It’s the Holiday Season, and @ Opya is sharing tips throughout the next month from experts to help you reduce holiday stress. Today’s tip comes from @amazeautism
How to make Christmas magical for autistic children, from parents who know
Amy Packham, the life writer at HuffPost, has discovered bright lights, loud music, sitting on a stranger’s knee and busy crowds can make the festive season a period of panic and dread for autistic people.
“As the nights draw in and the bonfire embers fizzle out, the countdown for Christmas for the rest of the world begins in earnest, but for my son, this triggers a period of uncertainty,” says Michelle Myers, mum of a 13-year-old autistic son, Owen.
“For Owen, Christmas means unexpected visitors, sensory overload, and changes to his world.
Steph Curtis with Sasha and Tamsin.
“The anticipation of presents under the tree causes him huge anxiety. Most children love counting down to the big day on their novelty chocolate calendars, but this building tension only adds to his worry,” Myers tells Packham.
Myers’ son, Packham adds, is not alone.
“Christmas can be a very overwhelming period for autistic children,” explains Tom Purser, head of campaigns at the National Autistic Society (NAS). “It is a time that brings new and often overbearing sounds, sights, and tastes, as well as unexpected changes in schedules and an increase in social interactions.
“A recent NAS survey revealed that 64% of autistic adults and children avoid going to the shops and we anticipate an increase over Christmas as shops during the festive period are busier, brighter, and noisier and therefore can trigger a sensory overload.”
Steph Curtis has an autistic daughter Sasha, who is 10. The biggest struggle Sasha has at this time of year is anticipation.
“Waiting for anything is not her strong point, and her anxiety levels get raised very easily,” Curtis said. “She can just about wait until Christmas day for her presents, but the tension has built a lot by then, so any little upset (such as a toy not having batteries) is more likely than usual to cause a meltdown.”
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