Tips for Autism and The Holidays

November 2, 2023 | Uncategorized

The holiday season is a time of joy, celebration, and togetherness for many people around the world. It’s a time when families and friends gather, share special moments, and create lasting memories. However, for individuals with autism and their families, the holiday season can be a challenging and overwhelming time. To prepare, parents of those with autism need to explore some valuable tips and strategies for making the holiday season more enjoyable and manageable for those on the autism spectrum.

How Can The Holidays Affect Autism?

The holiday season can have a significant impact on individuals with autism, presenting a range of challenges, including:

  • Changes in Routine: Disruptions to daily routines can lead to increased anxiety and stress.
  • Sensory Overload: Bright lights, loud music, and crowded gatherings may overwhelm those with sensory sensitivities.
  • Social Demands: Increased social interactions and expectations can be challenging for individuals who struggle with social skills.
  • Communication Challenges: The influx of unfamiliar faces and conversations can make it harder for individuals with autism to communicate.
  • Meltdowns and Shutdowns: The sensory and emotional demands can lead to meltdowns or emotional shutdowns.
  • Food Sensitivities: Holiday meals may include foods that individuals with autism may find unappealing or challenging to eat.

However, with thoughtful planning and understanding, the holidays can also provide opportunities for growth, connection, and joy.

Tips for an Autism-Friendly Holiday Season

The holiday season can be a time of joy and connection for families, including those with children with autism. By implementing these tips and strategies, parents can create a more inclusive, understanding, and enjoyable holiday experience for their child and the entire family.

Prepare and Plan Ahead

One of the key strategies for a successful holiday season with an autistic family member is to plan and prepare well in advance. Start by discussing the upcoming holiday events with your loved one, explaining what to expect, and creating visual schedules or social stories to help them understand the changes in routine. You can also visit the holiday venue or event location beforehand to familiarize your child with the environment. Having a well-thought-out plan can help reduce anxiety and meltdowns.

Sensory-Friendly Celebrations

Autistic individuals often have heightened sensitivities to sensory stimuli. To make the holidays more comfortable, consider making your celebrations sensory-friendly. This could involve using noise-canceling headphones, providing a quiet and calm space for your child to retreat to if they become overwhelmed, or using soft lighting to create a soothing atmosphere.

Communicate with Relatives and Friends

Let your extended family and friends know about your child’s specific needs and sensitivities. Educate them about autism, so they can better understand and support your loved one during holiday gatherings. Encourage them to be patient, provide space when necessary, and avoid making assumptions about your child’s behavior.

Gift Selection and Wrapping

Choosing the right gifts for an autistic individual is important. Consider their specific interests and sensory preferences. If they have sensory sensitivities, opt for gifts that won’t overwhelm them. Additionally, some individuals may have difficulty unwrapping gifts due to fine motor challenges, so consider using easy-to-open wrapping or gift bags.

Adapt Food Options

Many holiday gatherings revolve around food, which can be a challenge for individuals with dietary restrictions or sensory sensitivities. Work with the host to ensure that there are food options available that are safe and enjoyable for your loved one. You can also bring a dish that your child can eat to ensure they have something they are comfortable with.

Use Visual Supports

Visual supports, such as visual schedules, social stories, or visual cues, can be immensely helpful for individuals with autism. These tools can aid in understanding what to expect during the holiday season, from the order of events to social interactions. Visual support can reduce anxiety and provide a sense of predictability.

Set Realistic Expectations

It’s essential to have realistic expectations for the holiday season. Understand that not every event or gathering will go perfectly, and that’s okay. Celebrate small victories and focus on the positive moments. By having reasonable expectations, you can reduce stress for both you and your loved one.

Register for ABA Therapy

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy can help individuals with autism build essential skills to navigate the holiday season more effectively. Through ABA therapy services, they can learn coping strategies, social skills, and how to manage their emotions in challenging situations. Consider enrolling your child in ABA therapy before the holiday season to ensure they have the necessary tools to thrive during this time.

Prepare for Autism-Friendly Holidays at Empower

Our dedicated team at Empower Behavioral Health specializes in ABA therapy, and we understand the unique needs of individuals with autism during the holiday season. We offer tailored guidance and support to help families and individuals navigate the challenges and embrace the joys of this festive time. Reach out to us today to discover how our ABA therapy programs, including full-time ABA and part-time ABA, can help your child thrive and enjoy the holidays with greater ease.