Autism & The Holidays: 5 Tips for a Joyful Season

Autism & The Holidays: 5 Tips for a Joyful Season, Steps to Progress

by | Dec 10, 2022 | Autism, Holidays

The holiday season is one of the happiest times of the year, but for families with autism, it is often filled with stress and anxiety. Between traveling to distant relatives, sensory overload, and changes to routine, the holidays can create a lot of challenges for an autistic child. Learn how to get ready for this year’s holiday traditions by considering the following tips.

The holidays are often filled with stress and anxiety for families with autism. Check out these tips for helping your children have a happy, joyful season. Click To Tweet

Autism & The Holidays: Tips to Reduce Stress

At Steps to Progress, we want every child to be able to experience the joyous holiday traditions and family gatherings that the end of the year brings. Here are some actionable steps your family can take to face the holiday season stress-free.

  1. Prepare ahead of time
  2. Reduce sensory overload
  3. Create a safe space
  4. Limit sugar intake
  5. Inform family and friends

1) Prepare ahead of time

There’s no question as to whether preparation can help children with autism. This is one of the core lessons of ABA therapy, especially when it involves new and unfamiliar situations. Before gathering with extended family or opening presents, help your child get ready for the different situations they may face. Talk to your child about what may happen at the party or gathering and give them ideas of what to do if they feel overwhelmed or anxious.

2) Reduce sensory overload

Holiday decorations are one of the most exciting things about this time of year, but for a child with autism, all of the flashing lights and loud sounds can create sensory issues. Try to make the transition from one activity or event to another easier by gradually putting up decorations and reducing loud noises. Make holiday decorating a weekly event with one new thing a day to give your child the opportunity to become familiar with each thing.

3) Create a safe place

Whether your holiday events involve staying home or visiting others, creating a safe space just for your child is key. Children on the autism spectrum can often become overwhelmed by too many people or loud noises. By setting up a private place, you can teach them how to leave an uncomfortable situation and take a break from all of the stimulation. This safe place can include toys your child enjoys along with ways to help them relax.

4) Limit sugar intake

One of the greatest things about the holidays is the festive candy and desserts! For someone on the spectrum, drastic changes to their diet or meal routine can quickly disturb their temperament. Try to limit their sugar intake as much as possible and give them nutritional foods they like to help reduce negative behaviors and habits.

5) Inform family and friends

Preparing your family and friends is just as important as preparing your child. Many extended family members may not know how to interact with a child with autism. Before a holiday event or gathering, help minimize anxiety for everyone involved by giving your family an idea of your child’s preferences. Let them know how to respond if your child becomes upset to reduce bigger issues or problem behaviors.

Happy Holidays!

The holiday season is one of the best times of the year, and we hope this year is no different for your family. Instead of focusing on what may be different for your family, be encouraged by what is working. Enjoy this holiday season with those you love and make memories to cherish for years to come!

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