Article excerpt from Autism Awareness Centre
Christmas can be a magical time filled with decorations, treats, presents, twinkling lights, and excitement. It can also be a stressful time for autistic people because of schedule changes, visitors, sensory overload and unpredictability.
Here are ten tips to help make this holiday season an autism-friendly one.
- Maintain routines for predictability. Try to stick with routines like bedtime, bath time and meals. If that’s impossible, try to keep one routine in place so that a person has something they can count on being the same. Kids like predictability. If there will be a change in routine, let your child know ahead of time on the visual schedule.
- Pick the right time to do activities. With everyone on Christmas break, most attractions will be busier. Call ahead and ask when the less busy times are. Matinees are better than evening shows. If eating out, get there by 5 pm or after 7 pm and make a reservation to avoid wait times. A Sunday may be quieter than a Saturday; mornings are usually better at most places.
- Allot time for quiet periods. There are a lot more sensory overloading experiences happening at this time of the year so allow for periods of rest and quiet. Taking a break from tech devices can also reduce stimulation.
- Let visitors know your expectations. Let potential visitors know that unannounced visits are stressful. Ask that they call ahead and come at times that work for your family. Limit how long they stay ahead of time. (i.e. – We’d love to see you for an hour, but then Michael has to go for a nap or we’ll be going out at this time.)
- Respect special/restricted diets. If a person follows a special diet, let everyone know and ask them not to offer food. Well-meaning people think a child is missing out if they don’t try all the Christmas treats. Parents know the consequences of dietary changes. Having a child that is sick or won’t sleep due to what they ate is no fun. This may also not be an ideal time to try new foods with all that is going on.