The holiday season is around the corner, bringing special events, vacations, delicious food, and unique experiences that only happen once a year. However enjoyable this season is, it does alter the typical routines kids have when in school and for those on the Autism Spectrum or with other developmental disabilities, this disruption can be stressful and difficult to adapt to.
To help prepare your child for the festivities ahead and to help reduce their anxieties, here are a few of our favourite tips.
Please do keep in mind that these are general recommendations and that the strategies you end up using should be tailored to your child’s needs and level of understanding.
Having visual aids are a perfect tool that resonate specifically with non-verbal individuals. Use of visual aids should begin as a first step roughly a week before you begin decorating or before school activities start up.
- Wall calendar marking events like Christmas Break, arrival of visiting relatives, etc.
- Advent calendars are excellent to show the countdown to events and act as a form of positive reinforcement (if you child has dietary restrictions, there are neat LEGO calendars available!)
- Christmas artwork booklet that can be used to play with Christmas themed stickers or for painting.
Waiting is hard. Our kids respond well to more concrete concepts like cause and effect.
- Baking is a favourite holiday pastime; try out some recipes with your child, it will keep them busy and engaged in an activity that has a delicious positive reinforcement as an outcome!
- Keep presents hidden away until closer to the time your child will actually be opening them.
When the season is in full swing there are a number of things you can do to equip your child with the necessary supports and accommodations.
- Help them avoid the hallway hustle at school. Let them arrive and leave the Christmas concert at different times than the rest of the students.
- Provide them with noise-cancelling headphones, sunglasses, fidget spinners or other sensory aids.
- Help positively reinforce activities with small gifts or treats.
Overall, during the Christmas season you will want to try and keep your child’s routine as predictable and consistent as possible – this could include sticking to their in-school wake-up time and snacking schedule. And as always, make sure you continue your communication with their teachers and school counsellors; it will be very beneficial to have them keep you informed ahead of time on what kinds of holiday activities will be happening at school and help you arrange the necessary accommodations for your child.