Some of our little people with autism, and some big ones, too, have sensory sensitivities that can get in the way of all the Christmas fun you are planning this year. With just a little extra effort you can ensure your Christmas party games and get-togethers are suitable for all of your guests.
Children and adults on the autism spectrum can often have a difficult time regulating all the input from their surroundings. Bright flashing lights and decorations can sometimes take some effort to manage. Give your guests time to take it all in and be patient and understanding if some of your guests simply can’t settle in. Offer a quiet and safe place for the parent and child to go to get settled back down. If the party becomes far too much it is often a nice idea to have a to-go bag with a few party treats to send along if your guest has to leave.
Christmas party games are usually a great idea. However, sometimes children on the spectrum struggle with something called Theory of Mind. This means that they have a hard time understanding that others might have feelings or desires outside of their own. This can make party games a little tricky if a child is having a hard time understanding why he can’t always win. Again, show patience and understand that this behavior is not the action of a spoiled child but of one whose brain will not allow him to understand the motivations of others.
Christmas party food is the best, isn’t it? All those decadent desserts and sweet treats can be a dream come true for many kids but for someone on the spectrum those foods can be offensive by smell, taste or even color. Families with children with autism often deal with this by packing their own food for parties but please take note that a Christmas spread that might seem beautiful to you can cause some pretty adverse reactions from children with autism.
It’s the season of giving and you might be organizing a Yankee exchange or a presents swap of some sort at your Christmas party. Sometimes that old ‘theory of mind’ stuff can get in the way here, too. A child may not understand why she cannot have the toy she chooses. She may also begin to perseverate on a particular toy which can lead to some pretty difficult situations among children. Sometimes choosing the same gift for all guests can help with this issue but if that is not possible you can allow the parent some time to re-direct the child and help them understand.
The Big Man Himself
If the big guy is going to make an appearance at your party you may have one of three common reactions from children on the spectrum; complete indifference, utter fear or an inability to stay away. All of these reactions can seem inappropriate to some but trust that Santa will understand no matter what happens. Some children come to Santa in their own way and he is just fine with that.
Your Christmas party can be great fun for all involved if you take just a little time to understand that some of your guests might have needs a little different than your own.