Christmas is just around the corner and whilst for a lot of people this can be a time of fun and excitement, for children and young adults with autism it can also be a time of high stress and confusion.
We at Bright Futures are here to help. We have put on our Santa hats and come up with a list of top tips to help you and your family support your child through the holiday season.
- Clear communication and excellent planning are key to getting the festive season off to a great start.
- Countdown calendars can be a great way of helping to get through the month of December.
- Make sure your plans include the whole of the festive period and include some well-earned rest days for you and the family.
- Get the whole family involved in choosing the decorations and decorate gradually, try and ensure that new scents are limited so as not to add to the sensory overload.
- Show your child pictures of the house decorated from last Christmas to ease the anxiety over the transformation.
- Always include a decoration-free space so that there is a place to go to escape Christmas whenever this is needed.
- Look on Social Media and local groups for any autism-friendly Christmas events taking place – Autism Evenings | Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet .
- The change in routine during the school holidays can be difficult for children with autism, so have a look at any holiday clubs running over the period or anything your child’s school may be offering to support with this.
- Try and keep some elements of your daily routine the same, even just keeping breakfast at the same time each day can be really helpful for your child.
- If you do venture out to a Christmas event maybe pack a pair of ear defenders just in case it becomes overwhelming.
- Christmas is often synonymous with visiting family and meeting people we may have not seen for a while. This can be a cause of stress and anxiety for your child.
- Be clear about visiting times with family members and friends
- Speak to anyone you may be visiting about how they can help to make the visit as stress-free as possible.
- Create a social story using pictures of friends and relatives so that your child has an awareness of who they are visiting beforehand.
- If your child doesn’t like surprises then it may be best to agree on any presents beforehand so that they know what they are opening.
- Finely wrapped presents look beautiful under the tree and in pictures but consider putting them in open gift bags or with no wrapping at all.
- For younger children whose presents need to be assembled, remove all packaging beforehand and make sure you have plenty of batteries.
- Not all presents have to be opened at once, it’s ok to do this in stages and might even be a good idea to keep some back for the next day if your child is sad that the day is over.
- Don’t ask your child to unwrap presents in front of relatives if this will make them uncomfortable, you can always make nice thank you cards as a post-Christmas activity.
Christmas dinner doesn’t have to be the traditional turkey affair, it is a meal to be enjoyed as a family and if it involves chips then so be it!
Our final thought
Try and remember what Christmas is all about, it is about love, spending time with the people we care about and gratitude. Don’t try and fit into the pictures you see everywhere, be kind to yourself and do Christmas the way that works for you.