How to Survive the Holidays with a Child with AutismDecember 24, 2014
December can be a stressful month for just about anyone. There's Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year's Eve, not to mention all the shopping trips for presents and holiday meals. Many families have the additional challenge of guiding a child with autism through the myriad tensions of the season.
Easter Seals Midwest, the largest provider of autism services in the state of Missouri, offers several tips to parents during this hectic time of year to help up the chances for a low stress holiday season.
* It is important to determine how much preparation your son or daughter needs in advance of a special event. If your child has a tendency to become anxious when anticipating an event, you may want to adjust how many days in advance you prepare him or her.
* It is often helpful to develop a visual schedule or calendar that shows what will be done on each day during the season and marking the date and time of all holiday events.
* Prepare a photo album of relatives and other guests whom your child will be seeing during the holidays. Go through the photo album with your child while talking briefly about each family member, and allow your child free access to the album so it may be looked at again whenever desired.
* Engage your child as much as possible in the decorating process. For some children, it may also be helpful to take them shopping for holiday decorations so they feel like part of the process.
* If your child has difficulty with change, you may want to decorate the house gradually. For example, on one day, put up the Christmas tree; on the next day, decorate the tree and so on. You also may need to create rules about which decorations can be touched and which cannot. Be direct, specific and consistent.
* If you will be visiting a friend's or relative's home, prepare your child in advance with information about pets, other children who may be there, food that will be served, etc. If your child has a history of wandering, you should also find out from those you will be visiting what (if any) kind of home security system they have.
* If you are traveling for the holidays, arrange to have your child's favorite foods, books or toys available. Having familiar items readily available can help to calm stressful situations.
* If your son or daughter is flying for the first time, it may be helpful to bring your child to the airport in advance of the trip to help him or her become accustomed to airports and airplanes. Additionally, prepare your child for unexpected flight delays.
Following these recommendations can ease the stress of the holiday season for families who have a loved one with autism.