Sunday, October 23, 2016

26 Holiday Survival Tips for Autism Families

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Tips and strategies to help support children with autism or sensory issues during the holidays.

Hard to believe that Christmas is quickly approaching yet again. While, in most households, that means stringing lights, decorating the house, and buying presents for others, it isn't necessarily that simple for autism families, like mine.

Christmas is basically sensory overload for kids with autism or sensory processing disorder. Then throw in things like parties, disruptions to routines, and new foods or people or places and things are bound to go awry. In other words, Christmas can become a bit of a nightmare.

As a parent, I am always trying to keep my kids informed of what will be occurring around major holidays. Thankfully, we have been able to keep most of our Christmases low key and successful over the years using these 26 holiday survival tips for autism families.

And since we embrace my son's hyperlexia around here, I thought it would be fun if I presented these tips to you in ABC style. So here are 26 tips to help both special needs parents and their kids survive the holidays from A to Z!

26 tips to help parents of children with autism or sensory processing disorder survive the holidays from And Next Comes L

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The ABCs of Surviving the Holidays When Your Kids Have Autism or Sensory Issues

1. Ask for help when you need it

2. Buy gifts ahead of time to avoid crowded malls or shop online

3. Consider your child's sensory needs and plan accordingly

4. Decorate gradually to limit sensory overload

5. Enjoy holiday themed sensory activities

6. Figure out your exit strategy or calm down plan and then make a calm down kit to prepare for those inevitable meltdowns

7. Give your child breaks and adequate time to adjust to new settings, people, etc.

8. Help your child practice what to say (and what not to say) while opening presents, visiting family, eating holiday meals, attending parties, etc. by writing out scripts and visual supports

9. Include your child in the holiday planning, shopping, and decorating

10. Juggle what you can and limit holiday parties and events that you are invited to

11. Keep things low key

12. Limit surprises and new experiences

13. Make sure you choose your battles
14. Never feel pressured or obligated to maintain commitments if your child is overwhelmed

15. Open presents gradually

16. Plan ahead and inform your child of any changes to the plan

17. Quietly connect with your kids and let them enjoy some quiet time throughout the holidays

18. Remember to never be ashamed or embarassed about taking your children out shopping or leaving events early because of meltdowns

19. Sing Christmas carols karaoke style (with or without sound) and use noise reduction headphones if necessary

20. Try to keep things familiar, including routines, food, bedtime rituals, friends, family, etc.

21. Use pictures, such as a photo album of previous Christmases, to help your child prepare for the holidays

22. Visually present the holidays with a visual schedule, checklists, social stories, or a Christmas countdown to help your child learn what events are occurring and what is expected of them

  • We do these LEGO advent calendars every year and they are a great visual reminder of when Christmas will arrive
23. Wrap presents according to your child's sensory preferences and needs (e.g., use gift bags if unwrapping a gift is difficult due to fine motor skills or avoid ribbons and bows if your child dislikes the texture of them)

24. Expect meltdowns to happen, understand that they are bound to happen, and know that it's okay

25. Yield when things aren't going well

26. Zero in on what is most important during the holidays

Other Ideas You'll Love

This post is part of a monthly series called Parenting Children with Special Needs. This month's topic is conquering the holidays and you can find the other posts regarding this topic below.

Free Christmas Visual Schedule for Kids | Every Star is Different
Holiday Myths & Autism | My Home Truths

26 tips to help parents of children with autism or sensory processing disorder survive the holidays from And Next Comes L