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  • Writer's pictureHannah's Hope

Happy Holidays

The Oragniazation for Autsim Research (OAR) was created with the mission of apllying research to the challenges of autism. Their website hosts resources for educators, parents, military families, siblings, spanish-speaking families, self-advocates and researchers. The website also features a blog, whice is where they recently posted an article of an interveiw with Anne Robinson titled, "How to Navigate the Holiday Season." We have officially made it through Thanksgiving and Chritsmas and New Years are just around the corner, so it is important that you address what all the holiday season entails for you and your family as well as how you feel about it, how you are going to handle it, and ways in which you can best prepare for the change in schedule, stress, and fun. Let's be honest, the holiday season can be really fun and the quality time spent with family and friends is wonderful, however, for someone with autism it can also be a little uncomfortable. The deviation from routine and schedule in conjuction with the heightened sensory sensitivities and surplus of stimuli can be a lot for a person who does not typically enjoy environments like that. Robinson reminisced in her article on the family traditions that she looks forward to every year, like movie nights and neighborhood activities. She treasures these traditions during the holiday season because there is often stress and chaos during this time, prioritizing traditions can really ground your family and remind you or your child why this time of year is so special. Robinson also talks about how overwhelmed she typically feels during this time of year, even more so when she was a child. In fact, when she was a child she dreamed of growing up and not having to celebrate Christmas. She felt so much pressure on Christmas morning to smile big, gush, hug, cheer, etc. when opening presents and visiting with family. Although she was always grateful for the gifts and time with family, the idea of it all felt fake to her and almost impossible to do. Her mother came up with the idea of allowing her to open one gift each day throughout the month of December and she has replicated this in her own family and has seen such improvement in how herself and her children feel during this season. In the next section of her article Robinson lists some tips for other families in navigating the stress of the holiday; the first one is to be kind and honest with yourself about how you feel about the holidays. It can be very disheartening to feel as though you are the only person who is not absolutely obsessed with this time of year. However, instead of focusing on how much you dislike the holidays or how much they stress you out, focus instead on developing strategies that can make this season more manageable and enjoyable for you and your family. Think about what exactly is stressful to you. Create strategies that can make those moments of ritual and tradition more bearable. Do not hesitate to re-brand or skip out. You can re-imgaine tradiations and create new ones that are comfortbale for everyone. Or, if there are certain things that others love dearly that you just don't, give yourself the space to say "no" or to leave early. Another thing that Robinson touches on is maintaining routines through breaks from school during the holidays. Most schools have decently long breaks that run from December to January and maintaining a routine can be very challenging. Besides work, which gives a routine regardless of school breaks, you can also schedule events with friends or family or create a personal goal, like finishing a book or achieving a number of workouts or finishing a show to maintain that sense or normalcy during this season. The last thing Robinson focuses on in her artilce is how to set yourself up for success for the new year. For her it's focusing on her classes and planning ahead and preparing for graduation and after. For everyone else, this mindset is still useful. Focus on the goals you have to finish out this year strong and what you are looking froward to doing or achieving in the new year. This is always a great time to set aside some things that you want to acconplish in the new year as well as help your child learn to set goals and strategize together on how you are going to make them happen. The new year isn't always about setting new goals or achieving bigger and better things, but it is a great opportunity to set aside areas you want to home in on in the next year or things you want to keep doing well, especially as a family unit. With all of that being said, try to focus on the good things that this season brings and the extra time with family and friends as well as extra time for youself!

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