Preparing Your Autistic Child For The Holidays

Preparing Your Autistic Child For The Holidays

October is just around the corner. The stores are already displaying Halloween decorations. Soon, Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations will be out. Have you thought about how you can prepare your autistic child for the holidays?  For many parents of an autistic child, autism plus holidays equals nightmare.

I’m lucky. The holidays are a favorite in our household. My son loves to go to stores and look at all of the decorations. He really loves the big, inflated, animated ones. The kind that look like big snow globes. He will stare at them all day, if I let him.

The holidays present challenges for us. My son likes to go Trick O’ Treating. He is still young enough for it, but will soon outgrow it (age wise anyways). The problem we face is that he likes to go into everyone’s house. Also, approaching a lot of strangers houses means curious looks when my nonverbal, autistic son doesn’t say anything, just holds out his bag and makes noises. Last year, we had his Nintendo and TapToTalk program to help with that. I uploaded a Halloween picture for him to touch that said “Trick O’Treat.”

Thanksgiving is a good holiday for us. It’s also a quick one, if we are attending a big, family Thanksgiving. My son believes that it is time to leave immediately after eating. I don’t know why, but he seems to always think this for Thanksgiving.

Christmas is a lot of fun. Now that we know what my son likes, it is a lot easier to buy for him. He loves music CD’s, and is always wanting us to buy him some. It doesn’t matter what genre, he loves all types of music.

If your child doesn’t do well during the holidays (many autistic children don’t), let me give you some advice. I learned some hard lessons when my son was younger, and the holidays were not a fun time.

1. Avoid crowded stores. Whenever possible, have someone watch your child while you go shopping. The crowds, noises, and flashy decorations could prove to be a sensory nightmare.

2. Keep visits with family short. Nothing will drive a child into sensory overload quicker than being around multiple families in one house.

3. Don’t be afraid of the word “No.” You don’t have to accept every invitation during the holidays. It may be a family tradition, but you can change it for your family. Thanksgiving can be just your family. Christmas can be a short visit to say “hi” and exchange gifts. You don’t have to stay for the meal. I know, that’s easier said than done.

4. When you have to fulfill a family obligation during the holidays, arrange ahead of time for a time-out room. Ask your Hostess for a room to be set aside for you to take your child to when sensory overload starts to show.

These suggestions won’t make your holidays perfect, but they will help.

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