Christmas is a crazy time of year for anyone, autistic or not. When you add in sensory and social overload for autistic peeps – it can be hugely stressful and challenging. The noise, the fuss, the crowds, the hype – it can be a recipe for disaster!
Over the years we have kinda fine-tuned the girls coping strategies for this time of year so I thought I’d share them here so others can benefit from them, too. Just simple things that work for us and help to make the long Christmas holidays a bit more bearable.
- Take one or two down-days for every up-day.
Social outings and events can be exhausting for autistic peeps – crowds during Christmastime even more so. So for every single day that is an “up” day – meaning when you and your child are out and about and being around other people – allow a day or two at home, for a “down” day. On down days, allow your autistic child to do whatever they want that feels good and give them plenty of space to retreat and recover however they need.
- Pack a sensory toolkit for days when you’re not at home.
On the days where you have family events to attend or are having days out, pack a sensory toolkit for your child. Make it a habit for your child to bring this toolkit with them whenever you’re planning on being out of the house for more than an hour. In Sno’s toolkit (which is just a messenger style bag) she packs: water bottle, noise-cancelling headphones, her phone with podcasts loaded onto it and music, a fidget toy, a piece of velvet, lip-balm, an essential-oil roller ball bottle filled with her favourite smell, a few books, her glasses, some xylitol chewing gum, pen and paper and a word search book. This stuff enables her to take down-time when we are out and when we are travelling so she can effectively self-regulate, which brings me to..
- Keep sensory tools in the car.
In our car there are always a few fidget toys, cold water that we bring on the day and a puzzle book. Wilding (6) also brings along her iPod and headphones into the car because we all find when she’s listening to her own music she’s less likely to verbally stim and send us all bonkers!
- Decline invitations or leave early.
It’s important to remember you don’t need to attend every single event you’re invited to. If your child is exhausted and struggling, it’s perfectly acceptable to say no to attending and if you do attend, remember – you can leave whenever you want. We like to arrive early before the whole family crowd arrives and then we often leave early too, before the girls get to the completely-over-it stage.
- Communicate effectively.
This is in regards to communicating with family members to explain how Christmas affects the autistic peeps within your life, and also in regards to communicating with your autistic peeps. We have a calendar in our house in a commonly used area and on the calendar I write what is happening that week – always allowing for Tuesdays and Thursdays at home wherever possible. Sno, Wilding and Beans (and Rara!) all enjoy knowing what is happening when each week. This reduces anxiety a great deal.
Remember to take time to do things you all enjoy, and take regular time-out wherever possible, too. Self-care may sound cliched but it is so so important to avoid burn-out. Blessings. x