Often people forget that the change back from Christmas to normal life can be just as difficult as the change from normal life to Christmas. Once again everything completely changes around the person with autism, and this can cause just as many if not more problems as the original transition. Below are some tips to help a person with autism to prepare for this return to everyday life.
- Start preparing up to a week before the return to school/college/everyday life – it is worth remembering how difficult this transition can be, and preparing for it in advance – ideally discussing the coming changes at least a week before they occur. This might be a week before the autistic person is due to return to school or college, or simply a week before the decorations are due to be taken down,. Sometimes just taking the time to talk about a transition, acknowledging it, and thinking about what its impact might be, can have a huge effect on how autistic people will deal with the changes.
- Talk to the autistic person about how they are feeling – (you may need to write or draw this/ use pictures/photos to help identify emotions or anxieties they might have) A part of preparing for this transition could be talking to the individual about how they feel about the change. It is very difficult for people with autism to recognise and understand their feelings, so it might be important to use things such as drawings or charts to help them understand, and express how they feel. Also, make it clear to them that just because they may feel differently about this change than other people do, doesn’t mean that their feelings are any less valid or important.
- Explain the changes that are coming – how Christmas is over and now it`s time to return to normal – if the person doesn’t quite understand what this transition is, or even if they are not sure how it will affect them, it might be worth taking the time to explain to them exactly what will change, and when – again charts can be used to visually demonstrate any changes. Making sure the autistic person has a clear understanding of what is happening is essential to help them get through a time of transition calmly.
- Try to introduce the change back to normal life gradually – it is important when explaining the coming change not to say that everything will change on one day, in one go. Things can be done gradually; the food might change first, then a few days later the decorations might come down. This staggering of transitions means that it lessens the impact. And it also gives the autistic person time to deal with each change before a new one is thrust upon them.
- Don’t overwhelm person with autism just because they look like they are dealing with the transition well – on this note it is important to remember not to push somebody with autism too far. Often it can look like they are dealing with things perfectly well because they might not show outward signs of being distressed, or overwhelmed – but this doesn’t mean that in their own head things aren’t difficult. Don’t be tempted to rush in to changes just because they seem to have taken the first couple in their stride. Be aware that what is going on inside the head of someone with autism can’t always be seen on the outside, so time and patience are key.
Any time of transition can be stressful for somebody with autism, and the time after Christmas is often miserable for many people. Put these two things together, and don’t prepare for it properly, and this can lead to a pretty dire time. But if the right techniques are used, and things are dealt with in the correct manner, then there is no need for autistic people to have a worse time than anyone else in January.