This year as you approach the holidays or holiday season (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, July 4, Labor Day, Halloween, or pick your other favorite holiday….) you may be doing so with a sense of dread. As a parent of a child with autism, you face daily challenges that others may not understand. How To Make The Holidays Easy For Children with Autism is a subject that you face every year. From the sensory issues on overload, the social dynamic and the inability to effectively communicate it can be a very stressful time for you and your child. These tips are not meant to be the only way to cope, but a list of suggestions that may help some children with autism to enjoy the holidays easier.
HOW TO MAKE THE HOLIDAYS EASY FOR CHILDREN WITH AUTISM
Educate those around you. If the lights or music are a trigger for meltdown with your child, make sure those around you know this. If you are being invited to parties and events politely let the hosts know that you would love to attend, but these situations tend to cause issues for your child. Don’t use that as a way to guilt them into changing their plans. Simply let them know the reason why you are declining and that you don’t want to offend or hurt feelings.
Go out of town for the holidays. Avoid all the parties, lights and issues around them by heading out of town for the holidays. Instead of spending a long and difficult day with your family locally, send your love and then head out to a secluded area where you can enjoy each other as a family.
Talk to your kids about the struggles. Depending on the level of autism your child has, you may be able to chat with them about what their struggles are. Find out what is important to them, and see what you can do to make it happen. Instead of going into the mall with the crowds to visit Santa ask a family friend to dress up and come to your home. Go take a car tour of the local Christmas lights at your own pace and playing soothing music in your car so your child won’t be overwhelmed.
Create a safe word or phrase. Sometimes you may be in a large social situation where your child is becoming overwhelmed quickly and needs to get out fast. Rather than leaving them in a place they may have a meltdown and end up embarrassed, create a safe word or phrase they can use with you to signal they need a break.
Have a flexible schedule. The holidays often create cram packed schedules with parties, concerts, church events and family meals. Make sure you pad your schedule well with plenty of down time for your child to relax and decompress. Over stimulation can be the quickest way to a meltdown in any child with autism. Even the high functioning child with autism falls victim to this routinely.
Help them focus elsewhere. Are they worried about what people will think of their dress for recital? Perhaps they are struggling with how to talk to all the new people you will meet at a family gathering. No matter what the issue is, helping them focus elsewhere will help considerably. Offer them the chance to bring along an mp3 player, headphones or a hand held game system to occupy their mind so they can close out the noise and stress around them.
These tips on how to make the holidays easy for children with autism are just a few of the things that can work for your child this year. The most important thing is to listen to your child Whether they are communicative or not doesn’t matter. Every child has a way of showing you how they are feeling and coping with situations. Pay attention, talk to them and truly listen to what their needs are. What others around you want doesn’t matter. What your child needs and wants is the most important thing.