It’s the week of one of the biggest holidays of the year and one of the busiest travel times! For parents, juggling last minute holiday preparations, days off from school, travel arrangements and other parental responsibilities can be taxing. Add the task of caring for the needs of a child with ASD during this time and the challenges take on a whole new dimension!
It’s easier said than done to not only help your child feel less stressed during this hurried time, but to also feel less stressed yourself is just as important! Here are some tips on dealing with common problems that you can employ to breathe just a little bit easier when preparing for this holiday season and the potential challenges that you might face with a child with ASD.
1. Plan ahead for special diet restrictions. If you are going to someone’s home for the holidays, there is nothing wrong with discussing your child or families special diet needs ahead of time. Volunteer to bring dishes that fit your diet needs. Offer recipes that eliminate restricted elements.
2. Make sure to keep a routine. Schedules are very beneficial for this. If your child follows a schedule at school, try to mimic this schedule as closely as possible because your child is already used to and comfortable with this schedule. Ask your child’s teacher ahead of time for copies of icons used on the schedule at school. They may even be able to make a schedule for you to use through the holidays.
3. Plan ways for your child to get the sensory input that they need and get breaks from large groups of people or sensory overload. You can pack a sensory bag that contains items for your child to use in these moments.
4. Pack a travel bag to help keep your child occupied during travel whether by car, train or another method of transportation. Make sure to include a variety of activities. If it is a long trip, you can pack two bags that can be used. That way, if your child gets tired of one bag of items, you can use the second bag. Make sure to plan snacks and breaks for the trip. Include bathroom times that fit the schedule your child is used to.
5. Anytime possible, find teaching moments. Holidays and breaks from schools are a great time to work on generalizing skills that your child has learned. Make sure to let family members and friends that you are around know things that you will be targeting (i.e. greeting people, asking for things).
6. Be as consistent as possible with behavior plans already in place. Make sure to take any behavior charts or data sheets with you. Make sure anyone who will be around your child knows how to interact with him and what to do when a behavior occurs.
The best thing you can do if you will be around family and friends is to prepare them ahead of time. Write a letter telling what your child has been learning, activities that they find enjoyable, behaviors and how to deal with them, as well as specifics on how to interact with them. People sometimes act standoffish if they don’t know what to do. Be proactive in helping others feel comfortable and confident in their interactions with your child so that they can have as enjoyable a time as possible this holiday season.