The holidays are a wonderful time for many families. But for those families with children on the autism spectrum, the holidays can also be stressful. For many children with autism, feelings of anxiety associated with noises, people, and events that are unfamiliar and frightening can be evoked during this season. Here are some tips to reduce holiday stress for your child with autism:
Create a plan for each event, whether it is a big family dinner, or a quiet brunch with your mom. Make lists for meals, snacks, activities, and things to do. For tasks, assign one or more family members to each task and identify a time when this will happen. Don’t forget to also plan for some quiet time and create places in your home where your child with autism can have a moment away from the commotion. Remember, your child will pick up on your stress levels, so try not to over-stretch yourself.
You know what will trigger your child with autism and so be aware of the early warning signs that a meltdown may be coming. Find several ways to handle the situation and reduce stress before it gets bad with things that calm your child. You can also let family members know about certain methods they can use when your child starts to feel upset. This includes having an exit plan when out in public or at family gatherings.
It’s easy to get overloaded with holiday preparations at this time of year, so plan regular activities to make some special time for your child with autism. Even ten minutes of undivided attention and quiet time makes a difference during the day. Let your child take the lead, tune into their world, and see it through their eyes.
Traditions are important, but sometimes you need to modify your expectations so your entire family can enjoy the holidays. Review the events as they are expected to occur, the people who may be present, and the behavioral expectations. And if things just don’t work out, you must be able to call it a day and give your child some space to relax.
Help family members who may not see your child with autism on a regular basis understand some of your family’s challenges. Let them know what you expect to be difficult such as loud noises, new people, and unfamiliar food. Tell them about your child’s specific needs, and gently but firmly inform them what your plans are. Be sure to let them know that this will make the whole experience better for everyone.
If you feel overwhelmed and you need help, please contact us.
American Advocacy Group is on the front lines every day, making positive change happen for people diagnosed with autism, Down syndrome and a range of diagnoses across the continuum. As a leading advocate for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, and the premier provider of the support and services people want and need, we understand the system and know how to take action in regard to your best interests.
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