Plan Successful Holidays For Your Autistic Child With These 8 Tips

 20th November 2023

Research reveals that 87% of parents are reluctant to travel and take family vacations with their autistic child.

Holidays can be tricky for autistic children and not only that, planning an autistic-friendly holiday season can be tough for guardians, parents, and their loved ones. However, the good news is that for every problem you might encounter while planning holidays, there are real-world solutions that can be implemented to avoid such issues. Read on to come across some preparation tips so that the holidays can be a wonderful experience both for the child and yourself.

Tips To Enjoy Holidays With Your Autistic Child

Here are some of the top suggestions to make your holiday season bright and enjoy them with your family without any pain:

  1. Avoid Sensory Issues

    Most autistic children have strong negative reactions to loud noises, strong smells, flavors, and bright lights. These holidays might sometimes feel like a sensory assault and hence it might lead to a possibility of a sensory meltdown. Thus, make sure to avoid sensory challenges and choose sensory-friendly options to avoid overwhelming and soothing the child.

    If there are no muted holiday offerings available, try to select a place that has gently changing lights, soft music, and low-key decorations. Plan events that limit the chances of sensory overload while allowing your child to enjoy the retreat and break.

  2. Establish A Routine

    Many autistic children thrive in situations that are predictable and consistent. Therefore, holidays are just the opposite. It is full of new people and major changes in the eating, sleeping, and playing routine. These can sometimes be too much to handle for the autistic child. Thus, pick and choose the changes they can handle themselves easily.

    Plan and practice behaviors ahead of time to make your child ready to handle something new. If you know things won't work out, then avoid attending events with loud noises, flashing lights, and a lot of people.

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  3. Coping Mechanisms For Extended Family

    Holidays can be tough for autistic children when they have extended family coming over. This is because, the extended family might fail to recognize and address the needs of the autistic child, leading to complications. So, how do you cope with so many expectations? Pre-plan and share with the family to ensure there are no negative reactions.

    If you are traveling out for your vacation, bring your necessities to maintain their equilibrium. Explain their specific needs to the family members and ask them to help you out while sharing responsibilities. When nothing works, have a safe space for your child like a quiet dark room to manage their responses.

  4. Introduce Changes Slowly

    A major change for your child all at once can be too much to handle. Hence, introduce the changes slowly and gradually. Introduce the idea of holiday decorations and let your child pick the materials. Ask your child to help you to make them more comfortable and realize the idea of change.

    Explain to them beforehand about what they are about to experience, what they will see and hear, and the new people they will meet. Doing this will make changes less overwhelming and they will be able to transition smoothly.

  5. Be Prepared

    Since, you know your child best, be better prepared for different scenarios that might take place during the holidays. If you feel like your child will get overwhelmed, then use several of their favorite toys to distract them and keep them calm and composed.

    Have a place for them to get away from family time and relax and unwind. Also, prepare your family about your child's needs and boundaries to make sure they are not touched or hugged without their consent.

  6. Manage Your Expectations

    Have a positive and realistic set of expectations when it comes to your autistic child blending in with a new environment or people. Keep an optimistic view and if your child doesn't like it do not go for an extravagant plan.

    Consider their needs and ideal situations and make adjustments along the way to offer an ideal holiday. Also consider their health, comfort, and safety needs to avoid any new crisis that might occur.

  7. Avoid Crowds

    For kids with sensory sensitivities dealing with crowds can be tough. They are more likely to misbehave, free, or melt down in front of new people. In such cases avoiding crowds can be an easy solution. However, if your house is going to be crowded over the holidays, make sure you take appropriate solutions.

    Plan activities to reduce the sensory overloads and use the technique of backward chaining to involve your child in the holiday activities and teach them about your family traditions.

  8. Be Gentle With Yourself

    Amidst all the chaos and expectations, it is necessary to take care of yourself. It is normal to feel frustrated when your autistic child does not get to appreciate holidays and make the season special. It might be hard to endure the stares and comments of friends and family who don't understand your child.

    However, you need to remember that holidays are not to garner praise and appreciation, but to build memories and relationships. If you can create memories, you are successful. Hence it is essential to be gentle to yourself and your child as there are things you cannot change overnight.

Build A Stress-Free Holiday For Your Child

Holidays are stressful both for the child and the family. However, it doesn't always have to be like that. They can also be a perfect time to take a step back and realize what has been well for your child and celebrate small victories. If you are unable to understand your child, ensure that you pursue a MA in Education with Early Childhood and Special Education for parents to better figure out their needs and cater to them. Make your holidays a memorable experience.

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Written By : Park Jin Ae


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