Thanksgiving is right around the corner! Big family gatherings can be fun, but they can also be a source of stress. This is even more true for children on the autistic spectrum and their families. Large groups of people, changes to routine, and overstimulation can all cause discomfort and anxiety for a kid on the spectrum. Take a look at the following tips to make sure both you and your child have the most fun, least stressful holiday possible: Anticipate Your Child’s Food and Texture Preferences: If your child has an aversion to specific foods or textures, talk to the host in advance to see what kinds of foods will be available. If it sounds like they may have trouble finding something they’ll be able to eat, pack some of your child’s favorite foods and bring them with you. You may want to explain the situation to the host and the rest of your family in advance so no one singles your child out when you bring out their prepared food.
Prepare for New Experiences in Advance: Help your child learn what to expect. Read books about Thanksgiving to help your child get used to the idea. For ideas, take a look at this Thanksgiving social story by Autism Speaks to help your child understand what to expect. If your family will be traveling, let your child know in advance what that will entail. Role-playing and “let’s pretend” games are also a great opportunity for practice and can help your child ease into a new, potentially stressful experience.
Educate Your Family: Thanksgiving may mean interacting with family members who you don’t see often and aren’t familiar with autism. Prepare a short, clear way to explain what autism is and let them know some of your child’s major triggers so that they can be avoided if possible. Also, let them know how you and your child typically handle the situation if your child is anxious or upset and what they can do (or not do) to help.
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