Beautiful Minds Blog

Enjoy Stress-Free Holiday Outings

Do you find your calendar of events filling up this month? Is it full of holiday parties, family get-togethers, special events, etc? If this is the case, and you expect your holiday season to be a busy one, then we are here to help make your holiday activities a little less stressful this year.

Here are some ways you can help your child with autism plan ahead for the holidays:

No surprises – There is nothing that causes more stress then not knowing what to expect, so this year be clear with your child with autism on where you are going, who you will see, what you will be doing or celebrating, etc. IF they know what to expect, there will be no surprises and less ways to create a stressful situation.

Provide Visual and Verbal support – Depending on the needs of your child on the spectrum, it is sometimes more effective to tell them and show them what they can expect from a particular outing. Sometimes it’s not enough to tell them that you are going to a holiday party at the home of a family friend, sometimes, it’s best to show pictures of your family friends, their home, maybe even some of the food they can expect to eat etc. Other times reading stories about the holidays or drawing pictures with your child with autism will reduce anxiety. Images from stories are also a good way to illustrate what your child can expect from a given situation.

Involve Your Child with Autism – Often your child on the spectrum is told where they are going, what they will be doing, and how they need to behave. This holiday season try involving them in some of the decision making so that they have the chance to take ownership in some of the activities they are part of. Letting your child with autism make a few choices on their own in an outing can help them feel like they are part of the process.

Tell your child when they’ve done a good job! As you go through the day, make sure you take the time to praise your child on the spectrum for listening, following directions, and being kind to others. This will show your child with autism that they get more positive attention for following the rules instead of breaking them.

Delays Will Happen…Plan For Them – It is rare that things go exactly as planned. It is best to prepare in advance so that an already unplanned situation doesn’t escalate into something worse. To do so, keep your child’s basic needs in mind, make sure to have snacks, water, portable activities and games etc with you so that they don’t feel the consequences of the delay in an adverse way. Also when it comes to shopping during the holiday seasons, if you know your child with autism can’t handle a busy or crowded store, plan ahead to either go without them, order gifts and goodies online, or prepare them for the noise and ciaos that can happen this busy shopping season

How to have a Happy and Stress-Free Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is about a week away and most people are excited to gather with family and friends to celebrate, but for some, the holidays can be overwhelming.

Many children on the spectrum may experience sensory overload from all of the day’s activities and the large number of family and friends who will gather together.  Some may also have dietary restrictions or be sensitive to smell, and since food is the central focus of the holiday, this can present a challenge.

The first step to preparing your child with autism for the holiday is to Make sure you set and manage their expectations. Whether you are going to a friend’s or relative’s house or whether  people are coming to your house, Make sure to explain what will be happening through out the day to help ease your child’s anxiety. It is also great to give your child some responsibility on that day. If you are cooking, let them help you, or if you are going to someone else’s home, ask if you can bring a dish you know your child enjoys, and have them be responsible for carrying it in and hand it to the host. That way you know your child’s dietary needs will be met and at the same time, they are engaging with others, which will give them confidence at the start of the event. Having or bringing a kid-friendly activity is also a great way to keep your child engaged.

It is very important to set boundaries and rules prior to your Thanksgiving dinner. Be sure to go over bed times, the importance of good manners and other rules with your child before guests arrive. If you are going to someone else’s home, or if your dinner will start earlier or run later then your regular dinner time, make sure to communicate with your child that this is a special occasion and that there will be changes to their regular routine.

Since Thanksgiving only comes around one a year, the sudden changes in your child’s routine can be confusing to them. Remember to be patient while they are processing these changes and be sensitive to their needs. 

Thanksgiving does not have to be a struggle for yourself or your child; instead, it should be a day of happiness and should be filled with family, friends and fantastic food! 

How To Prepare Your Child For Visitors

With the Holiday Season fast approaching it’s important to start considering how having guests over at your home could possibly affect your child who has been diagnosed with autism. Below are some strategies to help prepare your child on the spectrum for having visitors and being a guest.

Set Expectations: Whether your child is invited to the home of a friend of family member or if you are expecting guests in your home; your child on the spectrum should be aware of what to expect. If your child with autism is unfamiliar with whom they will be interacting with, it would be a good idea to show them pictures or talk to them about the people they can expect to see and speak to. Set expectations for behavior prior to the event by discussing activities that may be hard for them.

Give your Child on the Spectrum Responsibility: Have your child with autism help you prepare the meal or set the table. If you are visiting someone else’s home, encourage your child to bring a gift like a box of candy or flowers for the host. Since most children are excited at the start of an event, a task early on can channel their energy into something productive.

Encourage Manners: Teach your child on the spectrum to greet and say good-bye to others at a young age. Emphasize to your child that it is important to use polite words when interacting with guests. It is also very helpful to model appropriate behavior in front of your child every chance you get so that they learn by the examples that you set.

Have Child Friendly Activities: When attending an event that is specifically planned for adults, bring books, movies, games and other activities that your child will be interested in so that your child who has been diagnosed with autism stays occupied and is able to can enjoy himself.

Prepare for Differences in Rules and Expectations: Schedules and rules may change when visiting other people’s homes. For some children on the spectrum this can be very confusing. Let your child know when rules for an evening have changed. Tell them that instead of their usual bed time, they will be going to sleep later, etc.