Submitted by: Dannah Chappell
The holidays can be stressful and chaotic for all families. This time of the year can be especially overwhelming for children with autism. However, following some simple tips to prepare for this busy time can help ease the stress during the holidays and help families enjoy this time as well!
Discuss the plans, especially travel plans, with your children beforehand. It is always beneficial to go over any changes in the routines several days prior to those changes occurring. Depending on your child’s needs, you may be able to just discuss these aloud or you may need to show them more of a visual. There are some great pre-made social stories that outline what the holiday is about and some of the general changes or things they might see. Autism Speaks has one for Thanksgiving that you can see following this link: autismspeaks.org/sites/default/files/docs/thanksgiving_social_story.pdf
Prepare some activities for your child. Holidays typically consist of a lot of time visiting family members, which is great for parents, but leaves a lot of unstructured, down time for our children! If you will be travelling to your great grandmother’s house and she doesn’t have many toys or activities available, bring some! It may be a good idea to prepare an area for them to go if they get overwhelmed or need time to cool off.
For those of you who are purchasing gifts during the holidays:
- It may be helpful to keep gifts put away until the time to open them.
- Or you may be able to create a visual countdown of when the gifts can be opened.
- It may also be helpful to label gifts with names and pictures/symbols if your child cannot read yet.
Day of Holiday Event Tips:
- Always remember to reward positive behaviors! During such a busy and out-of-the-ordinary time, it is especially helpful to “catch them being good” and reinforce those behaviors!
- Some simple First/Then statements may be helpful to explain to them what will be happening throughout the day.
- If your child is a picky eater, be sure to pack some foods they will eat if the items on the menu are not preferred.