Some of our St John’s learners absolutely love Christmas but, for others, the Christmas period can be a very challenging time.
This is true for many autistic people, even those who love Christmas! Here are some tips from Alexandra Harris, our Autism Lead, on how to help our learners have the best experience during this time, based on what was shared with staff in early December.
Providing structure during the Christmas period
Around upcoming Christmas events, stick to normal routines as much as possible. There are numerous changes to cope with during the Christmas holidays and normal routines can help lower anxiety levels. For those who don’t want to engage in certain Christmas events, try providing structured activities which are as close as possible to their normal activities.
Preparing for changes to routines
Prepare your young person for all changes to routine, no matter how small they might seem to you. Use visual aids, such as additions to daily schedules, calendars, and social stories, to help them understand changes. Make sure they know what will be happening during the whole Christmas period and when their normal routines will resume (as appropriate for each person). Refer to these schedules throughout the period, rather than presenting the changes only once.
Changes to environments
If you haven’t yet put up your Christmas decorations, do involve your young person in choosing Christmas decorations and put them up together. Also consider the impact on sensory needs e.g. Christmas scents, flashing fairy lights, glitter etc. It can help to ensure that, if possible, there are some areas of each room (or the house) that are free from Christmas decorations so that your young person can choose to engage with/avoid these.
For learners with a profile of Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA), the demands of Christmas can pose different challenges. Please see this guide from the PDA Society.