Visiting loved ones for a meal or holidays are joyous occasions with warmth & merriment for all. For families with children on the ASD spectrum, the occasions can turn out to be stressful if thoughtful planning and preparation are not put in place in advance. We have compiled some helpful tips which should ensure your visits to loved ones etc, go smoothly as intended.
Please find below Tips for Visiting Family When Your Child Has Autism:
Explain in detail about ASD to your family members including the children of the concerned family. Help them to comprehend what to expect and how to deal with certain situations. Knowledge is power. For example, your child may not be comfortable with hugs and kisses from unknown people, even if they are family or friends. Communication will help prevent any misunderstandings about holiday expectations.
Arrange a safe refuge for the child. Ask the host family if it’s possible for you to set up a quiet haven/refuge for your child in their home when things get overwhelming for your child during the course of the visit. It doesn’t have to be a room; it could be a corner of a quiet part of the home. Bring familiar items from your home to calm your child (such as coloring books, a comforting toy, a weighted blanket, etc).
Identify and practice with your child at home strategies for exiting stressful scenarios as well as varied ways to feel less overwhelmed. Be ready with activities to calm your child. Practicing these strategies at home is the best as it is the comfort zone of the child and the place where they are at their optimal best.
Maintain routine. So, if you are visiting family, friends, or relatives and staying in their home, continue to maintain the daily routine you normally do in your own home. Your child will not feel as stressed if they realize that not much has changed for them.
Work as a team. If you are traveling with a spouse/partner, forge a partnership to take care of the child. If there is no partner, rope in a responsible family member who is familiar to the child to help out during the course of the visit.
Ask the host family about the food arrangements. If you feel that the food on offer is not to your child’s taste, bring your own including snacks. Alternatively, you could give a list of food items/dishes that your child likes to the hosts so that they can try to accommodate your child’s taste buds.
Be flexible in your approach. Go with an open mind and have minimum expectations. The spirit of the visit/holiday should be uppermost, and be prepared for hiccups along the way.
Bring all the items needed to calm as well as occupy the child in the course of a meal, or an outstation trip or holiday. If you know that more kids are going to be present, bring plenty of toys and activities for everyone to participate in.