Helping children with autism feel more comfortable around the holidays

Helping children with autism feel more comfortable around the holidays
(Source: Pixabay images)

WSFA/NBC - The holidays can be an overwhelming time for any family but for families affected by autism, there are extra challenges to consider.

Five-year-old Luke Grassa is a big fan of some Christmas traditions but his mom says greeting lots of relatives can quickly overwhelm him.

"He's so cute, they want to kiss him, so when they're in his face, that's when I can tell a meltdown is going to come on," said Antionette Grassa.

That's a common issue says Behavior Analyst Jason Majchrzak.

"Lots of crowds, being around the family, going out to the mall, things like that. Sometimes our kids have a hard time with some of those things," said Majchrzak.

At the autism center, they work with families to find ways to navigate those challenges and doctors say the advice is definitely not one size fits all.

Dr. Susan Youngs said "Every family is different, every child is different, all the holiday traditions are different. They really have to figure out how to enjoy an activity but then give a child an adequate time of decompression."

That's where family and friends can be helpful by asking parents in advance what would make a child more comfortable.

"Most people are really well-meaning about that, they want little Joey or little Susie to feel really comfortable in their home. So when you can say to them, you know a quiet space maybe in one of the bedrooms, where we can go if we're feeling overstimulated would be helpful. Or can I bring my mini trampoline because that really helps him," said Young.

It's also important to check with parents before buying toys because what's age appropriate may not be developmentally appropriate.

The biggest message is, don't be afraid to ask how can I make things easier. Parents really know what helps their child and what overwhelms them.

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