Preparing for the festive season

The summer and festive season is upon us! It is a time for lots of fun, often involving family gatherings, visits to the beach, day trips, vacations and much more. Sometimes, however, the changes in routine, new experiences, and unfamiliar faces can be unsettling for autistic children. Below are some ideas to help the summer season be as fun as possible for all family members.

Plan ahead

It can help to plan in advance. This can look different for each child, but some of the more common recommendations include:

Taking things for your child to do

During a long road trip or a visit to a family member’s house, it can be difficult for your child to entertain themselves. Packing a bag of things your child enjoys before you go to help pass the time can be incredibly helpful. It can be even more beneficial if they are toys and activities your child doesn’t see daily. They are more exciting, so your child may be more interested in playing with them for longer. It can also really help to swap them around every 10 minutes or so and give your child a few at a time rather than the entire bag or box all at once.

Keep it short (when possible!)

Less can sometimes be more! We know when kids get tired, they become upset and dysregulated. Consider planning catch-ups that are on the shorter side. Perhaps arrive at a lunch gathering just before the meal starts, versus a few hours beforehand or break the road trip into smaller parts with a playground break every few hours. While it may feel a little strange to shorten activities, it may work out to be much more successful for everyone. After all, content kids mean relaxed parents!

Tech is ok!

Consider taking along an iPad or tablet for your child to engage with while you are at functions or on the road. Similar to the previous point, it can help keep your child occupied. If you are concerned about the noise level of the shows or games your child enjoys, consider headphones or earbuds.

Letting kids know what is happening

Amongst all the business of the season, we sometimes forget some of the most important things. Remember to let the kids know what is happening beforehand. You can do this in a number of ways, such as directly telling them, “Today we are going to Auntie Linda’s house, and you can play on the iPad”. It can also be beneficial to support what you are explaining to your child with visuals such as pictures. For example, you can show your child a picture of Auntie Linda and her house. Some kids really benefit from watching little videos. So if you are going on an aeroplane, jump on Youtube and show them a video of inside a plane and of it taking off, etc.

About the Author

Andrea Radcliffe is a Senior Behaviour Consultant and Family Services Mentor at Autism Partnership. She has worked in the field of contemporary behavioural analysis for over 20 years, spanning  Australia, Canada and the USA. Andrea has completed a Diploma in Community Rehabilitation, holds a Bachelor of Applied Social Science (Counselling), and is a Tuning Into Kids Practitioner.