December 18, 2012

Ho-Ho-Hold the Expectations: Thoughts for a Great Holiday

Written by Maureen Bennie 

The Christmas holidays are a time of great excitement and anticipation. Holidays also mean changes in the schedule, visitors, crowds, line-ups, noise, and socializing. For children with ASD, the Christmas holidays can be a stressful and anxious time. Meeting family demands can be especially nerve-wracking, particularly if you want to break with time-honoured traditions that just don't work for a child with autism. Here are a few ideas for making the holidays happy.

  1. Family Expectations - Be clear with other family members what will and won't work and make a compromise. For example, my mother wants us to spend most of the day on December 24th at her house, then go to an evening mass. To get a seat, you have to be there one hour before the mass starts. I know this will be too much for my two children on the spectrum so I've opted to just spend the afternoon at Grandma's, then go home for a quiet, family dinner on our own. We'll still see the family, just not for the same amount of time everyone else will.
  2. Pick the Right Time for Activities - With everyone on Christmas break, most attractions will be busier. Call ahead and ask when the less busy times are. Matinees are better than evening shows. If eating out, get there by 5 pm or after 7 pm. A Sunday may be quieter than a Saturday; mornings are usually better at most places.
  3. Maintain Routines - Try to stick with routines like bedtime, bathtime and meals. If that's impossible, try to keep one routine in place so that the child has something he can count on being the same. Kids like predicatability. If there is a change in routine, let your child know ahead of time on the schedule.

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