Monday, November 23, 2015

Parenting Pointers: Holidays and Children with Autism

The coming holiday season is a joyful time of year that brings together families and friends. However, it can also be quite stressful – especially for those who have a child with autism.

With that in mind, FirstPath Autism would like to offer up tips to help handle everything from holiday party meltdowns to stress that can arise from schedule changes and holiday travels. While compiled for those with an autistic child in their lives, many of the tips work just as well for all families.

1.    Prepare for changes in home and school routines.
The holidays mean that your family’s usual routine shifts, and that causes disruption for everyone, including your child. Much as children may look forward to the season of celebrations, they may not understand that it involves trade-offs too. For example, having a holiday pageant at school may mean that their favorite art class is cancelled for the day. Be sure to discuss these changes with your child ahead of time. Your child may not infer that the pageant means that art class won’t happen as usual. 

2.    Assess sugar impact and decide what’s reasonable.
The holidays often mean different foods and lots of seasonal treats. Find a balance between prudence and fun.

3.    Be mindful of sensory issues.
The holidays mean plenty of flashing lights, decorations, and music. Festive celebration can be challenging for individuals with autism and sensory processing disorder. Consider having your child help you either pick out decorations for the house or have him/her help you with decorating and preparing.

4. Ease into traveling and change.
If you will be traveling to see family and friends, prepare your child for what the experience will be like. To help ease your child into the trip, you may want to bring along any special foods needed and a favorite object. If you’re flying, check with the TSA regarding any rules that may apply and consider reaching out to the airline in advance. Let them know you’ll be traveling with a child with autism and include any special information that might be helpful.

5. If the traditions don’t fit, make your own!
Most of us start thinking in terms of tradition when the holidays approach. Given this, it’s easy to get caught up in how things are “supposed” to be. Remember that, as a parent, you get to do what works for you and your family. Embrace the reality of your own household, and most of all, have fun!

Picture this: You and your family have made it to your favorite annual party.  Everyone’s having a great time … that is, until your child with autism gets completely overwhelmed by the festivities. 
You tried to redirect her attention, but it didn’t work.

What’s your next move?

Child psychologist Lauren Elder, Autism Speaks assistant director for dissemination science, speaks to this question in Parents of Child with Autism Seeking Help Handling Public Meltdowns.
1. Stay calm 
2. Stop and help your child  
3. Tell bystanders what you need them to do 

Want more guidance on this topic? These 10 Tips for Managing a Meltdown, with specific guidance from Amalie D. Holly, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst on the FirstPath Autism team can help further.

Tips courtesy of FirstPath Autism:
FirstPath Autism is an organization dedicated to the education, training, and awareness of evidence-based autism treatment developed by the Founder, Romina Kiryakous at the Genesis Behavior Center in Turlock, CA. The treatment practiced at Genesis is based on Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), the most widely covered treatment for autism by insurance companies. In 2015, Kiryakous developed FirstPath Autism, a personalized online education, support, and training program dedicated to the parents and caregivers of children with autism. The goal of FirstPath Autism is to offer an autism lifeline to parents and to help care givers better serve children with autism.

Web Site:
Twitter: @FirstPathAutism

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