Frances Hammel-Kampus, M.Ed., R.Psych.
*This article is intended for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide advice to any individual member of the public. It is not a replacement for professional, medical or psychological support, and is not intended as crisis support. If you are experiencing a crisis or life threatening situation, contact the Healthline at 811, 911 or visit your local emergency room.
Supporting a child with neurodiversity (including autism and ADHD) during the holidays requires understanding, patience, and some planning ahead.
Consider these ideas to help you support your child during the holiday season:
Prepare in advance: Let your child know about holiday plans and events in advance. Visual schedules or social stories can help them understand what to expect and communicate their needs. Discuss any changes to routines such as school breaks, family visits, and explain how these changes will affect their daily life.
Educate family and friends: Share information about your child’s unique qualities with family and friends to encourage understanding and support.
Maintain routines: Stick to your child’s regular routines when it is possible. Consistency can provide a sense of security and predictability.
Prepare for social interactions: Socializing with others can be a challenge. Discuss expected social behaviours and practice social skills ahead of time. Offer the option for a quiet space where your child can retreat if they need a break or become overwhelmed.
Use a timer or countdown: Timers or countdowns can help to ease meltdowns by preparing your child to transition between activities or leave gatherings.
Offer choices: Allow your child to have some control over their holiday experience by offering choices within boundaries, such as letting then choose which holiday decorations to put up.
Practice gratitude: Discuss positive aspects and encourage gratitude for the people and experiences that bring joy during the holidays. Emphasize the positive aspects of neurodiversity and encourage your child to embrace their unique strengths and talents.
Self-care for you: Caring for children can be emotionally and physically demanding. Make time to recharge.
Seek support: Connect with supportive friends and family, support groups, or professionals who understand neurodiversity. They can offer guidance, resources and a sense of community.
By creating an inclusive and understanding holiday environment, you can help you and your child enjoy the festivities and build holiday memories!