As you are in the midst of family & social gatherings, we offer you our best on preparing for the potential nightmares of sensory overloads and societal expectations. The change in routine is the biggest difficulty during the holidays. Below are suggestions for you or for those you think might need the awareness most!
-The Staff at Aspergers101

1. If your child is easily overstimulated, limit holiday decorations in your home. 
2. At parties, always offer an ‘escape’ that you will honor if needed
3. Avoid taking your child shopping on the busiest shopping days of the year or to return gifts after Christmas
4. Remember ear plugs may eliminate sensory overload at malls or anywhere loud voices or sounds may be amplified
5. Avoid overscheduling and be sure to provide for downtime

We asked the founder of Starfish Social Club, Stephanie Pepi, What is your advice to parents fearing holiday social scenarios for their children diagnosed with High Functioning Autism or Asperger Syndrome?  

Her response:
My 10 strongest pieces of advice are to prepare as much as possible and to use unexpected moments as teachable moments. Here are some specific recommendations:

1. Prepare as much as possible ahead of time.

2. Tell your child where you are going, why, how long you expect to be there, and what to expect. 

3. When you get there, engage in a strategy called ‘read the room’. What do you notice? What are the expectations? What are most people doing?

4. Don’t schedule social events with no plan. Center it around an activity or event. All our social outings involve going to a place to do a thing. Structure reduces stress. If you want to schedule a play date, where are you going to go? Maybe a park or themed event. Try to do it on neutral ground, not at someone’s house. The same is true for a ‘hang out’ for older kids. Base it around a structured activity like a trampoline park or movie.

5. Give your child an out. What is the signal if they need a break? Where can they go? What can they do?

6. Let your child come up with the goal so it’s meaningful to them. Sometimes I only focus on one thing with certain students. The goal for the day may be for him to keep his body in the group. Or for her to be flexible when her partner suggests a game. Or for him to follow the group plan instead of his own plan.

7. After the activity, praise your child for all the things they did well, no matter how small. Did they greet other people? Did they share something? Did they ask someone a question?

8. If it wasn’t super successful, don’t talk about the challenges. Save that for the next time you prep for something.

9. Let your child have ‘me time’ after the activity. Social events can be stressful and ‘me time’ is both rewarding and stress relieving.

10. Reward yourself as well. Supporting a kiddo with social learning challenges is tough work, and you are rocking it!

My strongest pieces of advice are to prepare as much as possible and to use unexpected moments as teachable moments

Stephanie Pepi/Starfish Social Club

More reading!
Tips for Navigating Holiday Events For People with Social Learning Challenges
Twelve Tips for Helping Individuals with Autism Have a Happy Holiday Season
Tips For An Autism-Friendly Holiday Season
Surviving Christmas Break: Tips for Parents with Kids on the Autism Spectrum

Consider your year-end giving to the continuing service of Aspergers101. Aspergers101 is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to providing continual information on Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism. You can read more about Aspergers101 and donate HERE.

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