As we fully emerge into the holiday season, getting pulled into the hustle and bustle is easy. Bright lights, loud music, and crowds of people are everywhere. During this hectic time, it is essential to remember that only some people are excited about the season’s business. The environmental changes can lead to anxiety and stress for a little one who dislikes being surrounded by crowds, hearing loud sounds, seeing bright lights, interacting with new people, or transitioning to unfamiliar locations. Below, we share five tips to help your family have an autism-friendly holiday and your child with Autism succeed this holiday season.
1. Prepare for the Day: One of the most challenging things with the holidays is the change in routine. A change in routine can often lead to meltdowns or tantrums. Help prepare your child by talking to them about the change before it occurs. Go over these simple “wh” questions.
- Where are you going?
- When are you going?
- Who else is going to be there?
- What are you going to do once you are there?
- Why are you going to this new or novel place?
For example, a typical Saturday involves a trip to the grocery store, watching movies, and playing at home. Let your child know a few days ahead that the family will be going to Grandma’s this week instead. Their cousins will be there, and they will get to play and eat dinner at Grandma’s house. Informing your child of this change will allow them to prepare better and give them something to look forward to and be excited about.
2. Find a Quiet Place: It can often become overwhelming when placed in a new or unfamiliar setting. With so many faces crammed into one place, the noise level rises. Identify a place in the new environment, such as a room or corner, where the child can go, allowing them to escape from the people and noise and take a break. Take your child’s preferred toys, snacks, and comfort items to ease the stress of a busy holiday schedule.
3. First_____. Then____. Often, children with Autism decide they want something, and they want it RIGHT NOW. Caregivers can typically honor these requests as soon as they arise, but being in an unfamiliar place or with others only sometimes allows them to be met. This simple statement will help your child know that you heard their request, but it will not be met right away.
- “First, we clean up the puzzle, then watch a movie.”
- “First, eat dinner, then play with toys.”
This terminology lets them know what they must complete before accessing a preferred food, toy, person, or activity.
4. Headphones and Sunglasses: The music in the grocery store may not bother you. You might even be enjoying it and humming along. However, it might be louder than usual, and for your child, it could be more than they can handle. Noise-canceling or reducing headphones is a great way to block out unwanted environmental noises. This simple step may save you from a 20-minute meltdown because the music is too loud in the child’s ears.
On a similar note, bright fluorescent lights to your child could seem like they have been sitting in a dark room, and someone has surprisingly turned on the light. Sunglasses are a great way to reduce the glare in their eye and make the experience more comfortable.
5. Embrace the Imperfection: Before you leave the house, the day will probably have a hiccup or two. Taking along a favorite toy or food, talking to your child, and preparing them for the day can only help make the day go smoother. Capture the memories and learn to embrace and laugh about the things that do not go as planned. We must be flexible in planning.
Circle City ABA would like to wish everyone a very magical holiday season. With a little preparation and being able to embrace the imperfections, you and your family will have an autism-friendly holiday!
Please get in touch with our admissions team for more information about services or to set up a tour at one of our locations in Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, or Nebraska. We are excited to be serving the Autism community.