The good news is that caregivers, allies, and those on the autism spectrum don’t have to feel despair as joyous gatherings approach this holiday season. Celebrating the holidays with autism can and should be fantastic, festive, and inclusive, ensuring everyone delights as much as possible, even if their condition sometimes presents challenges needing proactive addressing. But it’s possible to have a wonderful, jolly holiday even if you’re on the spectrum or celebrating with someone who is.
Preparing for the holidays with autism can feel distinctively challenging for many caregivers and the neurodivergent. With the additional stress often accompanying the holiday season, it’s no surprise that this time of year can feel chaotic and less than merry for many with unique brain variances. For some, participating in traditional holidays with autism can feel terrifying and anxiety-provoking.
This blog post by ABA Centers of America will present essential tips and suggestions to enhance your holidays with autism to make them better than ever. From proactively addressing changes in routine to setting expectations and explaining established traditions, this blog presents caregivers, allies, and providers effective solutions to ensure their neurodiverse loved ones and clients make jolly memories this year and next.
So, please keep reading to learn more about supporting the holidays with autism to make them even better. Together, we make this holiday season one of joy, acceptance, and purposeful connections for those with various developmental diversities.
Visit us here to learn more about ABA therapy and autism diagnostic services with ABA Centers of America. Also, visit our other reliable autism blogs here to enhance your parenting experiences with neurodiversity.
Why the Holidays with Autism Stressful for Many
The distress commonly experienced by those celebrating the holidays with autism includes traits that can impair one’s ability to understand traditions, societal concepts, and social cues and, in many cases, facilitate a preference for only experiencing what’s known and familiar.
Additionally, as described by the CDC, sensory processing ailments and rigidity amidst other features related to variances in the brain contribute to how those with autism behave and communicate, impacting how they experience holidays and life overall. So, even practices like gift-giving or the concept of Santa can be confusing or even unsettling to those with ASD.
7 Tips to Stay Festive and Have Fun Planning!
Research Autism-Friendly Holiday Activities Ahead
Plan and research autism-friendly activities to ensure everyone can participate in festivities. It can be helpful to explore autism blogs discussing other’s shared experiences surrounding the holidays with autism. Pinterest boards and other resources are another great way to find inspiration and embrace fresh traditions that recognize your loved one’s abilities and talent without focusing on limitations.
Small acts like softening the holiday music, curating the playlist, considering food allergies, and describing events before they occur can also help your neuro-unique loved one celebrate the holidays with more confidence while experiencing less sensory overload or triggers. If the event you plan to attend isn’t autism-friendly, consider attending ones that are, or prepare ahead for potential challenges that may arise wherever you will be spending the day.
Great Places to Visit during Holidays with Autism
Your holidays with autism may not look like everyone else’s, but that doesn’t make them any less meaningful or memorable. Fortunately, wherever you live, many incredible autism and sensory-friendly options like sensory-friendly movie nights with AMC, autism-friendly game rooms or park attractions, cruises, shopping times, and family photography sessions can be accommodating to help you enjoy the moment.
These are just a few ways to celebrate the holidays with autism in 2023. Other fantastic options, as presented by organizations like BeLikeBuddy, feature attractions and sensory events specific to those with autism and different sensitivities nationwide to improve the holiday planning process if you or a loved one is on the spectrum.
Set Expectations with Your Family Before Holiday Events
Proactively setting clear expectations with your family before the festivities begin is essential to ensuring you limit surprises or misunderstandings that can lead to unwanted consequences for loved ones with autism and others attending. Communicating plans and allowing room for others to ask questions addresses everyone’s concerns and diffuses grievances or mistakes before they happen.
In many cases, it’s best to explain to your family why certain holiday traditions may be stressful for your neurodivergent family member so everyone understands your requests. Encourage those celebrating with your child to remain open-minded about how you’ll observe the holiday and how it may differ from previous traditions.
Lastly, always clearly explain that autism is a severe condition, like any other medical diagnosis, requiring compassion, support, and acceptance on behalf of everyone to improve the health of the person with the diagnosis and the family that supports them.
Prepare Your Child for Changes Around Holidays
For children with autism, routine changes can significantly impact day-to-day life. A typical trip to the grocery store or picking up a package at the post office can lead to tantrums, meltdowns, or other complex behavioral expressions that warrant unwanted attention ASD. Increases in the demonstration of maladaptive behavior are not uncommon for those with autism during holidays, as new activities and events disrupt a child’s regular schedule.
To prepare your child for these changes around the holiday:
- Communicate what will change, when, and why when possible.
- Talk to your child about what to expect during the holidays, including traditions or concepts and why people celebrate the holidays the way they do.
- Consider implementing social stories or visual aids to help your neurodivergent loved one understand why the holidays are important to many.
If your child receives ABA therapy, like many with a diagnosis of autism, include their treatment team in teaching about holidays. Your child’s certified Behavioral Analysts (BCBA) and Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) can help describe the events more seamlessly and ensure you use literal language to improve your child’s understanding.
Create an Environment That Considers Neurodiversity.
Creating a calming environment during the holiday season is vital to helping reduce stress and uncertainty. Electing to decorate with visually attractive decorations that do not blink, make loud noises, or are overtly overstimulating can make a big difference in making those on the spectrum more comfortable within their environment.
Designate a Safe Place Where Your Child Can Regulate Wherever You Celebrate.
Holidays with autism can quickly feel dangerous when unfamiliar surroundings, crowded spaces, and unexpected sensory experiences are an aspect of the experience. However, one way to help reduce that stress is by creating a safe place or corner where your child can retreat if the sensory stimulation becomes debilitating wherever they may be celebrating.
Ensuring your loved one has a place to retreat in the event of triggers is instrumental to keeping them healthy and safe if there’s a chance the atmosphere may be intense, even if only providing temporary relief.
If you are hosting or attending your event outside of your home, kindly request the host designate a sensory space for your child. When discussing what the area should entail, explain what your child needs and why it’s essential. Additionally, be open to being collaborative in the process.
In many cases, knowing a space exists to relax and feel secure, if necessary, makes a world of difference to children experiencing the holidays with autism. It also assures that their needs are recognized, matter, and that it’s okay to take breaks.
Remember Your Self-Care and Recharge!
While the holidays with autism may be stressful for the person carrying the diagnosis, experts suggest no family member goes unaffected if one component of the family is neurodivergent. It’s important to remember that taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your loved one with autism. Don’t forget to set aside time to relax and recharge during the holidays.
Caring for yourself is necessary, leading to significant, scientifically validated, better parenting responses. So, take the time you need to do the things you love.
Celebrating the Holidays with Autism Can Be More Magical than Ever!
The holiday season can still be enjoyable for families with children and teens on the spectrum by taking these extra precautions. Help prepare your child or teen for holiday festivities by following simple steps like those explored here. You and your family deserve to enjoy this time together, and we know you can with some expertise, care, and dedication.
Together, we can make the holiday season more inclusive, inviting, and a time to remember for all the right reasons.
More about ABA Centers of America and How We Can Support Your Family through Autism and the Holidays!
Are you feeling overwhelmed about the upcoming holiday season with a loved one on the autism spectrum? Don’t worry.
ABA Centers of America can help support you and your loved one on your ABA journey towards better holidays and daily experiences. Our expert ABA team serves families with autism through ABA therapy, also called Applied Behavior Analysis, an evidence-based behavioral approach to autism symptom management.
We proudly serve families in regions of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and beyond. Call us at 844-923-4222 today or contact us here and let us support your family with our tailored ABA therapy approach to autism care.
Let us help you transform this holiday season into a joyous one for your diverse family. So why wait?