HOW TO SURVIVE HOLIDAYS AND OTHER LARGE FAMILY GATHERINGS
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HOW TO SURVIVE HOLIDAYS AND OTHER LARGE FAMILY GATHERINGS

HOW TO SURVIVE HOLIDAYS AND OTHER LARGE FAMILY GATHERINGS
By Susan J. Moreno, M.A., MAAP Services for Autism and Asperger Syndrome www.maapservices.org
 
   Birthday parties, religious holidays and New Year’s celebrations are often occasions where large groups of family and/or friends gather. These events can leave behind lifelong memories…or lifelong nightmares. The events can be very stressful for people on the AS spectrum and for their immediate family as well. We offer some suggestions in hopes of making these occasions more pleasant for one and for all. Many thanks to those on the AS spectrum and their loved ones for sharing many of the following points below with us through the years.
-Be sure that all family members discuss what is most likely to take place on that special occasion.
-Remember that most people on the spectrum do NOT like surprises.
-Be aware that many holidays and celebrations involve things that many non-spectrum people like, but many AS people don’t, such as: Different and strong scents, such as potpourri, cinnamon, strong food odors, over-use of perfumes by attendees. More noise than usual, including a higher volume of and more conversations, often all taking place at one time. Lots of hugging, patting on the back and other somatosensory contact. Travel to new or seldom-visited places.
-Negotiate how long the AS person has to stay in the special environment. If the occasion is taking place at home, work out how long the person has to be with the group before they can go to their room or leave the gathering.
-Discuss whether or not the AS person or any other family member will be expected to behave in a manner that is out of the ordinary. Some “role playing” can be a fun activity in this case.
-Discuss what the AS person will wear.
-Talk about how most people are likely to behave in the situation. Will there be lots of laughter…music…games? Will lots of kids be there? Will the AS person be expected to perform any duties or sing or play an instrument or a game?
-Share why you want to or must attend this occasion.
-If an amount of travel time over what is usual is required…or a different form of travel is involved, estimate the time and/or mode of travel and talk about things to do during that time, what to bring along to be comfortable and points of interest.
-IF THE GATHERING OR OCCASION IS HIGHLY DISTRESSING TO THE AS PERSON, CAREFULLY DISCUSS WHETHER OR NOT TO CONTINUE PARTICIPATING IN THE OCCASION. THIS DECISION, IF NECESSARY, IS BEST MADE BY THE ENTIRE IMMEDIATE FAMILY: MOM, DAD AND/OR ALL OTHERS LIVING UNDER THE SAME ROOF, ESPECIALLY THE PERSON WITH AS.

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