Believe it or not, the holiday season is right around the corner! Many look forward to this time of the year by taking time to express thankfulness while enjoying a meal with loved ones that come from near and far. It makes sense that many families have waited with anticipation all year for this, but it also true that others have waited with some trepidation. See below for 5 tips that can help make Thanksgiving a success for every family!
#1 – Seating Arrangements (environmental modification):
A child may do well during mealtimes with immediate family members, but during the holidays, especially Thanksgiving, there may be a significantly higher number of guests at the dinner table.
This is where a separate kids’ table can work as a solution. Especially if the child will be sitting with siblings that he/she is comfortable being around. If this is not a possibility, then try reserving the end of the table so that the child is able to get out of his/her seat, if needed. It is important to remember, a strategy that may work with one child may not necessarily work with another.
For example, sitting at the end of the table for one child may result in escape behavior while it may be exactly what another child needs so that he does not feel overstimulated by being surrounded by too many people, hence allowing him/her to stay seated for longer periods of time.
#2 – Breaks:
Proactively schedule breaks away from table, if possible. There may be some warning signs that your child is becoming overwhelmed. Maybe he/she starts to rock in their seat or starts to place his/her fingers in mouth. When you see warning signs, you may want to proactively offer your child a break from the table.
It’s important to be prepared with some of the child’s preferred items that they can utilize while on a break. Consider setting a timer so that the child is aware of the amount of time that they have to engage in their preferred activity.
#3 – Priming:
This can start as early as the beginning of the month. Begin to discuss what Thanksgiving day will look like. Try to include the important details of the day, such as who will be there, what activities will take place, what time dinner will be and what will be served.
#4 – Visual supports:
Sometimes just discussing the details may not be enough. At that point, visual supports can assist with this. A social story specifically created about Thanksgiving can be very helpful. Also creating a visual schedule of the events for that day and giving the child some options to choose certain activities throughout the day when there is some flexibility.
Also, preparing some social scenarios and reviewing some strategies with the child so that he/she can be prepared for the day can be very beneficial.
#5 – Use of headphones:
The reality of having many guests over can definitely impact the noise level in a home. Having the child keep his/her headphones close so that he/she has easy access for when the volume starts to increase is essential.
Some children are able to regulate the need of headphones and will determine when is the right time to use them while others may prefer to keep them on the whole time. It’s important to know what works best for each individual child.
Happy Thanksgiving from Ascend Autism!