The bells are ringing, the carols are singing and the delights of the festive season are upon us. Now don’t get me wrong, we love Christmas in our house, I personally love the traditions and joys that come with the mistletoe and tinsel. But let me very candid for a moment.
The myriad of gatherings and events that come with Christmas can feel like a marathon at times! Add autism to the equation, and you may also find sensory overload, shutdowns, meltdown, angst and lashings of anxiety,
Don’t panic! There are ways you can help make Christmas a success, ENJOYABLE and to reduce the stress for all.
Visual timetable/social stories.
Preparing your little person for what is going to happen on Christmas day, and running through a sequence of events with help bring down the anxiety. This is crucial. If anxiety is high, the computer will say no, and you are on a one-way street straight to stress town. A social story of where you are going, who is going to be there, what is going to be there and what is going to happen is highly recommend.
2. Being Mindful.
Think of the environment you are about to enter (or host) if there is going to be a lot of noise, lights smells, etc. Now arm yourself with possible to tools to combat these. Earmuffs, noise canceling headphones, stretchy bands (great for pressure and easy to carry), bubbles, fidget toys, security toy/ weighted blanket or toy. Make allowances for a quiet space- perhaps there is another room where your little one can retreat to for quiet time and social breaks.
3. Sensory friendly!
Be alert to possible triggers and alter these if possible. For example Christmas carols- can they be turned down or even off for a while? Keeping your little person regulated is the key! Are they seeking pressure, spinning, swinging, or calm?.
4. Patience- Behaviour.
Behaviour is communication. Remember, when our little ones are starting to lose it, being oppositional, screaming, lashing out- they are not giving you a hard time- they are having a hard time.
5. Advocate for your little person
Not everyone has the same understanding of your little one and what makes them tick. Help your child (if they need) to engage in conversations. Too often in family situations, there are the dreaded hugs and “give your Aunty Fran a kiss.” Just No. Respect your child’s boundaries and right to personal space.
Ultimately it is all about not stretching yourselves too thin.
You know the old saying- leave when you’re still having fun? So relevant! Leaving when things are still enjoyable will create great, fun, happy memories of the Christmas outing, thus helping for next year, as Christmas will be associated with a good time. Being Mindful, and looking for triggers can be exhausting, allow yourself to leave with some energy left in the tank.
There may have been a few hiccups, hurdles and spot fires… But you did it.
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