Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Holidays

This is a crazy time of year, especially for families raising a child with autism. The holidays bring family gatherings and changes in routines that can be extremely difficult for people with autism. The current economic crisis is another source of stress for many families this year.

The holidays can be an exciting time for families who have made some progress in their RDI program. There are many opportunities for guided participation, from decorating the tree to wrapping presents to cooking. It can also be a time of celebration, when you see your child responding to family traditions differently than in past years. There are many opportunities for guided participation, from decorating the tree to shopping for gifts, and many opportunities for positive episodic memory.

The holidays can also be a stressful time, especially for families who are just getting started. The social gatherings and changes in routine can be stressful for our children, and for us. This is often a difficult time to work on remediation goals. It can also be discouraging when changes we are seeing at home are not as apparent with extended family and friends.

As a veteran RDI parent, let me offer this encouragement - it will get better. The first year is often the hardest. If you hang in there and keep on working through the year, your next holiday season will be very different.

This is a time for many families to slow down and simplify things as much as possible. Try not to over-stress yourself and your child. Take things one step at a time. When we are stressed out, we cannot guide our children. They will sense our stress, which will only add to their own sense of unease. They will not be able to learn if they are tense and upset.

Try to let go of your expectations, and just enjoy the season as it unfolds. Take some time for yourself. Don't worry if your house doesn't look perfect, or if you don't have time to send out cards this year. Let go of anything that does not bring you enjoyment. Take a breath. Enjoy your holidays.


The Glasers said...

This year is the first time in ages that I had all of my Christmas singing obligations fulfilled the first week of Christmas! What a difference it makes not to be under pressure. Even though the hot water heater died yesterday and I had two toilets clog up, I still felt merry by socially referencing the reason for the season (Christ) and listing to wonderful Christmas music on the radio!!!!

Lisa Jo Rudy said...

We had a great time trimming the tree with our PDD son, Tom. He picked up each ornament, explained it's significance, and found a special spot on the tree. When family arrived, tho, everyone "talked" him - leaving him outside the loop and happy to zone out into his own buzzzzzz... and we had no leisure to engage him!! Growl.


Laurel said...

Lisa Jo,

That is one of the biggest challenges of the holidays. Large family gatherings bring in a lot more challenge, which can lead our children to withdraw. It can feel very discouraging, especially when you are feeling so excited about changes you are seeing privately at home, when they do not necessarily expand to more public settings, like family parties. Be proud of yourself and your child for the accomplishments you've made so far, and know that the time will come when he will be a full participant in family parties. He may never be the most outgoing kid, but he will be included, and he will be able to hold his own eventually. Best of luck to you and your family :)