The Holidays are here again. I cannot believe that Christmas is only a few weeks away. For our kids on the Autism Spectrum the holiday season can be very anxiety provoking and chaotic. Changes in their typical routines contribute to more anxious days and nights. For some kids it can be very overwhelming from a sensory
perspective especially with all the lights, sounds and smells that we all attribute to the holiday season. It takes a lot of extra thought and planning to help our kids hopefully not only tolerate these circumstances but actually enjoy themselves(hopefully, anyway).
It is important to try to prepare your child based on their ability to tolerate different experiences. In my case, having twins with Autism means trying to make it fun for each of them based on their own individual issues. One of my sons really enjoys this time of year. He loves the extra cooking, baking and home decorating that happens in my house. He loves having Christmas at our house where my family gathers for a full day of eating, playing board games and more eating.
My other son while he enjoys some aspects of Christmas like the baking and Christmas lights really gets overwhelmed with visitors and family taking over his space and routine especially on Christmas day when I host Christmas at our home.
It is important for him to have “alone” time throughout the day where he relaxes in his room. He typically will join the festivities when he is ready after these short breaks on his own. He has been known to bring people their shoes and jackets sending them the message it’s time to go. It’s important to try to understand how overwhelming the holidays can be for our kids.
One thing they both enjoy doing with me is choosing their holiday themes for their bedrooms. I also try to involve them in choosing different cookie recipes and Christmas presents for school staff and family members. They will be offered several choices for these types of things through pictures symbols and text. I feel like this helps them prepare and understand that the holidays are coming. I also use a calendar showing the countdown to Christmas.
This is where I feel using different visual systems helps a lot whether it be a social story, calendar, visual schedules, etc.
Quite often people will ask what they should get our kids for the holidays. I realize that buying Christmas gifts for our kids can be challenging not only for ourselves, but for friends and family members too. I suggest being as candid as possible with them if you are comfortable doing it. I think if your child does not like or want whatever that year’s hot toy is, it is important to think outside of the box. Some suggestions that you can give to people may be an Amazon gift card to buys apps, gift certificates to zoos and museums, aqua therapy and hippotherapy, even a hotel with a pool for a one day family vacation could be an option (one of the best gifts that we got). Most people appreciate these type of suggestions knowing that you will actually use them vs. playing a guessing game on what our kids may possibly like.
It may take some additional thought and planning, but in the end it’s well worth it if our kids not only survive but maybe actually enjoy the holidays too. Happy Holidays!