Holidays can be overwhelming for anyone, but for those on the spectrum and their families even more so as schedules and routines are disrupted. The additional crowds and sensory issues are difficult for children with
"Having these familiar items readily available can help to calm stressful situations."
Tips for Happy Holidays for those on the Autism Spectrum
"If you are traveling for the holidays make sure you have favorite foods, books and toys available."
Prepare family and friends with strategies to help them minimize anxiety and engage with your child. Explain the difficulties your child may have with noise or a holiday dinner environment and if there are dietary challenges so the will not to expect them to eat what everyone else is eating. Let them know he/she is not just
When possible have your child help. This may include prep activities such as helping with decorations or measuring ingredients for a recipe, but it could also include giving him/her a job such as answering the door or helping to set the table.
Provide an escape plan. This is a time where there will be a lot of sensory input coming at your child between the people, different smells and schedule changes which will cause anxiety to be higher. When you notice your child is becoming
Also plan for or ask for a room or space for your child can retreat to for some quiet time when the stress starts building up and some decompression time is needed.
Have items on hand such as:
- Fidget items such as putty, slinky or
- Headphones with something to listen to and enjoy (noise canceling headphones may be helpful here).
iPador tablet. Download a movie ahead of time or have a few DVD’s to watch on a portable DVD player.
- Preferred toys and books
Engage them in a calming activity (for example, turn off the lights, rub his/her back, play soft music).
It may be helpful to let other guest or family members understand where this space is and its purpose.
As challenging as holidays may be they also provide a time for fun memories to be created and an opportunity for friends and family to befriend spend time with your child. This is a good time to think back positively over the past year and to remember what accomplishments have been there as well. Perhaps a new skill was learned or there were improvements with their communication. Maybe this year a new friend was made or meltdowns are decreasing. Whatever special moments there have been with your child an unprompted