Posted in Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Recreation/Leisure and Special Needs

Blog #225~Autism and Holiday Stress Tips

Blog #225~Autism and Holiday Stress Tips

Let’s face it, holidays are stressful.  Navigating the Christmas season with a child who has autism is even more demanding on families.  My son, Nick is 24 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD).  We’ve had our share of challenges, as do many families who care for an individual with special needs.  But, here are 10 ways to ease holiday stress and manage the upcoming weeks of festivities.

Keep Calm Christmas

10 Autism Holiday Stress Tips:

1.Start early, get as much done ahead of time with holiday preparations.

2.Pare down where you can, whether it’s decorations, presents, or parties. It’s okay to   say no or bow out early.  Flexibility is key!

3.Don’t rush, allow enough time to get from point A to point B. Give more notice when it is time to transition. This will help to avoid meltdowns.

4.When possible, try to stick to routines.

5.Avoid surprises, prepare your child ahead of time.  Make social stories using visuals or written words (depending on your child’s level of comprehension). This will act as a script for your child to follow. If they can see what’s expected, they will understand the plan and lessen anxiety levels.

IMG_3865

6.Provide pictures of family members and friends that you don’t see that often prior to visiting them.  Notify family and friends of sensitivities and sensory behaviors your child may exhibit.  Nick makes vocal stim sounds and taps objects which helps him to self-regulate.  Some individuals with autism do not like hugs or fail to make eye contact.  Family members might engage instead with a special handshake, high-five or Nick’s favorite, the elbow bump 🙂

Nick and jenna elbow bump

7.When traveling or lodging outside your home, pack comfort items like toys, music, movies, electronic devices and snacks.  Have these readily available.

8. Give your child opportunities to help out. Heavy work activities provide sensory input that is calming.  Here are a few Nick enjoys…..

 

9.Know your child’s limits.  There is so much sensory overload this time of year with excessive crowds, noises, lights and cramming too much into a day. This can be very overwhelming.  So, watch for signs of distress (Nick will pinch his own cheeks, yell and say I’m mad).  Redirect with a break icon, and seek out a quiet spot before activities begin.  It may be necessary bailout here before behaviors escalate, to avoid a meltdown.

10.Allow for down time, to kick your feet up and relax.  Weighted blankets are great for deep pressure that can help to calm the sensory system.  I recently found out these blankets are available at Target.  Hmmmmm……that sounds like a good excuse to go to Target. 🙂

Disruption in routines, schedules, and stimulating environments make for a holiday filled with fraught for individuals with autism and other special needs.  But preparing your child and having a bailout plan, will help keep the stress levels down, making the Christmas season more merry and bright.  How do you to keep calm this time of year?  Please share your secrets to surviving the holidays in the comments!

That’s what is in my noggin this week. 🙂

~Teresa 

Follow Nick:

017

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram #nickdsautism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Autism, Behavior/ ABA, Down syndrome

Blog #112~Regression of Behaviors

 

Blog #112 Regression of Behaviors

Christmas 2014 was anything but merry.  The swimsuits, flip flops, suntan lotion and pool toys sat in a pile on the chasse in my bedroom.  We never made it to the Florida Keys for our vacation.  A member of our extended family came down with pneumonia and then a snowball effect of more health problems that included a 12 day stay in the hospital.  Nick wasn’t sure what to make of things.  He is 20 years old and has Down syndrome and autism.  All he saw was his Dad or me taking off all day on hospital visits which were an hour away.  Nick picked up on the fact that something was very wrong.  He was sad and angry and missed being with the extended family.  We spent that two week break unsure of the outcome and shooting from the hip.  In 20 years of raising Nick, I have NEVER seen such a spike in regressive behaviors.

When daily routines are interrupted a child with autism can feel anxious and behaviors regress.  Strict routines, normalized school or work schedules without any unexpected occurrences enable a child with autism to progress best.  However, because the holidays are busy, stressful and filled with the hustle and bustle of foods, gifts, and family; a parent can expect to see behavioral changes.

Back to Nick and those behaviors that spiked, which included the following:

*Increased stimming with objects and louder vocal stimming

*Pushing microwave fan, phone intercom and now house alarm system much more

*Throwing objects and dumping things like a one man wrecking crew.

*Spitting and rubbing snot on flat screen TV, windows, on our clothing.

*Squirting liquid soap in his eyes, rubbing lotion all over himself

nick lotion

*Multiple, violent meltdowns

*Peeing his pants several times

And to top it off, I left a bottle of Febreeze out by accident………Oh nooooooo!

febreeze

FYI, Febreeze and a flat screen TV don’t mix well.  So, we had to purchase a new one……..

IMG_4203

By the way if you Google search “Febreeze on a flat screen TV” there are several entries of other kids doing this.  Nice to know we’re not alone. 🙂

I reported all of this in the school/home communication book.  The school staff wrote back that Nick was definitely not himself. He was trying to pull fire alarms, pinching his cheeks hard as well as a staff member.  To make matters worse, just as Nick was back in his school routine we had two snow days.  On top of that, the kids were off two more for the end of semester and MLK Day.  Oh, and there was a full moon over the holiday break.

autism and full moon

The house is quiet now, and I can focus on writing again. Yesterday, I did a little research on regression of behaviors and holiday breaks.  As I reflect on Christmas 2014, a couple of things stand out.  First of all, Nick’s behavior was magnified because his parents emotional fatigue and lack of emotional availability.  For over two weeks we were back and forth at the hospital.  Nick picked up on the stress.  Secondly, as a family we should have communicated in private about medical updates.  I think back on one particular day.  As I briefed Al on the hospital visit, Nick came over crying and wanted a hug. I had to remind myself that he understands much more of what we are talking about.  He also picks up on the negative vibes of conversations. Finally, one tip I read in my research was so obvious.  But when you are in the thick of things it can be overlooked.  That is, don’t let your kids be aimless.  It’s essential to find ways for them to occupy your child.  When kids are on a school break, they have less structure in their day. Bottom line, they’re going to get into more trouble and conflict because they have the opportunity to do so.

While there was no kayaking, bike rides, beach and pool time or key lime pie over Christmas we did make it through.  Things are slowly on the mend. The cousin’s presents and white elephant gifts are tucked away for now.  The Hormel Cure 81 Ham sits in the refrigerator awaiting a belated Christmas celebration at a later date. The gift of Christmas 2014 is being reminded of how precious life is and how quickly it can be taken away.  In addition, I have a new perspective of how important it is to respect Nick’s needs when there is a school holiday break. That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa