The Christmas holidays can be a time of wonder and delight, taking part in family traditions, seeing loved ones, and a break from routines. The holidays can also be a time of stress for those on the autism spectrum who thrive on familiarity and predictability. This can be a difficult time of year, but with some preparation and planning, the…
The Christmas holidays can be a time of wonder and delight, taking part in family traditions, seeing loved ones, and a break from routine. The holidays can also be a time of stress for those on the autism spectrum who thrive on familiarity and predictability. This can be a difficult time of year, but with some preparation and planning, the holiday season can be enjoyable.
The school schedule can be interrupted with plays, concerts and assemblies. Teachers and educational assistants, give lots of warning about changes in the daily routine. Work in special activities into the visual schedule. Create a social story about a concert or a play the children will see. It is often anxiety rooted in fear of the unknown that causes challenging behavior and avoidance of new experiences.
Allow for some quiet or down time during a day that has new experiences in it. Create a plan B if the school play is too hard for the child to sit through. If a music concert will be loud, perhaps use some noise cancelling headphones to lessen the sound. If the class is planning a Christmas party, walk the child with ASD through what it will be like. There are some great party planning suggestions in Tasks Galore: Making Groups Meaningful. Maybe the child can also help with the organization or suggest a favorite game to play. If a preferred activity is included in the day’s events, the child is more likely to be enthusiastic about it. Think about scheduling a favourite activity right after a new experience so that the child knows when the concert ends, there is some computer time, games, or play time with a much loved toy.
The holidays are just around the corner. Most schools are out on Friday, everyone is busy Christmas baking, shopping for Christmas gifts, the malls are packed, company is coming, presents need to be wrapped, and the tree needs decorating. The holidays are magical from some and stressful for others. For children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), this time of year can cause anxiety and be particularly overwhelming on the senses. Lights, crowds, traffic, line-ups, and visitors can be upsetting for children who need predictability and routine. Most therapy programs are in low gear during the month of December, school programs break for two weeks, and respite care is hard to come by. How to you keep children with autism on an even keel during the hectic holidays?
We just got back from a week long vacation on Vancouver Island, BC. We drove to Courtenay which took 2 days each way. We haven’t done a car trip of that length for 5 years, and travelling with Marc and Julia has improved considerably over the years. Is it because they are maturing or are we getting better with vacation planning?
Most young families look forward to summertime – a holiday and a break from the old routines. For those who have young children with autism, going on a vacation may be simply out of the question because of the disruption to routines, travelling to a strange place, or visiting with relatives the child is unfamiliar with. Throw in a special diet into the mix and travelling becomes even more difficult. You have to avoid restaurants and take your own food everywhere.
The Christmas holidays were something I always enjoyed throughout my childhood and young adult life. It’s that time of year to recognize people you care about by giving a gift or a card. Family and friends get together to socialize. Routines can go by the wayside for a couple of weeks.