As a parent with a child with special needs you most likely spend the majority of your time in the car driving from one appointment to the next as well as within many different waiting rooms. With all that time spent in “transition” it is sometimes difficult to make sure that your child is emotionally regulated, entertained, having fun, learning, transitioning smoothly, eating properly and more. This week we want to help you create a “Bag of Tricks” that will help your transitions move much smoother. You will need a big bag to put everything in. This bag will be your “on the go” bag. You will take it with you everywhere you go: in the car, in the waiting rooms, at soccer practice, etc. We suggest packing this bag every Sunday night and placing in the car so it’s ready to go for the week! Here is what you will need for your “Bag of Tricks”:
“Bag of Tricks” Contents:
1. A few toys for them to play with alone
2. A few toys for them to play with others
3. Soothing object
4. Traveling visual schedule
6. Dry erase board with markers
Toys to Play Alone
Think about your child’s favorite toys. You will want to pack two to three toys that they love and can play with alone. Think about the places that they will be using them (i.e., quiet waiting rooms, loud waiting rooms, child friendly waiting rooms, not so child friendly waiting rooms, the car, etc). A few good ideas would be: color pages/coloring book and crayons or markers, Crayola Color Wonder sets, a few toy cars/trains, toy dolls, books, puzzles, song boards, song folders and more. We suggest changing out these toys once a week so your child does not become bored with their options.
Toys to Play with Others
You will also want to pack a one to two toys that your child can play with others such as traveling games (Target has great traveling games: Memory, Hi Ho Cherry-O, Connect Four, Uno, Go Fish and more), and other toys that your child enjoys and is okay with sharing with others. We suggest changing out these toys once a week so your child does not become bored with their options.
Having a soothing object(s) is very important. Remember that we all have bad days and having something that we love makes us all feel better. This could be a stuffed animal, a special toy, a blanket, a pillow, etc. An important rule is, if it is in the “Bag of Tricks” then he/she cannot use it at home, only “on the go.” We suggest changing out these toys once a week.
Traveling Visual Schedule
If your child is using a traveling visual schedule, then make sure that it is in their bag ready to go. We suggest always keeping your traveling schedule in your “Bag of Tricks.” If you use the same schedule for traveling and for home, then we suggest that you make an extra schedule for home so at least one schedule is dedicated to your “Bag of Tricks.”
If your child uses visuals, then make sure they have their own set in the “Bag of Tricks.”
Dry Erase Board with Markers
For our older children who are reading and writing, keeping a dry erase board in your car is a wonderful idea. This allows you to write your afternoon schedule and many other written supports. As you drive talk to your child about the afternoon and have them write out the schedule. You can also use the dry erase board to talk about their day: have them draw out a picture of what happened at recess, what happened in gym class, etc. We suggest keeping this dry erase board in the “Bag of Tricks” at all times; however, to make it more fun for your child you may want to change up the colors of markers each week.
You can pack snacks each day or try to pack snacks for the entire week. To make it easy on yourself we suggest finding a bag/box of things that your child likes and placing it in the bag so that you don’t have to refill snack foods each day (you may have to replace snack drinks each day).
Now that you have your “Bag of Tricks” ready, here are a few last minute reminders:
1. The “Bag of Tricks” is controlled by Mommy, Daddy, Babysitter, etc. If they want something out of the bag, then they have to ask for it. The bag should be kept in the front seat of the car away from the children.
2. The use of electronic devices should be very limited. It is very easy to use the DVD player, the iPod, the iPad, the Nintendo DS, etc. in the car. However, we suggest that you use these devices at home only or on long car rides when traveling. When we use these devices with our children, we want them to serve the purpose of their “down time” or as a “together time” with others. Since everyone needs a “down time” when they first get home, we suggest that that is the time when you utilize these devices. In addition, since it may be difficult to have “together time” with others using these devices in the car and while you are out and about, we suggest using them only at home. As always, there are circumstances where the use of these devices may be beneficial such as: the start of school (with the stress of the first week of school, using these devices more than normal may be very comforting for your child), as a reward system (if your child’s reward system involves using their devices more, then allow them to use them), the introduction of a major stressor in your child’s life (i.e., the death of a family member, moving houses, etc,) and more.
3. Once you get used to using the “Bag of Tricks” you can even have your children help you pack it up every Sunday night: let them pick out the toys, the snacks, the colored markers, etc.
Enjoy creating your “Bag of Tricks” with your child and keeping them entertained, emotionally regulated, socially engaged and ready for their week!
For more information and ideas about strategies for the waiting room, please see KidSpeak’s “Waiting Room Strategies” video at: http://www.autismspot.com/videos/Waiting-Room-Strategies