1 – Every child likes to shop – their way. If shopping has proved stressful you likely had an agenda. So when you take your kids shopping, take them shopping – not you. Do this for all your children–not just the autistic child. Admire their choices as you let them choose the gifts they want to buy. So what if they buy their sister a so jar of mustard? Maybe they think that is a good gift. Instead of simply redirecting them, try to understand why.
2- In other words give control – your children spend their days being ordered and shaped so let go on the holidays. Let them just be autistic (or fourteen) for a change.
3- When you plan outings give them a say (non-verbal kids can point or make noises to help guide you … most kids do better when they have a voice … even a non-verbal one) how long and where and who will they see…
4- Make the car your friend. It’s familiar and smells like family so if they need a space to pull themselves together in, use the car. It goes everywhere!
5- Eat in unison. This means that if they have a special diet either everyone picks their favorite foods and your ASD child feels happy with that or everyone eats the special diet. Way too often the difference in the diets drives the kids to tantrum.
6 – Give gifts that THEY want NOT toys the educational department approves of. For example, if your child loves baby pillows give him a refrigerator box full of them. If he wants that every year so be it. Those other toys come from our wishes not theirs. So those other toys are not gifts, they are lessons.
7 – Don’t invite problem people. Leave that for everyday life – that way holidays are a holiday – for all of you.
8 – When you do go to events, your children may have discomfort so let them bring a favorite sensory comfort toy (or if it’s a sibling bring a best friend).
9- Make a memory that they want, not that seems appropriate. Take pictures and paste them in a book that day… that way they have something to hold on to till the next time the rules evaporate J
10 – Put decorations like trees etc up the night before so you can dedicate the day to the holiday. Decorate together and find beauty in the child version of decorative … keep things low and edible (like popcorn strings for the trees and cookie ornaments) and have the siblings all pitch in to create and devour.
11 – Wrap gifts in fun stuff like comics and bubble wrap and toilet paper and streamers and pillow cases and bags that you decorate and then wear on your heads …
12 – Avoid blinking lights that mesmerize and singing toys that surprise unless the child has indicated happiness for such things.
13 – Laugh, play, make a mess and do holidays the autistic way… after all, Xmas is for kids.
Remember, you can’t teach a child to relax and enjoy family unless you do. Happy Holidays!