Ease the Stress of the Holidays for Your Child with Autism
The holidays may give you happy memories when you were a child of your family spending quality time together. For many children with autism, however, the stress of the holidays can make them feel overwhelmed because of the unfamiliar situation, and all the different noises and people that can be hard to deal with. So how do you keep your child with autism calm, while easing the stress during the holidays?
The holidays can be stressful for parents and kids with special needs alike, and so here are some tips to prepare:
Get a plan
Create a plan for each event, whether it is a family dinner for Thanksgiving, or a quiet brunch with your mom. Make lists for meals, snacks, activities, and things to do. For tasks, assign one or more family members to each task and identify a time when this will happen. Don’t forget to also plan for some quiet time and create places in your home where your child with autism can have a moment away from the commotion. Remember, your child will pick up on your stress levels, so try not to over-stretch yourself.
Stick to it
The holidays can seem chaotic and disorganized. That’s why it is important to build structure into the day. Emphasize activities that will occur regularly, such as meal times, down time, and bedtime. Use visual aids and stories such as count-downs, calendars, and daily schedules. These are helpful for boosting organization and helping your child with autism know what to expect. Don’t forget to remind your child that some plans may change and give suggestions on how to handle his emotions.
Manage the triggers
You know what will trigger your child with special needs and so be aware of the early warning signs that a meltdown may be coming. Find a number of ways to handle the situation before it gets bad with things that calm your child. You can also let family members know about certain methods they can use when your child starts to feel upset. This includes having an exit plan when out in public or at family gatherings during the stress of the holidays.
Take time outs
It’s easy to get overloaded with holiday preparations at this time of year, so plan regular activities to make some special time for your child with autism. Even ten minutes of undivided attention makes a difference during the day. Let your child take the lead, tune into his world, and see it through his eyes.
Traditions are important, but sometimes you need to modify your expectations so your entire family can enjoy the holidays. Review the events as they are expected to occur, the people who may be present, and the behavioral expectations. And if things just don’t work out, you must be able to call it a day and give your child some space to relax so he doesn’t feel the stress of the holidays.
Ask for help
Locate members of your family who might be willing to help you during the stress of the holidays. Your family may not know how they can help unless you tell them. They can organize a group activity, art project, or game, or assist you during a meltdown, providing calming one-on-one time for your child, or by taking control of preparing food while you are attending to your child.
If you feel overwhelmed and you need help, please contact us.
American Disability Association is dedicated to the wellbeing and protection of children with disabilities and actively provides support to enhance their quality of life. Whether you are dealing with federal or state benefits or struggling with a school district to get proper education for your child, we have the resources to help you. Many individuals and families managing a disability are not aware of the wide array of services available to them, or they do not know how to apply for these benefits in a way that is likely to succeed.
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