Seeing an increase in your child’s challenging behavior during the holidays?
Many children on the autism spectrum exhibit challenging behavior during the holidays. The best thing for parents to know is that you are not alone. What many people perceive as a time to celebrate with gifts, food, and visiting family can become very stressful for children with autism.
Lights, trees, ornaments, wreaths, candles, presents, nativities, Santa, Elf on the Shelf, reindeer, stuffed snowmen, and other decorations often fill houses during the holidays. All of these holiday decorations can be a sensory overload for your child or they may enjoy the sensory stimulation. You know what your child will enjoy and when the new look might become visually overwhelming which could trigger a meltdown. Just remember that your child won’t have a higher threshold than usual just because it’s the holiday season.
There are several actions parents can take to help alleviate the stress and help manage their autistic child’s behavior.
Actionable items to alleviate the impact of the holidays
“It’s important to remember to celebrate the small victories throughout the holidays. Your child opening a present for the first time, or saying ‘Merry Christmas’, or hugging grandma, or being able to sit through their first church service.”
Review these items to help manage challenging behavior during the holidays.
1. Are lights and other decorations triggers? – If you have other children, and want to bring in the holiday spirit without overdoing it, consider limiting the decorations downstairs to help your child with autism cope and letting those kiddos add extra decorations to their rooms instead
2. Parties – It’s okay to be selective about the parties you decide to go to. You don’t need to attend every event, especially those that have rigid expectations like fancy clothing and quiet voices. Seek out places that are accepting and welcoming. Give your child time to acclimate when you arrive and give your child a space they can retreat to if the party becomes overwhelming.
3. Reach out for help – If you really need or want to go to a special party, a church service, or out caroling, ask for support. There’s nothing wrong with asking for respite care from friends or family so you can recharge and enjoy an activity you love.
Take a moment to enjoy progress
It’s important to remember to celebrate the small victories throughout the holidays. Your child opening a present for the first time, or saying ‘Merry Christmas’, or hugging grandma, or being able to sit through their first church service.
Over time, your child may begin to become a more passionate holiday celebrator. With multiple holiday seasons comes a routine that many children with autism thrive on. The structure of traditions may appeal to your child and mean that they begin to enjoy your version of Christmas, whatever that may look like.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call (812) 233-8833.