Helping your SPD kiddo & guests enjoy each other

Lovebug gets so excited when friends or family come to our house.  Over excited, actually.  For a long time, as soon as I opened the door to let in a grandparent, she would start running around in circles screaming or laughing hysterically while the grandparents stood patiently waiting for their greeting.  Not the warmest welcome!

I would have to literally catch her, and give her instructions such as “Say Hi Grandma” or “Do you have a hug for Granny?”.  She would barely greet them before she was off running again.

Awkward.

Now, we handle the greeting much better.  We’ve practiced social stories and walked through the scenarios before they happen. Before our guests even arrive, I remind her that when the grandparents arrive, we are going to open the door, use our words to greet them, and give them a hug if she wants one.  At the very least, we are going to open the door and nicely say hi to them.  Then, if she has something to show them or something she’s wanting to tell them she needs to wait until everyone gets ALL the way in the door and they all say their greetings to each other.  Then she can ask them to come play in her room, or show them her latest special treasure.

Once someone knocks on the door, I quickly remind her again, “Remember, we are going to greet them first with our words.”

It’s not perfect, but it’s better.

I also used to just let her have free time with the grandparents when they come over, but I’ve learned that gets her too wound up.  She gets so excited and she ends up bouncing from one thing to another, ending up in a high that is hard to come down from.

Now, I choose activities ahead of time and then adjust them as I monitor her mood.  If she’s in an imaginative mood and can handle some freedom to create, then Legos, Tinkertoys or racing die-cast cars are a great option.  If she needs to be focused on a specific task, we might read a book, do a puzzle, color a picture, or even watch an episode of a cartoon.  Sometimes a board game is the perfect thing to give her a task to focus on, while interacting with our guests.  Other times, her energy level is so high that a board game would be a nightmare.  Some games are more active than others too, so while sitting still for Candy Land might not work, something active like Hullabaloo or Super Stretchy ABC would be just right!

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Last time Granny was here, Lovebug wanted to keep our score while Granny and I played bowling on the Wii (She prefers other games, so when we bowl she prefers to watch over play).  She made a chart and wrote down every single score in her own code (S for strike, SP for spare, along with a number telling if it was our first spare, or third strike, etc).  It was perfect for her – fine motor practice, handwriting practice (that she thought was FUN!), and it kept her relatively still while providing her with enough input that she didn’t get too “low”.

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Today however, Granny was here again and we were bowling.  Lovebug wanted to keep score, but this time it didn’t work.  We’d had a busy morning, she missed her rest time, so her system was a little out of sync.  Her handwriting was harder for her, which made her frustrated with herself over every mistake.  Also, her focus was off, so she kept having to ask us over and over what she missed.

I finally suggested nicely that she take a break from keeping score and just color.  I told her that her brain was tired from such a busy day and probably just needed to do something more relaxing.  That worked wonderfully.

Then we moved on to one of my favorite tools for times like this…MODEL MAGIC!!  This stuff is AWESOME!  It’s more spongy than Play-Doh and it doesn’t crumble, even when it’s dry.  You can leave your creation out for 24 hours and it will dry for you to keep, or you can store it in an air-tight container to reuse over and over.  The color doesn’t come off on your skin, either.  It’s just great – you should try it.  No, I don’t get paid by them, I just love the product that much! (Although if anyone wanted to send me some, I’d take it!)

I put Lovebug and Granny at the table together and give them each some Model Magic and some tools.  They can work together or independently, while still getting to chat.  The molding and shaping are great for Lovebug’s hands – they give her hands something to do, and provide her with sensory input.  She’s not competing with anyone, and she doesn’t have to be coordinated.  They played for about an hour and we only stopped because it was time for dinner.

If I’m leaving Lovebug with a grandparent alone, I choose several activities and put them in a box for them to choose from.  That way, they have something specific to do and can change activities based on her needs.  I’ve seen, and I’ve been told from the grandparents that this works MUCH better than just “do whatever”.

Having a successful visit with guests at our home is all about monitoring, being proactive & being prepared! A little preparation ahead of time makes for a wonderful time and great memories.  Failing to do that results in chaos, tears and frustration.

What are your tips for helping your child enjoy visitors?

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