Autism and the Holidays

candlesThe holiday season is here and that means parties, gatherings with family, food, sparkly lights, packages and holiday music in all the stores.  For some of us this is a welcome time, full of sounds, smells, and sights that conjure happy memories for us.  For those individuals with autism spectrum disorder, the holidays can mean a time of sensory overload mixed with confusing social experiences.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the senses, communication and behavior.  Because autism is a spectrum disorder it affects each individual differently.  People with autism may experience their senses differently than neurotypical individuals.  Some may be bothered by bright or twinkling lights, others by certain sounds or noise generally, or a combination of both.  Some individuals have tactile sensory issues and might be bothered by the hugs and cheek pinching of well-meaning relatives.  Others desire deep-pressure touch, like a hard squeeze, especially when they are feeling anxious.

Autism also impacts communication.  Children and adults with autism might be non-verbal, highly verbal, or any degree in between.  They may use assistive or augmentative communication (AAC) devices like iPads, pictures, sign language or an app on their phone to help them communicate.  Or they may talk incessantly about their preferred subject.

Social communication can be especially difficult for those on the spectrum.  Reading body language and subtle nuances of social situations such as the flow or give-and-take of conversation or small talk among colleagues at a holiday office party can be extremely difficult.  Social situations can be taxing and emotionally exhausting for an individual with autism because they have to work so hard to understand the situational context while trying to communicate at the same time.  Add to this the sensory overload of bright lights, noise and crowds during the holiday season and people with autism can really feel stressed and overwhelmed. kamagra viagra differenze

Sometimes, children and adults with autism may behave in ways that others might think is strange.  Generally, they are reacting to the stressors in their environment.  A child might have a meltdown because of sensory overload and need to go to a quiet place to reset.  They might need to be calmed or soothed by a parent or trusted adult or they might just need some time alone.  A child might cover their ears because of a train whistle at the mall or because of too much auditory stimulation.  An adult might leave an office party suddenly because they were feeling overwhelmed or simply stop engaging in conversation and “shut down.”

When interacting with children and adults with autism, it is important to be compassionate, flexible, and keep in mind the individual’s personal limitations or stressors.  There are a lot of things you can do to ease the frustrations of the holiday season for your loved ones on the spectrum. lasix iv push rate

Here are some tips:

Shopping:

If you are planning to take your child with you when shopping, try to go at non-peak times – early morning or late evening when the stores are less crowded.  Bring noise cancelling headphones with you for your child to wear or let them listen to music on their iPod or MP3 player as you shop.  Don’t plan a marathon of stores in one day, it’s too exhausting for someone on the spectrum.  And be prepared to leave when they are overwhelmed – even if you haven’t made it to the check-out lane yet. conbipel via cipro roma

Some malls and retailers in the nation are recognizing the need to offer sensory friendly shopping times.  These are times that the store or mall is open to autism families outside of regular hours.  Lighting is usually subdued and the music is turned down, affording an opportunity for families to shop with less sensory stressors.  Check with your mall or favorite retailer to see if they offer this and if not, suggest it! metformin diabetes journal

Visiting Santa:

Some children may not want to get close to Santa or sit on his lap.  Look in your locale for a Sensory Friendly Santa event if possible.  These events provide an opportunity for children to have the experience of visiting with Santa on their own terms.  They are specifically geared for children with special needs, typically less crowded, lighting is low and Santa is generally more sensitive to the needs and expectations of the autism community.

If you must visit Santa at the mall or a large department store, follow the same guidelines you would for minimizing stress at the mall.  Try to go at the earliest time available to avoid the crowds.  Bring headphones or fidgets and be prepared to leave if your child becomes over stimulated.

Family Gatherings: side effect of metformin 500 mg

Preparation for social events is very important for your loved ones with autism.  Talk with your child about the gathering, where you are going, who will be there, what you will be doing and expectations at the event.  The Indiana Resource Center for Autism offers many resources for you to create a holiday visual schedule, calendar or social story for your child.  These supports help to relieve anxiety as children have a visual reminder and know what to expect.

Be sure to talk with family and friends ahead of time and encourage open dialogue about autism spectrum disorder and your child’s unique needs.  If possible, find a quiet room with low lighting that the child can go to when they feel overwhelmed.  Bring headphones, fidgets, or other self-calming tools with you too. viagra song comedian

Toys and Activities:

If you are shopping for that special someone with autism and would like to know what toy is best, ToysRUS provides a gift guide for “differently-abled kids.”  This guide helps you shop for developmentally appropriate gifts that relate to the skill level and/or sensory process preferred for your child.  You can also visit Lemon Lime Adventures to find sensory friendly make-your-own gifts for the holidays.  These activities provide a fun way to engage your child through sensory-oriented play or learning while creating something special for someone else. metformin dc granules 90

The main thing to remember during the holiday season is to know your limits and the limitations of your loved ones and to try to set your expectations accordingly.  Then plan for the activity and go over the plan so that everyone knows what to expect, but be flexible enough to change or abandon the plan at any time in order to reduce stress or to ensure the safety of your child.  This is a tall order for any one of us, whether we are affected by autism or not, but with some careful planning and forethought, you and your family can experience the joys of the holiday season together! revatio viagra same

Mary Pelich, M.S. epimerization of doxycycline

Mary is the mother of four, including a 13-year-old son with ASD. She is currently a consultant and trainer for the Illinois State Library’s “Targeting Autism” program, and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Autism Society of Central Illinois.  You can reach Mary by email at MPelich@ILSOS.NET metformin for pcos weight loss success stories

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