The holidays are a great time for gathering and celebrating with friends and families. As wonderful as this time of year is, it can also be very stressful for people, especially families with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Routines are often changed due to the many events that occur during the holidays, such as traveling to others’ homes, decorating, preparing festive meals and holiday shopping. While these tasks can be daunting for any person, they may cause a sensory overload for children with Autism. Sensory overload includes an unusual increase in sensitivity to sounds and touch, being overly fidgety and unable to remain in one place, and engaging in repetitive speech and body movements. Examples of sensory overload are your child covering their ears in a loud place, continuously humming, saying certain phrases over and over, rocking in place and pacing in a circle. To help minimize sensory overload, use these tips and tricks during this holiday season.
Have a schedule
Families can help with managing sensory overload by prepping their children for the change in their daily schedule. Reviewing the family’s schedule before the big day will help prepare their child for the upcoming changes. Visual schedules may also help minimize a child’s sensory overload. Visual schedules use pictures to outline the different events that will occur during the day, such as meal time, play time, opening gifts, traveling, etc. This will allow the child to have a visual display of the events and help minimize any uncertainty during their day.
A social story about the holidays may also help with dealing with sensory overload. This story can include pictures of the different events that will occur during the holidays and what the child can expect to happen during each event. For instance, during the holidays many people, familiar and unfamiliar, may be entering the child’s home. The story can include a reminder that people will be visiting and their home may become filled with loud noises.
If the child becomes too overwhelmed by their surroundings, they can always take a break. Offering breaks to a quiet, calm place in the home may help manage sensory overload and allow a retreat from the loud noises and unfamiliar people.
If your child is showing signs that they are experiencing sensory overload, deep breathing techniques can help relax them. Taking several deep breathes in and out before a stressful event (i.e., going to the store during a busy time, waiting for presents) may also be helpful for keeping your child calm throughout the holiday season. Finally, it is important for families to remember to also keep calm during this festive time. This will help your child manage their sensory overload if others around them seem relaxed.
By using these tips and tricks, it will help with managing sensory overload in children with Autism and will support a happy holiday season for all!