Monday, November 22, 2010

Autism and holiday gatherings

I know of many families who don't go to holiday gatherings anymore because of their child's reactions or unsupportive family reactions that are involved. For some of these situations it's understandable. But if you have a high functioning child you may be depriving them of important social practice. That being said, it's that time of the year to consider all the things we need to do for our kids to survive the social dramas of the holidays.

Holiday gatherings fill a place with extra sounds and smells that can trigger the more sensitive of our kids. There have been times when my son just wanted everyone to go home because he couldn't take all the mixed voices anymore. The extra mix of smells from varieties of food cooking can be a trigger too. While the typical person finds all the odors a delight, too many can overload an autistic.

Can your child handled a holiday gathering? How well does he or she handle crowds? How big of a crowd? How loud? Compare your child's sensitivities that you already know about to what you know of your family's gatherings (if you haven't tried already) and you can gauge their reactions.

How do you handle the hard spots? How do you handled the possibility of meltdowns from sensory overload? As a matter of practice, remember to plan an escape route to a designated "quiet spot" where your child can feel comfortable and relax for a bit. A place to hide from the sensory input. If you are going to another persons home, you should discuss this option with them and see if they can work with you. If you have unsupportive family, this may be difficult. Understanding that, your child's welfare is more important than any holiday gathering. You should take no shame in having to leave early or just not going.

If you don't go, be sure to share some holiday experience with your child at home. Cook things that have some of those smells and get them involved in your own home festivities.

Another way to help with possible problems is to have things there that are positive distractions. Things that your child loves in the sensory realm. For example, maybe they just love the crinkling of wrapping paper in their hands? Let them play with it. It's better than a meltdown any day and comforts them. For that matter, some are best left with their special diet and what they prefer for the day rather than forcing them to what you know they may not eat. This will keep the peace for your get together and everyone will be happier for it. Try not to forsake any routines so you can help them say as balanced as possible.

What's most important is that you know your child and know what affects them and how. You are the one who can help them the best. Be their holiday advocate and you can find ways to get through the holidays easier.

With that, I wish all of you a very happy holiday with many happy tidings involved.

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