7 Tips for a Happy Holiday Season with your Loved One Affected by Autism

Holiday:  holiday is a day set aside by custom or by law on which normal activities, especially business or work, are suspended or reduced.  Wikipedia  

While many of us look forward to the holiday season, the hustle of holiday shopping  the change in our schedules, extra days away from work, holiday gatherings, and  time to be with family and friends, for others it is a very stressful time of year.  Crowded shopping centers, the smells of the season, homes full of people and noise and changing routines, can be very stressful for children with autism and their families.  While holidays are about family and friends it can be very difficult keeping everyone cheerful.  Surviving the holiday season means planning ahead, and preparing for events, friend and family gatherings, and the numerous changes in routine.  The following are some tips that parents and teachers have shared for surviving the holiday season:

  1. Ask for help.  Do not try and go it alone, remember that others do not know you need help unless you ask for help.
    • Consult and collaborate with your child’s teacher and begin the holiday preparations at school:
    • Create social stories around holiday events:
      • Crowded shopping centers
      • Gift giving and receiving
      • Family and friend gatherings
      • Visits to Santa
    • Begin introducing the smells of the season with classroom activities:
      • Cinnamon
      • Pine
      • Vanilla
      • Pumpkin
    • Predict schedule changes with calendars (school routines change at school during the holidays, just as they do at home):
    • Include job assignments in the schedules at school, so that you might also be able to assign a job at home during a family/friend function.
  2. Follow up at home with the same activities that you and your child’s teacher began at school:  
    • Review social stories developed at school
    • Introduce holiday smells gradually
    • Develop a schedule for your child, predict events and changes in routine
    • Assign little holiday jobs
  3. Wrap familiar toys.  If your child does not like new and different wrap something that they are comfortable and familiar with – this may be reassuring.
  4. Difficult to open packages can be stressful, wrap packages for easy open.
  5. When visiting family and friends take a “bag of activities” familiar to your child.
  6. Reduce your stress by creating quiet times, quiet places in your home to take a moment; remember your child can pick up on your level of stress.
  7. Reserve some time for just you and your child.