The holiday season is a time for family, friends, and festivities. While it is a season filled with cheer and joy, holidays can also be a stressor for many families. Below you can find some tips for helping your child with Autism during the holiday season.
Traveling with your Child
Whether you are taking a long car ride or travelling by air, travelling during the holiday season is stressful. These tips will help:
- Ensure you are prepared with many of your child’s preferred things. Whether it is favorite books, a fully charged iPad, particular snacks, or a few small new toys, it is always best to have plenty of items to help your child when on the road.
- Call hotels or airlines ahead of time. Some airlines will allow early boarding for individuals with disabilities. Also, consider asking for a hotel room with certain specifications (e.g. with a refrigerator or away from the elevator to decrease noise levels at night).
- If your child is sensitive to noises, earplugs or headphones may help decrease their sensitivity to new or sudden noises
- Social stories or Youtube videos of airport security procedures and flight take off/landing may help children who have not flown before or are nervous about getting on a plane
- If you are sleeping away from home, consider bringing your child’s sheets or pillowcases to help them feel at ease at bedtime
Preparing in Advance
- Preview festivities with your child. This could include creating a visual schedule of events, writing a list of places or people (or pets) your child will see, or going through photos of previous holidays
- Go over expectations with your child. Sit down with your child and make a list of desired behaviors. If there are predictable “triggers” for your child, discuss when these may occur and provide other options for your child at these times. Check in frequently with him or her to reinforce their good behavior
- Whether you attend synagogue, church, temple, or another place of worship, there are many routines and customs. Practice these rituals (praying, kneeling, singing songs, removing shoes) to help your child become more familiar so they can participate as a member of the community when the time comes.
- Communicate food preferences or allergies with hosts. If your child has a restricted diet, volunteer to prepare something that he or she will eat to a holiday gathering.
- Keep some schedules as consistent as possible. Schedules change quite drastically during the holidays. If it possible to keep some routines consistent, may be helpful to your child.
- Continue to use behavioral support strategies to help your child during the holidays. Consistency of implementation will help you and your child remain engaged in the activity.
- Include your child in decorating for the holidays. Gradually bring out decorations so there are not sudden or drastic changes to your home.
- Listen to your child. If they are not comfortable with a certain holiday activity or begin to show challenging behaviors, decide if it is necessary for them to join in. While you want them to participate in all the joys of the holiday season, decide if it is likely to lead to a meltdown and increased stress for everyone.