For adults, Valentine’s Day often receives mixed reactions; but for a child, it is an exciting day filled with lots of candy and colorful crafts! During the whole month of February, classrooms are covered in hearts, cupid cutouts, and other decorations in an array of red, pink, and purple. At most schools, children have a Valentine’s Day party with their classmates, where kids exchange Valentine’s Day cards, eat candy, and complete crafts. But to a child with autism, the reasoning behind Valentine’s Day may get lost in the mix, and the festivities that occur may even be overwhelming. It never hurts to help explain these varies holiday activities to your child before they happen, in order to help them prepare.
Explain to your child that Valentine’s Day is a day to show friends and family how much you care for them by exchanging cards, candy, gifts, and more. This is an opportunity to help your child identify the special people in their lives. You can then ask your child to describe one thing they like about each person they identified. Dr. Bukstein, Medical Director at DePelchin Children’s Center in Houston Texas, believes this is a productive way to address perspective-taking skills.
Let them know there may be a party at their school with games, crafts, snacks, and Valentine’s Day cards. It is a good idea to find out the schedule of the party from the child’s teacher ahead of time to prepare your child for a change in routine. If you are able, sign up as a volunteer to attend the party. Encourage them to engage socially with other children by allowing your son or daughter to create valentines for each child in their class (or let them pick out their favorite valentines at the store). This will get your child involved in the holiday festivities, while also offering them a chance to make their own decision.
Teach your child how to react in different situations that may occur on Valentine’s Day through role-playing. Show them how to give another student a valentine, as well as what to do when someone gives one to them. These simple clarifications can make a world of difference for a child on the spectrum.