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How To Prepare Children With Autism For The Holidays

Children With Autism on Holiday with bear
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In this blog from Solstice Behavioral Health and Consulting in Shelton, CT, we discuss ways to prepare your child with autism for a comfortable, enjoyable holiday season.

How Can I Help Prepare My Child With Autism For The Holiday Season?

1. Let Your Child Know What To Expect

2. Be Mindful Of Your Child’s Sensory Issues

3. Plan Ahead For Visits Or Travel

How Can I Let My Child With ASD Know What To Expect For The Holidays?

When it comes to the holidays, children with ASD may feel anxious when they’re not certain of what to expect, or when to expect it. Here are some strategies to try:

  • For some children, it may be helpful to see the dates of holidays or planned events marked on a calendar. Together, you can X out the days and count down until the anticipated date.

  • Other children may benefit from a Social Story that outlines what will happen at a certain event. For example, information to highlight can include: “We are going to Aunt Rachel’s house for Christmas. Your cousin Jeffrey will be there. We’re going to use our inside voice and keep our hands to ourselves when we are visiting. If you do a good job, you can have Pokémon cards.”

  • Some children would also feel better if they were able to look at a photo album of relatives and loved ones they can expect to see at an upcoming gathering. You and your child can go through these pictures together, and you can explain who everyone is.

  • If you think holiday decorations can be disruptive to your child’s routine, consider decorating in chunks, so that decor goes up one day at a time. Your child may benefit from being involved in the decorating process, or specific rules about what should be left alone.

How Can I Be Mindful Of My Child’s Sensory Issues?

The holidays can be a challenging time for children on the autism spectrum with sensory issues. Here are some things to consider so that your child can be comfortable:

  • Shopping can be a sensory challenge for children with autism, especially when you consider the crowds, loud noises, and flashing lights. If possible, consider ordering things online. Or, get grocery stores or retailers to deliver through services they offer or app-based options. Practicing good communication methods like the ones taught at the parent training can help you and your child understand each other better when events become overwhelming.

  • Choose sensory-friendly options for holiday decor or holiday clothing. This can include gently twinkling lights over flashing lights, or a synthetic fleece jacket instead of a scratchy sweater.

  • If going to an event, have a plan “B” at the ready in case your child gets overwhelmed by the crowd and the noise. If you are meeting others or going with a group, communicate your child’s needs to them and let them know leaving early may be a possibility.

How Can I Plan Ahead For Visits Or Travel?

The holiday season can be very demanding due to opportunities to visit your loved ones and go out and have fun. Here are some things to remember as you include your child with autism:

  • Travel with your necessities. This includes visits and day trips. It’s important to have on hand anything you know your child might need to be comfortable, such as favorite foods or comfort items.

  • Help your family help you by talking with them about what your child needs. Ideally, family members would be glad to work with you on what is and isn’t a good gift idea, or what foods would be good for your child.

  • Be your child’s advocate. If you think certain traditions or events may be uncomfortable for your child, be firm. For example, maybe everyone can open presents together, but then, your child will need a break until dinnertime. If staying at someone’s house is too much excitement, consider getting a hotel room.

When it comes to mental health concerns in children with autism, early intervention is crucial. The earlier a child with ASD is diagnosed and receives proper treatment and support, the sooner a child has the tools to identify and communicate and cope with their emotions. With more than 20 years of providing support and training for families, Solstice Behavioral Health and Consulting in Shelton, Connecticut strives to become a bedrock for autism awareness and education. Solstice has created multiple programs and activities to help children and communities enhance their skills and develop their support networks. Contact our office at 203-900-4720 to see how we can help you and your family move forward together.

We Believe That Early Diagnosis & Intervention Is Key.