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Understanding Holiday Stress in a Neurodiverse Home

Stress and Social Anxiety are common challenges experienced by people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is important to understand why it is difficult. For example, the desire for sameness gets disrupted for a person with ASD during the holidays. They may have difficulty changing routines, clothes, food, caregivers and other parts of their environment. If we can take perspective on the things that are challenging for a child with ASD, we may be better able to change our behaviors or prepare ahead of time to make it a more enjoyable experience.

The sensory changes

  1. The days are longer, and there is less sunlight but a lot of flashing lights and decorations
  2. The music on the radio changes from familiar tunes to all Christmas all the time
  3. There may be someone dressed in a Santa costume ringing a loud bell outside a familiar store
  4. Stores and homes can have overwhelming Christmas cookie and pine tree candle smells
  5. Scratchy sweaters and extra clothes can feel hot and uncomfortable
  6. New holiday foods can be disruptive to someone with a limited palette
  7. The stores can be loud and crowded, and the lines are longer

The disruption of routines

  1. School is often out for two weeks
  2. Therapists appointments are often halted
  3. Travel to family members’ homes or hotel stays are common
  4. Distant family members may be visiting your home
  5. Sports or afterschool activities are changed or stopped

An increase in social expectations and potentially social anxiety

  1. We see a lot of family and friends we don’t often get to see
  2. New foods are introduced that we are not familiar with
  3. People are giving gifts and staring at us for a reaction
  4. People are using a lot of new phrases like “Happy Holidays,” that they often expect to be reciprocated
  5. On behalf of the whole Frazier Behavioral Health team, happy holidays to everyone!

Frazier Behavioral Health is dedicated to delivering evidence-based, individualized therapy for children and adults with behavioral, social, communication, and sensory issues. Our mission is to assist these individuals in becoming their best selves and create enhanced outcomes at home, at school, and in the community.

Contact us today to learn more.

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