Navigating the holidays and celebrations as a parent or carer of a child with autism can be challenging, especially amidst a pandemic.

We’ve gathered some tips and advice from our Communication, Learning and Autism Support Service (CLASS+) to help you and your family enjoy celebrations this half-term.

Create Routine

During holiday breaks, having a consistent routine may not always come as naturally as it does with the school term. Why not try to create a half-term calendar for the week?

Creating a routine for the half-term break is a great way to ease anxiety around the change in schedule.

Here are some tips to try for your half-term calendar to help prepare them for change and have some fun, too:

  • Identify what Halloween or half-term activities you want to do in advance. Make sure to keep in mind your child’s likes and dislikes, triggers, sensory sensitivities and more when choosing the activities together.
  • Create the calendar with your child and add visuals to depict what each of the days may hold.
  • Use photos, draw or make white labels as visuals for the calendar for each of the activities you have chosen for the week. Creating the visuals can also be a fun activity to do together!
  • Add the events or activities onto the calendar in their designated area.
  • Remember to avoid adding too many things to the calendar, as children with autism can become easily overwhelmed, anxious or demand avoidant.

Don’t forget, having a duvet day or quiet, cosy morning at home with a calming activity is also a great option.

Sometime, calendars don’t work for every child. Instead, try to use a Social Story to help them prepare for the festivities ahead. You can also try using ‘Now or Next’ or ‘First and Then’ cards as another alternative, especially for younger children or those who struggle with processing a lot of information at once.

Practice Scenarios Beforehand

While there are so many exciting activities and celebrations this time of year, they can be overwhelming or lead to high anxiety for children and young people with autism.

A great way to practice and prepare for upcoming events and activities is to dress up and role-play beforehand.

Use role-play to practice the different scenarios they may encounter, like playing different games, taking new routes, wearing a new costume and more. Plus, this can be a fun way to enjoy the festivities more than once!

Choosing the right activities and celebrations

Holidays and celebrations may look a little different this year, but they can still be full of fun and create positive memories for your family!

Due to the various Coronavirus restrictions and social distancing measures in place, why not consider having a Zoom Halloween party or festive get together with others? You can try out new games, such as putting a twist on the Secret Santa game, but use it for Trick-or-Treating.

There’s also some great ideas and activities available for families with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) this half-term which are local and accessible

When you are choosing activities and celebrations, make sure to keep in mind your child’s likes and dislikes, triggers, sensory sensitivities and more when choosing the activities together.

Remember, it’s okay for children and young people to not like or want to engage in a festivity. Let them know this is okay and ensure they have a quiet, calm space available to them.

For some children, participating in an activity can be difficult if it is perceived as a demand, so being flexible and providing choices may help reduce anxiety. Remember you can always try the activity another day if it doesn’t work out the first time. You can also explain to family and friends you may be doing the activity with beforehand, so that everyone is on the same page.

Make sure to keep an eye out on our Facebook page @CLASSPlusEastSussex for more resources.

Watch the CLASS+ Tips and Advice videos for more information on reducing anxiety in other areas of daily life as well.

For further advice and support, you can contact the CLASS+ Advice Line on Monday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 01273 336887 or you can call SENDIASS on Mondays to Fridays from 9.30am to 2.30pm on 01273 772289.

By Danielle Quijada