With the holidays around the corner, parents of children with autism are simultaneously excited to celebrate and busy brainstorming creative ways to accommodate and involve their child in the holiday fun. We have some tips to help lessen the stress of planning this season’s festivities with your child and making the holiday brighter for the entire family.
Prepare for Events
Children with ASD sometimes experience stress and anxiety when there is a change in their routine. If you’re planning to have a family gathering, or even want to change some decorations around the home to match the holiday season, helping your child prepare for these changes in advance can make a huge difference in your child’s experience. There are a few ways that you can do this, but we suggest using a calendar to mark upcoming events and walking your child through what these events will look like. You can also use storyboards to highlight the timeline of any one event. For example, if you are having your extended family over for a holiday dinner, you can create a storyboard that shows your child the major events: family arrival, eating dinner, playing games, family leaving. When you help your child anticipate the changes to come, you can create an even more cheerful atmosphere in your home.
The holiday season brings to mind familiar sights and smells. For children with autism, however, these changes can mean a change in their sensory environment. You can help reduce overstimulation by gauging how your child reacts to decorations in your home, festive lights around your house, and familiar songs playing in the living room. Revisiting pictures from last year’s holiday with your child can help remind them of how the house decorations changed last year. Take your time, making incremental changes to your home, with your child’s help. Let your child help with decorating the tree, finding and choosing the decoration boxes in your basement, and placing candy bowls around the home. If flashy lights and bold decorations upset your child, avoid them!
Holiday Shopping Ideas
Regardless of what time of year it is, a shopping outing can be challenging and overstimulating for a child with ASD. When the holiday season is in full swing, shopping malls quickly become bustling centers of excited shoppers, and your child with autism can easily become overwhelmed. With the beauty of online shopping, you can avoid mall mayhem this season, but if you want to create a in-store holiday shopping experience for your child, consider going to small, local shops with fewer shoppers and sensory overload triggers. Before you venture out into the crowds, talk with your child about the shopping trip and what he/she can expect. There are a number of books and tools you can use to visually show your child what the trip will look like. Let your child help you make a shopping list and encourage them to help pick out gifts. If you know the store is going to be noisy, consider bringing noise-cancelling headphones. Lots of lights? A pair of sunglasses can help create a more comfortable experience for your child. Remember that if your child has extreme difficulty being in shopping environments, you can choose to let him/her stay at home while you get your holiday shopping list all checked off.
This season, you can enjoy all the wonder and excitement with your whole family, by being conscious of your child’s specific needs. Shape your family’s winter wonderland based on the unique personality and challenges of everyone in your home.
At Hidden Treasures ABA Therapy Services, our team of specialists is here for you. Whether you are seeking information about advocating for your loved one, or you are looking for support and therapy services for your child with ASD, you can contact our team TODAY!