"It's the Most Wonderful Time of the year!!!"... or so the song goes. But not so much for too many of our families and loved ones with ASD. This next month I will post several different resources to help us all prepare (and survive) the Holiday season and make it as enjoyable for our loved ones with ASD. Here is a wonderful article I found on the website for Bradley Hospital in Rhode Island. Not too wordy, just right for us on the run! Bookmark the site so you can read it at work or while your kids are sleeping: http://www.bradleyhospital.org/parenting-resources/autism-and-the-holidays.html
Be well and be blessed!
Autism and the Holidays: Sensory Overload
The hustle and bustle of the holidays can be especially stressful for children who have autism.
last-minute shopping trips to holiday parties and family gatherings,
the holiday season is often a stressful time for parents. But for
children with autism spectrum disorder who rely on structure and
routine, the hustle and bustle of the holidays can be extremely
unsettling, according to experts from Bradley Hospital.
This is particularly true for children who also have sensory
processing issues and may be overwhelmed by the overabundance of lights,
sights, sounds and smells during the holidays. This distress can often
impact the entire family.
Maintaining the current structure and routine for your child may not
always be possible during the holidays, but there are ways to help
reduce your child's anxiety while increasing your family's enjoyment of
the holiday season, say experts from the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities at Bradley Hospital.
The key to preparing for the inevitable changes that come with the
holidays is to provide your child with early cues of what will be taking
place. For some, this might require depicting with words or pictures
exactly what will and will not occur at each event. The following tips can make the holidays more fun for everyone involved:
Visiting If you will be visiting relatives or
friends, let the child know in advance where you are going, who will be
there when you arrive, what you will do when you are there and the time
you plan to arrive and leave. Follow the same protocol if relatives or
friends will be visiting your home. Parents may also want to ensure that
a quiet area has been identified where the child with autism can go and
relax if the activities become too overwhelming.
Holiday shopping Holiday shopping with a child
who has autism spectrum disorder may present its own set of challenges,
especially when the stores are crowded and noisy. Make a list that
identifies the items you're shopping for and do not roam the stores
trying to decide what to buy. Keeping the trip short and being organized
will help minimize the potential for the child to become overwhelmed
and have a "meltdown" in the middle of a store.
Decorations Holiday decorations inside the
house--including bright and blinking lights, wreaths, trees, candles and
stacks of presents --could be areas of concern. Parents know best what
their child with autism enjoys and at what point things may become
overwhelming. However, parents should not expect that their child has a
higher tolerance simply because it's the holiday season.
Preparing siblings Since the holidays are a
time for the whole family to enjoy, it's important to make siblings
aware of how stressful this season can be for their brother or sister
with autism. Before the holiday season begins, take the time to remind
children of their sibling's sensory issues, communication difficulties,
low frustration tolerance and likes and dislikes. Parents can then share
the family's strategy for avoiding potential issues and discuss what
they will do if their best efforts are unsuccessful.
We often put pressure on ourselves to make the holidays perfect, which is unrealistic.
In the end, the most important thing to remember is that the holidays
are a time to cherish one another and the joy of being together. Whether
it's scaling back or starting new traditions, celebrate in a way that
makes the most sense for your family and is something that you, your
child and the entire family will all enjoy.
For more information about Bradley Hospital's Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities, please visit: http://www.lifespan.org/bradley/services/ddp/default.htm
It's no secret that my little guy is terrified of Halloween. He is terrified of costumes and strangers; put the two together and it's sheer panic! Coincidentally, this week at school he was introduced to a superhero character named Superflex. He is part of the Social Thinking curriculum and has been a godsend for my little man! You see, my little guy has been having a very hard time at school (surprise!). But the thing that's been so hard is not school itself, it's feeling so remorseful and responsible when things don't go well. He's somehow internalized that this is all his fault (sound familiar?)... enter Superflex and his team of Unthinkables! Superflex is the hero inside your brain who defeats the Unthinkable villains who are making your brain do things that aren't helpful, like getting stuck, being rigid, etc. I'm not doing this justice, so here's where you can learn more: https://www.socialthinking.com/books-products/products-by-age-range/grades-3-5/superflex-a-superhero-social-thinking-curriculum-package-detail
Here's what is so fantastic: my little guy's private speech therapist knows all about Superflex. We had OT and speech on Halloween and were ready to have to cancel because of the costumes, etc. Well, his speech therapist came up with the idea to dress up as Superflex at the clinic and try to conquer his fear! HOW AWESOME WAS THAT?!?!?! It worked! He went and even put on the cape! So...I had to introduce all my readers to this awesome character and give you guys a great little visual handout I found on Pinterest. As always, I will cite my sources. This is Superflex right from the Social Thinking website (link listed above):
And here is the awesome visual to help kids think flexibly: