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Celebrating Hanukkah With Your Child On The Autism Spectrum

Article excerpt from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia 

The holiday season may be a challenge for all of us. Parents are stressed with expectations of providing gifts for all, children are expected to be well-behaved in new places, and everyone is out of sorts because of the change in the household routine. The mass media expects us to all enjoy winter holidays…. Families with children on the autism spectrum may have mixed feelings. It is always best to plan for what you can anticipate and expect to be surprised by what you do not expect.

The holidays are a time when your child, who thrives on routines and sameness, may be forced out of his or her comfort zone. Schools close for winter breaks, necessitating a change in routine. Children may be asked to visit unfamiliar places, try new things, be in the company of many people (some of whom are strangers), eat different foods, and … they are expected to enjoy the sights and smells of the season!

The world seems to be celebrating the winter season, and Hanukah is part of the party!

The following are a few ideas to consider:

  • There are so many celebrations! Consider whether to attend all, none, or perhaps arrive for the last part of the holiday party, or leave early, before a “melt-down” occurs.
  • Make the candle lighting part of the holiday routine. Light the candles each night at approximately the same time, before or after dinner, before dessert, or perhaps before distributing gifts.
  • Plan ahead for the holiday, and begin to talk about it. Perhaps note on a calendar the day you begin to light the Menorah. If there is any other special event planned, note it on the calendar as well.
  • If you do travel or go on day trips, pack a “safety bag” with your child’s favorite calming toys. These may be stress balls, video games (fully charged), and headphones to muffle sound as well as to listen to favorite music.
  • Bring foods and snacks that you know your child will enjoy. While the holiday treats are favorites for many of us, not all children on the autism spectrum enjoy the different tastes, textures, and smells. Potato latkes and applesauce may not be your child’s favorite. If chicken nuggets are what your child enjoys most, and they are not on the menu, bring some along. This will be one less complication to deal with.

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