8 Tips to Prepare Your Family Members With Special Needs for the Holiday Season?
8 Tips to prepare your family members with special needs for the Holiday Season?
Can you believe it? The stores will be bypassing Thanksgiving and zooming towards Christmas before we know it! For those of us who have the daily joy of sharing our lives with someone who has Autism Spectrum Disorder or another special need, we know the feeling of living Halloween way before Autumn arrives and of having to listen to Christmas carols the minute the calendar lands on October…aah the anticipation of it all. For many this idea of happy holiday happenings can quickly turn into too much too soon and lead to a downward spiral. Here are some simple strategies that may ease the overwhelming excitement and allow one to celebrate holidays in a timely, successive order:
1. Always keep a calendar for many reasons, such as listing appointments and birthdays, but also to list what people generally speak about during special times of the year and what activities people partake in. For example, in October I would write at the top of the page: “People decorate their homes with pumpkins. Maybe we can go to a farm and go apple picking. People talk about baking and eating apple pie and pumpkin bread. We can watch movies like The Wizard of Oz and scary movies like __________. Everyone looks at Halloween costumes and buys bags of candy.” You should continue this throughout the year.
2. When each major holiday ends, prepare them for the next holiday. For example, when Thanksgiving ends write the following the day after: “Start taking down Thanksgiving decorations. Start talking about Christmas. Start writing a list about what decorations to get for Christmas.”
3. Include your family member in functional tasks during the busy-ness of the holiday season as much as possible, such as helping to creating a food shopping list pertaining to Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas cookie recipes, or having them push the cart and find the items in the supermarket or loading the dishwasher after the meal. In other words, try to use their excitable, nervous energies as much as possible in a positive proactive way.
4. As each holiday ends, have your family member recycle the catalogs and magazines, which definitively symbolizes its ending.
5. Limit their choices of music and movies to a seasonal selection or those that are relevant all year. Layout the TV Guide to demonstrate when most people watch Christmas movies. A good rule to follow is that behind closed doors in someone’s bedroom anything can happen, but in the living room we have to follow certain rules. So, on Christmas Eve nobody in the family wants to watch a movie about Easter!
6. Proactively preparing each person about the upcoming changes in their schedule is the best bet! Letting them know the location of the holiday dinner is a must. If visitors are coming over please let them know. Making these changes known via a written note and/or photographs are gladly appreciated.
7. Always provide items and activities to keep your family members occupied during these holiday meals. We can amuse ourselves with conversation but sometimes others cannot. Keep that in mind.
FREE DOWNLOAD: PSN Holiday Tip Guide
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This post originally appeared on our November/December 2010 Magazine