5 Tips for Making the Holidays Autism-Friendly

Dec 19, 2022 | Anxiety & Depression, Autism, Parenting Tips

5 Tips for Making the Holidays Autism-Friendly

While the holiday season is a time to reflect on your blessings and express gratitude for all the wonderful things in life, it can also be very stressful for people with autism and their families. Here are some tips for making the holidays autism-friendly with autistic individuals, parents of autistic children and their holiday hosts, or guests.

1)  Decorations

Some children, and young adults, with ASD may find the house’s decorations to be disruptive. Reviewing images of the home decorated for prior holidays may be beneficial. If one doesn’t already exist, take advantage of the holiday season to make one. Some may find it beneficial to involve them in the process by taking them with you as you shop for holiday decorations. Or include them in the home-decorating process. And after the holiday decorations are up, you might need to establish rules regarding what can be touched and what cannot. 

2) Traveling?

Make sure you have their favorite snacks, books, or toys on hand.  Possessing familiar objects close at hand might ease tense circumstances. Also, inform them of any unforeseen delays in travel via social media articles or other channels of contact. If it’s your first time traveling, it might be beneficial to bring the person to the airport beforehand so they can get used to the setting. Try using images about traveling, from Google search, as visual aids to practice boarding and flying.

3) Time with extended family

Prepare family members by suggesting methods they can employ to reduce behavioral, or anxiety, outbursts and to increase their involvement. 

Teach them whether the person with autism wants to be embraced or not, whether they require calm conversations, or offer other advice to ensure a more enjoyable Christmas season. In an effort to reduce behavioral outbursts, it may also be beneficial to teach family members to maintain their composure, and neutrality, if the person with ASD becomes upset.

4. For family, be patient and learn to understand your autistic family member

Be aware of how much loudness and other sensory stimulation they can handle. Be aware of how anxious they are and how much time it can take to prepare. Help them locate a peaceful spot to regroup if you notice that a situation might be getting out of hand. Furthermore, there may be some circumstances that you should just avoid (e.g., crowded shopping malls the day after Christmas). Understand their triggers (or fears) and what will enhance their enjoyment of the season. 

5. Prepare the individual with ASD on how to access support when an event becomes overwhelming.

If you are having visitors, have a space set aside for the child as his/her safe/calm space. The individual should be taught ahead of time that they should go to their space when feeling overwhelmed. This self-management tool will serve the individual into adulthood. For those who are not at that level of self-management, develop a signal or cue for them to show when they are getting anxious, and prompt them to use the space. For individuals with more significant challenges, practice using this space in a calm manner at various times prior to your guests’ arrival. Take them into the room and engage them in calming activities (e.g., play soft music, rub his/her back, turn down the lights, etc.). Then when you notice the individual becoming anxious, calmly remove him/her from the anxiety-provoking setting immediately and take him/her into the calming environment.

Preparation is the key, make early plans, try not to worry, and most importantly, enjoy your holiday season!

Harsha Autism Center provides ongoing care for children, adolescents, and young adults (ages 2-22) with autism to improve the quality of their lives. If you would like learn more about how Harsha Autism Center can help please contact us at info@harshaautism.com or call (812) 233-8833.

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