Holidays are the times when friends and family gets together, enjoy each other’s company, and have a feast.
For some it is a long-awaited time, for others it might be the most dreaded time of the year. It can be stressful either way for anyone to live up to other people’s expectations. There is a lot of pressure to make everything pleasant, good and fun, while we are not running ourselves to the ground. Kids will add to the task, and special need child will certainly can cause a bit more work for parents.
Preparation and planning is always crucial. You know your child the best, so you need to determine what can cause anxiety to your child and start from there. If you need to travel, plan your trip when the child is most rested well fed, and not too tired from the daily activities. Pack their favorite snacks as well as some toys. To read more about traveling with autistic child please click the following links.
If you attend a family reunion, or expecting guests, the best way to prepare the child is to show them pictures of the persons who will be attending the event. If there is video about last year’s event, you can show that to the child, and explain it what was happening, who is who, and what they did. My son is a visual person, and when I show him pictures or videos he gets very engaged, and he will accept that people will be coming to visit us. The truth about this I had done it so many times, I really do not have to show him any pictures anymore, I just tell him a few minutes before the event, and he is fine with it. Social stories come in handy in this situation as well. Talk about the event to the child, and keep reading it and watching it. Using calendars and crossing out the days can also help to prepare the child for an event.
Teach the child how to calm himself when the situation becomes overwhelming for him. If you are at your house it is easy to instruct the child to either go to his room to be in a calm, and safe environment, or designate a quiet place where he can find some peace. While you discussing this issue with him, remind him about the warning signs of anxiety, so he may not be cut off guard, and he can avoid the complete meltdowns. You as a parent should also know all the warning signs, so if your child is not paying attention you will, and you may see some of the early signs and prevent future behavioral problems. For me, when Amin starts being either very quiet, or very noisy I know that is the time to remove him from the action, and give him a little break. He usually doesn’t resist ,and that is certainly a clear sign of him being over stimulated. If you are not at home, when you arrive to your destination, you should examine the place, and find a quiet corner that can be a safe place for your child in case of over-stimulation. I like to address one important point regarding the use of the resting/safe place. These calming places should never be mistaken with time out settings. When you practice self calming with your child , and removal of oneself from the stimuli, a parent should always make sure that the setting is not being mistaken of a time out or disciplinary environment. Once you removed your child calmly, exercise patient and care with him. For example, you may give him a nice massage on arms, or back rub, start their favorite music softly, or gave them some water to drink. Basically make him comfortable.
Prepare family members and friends who are participating in this event, how to approach your special need child, what to avoid, what is his likes and dislikes. We all have relatives and friends (although you can just get rid of ignorant friends, but you stuck with your family) who insist in close physical contact. These persons need to be taught in a kind way how to show affection without hugging and kissing. This can be a bit tricky telling grandma not to hug her grandson, but if you use your words right you might be able to convince her that a high-five might be more preferable at this time for everyone’s sake. Can’t say it will work, but you know your family what works with them so use common sense, and please be an advocate for your child.
Choose the right food, and do not make changes in the child’s diet. When you work hard to stick to the special diet all year, and finally your child accept it and benefit from it, there is no need to change it just because of the holiday feast. If you are the host find the perfect recipe that everyone can enjoy and doesn’t harm your child’s diet. If you are invited, take a dish to the party that your child can eat from. There are so many recipes out there on the internet, in the cook books that can complement your child’s diet and others can enjoy it as well.
During holiday season, shops are more crowded, and noises are louder in all places. Know your child how much he can tolerate, and make sure you do not expose him to too much of a stimuli. Exercise caution while out in the crowd. If you want to read more about this please click on the following links .
Safety is always an issue. During the holiday season we must be more vigilant about our kids. The crowds, all the lights and noises can make them disoriented anxious,and they can wonder or run away. Here is a link to read more about what you can do to prevent tragedy.
My advice here, Do Not Stress Out, enjoy the season and gatherings, and make the best out of every situation.