Preparing a child for the holidays may be a challenge for most parents, but when you’re a parent of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, you may experience additional challenges that may be uncommon and a little more difficult to handle. Here are 5 tips that can be used to help prepare your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder for the holidays:
Introduce schedule and routine changes: Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder often have difficulties with tolerating changes in their routines. As the holidays are approaching, begin to prepare your child for routine and schedule changes by slowly introducing holiday related routines, such as visiting a shopping mall, or frequent visits to the homes of family members into their schedule. You can also prepare your child for their school’s winter break by using a visual schedule and counting down the days until the break begins and ends.
Expose your child to social settings: Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder can sometimes struggle with social interactions and may have very little interest in attending social functions. Help your child prepare for holiday related social functions, such as Thanksgiving Day Dinner with family and friends, by having your child begin to sit at the dinner table with family and friends and/or by having your child participate in helping to prepare holiday treats and wrapping gifts.
Social Stories: Reading and creating social stories can be a fun and helpful way to prepare your child for the holidays. Reading social stories with your child can help ease the fear of the holiday season and can even spark interest in the holiday season. You can also share some of your favorite childhood holiday memories with your child to help build up some excitement for the holiday season.
Introduce new clothing: Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder can sometimes be sensitive to wearing certain clothing materials and/or may struggle with wearing clothing other than their favorites. To help your child better tolerate wearing special holiday suites or dresses, slowly introduce special occasion outfits
Prepare yourself: It’s very important that you prepare yourself, as well as your child, for the upcoming holiday challenges that you may experience. Take some time to help your child adjust to the holiday season, that way, it is less stressful for everyone. Children can sometimes sense when their parents are overwhelmed, so the less stressed you are, the better.