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Holidays with Individuals on the Spectrum

Holidays can be challenging to children, teens and adults with autism as there are many changes in routine as well as many more people to meet/see. Add travel and you have even more stressors. It doesn’t mean that you avoid celebrations and holiday travel. Prepping is the key. As much as possible prepare (visual or written best) what they might expect at an activity or in a travel situation. Of course you can’t prep for everything that might happen so it’s important to put a “change up” into the visual or written prep just in case something happens that was not thought of. It’s fun to have your child/teen come up with a term for change up so when it happens you both say it together……..adding some humor to the situation. Remember during holiday parties or get togethers it is important to give your child/teen some “down time”. Ask if there might be a quiet space for him/her to spend time during the festivities (don’t leave in there the whole time–we do want for the child/teen to be a part of the holiday and to learn ways to be with others, even when stressful). There are foods that may be part of the holiday season that the child/teen isn’t used to or may not like. It’s best not to force these on them during this time. And, it’s best to keep in mind that it’s not the parents’ fault or the host’s fault or the child/teen’s fault if the social gathering becomes too much for the child/teen with autism to handle. It’s best not to assign any kind of blame to anyone, because there is no fault. Finding a quiet place for the child to regain a sense of calm is often the best solution. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a prosperous new year as we enter a new decade! Aloha!