Category Archives: Play

Solar Eclipse! Tips for watching and preparing your child for the eclipse

Solar Eclipse! Tips for watching and preparing your child for the eclipse

By Kira Hamer and Emily Fox

On August 21st, 2017 we will have an amazing opportunity to see an almost complete solar eclipse. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. While we aren’t directly in the path of the eclipse (you have to go to Oregon for that), we will experience almost total darkness at 10:30am when the moon passes in front of the sun! Many of us might find this experience and the science behind it incredibly exciting, but for some individuals, this event could be confusing, a little frightening, and disrupting to our routines. In this blog post, our team offers some suggestions for how to prepare yourself and your child for the eclipse, as well as some fun activities to do in the Seattle area while it is happening!

Here is a social story to help prepare your child for the Solar Eclipse: I am going to see a solar eclipse

Here is what the eclipse will look like in Seattle: http://bit.ly/2uC1FlT

Facts about the solar eclipse: http://bit.ly/2tm5aKK

How to Protect Your Eyes during the Eclipse

First and foremost: looking directly at the sun without special eye protection can cause serious damage, so always protect your family’s eyes with solar glasses if you want to directly observe the eclipse. According to space.com, there are four companies that meet NASA standards for solar glasses. These are Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17. Your local library may also offer free eclipse glasses! It is important to note that sunglasses are not a replacement for special viewing glasses. If you are unable to find special glasses, another way to view the eclipse safely is to build a pinhole camera. A pinhole camera projects sunlight through a small hole in a box onto the other side of the box, so that you aren’t looking directly at the sun. You can find instructions for building a pinhole camera here.

How to Prepare Your Child for the Eclipse

Like any new experience or change for a child, it can be helpful to practice what you might do the day of the eclipse or to talk about what might happen. Here are some tips to help you and your child prepare:

  • Introduce your child to the solar eclipse using a social story. You can find an example attached. It may be helpful to read the social story several times a few days in advance of the eclipse.
  • Use a stopwatch or a timer to help your child know how much time is left in the eclipse. In most locations, the total eclipse will likely last 2-3 minutes.
  • If you are using solar glasses, help your child practice wearing these glasses so that they can get used to how they feel on their face.
  • Make sure you and your child are wearing sunscreen if you will be outside!
  • If you are worried that being outside during the eclipse will be frightening for your child, watch the eclipse in a different way! NASA will be live-streaming the event, and your child may be more comfortable watching the eclipse inside at home.
  • During the eclipse, the temperature will drop significantly and rapidly. If your family will be outside, plan on bringing an extra coat or a blanket.
  • The sudden darkness during the day will likely create increased traffic. It may be helpful to either plan on staying home for the duration of the eclipse or to get to your viewing spot early. If your child has to attend camp or a school program on the day of the eclipse, you may need to warn them that the drive could be longer or you might have to drive on a different route.
  • Make the experience fun! Color pictures of the sun and the moon, get a book from the library about space and the planets, or take photos of your family on the day of the eclipse. Help your child understand that this is a special and exciting day in science.

Fun Eclipse Activities

The eclipse is a great opportunity to help your kids become real scientists! NASA is asking people in the viewing area to report on what they see and experience. The GLOBE (Global Learning Observations to Benefit the Environment) Observer Eclipse App can be downloaded on your phone, and guides you through how to make observations. NASA is hoping to have a million eclipse viewers contribute their findings!

Autism and Play: Imitative play

Continuing with the theme of Autism and Play, we want to explore different types of play that can help children with autism.  Imitative Play, as outlined in Michele Solis’ article titled ‘Imitative play improves symptoms of autism’ in Spectrum News, can increase a child’s social responsiveness.

Imitative play was found to increase social responsiveness, including eye contact and verbalization, in children with autism. Children are encouraged to build on their natural interests, incorporating play with learning in a way that holds the child’s attention and motivation.

Autism and Play: Part I

Through play, children with autism can hone thinking skills

In May 2016, Raphael Bernier, PhD, wrote an article in Spectrum News about play and autism.  Below summarizes the article, and you can find the full version by clicking this link!

Play provides some of a child’s first opportunities to rehearse social interactions, generate novel ideas, toy with symbolism and develop narratives — skills that serve us later in life, particularly in our highly social world. For children with autism, however, these opportunities do not present themselves so easily. Yet play is still an important developmental tool for these children.

Many children with autism show unusual features in their play starting early in life. These include reduced creativity and imagination, such as recreating scenarios from a television show verbatim. The play of children with autism also tends to have a persistent sensorimotor or ritualistic quality.  In assessing children with autism, clinicians look at several different types of play, including symbolic play and functional play. Children with autism are often typical in their functional and sensorimotor play at age 3, but they show poorer pretend play skills than their typical peers do.

Cognitive abilities, language skills and executive functions such as self-control and mental flexibility all influence the development of play and its application to clinical settings. Autism affects all these domains.  Many children with autism are missing out on the opportunities and benefits of pretend play.

The relationship between executive function, language and pretend play provides new avenues for treatment. Developing therapies to improve executive function, for example, can help children with autism benefit from pretend play, which creates natural learning opportunities for a prepared mind.  Pretend play itself can be considered a form of treatment — one that costs nothing, requires no professional training and can happen anywhere.

https://spectrumnews.org/opinion/viewpoint/through-play-children-with-autism-can-hone-thinking-skills/

We will continue to explore Autism and Play, so stay tuned for more posts on this fun, informative topic! ~The Bernier Lab

Sesame Street and Autism: Part II

Sesame Street has launched  an initiative called ‘Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in all Children.’  The website hosts many great tools for families and kids, including Daily Routine Cards.

These Free tools help children learn the different steps involved in everyday activities, such as brushing teeth, going to a restaurant, and bedtime routine!

Use the different Daily Routine Cards with your family to help practice and learn these skills by going to http://autism.sesamestreet.org/daily-routine-cards/

Sesame Street and Autism: Part I

Did you know our beloved Sesame Street has a new friend with Autism? Meet Julia, the new Sesame Street Muppet!

The Sesame Workshop created Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children; an Initiative developed to provide resources, a supportive environment, and a space to talk about Autism for families and kids.  With the slogan ‘Celebrate the uniqueness of each and every child,’ the initiative sets out to do just that.  Learn more at http://sesamestreet.org/autism and follow the social media campaign using the hashtag #seeamazing.