Surviving Christmas Break: Tips for Parents with Kids on the Autism Spectrum
By Mark Hutton, M.A., Counseling Psychologist and author of the blog, My Aspergers Child
Christmas break gives the family a reprieve from the ordinary time spent with school and work; however, crammed schedules and unpredictable routines, mixed with the sights and sounds of the holidays, can add up to two weeks full of stress for a youngster with Asperger's (AS) or High Functioning Autism (HFA) - and his or her parents and siblings. The change in routine is the biggest difficulty during the holidays. The unfamiliarity and excitement often lead to many difficult moments.
If you are the parent of a child on the autism spectrum, then following the guidelines below will help make Christmas break run a lot smoother:
1. A daily calendar can be very helpful during the Christmas break, especially to help your AS or HFA youngster anticipate any parties or family gatherings that you may be going to.
2. Avoid taking your "special needs" son or daughter shopping on the busiest shopping days of the year. The chaos, noise of large crowds, and long lines will definitely add stress to your life. If your youngster is absolutely known to meltdown during shopping, you can select a few gifts and bring him or her home. Set up a shopping experience in your home for your youngster. The whole family can participate. Have a checkout counter and a gift-wrapping table.
3. Before you leave for holiday parties, parades, or other fun events, have a quick family meeting so your whole family knows how long you plan to stay and how you expect them to behave. This will benefit "typical" kids as well, since any youngster can get overwhelmed with the excitement of the holidays.
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