Christmas is a time for everyone to enjoy. With the change in routine, the surprises under the tree, the family gatherings etc… it can be a very stressful time for children on the spectrum. Here are 10 practical tips from Sue Larkey for a happy ASD Christmas.
1. Use visuals and schedules
Make sure the child knows the schedule for each day as soon as you know it.
2. Keep them in the know
Clearly identify any changes in the daily routine and PRE-WARN – even the slightest change can be upsetting for the child if they don’t know it is coming.
3. Understand their challenges
Church, concerts etc can be sensory overwhelming for some children – have them sit on the end of rows (not in the middle) and let them leave if it becomes too much. Let them wear earplugs or an iPod if they have sensitive hearing.
4. Find ways that help their deal with challenges
Use sensory toys as they often calm best when they have something in their hands.
5. Keep Busy
Give the child jobs to do to occupy them. The more focused and clear their job the less stress they have.
6. Help them understand
Write a social story about rules around presents. For example “Sometimes we get presents we like” Sometimes we het presents we don’t like” then talk about saying thank you and what to do.
7. Make social exchanges less confusing
Make a list of all the people they will see at Christmas gatherings and let the child know “how to greet this person” ie Grandma likes a 10 second hug, Grandpa likes a Handshake, etc…
8. Set times
Use the time timer or clock so the child knows HOW long they are going to stay at people’s houses, PLEASE don’t extend this could cause a meltdown. If possible take two cars so you have a quick escape if necessary.
9. Know their triggers
Beware of sensory issues like balloons, party poppers, music, food smells, new clothes and MORE!
10. No surprise is a good surprise
Most important for kids with ASD – NO Surprise is a Good Surprise. Pre-warn, Pre-warn, Pre-warn! Even label on the outside of gifts with photos/words what is INSIDE the wrapping.