Atlantic Autism Services, Inc
No Need to Stress about the Holidays
It's that time of year again- the holiday season! Decorations, large gatherings, and travel can be cause for overwhelming situations. However, we can start preparing now for the seasonal changes to have a stress-free holiday full of joy and celebration!
Prepare for Holiday Events
Preparation can occur in a variety of ways by using a calendar and marking the dates of various holiday events.
Create a social story that highlights what will happen at a given event.
Anticipating events may be stressful for some children - use individualized methods that are tailored to your child’s needs.
Prepare a photo album in advance of the relatives and other guests who will be visiting during the holidays.
It may be helpful to revisit pictures from previous holidays that show decorations in the house.
For some, it may also be helpful to take them shopping with you for holiday decorations so that they are engaged in the process. You can also involve them in the process of decorating the house.
Once holiday decorations have been put up, you may need to create rules about those that can and cannot be touched. Be direct, specific, and consistent.
Gradually decorating the house may help individuals who have difficulty with change. A visual schedule may help with this.
If a person with autism begins to obsess about a particular gift or item they want, it may be helpful to be specific and direct about the number of times they can mention the gift.
If you have no intention of purchasing a gift, be direct and tell them. Work with your child on developing a wish list of appropriate/attainable gifts.
Practice opening gifts, taking turns and waiting for others, and giving gifts. Role play scenarios with your child, such as getting a gift they do not want.
If you are having visitors, have a space set aside for the child as his/her safe/calm space. The individual should be taught ahead of time that they should go to their space when feeling overwhelmed.
For those who are not at a level of self-management, develop a signal or cue for them to show when they are getting anxious, and prompt them to use the space.
If you notice your child becoming anxious, calmly remove him/her from the anxiety-provoking setting immediately and take him/her into the calming environment.
Prepare family members for strategies to use to minimize anxiety or behavioral incidents, and to enhance participation. For example, let them know if the person with autism prefers to be hugged or not, any special interests, and their preferred method of communication.
Have familiar items readily available, such as favorite toys or snacks.
Use social stories and pictures to rehearse what may happen during different travel situations.
If you are flying for the first time, it may be helpful to bring the individual to the airport in advance and help him/her to become accustomed to airports and planes.
Don’t stress. Plan in advance. And, most of all, have a wonderful holiday season!