Christmas is usually a fun time of year when everyone, especially children, get excited about the festive season. However the Christmas period can prove to be a challenging time for children with autism and their families. Changes to their routine and environment can be very stressful for children and young people on the autistic spectrum.
Here are our top tips on how to have an autism-friendly Christmas.
Explain the changes early
Changes to routine can be a source of anxiety for children with autism, so telling them about the changes to their normal routine and planning activities in advance can make it easier for them. Creating a countdown to Christmas day, using a calendar, marking key dates on the calendar, such as when the decorations will go up and come down, when they open presents etc can be a good way of preparing children for the changes.
Schedule family visits
Christmas can be a busy time, with lots of family and friends visiting, so it’s a good idea to schedule different people to visit at different times so that children aren’t overwhelmed. Ask people to phone ahead and not turn up unannounced so there are no surprises.
Create a quiet space
To make it easier for children, create a quiet space or room where they can go to get away from the hustle and bustle if it all gets too much for them.
Let children choose the wrapping paper for their presents so it’s familiar and make sure presents are wrapped loosely so they can be easily opened or leave presents unwrapped if they don’t like the sensation of unwrapping. Introducing presents one by one and letting children take their time opening them, even if this takes a few days, can be a good way of making sure they don’t become overwhelmed.
Consider the sensory implications
Christmas time is full of lights and decorations which some children will love, however they can sometimes cause sensory overload for children with autism, so you may have to minimise the lights and decorations in your house to reduce the sensory stimulation. Let children decorate the tree and house with you, putting up as many or as few decorations as they feel comfortable with.
We hope these tips help you to have a very merry Christmas!