December 20, 2021


Pro Tips

Pro Tips: Preparing for Holiday Visits

Pro Tips provided by: Gretchen Abdullah, Behavior Support Consultant

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can be a stressful time of year for parents and caregivers of children with autism. Loud environments, bright lights, and crowded rooms can be overwhelming for your child and can make visits with friends and family challenging. Below are some tips to help make the holiday season go more smoothly.

1. Prepare in advance.

If you’re planning a visit with family, think about the potential problems that might occur and try to come up with solutions beforehand. For example, if your child doesn’t like to be in crowded areas or loud places, find a quiet space they can go if they get overwhelmed.

Prior to visiting someone else’s home, have a plan ready if your child begins to engage in certain behaviors. Bring some of your child’s preferred items and activities so you can redirect them if they start to get upset. Pack preferred snacks or food, especially if your child is a selective eater and won’t eat the meal being served. Make sure you have an agreed upon time to leave if a situation escalates.

Summit’s staff will work with you to create visuals and social stories to help prepare your child for upcoming visits. Showing your child pictures of guests and the sequence of events during the visit, such as dinner then dessert, will help your child know what to expect.

2. Ask for assistance.

The Summit Center is here to help. Ask your child’s classroom team for suggestions if you’re unsure how to handle an upcoming visit. They can help identify potential challenges for your child as well as solutions that work in the classroom.

If possible, have someone dedicated to helping during any visits in case a problem should arise. Whether it’s a family member or friend, they should be someone who knows and feels comfortable around your child.

3. Provide breaks.

If the environment is overwhelming for your child, try to provide breaks to get them out of that environment for short periods of time. If your child likes to go on walks, take them outside every hour or half hour, weather permitting. If they enjoy car rides, go for a five-minute drive. These breaks will provide the time and space your child needs to relieve any stress they might be experiencing.

4. Look for warning signs.

Know the early warning signs that your child is becoming agitated or upset. If you notice your child becoming agitated, try to redirect them to a preferred activity. If they’re upset by a loud environment, find a quiet place where they can calm down. If your child tolerates noise reduction headphones, consider bringing a pair to use if the environment is loud.

5. Talk to your family and friends.

Have a discussion with your family and friends beforehand. Make sure they understand your child’s needs and how they can best interact with your child. For example, if your child doesn’t like to be touched, explain to your family that a high-five or thumbs up is better than a hug. Let them know when they should or should not interact. For instance, a family member’s first response when your child is upset might be to try to soothe them with words. However, more talking might escalate the situation.

With these tips and some extra preparation, the holiday season can be a little less stressful for you and your child.