Preparing Your Child With Autism For Christmas

It's the month of December and Christmas is fast approaching! Previously on our blog, we have written several articles on involving your child with autism in Christmas, and you can check them out by clicking on the following links:

Decorating The Christmas Tree

Making Christmas Cards & Buying Christmas Gifts

During the Christmas season, most families may want to participate in various Christmas activities and events, however, these activities/events may be potentially challenging for a child with autism. This week on our blog, we would like to share with your some tips and strategies on how to prepare your child for Christmas.

PLAN AHEAD

We would recommend planning ahead and deciding on which Christmas event your family will be attending, whether it's a concert, musical, family gathering, etc. For some children with autism, changes in their routine or crowded events can potentially trigger their anxiety. As such, we would suggest picking your battles and choosing only 1 or 2 events that you would like your child with autism to attend.

PREPARE YOUR CHILD

Once you have decided on which event your child with autism will be attending, it is important that you prepare your child in advance and ensure that your child is sufficiently prepared.

  1. Social Story. Write a social story on the Christmas event/activity that your child will be attending, and read this social story to your child several times, leading up to the actual day of the event. In your social story, be sure to include details such as:
  • The location or venue.
  • The people they can expect to see (e.g. family, Santa Claus)
  • The environment (e.g. bright lights, sounds/noises, decorations, etc.)
  • The specific attractions they will see (e.g. musical, play, etc.)
  • Rules and expectations (e.g. Nice hands, Talk nicely)
  1. Visual calendar. It would be beneficial to have a visual calendar to help your child countdown the days to the event. On the calendar, you could circle or mark the day of the Christmas event. After each day, you could cross out the day, to clearly show your child the remaining number of days to the event. You could easily search the internet for a free printable calendar, print it out, and put it up on the wall.
  2. Visual Schedule. It would be important to communicate the agenda of the day or flow of the event to your child with autism, in order to give him/her predictability of what to expect and what is going to happen next. We would suggest supplementing your verbal communication with additional visuals, by showing your child pictures in a sequential order, or writing the agenda down (if your child is able to read).
  3. Reward your child. Once you have communicated the event and expectations to your child with autism, we would recommend also communicating to your child the reinforcement (reward) that he/she can get after the event. By doing so, you would motivate your child with autism to want to participate or attend the event, as well as to demonstrate the socially appropriate behaviours during the event.

HAVE A BACKUP PLAN
  1. During the Christmas event, if you predict there will be waiting times, we would suggest that you bring along various activities to keep your child with autism occupied while waiting. You can bring along books, colouring activities, puzzles, or simple toys that your child could play with.
  2. In the event your child demonstrates a behaviour, it would be important to find a safe and quiet space that you can take your child to, so that your child can calm down. Ensure that you have some toys or items with you that you could use to redirect your child.

The above ideas are some of the basic guidelines to help assist your family in preparing for a Christmas event. As each child with autism is different, these suggestions will need to be individualized to further meet the different requirements of each child.

We wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Please do not hesitate to contact us at 03-20940421 or at info@autismmalaysia.com should you need anymore assistance.