How to survive the holidays with autism

It’s that time of year again when families get together, schedules are disrupted, and meltdowns ensue. As chaotic as the holidays can be for children with autism, there are things you can do as a parent to minimize stress:

  1. Try to do your Christmas/Hanukkah shopping online or find someone to care for your child at home while you go shopping. Some children with autism are unable to cope with the noise, crowds, and overall sensory overload that go along with holiday shopping.
  2. Plan ahead for picky eaters. There will be lots of food at the holiday table that might be a bit too “exotic” for your child’s taste. Pack some of your child’s preferred foods to prevent tantrums at the holiday table.
  3. Bring quiet activities your child can do on their own if they need some time to themselves. Sometimes the loud noise and unfamiliar faces/places of holiday meals can be too much for people with autism to handle. They may need a break from the chaos so it’s a good idea to plan ahead to make sure your child has a way to occupy him or herself while taking their break.
  4. Many children with autism have difficulties falling and/or staying asleep so it’s important to maintain their sleep schedules – even during the holidays. If you plan on being at a friend or relative’s house late in the evening, bring a pair of pajamas for your child. Ask your friend or relative if you can use one of their bedrooms so your child can go to sleep at his or her regular bedtime. By maintaining your child’s regular sleep schedule, you will prevent problems with their sleep patterns in the future.

A little planning can go a long way in having a peaceful holiday!