It’s the holiday season and lots of companies are trying to prepare parents and families of kids with special needs for the madness of the winter holidays. There are plenty of travel guides and holiday event guides, but there are also struggles that can happen right in your home. The decorations are new, the cooking schedule might be different, there may be people in and out of the house. Overall, the experience is way off of the original routine. The winter holidays do not have to be more stressful than fun for your entire family with the right preparation. Here is Lexington’s guide for enjoying the Winter Holidays at home.
Decorating for the winter holidays is a huge part of the season. It puts everyone in the mood for the holidays and it’s a tradition that brings people together. However, decorating and a changing environment could prove to be stressful for kids with autism. In order to make sure that everyone adjusts and they’re happy with the decorations, try decorating slowly over the course of a few months. Instead of one big weekend push, start putting up a few decorations after Halloween and add a few more once everyone has adjusted to their presence.
Lighting can cause sensory overload for kids with autism, but the winter holidays are all associated with an abundance of lights. Lights cover the trees and homes and we even celebrate with parades of lights. For parents of kids with autism, this dilemma can easily be overcome with a little bit of change in tradition. Lots of lights blink or twinkle quickly, but there are strings of lights for purchase that have no blinking factor, some that are a little more dim, or even some that might have a mesmerizing slow pulsing change in brightness. Just keep in mind how much lighting affects young ones with autism and you want them to have fun too.
Many families choose to include old St. Nick as a key figure in their winter holidays and nothing is more exciting for a kid than writing a letter to Santa. However, all the lines at the malls and all the sound can be pretty stressful, along with the prospect of sitting alone on a strangers lap. Instead, lost of parents have taken to the in-home Santa experience. Not only does it give the opportunity for Santa to be a trusted figure in the child’s life, but there is no pressure or expectations for the experience.
Large Advent Calendar
Kids with autism benefit highly from visual aids, so it’s always one of the first things we suggest at Lexington. Advent calendars with little rewards or interesting pieces of stories are very popular around the winter holidays. You can make the season easier to tolerate with an exciting daily reward as part of a visual aid that counts down the season. Make your own with felt or paper or find one in a local Holiday shop. You can also switch out Chocolates and holiday candy for snacks that are good for the complex diets of young people with autism.
Visitor Game Plan
If you’re going to have visitors during the winter holidays, you need to prepare your family for the added stress of visitors coming. We all love to have family and friends over, but there is added cleaning stress, less room in the house and for people with kids that have special needs, an added misunderstanding factor from both the child and the visitors. In order to manage that, make a game plan with your kids before visitors show up. Make a photo album or look at photos online so kids get familiar with faces. Explain exactly how the holiday season will work with more people in the house. Finally, don’t overload on expectations. Create a space, whether that’s a corner or a whole room in the house, where your child is allowed to go to manage sensory overload and prepare to let other visitors know about this calming space so they won’t contribute to overload.
Set Up Visiting Family For Success
Visitors coming into your home need to understand that space as a calming environment for your child and they need to understand how they can fit into that successfully. Family and friends that are willing to work with your plan for successful winter holidays will take their time to help you manage all the moving parts. Others that are unwilling to understand might not deserve the invitation. Remember that it’s okay to say “no” or rescind an invitation in order to keep the peace for the rest of the family. Many people do not understand autism, even members of our own families, attributing behavior to poor parenting or bad manners. These people will only drag your holidays down.
Make New Traditions
The winter holidays are steeped in traditions that are difficult for people to separate from, but when you live with someone with autism, you have to make certain adjustments. Rather than looking at the changes you need to make as a loss of older traditions, look at every moment as a chance to make new traditions. Does your family member dislike anything but chicken nuggets? Perhaps you can christen the nuggets with a story or give them significance. Are you restricted to music that’s not traditional holiday music? We have heard all those songs before. Look at change as an opportunity to refresh your traditions and you will have more fun.
No matter what you decide to do for your winter holidays, remember that there are resources out there you can seek and there are partners that you can trust. Lexington Services can answer any questions you might have or give you some other tips on how to manage the chaos during these holidays. Call Lexington Services now at 480-900-1009 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.