Unwrapping the Truth: Navigating the Challenges of Holidays with Children on the Autism Spectrum
Navigating the holiday season with individuals on the autism spectrum requires careful planning and consideration. The festivities, changes in routine, and unfamiliar environments can pose challenges for our kids, but with a proactive approach, you can make the holiday season more enjoyable for everyone involved. Here are some tips and tricks from the TAP family.
Let your child know well in advance what the holiday celebration will entail. Use social narratives to create a story that explains the social situation, outlining the expected activities, people, and any potential changes in routine. Social narratives provide a structured way to communicate expectations and reduce anxiety.
You can write about who you are going to see throughout the day, where you will be going, how you will get there, what you will be eating, etc.
Example of a Social Narrative
"Soon, we will be celebrating the holidays at Grandma's house. There will be lots of people, and we'll have dinner together. If I need a break, I can go to Grandma's den. I can bring my tablet and headphones to use while taking a break. 😊 Everyone will be happy to spend family time together.”
Create a Quiet Area
Designate a quiet space in the house or community where your child can take a break from the holiday activities. In our specific example, we will be taking a break in Grandma’s den. However, your quiet space does not only need be a specific room. For added flexibility, consider bringing a small indoor pop-up tent with some favorite toys. The tent provides a sheltered space, making it easier for your child to decompress and regulate sensory input.
Develop an exit plan in case the holiday environment becomes too overwhelming for your child. Having a strategy in place, such as a quick and organized way to pack up, can help alleviate stress. Discuss the exit plan with the hosts of the holiday festivities before arriving to ensure everyone is on the same page and supportive of your child's needs. Being prepared with an exit plan is not only ok, but essential for ensuring regulation and safety.
Utilize TAP’s Family Support Specialists
We all know that the holidays can be challenging. You are not alone on this journey. The Family Support Specialists at The Autism Project (TAP) are here to assist and help you and your family through the holiday season. We can provide personalized support and resources for your specific needs.
By considering these tips and strategies to make the holidays enjoyable and accommodating for individuals on the autism spectrum, the whole family can have a joyful and connected holiday season.
Marketing & Communication Officer