Thanksgiving and Autism: Preparation is the key to a happy and successful holiday.
There will be many occasions which may be tough for you, as the parent of a child with autism, to go through. Thanksgiving, for instance, involves having to interact with lot of family members, which is something your child may not be comfortable doing.
Although hosting a Thanksgiving dinner may seem like a daunting prospect, there are ways to prepare yourself for the day and graciously celebrate the holiday warmth of your close relatives. The key to surviving such a family gathering is to think and plan much ahead. So even while you have been planning for the decorations and the food, here are some of the tips to prepare for the family gathering.
Plan activities before hand
During a family gathering, you will be dealing with children, teenagers, adults and elderly family members; so plan activities that involve all of them. You can plan for some fun moments that all the people would love doing together such as going through the old family albums or playing a game. If you are successful in finding a common ground with all the people and have a good laugh together, the day can be less stressful for you. Also, give your child some simple tasks to do so that he or she can contribute to your effort.
Involve your child in the planning process
Children affected by autism thrive on structure, something that will be difficult to maintain when your entire family comes over. You can try creating a social story or visual support such as a schedule to explain what will be happening on the Thanksgiving Day. Consider having your child help set parts of the schedule, for example when they would like to play outside and try to provide breaks with preferred activities, which could lead to the increased possibility of compliance.
Practice the expected etiquette
Explain to your child as simply as possible the rules for Thanksgiving. The rules may involve sitting at the dinner table or saying “Hi” when people walk in the door. The easiest way to explain it to him or her would be to rehearse this act together for a few times with some easy to understand role-plays. Consider arranging a reinforcement schedule for positive behavior to increase the likelihood of the expected behavior to occur again throughout the day.
Finally, make sure that your child enjoys some quiet activities with you for a portion of the day. You child can easily feel overwhelmed when you have a large family over at your home so it is important to give them some space.