The festive season can be a stressful time, especially if you’re looking after someone with learningdifficulties and/or autism. Karen Retford, our Senior Occupational Therapist has compiled some tips to help make Christmas as stress free and environmentally friendly as possible.
Use calendars and planners
It’s best to plan and prepare them well in advance for Christmas, so there aren’t too many surprises. This can be done with calendars or planners. These can also help to minimise their response to any changes to their routine and the excitement of others around them.
Don’t forget the giving
Help and encourage the person you are caring for to give gifts. This provides an excellent opportunity to work on social skills like thinking of other people, other people’s needs and interests and being kind and helpful. Support them to make gifts for family and friends.
Please be mindful of wearing new perfumes and smells that you have received for Christmas. All the different smells could really upset or overwhelm someone with autism.
A few of my favourite things
Christmas presents: Wrap up some old favourite items as Christmas presents if the person your caring for is not keen on new and unfamiliar things. You could secretly hide some favourite things in the weeks leading up to Christmas – sometimes unwrapping something familiar is very reassuring.
Foil is an excellent wrapping paper – it’s very sensory and pretty easy to open.
Do some baking– make cakes and biscuits with gingerbread and cinnamon!
Design your own wrapping paper
Buy roles of brown paper and go crazy with lots of paint and seasonal colours!
Christmas wish list
Keeping the environment calm and stress free will help the person you care for to stay relaxed.
Make a Christmas book
Get them to look at pictures and explain the different events to them; pictures of a tree or presents or putting decorations up. It may help them not to get too overwhelmed.
Ready to go
If you are organising a gift for someone then make sure that all packaging is removed and the batteries are in or it is fully charged and set up for use. For someone with limited attention and suspicious of new things it could make the difference between acceptance and rejection.
Spread out the presents
Don’t feel that the presents all need to be opened on Christmas morning in the traditional way. If a they have several gifts you could open a few in the days following Christmas.
Get them involved in putting any decorations up (don’t do it when they are sleeping), introduce them gradually to any changes in the environment – introducing any lights for sensory stimulation