Valentine's Day is full of fun, heartwarming sayings and gifts. Although most people understand the abstract meaning behind Valentine's Day, our friends with Autism might find it confusing, especially if they are literal thinkers. No matter the age, it is essential to make sure that individuals on the spectrum get to have a Valentine's Day experience like anyone else. In preparation for the month of love, here are some ideas to be prepared for upcoming Valentine's Day events in any setting.
Valentine's Day & Autism
Literal vs. Abstract
There are so many sayings that can be confusing to literal thinkers! Literal thinkers believe special Valentine’s sayings mean the actual thing. It is important to guide them to help them understand abstract concepts such as "be mine," "I love you," and other Valentine's Day sayings. Take the time leading up to Valentine’s Day to help them find the meaning behind these concepts. Below are a few examples that are common sayings shared to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
Common Valentine Sayings
Be my Valentine. = Be my friend.
I love you to pieces. = I like you a lot as my friend!
Forever in my heart. = I will never forget you.
You make my heart glow. = You make me happy!
Over the Moon that you are my friend. = I'm very excited to have you as a friend.
You give me butterflies. = You make me feel happy.
Using visuals that tell a story allows your individual to understand the process of an event. Even if they have experienced something like Valentine's Day before, a social story can gently remind them of what will come. Social stories can be as simple as a book to read with your individual or a video that explains what is going on for Valentine's Day. See examples below to share with your family!
Let Them Be Part of the Process
Valentine's Day doesn't have to be a one-size-fits-all event! Including your individual’s interests will allow them to feel like they are a part of the group. When one thinks of Valentine's Day, the colors that first come to mind are pink, red, and purple! Find a way to incorporate their favorite colors into the day. If your individual isn't into the reds, pinks, and purples- encourage them to wear their favorite color on Valentine's Day! There are many ways to integrate their favorite interests or colors, such as valentines, creating hearts in their favorite colors, or special treats. What if your individual’s interest is so unique you need help finding it commercially made? Creating a simple craft, such as printing the picture and writing "Happy Valentine's Day," can help them feel represented in the heartwarming exchange. Have them even pick out a special treat to go along with it!
Giving and Receiving Valentines- Act it out!
Role play is essential to helping an individual on the spectrum practice social situations, especially when giving and receiving something. It can help those on the spectrum learn and understand the social communicative structure of a particular situation. Scripting a conversation can guide your individual and give them the courage to interact with peers. Some may be uncomfortable role-playing, and that is okay! Positive verbal motivation (for example- you got this, I believe in you) may help your individual feel confident. Practice handing out valentines, saying “Thank you” when someone gives them a Valentine, or even “Happy Valentine’s Day”. If your individual uses a device to speak, ensure Valentine-related words are accessible for them so they are included in the conversation. Valentine’s Day is about showing love to everyone!
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