The holidays are supposed to be a time to relax, but in reality, they can be one of the most stressful times of the year! This is especially the case if you are a caregiver for an autistic child, for whom the chaos and noise of the season can be disruptive and upsetting. Holidays with autism spectrum disorder can be very manageable with the right approach. With years of pediatric home care experience behind us, the caregivers of Renaissance have learned how to keep the holidays enjoyable for everybody, including those faced with developmental disabilities. Here are a few tried and true tips that are easy to implement.
Caregiver Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season
The holidays are perhaps the busiest times to visit malls and outlets, although a shopping trip may be inevitable. If possible, if you have a long shopping list, you may wish to have a family member or pediatric caregiver look after your child while you shop. If you need to bring your autistic child, remember that the surroundings and crowds will over-stimulate them quickly. Try to accomplish your shopping right when the mall opens or just before they close when there tend to be fewer people. Keep the shopping trips short – buy a few items close together so you can extricate yourselves before it gets crowded.
Decorate in Stages
Decorating is certainly a fun way to celebrate the season, but it can be stressful for a child with autistic to see their home undergo too many changes all at once. Instead, tell your child what you will decorate ahead of time – the Christmas tree, for example – and see if you can get them to help. Then, when it is done, give it some time before the next set of decorations. Many individuals with autism like order, so if you plan far enough ahead, mark a calendar with decorating tasks so they are prepared.
Plan Out Family Photo Sessions
Plan family photos in advance and if possible, try to find a photographer who has experience with individuals on the autism spectrum. Photographers with this experience offer a dedicated patience and flexibility that they’ve found to be successful with their clients. Tell your child what to expect, and offer a reward for good behavior and choices during the shoot. Scout out a location (if not in a studio) early on, and have the rest of the family members put in position and posed before bringing the child into the frame at the last moment. Let the child play or hang out with someone they like interacting with until it’s time for them to join the picture.
Organize the Gift Opening
Many autistic children appreciate patterns. When it’s time to open gifts and everyone is gathered around, try to hand out the gifts using the same pattern, so the child knows to wait for their next gift and can follow along. Group up the gifts in advance so you don’t have to spend too much time hunting down the next recipient’s gift. If possible, try to have the same number of gifts for everyone so that the child does not feel like they are missing a gift.
Get Help for the Holidays with Renaissance Pediatric Home Care
Renaissance is proud to offer home care services in NYC, with patient and nurturing caregivers who have experience with patients on the autism spectrum. We’re pleased to help make your holiday season a little brighter, utilizing these and other practices we’ve found to be successful. With some planning and forethought, you can get all the things on your holiday list done and make it a special time for your child!