Are holidays for Autism fun or frustrating? Anxiety or awesome? It all depends.
And remember that “holidays” are not just Christmas and Halloween. There are lots of “special” days that pop up throughout the year. Birthdays. National holidays. Picnics. They are days that create something special to change the typical, expected routines of daily life.
What’s important is to understand how our children with autism perceive these events.
It’s not just about autism
My seven year old granddaughter told me she didn’t want to get dressed up for Halloween this year because something scared her last year. I wasn’t sure exactly what happened, but it left a strong impact. Imagine a negative event that was “so bad” that she remembers it clearly now. . .a year later. This isn’t an “autism thing,” it’s a “kid thing.”
After I dug a little deeper to know what she was remembering, we could talk about it, process it and create a way for her to ”manage” her memory in an appropriate way. The point is that she could talk about it. That helped us have a meaningful conversation that comforted her. Our students with autism often need more to achieve a peaceful remedy.
Are memories good or bad?
It all depends. A good memory for me might be a bad one for a child. For one of our students on the autism spectrum, it could be a monumental tragedy. It all depends. Memories can affect how students will handle special events.
Here’s a solution
Providing information can help repair difficulties related to memories. Telling the story of what happened, why it caused a problem or why it won’t be a problem now can help. Writing it down is important so the student can re-visit the story over and over again. Here’s an example:
But wait. . .there’s more
Here’s another issue. Holidays invite change and that can be difficult to manage for those on the spectrum whether they are very young or teens or even adults. Sometimes unexpected surprises, either good or bad, produce anxiety or stress or fear. Something that others perceive as “good” can result in a meltdown for children who don’t understand what everyone else understands.
Here’s an essential
Avoid unexpected surprises. Preparing students ahead of time for what will be happening or what will be changing can easily make the difference between a successful celebration or a major disaster. The easiest way to do that is to provide information. The challenge is figuring out what students need to know. Here’s an example.
What is “assumed”
Consider what everyone else already knows. It’s easy to assume this targeted student understands what others understand. Maybe not. That is one of the autism difficulties. The challenge for parents and teachers is to anticipate what information to give the student.
Of course, visual strategies work really well. This is another time where writing it down can become a simple solution. Another option is to use a photo. Here’s a situation:
Uncle George is going through a midlife crisis. When he joins the family for Thanksgiving dinner, he will look really different from when we saw him last time. He traded in his traditional clothing and hairdo for something new. Everyone else will know this is still Uncle George. Will the child on the spectrum know? Perhaps a photo of the “new” Uncle George will help prepare the child that someone will look different.
It’s a really simple solution to avoid a possible problem. Many times the solutions for potentially major problems are really simple.
Just remember. . .
The biggest challenge is remembering to prepare the child and making sure to get a picture to share before Uncle George shows up at the front door. Thinking ahead can help avoid fear, anxiety or a major meltdown, depending on how well a child adjusts to new things.
Giving students information is the most important autism essential for holiday success.
Here’s an opportunity
The fall can feel like one big holiday season . We seem to move from one special event to another. When children or family members have fall birthdays, that can add to the excitement and the anxiety.
Providing information is one of the essentials for achieving enjoyable holiday experiences. But there are more. In this webinar I will explore some simple ways to avoid major problems so you can experience positive events during this season.
Creating Enjoyable Events with Visual Strategies
** I want to help you get a head start for an enjoyable holiday season **
Think of it like this….
Just one idea that leads to a successful celebration makes it well worth the time it takes to participate in this one hour program.
P.S. I know your schedule is pretty full right now. That’s why I pre-recorded this webinar so you can view it on your own time schedule. When you register you’ll have immediate access.