The school semester is wrapping up, we have holidays to celebrate, and more activities and parties than at any other time of the year. There’s no way around it: December is busy. While some people thrive on the extra activity and social engagement, children with autism are more likely to find all the extra stimulation and change overwhelming. And as parents everywhere know, overstimulation and missed routines can lead to meltdowns.
As ABA therapists, we talk a lot about routines because the predictability that a good routine offers can provide comfort and stability and minimize problem behaviors for a child with autism or other special needs. But changing school schedules and added holiday celebrations quickly disrupt and upend the usual schedule.
If you’re looking for tips to transition to a whole new routine (we all make a few changes in the new year!), check out our blog on Transitioning to a New Routine, the ABA Way.
But if you’re just trying to make it through the month without any big changes (and with your sanity intact), we’ve boiled it down to a few essential routines that can help both you and your kiddo with autism enjoy the holiday season.
Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Even as adults, it’s hard to be our best selves when we don’t get enough rest. And that’s even truer for kids. When we’re tired, we can more easily feel cranky and it’s much harder to focus and control ourselves. An upended schedule combined with a lack of rest makes good behavior that much more difficult.
It’s tempting to stay up late to look at lights or spend just a little more time at that party, but to set kids up for success, maintain a consistent nap time, bedtime, and even wake-up time as much as possible. Resting your body is also important for keeping your immune system working at its best. At a time of year when so many germs are circulating, rest has the added benefit of keeping you and your kiddo feeling your best.
Stock Up on Favorite (Healthy) Foods
In a season of added activities and stimulation, now may not be the best time to introduce new foods. There’s enough new and different right now, so to the extent that you can, we recommend maintaining a healthy, approachable diet for your kiddo. The holidays are a time of plenty of extra treats and snacks – just be cognizant of any food triggers that might further challenge your child.
From our ABA therapy team in Innovative Behavior Options, we want to wish you and your family and very happy holiday season!