The holidays are a time to reconnect with family and enjoy the company of those you love most. While this is a time that is typically associated with lots of fun, it can be a challenging time for those with autism.
During the holiday season, regular routines are broken, and everything may appear to be changing.To help lessen the stress of the holiday season on those with autism, try following the below tips.
Gradually Decorate the House
If your child has a hard time with change, it can be jarring for their safe space of a house to, all of a sudden, look completely different. In these cases, it is best to decorate the house gradually so that it is not so shocking.
In addition, it is best to try and engage them as much as possible. Have them help decorate a Christmas tree or put up the snowmen decorations. Sometimes it might even be helpful to have a visual schedule so that they know what will be done each day and precisely what to expect.
Just like with the decorations, it is best to prepare those with autism for all planned activities. For example, create a calendar and mark what days you have events on for your child to see. If you are doing something new or something that you know brings them stress, walk through what will happen at the event.
It may also be helpful to collect pictures of everyone who will be at the events. This way, you can go through the photos ahead of time and tell them about each family member. This will help to keep them form feeling overwhelmed by unknown people and will help to mitigate some of the stress.
Teach Strategies for Overwhelming Events
With all the noise and activity of the holidays, it can be expected for those with autism to be overwhelmed. To prepare for this, set aside a safe and calm space for your child where they know they can go if they are feeling overwhelmed. Be sure to establish a place like this if you are visiting someone else’s house as well.
If your child can do so independently, teach them to go to their safe space if they feel overwhelmed. If your child is not yet at that level, teach them a signal that they can do when they are feeling anxious to get your attention.
If Traveling, Pack Their Favorite Things
Traveling during the holidays can be challenging for those with autism when they no longer have everything they are used to within reach. To help with this, make sure you pack their favorite books and toys. You will also want to make sure that wherever you are traveling to will have their favorite foods.
It may also benefit anyone with autism to go over what the travel plans will be like. For example, if you are flying, talk them through what the process in the airport will be like.
The holidays may bring their own set of challenges to those with autism, but that does not mean they should be any less enjoyable. Just be sure to keep these tips in mind and, above all else, enjoy the time you get to spend with your friends and family.
If you would like more information about autism, the exceptional team at Abbey Neuropsychology Clinic has devoted years to working with children on the autism spectrum and can answer any questions you have or help you schedule an appointment.