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Supporting Your Child This Holiday Season

While everyone wants to think of the holiday season as Merry and Bright, the holidays are often a large source of stress for families. The holidays often come with routine changes, extended time at home, and an increase in social scenarios. All of which may lead to unexpected behavior. 

In this post, I will be discussing a few ways you can support your special needs child during the holiday season. 

  1. Discuss the schedule & events ahead of time: 
  • If your child enjoys books, using a social story such as ours on New Year’s Eve can help set up expectations for the day.
  • The use of a visual schedule to create a routine can help your child to know what is coming next.
  • Setting a new normal routine for the extra time off school can help your child navigate changes when school or daycare is not in session. 

  1. Practice-Practice-Practice!
  • If gift-giving or receiving is important to your family, help your child get involved by practicing opening, receiving, and giving gifts to others. 
  • Practice any coping strategies or tools learned in ABA therapy in a calm, controlled environment ahead of the event or gathering.
  • If you have any special traditions that you are hoping your child can participate in, work together or with your BCBA on what skills may be needed to set your child up for success.

  1. Slowly bring out & remove the decorations, scents, and foods:
  • If your child is resistant to change, preparing and slowly decorating your house can help ease into the changes that happen around the house during the holiday season.
  • This can also be helpful for children who are sensitive to new smells and textures that may not typically be around during the holiday season.

  1. Bring familiar items while traveling:
  • Having several familiar items can be comforting to your child as those toys/items are something familiar in an unfamiliar setting. 

  1. Have a backup plan & practice acceptance
  • Keep in mind there is no perfect holiday! Things may not go as planned, and that is okay.
  • Have a backup plan to leave gatherings and events. You can get your child involved by creating a code word or other signal if they need a break from an event or activity, or wish to leave.
  • If possible, have a safe area where your child can go to decompress (you may enjoy this space also!). 

  1. Prepare others
  • While it is everyone’s hope that family members will be accepting of your special needs child, on some occasions it can be helpful to talk with family members ahead of time about boundaries and their expectations for your child for family gatherings. 

Overall, there is no one-size-fits-all support strategy that will help make the holidays successful for your family. You know your child best and a combination of the above strategies may help make the chaos of the holiday season a little easier. 

By incorporating these tips, we hope that you will continue to make many new memories and bring some joy to your holiday season! 

If you have any questions or concerns about how to prepare your child for the holidays, reach out to your BPI BCBA today!

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Meet the Author

Allie Sheehan, BCBA
Director of Telehealth

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