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Holidays are full of joy, excitement, energy, and laughter with family and friends.. It can also be full of uncertainty, anxiety, stress, and sensory overload for a person on the spectrum.  During the Holidays, routines become anything but predictable. There are new people, sounds, smells, things in the house, and even significant changes to everyone’s basic self-care routines. Here are some helpful tips and tricks to get you through this time of the year.

Pick and choose:

Children on the spectrum can handle some changes to their routine, but at times it can become difficult overcome a complete disruption to their routine and schedule.  You know your child the best so, remember to pick and choose the kinds of changes that they can handle. Have to leave the party a little early? No worries! Do what is best for your child’s needs. .

Practice and run through social scenarios:

Include a visual or a step-by-step guide to review what the expectations will be for the holidays. Discuss and practice the expectation and what to do when they start to feel anxious or stressed. 

Come early:

Talk with the host of the party ahead of time! Take time with your child to go early to the event and walk around, so they are exposed to the new or changed environment. As you walk around talk about all the differences and what they are going to need to expect when the party starts. You can form a plan with your child and find a safe place to escape to when they need a break during the party. 

Make a plan:

Here is one idea. Put together a calm down/activity backpack (filling the backpack with toys, coloring activities, comfort items, headphones, I-pad, a blanket to sit on, etc.). Consider your child’s likes and comfort toys..  You can also get your child involved by having them help you select toys and items for their activity backpack. Talk to your child about what the backpack is for and how he/she can use it during the party. Then when you arrive at the party, go with your child to find a safe location for Storage.

Communicating with family and friends:

Communicate with your friends and family that your child might need a break from the event. Let them know what it may look like for your child when they need a break.. 

Keep it predictable:

Keeping it predictable is essential during this time of the year. If you have a child with a visual schedule, keep using a visual schedule throughout your day but adapt it for the holidays. You can even put visuals on your home calendar, such as putting a picture of the hosts face on the date of the event.

Keep the base of your routine at least somewhat predictable, such as therapies, bedtime, downtime, eating, and playing. You can help your child enjoy this annual experience with friends and family by prepping and preparing your child for this time of the year.

Have a wonderful, predictable, and safe Holiday season!

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