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Holidays can be a time of great joy and excitement, but they can also be stressful and disruptive. For families who have children with autism, extra planning is essential to keep everyone on an even keel. Managing expectations about what a holiday “should” be like, and minimizing the changes that will occur in your family routine will help reduce stress and avoid meltdowns.
Think about what happened at your holiday celebrations last year: what activities and events worked well, and what ones should have been avoided? A lot of the challenges at holiday time have to do with trying to take on too much: too much shopping, too much sugar, too many parties, too much travel, and too many visits with friends and relatives. Think about ways to simplify your holiday schedule. Less really can be more, because fewer disruptions to your regular routines can be reassuring and calming for all family members and lead to greater enjoyment during the special times shared together.
Prepare your child or family member for events and activities that are coming up, but not too early! If your child tends to become anxious about upcoming events, decide how many days or hours in advance it makes sense to prepare them. Visual preparation can be especially helpful: use the Stages Transportation Bingo Game to talk about upcoming holiday travel plans.
Start your holiday season by using this checklist to help you create ways to focus on the joy of the season and minimize the stress. More joy might just mean less of everything else. Less is not a bad thing: it allows us to pause and immerse ourselves in the real joy of the holiday season: our traditions such as singing, eating special foods, and enjoying time spent with loved ones.
Leslie Stebbins has more than twenty-five years of experience in higher education with a background in library and information science, instructional design, research, and teaching. She has a Masters in Education from the Technology Innovation & Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Masters in Information Science from Simmons College. For twenty years she created and led information literacy and research skills programs for students and faculty at Brandeis University. Currently she is the Director for Research at Consulting Services for Education (CS4Ed). Her clients both at CS4Ed and as an independent consultant have included Harvard University, the California State University Chancellor's Office, the U.S. Department of Education, Facing History and Ourselves, Tufts University, and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. She is the author of numerous articles and four books including Finding Reliable Information Online: Adventures of an Information Sleuth. For more about Leslie visit LeslieStebbins.com.