This year has brought about many changes in almost every aspect of our daily lives. Our routines may be very different from what we were doing last year at this time, with social distancing, virtual schooling, and remote work schedules becoming the norm for many families across the country. Adapting to these changes is no easy task for anyone, and children with autism may need some extra support during these unusual times. With the holiday season quickly approaching, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to making plans and explaining these changes to your child. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to ensure that your child feels prepared to have a safe and enjoyable holiday this year.
Planning for changes:
As the pandemic continues in the United States, many families are exercising caution when it comes to being around extended family as they practice their holiday traditions. Typical large family gatherings might instead become meals with a small group of immediate family members. The absence of extended family members may be a difficult thing for children with autism to cope with, so it can be helpful to discuss ways that these family members can still be a part of this years’ festivities. Examples of this could include planning phone calls, facetime sessions, and other socially distanced ways of including these family members. Involving your child in this process can help them adjust to these changes and stay excited for the holidays.
Create a schedule:
Once plans have been made, there are a few ABA techniques that can help your child stay prepared for these events. One option is to make a visual schedule. Visual schedules are a great tool that allow your child to know when each event will be taking place. This can include your child’s typical daily activities, as well as any special plans for the day. Using simple phrases and pictures for each part of the day can help your child prepare for each event and can be very reassuring if they begin feeling overwhelmed on the day of. An example of this type of schedulefor Christmas could look something like this:
1. Open Presents
2. Eat Breakfast
4. Help in the Kitchen
5. Eat Dinner with Family
6. Facetime Grandma
7. Watch Movies
Social stories are another great tool that can be used to help your child understand and feel comfortable with a changing schedule. Much like a visual schedule, social stories involve breaking down the events of a day into small moments. Including pictures, straightforward phrasing, and emotional responses can help your child feel more comfortable and excited for the holiday.
Allow additional time:
Giving your child extra time to go through the various aspects of the day can help them feel more at ease and less rushed during the busy holiday season. Having extra time throughout the day can help reduce anxiety and allow for a smoother transition between each activity.
Provide a space for breaks:
We all know how it feels when our social batteries start to run down for the day. Children experience this feeling as well and having additional family members present can exacerbate this feeling.Toprevent your child from feeling overwhelmed, it may be a good idea to designate a space for your child to take breaks from social interactionas needed. Even a small break can provide great relief for your child.
Reduce demands and increase rewards:
Since your child’s usual daily routine will likely be disrupted during the holidays, it can be helpful to reduce the demands you place on them and increase the amount of rewards they receive on these special days. In doing so, you are providing your child with opportunities to adjust to each change and truly enjoy the day.
Listen to your child and validate their feelings:
When we are feeling anxious or concerned about a change in our lives, it can often help to simply have our concerns be heard. Providing a safe and supportive environment for your child to express any thoughts, worries, or feelings about the upcoming change can be beneficial for the whole family. Knowing that their feelings are valid can help them work through any challenging emotions that may arise, allowing them to feel more prepared to have a fun-filled day.
Eyas Landing is a therapy clinic with a mission to provide evidence-based and family-centered therapy services for children, adolescents, and their families. The primary goal is to deliver relationship-based interventions within the most natural environments and to empower families to reach their full potential. To achieve this goal, our highly educated, compassionate staff dedicates time and expertise to create experiences that maximize therapeutic outcomes. The strength, determination, and perseverance of our clients are evident as they succeed in therapy, and ultimately in their daily lives.
Eyas Landing offers a wide range of comprehensive services including Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, ABA Therapy, Social Work, Family Therapy, and Neuropsych testing. Services are provided throughout the Chicagoland area via Telehealth, In-Home, and in our state of the art clinic.
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