'Tis the Season
The holidays can be such a special time for so many families. For some, it can be a very stressful and challenging time, especially this year. Martha C., a mother and member of the AutismSpeaks response team wrote tips on how to tackle the change in routine and celebrate this season in a fun and safe way. Because of the pandemic, this time away from school can be more confusing than ever before. Discuss with your child what it means to have time off from school, prepare them in advance, connect with your child’s support team, and if they have been learning virtually, explain that these services will be taking a break. During the break, keep structure in your child’s life as best as you can and allow time for breaks and flexibility as much as you can. If your child was learning virtually, you may want to incorporate some practice for these skills to keep them on track during this season of pause. It might also be a good idea to look for local program or activities to stimulate your child while they have a long break from school. This year, our get-to-togethers may be less festive and exciting as years before, to keep the feelings festive there are a few things you can do. Try making a favorite item from the menu in years past and avoid using flashy decorations that you used in the past to give your child a break from the usual holiday stimulation. Try making a photo album with people your child would usually visit with or might see over Zoom to keep them engaged and familiar, but make sure there is a still a quiet space they can retreat to if they experience distress in all the changes. Giving gifts can be exciting, but also overwhelming, practice before the time comes, especially if you are going to be doing this in a large group. Ask your child to make a list if they are talking about presents excessively and seem to stress about it. Try using visual supports or schedules to ease the stress of these moments, and above all, be flexible. As we already know, this year will be full of new experiences. It might even be a great time to incorporate some new traditions. This year, try incorporating your child’s special interests into your holiday decorations. If these decorations seem to disrupt your child, try putting them up over a period of time instead of all at once, as it can be exciting and over-stimulating at times. Lastly, you can check with local autism organizations or your child’s school or teacher to see if there are any COVID-safe or virtual activities your family can participate in this holiday season. While it may be very different than years before, this break may be good for us all. There might even prove to be some benefits in the way that we are forced to celebrate this year. Focus on the good this season and avoid stressing over the little things.