How Elf on the Shelf is Helping My Autistic Son

This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs  over at AutismWonderland.

How Elf on the Shelf is Helping my Autistic SOn

I first learned about Elf on the Shelf last year.  I thought it was a cute idea, so I purchased one for my son, Norrin. I quickly realized that parents either loved it or loathed it. It’s a pretty hot topic and there are some strong opinions out there. I’ve read brutal posts and comments about this little Elf and the parents who post their daily Elf pics all over social media.

Before you get any ideas, here are a few things you should know about me as an Elf on the Shelf mom:

  • I’m not crafty. At all. So don’t expect DIY mini furniture for our Elf from me.
  • I have no imagination to think of creative ways to pose our Elf.
  • We live in a small 2 bedroom apartment – there are only so many ‘shelves’ for our Elf.
  • I’m busy. I work full-time (outside of the home) during the day and I write at night.
  • I’ve woken up and have forgotten to move the Elf. Twice. And it’s only the 4th of December. I just moved him over to another shelf, on the same bookcase.
  • I’m not big on holiday decorating. We put up our tree a few days before Christmas. I don’t even send Christmas cards because I don’t have the time.

So why do I bother with Elf on the Shelf or “Elfee” as Norrin calls him? Because Norrin likes it. And it helps him understand Christmas.

Here are the 5 ways Elf on the Shelf is helping Norrin:

Encourages Imagination. Imaginative play doesn’t come naturally to Norrin. It’s had to be taught. Christmas is such an abstract concept for him to understand.  We read the book and we talk about Elfee and Santa Claus. It all helps to connect the dots.

Teaches Basic Play Skills. Every morning when Norrin wakes up, I ask him about Elfee. He gets this huge smile and runs to the spot from the day before before looking around the room. It’s like playing hide and seek every morning. I don’t help him. He has to search and find Elfee on his own. And when Norrin finds him, he is so proud!

Builds Anticipation. Norrin knows when Christmas is and he looks forward to it. But the days leading up to Christmas feel like an eternity for kids – especially kids with autism who have difficulty understanding the concept of time. Elfee helps build up to the excitement. It makes the waiting for Christmas fun.

Prompts Communication.We read the book, we talk, Norrin asks questions. When I was talking about Santa, Norrin asked questions. What’s Santa’s last name? Where does he live? Where’s the North Pole? Elfee, Santa and Christmas are things that Norrin is interested in. Anything that gets him talking and engaging with us, I’m all for it.

It’s Fun! I’ve read so many negative things about Elf on the Shelf: it’s a waste of time, it’s creepy, it’s one extra thing on a never ending to-do list and how some moms are happy their kids have out grown the Santa phase.

To me it’s just fun. We don’t go to  the mall to visit Santa, holiday parties, the Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting, ice skating in Central Park or the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. The Elf on the Shelf is our holiday thing. It brings a little of the holiday magic to us, rather than having to seek it out. It’s Christmas fun in the comfort of our home. Seeing Norrin excited about Elfee makes the few seconds of finding a new spot makes it worth it.

Do you use Elf on the Shelf with your kids?

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