peaked when my grandfather bought a truck that could extend to trim trees. My son studied with both eyes carefully walking around the truck, making mental notes about all the nuts and bolts, and how to put them back together if ever got the chance to take it apart.
Because he couldn't express himself in words, he walked in to my grandfather's kitchen and drew out a plan for un-assembling each piece.
We knew my son was smart then. But the diagnosis didn't come until much later.
After going through several digital clocks, a digital timer in the kitchen, and several fountain pens that my son decided to take apart and inspect further to figure out how all of it works, I decided it was time that he had his own hands-on building equipment to create the masterpieces he was constantly recording with pen and paper.
Some creations come naturally, while others come from boxed sets that the child can build from.
Every detail counts.
Pick up a sample of paint chips at the local hardware store and experiment with muted shades of your child's favorite color.
Providing space for creativity.
The first thing a child needs to plan a day of creative fun and activity is space and lots of it!
Here are some suggestions for planning an area designated to your child's favorite hobby:
- Determine if your child's bedroom placement is adequate.
Many children like big bed rooms and lots of open space. A child with Autism may have sensory stimulation issues which may be heightened if in a room with too much or too little lighting, a sense of expansion which frightens the child, or a wall color that doesn't appeal to the child's palette.
See the table below for Ways to create a subtle effect in a bedroom.
- Stock plenty of hands-on components that coincide with your child's favorite activity.
My son loves Legos. It goes hand in hand with building structures. Other activities he finds appealing are toys with a hole and peg system. Therefore, we created a space in his room to house several bins full of his favorite toys. He is most often interested in Legos, but works with other elements to entertain his brain.
- When organizing an area for toys, there are several ways to do so without breaking a budget or inheriting too much clutter.
Find inexpensive bins with lids. Label the bins on the sides in permanent marker. These bins can be stacked to save space in a small area.
Also, a multi-cube bookshelf can retain soft bins for storing one of the same item by color.
Use soft-sided bins to store items by color in a 9-cube bookshelf.
Choosing the right size bookshelf.
If you choose to design an activity center around a bookshelf where you plan on housing all of the bins or activity items, plan ahead and measure to make sure the shelf is not too tall. Children sometimes can't reach the top of taller shelves and injure themselves removing items from higher shelves.
Use smaller plastic bins with lids for smaller similar pieces.
Ways to create a subtle effect in a bedroom.
Painting a Room
Decorating a Room
Stocking the Room for Creativity
Choose a soothing paint color.
Choose soft accent pieces such as a soft chair with cushions.
Pick furniture with dull corners or use edge protectors.
Neutral colors will match other bedroom decor.
Place a beanbag in the room for relaxation.
Find bookcases that can be anchored to the wall so they won't tip over on a child.
Pick dulled tones such as gray, slate blue, or beige.
Use room-darkening curtains in dark colors to deter bright light from peeking through to the child's play area.
Use soft bins for storing toys.
Allow your child to determine what they are best at.
You may have an opinion opposite of your child. It happens in the best of homes with the best of intentions.
Your child may love to finger paint. You find it messy and are often exhausted after cleaning up everything that got paint splatter, all of the brushes, and wet paper.
However, this is critical time your child needs to enhance his or her development.
Being able to choose an appropriate hobby for himself or herself achieves a feeling of accomplishment.
The last thing you want to do when your child has Autism is build a level of frustration between you that will cause unruly meltdowns and outcries for attention.
The first key to understanding your child with Autism is to listen to them and understand how they feel about something. If you doom your child to failure from the onset, the child will expect to fail.
What is your child's favorite hobby?
Let your child be!
There is no right or wrong way to allow your child the freedom of expression when building from Legos, drawing, coloring, or any other enjoyed activity.
If your child likes to draw and uses animals instead of stick figures, encourage your child to draw scenery and tell you the meaning of the drawing.
If your child likes to play video games, inspire them to complete a level instead of quitting when it gets too challenging.
If your child is writing a story, ask them for more details so they will have to think a little harder to get their point across.
When your child colors in the ocean with a pink crayon, allow them to tell you why they did so when water is blue.
Don't ever discourage your child by telling him or her that it's not the right way, or it's not the way you would have done that. By doing so will only hurt feelings and discourage them from ever trying again.
To enhance your child's creativity and learning, encourage through subscriptions to or books about their favorite hobby.
Here are how to tips for implementing the above suggestions.
If your child has an unshared bedroom, of course the task of creating space will be easier.
Sometimes it's not possible to have a bedroom just for one child.
Think about the house as a whole and determine if there is extra space that can be turned into a creativity center for your child.
Here are some ideas for transforming extra space in to a creativity center:
- Turn an old coat closet into a craft room. Install a knee-high desk, corkboards for displaying art work, shelving for storing bins of art supplies.
- Use pantry space for art supplies. Purchase bins with drawers. Separate craft materials and label each bin. Place under existing pantry shelving.
- Create space in a basement. If unfinished, purchase foam flooring, bean bag chairs, and other accessories. Leave the space open for building with Legos or other toys.
- Use an enclosed porch for play space. The possibilities are endless. Using old furniture, there are many ways to transform a porch to an exciting room for imagination!
If none of those options are possible, try finding a stand-alone pantry cupboard. Measure space in your home to see where it would fit. In it, store all the essential ingredients for creating an organized space for items your child loves to play with. Use the kitchen table or the carpeted living room floor for play time. Everything can go back in the pantry neatly afterward.
Do you have any tips?
I would enjoy reading what others do to promote the imagination and spark creativity in the mind of a child.
Thank you for reading this article.
Written by Crafty to the Core, dedicated to my awesome child!