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The holidays are quickly approaching as 2018 is coming to a close.  Families are preparing for travel, budgeting for gift buying, and organizing holiday gatherings to celebrate this exciting time of year.  However, as exciting as they may be, the holidays can come with a lot of stress and pressure. For individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families, this time of year typically comes with its challenges.  If you’re a family member of an individual with ASD, here are a few steps to guide your way through the holidays.

Avoid Sensory Overload

Many people with ASD have significantly heightened senses that may result in negative reactions to things such as bright lights and loud noises.  For people with ASD, the holidays can often promote sensory overload, and increase the chances of a potentially adverse reaction, or overall meltdown.  Stores with large groups of people, bright flashing lights, or loud music and noises may be too much for an individual with ASD. Avoid sensory challenges such as these by getting most of your shopping done online, or finding a sitter when you need to visit a store or place that could be too overwhelming.  While it may seem like there’s an extensive list of limitations for your child, there are tons of sensory-friendly options that can still provide your child and family with an abundance of holiday cheer.

Keep the Routine as Regular as Possible

Individuals with ASD generally thrive in an everyday routine.  A routine that is consistent and predictable provides children and adults with ASD structure and peace of mind.  During holiday time, however; structure is often hard to maintain, and a lack-thereof can foster unwanted stress for someone with ASD.  Try to stick to the regular routine as much as possible. You know your child best; use your discretion to determine the flexibility for a change in routine.  For example, if you’re required to travel, make sure to bring along favorite toys/entertainment while doing your best to stick to your child’s usual schedule. Additionally, you can further prepare by practicing upcoming routine changes, to help your child better adapt.

Be Prepared for Extended Family

While your immediate household and family may understand the needs of a child with ASD; extended family may not be fully aware.  If you know you have family members that have the best intentions, but may lack the experience of interacting with an individual who has ASD, it’s okay to explain your child’s behavior plan.  Explain different behaviors, and ways you’re working through them. Keeping family informed on what’s going on is the best way to avoid any unwanted conflict or confusion.