Many kids with special needs avoid contact with usual textures. A child who is tactilely defensive may not be willing to touch things that feel different. Even the tags on clothing can be upsetting to a child on the autism spectrum.
Using children’s nontoxic art supplies with a little planning and lots of patience can result in a keepsake Christmas card. The underlying benefit is a tactile experience that can increase the child’s exposure to and tolerance of a variety of textures.
Gather Needed Supplies
Sensory cards can be made in multiples, creating enough for parents and grandparents to keep. An alternative activity is to make one card and have it duplicated at a copy shop. The supplies are easily found and inexpensive.
- Heavy art paper
- Nontoxic children’s art paint (found at teacher supply stores)
- A kindergarten “chunky” pencil or black marker
- A paper plate or other container with low sides for the paint
- A button up shirt (worn backwards creates a perfect art shirt)
Demonstrate the Craft
Enlist a sibling or parent to demonstrate the craft. Showing that it does not hurt and can be fun will be encouraging for the reluctant artist. This is especially true is the person demonstrating the craft is a sibling the child wants to be like.
- Fold the paper in half to create the card.
- Print Merry Christmas on the inside of the card.
- On the outside of the card, make a tree trunk print by dipping the index finger in green, nontoxic children’s art paint and pressing the finger onto the card.
- Add branches with the tip of the index finger (for upper branches) and the thumb (for lower branches).
Assist the Child in His Painting
If the child is very resistant to touching things that “feel different”, it may be necessary to make a single card and have it copied. Consider having two sets of helping hands on deck. After modeling the craft, one can provide “hand over hand” assistance for the artist, and the other can be ready to help the artist clean up his hands.
Make the Art a Keepsake
Consider purchasing a frame for the art card. After the card is sent and enjoyed by family members or close friends, it can be slipped inside a frame to be displayed in future years. Add the child’s name, age, and year with a permanent marker on the back.
Praise the Child’s Efforts
During the painting process and when the cards are viewed later, use the opportunities to praise the child for a job well done. Remember that this project is more that an art endeavor. It truly involves facing a tactile defensiveness that is a part of his disability.