Surviving the Holiday Season
The holiday season, full of joy and cheer, is just around the
corner. But for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, the
class parties, family get-togethers and other gatherings that so
many of us look forward to at this time of year are fraught with
scary social interactions and sensory overload.
It is important for parents of children with ASD to be aware of
the challenges that loud Thanksgiving dinners, extravagant
Christmas light displays, and the hustle and bustle in stores
and other public areas are situations in which these children
will be uncomfortable. Here are some ways parents can help their
children cope with, and enjoy, the upcoming holidays.
Prepare your child for get-togethers by re-enacting certain
situations with stuffed animals or with other family members.
Obtain holiday books from the bookstore or library and read them
with your child so she knows what to expect in the upcoming
months. Talk about the various situations she may encounter and
Be sensitive to the sights and sounds of the seasons and plan
accordingly. Bring sunglasses to counter bright lights or cotton
for their ears to muffle the sounds that might be overwhelming.
Remember the holidays can be stressful for everyone. Don’t over
schedule or yourselves. Do it for you and for your child!
Therapy Idea: Emotions and Empathy
Try a game that will help them react appropriately in this
gift-giving season. First, have the child go through newspapers
and magazines and cut out pictures of toys for different ages
ranges (e.g., baby dolls, action figures, video games). Then,
have the child match each toy with the appropriate age child.
This will really make the child look beyond just what interests
them or what they would want and start having empathy for
others’ thoughts and interests. Next, place each picture in a
gift-wrapped box. Have the child practice by role playing
opening the box and saying “thank you.” This is a good time to
discuss the emotions they might feel. You can highlight
excitement and disappointment in the different gifts received
and how those emotions might affect the person who gave them the
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