Surviving Christmas when your child has Autism
Christmas Holidays can be stressful for any parent but two weeks off of school/preschool is a different routine for our Special Need’s children and can cause stress and anxiety in our children. Here are some of my tips to survive the Christmas Holidays.
- PECS – PEC Cards are very helpful to show children with Autism what to expect, it really helps them understand what is happening visually and what to expect.
- Visual calendar – This is great for showing Christmas events and family gathering happening over a busy and already unfamiliar time. Talk your child through the day beforehand, photos and PECS will help this. But remember you know your child, always have a plan B if your child has trouble coping.
- Try not to take your child out shopping at this busy time of year, its overwhelming for us let alone our children with sensory processing disorder. Order online or try and go first time in the morning. Also look out for Autism friendly shopping events.
- Home is normally the safe haven for our children so if they feel overloaded they can have somewhere to retreat to,like a tent with cushions and lights or even a place in the house they prefer. Over the holidays it’s likely you will be visiting family so make sure you have an ‘essential bag’ or a ‘sensory bag. This may have headphones, lights, bubbles, a toy your child loves, and of course iPad. Make sure you advise family that your child may need a break and to not take it personally.
- Family meeting – Before heading out maybe have a family meeting on way’s and plans if your child is finding it hard and you can all help. Or noticing signs of anxiety. It will lessen the stress if out for your child, the parents and siblings.
- Don’t overbook your children’s Christmas break, Christmas break is also for relaxing. There is nothing wrong with staying in PJ’s and chilling in.
- Christmas dinner – If your child is like mine they may be a selective eater or have a sensory processing disorder or food intolerances. Don’t stress out if your child doesn’t want a ‘traditional’ Christmas dinner, or they would prefer fish fingers cook that. It’s more important for them to enjoy the day and feel familiar and enjoy the food right?!
- Take away unnecessary stress or anxiety that our children may feel, show them photos of the family members they may be seeing this will help them feel comfortable.
- Relax any expectations of Christmas, you will see Christmas from a whole other experience from your child’s eyes.
- Father Christmas – Rework the story of Father Christmas, and read/tell or show it to your child in a way that your child will understand it. I realise that Jacob could learn everything its just the way we teach him. We will be doing Elf on the shelf this year but doing a whole different take on it.
- Presents – Opening presents can be super overwhelming for our special needs children. Try spacing out the presents throughout the day or through the week, we did this last year and even had presents unopened in February. However, Jacob has a lot more understanding this year. Leave some presents unwrapped, we leave some presents out the box and made up to make it simple and easy for Jacob to instantly play with and enjoy without getting overstimulated with excitement or the dreading waiting.
- Purchase toys you know will help your children – I have a list here on some of the toys we’ve purchased for Jacob this year.
- Also, one of my biggest tips is to relax – when we’re stressed or worried our energy rubs off on to our little ones who are very sensitive. Enjoy, and don’t have expectations, go with the flow and take the lead from our children.
- Routine and sleep are super important – We always try to keep sleep time and bath time the same as Jacob’s sleep is brilliant at the moment and we find he is really on top form when he gets a good sleep. But there will be a time when it will be late. Don’t stress and get back into it as soon as you can.
These were some of my tip’s to have a less stressful Christmas for our children and us parents too. I would love to hear if these will help and also hear some of your tips below.