How You can Help a Family Member with Autism Enjoy the Holidays
Holidays are commonly seen as fun-filled days where family and friends could gather around in enjoyment. There are plenty of delicious foods and drinks available, which would certainly attract some friends, neighbours, co-workers, and more. Generally, holidays are “good times” of the year and people love the much-needed break from work and school.
However, there are moments that the festive mood isn’t healthy and good, due to some of the stress it can cause. This is especially true for kids with ASD (short for Autistic Spectrum Disorder) who could potentially suffer great harm during the holidays. Fortunately, there is a way to help any family member have an overall happy break for the holiday!
Preparing to be Away from School
Children usually would love any kind of opportunity to get a break from school. After all what kid wouldn’t want to skip out on assignments and just spend the whole day playing, eating, and sleeping? Being away from the classroom and teachers is definitely a welcome change for most kids.
However, children with ASD aren’t most kids, which means they need specialised treatment designed for children with autism, and their parents often need helpful tips for spending holidays with autistics in a manner that is most comfortable for their kids. To start things off, the biggest change will be with their school days, so it’s important to properly prepare for the holiday breaks by:
• Explain to your child the importance of and what it truly means to have a break from school. Talk to them and set proper expectations by telling them that it’s the same to staying at home in the weekend, only longer. This aesthetic uses a more “natural” and linear approach to it, letting the ones seeing to have a continuous flow of information (and computation from top to bottom) that makes it feel like someone is properly reading something from start to finish.
• Keep close contact and communicate frequently with your kid’s support team. Structure and consistency are one of the important facets that’ll tremendously be helpful for your child for the duration of the school break. Don’t be afraid to inquire about supports that would aid in maintaining their progress, as well as give routines your child can perform during the break.
• Always ready your child a couple of weeks in advance. Talk to them and let them know that there will be a school break for the holidays. This is a great way to make them feel more comfortable about the coming days since you have already set the proper expectation. If your kid likes having reminders or countdowns, you can mark the calendar with them, giving a visual representation of when the break will happen.
On the Day of the Break
• Maintain plenty of structure in your kid’s life as you possibly can.
• Give them “time outs” or breaks. Children with autism need time to disengage from activities that involve being around too many people. They require these breaks because it helps them deal and regulated with sensory discomfort, challenging emotions, or behaviour. It’s best to schedule some “quiet time” for your child throughout the course of the day.
• Be adaptable and considerate. There might be times when your child suddenly decides to change their minds and say that they would rather stay at home, instead of going out. Always be flexible and if doable, simply choose a different time or day to go out.
• Search for local programs or activities for the duration of the break. Be sure to check some of the autism-friendly events in your community.
Surrounded by Friends and Other Family Members
Spending the holidays with family members and friends are pretty common for most folks. We don’t even think much about it and just see it as something that’s absolutely normal. However, situations like these can be difficult to handle for someone who’s in the autistic spectrum. Here’s what you can do to help make the holiday enjoyable for everyone and less stressful for your child with ASD:
• Explain to others your child’s unique preferences and needs. Not knowing what is “okay” and “not okay” is bad for your child because those with autism can easily feel distressed. Let everyone know about the things they can and can’t do ahead of time, so they would have time to prepare for your kid and avoid those.
• Have your child carry a favoured or a prized item with them. The item will draw the kid’s attention, preventing them from being overwhelmed, and help calm them down. These could be (but not limited to) headphones, fidgets, gadgets such as tablets, or books. It’s also best to have a signal or word (like a hand gesture or a break card) that will let your child tell you when they require some downtime.
• Always have a spare room, preferably a bedroom, where your kid can relax and have a break. Don’t treat it as a bad thing when your child requires some “alone” time. It’s a necessity for them, so be sure to provide it.
• Show a photo album of the possible individuals that your child might see. This will help them prep themselves for the people and conversations that are most likely beyond their normal routine.
• Be very sure that you have the right kind of foods on hand, especially if your child has specific dietary needs.
The holidays don’t have to be so bad for children, adults, elderly people, as well as for those with autistic symptoms. All that is needed are parents who take the time to prepare, set proper expectations, be flexible with their child’s unpredictability, allowing them to have break times, and understanding things from the kid’s perspective. Autism is not a joke, but it can be handled with love, patience, and care.