Autism Society of America’s holiday tips for families living with autism

The Autism Society of America has 12 great tips for the holidays. Whether you are thinking about holiday food, gift giving, or Christmas decorating, preparation (tip #1) is key.

While many happily anticipate the coming holiday season, families of people on the autism spectrum also understand the special challenges that may occur when schedules are disrupted and routines broken. Our hope is that by following these few helpful tips, families may lessen the stress of the holiday season and make it a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved. The following tips were developed with input from the Autism Society, the Indiana Resource Center for Autism, Easter Seals Crossroads, the Sonya Ansari Center for Autism at Logan and the Indiana Autism Leadership Network..

1. Preparation is crucial for many individuals. At the same time, it is important to determine how much preparation a specific person may need. For example, if your son or daughter has a tendency to become anxious when anticipating an event that is to occur in the future, you may want to adjust how many days in advance you prepare him or her. Preparation can occur in various ways by using a calendar and marking the dates of various holiday events, or by creating a social story that highlights what will happen at a given event.

2. Decorations around the house may be disruptive for some. It may be helpful to revisit pictures from previous holidays that show decorations in the house. If such a photo book does not exist, use this holiday season to create one. For some it may also be helpful to take them shopping with you for holiday decorations so that they are engaged in the process. Or involve them in the process of decorating the house. And once holiday decorations have been put up, you may need to create rules about those that can and cannot be touched. Be direct, specific and consistent.

3. If a person with autism has difficulty with change, you may want to gradually decorate the house. For example, on the first day, put up the Christmas tree, then on the next day, decorate the tree and so on. And again, engage them as much as possible in this process. It may be helpful to develop a visual schedule or calendar that shows what will be done on each day.

via Autism Society of America: Holiday Tips for Families Living with Autism.

Hanukkah, autism and one temple’s run at a miracle

Here’s a New York Times story on how a Manhattan temple created services for special needs members. Services began with Rosh Hashanah. The second service was scheduled for Hanukkah.

On these days of Hanukkah, as Jews light the menorah’s candles, they recite a blessing for miracles of the past, for enemies vanquished and for lamp oil sustained. What might constitute a Hanukkah miracle today depends, perhaps, on what one needs and what one asks. It could even happen on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Early in the summer six or seven years ago, Nancy J. Crown set about looking for a part-time job for her teenage daughter, Sadie. By now, as both a mother and a psychologist, Ms. Crown was all too familiar with the struggle of finding any person, any program, any place suitable for a child with autism.

Doctor, dentist, swimming lessons, vocational therapy, tutoring, ballet, even a pair of shoes without buckles or laces – every part of Sadie’s life, it sometimes seemed, plunged Ms. Crown into a lonely quest.

via Hanukkah, Autism and One Temple’s Run at a Miracle – NYTimes.com.

Holiday season stressful for Alzheimer’s patients, caregivers

The holiday season is officially upon us, and for most people, it means a time filled with joy, cheer, and family. But for many seniors, especially those living with Alzheimer’s disease, the holidays can be stressful — for the very same reasons it brings happiness to most others.

People with Alzheimer’s disease thrive on familiar routines; adding guests, loud conversation, and activity can be disorienting to Alzheimer’s sufferers. Wrapping gifts can be a soothing activity for Alzheimer’s patients.The stress isn’t limited to the person with the disease, however.

Caregivers and other family members often become concerned and worried whether their loved one will be uncomfortable with guests, overwhelmed by activity, or feel isolated. Even young children can become confused if a loved one no longer recognizes them or mistakes them for someone else.

Anxiety is often amplified if the person is traveling to stay with other relatives during the holidays; removing Alzheimer’s sufferers from their familiar environment can be stressful. This is true both for those living at home and individuals residing in assisted living facilities and nursing homes, who often stay overnight with loved ones over the holidays.

via Holiday Season Tough on Alzheimer’s Sufferers « SeniorHomes.com.

Autism and the holidays

With Halloween now behind us, the rest of the holiday season is now in front of us. The holidays are meant to be times when families and friends come together to enjoy each other and just the opposite may be the case in families who have children on the spectrum.

It takes special consideration, thought and proactively preparing for the holidays to make them an enjoyable experience for everyone. So, now is the perfect time to start planning. It’s a constant balancing act between the needs of the child or children with special needs and the rest of the family. There are no right and wrong answers and what might work for one family may not work for another.

via More Holidays Around the Corner | Autism, Asperger’s & Beyond.

Why the holidays are so difficult for families with autism and what can help

It’s that time of year! If you have an autistic child and are already feeling the stress of the holidays and its added sensory inputs, social gatherings and expectations, read this blog post from Psychology Today by author Chantal Sicile-Kira.  It’s an excerpt from her book, 41 Things to Know About Autism. Make sure to share it with friends and family.

Often parents in the autism community will joke that we become more religious during the holiday season that begins with Thanksgiving: we pray our children will behave while we are visiting relatives, we pray they will show interest in their gifts (and not just the ribbon), we pray they will sit at the dinner table, we pray they won’t hit the relative who tries to kiss them, and above all – we pray that we will have the strength to politely ignore the judgments passed upon us and our ‘misbehaving’ children.

via Why the holidays are so difficult for families with autism and what can help | Psychology Today.

Massachusetts school for autistic helps make Halloween less frightful

Autistic children may find Halloween extra stressful with its expected “Trick or Treat” communications, odd costumes and scary atmosphere. Here’s how a Boston-area school for children with autism helped kids prepare for the holiday.

Have a fun, safe night, everyone!

After ringing the front doorbell, 7-year-old Jack Carfarelli stood by silently, holding a plastic pumpkin while tugging nervously on his skeleton costume. The door opened into a darkened classroom, where a scary-looking witch knelt, candy bowl in hand.

“Happy Halloween,’’ said the witch.

Jack, a child with autism, appeared anxious yet still said nothing. Around his neck hung a small touch-screen computer. He hesitated, then activated the machine’s vocalization app to say “Trick or treat!’’ on his behalf.

via School for autistic helps make Halloween less frightful – The Boston Globe.

Autism and Halloween

Halloween can be frightening and hard to explain to any child. Talk of ghosts and witches, scary masks, and grave stones in the neighbor’s yard can prompt plenty of nightmares.

For children with autism, however, it can be particularly challenging to celebrate the holiday with all the new rules (yes, you can actually knock on someone’s door and ask for candy) and nuances it brings.

via Autism and Halloween: A Sometimes Scary Mix | The Stir.

A mother gives roots, wings to an autistic son

A Mother’s Day commentary by William C. Kashatus for The Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre, Penn. Kashatus and his wife, Jackie, have three sons, including one with autism.

On Mother’s Day it is important to remember the women who have given us “roots” and “wings.” The “roots” come from the protective and loving environment a mother nurtures in the home so that her children will one day have the “wings” to set out on their own.

Of all the mothers we celebrate today, those with autistic children are among the most special because they are blessed with a remarkable reserve of selflessness. I know this from personal experience, since my wife, Jackie, is one of those special mothers. We are the parents of three sons: two teenagers and an autistic 9-year-old, named Ben.

via A mother gives roots, wings to an autistic son Commentary William C. Kashatus | The Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, PA.

10 for 10: Feel-Good Dementia Caregiver New Year Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions about how you ought to start another diet and ought to be nicer belong back in the Aughts ’00s. For this new decade, caregivers looking after someone with dementia are better off focusing on tasks that will help them power through another demanding year.The following resolutions may be unexpected, but they’re heartfelt and truly helpful:

via 10 for 10: Feel-Good Dementia Caregiver New Year Resolutions.