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Valentine’s Day Tips: Parenting Children with Special Needs

By Dawn Grosvenor

Make Valentine’s Day special for your child with special needs! Often children with Down syndrome, autism, cognitive delays or other challenges get left out of the Valentine’s Day activities, because of the integrated parties and social hoop-lah. We believe Valentine’s Day is for everyone! As a parent of special needs, I have found a sure-fire way to make the holiday special with just a bit of planning in advance.

It all depends on how you approach the holidays with your special needs child. Most holidays come with a variety of events that could stimulate their senses. A creative holiday craft idea could essentially act like a sensory toy for your child with Down syndrome, autism or other cognitive delays.

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Making Valentine’s Day cards can transform the annual holiday into a learning event. Children with special needs have proven to be great visual learners*, so we have a delightful project that would help with learning names of friends and teachers at the school.

Valentine’s Day Cards from Children with Down syndrome, Autism, or other Cognitive Delays:

  1. Get a listing of all the students, teachers, therapists, and school officials that integrate with your child on a weekly or monthly basis.
  2. Get permission for you to visit the school the week before and take photos with your either camera or cell phone of each person.
  3. Download them to the computer and then print out all the photos in 2″ x 2″ squares on white standard copy paper (or glossy if you are feeling artsy).
  4. In advance, purchase Valentine’s Day cards that have an envelope that accommodates the cards, or just purchase simple note cards from your local grocery, office, or drug store.
  5. For each Valentine ‘s Day card, help your child write the name of each person as they are viewing the 2 x 2 square on the actual store-bought valentine’s day standard cards.
  6. Have your glue stick ready, and insert the valentine’s day card into the envelope, then paste the 2×2 photo on the outside of the envelope. It is up to you if your child has enough patience to write the name a second time on the outside of the card.
  7. Imagine the delight of accomplishment on your child’s face as you send them proudly to school with a stack of customized Valentine’s Day cards for the role models and friends at school. This activity is a two-fold blessing, as teachers and therapists will probably hang on to those cards years after their beautiful students with special needs have moved on to other grade levels and activities!

The entire activity allows you, as the parent, to also get to know the people that your child spends more time with a little better and appreciate Teachers for all the hard work they do each and every day!

*From research and methodology represented in Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH).

Dawn Grosvenor, mother of a daughter who demonstrated signs of autism after three years of age. After formally being diagnosed as PDD-NOS, recognized as an Autism Spectrum Disorder, a new search for autism treatments, materials, classes and teachers ensued. Dawn’s search for appropriate materials and activities went from frustration to passion. HOPELights serves the purpose of developing and recommending such materials and activities for special needs children that motivate and educate through positive, holistic stimuli. The materials are well suited across the range of special needs and provides support to many levels of Autism, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, MR, Spinal Bifida, Muscular Dystrophy, Pediatric Hospice and any child experiencing sensory or cognitive delays.

The HOPELights magazine, a special needs resource has harnessed the power of customizable print to transform learning experiences for children. The periodical is the first of its kind targeted specifically to support the sensory needs of differently-abled youth. The company strives to support the unique population of parents, families, and children with an uncompromising, sustained effort of inclusion and joy. For more information, please visit