December can be a month of excitement and anticipation, but it can also be a very stressful time for individuals and families. This is particularly true for families living with FASD as disrupted routines, unrealistic expectations and over-stimulation can overwhelm individuals and lead to meltdowns. This year NOFASD asked parents to share the strategies they use to support their young people at Christmas. It is important to remember that every person is different, with unique triggers and support needs. As a carer you are the specialist in your child’s life – you know best what works for your family. These suggestions from other families may be beneficial additions to your toolkit, but ensure you consider each strategy’s applicability to your unique family. This is what some families told us:
- Christmas is a time of celebration. Celebrations mean excitement, noise, lights and colours, all the triggers for sensory overload. It is vital to keep the environment as calm as possible. Request your child’s help in decorating the tree and house, allowing plenty of time to touch each of the decorations. Accept their choices about placement of decorations. Make it a calm, slow task. Play calming Christmas music and avoid overdoing the decorations. Flashing lights can arouse a child’s sensory system and too many objects can become overwhelming. Less is best.
- Christmas is a time of disrupted routines which causes anxiety and difficult behaviour. One mother told us she always places a weekly activity plan on the fridge. She keeps this very simple and easy to follow, with events spread out as much as possible. For example: Monday put up Christmas Tree, Tuesday Christmas Carols at school, etc. She involves her daughter in planning events to ensure there are no surprises. However another mother told us that she is careful not to reveal plans to her teenager too far in advance, and she only makes plans which can be changed or cancelled if needed. She adapts their days to set her son up for success. She always gives him at least one day’s notice before activities and ensures she gives him many days notice ahead of social gatherings as she knows he needs extra time to prepare for these. This is a great example of parents knowing what works best for their unique children.
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