Like many holidays, thanksgiving too can cause sensory overload in an autistic child. Having a houseful of guests, or visiting the homes of friends and relatives, along with constant activity, is stressful for everyone. But for children with autism spectrum disorder, even a marginal level of stress can cause a meltdown.
Here are some ways you can make the day easier and calmer for you autistic kid.
Plan your day with the child in mind
You’re likely to be excited to see your relatives and the large family gathering. But it may be a pressing time for your child. It may end in a disaster with the child feeling angry and frustrated with all the noise around. Think of alternatives. Spend some time playing with the “Just Match” and “Math on the Farm” apps with your child. Some quiet activities will also help.
Make sure there’s food that your child eats
Autistic kids are often averse or sensitive to certain foods. You may not know what your child may like to eat on that day. Let there be an assortment of foods. The child will feel better seeing all his/her favorite foods available. And you don’t have to worry about what he/she may or may not eat.
Keep a getaway space
Keep your child’s room out of bounds from guests. If you are visiting your relatives, inform them beforehand to keep a room aside for the autistic child. If possible, bring the “Just Match” and “Math on the Farm” autism apps on your iPad or smartphone, so that the child can play by himself and learn at the same time. Spend some time with your child in the room. It will help him/her get over the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Provide a schedule
If possible, use pictures and explain to your child the general time of thanksgiving, like when the guests will come and leave, the time for the dinner, the music that may be played, and similar things. Explain changes to the routine ahead of time.
Prepare a booklet for regular visits
If you plan to visit many people’s homes this thanksgiving season, prepare a booklet of pictures and explain to the child the persons he/she is about to meet. You can use pictures for this purpose. The child will be more prepared during the actual event.
There’s no need to panic on the day of the event. Just give time and space to your autistic child like any other day.