It’s autumn and school is back in session. For parents of special needs children this means IEP meetings and figuring out the best way to keep your child regulated and calm while at school.
One of the best ways for a child to learn self-regulation with is with a calm down kit. A calm down kit can be used anytime at school when your child is feeling overwhelmed and anxious.
Here I will show you how to make a calm down kit especially for your child to use in the classroom for those tough days!
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How To Make A Calm Down Kit
Calm down kits are also known as calm down boxes or a ‘break box’ for children with anxiety, autism, ADHD, Down Syndrome, and more. Honestly, calm down kits are great for children with or without special needs.
My son happens to be on the autism spectrum and is labeled nonverbal because he can’t effectively communicate his wants and needs. He has many sensory issues and becomes easily overwhelmed.
This year’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan) includes a calm down kit for redirecting him during meltdowns and for self-regulating his own emotions.
There are tons of items you can add to your child’s calm down kit for the classroom. But I will say a calm down kit (especially for children with special needs) should be customized to fit his or her needs, likes, and interests.
The following items below are everything I’ve included in my son’s kit this year to calm down meltdowns! Each item been selected according to my son’s interests. However, many children will find the following sensory items calming and a perfect addition to any calm down kit for the classroom!
This may seem like an odd choice when talking about how to make a clam down kit, but it’s effective for multiple reasons. A sensory sock is very portable and can be folded up to fit nicely inside a small calm down box.
Plus, it provides two sensory benefits to calm children:
- Proprioceptive Input- Deep pressure input on the joints
- Vestibular Input- Balance and motion
Weighted Lap Pad
A weighted lap pad is small enough to add to any calm down kit for the classroom. Weighted products even as small as a lap pad are an incredible sensory tool for children to help…
-Provide deep pressure stimulation
-Refocus your child’s attention
If you would like to read more about the amazing benefits of weight products, then you have to read my article on The Benefits A Weighted Blanket Provides You!
A chair band is especially beneficial for children who like to move! An anxious child will often move or want to “fidget” more when feeling anxious or overwhelmed. Chair bands are a loop band (similar to loop exercise bands) that can be wrapped around the legs of a classroom chair.
This will allow your child to move their legs consistently and get out any bottled-up energy he or she may have. They also help your child refocus on the classroom task in front of them to promote more concentration.
Fidget poppers are everywhere! And for good reason… They come in all shapes and sizes to interest any child. Poppers let your child engage in a repetitive ‘popping’ motion to calm anxiety and sensory overstimulation.
Related Articles: 14 Must Have Sensory Toys For Children With Autism
Chewy Necklace/ Toys
Some children on the autism spectrum and those with Down Syndrome often have an oral sensory need. Oral stimming necklaces or toys a great item to add to a calm down kit for the classroom because it can help calm children with oral sensory needs.
For more ideas for Oral Sensory Stimming Toys, READ THIS ARTICLE!
Sometimes, children simply become anxious or irritable because they are hungry and need a snack to refuel their brain and body. For children with nonverbal autism or Down Syndrome it’s especially challenging to know if they are upset due to feeling hungry.
That’s why I would add your children’s favorite snacks to their calm down kit! Since children like my son cannot express in words that he’s hungry, he does need to be given the option of snacking to prevent future meltdowns in the classroom.
Here are some snack ideas to add:
A marble maze fidget toy is a way to refocus your child’s attention while enhancing fine motor skills. To gain focus all your child needs to do is move the marble through the sewn cloth maze!
Noise-cancelling headphones are a must for children on the autism spectrum. I cannot state this enough! Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder go hand-in-hand. While they both can exist separately, many children on the spectrum have sensory needs as well.
Certain sounds, textures, and even bright lights can lead to sensory meltdowns. The challenge with nonverbal autism and sensory needs is it is all about a process of elimination. You have to figure out (with time) which sounds, textures, and more your child avoids or seeks.
My son cannot attend school with noise-cancelling headphones! OK, he could, but it would be miserable for him and his teachers!
One of the best ways to utilize headphones with children on the autism spectrum is to wear then before going to a sensory triggering environment! If my son goes to the cafeteria to eat breakfast or lunch, the headphones go on. This also includes all bathroom breaks and pull-up changes while at school.
The noise from hand-dryers and toilets flushes is very terrifying for my kiddo!
Related Articles: 52 Heavy Work Activities For Sensory Seekers
Stress balls reduce stress and anxiety while helping your child redirect any anger or irritation he or she is feeling. Using a stress ball can release pent-up tension and improve concentration over time.
For children on the autism spectrum, it’s all about pictures! Pictures help bridge a communication gap between a child, a teacher, and a school task. When PECS (picture exchange communication system) is used in the form of a visual schedule, it lowers the chance of meltdowns in children with autism who typically do not transition from task to task well.
If your child has autism, a visual schedule will allow your child to…
-Visible see what’s happening in their day
-Be a part of their everyday activities
-Pick and choose which activities they would like to do and when
-Have a consistent schedule to make transitions between tasks easier
Sunglasses are necessarily a must have item for how to make a calm down kit, but for some children they are highly beneficial. Sunglasses give children with anxiety (especially social anxiety) a kind of invisibility cloak. They can make a child feel less “seen” by other’s around them at school.
For children with autism, bright lights can be a sensory trigger! If you’re child reacts negatively to bright lights (rubbing his/her eyes, avoided full-sunlit areas, getting agitated when a bright light hits his/her eyes, etc.), then sunglasses are a must have for a calm down kit for the classroom.
A Social Story
Social stories are used for children with autism to teach them every day concepts that do not come easily to them. A social story about expressing their emotions positively, or a social story about how to calm down when upset is perfect for a calm down kit in the classroom.
Related Articles: How Have A Child With Autism Change My Life For The Better
Final Thoughts About How To Make A Calm Down Kit For The Classroom
There are full calm down kits or break boxes you can buy online as an all-in-one bundle. However, while these a great for children without special needs, I do feel children with special needs do need a calm down kit created especially for them!
When you add in specialty sensory items that fit your child’s interests and sensory needs, you’re solving a multitude of problems. You’re meeting their specific sensory needs, helping him/her to regulate their own emotions with the kit, and preventing potential meltdowns when your child feels overwhelmed at school.
I don’t feel you can buy every item you need in a pre-made calm down kit. It’s much more special to your child for you to make a calm down kit with handpicked sensory items!
Just follow the above guide for how to make a calm down kit and try some of the sensory items I have in my son’s!