Top tips for happy holidays with autism

The holiday season can be stressful, especially for children with autism.

Changing routines, bright lights, unfamiliar noises and unfamiliar foods can all contribute to added pressure on a child and immediate family. Most of the stress can be lessened with careful planning in advance.

Here are autism daily newscast’s top tips for avoiding undue stress over the Christmas period this year.

Visualisation

Children with autism like routine, and they like to see what’s coming. In our home we have a wall chart which in which we draw pictures and stick stickers in corresponding to which day it’s going to happen. For example, last nights Christmas concert had a photo of my son in his costume. Christmas day, my son has drawn a present and a plate of food.

Make sure that every day which has a break from routine is visualised for the child, if they know what’s to come they are far less likely to become stressed to the point of meltdown.

This doesn’t have to be done weeks in advance, you can plan for next week starting today. Draw big pictures with the children, involve them in preparation explain to them why you’re getting ready, and put them at ease.

Sensitivities and Allergies

Introduce new lights to your home gradually, avoid foods you know your child is sensitive to, but try not to introduce brand new foods in the holiday just because it’s Christmas.

Practice sitting at the table, with the Christmas atmosphere, any music, family and food that you may prepare for the day present. Give them a chance to communicate which foods they like and which they don’t.

If you spend Christmas at a relatives house, could you prepare a quiet play area for the child? Try to make sure that if it all gets too much, that your child has somewhere safe they can retreat to where you can place familiar toys and belongings.

Practice opening gifts, especially if your child does not have fine motor skills, or wrap them loosely.

Communicate effectively

Try to explain simply to your child. Don’t use complicated language. Break information down into small pockets of information.

If your child knows what’s coming next, a meltdown will be much easier to avoid.

Rewards!

Make sure you positively reinforce good behaviour with small rewards, a sticker chart counting to ten stickers with a small gift of your child’s choice works absolute wonders!

Mostly, enjoy yourself too. Happy parents make for happy children at this time of year.

This article was originally published on December 23, 2013

We at Autism Daily Newscast would like to wish you a very merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!