Archives for posts with tag: autistic child school bag

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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! 

Change is difficult for children on the autism spectrum, and starting school is no exception. Begin to introduce your autistic child to the idea of school weeks before the first day. Here is how.

Any introduction to the new routine will make your child’s life (and yours) easier when it comes time to drop them off at school. You can do this by introducing in advance his or her uniform, the route to and from school, the book bag, lunch containers, and any other special tools they’ll need for the classroom or to get through the day.

You can also prepare by getting your child used to the contents of his or her schoolbag. Here are five items you may want to pack in their book bag that will help them in their independence, communication, and feelings of comfort throughout the school day.

1. A Chewy Tube

Blue Chewy Tubes_SpecialNeedsEssentials.com

Chewy Tubes are absolute essentials for any child having chewing or biting issues. They can be put around their neck or on top of a pen for easy access.

2. A Recessed Lid Cup

Recessed lid cup with handles - Special Needs Essentials

This lunchtime essential can help your child drink easily and neatly while you’re not there to help.

3. A 3-inch Time Timer

Time Timer front - Special Needs Essentials

This portable version of the famous Time Timer will help your child manage his or her time in the classroom thanks to visual cues.

4. Pencil Grips

Neon Pencil Gripper - Special Needs Essentials

It’s going to be hard to go back to handwriting after a whole summer of fun! A good pencil grip will make the difference. Many different types exist. There must be one suited to your child’s needs.

5. A Tangle Jr. Textured 

Tangle junior textured - Special Needs Essentials

This tiny sensory toy can easily fit in your child’s bag and serve as a stress reliever during class.

Don’t forget: Have your child practice eating from the school box and trying on the uniform, and do your best to instill the new routine as early as possible. Familiarity with all that the new routine will entail is essential in school success.

Label each item in the book bag so your child feels better organized and at ease throughout the day. And use a laminated tag on the book bag that lists every item he or she needs to pack that day. This will help them to become more independent and comfortable with dealing with the unpacking and packing up of the bag while in the classroom, away from your watchful eye.

As for yourself, the parent: try to relax. Know that you’ve prepared your child for success. Use the time while they’re at school to meditate and focus on yourself. Stay centered so that up on their return, you’re refreshed and ready to focus on your child’s needs once again.

Did you find this article useful? What else would you put in your autistic child’s school bag?

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