SEN-Friendly Christmas For Autistic Children
Christmas and the holidays can be a trying time for our young people. Lights and decorations have been up since mid-November, Mince pies and decorations were in the shops before Halloween and the Coca-cola truck is already on tour. I wrote this blog on creating an autism friendly Christmas after reading Autistic Author Lynn McCann’s post on Autism and Christmas HERE.
As parents, we need to acknowledge:
Christmas is not the problem; our expectations combined with the extended commercialisation of Christmas is the biggest cause of anxiety.
Christmas doesn’t have to be a source of stress and anxiety for autistic children. Here are 7 ideas that will help support everyone to enjoy the holidays. Some are from my experience working with Autistic young people but I would love to hear your strategies.
1) Don’t force unusual & intense social interactions.
The best thing about Christmas is the chance to spend time with family, especially those who you don’t get a chance to see often. This can lead to very intense greetings, much busier and louder rooms and we all feel that pressure to make the most of the time together. Do not force this on everyone allow break out time in a calm room or bedroom.
2) Autism Friendly Christmas Decorations: Sensory Issues.
There is a tree inside, an actual tree in the house. Christmas can be fun a sensory wonder but do those lights have to flash? Can we limit them to an hour? Remember all those decs take up room and can really impact those with sensory processing issues. If a decorated room isn’t working for you how about a decoration box that can have the tinsel, baubles and spinners in but be put away when they become overwhelming?
3) Explain in advance & Keep Routines the Same.
Christmas does not need to be a time to throw home or classroom routines out of the window, nor do you need to miss out. Explain to your child ahead of time what will happen and for how long. Keep bedtimes and breakfast routines the same to reduce anxiety.
4) Make a grab bag to survive the Christmas shop.
Got to shop for extra people? Sainsbury’s have taken the initiative and developed this bag to help those with younger children cope with the extended Christmas shop. A small bag of distractors and motivators can be invaluable. A set of headphones in your pocket to put some music on may help as well.
5) Remember personal space.
Do we all want kisses from a great aunt we haven’t seen for three years? No, respect boundaries until a relationship and trust has been established. If you are having many visitors ensure your autistic child has their own space or chair as usual.
6) Embrace their fun.
Who made you the fun police? How many of us as children played with toys the “right way”? It is a time for fun (it’s the rules), join in with your child. If they are lining up toys get involved, and let them lead. If they are sitting playing a new games console or game sit with them, get them to teach you about it.
7) Wrap the present with your child.
Some of our children are not keen on the unknown or surprises. Why not wrap the present with your child so they know what to expect?