The holiday season is upon us and that means one thing: It’s time to hide under the covers until it’s safe to come out again! Wait, that’s not right. Everyone deserves to enjoy this time of year, but if you’re an autism family, the holidays pose many challenges. Sensory overload, dietary restrictions, and unpredictable and overflowing schedules can all contribute to a stressful season for individuals with autism. Amazing parents, friends, and family members like you are determined to make the holidays a magical and safe time for your loved one on the spectrum, but if you’re anything like me, you often find yourself coming up short on ways you can ensure your loved one’s specific and unique needs are being met.
Monica Holloway, author of the bestselling memoir Cowboy and Wills - about her son with autism and the golden retriever who changed his life- has created a list of tips to help you stay on track and make the holidays more successful for the entire family:
· Use visuals. Social stories or calendars can help your child prepare for and understand the activities ahead.
· Practice. Role-playing holiday routines can help your child to prepare for holiday traditions in advance.
· Gradually decorate. If your child doesn’t like change, slowly decorate your home in stages.
· Create a photo album of holiday guests. Prior to relatives and guests visiting, make and look through a photo album with your child to familiarize him or her with expected visitors.
· Ensure allergy/diet-friendly foods are available. If your loved one has a dietary or allergy restriction, make sure to bring or have food at holiday events that he or she can eat.
· Arrive early. Allowing the noise and crowd to gradually build up may help your child better acclimate to the surroundings.
· Have a quiet room. In case the noise or crowds become overwhelming, have a calm, quiet place for your loved one to retreat to.
· Help others understand autism. Prepare family and friends on your child’s strengths and challenges, and invite them to be a part of the support team.
Visuals are imperative for my son Andrew, who relies on social stories that I create using Pictello, a wonderful app by AssisitveWare. I also love Monica’s suggestion for a quiet room. We always make sure to have somewhere for Andrew to go where he feels safe and has a chance to decompress from the noise and crowds. And of course, using the holidays as an opportunity to educate extended family members and friends is a wonderful way to spread awareness and encourage everyone to be part of your loved one’s successful holiday season!
Alright, now that we’ve covered the tips, let’s get down to the giveaway! ONE winner will receive a signed copy of Cowboy and Wills by Monica Holloway! Save if for yourself or gift if to that special autism parent in your life!
Leave a comment on this post letting me know the biggest challenge your loved one with autism faces during the holiday season. (1 entry)
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Giveaway ends on Wednesday, November 27th at 6:00 p.m. Winner will be contacted via email and announced on our Facebook Fan Page. Good Luck!