While Christmas is usually a magical time for neurotypical children, it often causes a great deal of distress and worry to those with autism. Too much sensory input and a change of routine are often overwhelming to an individual having autism.
The great news is there are a few really simple steps that can make Christmas easier for your child. These actions will ensure that the whole family is able to enjoy this wonderful time of the year. The tips below will keep meltdowns to a minimum.
1. Highlight on your child’s planner the days leading up to Christmas, marking the day the decorations will go up, when presents will be wrapped and when family will arrive, etc.
2. Decorate the house over several days if your child finds change particularly difficult.
3. Limit the time spent each day on Christmas activities. Sticking to a normal routine for some of the time lowers anxiety.
4. Keep one room in the house completely free of decorations. This will be a place of calm where your child can go if a break is needed. You could also encourage siblings to put decorations, trees and lights in their own bedrooms.
5. Involve your child in the activities – even if they are just watching.
6. Some children become really stressed by having surprise presents. If your child does not cope with surprises why not let them choose their gifts and help you wrap up their presents ready for Christmas.
7. Keep some time in each day where the normal routine is allowed to happen.
These simply strategies can greatly help your child manage and even gain some enjoyment of Christmas.
If you have a specific question you are struggling with the team at Lighthouse Autism are happy to help.
www.lighthouseautism.eu Tel: 061 518448 email firstname.lastname@example.org
Lighthouse Autism is an independent provider of autism psychological diagnostic and intervention services based in Co Clare. We provide learning disability assessments throughout Ireland.
Five Practical Ways that Lighthouse Autism make assessments easier.
1) Our getting to know you pro-forma.
This is sent out to parents a few days before the assessment.
It asks important questions about your child; about how they tick, about what stresses them and about what calms them.
This information is used to create an assessment environment that is tailored for your child alone. It might be as simple as the psychologist wearing a Peppa Pig t shirt and having the Peppa Play house set up. Sometimes a child has complex needs. The gathering of information before the assessment ensures that we can make the process as stress free as possible
2) Our relaxed setting.
The assessment room is a quiet neutrally coloured comfortable room. We have a wide range of sensory equipment that your child is able to interact with. The needs of children who have either hyposensitivity or hypersensitivity are catered for. Information gathered on the pro-forma will allow staff to prepare the assessment area according to specific needs. This reduces fear.
Our autism dog ‘Gus’ who is a red fox Labrador is available for clients who request his presence. Stroking and petting an animal reduces adrenaline levels (which leads to stress escalation) in some children.
3) The use of ‘Social Stories’ before the assessment.
Our many years of clinical experience in the UK and US before returning to Ireland have shown that providing children with an accurate social story about their forthcoming assessment greatly lessens their anxiety. Many parents will know how difficult it is for their children to cope with new situations. Lighthouse Autism has developed the ‘Assessment social story’ written in an autism friendly way by a chartered child psychologist. You will receive this a week before your child’s appointment with full directions of how to use the protocol to ensure your child gains maximum benefit.
4) Appropriate distress and descalation techniques.
Occasionally, despite every attempt to provide thorough preparation and reassurance to a child distress does occur.
Our clinical team are able to provide a calming intervention quickly in the rare cases where children have become upset.
We always use the ‘Slow’ and ‘Low’ approach to calm a child. Time out, the use of signs and tools designed to reduce feelings of being overwhelmed are used. These approaches reduce the likelihood of a catastrophic reaction or meltdown.
5) The reassurance of family and the familiar.
Lighthouse Autism encourages the family to be present at the assessment if this is possible. The clinic is equipped with activities to engage all members of the family while the assessment is in progress. We have an area where tea, coffee and refreshments are available. Lunch may be ordered in advance if wished. Sky TV and Internet are also available.
It goes without saying that it is expected that your child will bring with them their normal comforters and objects that make them feel safe.
Lighthouse Autism 2014
Facebook: Lighthouse Autism
Tel 061 518448
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