The holidays are often a time of relaxation, long summer days spent at the beach, festivities and getting together with family and friends. However, for a person on the autism spectrum the holiday season can sometimes be overstimulating, overwhelming and overwrought.
To help manage, Australia’s largest service provider for people on the autism spectrum, Autism Spectrum (Aspect), has developed some helpful tips to create an inclusive, autism-friendly holiday season.
“The holidays are often less structured and a break from the day-to-day routine,” states Tom Tutton, Executive Manager of Aspect Practice. “For a person on the spectrum, attending busy functions or going to a crowded shopping mall to purchase presents can be challenging. However, by becoming more aware of the different and diverse ways each of us engages with our world, and by making a few small simple changes, we can all help to create a far more inclusive and enjoyable environment.”
“It is helpful that everyone feels welcome during the festivities and holiday activities,” adds Thomas Kuzma, Engagement Officer at Aspect. “This might include making plans to meet a person’s preferences and needs, and accepting a person’s abilities, interests or unique perspective.”
One of the key recommended tips is to think ahead and prepare a plan to assist in managing expectations. Aspect’s tips also cover considering holiday decorations and presents that may be less stimulating, and how to navigate family get-togethers and parties. For example, if you are planning to attend a large, noisy, family get together, headphones might be useful to help decrease sensory overload. Additionally identifying safe locations to unwind and relax in advance is helpful.
Increasingly, big shopping malls are providing flexible options, such as sensory-free shopping at select times for people on the autism spectrum, and if visiting a friend or family member, discuss with the host in advance where there will be a quiet place to retreat to.
Alongside the tips, Kuzma has created an informative video with his suggestions for families with children on the spectrum about how to manage the holiday season.