Breaks from school, work, and daily routine is what the holidays tend to bring. While they may be a time to relax for us, it is not the same for those with developmental disabilities. The holidays for developmentally disabled individuals can cause anxiety and confusion. With the hustle and bustle of the holidays it is good to take a proactive approach and plan ahead of all the festive celebrations. Here are some helpful tips we gathered to create a more conducive environment for your loved ones who do not do well with events outside of the norm.
Plan Ahead Of The Change
Preparing your family member for change can help illuminate meltdowns that may occur due to routine disruptions. Going over with your family member what the festive activities will look like will help them feel more with comfortable with the change. This can be done by creating a social story with pictures of the activities and the schedule.
Try To Keep It As Close To Normal As Possible
The holidays can cause a lot of change and its important to try to incorporate certain elements that are normal to them. This allows for some normalcy during an abnormal schedule. Some elements that you can keep the same are:
-wearing a comfortable and familiar outfit.
-maintain a regular routine as much as possible (breakfast, lunch, naps, self-care, bed time routine).
-continue to use reinforcement systems
Create A Space For Breaks
Most ASD individuals have sensory issues and can become very overwhelmed by the loud noise, business, and large groups the holidays bring. Creating a calming spot with some of their preferred items for them to escape too when feeling overwhelmed can prevent maladaptive behaviors from occurring. Teach them how they can gain access this calming spot if they need to take a break. It also allows you to have a space to be able to take them when you begin to see signs that they are becoming stressed and uncomfortable.
Bring Food That They Prefer
Many individuals with developmental disabilities have specific foods they eat. Knowing what will be on the menu ahead of time allows you to prepare what you may need to bring.
Practice All Things New
Practice your holiday traditions like opening up gifts and how to treat the tree and decorations. Role playing possible scenarios could also help them prepare how to respond to events that may be abnormal to them.