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Teaching caring and kindness to children with autism is an important part of social-emotional development. Having empathy and kindness towards others improves the quality of everyone's life. It also allows us to understand how others are feeling and develop greater empathy for others. This helps us better understand how to respond appropriately when others are in need. These important social skills allow children to connect socially and emotionally with others and develop stronger relationships and friendships.
Being kind isn’t just nice for others, it has personal health benefits. In 2018, a meta-analysis collected data from 27 experimental studies relating to kindness and happiness. Through analysis of all the results, researchers found that on average, carrying out acts of kindness increases well-being, life satisfaction, happiness, and a positive outlook on life. Random acts of kindness are a lovely way to remind others that they are loved, valued, and important.
The “Kindness Rocks Project” was created in Cape Cod, Massachusetts by Megan Murphy. After the loss of her parents, she realized how meaningful small acts of kindness were during the difficult period in her life. Murphy began to paint “kindness rocks” and spread them throughout her community. The rocks were colorfully painted, with uplifting words on them. She scattered the rocks anonymously for one year, until sharing her project publicly. The mission of the Kindness Rock Project is: “ONE MESSAGE AT JUST THE RIGHT MOMENT CAN CHANGE SOMEONE’S ENTIRE DAY, OUTLOOK, LIFE.”
Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, people have experienced heightened feelings of isolation, loss, and anxiety. The Kindness Rock Project is a wonderful way to connect with your community while maintaining social distancing.
Here’s how you can make Kindness Rocks:
There are other ways you can spread kindness and positivity in your community. Here are some additional ideas that your child and the whole family can participate in:
Incorporating these acts of kindness into your family’s routine is a great way to teach your child ways to show kindness. Explicitly teaching why kindness is important allows your child to understand the importance of the acts they are doing.
Here are some strategies to explain to your child what kindness is:
Simple acts of kindness are a powerful way to show others that you care. Kindness is contagious, and may inspire others to do the same. Modeling acts of kindness with your child with autism will help them develop important social-emotional skills while having fun.
This article is based on the following research and information sources:
Chloe Fay is from Northborough, MA. She is currently an undergraduate student at Lesley University majoring in Special Education and Child, Youth, and Family Services. Chloe aspires to work with children with Autism in an educational setting.