Successful Easter Egg Hunt Guidelines for a Child with ASD


EasterCelebrating Easter can take many shapes and forms. If you honor this tradition in your family it may include an Easter Egg Hunt. Do you worry that this will create havoc for your child on the autism spectrum? I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to say no to that Easter Egg hunt because you think it will send your child into an emotional meltdown. You have the power to make it a successful event so everyone can enjoy  the peaceful holiday you desire. Here are some tips that will empower you to make it all happen.

– Write it down. When planning an Easter Egg hunt make sure you put the time it will occur on your child’s visual schedule or the family calendar so your child knows when to expect it. Knowing that something is going to happen but not necessarily when can make a child on the autism spectrum anxious. Caution: make sure you can honor that time before you write it down, not following through or changing the time at the last minute will disappoint your child and possibly trigger a meltdown.

– Use egg substitutes. If you don’t want to use real eggs, choose an alternative like plastic eggs filled with treasures. If you want to avoid overloading your child with sweets, stay away from candy and substitute with nutritious food such as fruit or nuts. A voucher or a coupon that can be cashed in for special treats, like uninterrupted time with you doing something you both enjoy, is always a good idea as well. Just remember to be very specific when you create the voucher as to the what, where, when and how so your child knows exactly what to expect.

– Set boundaries in advance. When setting up for your egg hunt, consider marking off the area that the eggs are hidden in to avoid wandering or exploring spaces that are unsafe. Containing the area to a smaller defined space will also prevent your child from getting overwhelmed with too much territory to explore.

– Have sunglasses handy. If your child is sensitive to bright lights you want to be prepared with a set of sunglasses. An outdoor party in bright sunshine may be too much for anyone’s eyes to adjust to. Always have a supply of cheap yet fun sunglasses on hand to shade your child’s eyes from glaring lights or the bright rays of sunlight.

– Create a map. Consider drawing a map to help your child stay focused. When my children were young I would do this at birthday parties as an activity. Every child received a different map and treasure, marked with their name to avoid confusion and arguments. My boys loved this activity and called it ‘pirate play’ pretending to seek for buried treasure. You can even include detailed steps and directions (visual or written) – turn right and take six steps forward – just make sure your strides will match your child’s and that she can tell left from right. When my children were very little I would walk the paces with them. As always, keep it appropriate to your child’s level so he won’t get frustrated.

– Check for understanding. Always make your directions to any activity or schedule clear and specific to avoid any misunderstanding. If your child is verbal, asking her to repeat what is going to happen is a great way to let you know if she truly grasps what is going to occur. If she reflects back incorrect information to you then you know you have to repeat yourself until she is clear. As a result everyone will have a positive experience.

– Create a social story. I encourage all my clients to do this for any upcoming change, especially when it includes a major holiday. You can also write a social story on other Easter activities such as decorating eggs. Social stories are a great way to prepare a child on the autism spectrum for any upcoming event. It helps to make things more predictable for your child and reduces a lot of anxiety that he may be harboring. This not only makes things less stressful for your child, but for everyone else as well!

– Have an escape plan. Wherever the party is occurring be it grandma’s house or a restaurant, scout out a nice quiet space away from everyone for a possible get-away as soon as you arrive. Bring your child’s favorite snuggly, blanket or feel-good object for extra comfort. When you see signs of overstimulation don’t be afraid to say, “Her body needs some quiet time” and bring her to the previously identified place of respite so she can relax and regroup. Whether you stay with her or not, you will know when it is time for her to rejoin the group.

 Happy Easter!

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