Brecksville ABA Therapists’ Tips on Navigating Thanksgiving
Lots of families look forward to celebrating the holidays each year, with Thanksgiving being a particular favorite. But as our Brecksville ABA therapists understand, parents of children on the autism spectrum may be worried that such celebrations are far outside their kids’ comfort zones. After all, the goings-on are seemingly chaotic, and many of the faces, smells, and tastes are not part of the daily routine they’re used to.
The good news is that with some preparation, it is possible for everyone to enjoy these gatherings.
Tips to Keep Thanksgiving on Track
- Talk about it! For many kids on the spectrum, just knowing what to expect can make a huge difference. If your child is old enough, have a conversation on what the day is going to look like, what you’re planning, and what they can expect. Involve them by asking what snacks, toys, or special items (blankies, etc.) they’d like to bring or have nearby. Give them some sense of control Some kids, particularly those younger, a social story with visuals may help.
- Make it about more than the food. For many kids on the spectrum – and even some neurotypical kids – facing a day full of foods they don’t normally eat can be a serious source of stress. So while you may be jazzed about the turkey and trimmings, it’s a picky eater’s nightmare. By placing the focus on something besides the food – traditions like the parade, family games, or thankfulness exercises – can reduce the stress for kids.
- Ease up on the pressure for your kid to eat. Maybe your child does nothing but nibble at a dinner roll. And that’s Ok! Feel free to ask your child ahead of time what they want to eat, and make sure that option is on the table. If your concerned the sights/smells at the table may be too much, consider allowing them to eat their normal foods before the Thanksgiving feast. Have snacks on hand. If they’re up for it, have them help with mixing the salad or rinsing the potatoes, but don’t stress if the sensory elements of these tasks is too much for them. Do your best to keep things positive, focusing on the most important thing, which is making fond memories.
- Have a plan. Decide on a space to go or a plan of action for if your child does become overwhelmed. If possible, keep an eye on the possible indicators of a meltdown so that you can be ready to take them to safe/quiet space before they become overwhelmed.
Discuss concerns with the host. This is especially true if they aren’t familiar with you/your child. Help them to understand your child might not be able to sit through the entire meal, may not eat much (or anything at all), and ask whether there is a quiet place to which you may help your child retreat if it all gets to be too much. Most awkward situations can be avoided with a simple explanation ahead of time. Hosts will appreciate the heads-up, and many will strive to be understanding and accommodating.
If you’re looking for additional tips to help your child through the holidays, our Brecksville ABA therapists can help.
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides ABA therapy to children in Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Akron and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, homeschooling, alternative schooling, virtual therapy and education, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.
Autism and the holidays: How to cope with the feasting and hubbub, Nov. 14, 2017, Autism Speaks
More Blog Entries:
Akron ABA Therapy Insight: Introducing a Child With Autism to New Foods, Oct. 10, 2021, Brecksville ABA Therapy Blog