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Keeping Your Autistic Loved One Safe and Happy This Holiday Season

The holiday season can be a time of family, fun and stress. Add in a global pandemic and that takes this holiday season to an entirely new level, a level none of us have seen before. For our autistic loved ones, the holiday season with all of its sensory overload and changes in typical routine may already be a difficult time. This year, with masks, social distancing and the changes that have come with COVID-19, this holiday season may be even more challenging.

One thing that makes the holidays so special are the traditions we have as a family. If some of these traditions include family members who have to travel, who may be older or who may have underlying health issues, your family may decide to keep your holiday celebrations small this season. If that is the plan, include your autistic loved one in making new traditions and preparing them for that change now. Create a social story or a story board of the different traditions you might include this holiday season and give choices so the change may not feel so overwhelming. Continue to talk and plan for the new changes so your loved one knows what to expect for the big day and is excited for it.

Whether it’s school events that are canceled or changes in the meals and treats you typically have during the holiday season, try and replicate what your traditions have been in the past, even if it’s on a smaller scale. Have a holiday party at home with some of the same games, activities and snacks that would typically be at a holiday school event. Try creating Grandma’s stuffing recipe by including her via video while you make it. Maybe your extended family could all plan to eat at the same time and have a Zoom or FaceTime call to make it feel like everyone is together. There are many ways we can still feel like we are together even if we have to safely be apart.

If holiday shopping or going to see Santa is something your family looks forward to, try shopping online or having Santa send a personalized letter or video to your son or daughter. There are many online services that can help you create a personalized letter or video from Santa to your child. Remind them that they can read the letter or watch the video over and over, but visiting Santa in person only happens once!

And remember to take time out for you. All the changes, restrictions and isolation are hard on you too, so set some time aside during this busy hustle and bustle holiday season for some self-care. Grab a book, your television remote and a cozy blanket and take some time to wind down so you can recharge. This holiday season may not feel like the holidays of years past, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still be grateful for the love and spirit of the holidays and embrace the time we have to celebrate safely with our loved ones.

Image Credits: Kathy Hooven