Safe Zones for Children with ASD and Anxiety this Christmas

xmas image (2)Welcome to this Christmas edition of our featured therapist Blog Spot where our Child Psychotherapist Lucy Johnson discusses useful ideas to assist autistic children with the change of routine that comes with Christmas.  This article will be helpful not only for the parents of ASD children, but also wider families or anyone who will be sharing the festive season with a child who is diagnosed with Autism, ASD, or ADHD.

Christmas can be very overwhelming for an autistic child (ASD), so I wanted to talk through some ideas that may help at this time of year. 

Lucy Johnson RHCP Ltd Associate Child Psychotherapist

Lucy Johnson RHCP Ltd Associate Child Psychotherapist

It is important to make sure that the child has a quiet space away from the hustle and bustle to regulate their sensory systems and avoid meltdown.  Christmas can bring with it a lot of fun but all so a lot of noise, clutter, sparkles and people which can all be very overwhelming for a child with ASD and sensory disorders.  There can be many things that could and can trigger a child but below are some key ideas to support  them at this special time of year:

 

  •  When putting presents out to open only display enough for the child to be able to cope with, some may need to be saved for Boxing Day or even New Year
  • Your child may not like the texture of some wrapping papers so think about helping them open these gifts easily before they feel they are not going to be able to open their gift.
  • Create a ‘Safe Zone’ which is quiet and that has things that your child enjoys and likes, so they can move away from the Christmassy stuff and come back when ready. 
  • If going to a family member or friend’s house, think of how a safe zone can be created there. It maybe you can take an Ipad with headphones or ear defenders and colouring books for example.
  •  Christmas tree lights that are flashing can be a cause of anxiety for children – ones that stay on or fade are better. When going to others houses ask them to make sure the lights are not flashing or possibly turned off all together.
  • Make sure you watch for indicators of distress starting and help the child move to a calmer and quieter room.
  •  Make sure music is kept at a low level.
  • At dinner time ask the child where they would like to sit, somewhere close to an exit is useful. If at home maybe they could set the table names to help them feel safe and in control of where people are in relation to them.
  •  Often the house can get quite hot with lots of people so layers are important to make sure their not getting worked up and overheated 
  • Have clear times that you or others will be leaving by so that your child doesn’t feel like the noise will never end.
  • Have signals or safe words they can use so they feel they can state that they are not coping before they are too overwhelmed.
  • Try and be first to the party so the numbers rise slowly rather than walking into a crowded room.

 

Christmas is a fun time for us all to enjoy but everyone needs a break from the chaos sometimes.

If you have a child in the family with ASD and wish to access specialised therapeutic support from Lucy please contact Rutland House Counselling & Psychotherapy on 0116 416 1626 or email info@rhcp.org.uk.

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