Tis the season to be merry, but in order to get there you must prepare your child for what to expect during the holidays. The malls will be crowded, the music will be loud, the children will be taking pictures with Santa and you and your child may find yourselves on edge, but it doesn’t have to be that way. This holiday season we want to share with you our 12 tips to making your Christmas both merry and bright!
- Need to get last minute shopping done? Don’t be shy about asking a family member or friend to babysit for a few hours. Your child will enjoy being in his or her regular surrounds and you can zip through the mall with the greatest of ease and get back quickly to enjoy time with your child before they go to bed.
- Last week we wrote about gift ideas to get your child with autism, but if your child’s favorite toy or activity wasn’t on that list, tell your friends and family members what your child likes. Better yet, make it easy for them to find. Create a wish list on amazon or other sites that you may be using and send the link out to your family and friends. The easier it is for them to find the gifts your child enjoys, the better chances you will have of making your child’s Christmas dreams come true. How great would it be to be able to check off their entire gift wishes on Santa’s list?
- Looking for a great gift to give the parents of a child with special needs??? We have the best idea, and it won’t cost you anything. Give them some of your time!!! Offer them a night out to a movie or dinner, offer them a home cooked meal that they don’t have to rush home to make. What about offering your cleaning services? I’m sure they would really enjoy that as well…Whatever it may be that you can do to help…that would be the greatest gift of all. Remember, we are all busy during the holidays, so if you don’t have the time to help out at the end of the year, don’t stress. Give them a certificate or coupon that they can redeem at any time. The support they will feel with this small gesture is sure to bring a large smile to their face.
- If your child with special needs has a sibling who feels like they are missing out on the holiday season, set up a play date or a carpool to a holiday event or party. They will be happy they could be involved in something they might have otherwise missed.
- What about your special needs child? Have you wanted that perfect picture with Santa or have they? We’ve been seeing articles about Sensitive Santa in the news lately and think it’s a great idea. Call your local malls, stores, schools, or Christmas tree lots and request a Sensitive Santa Program where Santa greets children with autism outside in a quite area away from all the loud music and shoppers. Offer to dress up if you have to. This way your child will get to experience the yearly tradition of taking a photo with Santa without the added stress that goes with it.
- If going to a large party or gathering with a child that has been diagnosed with autism, prepare them in advance for what they should expect. You can create visuals, social stories, or even role play with them so that when you arrive, your child won’t be overwhelmed.
- If having a gather in your own home, it’s also good to prepare your child for what to expect. First, we recommend keeping the gathering small. Consider having a gather of just family one night and friends on a different night. That way you break up a large crowd into two small crowds, making the evening more manageable for your child.
- Where ever your holiday events take place, try to either set up a quiet room or monitor your child and take them outside or into a less crowded or loud space when they need to retreat. Be mindful of their needs. If you do this, your child will have less chance of breaking down or having a tantrum. It is important to give them a break from noise and activity.
- If going out for a holiday dinner, check with the host on what they are serving, or look up the restaurant menu in advance. Make sure your child has something to eat and drink. If nothing is available bring snacks with you that you know they will enjoy, or create their favorite meal before you go out and enjoy it with them.
- If cooking a holiday meal at home for family or friends, make sure your menu includes a few dishes that your child loves. Make them feel part of the celebration by including them in your kitchen. Allow them to help you prepare and get them excited for the night ahead.
- Use this time of year to do good and spread good cheer by volunteering at your child’s school, church, temple or other programs that your child is involved in. Show these organizations that you care and that you support the efforts they are making with your children with special needs.
- Donate! Donate to an organization that conducts autism research, spreads awareness, and/or implements treatments as the more funding these organizations get, the more research can be done and the more awareness of autism can spread. This will lead to greater acceptance and a better world for everyone!
This year may your Christmas truly be MERRY and BRIGHT!