Holidays are a time of festivities, always filled with colorful lights and lively gatherings. But that doesn’t mean everyone finds the lights and noise enjoyable, especially children with autism, who may find it overwhelming and even painful.

Research conducted by Board Certified Behavior Analyst Jennifer McConnell at the Pierce Autism Center at Touro University Nevada has shown that for Autistic children, what may seem like a typical holiday experience can be amplified to ten or even a hundred times more intense.

This heightened sensitivity is just one of the many challenges faced by individuals with autism, and it highlights the importance of accommodation.

The challenges Autistic children face during holidays

Jennifer explains that sometimes an autistic child is at a party- say a birthday party; there is a lot going on, a lot of noise & other kids with their excitement – all of this can trigger sensory overload.

Their sensory issues are being provoked. She compares the experience to sitting in a room and hearing nails scrape down a chalkboard, which would cause one to take immediate action to escape the discomfort. McConnell has, therefore, assisted in creating great advice for parents of children with autism to help them prevent a meltdown caused by excessive sensory stimulation. These resources aim to aid parents in effectively navigating holiday seasons.

  • Prepare the hosts for any potential interactions with your child by giving them information on how to approach best and engage with them, as well as what not to do.
  • Drop preconceived notions of what the holiday “should” entail.
  • Instead of attempting to accomplish everything, pinpoint one or two objectives you would like your child to gain from the holiday. This could be a concept, a principle, or a cherished memory with loved ones.
  • Establish and designate important occasions on a schedule and elucidate to children the significance of those dates. Information is a valuable asset.
  • In case of a meltdown, it’s essential to have a quick exit plan at parties and gatherings so you can remove your child from the situation.
  • You can introduce your child to relatives and other guests they will be meeting and interacting with this season by showing them photos.
  • To ensure your child has something they will enjoy eating, it is advised to bring snacks and food for them when going to someone else’s home where the food may not be familiar or appealing to them.
  • Avoid tightly wrapped presents or those adorned with excessive ribbons.
  • To prepare your child for gift-giving occasions, practice opening and giving gifts together. This can also help them learn appropriate responses, especially if they struggle with opening presents.

Other holiday

The holiday season can be overwhelming due to loud music. Consider buying them noise-canceling headphones to help them cope.

At Nevada Autism Center, we understand the unique challenges that children on the spectrum face during the holiday season. This is why our team of experts is dedicated towards providing Autism education & quality treatment to parents and their children.

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