Many people on the Autism spectrum struggle with this time of year, and for good reason: The Holiday season brings loads of stimuli, which can lead to meltdowns, frustration, and anxiety all extreme enough to make one consider canceling travel plans. I thought it would be helpful to post some tips here on Guests and hosts can both work together to make the Holidays Autism friendly.
If you are a Host…..
1. It is absolutely IMPERATIVE that you ask specifically, to understand how Autism affects that specific individual. Please understand that no two people with Autism are alike, and what might be calming for one person, might be too much over stimulation for another.
2. If possible, offer a space in your home for the individual to seek solitude. Guests coming in, conversations, cooking, etc…. can all force a memorable time into a sensory nightmare if there isn’t adequate space for your guest to recharge. In time, when she/he feels ready; they will come out to interact with the family.
3. Food requests, and food preferences aren’t simply due to a picky eating. There are a myriad of things that make us Autistic people prefer, or dislike specific foods. It could be that the texture is overwhelming, the colour can bother your guest, or perhaps there is something in the ingredients that causes uncomfortable physical reactions. While it is imperative that the children in this scenario eat nutritious food; it isn’t helpful to try and force your child to eat certain things, or clean their plates. In general, it isn’t the healthiest practice either.
4. Understanding the fine line between including your Autistic guests in conversations, and allowing solitude is quite a fine line. Don’t force inclusion in activities. Don’t take it personally if they wish not to be included in certain activities. Instead, realize that they simply may not be interested in watching a movie for instance!
5. Advise your other guests of these guidelines.
If you are a Guest…..
1. Your host is there and glad to accommodate you, do NOT be afraid to explain having Autism to your host, and how it specifically affects you.
2. Take advantage of extra space the host may offer you, should you become overwhelmed and need to recharge.
3. Don’t forget your stimulation toys, and self-accommodation items such as noise blocking head phones.
4. If you wish to join in social conversations, it is imperative that you confirm with your guest that this is acceptable. Also, be courteous; don’t interrupt others speaking, and realize that you aren’t required to overshare your personal information.
5. Don’t be shy to offer your host help with cleaning, or assistance in any way. Feel free to give a gift, and thank your host. Show them you appreciate them going to extra mile to accommodate you.
These are a handful of tips that I find to be most significant when participating in holidays as someone with Autism. I hope that these are a huge help to you.
Autistic Travel Goddess.