Oh, the holidays. Just the word conjures up idyllic Normal Rockwell images of family gatherings, tasty food and joyful faces. But for my daughter, large gatherings can also mean extra stimming behaviors as she tries to regulate her sensory intake, and meltdowns. My biggest challenge of the holiday season as the mom of a child on the autism spectrum is the question of whether I am actually providing happy, holiday memories for her or merely increasing her stress and discomfort.
The line between fun and overwhelm can be small for my daughter. Excitement and anxiety can feel awfully similar. Here are a few ways we’ve learned to manage this challenge.
First, we include my daughter in plan-making. We ask her what she thinks she’ll be able to tolerate. We give our feedback. We decide together what holiday events will be included and what holiday events we’ll skip. For example, for her birthday this past year, she opted to skip the friend birthday party.