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Keeping Your Child Safe and Comfortable During Holiday Festivities

Happy Family and friends at Christmas dinner.Christmas eve with traditional food.

It is the most festive time of the year and everyone is in the holiday spirit. For many people, holiday parties and large celebrations are a fun and exciting way to spend time with friends and family, but for children with autism and other behavioral disorders, these large gatherings can become overwhelming and uncomfortable for them. Being surrounded by lots of people with lots of noises and bright visuals might be too much for them to handle all at once or continuously as the night goes on. It’s important to recognize that some friends and family members may not approach your child the way you might. Making sure that your child feels safe and comfortable in a room filled with family friends is a top priority. 

How Occupational Therapy is Beneficial

Here at Pasitos, we offer occupational therapy which can greatly help your child improve their social and communication skills, so that they may be better prepared for situations such as a fun and exciting New Year’s celebration. They deserve to have just as much fun as everyone else, and occupational therapy can aid them in feeling more at ease in situations that would normally be hectic, overbearing, and exhausting. With occupational therapy, your child can develop better cognitive skills, socialization skills, self-regulation, and sensory processing.

Knowing What to Expect

It is very important that you help your child understand and know what to expect from the situation that they are about to step into. Tell them that there will be a lot of noise, bright colors, and perhaps even some unwanted hugs. Understanding all possible outcomes for any party or social gathering is nearly impossible, but try to help your son or daughter process what is going on. It may be difficult to completely control and avoid certain triggers and stressors especially if the celebrations are being hosted at a location that isn’t your own home. Let them know that people may want to talk to them, play with them, and get to know them. 

Anticipate and Monitor

Allow your child to have fun and interact with people. If it looks like they’re having a great time with their cousins, maybe don’t interfere too much. This being said, it is also important to monitor your child to see if they are expressing any challenging behaviors such as hair pulling or fidgeting. Try and notice if they are being exposed to their usual triggers or stressors. Notice if they begin to pace around the room, ask the same questions repeatedly, or start to rock themselves. Do your best to determine if your child might be on the verge of having a meltdown.

Meltdowns, in autistic children, are an intense response to overwhelming and overstimulating situations. If this does happen, try to determine what triggers caused it so those may be more closely monitored if your son or daughter ever does decide to rejoin the group. Calmly ask them what happened and if they are okay and be sure to keep your composer. Assure them that everything is going to be just fine. Ask those around them what happened and what led to the incident. 

The Importance of Alone Time 

If you need to, have some calming activities ready to help your child regain control and calm down. Perhaps provide them with some music to listen to or give them earplugs to block out all the excess noise they’ve been hearing all night. Make sure you have their favorite toy, just in case, or go for a nice quiet walk. Let them do anything they may need to do in order to calm down that isn’t destructive. It is also very important to make sure that they know it is perfectly okay to want to be alone. Don’t pressure them too much to spend time with other children or hug all their relatives. If they need some alone time to regain themselves, let them have it. If they do have a meltdown, allow them as much time as they need to recover. Make sure that they know that you are on their side and that you are there for them. Reassure them and comfort them. 

Positive Affirmation 

If the night ends up going really well, make sure that they know and reward them. This might have been a challenge for them, but they made it through, and that’s something that should be celebrated. Let them know that the behavior they displayed was not only fantastic but that it is highly encouraged in the future. 

Holiday parties can be very difficult to get through for anybody, so it’s really important that your child feels safe and comfortable, especially if they are surrounded by those who care about them the most. Be sure to talk to your child’s occupational therapist about how to handle situations like these and develop a plan. No one should be left out of the holiday excitement especially your children, so talk to an occupational therapist, and make sure they have a safe and comfortable holiday.  

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