Helping Individuals with Autism During the Holiday Season

The upcoming holiday season is often very much anticipated by people as it brings a lot of joy to their lives as they go shopping for their family and friends and make memories that will last a lifetime. It’s a time for beautiful decorations, cookie baking, parties, and more. While this time of year can be very joyful, it can also be very stressful, especially for those on the autism spectrum. All of the sights and sounds of the season can be overwhelming for these individuals as it over-stimulates them. Changes in familiar routines as you go to family events and parties, or even travel out of town, can be especially stressful for individuals with autism. This joyful time of year can often become too overwhelming.

Unhappy child on Christmas

To help decrease your child’s anxiety during this time and increase your family’s enjoyment consider some of the following tips:

Make it a point to be prepared. Depending on the amount of anxiety certain events bring to your child, it’s important to adjust how many days in advance you’ll need to start getting your child prepared for upcoming festivities. You could use a calendar to show when the event is and create a countdown to the event, so they know it is coming up.

Determine what decoration may be disruptive. Since some individuals with autism have difficulty with change and sensory, it’s important to involve them in the decorating process. Figure out what decorations they like and don’t like by looking at pictures in books. Take your child shopping with you and allow them to pick out decorations. Decorations might not be feasible with some individuals, and that is okay.

Decorate gradually. Too much change at once can be triggering for individuals with autism. Take time to decorate your house and have your child help where they can. Create a decorating schedule or visual so they know what is coming up next. At this point, you may need to take down or move other decorations that you leave up year-round. This might be triggering, so it is important to involve your child in this process.

Talk about the decorations. Some decorations might be disruptive, and others may seem like toys. Make sure you let your child know which can be touched and which should not be touched. Make sure you are direct, specific, and consistent.

Create a book of past holidays. Creating such a book will help your child remember and get ready for your family’s preparations and traditions.

Plan for traveling. Make sure your child’s favorite toys, books, and foods are available as familiar things can help keep them calm during stressful situations. If they are traveling for the first time to an airport, it’s a great idea to visit the airport before traveling so they can get accustomed to the surroundings. Rehearse or read books to your children that show what will happen during their travels either by car or plane.

Create a photo album. Your child may be around friends and family they have never seen before or haven’t seen in months which could be especially stressful to them. By creating a photo album of your relatives, your child can get familiar with them before any event.

Role play gifting etiquette. This is a great opportunity to role play with your child so they learn how to unwrap presents, take turns, give gifts, and react when it’s not really a gift they wanted.

Contact Us

At The SEED Center, serving the Stamford, Greenwich, and Norwalk, CT area, we strive to help families and individuals with autism through our autism services. We help individuals and families who are impacted by ASD by offering intensive ABA therapy. We offer social skills groups for various ages and provide parent training to best help individuals reach their full potential. If the holidays are coming up and you are looking for ways to help your child, contact us and we can help. It is important to know the fears of your child and what triggers them as this will help make the season more enjoyable for them. Don’t stress yourself out, just make sure you plan ahead and let our team help assist through our autism services. Call today!