While kids are celebrating no school for a week (or more), parents are often wondering how they’ll fill the time and keep chaos from erupting. As much as kids may whine about school sometimes, they often like the familiarity of routine. They know what to expect each day. But with winter break, their schedule is thrown out of whack. This can be especially challenging to deal with for children with autism who prefer routine and dislike the unpredictable.
Create structure for each day. Even if you don’t have plans to go anywhere, set a schedule that includes basic timing for things such as wake up, meals, outside play, screen time, reading, and other activities. This lets kids know what to expect and have a schedule to follow. Creating a visual schedule can be very helpful.
If you do have plans, discuss them in advance. Talk about where you’ll be going, what you’ll be doing, and what they may expect. Also discuss ways children with autism can cope with changes or self-soothe should they begin to feel anxious or upset.
Don’t forget to check and see whether your child’s regular therapy sessions will be held or whether the facility will have different hours or days off for the holidays. This can also provide some consistency, or allow you to prepare them ahead of time for changes. Talk to their therapist to see what activities they recommend doing at home.
Keep expectations realistic. Holidays are exciting and filled with activities that don’t normally occur. Kids gets new toys, eat too many sweets, and see family they may not see often. Realize that meltdowns may occur, and kids may struggle to follow the normal rules. Give gentle reminders, but also be flexible and understanding.
Make sure that you plan time into the schedule for downtime. Give children the chance to unwind and relax. Let them play with a favorite toy, spend time drawing or swinging, or just rest while watching a movie. The holidays can be overwhelming, and everyone needs a little downtime sometimes.
Plan fun activities. There are plenty of options for engaging activities for children with autism – and siblings can enjoy these games too! Come up with some fun and educational ways to keep your kids busy and practice skills they’ve been working on. They may not be in school over break, but they can always be learning.
Look for local events happening within your community as well. Some may even offer accommodations for children with special needs. Plan ahead to make it an outing that the whole family can enjoy and where kids can be active. Scheduling playdates is also a great way to keep kids entertained while allowing them to see friends over break. It can also be helpful for parents who may not have the whole week off and need help looking after kids.
Planning for the holidays can be a lot of work – whether figuring out what do when kids are out of school or how to prepare for family get togethers. Take it one day at a time and don’t be afraid to ask for help from others. Implement strategies your child has been working on in ABA therapy or other services at PediaPlex to help them make the most of the holidays and winter break.
Does your child struggle to cope with change? Find out how PediaPlex can help.