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  • Writer's pictureHannah's Hope

Christmas Expectations.

The Christmas holidays can be filled with happiness, excitement and joy, but this time can also bring about feelings of stress and anxiety. For parents of children with ASD, meeting family expectations during this time of year can be nerve-wracking, especially when it comes to trying to honor traditions that may just not be possible for a child with autism to participate in. Maureen Beenie, author and creator of the Autism Awareness Centre is a mother to two young adults with autism who strives for advocacy as well as wishes to bring information, resources, and support to people who are struggling with autism spectrum disorder. She wrote an article for her website titled, "Christmas with Autism: Ho-Ho-Hold the Expectations" to encourage families who have children with autism to take on the holiday season in the best way they can without falling under the pressure that friends and families may place on certain activities this time of year. The first thing that Beenie focuses on is family expectations. She encourages the idea of a compromise with family in a way that allows you and your immediate family to spend time with the extended members without taking part in activities that will make your child with ASD uncomfortable. The next piece of advice is to pick the right time for activities. While there are a lot of fun and exciting things that families can do during the holidays, it is possible that lines will be longer and places will be busier, and louder, with crowds. It might be beneficial to call ahead for these activities and outings to ensure that you are not going to be standing in line for an unreasonable time in a crowded place that could bring about an unpleasant reaction from your child. The next thing you can do is try to maintain routines. Bedtime, bathtime, and meals should stay on the schedule that you typically use. Children like predictability, so keeping their regular schedule is going to be important during this chaotic time. The next thing you might need to focus on is food. If your child is restricted to a special diet, you might have to ask your family members to avoid asking your child if they want to try a different food or a special treat. As a parent, you are likely aware of the consequences that may come with dietary changes, so maintaining their diet during these special holiday visits will help avoid any sickness or disruption in sleep or behavior. The next aspect of this season you may have to be cautious of has to do with visiting and visitors. When visiting people, whether at their home or at a place, make sure that you limit the time length in which you will be there and have your child bring something, or a few things with them that they find comforting. If family or friends are planning on visiting you, ask them to call ahead and plan the visit in advance; unannounced visitors can cause stress and anxiety. Try to also limit the amount of time that they are over for a visit by indicating that you may be going somewhere or your child has a nap time. Take some time for yourself and your partner as well. You can do this by requesting some respite time. Enlist some help from friends and family who may be in town for the holidays to do something like going for a walk or seeing a movie; do whatever you will enjoy. Most children have an expectation of seeing Santa over the holiday season, however, for children with ASD, this can be an extremely overwhelming experience and it may be something you have to miss out on. Check with your local shop or mall to see if there are special accommodations and if there aren't, request them, if possible. Christmas fun looks different for all families, for your family, Beenie suggests maybe doing the Christmas tree over the course of a week, so that decorating is not such a big task. She also suggests getting an advent calendar to get your child involved in the countdown to Christmas day or going for drive at night to see Christmas lights, that way your child can be included and engaged without being too overwhelmed.

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