Children with ASD want routine in their lives. Knowing precisely how things are going to unfold gives them a sense of peace.
Unfortunately, there are regular disruptions to their itinerary, particularly Christmas. When the holidays roll around, everything changes. Family members come over, people open presents, and schools shut.
For parents, it can be a challenging time. ASD children may not understand what’s going on. Or if they do, they don’t like it.
The good news is that there are many ways that you can make the holidays more manageable. Here are some things that you can try:
Prepare both yourself and your child for the Christmas festivities. Explain that life will change for a while and that the usual routine won’t apply. Give your child an itinerary for each day and explain what will happen. Don’t force it on them. Just casually remind them that things are a little different around Christmas time and that they should start preparing now.
Get Them Ready For Travel
ASD children and their families typically travel around a lot during the holiday season, whether it’s to grandma’s house for a brunch or to your cousin’s for a long weekend. If you know you’re going to travel, talk about it in advance. Tell your children if you’re going on a long car journey or on the train. If you can, try to get them excited about the idea of travel instead of seeing it as something that breaks their routine.
Create A Calming Atmosphere
For ASD parents, the top candle scents for the holiday are any that produce feelings of calm and relaxation. Sage, lavender and cinnamon are all great ideas.
You’ll notice that this aromatherapy helps to soothe your child. Certain compounds in herbs and spices have a calming effect on the brain, reducing anxiety and producing feelings of wellbeing.
Find Out How They Want To Celebrate
ASD children can feel powerless over the Christmas period. Everything around them seems to be happening outside of their control.
Because of this, parents should unequivocally ask them how they would like to celebrate. Don’t worry if you get an answer that sounds strikingly similar to their regular routine: that’s okay. Giving your child some ownership will lessen anxiety and may, actually, eliminate it altogether. Ideally, you want the holidays to form a part of your child’s routine so that he or she is happy the next time they come around.
Don’t Worry If Things Go A Bit Wrong
Despite your best efforts to make Christmas a pleasant experience for everyone in your family, things will inevitably go wrong. It’s a good idea, therefore, to approach the season with as few expectations as you can. ASD children may still display behaviors that you don’t like, but that’s okay. It’s all part of the experience. The holidays don’t have to be perfect.
Lastly, reduce noise levels as much as you can. ASD children experience more severe disturbances than others. Keep music, fireworks and other explosions (including belching) to a minimum.
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