Archives for posts with tag: Autism

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Gillian and Mark Kohn not only make a great team as owners of popular Italian restaurant Al Di La in Charleston, South Carolina, but they’re also notably wonderful parents to two sons, Aksel and Alistair. The eldest is Aksel, who was diagnosed with autism when he was 20 months old. Ever since he began school, Gillian has been busy illustrating some very creative social stories for Aksel, placing them in his lunchbox every day as a way of reaching out to him while he’s away. Now she’s creating Lunchbox Artwork as a business so that any parent can place these thoughtful drawings with their kids’ meals. We recently got a chance to chat with Gillian about Aksel, social stories, and Lunchbox Artwork. Here’s what she had to say:

Special Needs Essentials: Tell us about Aksel.

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Gillian: Aksel is bright, intuitive, melodic to his core. He’s witty, interested in the stock market, and a great big brother. He’s almost six, but wise beyond his words. And handsome, too. He’s changed me in ways I never thought possible. He’s made me wiser – a more empathetic, patient person. He’s taught me about kindness, and hardship — how to be still, present in the moment, and so very appreciative of the small (but really big) things in life. I only hope he’ll learn as much from me, as I do from him. I doubt it highly!

Special Needs Essentials: But he made you uncover a talent…

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Gillian:  He did. I started drawing lunchbox notes for Aksel two years ago. Prior to that, I’d never really spent any time “drawing.” Although I knew I was OK at it, ever the artist, I much rather preferred to write or sing. Two years ago though, when Aksel officially started school, I knew, given his diagnosis, that he needed a little extra. By that, I mean visual supports and social stories. Not that he wouldn’t get them from school — he just needed them from home, too. In a hard copy. From mom. So, I started drawing. (Or really, maybe I did it for myself? To somehow “reach out” and understand my sweet little boy. My child, that didn’t at the time, talk or connect to anyone or thing.)

lunchbox artwork - Special Needs Essentials

In starting though, I never really thought my “notes” would eventuate into anything more than a Ziploc bag of peanut butter-stained keepsakes. But I now see the potential and “need” for it. All children need visual reminders, little loving notes from home that say they’re special, loved, and irreplaceable. Hence this small business that’s taking shape … I couldn’t be more excited or fulfilled.

Special Needs Essentials: How do you find inspiration for your lunchbox notes?

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Gillian: I use social stories, a concept that was conceived in the ’90s by the special education teacher Carol Gray. They are short stories used to praise and prepare children on the autism spectrum to social interaction. Personally, we’ve been using social stories with Aksel for years now and have found them to be very beneficial. There are generalized social stories for purchase — that we have in our collection, ones that have helped — but most of our social stories are specific to Aksel and his development — written by his team of therapists. The topics range from potty training and self-help skills, to starting a new school, going on a family vacation, and celebrating birthdays. We’ve also targeted issues like sharing, hitting, and expressing his emotions.

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Special Needs Essentials: Now, how are you going to keep this adventure going?

Gillian: At the moment, Lunchbox Artwork is available for purchase at Tin Can Paper Boutique in Hartsville, SC, or can be ordered directly from me at lunchboxartwork@gmail.com or through Lunchbox Artwork’s Facebook page

And it’s definitely a personal goal to create a packet of “social stories” for children on the autism spectrum — a special lunchbox collection that hits on generalized issues and assists as a visual reminder throughout the school day.

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Are you a creative parent like Gillian? Let us know! 

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Toys aren’t merely devices made to keep your busy little bee while you finish folding laundry. True, some do just that, but many toys are created as educational tools to teach your children and help them develop better physical, organizational, emotional and social skills. For example, introducing your child to puzzles early on is not only a great, essential way to ensure he or she get the hang of figuring out fun stuff now, but that they also succeed in the great puzzle that is life.

More benefits of playing with puzzles include the development of great hand-eye coordination, fine and gross motor skills, plus shape recognition and problem solving. Puzzles also help children learn about their place in this world and their surroundings while they also become socially confident creatures.

Puzzles also encourage little ones to set goals and achieve them, which then promotes the emergence of self esteem —and lot of it. And maybe, one day, they’ll also do their own laundry! Til then, let’s do some puzzles.

1. First Puzzle – Treehouse

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Great for building self-esteem, this puzzle is large, which is great for sweet little hands, and it’s foam, which makes it easy for wee fingers to grip. Encouraging hand-eye coordination and visual sensory development, it’s designed to really get into the brain and improve cognition, logic, and reasoning.

2. Sensory Puzzle Blocks

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Nice and vibrantly colored, these puzzle blocks help develop fine and gross motor skills while improving hand-eye coordination. They’re textured, too, so as to provide tactile and visual sensory input. Stack, build, and assemble the foam pieces with friends and family to improve social skills.

3. Tot’s First Chunky Pegs

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Again, here’s a puzzle that’s made to help your child develop motor skills and hand-eye coordination. This 20-piece set is designed for tots 12-months old and up to stack, sort, match, and build away with the chunky pegs and pegboard.

4. Edushape Play Mat

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Now here’s a cool concept: use six-by-six foam alpha-numerical puzzle pieces to get your little darling’s logic, reasoning, and motor skills running AND build a fort! With 36 pieces to play with in total, it’ll be easy for your sweetie to get lost in a little world of numbers, letters, and learning. Creating a whimsical box full of fun, this colorful, soft, easy-to-clean floor mat has endless learning possibilities, not to mention it’s also a great insulator for cold floors. Once assembled, the mat is 72”x72” big and is perfect for designating a specific play area in the home.

5. First Puzzle – Fun Forrest

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This large foam puzzle has 10 pieces that are easy to grip so they work wonderfully with little fingers. While building self-esteem, this puzzle also encourages hand-eye coordination and visual sensory development and improves motor skills, cognition, logic and reasoning. And when joined by friends and family, it can also do wonders for your child’s social skills. Did we mention it features all of your favorite forest creatures?

 

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What will be your kid’s first or next adventure in the wonderful world of puzzles? Leave us a comment or drop by our Facebook page to tell us all about it!

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