The holidays are a special time to share with family and build memories. This can be very difficult for families with an Autistic child. You can still have an enjoyable celebration, it just means that as a parent you will have to take some extra care and be sure to plan ahead.
- Keep Visits Short: Plan shorter visits with family and friends. This will help prevent your child from getting too tired or overstimulated. You can schedule several visits so you can still have the same quantity of time.
- Have Fewer Visitors: If possible, keep the visitors to a few at time. This isn't always possible in a large family or where people are traveling from out-of-town. Another option is to have a quiet place for your child to retreat where they can be alone or with just a few family members.
- Don't Force Activities: If you put too much energy into pressing an activity your child doesn't like, it will cause grief for all involved.
- Keep Routines: If it is important to your child to go to bed or eat at a certain time, then hold to it. If it is not possible to keep the full routine, have them engage in similar activity at the regular time such as a nap, a snack, or a quiet time.
- Divide Your Time: Spread holiday activities out to help keep your child's time and energy more balanced.
- Shop Kid-Free: This is especially important if your child does not like crowds. The amount of activity during the holidays can be overwhelming enough for those of us without Autism.
- Open a Few Presents at a Time: The excitement of opening gifts can get out of control and lead to overstimulation. Opening a few presents at a time can help your child enjoy their gifts even more.
- Make Others Aware: It is important to communicate with family and friends. They may not understand the nuances of what your child needs or what is going to cause harm. There will probably be some who find fault in your methods. Remind yourself of what you know to be true about your child if a conflict occurs.
- Focus on the Holidays: Holidays are meant to be spent with family and loved ones. Focus on your blessings and on the love you have for your family.
- Reward Your Child's Good Behavior: This will be a positive reinforcement and may inspire your child to be on his best behavior.
Let Yourself Relax: If your child senses stress or anxiety from you they will follow suit. Remember to breathe deeply and remove yourself from the situation for a few minutes if necessary. Take some time to pamper yourself. It will help energize you to better care for you child.
The holidays with an Autistic child can be a wonderful time. Step back from your daily problems and struggles. Remember your blessings and enjoy the holidays with your family.
By Deborah Lee