Christmas break has begun! As wonderful as it is to spend extra time as a family over the holidays, we have to remember that for our kiddos, Christmas break also brings with it a break in the routine, structure and predictability that goes along with the regular school day and that many of our kids need. I have a few suggestions to help the holidays go smoothly!
First, as tempting as it is to place your child in front of an iPad or Xbox to pass the time and get your Christmas prep done, I suggest limiting their screen time. My kids crave their Minecraft time as much as the next kid, but they have a hard time coming back to reality once it is time to put the games away and the more they play video games, the harder they find it to think of other things to do that don’t involve a screen. I find that my kids do ok with up to half an hour on a device and any more than that causes a meltdown when their time is up. Every child is different and some children use their games as a way to self regulate when they need to, so I suggest that you really pay close attention to what your child’s threshold is and set a timer so that they can keep track of how much time they have left.
A second tip is to try and plan your day out as much as you can even if you don’t plan on going anywhere. Writing a list of ‘events’ such as snack time, lunch time, silent reading time, outside time etc. will give your child a little bit of that structure that they are used to having at school. When I make a rough schedule for my kids it helps me plan my day more efficiently as well – what’s good for them is often good for us too!
Thirdly, there will undoubtedly be times where your children complain of being bored! I went out and purchased a few games such as Go Fish, Bingo and Story Cubes as well as some sensory activities like Sands Alive play sand and coloring materials. I also plan on making scented play dough with relaxing scents like lavender. Now when my kids complain of having nothing to do, I have a bunch of activities to give them that not only fill their sensory needs but also help their social skills and creativity! Plus, what better way to spend the holidays then crafting and playing games with your kids.
Finally, remember that the holidays can be overwhelming for our kids. Things that we may find wonderful like the smell of a turkey cooking, the hustle and bustle of downtown, the special skating with Santa events etcetera can be perceived much differently by a child with autism. Be patient, and don’t push your child to participate in all of the holiday activities if you are seeing that he is having a difficult time, and prepare them ahead of time for the activities that you do plan on doing.
If you have special Christmas activities or events that you take part in with your family, I would love to hear them too!
Here’s wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday from our house to yours.
P.S. Socialthinking.com has a Social Behaviour Mapping sheet especially for the holidays that you may find useful. Check it out!