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Tips for Including Your Child In Family Traditions

By: LSAA / 15 Nov 2022

As the holiday season approaches, so do simultaneous feelings of excitement and hesitation. You're ready to begin the arrangements, make the phone calls, and bake the goodies in preparation of the events. But on the other hand, you're aware that the holidays can be overwhelming for a child with autism.

 How can you ensure transitions to new environments and activities go well?

What could be done to ensure your child's exposure to these traditions and changes in routine is a positive experience?

Noises, visiting with family over the holidays, visiting unique places, eating special meals, or being surrounded by many festive lights and decorations can be challenging for children with sensory sensitivities or communication challenges. It can be hard to meet new people, visit new places, or be surrounded by entirely different decorations, lighting, or smells. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are more likely to find challenges with transitions, social interactions, changes in routines, or new sensory experiences. We've put together a list of 5 tips for the holidays that should help in easing the overwhelming feelings that these events sometimes can bring:

  1. Decorate your home incrementally
    It may be beneficial to divide your decorating sessions over several days if your autistic child is sensitive to environmental changes on a sensory level. They can develop a positive attitude toward the hanging environment by being included in the decorating process for the decorations they like best.
  2. You are priming for the events
    If your child is older, discussing the impending holidays with them will help them mentally prepare. Sometimes it can be helpful to tell them how you can help them by presenting visuals or videos, and role-playing scenarios. Allowing them to discuss what may worry them or make them anxious can help. Practicing opportunities will ease some of that anxiety around new things.
  3. Introduce new things slowly
    Give your child plenty of opportunities to be exposed to decorations and fresh foods if they are not accustomed to them. It's okay to try a new meal once or twice before moving on. It's fantastic if they demonstrate that they could eat more. Make sure you are present or have someone they feel comfortable with while meeting a festive icon like Santa. Take your youngster to a place where they can regain balance if they ever act uneasy or agitated. This is a good opportunity to build self-regulation skills that are so important to our kids with ASD. This skill will support them in future situations that may be new or challenging.
  4. When traveling, bring familiar items with you
    Try to think of ways to make your child feel at ease when participating in new activities or visiting new places by using everyday objects. Give them the freedom to bring items that help them feel most at home. Is it their preferred doll or sweater? It makes dealing with new aspects easier when familiar things are around them.
  5. Practice makes perfect
    To get ready for novel activities like meeting new people, receiving gifts, dining with others, or traveling. Attempting to rehearse these situations is a good idea. This will help your child comprehend how things will work and allow you to consider how you can continue to support their happiness, relaxation, and engagement throughout every encounter.

These are just a few suggestions, but it's essential to remember that every child is different and their requirements will also vary. This is why it is called the Autism Spectrum. Challenges, needs, and interests will vary. Support will vary based on your child's unique needs and wants. 

Keep in mind that it's okay if things don't go according to plan. You'll discover the right rhythm as you and your family traverse the holiday season.

For more tips and advice on how you could help your child adjust to seasonal changes, please inquire with your Supervising Clinician. 

If you are not currently receiving ABA services and are curious about how it can help your child with autism, please visit our site to learn more:

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