Tips on Dealing with Holiday Season Stress for Families and Children with Autism

Families with children on the Autism spectrum face many challenges during the Holiday season.   Little things that most are unaware of can cause difficulties for children with Autism.   Here are some tips from on how to prepare for the Holiday season.

 What can you do?  With some planning, preparation and a few of these tips, the holidays can be less more enjoyable than stressful. Here are some tips on how to prepare your friends and relatives whom you will be visiting:

• Explain the difficulties your child has with the holiday dinner environment, decorations, noise etc.
• Let them know your child is not just misbehaving, and that he is learning little by little how to handle these situations.
• Explain about dietary challenges so they don’t expect him to eat what everyone else is eating.
• Ask if there is a quiet room (child –proof in terms of décor) where your child can retreat for some quiet time to escape the commotion and noise.
• Send them a short but sweet letter or email explaining explains why your child acts the way he does and the difficulties of the holidays form his point of view. They will have a better understanding of why she won’t wear a dress or he won’t wear a necktie, and why as more and more people start arriving, he tries to escape the room.

To prepare your child:

• Make a social stories book about what will be happening and the behavioral expectations. If possible include photos of who he will be seeing, and the house as it was decorated at last year’s holiday season. If he is going to church, do the same for that environment.
• Play some of the music he may be hearing at this holiday season.
• Practice unwrapping presents – wrap a bunch of boxes up with favorite treats inside and have him open them to get to them.
• Practice a handshake if he can tolerate that.
• Write rules together – ie. how long he thinks he can tolerate sitting at table, and expected behavior.

On the day of the holiday celebration:

• Remind your child of the agreed upon rules
• Packs some little toys he can play with in his lap at the dinner table
• Bring some foods he can eat, especially if he is on a specific diet.
• Arrive early so that the noise level builds up slowly for him.
• Do not let the expectations of others ruin your day. Do what you need to do to make it as comfortable as possible for you and your child.

Continue reading on Holiday Tips for Families and Children with Autism – National Autism & Adolescence |

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