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Home for the holidays: Ways to make sure your autistic child enjoys their break

Article excerpt from Autism Speaks

Holidays can be challenging for children with autism. Time away from school, disruptions in schedule, celebrations, and time spent with many people can be overwhelming, says Martha C., a member of our Autism Response Team and mom of an autistic son. Here she shares her tips for helping her son adjust to the change in routine, enjoy the decorations, make the most out of holiday gatherings, and prepare him for present time.

Structuring time away from school.

Planning and communication are keys to making sure the change in routine over the holiday break goes smoothly.

Before the break

  • Communicate with your child about what it means to have time off from school. Discuss what the break is like being home on a weekend, just longer.
  • Connect with your child’s support team. Consistency and structure can be helpful for your child during breaks from school and services. Ask about supports that can help maintain your child’s progress and provide a routine during the break from school.
  • Prepare your child a few weeks in advance. If your child likes to have countdowns or reminders, mark the days on a calendar so your child has a visual representation of when the break will be. Cross off the days on the calendar as you get closer to the holiday break.

During the break

  • Keep as much structure in your child’s life as you can.
  • Allow time for breaks. Help your child self-regulate and deal with challenging emotions or behavior or with sensory discomfort by planning breaks. If your child will be spending time at activities away from home, schedule some quiet time during the day.
  • Be flexible. Your child may decide at the last minute that they’d rather stay home instead of going out for an activity. If possible, choose another day or time.
  • Look for local activities or programs during the time off from school. Visit our Resource Guide and calendar of autism-friendly events to find activities in your local area. Be sure to check your local guidelines for restrictions you may need to follow when participating in activities or even leaving the home. There may be fewer activities and they may look a little different this year but be creative and explain to your child why these changes are important to stay safe and healthy.
  • If your child attends school virtually, you may want to keep up with some online learning activities so the transition back to school after the New Year will be easier.

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