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Social Skills

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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 appropriate behaviors.

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 gift.


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