FASD Think Tank: 101 Holiday Strategies for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Supporting yourself and your family

parental stress associated with raising autistic child

Holidays are a tough time for our kids. We may place pressure on ourselves to try to make holidays perfect. What matters is family and love and learning to live and appreciate each other for our unique gifts. Our kids do the best they can and if other people (aka, family) can’t understand that and you have tried to explain numerous times, just ignore them. Cut yourself and your kids some slack-scale back, stay home and enjoy the moments whenever you can get them. 

Holidays are meant to be joyful, happy occasions. 
Do the best that you can. 
You do not have to apologize for doing 
what is appropriate for your family. 
Meltdowns are not pretty and very few people understand they are not enormous temper tantrums. They can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour and when they are over everyone is exhausted. What has your family done to make it easier for your young people? Following is our recent discussion on FASD Think Tank – we hope our cumulative experiences will help your families enjoy brighter holiday celebrations.
Create good sense.

Realize the world especially during the holiday seasons may assault our children’s senses. 

  • Have a go bag (sometimes called a busy bag) for your event with things to occupy child –  headset, video game, colour books, washable crayon or markers, paper, playdoh, picture books, beloved stuffed toys,  favourite music or a craft everyone can do. Bring their pillows and blankets. One child may enjoy popping small bubble wrap bubbles another may feel assaulted by that sound. 
  • Bring a crash pad – a bean bag, body pillow, sleeping bag or tent. You can also use a small folding table and add a sheet for a fort.

Sound – Have a supply of earplugs handy. Disorganized noise can be a disaster.  If music soothes your young person, use it, but do so judiciously; if the music is an irritant, keep it off or to a minimum.

  • The train under the flashing lights on the tree can be like standing in an Amtrak station
  • Shopping in the grocery store or mall can feel like an earthquake. Find spots in the mall/store that are quiet to have a retreat – quiet hallways or aisles without decorations
  • Multiple normal talking voices can feel like screams

Touch – If your young person is not good at ‘dressing up’ be happy they are just wearing clothes to whatever event and let the rest go.

  • Give a soft matching t-shirts or sweatshirts to everyone as gifts, make sure they are sensory friendly to your child and involve your child in the process. This makes a family silly photo easier.
  • New pretty clothes scratch, pull, tug and itch – trying online shopping at http://www.softclothing.net/
  • Test drive the clothes before the event and see if there is going to be trouble brewing
  • Bring additional comfy clothes and shoes to change in later. A set of warm favourite pyjamas to go home in or a favourite stuffed toy, blanket or sleeping bag.Consider a hot bath for your child before leaving a family function.
  • Model alternatives to hugs and kisses.  If you don’t want a hug, you could….  Blow a kiss. Give a high five or touch thumbs. My kids did elbow and toe shakes as a greeting. Role play the business firm handshakes. 
  • Use “Happy Feet” to put on shoes – if they are lined up correctly the shoes will smile at each other. If they are not lined up right them will frown and have a sad face.

SmellHoliday scents make bring back memories and also may be overwhelming

  • We always brought Peace and Calm essential oil – you can use a sent that the child loves the most for calming – lavender, cedarwood – put it into a ziplock bag to sniff. 
  • Swimming nose plugs dull scents and can look fun and silly – bring more than one if you are using them so other kids can join in the fun.

SightIf the celebration is in a room with fluorescent lights, be aware the room may be very noisy and moving for your young person.

  • A pop up tent can be a fun refuge or building a fort (approved by host)
  • Bring some fun sunglasses
  • Bright lights and colours can be overwhelming and give anyone a headache.
  • Bring a night light

DietIf the child is on a special diet, find out the menu

  • Offer to bring some yummy favourites to share.
  • If sugar is a sure send off for your child – bring his favourite dessert, have him help make it to share with everyone
  • Sensory input and nutrition every 2 hours
  • Create appetizers for all the kids in zip lock baggie – add holiday stickers – put in fun things to try – sweet idea (small marshmallow, M&M, kisses) – sour (green olive, little pickle, black olive) – crunchy idea – (crackers, chips or veggies)  
  • Make ice cream in three zip lock baggies and toss them to make the ice cream.
  • Make edible playdough for everyone to play with.

Motor SkillsIf poor fine or gross motor skills is a problem

  • Offer to wrap presents for them or do it together with good eats/drinks and make it fun (and never criticize);
  • Practice unwrapping presents before you get to an event. 
  • Offer the choice of a bowl or a plate, plastic or china to eat off.
  • Bring safe treaded warm slippers to keep feet warm
  • Try to move from one side of the yard to the other without stepping on grass
  • Be prepared for wiggle buns – have white paper placemats children can draw or colour on. We always have kid-friendly side tables and if they must sit at a table figure 10-15 minutes of good behaviour for some children is maxed and they can “ask to be excused.”
  • Play with the boxes – you can climb in them, slide down them, roll inside of them, fill them with foam peanuts or wrapping and sit or jump in them, you can stack them and smack them, sleep or cuddle. Think of your own box ideas.

For more tips please visit: http://fasdthinktank.blogspot.ca/2012/12/holiday-strategies-for-fetal-alcohol.html?spref=tw

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