Holidays are a time of love, laughs, gratitude, and food. However, for families with children on the spectrum, it can be stressful due to disrupted schedules and routines being altered or forgotten by oversight. Therefore, we have put together some simple tips with the hope that they will help in making the holidays, an enjoyable and pleasant experience for everyone.
Here are some Holiday Tips for Parents with Autistic Children:
Preparation is important for many children on the spectrum. Since each child is unique the preparatory time will also vary. You can prepare your child with the help of a calendar and marking the dates of the holidays so it's visible to them, or even by making a social story that highlights what will happen at any of the events etc.
Decoration in and around the house may not be to the liking of a child. Therefore, showing pictures of past events with the decoration may help. Engage the child in the process by involving them in the shopping and selection of the decoration process. Let them decorate the house with these decorations to increase their comfort level. Once the decorations are up, communicate simply and directly regarding touching / removing the items, so as to make clear your expectations.
If your child has issues with change, then take things slowly. Decorate the home in stages on different days. For example, on day 1, the family can install the Christmas tree, and then on day 2, decorate the tree, and so on. A visual schedule or calendar on what will be done each day will ease the stress and ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible.
If traveling is intended during holidays or for that matter in general, ensure their favorite foods, books or toys are within easy reach. Such items will help to avoid any unwanted stressful scenarios. You can prepare them via social stories or other communication means for any unexpected delays in travel due to weather etc.
Be prepared to stand firm. Consider well – intended but unwanted advice with a smile and non-committal phrases such as “I will Have to think it over” or “I will consider and get back to you”.
If you are expecting people to visit or even stay over, prepare the child with pictures of the guests and their relationships / associations with information cards, over and over, so that by the time the guests arrive, the child is calmer and more accepting.
Prepare the family members or guests with appropriate strategies to minimize anxiety in the child or prevent behavioral incidents. For example, you could tell them that the child does not like to be hugged or approached in a particular way. Education is the key to ensuring smooth holidays for all concerned.
Educate the child on how to leave a situation and/or how to ask for support when the situation becomes overwhelming. The child should be taught to head for their considered “safe zone” or refuge when feeling overwhelmed.