How to survive Christmas with autism
1. Advent Calendar; Now this might be a no-brainer, but using a Christmas advent calendar is a surefire way to bring your autistic child up to speed on Christmas. But maybe not just using a standard advent calendar. Why not use one that you have made yourself? Can you use special doors with candy or chocolate or sensory foods that they like to eat? Advent calendars can be a great Christmas present before Christmas. Get your child into the Christmas spirit, well ahead of time, this is another key to planning ahead.
2. Create a mood board; youthis could be a Pinterest board, this could be something you want to put together to add on your wall. Cut out pictures from Christmas magazines and the like to add to the board. These will represent to your child what Christmas means. The whiteboard will allow them to become familiar with the event. What we are trying to do here is allow our son to understand what Christmas is all about; what it means, why we celebrate it, and what we do using pictures and images that your child can see every day. Once children can understand that Christmas normally eliminates stress, this is something we tend to forget with autistic children.
3. stress balls and comfort toys; You can use the stress ball or comfort toy when playing with your child about certain things that will happen at Christmas. Maybe they would like to meet Santa Claus, but they are a little scared of a strange man and a red suit with a long white beard! Act out a role-play scenario about meeting Santa Claus. You can get really creative here, maybe even use some cotton balls to make a makeshift beard to put on your face while you’re role-playing meeting Santa. Always make sure the comfort toy and stress ball are on hand for the tough times. If there’s something you’d rather they didn’t have around, I always suggest that Christmas allows them to do as much as they want to make them feel stress-free.
4. Prepare them for their ideal Christmas; even let them take their comfort item to school. Christmas plays, carols and all kinds of things that happen at school are often very stressful for a child. In fact, it can be much more stressful for them at school than it is at home! Years ago, I gave up trying to force my son, so to speak, to enjoy Christmas the way we traditionally celebrate in the family. You know the kind of thing, sitting around a table eating turkey, watching the queen’s 3 o’clock speech, unwrapping presents. Now what I really do with Jonathan is let him have his own Christmas. I don’t try to get him to eat the roast turkey and vegetables like everyone else. In fact, his favorite Christmas food of his is curry! I let him have a curry and he can spend all day if he wants upstairs on his laptop with headphones on. Problem solved!
5. Get them involved; For many autistic children, the stress of Christmas may be due to sensory issues. The fact that there is suddenly a tree in the middle of your front room with flashing lights can be a bit of a shock, so the best thing to do with a child if you really want to celebrate the Christmas tradition at home is to bring them along. involved. If you’re doing things in the kitchen, have them cook with you. If you are putting up fairy lights on your Christmas tree, allow them to turn the lights on and off on their own. Okay, so they don’t actually stick their fingers in the socket and turn it on, they get kind of fairy lights where there’s an on/off switch that they can control themselves. You can get many small plastic canisters of battery operated fairy lights; things the kind of thing people use in their houses all year long. Let them use this and then that will make them feel in control. If you are cooking, have them feel the texture of the mixtures you are making. All these sensory things will allow them to feel more stress-free at Christmas.
6. Inform everyone; If you’re like me, you tend to have people who are going to be in and out of your house most of Christmas. People like to come and knock on the door almost spontaneously. For the autistic child, it can be very distressing to hear the doorbell ring or suddenly strange voices from neighbors or family members appearing downstairs. Now that’s okay. It shouldn’t deter anyone from wanting to come and see their family and their child should experience after all this is normal life this is what people do. The best thing to do is inform everyone who is likely to come. Tell them that perhaps you would like to come at a particular time of day when it is most convenient for you. Perhaps you would like to involve your child in opening the door. Encourage people to be aware that there is a sensory issue. They need to keep this in mind if they are going to pass. you will be glad you did. If you tell anyone who visits, it’s amazing how many people will want to take that information on board and actually help you out.
7. relatives! Now, this is a word I like to use a lot! Familiars is toys food sensory things could be a favorite book; It could be a worry toy, anything your child likes to connect with and feel close and safe. Wear it, wear it as much as you can at Christmas. Let them eat what they want. Find familiarity in things; if they like a book or they like a particular ball or toy or even something that you own maybe a pillowcase or something. A favorite towel or maybe your cardigan that smells like you! Anything like that. Get creative and think outside the box. No matter how silly you are, if it allows your child to feel less stressed during Christmas, then by all means embrace it. After all, what is more important? Your child’s comfort, or really, if they sit down to eat meat and half a dozen vegetables on their plate? Prioritize and allow your child to celebrate Christmas the way he wants.
8. Quiet space; If your child likes to hide under the bed to get comfortable, if you have a closet or cupboard that they like to go and sit in, then that’s absolutely fine. Allow them to do this to create a special, quiet place for them, like a den. You can put some chairs together and put a couple of sheets on top and make a tent for them. Put the sensory things they love inside this and allow them to make it their own. Put out his favorite toys, some food he likes to eat, maybe something he likes to touch or hold. Perhaps your child will be wonderfully engaged in tinsel! Allow your child to adopt what he is comfortable with. Particularly within this quiet space, let them be themselves in this quiet corner and respect this quiet space as well, don’t show it off, don’t let too many other people come to see it. If your child wants to invite you into her quiet space, that’s fine, but don’t overdo her quiet space. Allow it to be yours and be respectful of your child’s quiet time and, if desired, his privacy.
9. plan ahead; I like to plan Christmas literally starting in September. My son ends up rolling his eyes when Halloween comes around, but that means he knows exactly what’s going to happen. During Christmas, always plan ahead, that’s the best he can do. Don’t let him sneak up on you because it may be just as stressful for you, but it will be a thousand times more stressful for his child.
10 don’t panic and don’t assume anything; I have known Christmases in the past when I have worked with autistic children and their families. Families have prepared for everything. They have planned everything to go wrong. They have decided that their child is going to have their own Christmas and then all of a sudden on Christmas day the girl or boy gets everything ready! They are unwrapping presents and singing Christmas carols God knows what else leaving families speechless. Anything can happen, even your child might suddenly say ‘Hey, I like this, I’m going to get involved!’ Autism is a very strange thing. It’s somewhat flexible. He moves with his son. It unfolds every day. It will change and mold with your child as he grows. They might even be triggered by something at Christmas that they particularly like. They might want to spend all day tossing and turning with a mince pie in their hands just because they don’t have the texture. If that’s Christmas for them, let it be Christmas. Don’t expect it to be heartbreaking. Don’t expect the day to be stressful and full of anxiety because your child will feed on it. They say autistic people don’t have empathy but I think that’s wrong. I think so and if there is someone in the home who is going to understand how you really feel, it is going to be an autistic child. So relax and take a deep breath. Christmas will be fine. You will find a way through it.