Valentine’s Day can be a wonderful holiday for kids to celebrate in the classroom or at home. It’s a day for love, friendship, hearts, and chocolate. But some children with special needs, such as those with autism spectrum disorder, may find the holiday to be more overwhelming or frustrating than enjoyable.
You're walking through your favorite store when you see pink and red balloons, teddy bears, and chocolate hearts. You think to yourself, "ughhh, is it February already?!"
There are red and pink heart-shaped balloons everywhere. Stuffed animals everywhere you turn. You're doing everything you can to redirect your child from reaching over and unwrapping the chocolates and other valentine's candy at the checkout counter.
Kids who struggle with interpersonal connections may find the idea of filling out cards, celebrating in large groups, or having to interact closely with kids at school to be quite daunting. Others who struggle with socializing might feel left out if they don’t think they will be getting valentines cards from classmates. Still, other kids with general learning disabilities might just find the task of creating and writing on notes for friends to be a grueling one. Here are some helpful tips to get through the holiday:
- Discuss Valentine's Day with your child's teachers. Be honest and direct with your child's school staff about any previous experience your child may have had. Ask your child's teachers/support staff about how they have previously approached V-day celebrations for students with special needs.
- Ask your child’s school staff if they have an “all-inclusive rule”. Meaning, does everyone give and receive a card, candy, flowers, etc. Be sure to ask your teachers about any allergies!
- Get a list of names from the teacher/staff ahead of time. Preparing in advance will help those that may need a long time to help fill out each valentine.
- Will your child have difficulty writing individual cards? Are there too many kids in your child’s class? Buy the pre-made packs of Valentine’s cards. It may be fun for your child to pick out pre-made cards with their favorite character on it. Personally, I’ll be buying Frozen 2 and Avenger cards.
- Make a Valentine’s mailbox together! Allow your child to use markers, crayons, stickers, googly eyes, etc. (let their creative juices flow!) to decorate their very own mailbox for the valentine’s cards they’ll be receiving. Make it a family event.
- Participate as much as possible in helping to prepare valentine's for each student and give your child an understanding of what will happen during their school celebration.
- Turn your child's name into a sticker or stamp! A sticker or stamp is a cute and creative way to easily place their name on a card. You can find these on https://www.etsy.com/.
- Use Social Stories to prepare for Valentine's Day. Social stories are great visuals for children with special needs. Be sure to go over the social story plenty of time in advance. I frequent this site and found a FREE digital download specifically for Valentine’s Day!
- Last tip: celebrate at home. Sometimes school celebrations can be an overload and unenjoyable for children. Have your child pass out goodies/cards to the family members in your home. It’s a great opportunity to practice “please” and “thank you”. It’s important for families to celebrate with their kids outside of school so that the child doesn’t have anxiety about the day every year.
If you or your family need extra support surrounding Valentine’s Day, chat with one of the BCBAs at AnswersNow to create a plan specifically for your child.