With holiday break approaching, we may feel our anxiety starting to rise; less structured time, no school, different schedules, etc. These changes can wreak havoc for kids with autism and other mental health challenges. Here are 5 quick tips to help break be a successful time that everyone can enjoy.
- Provide advance notice. Let your child know that break is approaching and what s/he can expect to happen over break. Sometimes we use calendars to write in what activities will be happening each day. This advance notice lets a person know what is coming so they can begin to prepare mentally.
- Schedule breaks. Sometimes there are lots of new and different sensory stimuli like cooking smells, new people, different sounds etc. Processing new stimuli takes additional energy and so scheduling frequent breaks may be helpful for your child. The trick is to remain within a window of calm and not letting our emotions get too big. Frequent breaks can help us get regulated throughout the day and increase the likelihood that we will stay within that window of calm.
- Help others understand. Perhaps family that isn’t around often throughout the year may not know what to expect or how to interact most successfully with your child. Some advance training for them through an email or phone call with some key points about your child’s triggers as well as preferred items / activities can go a long way
- Create structure. Kids with autism and other mental health challenges are usually most successful in situations which have structure. With school being on holiday, there may be less structure during the day. Reaching out to support providers (i.e. ABA, speech, OT) to see if there is an option for increased services during the break may help. Also, creating a daily schedule for your child can help create structure for him/her (and you!).
- Enjoy the moment. Holidays can be times of additional stress and pressure. Remember that it is also a season aimed at spending time with those we love. Try to remain in the present moment and notice what is happening around you; the lights, the sounds, the smells, instead of thoughts about what must be done next or worries about what might happen in the future.
We’d love to hear any other tips that help your family enjoy this holiday season!