01/04/2012 10:00 EST | Updated 03/05/2012 05:12 EST

Isn't It Time To Go Back To School?


Nope. School starts well into January this year, leaving parents depleted by the holidays and struggling to come up with a week's worth of activities to occupy their kids.

Many kids on the autism spectrum find it difficult to navigate the unstructured nature of the holidays, while at the same time they don't seem to get enough recreational or creative opportunity.

Here are a few ideas that just may shake things up a little, and keep us all from experiencing the post-holiday crash:

Take A Ride

We're forever carting our kids around in our cars. There are so many patterns of behaviour that go along with this. Why not ditch the steering wheel and take a ride together? Bus, subway or streetcar (anything with a schedule or a map) -- whatever is easiest and closest to your home. The steady movement can be really regulating and it gives great opportunity for connection because there is so much visual information to use as a spring board to spark non-verbal communication.


Many of us struggle to get food on the table after a long day of work and parenting. Slowing down the process can offer an incredible opportunity for creativity and connection. If your child has sensory issues surrounding food, cooking together can be a great way to get your child's system to begin to consume food in other ways by touching it, smelling and even seeing it in its original form.

Take an Interest in Their Special Interest

Does your son or daughter have a special interest? Oftentimes kids on the autism spectrum use their special interest as a way to decompress in solitude, but sometimes they may let us in to explore it with them. Try not to ask a lot of questions, but rather discover, wonder and make observations. This will likely lead to your child offering their infinite wisdom on their favourite topic. It's nice for our kids to be the expert for once.

Share Screen Time

It may seem like a tall order, but why not do something on the computer together? We know that gaming is a way to decompress for lots of kids; clicking, swiping and tapping is not something I'd ever want to interfere with, and it has it's time and place. But what about creating a photo book together? Or a music video? One of the reasons we created Squag was so that parents and kids could adopt the platform at the same time and be mindful about how they were interacting with technology.

Do What You Love

Having a child with diverse needs doesn't always give parents a chance to have needs of their own. But the truth is, when we're doing something we love, we are calm, regulated and available to connect with our kids. So the question is: What do you love to do?

What is that thing that opens you up and gets your own endorphins flowing? Yoga? Dog Walking? Singing into a hairbrush? What can you share with your son or daughter that speaks to who you are or what your perspective might be?

Even the smallest connected moments are the seeds by which everything else grows. Rethinking the way we interact with our kids as they grow older is both exciting and a challenge so work in small blocks of time with manageable goals. Think outside the box and allow yourself to have needs too.

Your son or daughter will see you in a whole new light.

Sara Winter is a mom of two boys, a classroom aide to kids on the autism spectrum, and the founder of a recreational application for kids with autism to build ideas about themselves and break down the big idea of friendship.