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How To: Holidays With Children Who Have Special Needs

ways to make the holidays enjoyable for the entire family

The holidays can be stressful for kiddos with special needs. There’s so much going on—more lights, more people, more everything. In fact, Life Skills Autism Academy in Plano has some great tips to ensure the holidays are enjoyable for the entire family.

1. “Try not to miss out on ABA therapy.” Life Skills highly recommends that you stick to your child’s regular therapy schedule. And if they miss a few hours, try to make them up. “ABA therapy is an important part of a child’s routines and can help reduce the stress of school breaks and holiday hustle and bustle,” Life Skills says.

2. “Avoid surprises.” When it’s possible, stick to routines. This can give them a sense of comfort during the busy season. Use calendars or make a schedule with pictures so they know what to expect at parties or other holiday events.

3. “Decorate gradually.” Life Skills suggests adding decorations around the house gradually so your little has time to adjust. Allow them to be a part of the decisions as well.

4. “Don’t fret about the food.” Holiday parties are not the time to work on expanding your kiddo’s palate. “If you’re hosting, let them pick some menu items,” Life Skills suggests. “If visiting another home, take food that’s comforting and familiar to help them through.” Remember, don’t expect the host of the event to make dietary accommodations.

5. “Bring along comfort items.” Let them take a small bag of comfort items like toys, books or a blanket—something that will soothe the child if the event becomes over-stimulating.

6. “Secure a quiet space.” If you’re visiting someone’s home, Life Skills recommends asking the host if there’s a room or small area that can be a quiet space. Then show that space to your child so they know they can retreat there if needed.

7. “Don’t force.” Since new sights, sounds or people can overwhelm kids on the autism spectrum, try not to force them to participate in all the goings-on during holiday events. Life Skills suggests encouraging them to participate, but don’t expect them to immediately want to sit for hours of gift exchanges or hug every person at the party.

8. “Let go of expectations.” Traditions and celebrations can be hard to understand for those with autism. So expecting them to have the same kind of anticipation and excitement as other children may lead to disappointment. Life Skills recommends letting go of that notion that a celebration should go a certain way for it to be a success. Instead, focus on making the event exciting and enjoyable for the whole family.

For more information, visit Life Skills Autism Academy.

Image courtesy of iStock.