Holidays are known to bring waves of joy and excitement into homes. While most families are excited about the upcoming holiday season, families with children who have autism are preparing for challenges of their own. Dr. Heba Shatah, Founder and Director of the Child Early Intervention Center and Skills Education Center, has put forth some essential tips for families who have children with autism.
1. Giving and receiving gifts
Receiving gifts can get a little too exciting for children so we can help them understand polite giving and receiving of gifts.
Encourage children to participate in the gift-giving process by letting them pick the gifts and wrap them
Teach children to receive gifts through role-play of accepting gifts and thanking for it.
Help them write thank you cards, so they understand how to thank people politely for gifts.
2. Energy during holidays
Holidays often mean sweet treats and delayed bedtimes. Use the following strategies to manage energy levels and make bedtime successful.
Keep children active during the day with outdoor activities, so they are tired by night.
Limit their consumption of sweet treats as they are high in sugar and caffeine and cause children to be overly active during bedtime.
Have a regular sleep routine for children during on holidays by planning activities that motivate them to wake up early and get ready for the day.
3. Schedules and routine during holidays
Make as little changes as you can in children’s schedule during holidays as children may have difficulty with the new routine. These tips help make their holiday schedules less stressful.
Have a holiday calendar listing all the events and activities in writing, drawing, or picture format depending on the child’s understanding level.
Start the day with the calendar and prepare children by helping them understand what is going on and when.
Engage children by letting them add new events to the calendar and explain why it is necessary to attend certain important events.
If there are debatable events, prepare the child and explain the things expected, and include children's input into decisions about attending the event.
By following these tips, Dr. Heba hopes that families can reduce stress and have a happy holiday season.