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How to Help Individuals with Autism Have a Happy Holiday Season

November 2020

The holidays are a time that many of us anticipate and look forward to arriving. However, this season can be full of changing routines and disrupted schedules, and for someone who has autism, it can become quite challenging. Families living with someone on the autism spectrum understand how stressful life can become when specific daily patterns are disrupted. During this season, you should take special precautions so everyone involved can have a more enjoyable experience.

These are some helpful tips put together from The Autism Society and other experts in our field! We hope these tips help you and yours have a more joyous and enjoyable holiday season.

  1. Decorations Can Make a Home Disruptive- Changing the appearance of an entire room or even swapping out usual decor for holiday decor can be disruptive. Since the holidays generally involve bringing out festive decor for your home, you might want to share old photos of how the room will look to help prepare for the change. Preparing someone with autism ahead of a change can make a big difference in how they navigate the situation. Another way to prepare is to have them help you decorate! Being a part of the change and watching it evolve can help make the decorating less stressful.

  2. Helping to Navigate Events- If you expect guests to come into your home during the holidays, your child must have a space set aside for a 'calm' area. They will need to know there is somewhere they can go if they begin to feel overstimulated. This self-management tool is one that can be used by children on the spectrum, as well as adults. In the beginning, you may need to accompany the individual into the 'calm' space and engage in relaxing activities. Eventually, they will learn how to disengage and seek this space when they feel stressed by their surroundings.

  3. Practice What will be Expected- Role-playing is an excellent tool to show your child with autism how to open gifts and take turns. Having your child understand how to wait during gift opening will help teach them patience and keep them calm. Talk to your child as you go through the role-playing and incorporate proper behavior for receiving gifts (even ones you may not like).

  4. Know How Much Your Child Can Handle- This tip is perhaps the most important. You have to understand how much your child can handle in terms of sensory input and noise. You need to be aware of the level of anxiety they can experience and make sure you are prepared. If you sense your child has reached their limits at any time, you should encourage them to go to their calm area and give them a chance to recoup. If you know certain situations may be too much for your family member, make an effort to avoid them and keep everyone comfortable.

Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA teaches techniques for changing behaviors in individuals. It is an adaptable treatment to meet all unique persons' needs and can be applied in your home, in school, and in the community. ABA can help teach valuable life skills and situational techniques to people on the autism spectrum! Visit the ABA Pathways website to learn more.

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