Holiday Challenges : Helping parents of children with autism.

Shopping trip meltdowns

Holiday shopping in malls and stores can be stressful and over-stimulating for anyone, but it can especially be so for kids with disabilities and sensory sensitivities. The noise, lights and decorations of holiday shopping can cause sensory overload, and also an extreme negative reaction from a child with disabilities.

Admittedly many parents of kids with disabilities may be unnerved by the staring and whispering of strangers to their child’s reactive behaviour to holiday festivities and environments.

  1. Preparation is vital
    Ensure that your child knows what to expect. It’s imperative that you will need to plan the purchasing trip ahead of time and make your child aware of it, so that they’re not confronted with sudden surprises. Kids with autism spectrum disorder tend to be visual learners, which means they think in pictures and will consequently benefit from information that’s presented visually. During the holidays, establishing a visual program is particularly useful, to explain exactly what will be happening.
  2. Talk about the holiday and what this means for your household
    Discuss all of the things that make the holidays different and unique. Engage in activities to prepare your child for the holiday season for example read novels about the holidays and looking at photographs of your children shot previous holiday festivities.
  3. Stay calm
    Should your child be in the middle of a “collapse’, remain calm and keep your voice mild. Your child needs to see that you’re accountable and you know how upset they are. Your voice and body language will help them expect you to sort things out to them.
  4. Gifts and Decorations
    Decorations around the home may be disruptive for many kids with autism. Flashing lights and decorations can sometimes take some effort for them to manage. Be clear about what will change, when it’s likely to change, and also for how long it will differ. Use visual aids to discuss it and write it down so that they have a listing to mention. Allow them to observe decorations and changes being made. Enable them to help decorate. Giving your child the opportunity to handle decorations, and letting them decorate is a fantastic way to deal with changes.
  5. Consider decorating gradually
    If your child has trouble with change you may consider gradually decorating the home in phases, instead of suddenly overnight.

Visiting family and friends during the holidays

Many people with disabilities and their families don’t broadly travel because they’re concerned with all the changes and disruptions to their child’s routines. Leaving the safety of home to get a new location can sometimes be off putting to people with disabilities.
Tell them what your plan for the day or the trip is.

  • Give yourself plenty of time to journey to where you are going.
    Allow plenty of time to get where you are going to avoid arriving to a destination worried and flustered. Your anxiety will make your child stressed and flustered. If you can, include a few transition period prior to joining an event. By way of example, let yourself five minutes at the car once you’ve arrived.
  • Have a silent room
    If you are hosting a holiday gathering possess a quiet room that your child can retreat to if they should become overwhelmed. Whether in the home or seeing, give your child the opportunity to escape when they want to.
  • Traveling tips
    Using visual supports to show images of the entire traveling process will help them to understand the entire situation better. Use social stories and images to rehearse what’s going to happen when flying or driving. Pack your child’s favourite foods, books or toys to the trip. Having these products easily available can help to calm stressful scenarios.

Holiday Foods

Be mindful of food. Special diets are common among children with autism, such as hypersensitivity to tastes; some foods could be offensive by smell, taste or even colour.

  • Try vacation foods in advance
    This will allow you to see exactly what your child likes and does not like, and avoid awkward moments at your dinner table. If you are planning to eat beyond your home, take your child’s favourite foods with you.

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