As you prepare for this holiday season, here are some tips to help individuals with autism...
2. Decorations around the house may be disruptive for some. Revisit pictures from previous holidays that show decorations in the house or take them shopping with you for holiday decorations. Involve them in the process of decorating the house.
3. If a person with autism has difficulty with change, you may want to gradually decorate the house.
4. If a person with autism begins to obsess about a particular gift or item they want, it may be helpful to be specific and direct about the number of times they can mention the gift. One suggestion is to give them five chips. They are allowed to exchange one chip for five minutes of talking about the desired gift.
5. Teach them how to leave a situation and/or how to access support when an event becomes overwhelming. The individual should be taught ahead of time that they should go to their space when feeling overwhelmed. Visit the Autism Community Store to learn more on how to create a safe soothing space.
6. If you are traveling for the holidays, make sure you have their favorite foods, books or toys available. Prepare them via social stories or other communication systems for any processes or delays in traveling.
7. Know your loved one with autism and how much noise and activity they can tolerate. If you detect that a situation may be becoming overwhelming, help them find a quiet area in which to regroup.
8. Prepare a photo album in advance of the relatives and other guests who will be visiting during the holidays. Allow the person with autism access to these photos at all times and also go through the photo album with him/her while talking briefly about each family member.
9. Practice opening gifts, taking turns and waiting for others, and giving gifts. Role play scenarios with your child in preparation for him/her getting a gift they do not want.
10. Prepare family members for strategies to use to minimize anxiety or behavioral incidents, and to enhance participation.
11. If the person with autism is on special diet, make sure there is food available that he/she can eat.
12. Above all, know your loved one with autism. Know how much noise and other sensory input they can take. Know their level of anxiety and the amount of preparation it may take. Know their fears and those things that will make the season more enjoyable for them.
Don’t stress. Plan in advance. And most of all have a wonderful holiday season!
Holiday Tips Given to You By the Autism Society of America