9 Easy Ways to Create Sensory Friendly Holiday Decor

string of holiday white lights

The holiday season is a time of joy, celebration, and togetherness. We’ll explore how to create a sensory-friendly holiday environment by making thoughtful choices in your decorations.

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Help your Community – Shop Local

Open front door of Lakeshore Speech Therapy Clinic

In a world dominated by large corporations, the importance of supporting small businesses cannot be overlooked. Choosing to shop small is a powerful decision that goes through communities, increasing economic growth, uniqueness, and a stronger sense of connection.

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Sensory-Friendly Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving table set with food

Celebrating Thanksgiving with a child with Autism may require some preparations ahead of time and on the special day to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable experience.

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Special Gifts

This message is short and sweet.  First and foremost an open apology for seemingly abandoning my post writing these blog message this month.  While I wish there was a great explanation, but all I really can say is life definitely gets in the way of the best of intentions!

Second, we at Lakeshore would be remiss if we didn’t take a moment to thank each and everyone of our amazing clients and families.  You appreciate your trust in us to provide your loved one’s therapeutic services.  We are thrilled to have  you all as part of our Lakeshore Family.

Lastly, please take a moment to look around to see all the amazing gifts in your world this holiday season.  These gifts aren’t wrapped in festive paper with a bow.  These gifts are wrapped with your arms and love.  Enjoy these gifts this holiday as we will enjoy ours.

Happy Holidays!

Lakeshore Speech Therapy, LLC

Sensory Sensitive Holiday Fun!

December has arrived and as with every year, it seems as if the calendar speeds up during this festive time.  Packing in all the shopping, decorating and taking in the holiday fun can seem overwhelming. The elves at Lakeshore Speech Therapy took a little time to compile a one stop list of events in the Northeast Ohio area that are sensory friendly.   These events are not only sensitive to the amount of unnecessary smells, sounds and sights, but often the pace of the event is slowed as well as those ‘working’ the event have been given some information on how to best engage with individuals with special needs.

We hope you are able to take a few moments and enjoy these events with your loved ones. 

Yours in Speech, 
Lakeshore Speech Therapy, LLC

Revving up the holiday season!

The holiday season is revving up to get ready to roll.  While we acknowledge there are significant stressors for you and your loved ones at this time of year, we could also consider the stress and comfort of extended families and friends. It is not your job to do everyone else’s job, however, taking a few moments to realize the impact you and your loved ones have on others could make family and friend gatherings more enjoyable for everyone. 

Providing information about characteristics that are unique to your loved one, may create a more tolerant and understanding environment.  A simple phone call, text or email to the host or hostess the explain those ‘quirks’ that you and your immediate family may not even notice.  For example, let the homeowner know if your loved one needs to see all the bathrooms upon entering a new location or if your loved one may go around the home and close all the doors.  

Help your extended family and friends better understand your loved one’s form of communication.  Share his/her successes and any ‘triggers’ that may exist (ie: asking more than 3 times to clarify a phrase or word).  Provide a few simple tips for the best way to engage your loved one (ie: asking yes/no questions or asking questions about the here/now vs past/ future).

Anticipate situations that may prove to be very stressful not only for you and your loved one, but the host/hostess.  Communicate that you may be bringing a different meal for your loved one to enjoy vs eating the traditional meal. Share that your loved one may take a ‘break’ during the meal and what that can be expected (ie: your loved one may need to take a  break in a room where you can guide your loved one to quiet area).

Open and host communication and preparation can create a setting where everyone enjoys their time together creating memories!

Yours in Speech,

Lakeshore Therapy Speech, LLC. 

Making a Self-Care Plan

All of the clocks have finally all been changed  (except for one, there is always ONE clock in the house that just never quite makes the cut and is never changed), the Halloween decorations have been put away and what is that sound? Silence. The calm before the Holiday Season frenzy.

Take a few seconds of this ‘down time’ to focus on realizing the importance of self-care.  Parents and caregivers of individuals with special needs typically do not stop to worry about themselves. Not only is this pattern unfair to your loved ones, but more importantly, it is not fair to Y.O.U.

Consider the five minutes it takes you to read this blog post as the start of your self-care routine.  Consider taking this time to make a plan for yourself. Give yourself the opportunity to refill your tank so you can cruise into the Holiday Season ready and rejuvenated.  

Yours in Speech,

Lakeshore Speech Therapy, LLC

Egg-citing Time of the Year

Easter week -so many preparations, so many family traditions, so much to do. Not to mention, prepping for the egg hunts and the visit from the big bunny.

Practice and review are the best ways to help your loved one be part of any celebration.  The chances of you having a lot of extra plastic eggs in probably pretty high. Use these eggs not only to practice participating in an egg hunt, but sneaking in a little speech-language therapy practice as well.

Fill plastic eggs with small objects or pictures that have your loved one’s ‘target’ sound (if you are working on articulation) or are items in different categories (food, toys, animals, etc.). Hide the eggs throughout your home or backyard and work with your loved on to find them.  Once the eggs are found, crack them open and practice saying the words and/or separate them into category groups.

Another idea egg-cellent idea is to fill the eggs with items or pictures as shared about, but instead of having your loved one find them freely, give directions as to where the eggs are located.  For example, “Find the pink egg under the chair.” or “Find a purple egg and a blue egg behind the couch.” This egg hunt is not working on following directions as well as practicing understanding locational concepts AND everyone is having fun.

Consider practicing the start of the egg hunt.  Place 1-4 plastic eggs in full sight – filled or unfilled – and create a ‘starting line’. Instruct your loved one to wait at the start line until you say “Go!”. This will help him/her when wait and anticipate when they are placed in the real high stakes egg hunt.  Once they have collected the eggs, repeat the activity adding more eggs each time.

Easter baskets cannot be forgotten either! Help your loved on hold and fill their basket independently.  “Pick up” and “put in” are seemingly easy directions, however in the excitement of the egg hunt, a little practice ahead of time may result in less frustration for everyone.  Give your loved one a basket to pick up and put toys in when cleaning up for the day. Use socks or books or plastic eggs to practice this skill as well. You may find all along, an Easter basket was all that was needed to get your loved one to clean up those toys without argument!

Enjoy your egg hunts, celebrations and family time together.

Yours in Speech,

Lakeshore Speech Therapy, LLC.

Express your love!

February – the month of love; loving and caring for our family, our friends, our significant other.  Everyone needs a little help now and then. Helping our loved ones express themselves is important in February and all year through. Expressing one’s self cannot be limited to talking.  Expressions of love come in variety of shapes, colors, and sounds. Give your loved ones the opportunity to express and communicate with the world.

Opportunities to communicate happen every minute of the day, knowing the best or most effective way to communicate may take some practice.  Give you and your loved the time to practice. This practice doesn’t have to take long or even have a lot of ‘moving parts’. Valentine’s day is only a few days away, what a wonderful reason to practice and share your loved one’s communication skills with the special people in their lives.  Here are a few ideas to get your creative communication juices flowing.

  • Teach your loved one the sign for “I love you”.  Remember to teach those in your lives the sign as well so when your love one signs “I love you”, the recipient will understand that wonderful message.
  • Use a speech bubble and write a Valentine’s message in the bubble or a simple heart cut from paper.  Have your loved one hold the speech bubble or heart and snap a picture. Whose day won’t be uplifted receiving that message via text or email?
  • Using pink or red lipstick/chapstick, have your loved one decorate a Valentine with lip prints by having them kiss the paper.  Not only is this just adorable, but it’s a GREAT oral motor exercise for speech.
  • Simple communication boards or pictures are also a great way of communicating. Making a video of your loved one creating a message and send it out via text or email will definitely brighten the day!

Let the world hear your loved ones message loud and clear this Valentine’s Day!

Yours in Speech,

Lakeshore Speech Therapy, LLC

The Month of Love

February – the month of love; loving and caring for our family, our friends, our significant other. February gives us the opportunity to show our loved ones what WE see when we look at them. When you look at your child, spouse, friend, what do you see? The unevenness of their eyebrows? The gray hairs? The blemishes? The love handles? No! You see the light that they give. You see the love in their eyes – the window to their soul. You see the kindness they share. You see how amazing they are, have been and will be.

So how does this relate to speech and language? Too often when a loved one experiences a speech-language deficit – regardless of the severity – we are quick to explain this deficit to others in front of them. This is not to say that we need to ‘hide’ this deficit or only speak of it in hushed whispers when our loved one is not in earshot. This is to say we need to be more aware of how we explain our loved one’s communication style.

Our loved ones tune into everything we say and do, especially when they know we are talking about them. Challenge yourself to first, listen to how you describe or explain your loved ones speech-language deficits; second, work to change this dialogue to create a more positive uplifting exchange.

When we first meet someone and they address your loved one who experiences a language deficit, consider using phrases that explain their style of communication versus their inability to talk.

  • Instead of “He doesn’t talk ….” try “My son communicates using gestures ….” or “My daughter communicates so well with her device….”.
  • In place of putting your child on the spot to perform, “Say Hi….say hi” try incorporating the use of visual and verbal cues to encourage your loved one’s communication – (while waving your hand slightly) “My son waves to say hi when he meets a new person.” You may be surprised at your loved ones eagerness to imitate and ‘show off’ their skills.
  • Acknowledging your loved ones hard work may result in increased willingness to carry-over difficult skills to a variety of settings. Instead of insisting on your loved one maintaining eye contact when greeting/talking to others, try using phrases like “My daughter is working so hard on making eye contact when talking to friends and family, we are so proud of her.” or “Eye contact can be hard for my son, but he is really working hard on it, he’s doing a great job.” Your loved one may look as though he/she is not paying attention to what you are saying, but they are and want to make you proud.
  • Parents and caregivers, without thinking, will answer questions asked specifically to loved ones as a way of protecting or helping. Instead of immediately answering a questions, try silently counting to 10 to give your loved one time to process the question. If after 10-15 seconds (which can seem like a 10-15 hours) use sentence starters to help your loved one – “I go to…..” or “My name is….” Your loved one will be much more aware of what is expected as well as how to answer the question. If your loved on uses a communication device being navigating to the page or buttons that have the information. Begin the response as you would modeling it with words and gesture (by pointing) to the button that would complete the answer.

These changes, while seemingly small, can make a significant difference in how your loved one perceives her/his ability and desire to communicate with others.

February – the month to show our love!

Yours in speech,
Lakeshore Speech Therapy, LLC