The winter period and holiday season can pose specific challenges for children with autism. While every individual is unique, here are some common challenges that children with autism may face during this time and ways we can address them to give the full support they need.
- Changes in Routine
The holiday season often brings disruptions to regular schedules and routines. Children with autism thrive on predictability, so abrupt changes can lead to anxiety and stress.
Create Visual Schedules to outline the daily routine, including any changes. This helps children anticipate what to expect and reduces anxiety.
Prepare some extra visuals of other places you might need to attend to which are not planned. These are useful to be handy in case you need to visit places that have not been planned before.
- Sensory Overload:
Festive decorations, bright lights, and loud music characteristic of the holiday season can be overwhelming for children with sensory sensitivities. The increased stimuli may lead to sensory overload, causing discomfort and distress.
Provide Sensory Breaks: Designate quiet spaces where children can take breaks if sensory stimulation becomes overwhelming. Bring sensory tools like noise cancelling headphones or fidget toys to manage sensory input.
It’s ok to leave the place early, especially if the tools are not working and the child is too distressed.
- Social Gatherings:
Holiday parties and family gatherings may involve social interactions that can be challenging for children with autism. Crowded and noisy environments can be stressful, and social expectations may create anxiety.
Prepare in Advance: Use social stories or role-playing to prepare children for social interactions. Set realistic expectations and establish a signal or a safe word they can use if feeling overwhelmed.
Bring sensory tools like noise cancelling headphones or fidget toys to manage sensory input.
- Transition Difficulties
The winter break from school can be a significant change for children with autism. The transition from the structured school environment to unstructured time at home may be challenging, requiring additional support and strategies.
Develop a transition plan for the winter break. Gradually adjust the child’s routine in the days leading up to the break to help them adapt to the change.
Use an adapted calendar with visuals to help them understand when school ends, days when special events are planned and when school is going to start again.
- Gift Expectations
Children with autism may have difficulty understanding the concept of gift-giving or may struggle with the surprise element of receiving gifts. Managing expectations and preparing them for potential surprises can be beneficial.
Talk to the child about the concept of gift-giving and receiving. Provide information about the types of gifts they might receive, and if possible, involve them in choosing gifts for others. Show videos on youtube to help them understand better how to respond when a gift is given to them.
These guidance steps aim to create a supportive and inclusive environment for children with autism during the holiday season. It’s important to collaborate with teachers and caregivers to implement these approaches effectively, tailoring them to the individual needs of each child. Additionally, maintaining open communication and flexibility can contribute to a positive and enjoyable experience for children with autism during the holiday season. Speak to us for any support you need, that is why we are here.
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