The joy of the holiday season is upon us.  However, the disruption in routine can be overwhelming for children with sensitivities.  Unfamiliar sights, interrupted schedules, new foods, and loud celebrations can present challenges.  As the holiday season approaches, it is wise to educate your family members on what to expect at family gatherings throughout the holiday season.

Educate your family on the needs of children with sensitivities when it comes to:

  • Overwhelm and exhaustion
  • Gift-giving
  • Food Alternatives
  • Shortened visits

Let’s take a closer look.

Managing Overwhelm and Exhaustion.

Children with autism are generally most comfortable within a routine structure. Adding new activities, travel, and environments to the schedule can be exhausting and increase anxiety.  In preparation for family activities, inform your family members that you may not make it to every scheduled event. To manage overwhelming moments and exhaustion, carefully plan the activities you will attend and discuss the plan with your child. 

Discuss Gift Giving in Advance.

Educate your family members on the best gift-giving practices and ideas for children with sensitivities. Each child has different behavioural expectations and reactions to gifts; therefore, a gentle reminder that loud noises and bright colors can have an unexpected response is a good idea.  As well, children may say, out loud, if they do not like the gift.  If family members are unaware, reminding them will avoid hurt feelings for well-intended gift givers.   

Alternative Food Options

Some children with sensitivities may experience anxiety around new or foreign foods.  When attending family events, pack a lunch or dinner that your child will enjoy rather than forcing them to try the traditional holiday turkey and trimmings. It is always best to explain this need to the host ahead of time to eliminate any confusion and to let them know you will take care of the individual meal requirements.

Keep Visits Short.

At some celebrations, you may need to slip out early.  Let your family know you may leave ahead of schedule due to excessive noise or stimulants.  Inform your child of the plan for the day, as best you can, to give them a structure and eliminate surprises.  Make mention to the host that activities like family photos may not happen in the traditional sense or may not occur at all, depending on the flow of the day. The more you can manage expectations before the event, the better. 

The best way to help family members understand the needs of your child is to talk to them about expectations.  With the proper education, your family will have a joyous holiday season.  

How the Woodview Learning Centre Can Help

Woodview Learning Centre prepares children with ASD for the holidays with social stories and practiced Christmas scenarios.  Social stories and practice situations inform which children love opening gifts and loud surprises and which children struggle with every part of the holiday festivities.  We encourage using tools, like a timer or visual schedule, to help the children monitor the time they will spend at a relative’s home and provide structure to the holiday activities.  Our goal is to alleviate holiday stress by managing expectations.  For more information on the program, please contact us today.