While many children can’t wait for the holiday season, this time of year can mean extra stress for children with Autism and other disabilities. The interruption to their schedule, sights and smells that are unfamiliar, your home full of people and noise – it can all add up to an overwhelming experience.
The following tips for surviving the holiday season are outlined below, but most have a theme: plan ahead. Whether that’s preparing them with what to expect or giving family members advance notice about your child’s particular needs – organization is key.
Find ways to reduce the stress – for both yourself as well as your child. Arrange quiet time and create places in your home where he can have a moment away from the commotion. Remember, your child will pick up on your stress levels, so try not to over-stretch yourself.
It’s easy to get overloaded with holiday preparations at this time of year, so plan regular activities to make some special time for your children. Even ten minutes of undivided attention makes a difference every day. Let your child take the lead, tune into their world, and see it through their eyes.
Your family may not know how they can help unless you tell them. Give them a list of things they can do to support you – from looking after your child while you spend quality time with your other children – to assisting with the meal or other tasks.
Giving children ‘jobs’ to do at family gatherings – taking coats, offering snacks to family, diminishes their anxiety of having people in the house. By also providing them with a schedule, they understand what to expect, and that these elements are part of the occasion.
If your child is sensitive about opening presents because they’re new and unfamiliar, try wrapping up some favorite toys. Sometimes unwrapping something familiar is very reassuring.
Add holiday spices, like cinnamon or nutmeg, to your child’s play-dough to gradually introduce new smells. One thing that kids with Autism are sensitive to during the holidays is the many different scents coming from visiting adults. Ask your family to refrain from using perfume or strong cologne.
Discuss these challenges with family members ahead of time. Tell them about your child’s specific needs, and gently but firmly inform them what your plans are. Be sure to let them know that this will make the whole experience better for everyone.
If you feel overwhelmed and you need help, please contact us.
American Advocacy group is on the front lines every day, making positive change happen for people diagnosed with Autism, Down syndrome and a range of diagnoses across the continuum. As a leading advocate for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, and the premier provider of the support and services people want and need, we understand the system and know how to take action in regard to your best interests.
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