“ Nothing ever seems too bad, too hard, or too sad when you've got a Christmas tree in the living room." – Quote by Nora Roberts.
Christmas is here and everyone is getting caught up in its infectious spirit. The coming together of loved ones and bonding over traditions, food, and carols is invaluable. For families with loved ones on the spectrum, however, it can be a difficult period. The following are tips to help make Christmas time a smoother and more enjoyable experience for children with autism and their families.
Below are 10 tips to help make Christmas a joyous occasion for all:
Do Works for You.
Remember: Christmas is about you and your family. It is easy to feel pressured to attend events, engage in holiday activities, or splurge on gifts for others. We suggest you focus on what is best for your child and family. Determine what is doable and what isn’t. Allow yourself to focus on the doable – which may require declining invitations, advocating for changes in location and setting a realistic gift budget.
Make Your Christmas Plans in Advance and Share Them.
Stress on the days leading up to Christmas and pressure to succumb to others’ wants can be reduced by creating the doable plan before the last-minute crunch and advocating for your needs and wants by sharing this plan with your loved ones. When everyone is on the same page, it is more likely that the holiday will go smoothly.
3. Use Visual Aids.
Visual aids can be useful in helping your child both prepare for and understand the events as they unfold. For example, using a visual schedule that includes the activities, places, and people that are set for the day may help your child feel more control and be less caught- off guard by changes. This can be a paramount in preventing certain behaviours such as meltdowns.
Alert Others of Sensitivities.
If your child has any specific sensitivities to sounds, smells, textures and tastes; if they prefer not to be touched, are bothered by certain lighting, let those who are hosting or those who will be attending events (which ever applies) know. And, be sure to remind individuals upon arrival as the message may have been forgotten or possibly not received. This will help cut down on triggers and set your child up to be more comfortable and more likely to enjoy the holiday experiences.
Bring Preferred and Calming Items/Toys.
Pack your child’s favourite train, bubbles or that dinosaur book. Not only will you have a sure-thing your child likes on hand (in case they are not interested in or are hesitant of the surroundings and activities), it may also make the experience better in the future by “pairing it” with something really good. Also, make sure to bring items that are soothing and/or decrease sensory overload. These may include weighted blankets, headphones, chewies or any array of items. We suggest putting together a “sensory kit/bag” that can be grabbed in short notice.
(Try to) Stick to your Child’s Schedule.
It’s easier said than done in these hectic times. However, we suggest you do as much as you can to stick to your child’s routine, even if it just involves bedtime and mealtimes. Remember: It’s okay to deviate, you can’t account for everything.
Keep Decorations “Stress-free”.
We suggest you consider taking time to put up decorations over the span of a few days. This way your child can get accustomed to the environmental changes. Additionally, keep any sensory sensitivities in mind when choosing decorations (lights, smell, texture, etc.).
Create a Calm-down Area.
Set up a space with calm and soothing environment where your child can go to when stressed / unhappy. If you are at someone else’s home, ask the host(s) ahead of time if there is a place where can create a calming space and bring whatever items may make it more calming (weighted blanket, white noise machine, etc).
It could be relatives / friends / neighbours that are responsible and your child is comfortable with. They can fill in while you are busy / stressed / fatigued and so on.
Set aside specific Christmas-activity free times for your family and child. It's easy to get caught up in the Christmas spirit but, it can prove too much in the end. Be mindful and try to pace it out. Caliber and its entire team wish you all a very merry Christmas.