How to help your child with Aspergers survive the holiday season
This is an article designed to help parents of children who have Aspergers through the holiday seasons. We all have fond memories of our own childhood, when we looked forward to putting up the decorations, eating mouth watering meals and receiving all those longed for presents at Halloween, Thanksgiving or Christmas. As parents we naturally want our children to enjoy it all and have as much fun as we did so we talk, anticipate and prepare with mounting excitement as the celebrations draw nearer.
However for those families who are raising a child with Aspergers syndrome it all adds up to an almighty headache! Children with Aspergers Syndrome have a real hard time coping with all of these celebrations and if they have their birthday on top of that? well you may as well pack up and go away until Spring! Anticipation for a child with Aspergers Syndrome leads to increased levels of anxiety which they cannot control. They become overloaded and then you have a massive meltdown at the time when you are all supposed to be enjoying and celebrating the season of peace and goodwill! The party will be ruined and everybody upset, especially your child who is trying so hard to fit in and be like everybody else. So how can you achieve the impossible and enjoy the season while at the same time keeping your Aspergers child calm and behaving appropriately? The first simple step to take is to simply reduce the time talking about the festive occasion. Remember he /she cannot easily control their emotions and to chatter constantly about the event will simply lead to stress and anxiety. It is useful to enlist the help of others in your home in this and keep any conversations to a minimum while your Aspergers child is around. Another great strategy to help is to keep any physical changes to your home to the minimum, so by all means decorate, put up cards and a tree but just don't make a big fuss about it all.
A good tip is to not put out any presents until the day they are to be opened as your Aspergers child will have a hard time keeping their hands off and will became anxious and potentially oppositional. Although it's important not to overload your child it is equally important to explain any changes to their routines. So prepare your child for any changes by calmly telling them the day before what will be happening. Visual supports always work well so use photos or simple pictures to explain what will be happening. It is also important to explain to your child what is expected of them, e.g.
to say 'hello how are you" to guests and sit at the table to share the meal. Your child will also need to be given permission to leave the festivities and you can rehearse this together with some simple role play. This is really important as it gives your child an exit strategy and also allows them to get through the celebrations without going into meltdown. Additionally if you see that he/she is becoming distressed you can also activate the exit cue so your child gets out before the situation deteriorates. Following these simple steps should lead to a much more positive experience for everyone and will provide your Aspergers child with the love, support, reassurance and above all confidence to participate fully in these wonderful occasions.
So to summarize briefly it is important to keep preparations and discussions around the holidays to a minimum when the child with Aspergers is around. Preparing them as to what will be expected of them at this time, as well as incorporating an exit strategy, will help further. Good luck!.
Dave Angel is a social worker with families who have children on the Autistic Spectrum and is the author of a new e-book that answers the 46 most asked questions by parents of children with Aspergers. To claim your free 7 day Mini-Course for parents of children with Aspergers Syndrome, visit http://www.parentingaspergers.com today.
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