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November 2012 / Bronx/​Riverdale Family / Brooklyn Family / Long Island Family / Manhattan Family / Queens Family / Staten Island Family

Winter pastimes

Hobbies for special-needs children

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In the cold months of winter, discovering novel adventures and activities can pose a challenge. It is during these moments when many of us spend time shaking off the chill indoors by working on projects, cozying up with a good book, and seeking out other forms of fun.

People with autism spectrum disorder, or other unique personalities, meet with difficulties managing their leisure in a productive manner. Their free time is not something naturally filled with hobbies. Unstructured minutes and hours lead to practicing undesirable behaviors. How to partake in recreation skills is something that needs to be taught, scheduled, and reinforced. Winter is a perfect season to teach the skill of hobby development and maintenance, as it is the natural time of year for family and friends to spend more time close to home.

Since hobbies take place for most people outside of work and school, families and residential support teams should tackle the task of developing hobbies for a person with autism. All people involved, including the individual with special needs, family and support circles, should articulate and develop hobbies that are preferred and teachable. Keep in mind, as is the case for us all, that hobbies must fit within our daily schedules. As you create on behalf of those who may not enjoy change and combustion, select hobbies that will last throughout the years.

Hobbies that have longevity meet these criteria:

• It is a socially acceptable activity for children, teens and adults.

• It is something that one gravitates towards naturally.

• It is something that is simple to schedule.

• It is something that can be started, enjoyed, and completed alone.

Some socially acceptable activities that will grow throughout childhood to adulthood may include collections, such as sports memorabilia, coins, or stamps. A regularly scheduled physical hobby can consist of an exercise activity, as in Wii, bike riding, yoga, and meditation, or simply taking a daily walk. Pet care and dog walking would be beneficial for those who have a keen interest in animals.

Those who enjoy the arts may be attracted to hobbies that comprise of pottery, musical instrument lessons, music appreciation via an iPod, scrapbooking, painting, photography, or keeping a journal. Food lovers may enjoy gardening and planting, and taking that hobby further to cooking and preparing food.

Bringing your family member on board with his hobby development will increase the chances that he will enjoy leisure skills independently. It also heightens the chances that he will grow with this hobby, expand on it, and bring it to new levels throughout his life. Hobbies should not cause internal anxiety to himself or external disruption to others. Hobbies fill free time and are to be enjoyed. They bring structure and a sense of accomplishment. Enjoy!

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