Preparing Kids for Valentine’s Day

5 tips to help your child enjoy classroom celebrations

On Valentine’s Day, we celebrate the people most important in our lives. But for children with autism, the holiday all about love can be overwhelming and confusing.

Many schools have classroom celebrations where kids participate in fun Valentine’s Day activities and exchange cards and treats with one another. For a child with autism who hasn’t learned important social skills, the celebration isn’t much fun. While they want to participate and enjoy the celebration like their peers, it can be a challenging environment to say the least.

A change in routine, hearing unfamiliar words and phrases, seeing unusual decorations, and a lot of commotion and activities in the classroom can all have the potential to trigger unwanted behavior. Of course it’s hard to avoid all of these things, but you can takes steps so your child with autism doesn’t have to struggle on this fun holiday, and instead, can feel appreciated, cared for, loved, and valued. Let’s take a look!

  1. Have a conversation. It’s important to share information with your child about what will happen on Valentine’s Day. Talk with your child’s teacher in advance to get a schedule of classroom activities, along with other important details (like if classmates will be wearing pink and red clothes or if the furniture will be rearranged). Start talking to your child the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, so they have some time to process the information. Try to be as detailed as possible so they know exactly what to expect to help them avoid unwelcome surprises.
  2. Define Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day vocabulary can be confusing for all children, especially those with autism. It’s helpful to discuss the meaning of Valentine’s Day and interpret some of the terminology commonly used on the holiday. For example, you may want to explain the phrase “Be My Valentine” or “Be Mine” simply means “Be my friend” when cards and treats are exchanged among classmates. 
  3. Solicit your child’s ideas and interests. Your child may already have an idea of what type of candy or gift they want to exchange with their classmates based on their unique interests or things they’ve heard or seen leading up to the holiday. Encourage independence and support your child’s special interest by giving them the chance to select the Valentine’s Day cards and snacks they wish to exchange with their classmates. If they’re unable to find something that interests them, encourage them to create their own. Make it a fun activity to do together or turn preparing/signing cards into a game. For less-verbal children, present them with two or three choices they can choose by pointing, signing, or using their communication device. Your child may be less engaged in the emotional and social side of Valentine’s Day, so having something they’ve picked out or created themselves can help them stay engaged on that day.
  4. Role-play with your child. Role-playing is a great way to learn by doing. It helps kids with autism familiarize themselves with common social interactions and gives them the language and actions needed to engage in different activities and situations. To prepare for Valentine’s Day, if your child is open to role-play, you could practice giving and receiving cards together, what to say, and how to act in each of these situations as you reverse the roles between you. Be sure to include different types of reactions, which may vary from child to child, which will help your child stay flexible if a reaction is not exactly as practiced.
  5. Write a social story. Many parents find it helpful to write a social story, detailing what will happen at specific events and in certain situations. Social stories are a social learning tool that can help to build social understanding of everyday circumstances by enabling children with autism to visualize and predict their role in an event and its outcome.

Every child deserves to lead a happy, fulfilling life despite the challenges of language and social deficits. Ultimately, the best way to give your child a brighter future is to enroll them in ABA therapy – the gold standard care for autism. ABA therapy, started as early as two years old, can have a significant impact on your child’s success in school and beyond.

To find an accredited ABA therapy provider near you, click here. The Behavior Exchange is proud to have earned the highest accreditation possible as a Behavioral Health Center of Excellence®, and we have more than two decades of experience helping children and families throughout North Texas and Boulder, Colorado.

Contact our autism experts today! You’ll love how our ABA therapy programs make learning fun.





Ashvina attended University of Bombay and graduated with a Bachelors of Commerce. She got her Montessori Diploma in 1985 and taught ever since. Ashvina came to TBE in January of 2016 as Admin Assistant. During the years she got the opportunity to learn and work in different departments such as HR, Finance, Office Manager and Executive Assistant. Last summer TBE bought billing in house and her current focus area is Revenue Cycle Management. She is detail oriented and enjoys working with people. Ashvina volunteers to deliver meals to seniors and local shelters on the weekend. She loves to spend time with her family and grandkids. Ashvina loves her job because she enjoys hearing different points of view, and she feels her contributions help fuel the direction of our company.

Working with children comes naturally to Angela. Her mom was a special education teacher for 30 years and often had Angela join her for Take Your Child to Work Day. And in high school, Angela spent every summer as the nanny for a little boy with an autism spectrum disorder. It was this experience where her passion for working with children with autism started to blossom.

From there, she went on to graduate from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Sciences. She learned about Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in a non-normative development class and from that moment knew that ABA would be her life’s work.

Angela moved to the DFW area shortly after and began working at The Behavior Exchange as a therapist. She worked on her Master’s in Behavior Analysis at the same time. A year after graduating, she earned certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

Now, as a Clinical Director at The Behavior Exchange, she brings a life-long passion to her work, holding a special place in her heart for children with limited language skills and working closely with families to develop healthy sleep habits.

Danielle’s passion for working with families is deeply personal and from the heart. Her younger brother has an autism spectrum disorder, and through their journey as a family, she found her purpose in life as an advocate for individuals with special needs.

After graduating from the University of North Texas with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies, Danielle began volunteering at The Behavior Exchange. She saw passionate therapists, meaningful change for clients, and families with hope for the future. After a summer of volunteering, she officially joined the team as Director of Admissions and found her home with The Behavior Exchange family.

With her extensive experience working as a client advocate with insurance providers, Danielle perseveres to help individuals of all ages and abilities receive the services they need to reach their full potential. She feels truly honored by each and every family who entrusts The Behavior Exchange to be part of their journey and is committed to the organization’s core values, mission, and goal of being a beacon of hope for the community.

Adam has always had a passion for helping individuals of all ages thrive and reach their full potential. He’s also an enthusiastic musician, songwriter, leader, and devoted family man, who has been helping children and team members grow with The Behavior Exchange since 2010.

Prior to joining the team at The Behavior Exchange, Adam was a mortgage loan consultant and grad student, pursuing his master’s degree in Education at the University of North Texas. He graduated in 2013 and also earned a graduate academic certificate in Autism Intervention. The following year, after years as a Behavior Therapist and seeing first-hand the power of ABA and the meaningful impact it can have on children and their families, Adam became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. He then commenced from the Stagen Leadership Academy after completing the Integral Leadership Program (ILP), a 52-week practice-based program designed to develop executives serious about transforming themselves, their teams, and their organizations.

Adam is truly grateful to be a part of a dynamic, inspiring and compassionate team, and he’s dedicated to bettering the lives of all children and their families through the delivery of the highest quality of ABA services, while supporting the amazing team at The Behavior Exchange.

Soraya is from South Africa and moved to Texas in 1996. She graduated from The University of Texas and pursued a career, at that time, in Education. Soraya taught at a Montessori school for a few years and then took on a leadership role.

During her time in the education system, Soraya realized her passion was to assist children with special needs. So she joined The Behavior Exchange as a therapist, transitioned into a supervisory role in 2017, and a year and a half later, was promoted to Clinical Operations Manager.

She quickly learned the ins and outs of ABA operations and scheduling and successfully collaborates across departments to ensure The Behavior Exchange continues to provide quality services to clients and their families. She’s thankful to be part of such an amazing organization and excited to see what the future holds.

You could say Walter’s career started when he spent hours as a young child drawing superheroes and coloring maps. This passion, along with extraordinary swimming skills, landed him a full swimming scholarship at Texas Christian University, where he graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Graphics.

During the next 13 years, his design and art direction skills, conceptual-thinking abilities, and marketing-savvy know-how were honed at a few prestigious advertising and marketing agencies around the Dallas area. In the mid 2000s, he helped his wife Tammy Cline-Soza (founder and CEO of The Behavior Exchange) create a unique and concise brand for her new business. From logos and websites to uniforms, brand voice and visuals, Walter has been the main creative force for all things The Behavior Exchange.

Aside from giving birth to The Behavior Exchange brand, Walter is helping Tammy raise two amazing, beautiful children, River and Sierra. In his spare time (the two minutes he’s got per week), you can find Walter illustrating iconic landmarks of Dallas and Texas or looking around for this next open-water swim. Once he gets back in shape.

After 20 years of building The Behavior Exchange, literally from the ground up,
Tammy couldn’t be more proud of the team, culture, and organization that it has become.

As a family helping families, The Behavior Exchanges looks for opportunities that will make the biggest impact and produce life-changing outcomes – for clients, families, and even for team members. Tammy believes that if a team, a family, a community takes care of each other, the possibilities are endless and the relationships built along the way can make life more enriching and challenges easier to navigate. You could say her goal has been to build a kind of utopia full of support, love, and expertise that brings the best services possible to the community and ensures more families have access to those services.

Tammy and her family have dedicated their lives to the mission of The Behavior Exchange and continue to grow, learn, cultivate, challenge, support, and create better models for success. To that end, she is committed to her own leadership development and actively participates in advanced training, mentoring, and deep self-exploration on how to live out her purpose to love and support her family and help others reach their full potential. She takes her position very seriously and tries to serve as a channel for what the universe wants to come to fruition.

She also loves travel, gardening, being creative, MUSIC!, tennis, yoga, meditation, journaling, reading, being in nature, adventures, and more than anything, spending time with her husband Walter and their two beautiful children, River and Sierra.