The holiday season is upon us! Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, and New Years provide ample opportunities for your child to practice the many social skills he or she develops at FOCUS, and learn new ones along the way!
Skills to Reinforce
- Boundaries: Boundaries are imperative at holiday gatherings! Have your child practice using their “hula hoop of space” before going to an event like Thanksgiving dinner. Not only will they feel more comfortable, but their guests will be too!
- Respect: One of the cardinal FOCUS rules, being respectful is an excellent character trait to practice during the holidays. There will be times where they will encounter a food they don’t like, or receive a gift that isn’t their taste. Talk with your child about the importance of declining food or gifts gracefully, come up with a set of scripts, and role play different situations where they will need to use them.
- Flexibility: Schedules change during the holidays. Erica Patino of Understood.org recommends trying to stick to your child’s regular routines; but when it’s not possible, discuss how you and your child will adjust and what compromises you can make. A favorite TV show can be recorded – time with family and friends can’t!
- Anxiety Management: Holiday parties can be anxiety provoking for children on the Autism Spectrum. Discuss and practice coping skills every day, and review them before each event you attend. Have your child think about places they can “take space” when they need to, what items they can bring to help them destress, and how to appropriately express when they are overwhelmed.
- Positive Attitudes: Every event has the possibility of encountering people, places, and things that your child may not prefer. Having a positive attitude makes them all tolerable! Encourage your child to see the good parts of each event, and reinforce having a positive attitude as an everyday expectation!
Skills to Learn: The Hidden Curriculum!
There are general rules for holiday events that transfer to everyday life: saying “please” and “thank you”, greeting people with a firm handshake and eye contact, and being thankful when given a gift. However, the holidays can introduce your child to situations they may have never encountered before. These present a great opportunity for social learning! Your child has the chance to develop skills in “the hidden curriculum”; a term coined by Judy Endow, MSW that refers to social information that everyone seems to know, but isn’t directly taught. In Brenda Smith Myles’s article “A Look Inside the Hidden Curriculum: The Importance of Teaching Vague and Elusive Information to Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders” (Autism Spectrum Quarterly, 2005) she adds that the hidden curriculum varies by age, gender, the individuals the person interacts with, and culture.
Where can your child learn the hidden curriculum during the holidays? Examples include:
- Visiting Santa Claus
- A holiday party
- A religious service
- A community celebration, such as a tree lighting ceremony
Each event has its own expectations, including what to wear, what to say, what to do, and how to behave. Knowing them ahead of time will help you help your child prepare and succeed!
FOCUS Develops Social Success!
FOCUS Center for Autism is the place for social learning! Since opening in 2000, we have developed into a well-respected community based model of care that has served hundreds of children throughout Connecticut. Our Extended Day Treatment Program provides a safe, nurturing environment that allows for social and emotional maturity. The children we serve grow into respectful, responsible young men and women of character.
You can become part of the FOCUS family! Call (860) 693-8809 today for more information!