You may think that the holidays are a time to relax and enjoy each other’s company, but for toddlers & young children with Autism, they can be a time of great anxiety. It’s not that they don’t want to celebrate & jump around, but scientifically speaking, the change in routine, random new people and places, and increased sensory stimulation can all be overwhelming for a child with Autism, thus resulting in a meltdown or need for isolation.

You can help prepare your child for the holidays with simple tips discussed below.

Explain to family members and friends

You can’t control everything during the holidays, but you can try to explain your child’s condition to your family members and friends. Of course, they may already know, but it never hurts to remind them. This way, they can be more understanding if your child has a meltdown or needs to leave the room for a break.

Alternatively, suppose you’re uncomfortable discussing your child’s Autism with extended family. In that case, you can create a family social group chat or email chain where you can politely raise your child’s condition and needs during the holiday.

You can write them a sentence like: “just a reminder that our son is on the autism spectrum and may need some extra understanding this holiday season” is enough to do the job.

Note down the child’s interests and plan activities around it

Holidays are an incredible time to get your child involved in fun activities. But you can’t just do any activity – it has to be something your child is interested in, or they’ll get bored and anxious very quickly. If you’re not certain about what your child is interested in, take some time and recall what activities make them happy or excited. Does the child like jumping on the trampoline or playing with Jigsaw puzzles? Does the child delight in painting or swimming? Once you have a few ideas, see if you can work them into the holiday plans.

For example, if your child loves jumping on the trampoline, you can look for a place with a trampoline near your holiday destination, or if the child is into jigsaw puzzles, try to find a puzzle that is age-appropriate and fun.

Story tells about the holidays

The best way to prepare a child with Autism for the holidays is to story-tell about it. For example, if you’re visiting relatives, tell your child a story about the last time you saw them. You can mention something like: “Remember when we went to see Auntie last year? We had so much fun! I bet she can’t wait to see you again.” This way, your little one will know what to expect & won’t be surprised by the changes in routine.

You can also introduce the concepts of holidays through stories, such as: “Once upon a time, there was a family who loved Christmas. They would decorate their house with lights and a tree. They would put presents under the tree on Christmas Eve and eat special holiday food.” By telling stories about the holidays, you can help your child understand what to expect and get them excited for the celebrations.

Bottomline

Holidays don’t have to be all stressful for children with Autism. With some preparation and understanding from family and friends, your child can enjoy the holidays just like everyone else. Just remember to focus on your child’s interests, the story tells about the holiday, and explain the situation to extended family members.

Let the child have a happy and memorable holiday season by following these tips.

Reference:

CDC. (2022).  Autism fact sheet. Retrieved from; https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html

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