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Holidays and autism – How do I keep my child engaged?

July 11, 2016


How can I keep my son occupied over the school holidays? What sort of activities will engage him without leaving him bored or frustrated?


Holidays and autism can be complex together. The article below will help you get through the coming weeks. Think of this as a time when your child can learn new behavior and participate in new activities. You may be surprised at how quickly he responds.

Survival Tips: School Holidays

For some families, it may be challenging to have school and community activities put on hold for multiple weeks in a row. During times when daily activities are limited, children with communication delays may have a hard time telling you that they are bored. This is also a time when self-stimulatory behaviors may start to occur more frequently.

In order to keep your kids engaged, think about using a visual schedule or written schedule to plan activities throughout the day. Try not to wait for your child to start exhibiting signs of frustration before moving onto the next activity. Ideas for activities that you can pair with pictures include short and simple craft projects, making cookies, reading a book together, playing a short board game or puzzle, etc. If these activities aren’t necessarily “preferred” activities, try placing a picture of a favorite activity on the schedule after each less preferred activity. Use a timer to limit the amount of time your child spends engaging in solo activities such as screen time, television, or any toy that your child plays with alone. By providing your child with structured activities that have a clear start and ending, she or he will be able stay busy and have fun throughout a long day.

While it is great to have structure and routine, it’s also great to get out and do something novel to add excitement and something new to your child’s day. Make a list of fun outings and schedule one a day, or one every other day. Call ahead and ask when crowds are low. Ideas for outings may be going to the library and checking out books, going to the store and buying ingredients to make a favorite snack, sensory friendly movies, or having a picnic at the park.

Taking the time to be proactive in your planning will pay off greatly when your child is able to enjoy a predictable holiday break with planned activities and planned downtime. If you have a behavior analyst that you work with, ask her or him to help you create activities, visuals, social stories and reinforcement systems to ensure a fun and successful break. If your child spends the day with a caretaker or at a daycare, consider passing along these suggestions.

Father playing with his little girl at home Father playing with his little girl at home