As wonderful as the holiday season can be, it can create additional challenges for those raising a child/children with autism.
In this blog, Board Certified Behaviour Analyst, Alisa Gagne explains 5 ways to help manage potential overwhelm over the holiday season.
Let your child know what is happening ahead of time: This can help alleviate a lot of anxiety if you talk to your child before an event will happen (talk about: who will be there, what you’ll be doing, what coping strategies can be used)
Plan for sensory overload/meltdowns: Consider practicing with your child what they can do when they feel overwhelmed (e.g. asking for a break). Redirect to a different, calmer activity when they feel overwhelmed (e.g. reading a book). Pre-arrange a space where your child can go when they need a break.
Try to keep routines consistent when you can: A lot of children with autism thrive on routines. While this can be thrown off over the holidays, try to keep routines like mealtimes and bedtimes the same. Bring familiar toys/items to help your child feel comfortable.
Practice opening gifts and taking turns: Practice responses like “thank you”, even if they get a gift they don’t like.
Allow your child (and yourself) the ability to create boundaries and to say no: Allow and encourage your child to take breaks and ask for what they need. Communicate to family and friends how long you can stay and communicate what you and your child might need to have a successful visit (e.g. what your child can eat, what sensory needs they have, etc.).
We hope you have found these tips helpful and that you can enjoy the holiday season and find time to rest and recharge!