By: Caitlin Lee | M.S., BCBA
The year is almost over, and the holiday season is quickly approaching. With this transition into the holidays, comes lots of new changes in routine, unfamiliar faces, and new environments. This change can be overwhelming, stressful, and challenging to adjust to for you and your child. However, I have created a short list of suggestions and community resources to hopefully guide you through this time!
Tips for the holidays:
Create a social story to guide your child through the changes that occur with the holidays, such as:
- Going to the airport to pick up family members or taking a flight somewhere new.
- Family coming over for holiday dinner.
- The decoration process of setting up the Christmas tree, hanging up lights, setting the table, and various other decorations.
Practice unfamiliar routines and teach necessary skills ahead of time:
- Practice the routine of going through the airport security, such as taking shoes off and putting belongings in bins.
- Practice the routine of attending a local religious service if it is a customary part of your holiday routine.
- Call the location of your holiday service or event and ask if you could come early to practice the routine.
- Visit the airport, movies, or other locations outside of busy times for your child to see the environment.
- Teach personal information responses, safety skills, and other vital skills needed during these times.
Please contact your BCBA for assistance or concerns with teaching any of these skills!
Create A Visual Schedule for the days leading up of all the events to come. For example, “on Christmas morning we wake up, get dressed, come downstairs, eat breakfast, open presents, etc.”
Indicate A Safe Area for your child to retreat when necessary. The holiday season can be overwhelming with the changes in routine, people, and even environment.
Keep Preferred Foods and Beverages Available to your child. During the holidays, food might be served that the child is not typically used to having. If the holiday season brings any customary feeding concerns, please speak to your BCBA regarding feeding therapy.
Decorate Slowly and Involve your Child in the Process. Decorating the house does not have to be done overnight and might help your child adjust if the change is gradual. Your child might even like to help you hang up decorative items, decorate the tree, or even pick an activity to do together. Here are some ways your child can be involved:
- If your child loves music, have your child create the soundtrack.
- If your child loves lights, have your child help decorate the tree or house.
- If your loves to paint or do arts and crafts activities, your child can help paint the pumpkin, make a craft for the table, or help make Christmas cards.
Here are a few local community resources for family-fun during the holiday season:
- The Lawyers for Autism Awareness Foundation has an annual sensory-friendly Santa event. During this free event, your family can take pictures with Santa, create Christmas crafts, and participate in other Christmas themed activities.
- AMC Theaters has sensory-friendly showings a few times a month where families can enjoy the newest kids’ movie with modifications made to ensure your child will enjoy.
- There are many other upcoming events coming up this holiday season. If there is any you would like to attend, call the head of the event to ask questions regarding the event. You could ask questions such as:
- Is this event sensory-friendly?
- Are there loud noises or bright lights?
- Are we able to bring in any comfort items or desired snacks?
I wish you and your family a very happy holiday season!