The holidays are full of traveling, music, lights, and new people. They can create stress for anyone. But for children on the autism spectrum, these holiday events could quickly get overwhelming. They don’t have to. With some preparation, the holidays can be a wonderful experience for everyone.
My World ABA offers five great tips for helping your autistic child have an enjoyable holiday season.
1. Introduce Changes Slowly
Any time you will have a major change, especially one that will affect your child’s personal or comfortable spaces, move slowly. Start decorating slowly, and let your child help you. Maybe put up a few decorations one day, then a few the next day. Put up the tree, and then see if your child wants to help hang ornaments.
2. Show Them What Will Happen
Every time you have an event coming, make sure your child knows exactly what is coming and what to expect. Explain exactly what they will see and hear so that nothing surprises them. If it helps, show your child pictures of the event, or read a book about it. For example, if you are planning for a Thanksgiving dinner, show them a book with a family sitting around the table eating a Thanksgiving meal.
3. Be Prepared
You know your child best, so be prepared for different scenarios that might happen. If you think there is a chance your child will get overwhelmed, bring several of their favorite toys to help distract them. Have a place in mind if your child needs to get away from family for some quiet time.
It also helps to prep family members (especially those who you don’t see often) about your child’s needs and boundaries. Make sure they know if your child is sensitive to loud noises, doesn’t like being touched or hugged, or has special dietary needs.
4. Be An Advocate
Don’t be afraid to stand your ground. You know what is best for your child, even if well-meaning family members try to push your boundaries. Be firm if your child does not want hugs or kisses, and don’t let the family try to force it. If there is an event that you know your child will not enjoy (like a gift exchange, singing, or board game), don’t let family members guilt them into it.
Make sure your child knows it is okay to say no and to let you know if a situation or event makes them upset or uncomfortable. You will likely get a lot of unsolicited advice, and that’s okay. Just ignore it and move forward.
5. Be Patient
Things sometimes don’t go as planned, and the winter holidays have many moving parts that could lead to changed plans. Give yourself and your child some grace, and just learn from any challenges. The most important thing is for your child and family to have a wonderful, enjoyable holiday season that works best for you.
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My World ABA Autism Services in Springfield, MO
My World ABA is the leading center for ABA treatment in Springfield, MO. Our team works with your child using certified ABA therapy techniques to help them learn more about themselves and the world around them. We support your child by creating an inclusive environment where they can play, build friendships, and be themselves.