Here are 5 tips on helping your child through the holiday period:
- Maintain routines. Autistic children generally cope best when they have routines. Routines create structure and predictability, which helps children know what to expect. Where possible try and maintain routines, such as bed-time routines or eating breakfast at the same time each day.
- Schedule down time during the day. As mentioned above, the holidays often bring about many changes for a child. Scheduling some down time into the day may help your child regulate their emotions and sensory challenges. Down time activities can be activities that your child finds soothing. For example, these might be blowing bubbles, reading a book, or listening to music.
- Use visuals. Visuals can help a child understand the changes that are going to occur. Visuals, unlike our words, remain constant for children to refer back to. There are many different types of visuals that you can use depending on your child’s needs. Some examples of visuals that could be used are: a calendar (this can show your child when they are going back to school), daily schedules (these show what is going to happened during the day), and social stories (these are short stories that clearly explain a social situation). A speech pathologist or psychologist can help you understand how and when to use visuals.
- Prepare your child for trips. If you are planning on going away, it is often best to let your child know what to expect. Travelling away from the family home also brings many changes for a child; for example: a different room, a new bed, and different foods. Explaining what to expect can be done using a social story. Having some soothing activities (such as a book, snacks, comfort toys) may help your child regulate their emotions during the travel time.
- Have quiet time. Visiting relatives or friends and/or attending holiday events can be overwhelming for some children. Let your child know about safe places they can go to have some quite time during these outings. Also, prepare them with some strategies they can use to help them self-regulate, such as taking deep breaths or using noise cancelling headphone.