The holiday season can be such a fun and relaxing time, but for many individuals with ASD or sensory processing issues it can be overwhelming and even stressful! I recently came across this article from the Autism Society of America and thought it provided some really useful advice.
One great idea mentioned to make the unexpected more familiar is to go through photo albums of family members who are coming to the house or show pictures of the people you are traveling to see. It's also important to talk to relatives ahead of time about your child’s specific needs and tips on how to help maintain a calm and enjoyable visit. Extended family members do not always understand what it means for a child to have an autism spectrum diagnosis and it may be helpful to set some clear rules ahead of time. Establishing a safe place the person with autism can retreat to is also key!
As described in the article the social rules of the gifting process can be difficult to negotiate. Earlier this week Abby and I went to visit a social group in our area and “gift giving" and "gift receiving” were the topics of the night. It was amazing to see this group of kids from ages 8-14, all with HFA or Asperger’s put on their detective hats to figure out all of the complicated rules involved. After all, it isn't in their nature to tell a white lie if they do not like a gift, is it?
Through role-playing how to react if you receive a “less than desirable” gift, these kids really seemed to get the hang of it! They were also challenged to put their interests aside and to think from another person's perspective when giving a gift. It was delightful to see how caring and thoughtful all of these kids were—a few direct pointers and helpful hints can go a long way!