A parent’s holiday weekend survival guide

With the Thanksgiving weekend fast approaching it seems like a good time to prepare for the hustle and bustle of family visits and dinners.  For a child on the spectrum this can mean changes in routines and a decrease in predictability, thus resulting in an increase in problem behavior and stereotypy.
Here are some tips to help things run smoother:
·         Choose your battles:
o   This is not the weekend to teach new goals and work on emerging skills.
o   For example, if your child is refusing to say hi to “Great Uncle Jon”, can you please both parties, by selecting a greeting that your child finds easier to engage in, while “Uncle Jon” feels acknowledged.  How about giving a high five or even a wave instead? Reduce the effort so that your child has a greater opportunity of being successful.
·         Don’t over plan.   Leave room for downtime.
o   Be sure to schedule time for you and your family to have some quiet time.  Holiday’s can quickly become over-planned and under-enjoyed.   Make a conscious effort to create opportunities for your child to access preferred activities – even if it’s something that you typically don’t like to promote (such as movie watching, computer use, even repetitive use of cause and effect toys) let things slide a little this weekend so that your child has an opportunity to unwind and get away from all of the demands that come with holiday celebrations.
o   If a walk in the woods with Grandma and Grandpa is on the agenda, sandwich it between 2 preferred activities.  Try not to plan back to back engagements that could be perceived as very effortful by your child.
·         Whether it’s for dinner or an overnight stay – bring activities
o   Visits with larger groups of family can be overwhelming and over-stimulating for most of us.  For a child on the spectrum, this can hold even truer.
o   Bring favorite activities and toys from home.  This will offer a sense of comfort and predictability to your child’s weekend.
o   Allow your child to be away from the group, where they can access their things in a manner that is not disruptive to everyone.
·         Make a schedule
o   You can either write it out or use pictures depending on your child’s abilities.
o   Go through the schedule in advance and reference it frequently throughout the weekend to ensure that the child understands what is happening. 
o   With more information provided to your child about their weekend schedule, the more likely problem behaviours can be decreased or even avoided.
·         Now is not the time for brussel sprouts…
o   Holiday foods are often rich and flavourful and could be foods that we don’t eat on a regular basis.  Lets face it – who has gravy smothered stuffing pulled out of a turkey more than a couple of times a year?
o   Choose your battles – this is not the time to worry about a limited food repertoire.  You have the rest of the year to focus on that.
o   Bring some back up food items to ensure that your child does not go hungry in the face of brussel sprouts and green bean casserole.  Things that will help them to enjoy their holiday dinner too.
·         Relax
o   This is your holiday too.  You deserve a break.  Schedule down time for yourself – a book, bed or bath is well deserved.  Make sure to make time.Emily

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