12 Tips to Make Christmas More Comfortable for Children With ASD

The holiday season has just begun. It is a time for fun family gatherings, surprises under the tree, gifts, attending Mass, and so on. In short, these 3-4 weeks are going to be hectic and stressful for you! For children who are on the spectrum, the holiday season can be stressful too! While the holidays are meant to be fun and enjoyable, families with children with ASD may have mixed feelings. To tackle this holiday season, here are some tips on making Christmas more comfortable for children with ASD.

We at Stepping Stones consider it prudent to anticipate the unexpected. Children with ASD thrive on sameness and routines, and the holiday season effectively pushes them out of their comfort zone. They will be asked to visit new places, try unfamiliar foods, meet and mingle with new people, get exposed to bright lights - all of which can be stressful for your little one.

Tip #1: Schedule your entire holiday season. Make sure your child is familiar with the schedule. You can display it in their rooms or on the refrigerator.

Tip #2: Pre-warn your children. During the holiday season, we may miss tiny details, or something creeps in at the last moment. So, when you know that something like this may happen, let your child know in advance that changes in the schedule may occur. This will better prepare her to handle the situation.

Tip #3: Have a safety net bag. Pack a bag with your child’s favorite toys. You can use calming sensory toys. Pack earplugs as well. During this Christmas season, you may be attending concerts, church, plays, and various other crowded events - we recommend carrying effective pair of earplugs that your child can use in case of a sensory overload.

Tip #4: Always sit at the end of aisles. This makes it easier for you to leave, in case your child feels anxious.

Tip #5: Give your child small jobs to keep them occupied. As children have a lot of time on their hands during the holiday season, you can assign them a few fun tasks that will push them to focus. You wouldn’t believe how effective they can be at helping your child feel calm and focused.

Tip #6: Have a safety net bag for food. Children with ASD tend to be picky about their food choices. They may not be comfortable with the food spread that is being served at a party. You will have one thing less to worry about if you have a safety net food bag.

Tip #7: Have a quiet and calm place where you and your child can settle down, in case he becomes over stimulated. You could talk to the hostess beforehand and explain that you would need a room to calm your child down. Your car can also function as a makeshift quiet spot.

Tip #8: Make a list of all the cousins and friends who you expect to see during the holiday season. Also, you could make the list even more comprehensive, by mentioning how to greet specific individuals. For example, your sister would want to hug your child, make sure you write this piece of information so that your child is ready for the hug.

Tip #9: Write a social story about receiving presents. To elaborate, write something for when your child gets a present he likes or does not like – the response in both situations should be ‘thank you.’ Some children may act out if they don’t receive the present they want.

Tip #10: Manage time effectively. During the holiday season, whenever you take your children out, make sure you prepare them on the amount of time you would be spending outside. Also, stick to the time that you have mentioned to your child. A leeway of fifteen minutes may be tolerable and acceptable but pushing it too far can be overwhelming for your child. In case you are occupied with something else, you can ask your partner to take your child home.

What tips have you used to ensure an enjoyable holiday season? Do share with us in comments below.

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